New planner: McK over-packed with multi-family housing

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – McKinleyville’s representative on the county Planning Commission has advanced a stance on multiple unit housing development, saying that “McKinleyville has been getting a lot of these really dense subdivisions and I don’t think we need too many more of them.”

Peggy O’Neill, a McKinleyville resident who was recently appointed to the commission by Supervisor Steven Madrone, was the only commissioner to vote against approving the subdivision of a three-acre parcel into 13 lots. 

During the commission’s Feb. 21 hearing on the project, O’Neill said she supports low income housing but “McKinleyville already has enough subdivisions where there are so many lots packed together and they’re not consistent with the size of the existing neighborhood.”

Peggy O'Neill

O’Neill added, “I don’t know how many more of them we can bear.” 

She also doubted a five-foot width reduction of a road leading into the subdivision, which is located at 1055 Imeson Road near the intersection of Rita Avenue. The site’s general location is between U.S. Highway 101 and McKinleyville Avenue. 

Although planning staff had said that there would be room for parking on both sides of the street, O’Neill said that “it’s going to be really tight getting in and out of there” and she questioned allowing the width reduction “just so you can get two or three extra lots in there.” 

Department of Public Works Engineer Bob Bronkall said the road width reduction is “based upon the number of lots in the subdivision.” 

O’Neill’s take on the project contrasted with that of Commissioner Brian Mitchell, who is also a McKinleyville resident. “My understanding is that when we look at ways to build affordable housing and to provide units that are affordable, we have to look at increasing our density,” he said. 

Mitchell added that staff had “done a good job” in planning for various modes of transportation and landscaping strips. 

According to a written staff report, a “similar” development, the 14-lot Swatado Court subdivision, is adjacent to the project site. The Ocean West mobile home park is to the north of the site. 

The majority of the commission voted to approve the project’s final subdivision map and a special permit to remove eucalyptus trees at the project site. Three of the 13 lots created are already developed with housing units, one on each lot. 

Samoa split

A majority of commissioners, again with O’Neill dissenting, approved a parcel split that’s part of the Samoa Pacific Group’s redevelopment of the town of Samoa. 

Permits were approved in March of 2017 for the overall project, which includes reconstruction of Vance Avenue, the development of an 80-unit affordable housing project and new water storage and wastewater facilities. 

The commission approved splitting a 19-acre parcel to allow a division between the housing units and a new wastewater treatment system. Samoa Pacific requested the split to accommodate the requirements of a tax credit financing grant. 

Noting that the county is now in a beginning phase of land use planning in response to anticipated sea level rise, O’Neill questioned the location of the housing. She also had concerns about the location within a tsunami zone. 

“I can assure you there is no mitigation plan that you’re going to be able to write to protect the 80-plus either seniors or low-income families that are going to live in those homes,” said O’Neill. 

If a major tsunami occurs, “No one living out there is going to survive,” she continued. 

In response, Senior Planner Michael Wheeler said that the state’s Coastal Commission conducted “a rigorous review” of the original project for conformance with “strict requirements for addressing tsunami risk and sea level rise.” 

The county contracted with “the top three tsunami experts on the West Coast” to determine what a maximum tsunami event would be, Wheeler continued. 

Additional elevation was set based on sea level rise and the housing was charted above the worst case scenario levels, with residential units placed above garages, he said.  

The commission’s majority approval also granted Samoa Pacific’s request to not include a bike lane and sidewalk on one side of the reconstructed Vance Avenue. Commissioners were satisfied with the mitigation for that, which is a multi-use trail adjacent to the roadway. 




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