Letters to the Editor, July 18, 2018

That new mural and neglected Valley West

You may have noticed that the Mural Project is underway near the Samoa Boulevard freeway onramp in Arcata.

This project, approved in 2016, was in response to complaints regarding the “ugly” yellow building visible from the U.S. Highway 101 southbound onramp.

Arcata City Councilmember Susan Ornelas spearheaded the fundraising and imagineering efforts. She said that the blank north face of the building was “disappointing ... really uninspiring” and that it “degrades our town.”

In 2016 the Mad River Union quoted Ornelas as saying that the current “ketchup and mustard” coloring of the wall clashes with the surroundings.

This Arcata Bay Crossing building is less than three years old, is not in disrepair, and does not have any visible graffiti.

Ugly is in the eye of the beholder, but a bright yellow and red building in pristine shape is hardly an eyesore.

This city project that was reported to cost $40,000 ($10,000 from the xity and $30,000 from donations) is another example of the inequity that exists within the City of Arcata.

Take a visit to the northern part of Arcata, to the Valley West neighborhood. There on Valley East Boulevard you can experience what many apartment and mobile home dwellers have to see every single day – the backside of the Valley West Shopping Center.

This quite long, off-white building, with large trash bins for the businesses, could be considered a truly unattractive and boring building that degrades this neighborhood.

I could go on about the lack of family friendly opportunities in Valley West (no community center, church hall, Farmers’ Market, community garden, playgroup, flat public park, schoolyard, soccer field, basketball court, baseball/softball field, tennis court, movie theater, library, or Family Resource Center), but my focus for this letter is this mural, partially paid for by the City of Arcata.

I’m sure the artist will do a wonderful job, and we will be inspired every time we take this onramp.

But maybe these same generous donors could contact the owner/manager of the Valley West Shopping Center and see if they’d like to have an inspiring mural placed on the backside of their building. The City of Eureka is transforming the back of many buildings with bright and interesting murals.

Maybe Ms. Ornelas or another city councilmember can use their wide community network to produce a matching, inspiring mural in the forgotten neighborhood of Arcata.

Valley West needs all the help and encouragement that it can get.

Lucy Salazar


The Village – a homelessness solution and moral obligation

Dear Councilmembers :

As a former administrator and faculty member at Humboldt State University, I urge you to support the plans to create The Village to house university students.

We have an ethical issue in our county because of the number of students both at HSU and College of the Redwoods who are homeless. In 2017, 19 percent of HSU students were homeless. In 2016, 7 percent of CR students were homeless. The average proportion of homeless college students in our country is ~11 to 14 percent.

You and the City of Arcata have a moral obligation to provide these young American citizens with a reasonable place to live while they complete their education. It is also much more efficient and much cheaper to help them now than to deal with them later in life if they cannot finish their educations.

If you wish to see the details of the studies that have provided the data on student homelessness, please check: www2.calstate.edu/impact-of-the-csu/student-success/basic-needs-initiative.

While I certainly understand your need to respond to the concerns of Arcata residents and home owners, I plead with you to consider the ethical issues involved. The Village project will improve the property where it will be located and that will benefit the local residents.

People are often opposed to change, but change is often to the benefit of our society. University students whose families do not live in Humboldt County bring many millions of dollars to our community as well as providing service in public entities.

The Village decision is a critical one for our community, the university and college and many young people. Please make the right decision and vote to allow The Village to be constructed. Thank you for all you do for our community and for considering my request.

Rollin C. Richmond

Note: Rollin Richmond is the former president of Humboldt State University. – Ed.


The Village – a vital housing opportunity

I believe so many of us forget that the HSU has stayed a fixture in our community. Lumber has gone away, then fishing and the recent decline of cannabis.

Yet HSU has stayed and continues to provide jobs which translate into dollars for each of us. Whether we have a retail store, car wash, restaurant or bar, rentals or enjoy the cultural aspects of Arcata, HSU continues to provide.

California is desperate for housing, Arcata is no different. We have many housing needs and Arcata provides as best as it can (through private developers) for those needs and now we have a chance to provide for another need, student housing.

It’s time for us to put aside our disgruntledness about “whatever” and support the Village student housing project. After its built, will be proud as we are of Indian United Health Services, the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, Marsh Commons, Courtyards and Plaza Point and many more.

HSU puts $100 million into our economy each year. That’s nothing to shake our fingers at. Contact our councilmembers and tell them to say YES.

Contact your councilmembers at:

[email protected] Sofia Pereira

[email protected] Brett Watson

[email protected] Paul Pitino

[email protected] Susan Ornelas

Alex Stillman

Some housing history

When the Arcata City Council meets on July 17 it all make a final decision regarding approval (or not) of the housing project called The Village. My comments are based only on my personal experience as a resident, a retired HSU teacher, as a parent and grandparent for family members who have attended HSU.

You are now facing a most important decision which pits HSU’s immediate need for student housing against a conglomeration of persons (some unknown) with an opposing position. I am in no way identified with either one and offer this as testimony.

In my lifetime I have lived in at least 10 communities with a college or university; my husband, and later I, as well, was employed as a teacher. Without exception, neighborhoods near the school were gradually encroached upon by student tenants who wanted to be close to their classes. Dormitories were either not available or too expensive. Our choice to live near the school was similar; proximity to one’s employment is usually a major consideration. Since moving to Arcata in 1965 we have always chosen to be within the radius of a mile or less of HSU and never regretted it.

When my husband died in 2003, I moved closer to town because it was easier to walk on more level ground. My neighbors are mostly older widows like me, a few young families, a few students — an ideal mix, in my opinion. In terms of meeting needs of hundreds of students, however, it just won’t work.

When my grandson wanted to attend HSU as a freshman four years ago he was allowed to live in a dormitory, but had to seek community housing after that. His choice was Tea Garden apartments, convenient four bedroom units each with a private bath and shared kitchen and living room. The price was a bit lower then, but this unit now costs $835 per month, requires a $1,200 deposit and gas, electricity and Wi-Fi connections are not included. Proximity to the campus is great and they are always filled. I believe other apartments are similar in cost and a year’s lease is usually required.

Many are aware of the difficulty HSU has faced for several years in retaining students who enroll but leave after a year or two... Few would question that continuing this trend would have a negative effect on Arcata’s economy as well as that of the HSU budget. Enrollment is a factor in determining how much money the State dispenses to HSU.

The reasons why students fail to return yearly are many. One is the distance from their family of origin and loneliness. Living in a complex with other students usually results in sharing interests and friendships made which often last a lifetime. The concept of students “integrating in the (neighborhood) community” seems unrealistic to me.

People do not invest in housing with the idea of subsidizing students. Selling one’s home to someone who intends to rent to students (or not), buying California state bonds (income from which is often tax free), or corporations—large or small—invest to generate income for the investor. I doubt that any private contractor would hire and pay the higher wages required for government projects. Drawings which represent The Village have been scrutinized. Are similar drawings available to see exactly what Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing would look like? With a variety of owners, it would be very difficult to enforce any promised maintenance requirements.

I seems to me that HSU presents some assurance of quality construction, competent management and control of rent and fees for The Village. My recommendation is that the City Councilmembers make that their choice.

Sara Turner



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