Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – A majority of McKinleyville residents who participated in a survey want a pedestrian-friendly Town Center with small shops with apartments above them, restaurants, a performance venue, green spaces, trails and a place to gather for special events.
These are some of the conclusions from the survey, which was conducted online by the Humboldt County Planning Department earlier this year as part of its effort to create a Town Center Master Plan.
The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee held a Zoom meeting May 13 to hear a presentation on the survey results from senior planner Michael Richardson and to discuss the results.
Over a period of months, 330 people participated in the survey, which closed on March 16. “It shows the level of engagement in the community,” Richardson said.
Survey participants were given a list and asked to pick their top three uses they want in the Town Center. The most votes went to “small specialty shops, restaurants, live/work space,” which garnered 27 percent. The second most popular uses were “small specialty shops, restaurants, large retail (i.e. grocery, department store),” which received 14 percent. The third most popular was “small specialty shops, restaurants, office space,” which received 9 percent.
Survey participants said they want the Town Center to be child-friendly with areas to bicycle and walk. They said they wanted wetlands protected. They want open space and areas to gather and socialize.
The survey included photos of different building fronts and participants were asked to pick the ones they would like to see in the Town Center. The most popular photo was of what looked like a French creperie, a quaint little storefront with an awning – something you might come across in small town in France. Another top pick was the McKinleyville Fire Station.
“People love the fire station,” said Richardson, who speculated that the station’s allure is its clean lines and landscaping.
The least popular look for those who took the survey was of a McKinleyville strip mall on Central Avenue.
Asked about bicycle and pedestrian safety, participants overwhelmingly ranked as important.
But when it came to the importance of equestrian access, only 14 percent said it was very important and 29 percent said it was not important. Others ranked equestrian access somewhere between very important and not important.
Richardson said there was a lot of nuances in the survey. He also warned that some of the questions asked may have had unintentional biases built into them, which could skew the results. Also, there were written comments in the survey. Richardson said that in his presentation, he tried to give a Reader’s Digest version of the survey results.
McKMAC member Kevin Dreyer praised Richardson for his presentation, but said “a lot of it seems inconclusive.”
“It kind of reminds me of the statistical version of herding cats,” said McKMAC member Kevin Jenkins, who also praised Richardson for his efforts.
Committee members noted that survey was mostly conducted before the COVID-19 crisis.
“We all took this survey before we all entered this new way of living,” said committee member Mary Burke.
“Most of what people want in the Town Center is exactly what we can’t do right now,” Dreyer said. “Hopefully, we’ll all be getting together soon.”
Richardson said the survey results will be used to inform planners as they develop the Town Center Master Plan and being it back to the McKMAC.
The Town Center area extends from Pierson Park to McKinleyville Avenue and from Railroad Drive to an area near Heartwood Drive. The largest undeveloped part of the Town Center is west of the McKinleyville Shopping Center.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, McKinleyville resident Kelley Garrett suggested that McKinleyville organize some sort of event or parade, with proper social distancing, to bring the community together.
Dreyer said doing so is problematic and related his experience trying to organize a graduation ceremony for 13 students at Fieldbrook School. One idea was to have the students and their immediate family to gather, spaced apart, in a field. Another idea was to have everyone in their cars and have some sort of graduation that would resemble a drive-in theater.
Dreyer said the Humboldt County Health Officer rejected the ideas and reiterated than gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed.
McKMAC member Greg Orsini said that McKinleyville High School is also exploring the possibility of a parade for graduation.