Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – In a visualization of the alternative plan offered by opponents of the proposed “The Village” student housing project, residents stroll among buildings of an agreeably human scale, where the lanes are lush with gardens and greenery, and everyone looks to be young and/or in love.
The idyllic mix of attractive housing suggested for the site by Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) resulted from reverse-engineering and eliminating everything the group’s members don’t like about The Village, augmented with ideas aired at a recent scoping session plus the expertise of Arcata-based project management and design firm Greenway Partners.
The alternative plan was unveiled at last week’s Planning Commission meeting and on the group’s website, arcatacrh.org. At its previous meeting, the Planco had finalized its review of the permits, plans, zoning amendments, development agreement and Draft Environmental Impact Report for The Village.
ACRH Boardmember John Bergenske asked the Planco to include his group’s plan in the DEIR as an alternative project.
Greenway CEO Kirk Cohune said the ACRH “community-based design” proposal is “an alternative way of looking at this opportunity for 10 acres of infill development in Arcata” that is “more in line with what Arcata I think needs to start doing.”
Cohune said the ACRH proposal includes all members of the community is “lots of different housing types.” he said the project is financially viable based on Greenway’s analyses of the official The Village project.
He extolled the alternative project as inclusive, well integrated into the surrounding area, walkable, multi-generational, “green,” affordable, and with “blended density” viewshed protections for neighbors.
The ACRH project includes a mix of housing types and heights, from single-family residences to town homes and dense apartments on the east side. It includes 276 total bedrooms in 92 units with 160 parking stalls.
The entire site is 32 to 33 percent developed, leaving abundant open space.
An additional acre owned by Mad River Lumber may be incorporated into the design later.
ACRH’s membership includes many Westwood Village residents who object to traffic, viewshed and other impacts on their homes, located just west of the project.
Bergenske said Arcata has sufficient housing for students, especially with declining Humboldt State enrollment, and that The Village is unnecessary. “Yet we are plowing forward with this project,” he said. “I can only ask why. Why?”
He further objected to what he said was minimal modification to The Village project – lowering Westwood-facing buildings from four to three stories – despite an abundance of suggestions from the public.
He said ACRH’s alternative proposal is feasible, meets the project’s objectives and enjoys “wide, wide support in the community.”
However, it lacks the support of one key player – The Village project applicants AMCAL, whose own design is likely headed to the City Council for final consideration.
Commissioners were skeptical of including the project in the application, since it wasn’t proposed by the developer and lacks key specifics.
Community Development Director David Loya later described the ACRH alternative proposal as “public comment on steroids.”
He urged the Planco to hold the matter over so that it could be further assessed in terms of how it relates to the actual project application, and commissioners agreed to do so.