Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The results are in, and Arcata’s Plaza Improvement Task Force is reviewing its members’ ratings of the many suggestions it has received for upgrading the town square.
The next step is forwarding recommendations to city staff to help determine what can realistically be implemented in the short, medium and long term. After discussion as to what the terms mean, short term was defined as 0 to 18 months; medium term as 18 months to three years; and long term three years or longer.
The Plaza Improvement Task Force was created to identify, prioritize and make recommendations to the City Council on projects and programs that will improve the downtown Plaza neighborhood.
About $150,000 has been allocated to enact improvements the task force comes up with and that the City Council approves. Those will be embodied in the group’s final report, which it is now starting to draft.
The “matrix” of possible recommentations comes after months of public scoping and outreach, with numerous ideas recorded and rated. Still, task force members consider some groups underrepresented, and want to assign more importance to diversity and inclusion than the preliminary results offer.
Initial top-rated recommendations and proposed implementations:
• Increased access: brought about by better signage, mapping and sponsorships, improved parking, street closures, better public transportation, widened sidewalks, more bike racks, better bike lanes, valet bike parking, one-way corridors to and from the Creamery District along Eighth and Ninth streets, a safety corridor to Humboldt State University, expansion of the Zagster bike program, more Uber, Lyft and Zip cars, bus passes, dockless scooters, extended public transportation hours, more electric vehicle charging, and more.
• Beautification: improved maintenance, better landscaping, more art on Plaza fixtures and sidewalks including indigenous art, repaired trash cans,upgraded lighting, leaving the Plaza center open, repaired signage, adding dividers to benches to discourage sleeping, state-stops on planters to prevent skateboard damage, façade and alley improvements with business sponsorships, trimmed shrubbery and more.
• Programming: partner with HSU for more activities, increase use by community groups and volunteers, more small events, food trucks, parklets, streamlined permitting process, increased marketing and outreach, business participation, children’s events, regional marketing in coordination with the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, Arcata Mainstreet and others to make the Plaza a regional destination, restaurant and business promotion, a parklet on Eighth Street for outdoor dining, more help from city with event setup, more electrical access, and more.
• Safety: alternative locations for the unhoused to congregate, support and augmentation of Arcata Crisis Intervention Team, relocate Food Not Bombs, support for Arcata House Partnership, more services for the unhoused, increased presence and responsiveness of Arcata Police, better enforcement of Plaza rules, maintain APD staffing levels, better citizen crime reporting to APD, more sensitivity to and collaboration with the indigenous community, locker storage for travelers, more business surveillance cameras, private parking for large events, changing bar access from Ninth Street to the back alley, locked dumpsters, a family-friendly restroom, more housing infill development downtown, a “tippler tax” on alcohol, more training for bar employees, stricter DUI checks, eliminate drink specials, re-identification of the Plaza, affordable shopping options, turning event booths outward rather than inward, parking meters, an arena theater, a redwood tree or Greek goddess statue at the Plaza’s center.