Arcata City
CA

Staff Report
1796

Continued Public Hearing to Consider the Final Environmental Impact Report and Approval of the Required Permits and Development Agreement Terms for the Village Student Housing Project at 2715-2920 St. Louis Road, Including an Opportunity to Receive Public Comment.

Information

Department:Community DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:Report

Introduction

This hearing is a continuation of the Village Student Housing Project, which was introduced at the City Council’s June 6, 2018, meeting. The Council’s deliberations led to a continuation for a site visit on June 19, 2018, convening at 4:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber. The Council will conduct the site visit with a planned route to consider site access and non-vehicular traffic paths (Attachment A). Then the Council will continue its deliberations and the public hearing in the Council Chamber at City Hall after the site visit. Staff seeks direction from the Council on scheduling a continued hearing and any information needed to take action on the project.

Discussion/Fiscal Impact

DISCUSSION:

At its June 7, 2018, meeting, the Council requested additional information from staff on campus housing prices at Humboldt State (Attachment B), traffic impacts, and preferential parking process and potential impacts in nearby neighborhoods, as well as a number of other items relating to the need for housing and the impact of adding housing of various types on housing markets.

Traffic. The full Traffic Impact Study (“Traffic Study”, W-Trans, 2017) is included as Appendix L to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). And a detailed discussion on the existing conditions and expected impacts was included in the June 6 Council staff report (p. 12). Traffic is determined in the Draft EIR as a significant unavoidable impact. This discussion summarizes the environmental impact for the Council’s consideration.

The Traffic Study found that the project will increase the time vehicles must wait at certain intersections will increase above CalTrans’ identified threshold for significance (Tables 1 & 2). The Traffic Study also identified that several of the study intersections are already above the threshold or are projected without the project to be above the threshold in time.  While the project does add to the wait times, the difference between future conditions with and without the project are minimal and not significant for morning commute times (Table 2) and only moderate for evening commute times (Table 1). It is worth noting that the City’s strategy for mode shift to alternative transportation options has been in part to make vehicular travel less rapid. For this reason, staff and the Planning Commission has recommended certification of the Final EIR and adoption of the Statement of Overriding Considerations.

Table 1. Summary of Traffic Study findings for evening wait times at various study intersections. The full study is included in the Draft EIR as Appendix L. Change in LOS is indicated by bold.

Wait Time in Seconds / Level of Service / Difference Evening

Intersection

Current

LOS

+ Project

LOS

Difference

+20 Y No Project

LOS

+ 20 YR +Project

LOS

Difference

LK Wood/Sunset

36

E

59

F

23

88

F

122

F

24

Sunset/101 North Off Ramp

27

D

27

D

0

94

F

94

F

0

Foster/Alliance

18

C

26

D

8

67

F

73

F

10

 


Table 2. Summary of Traffic Study findings for evening wait times at various study intersections. The full study is included in the Draft EIR as Appendix L.

 

Wait Time in Seconds / Level of Service / Difference Morning

Intersection

Current

LOS

+ Project

LOS

Difference

+20 Y No Project

LOS

+ 20 YR +Project

LOS

Difference

LK Wood/Sunset

13

B

15

B

2

17

C

19

C

2

Sunset/101 North Off Ramp

24

C

25

C

1

52

F

53

F

1

Foster/Alliance

18

C

19

C

1

38

E

40

E

2

 

The Traffic Study (Draft EIR, Appendix L, p. 47) shows existing conditions with traffic generated by all six of the projects included in the area-wide study. With the exception of Sunset Avenue/LK Wood Boulevard, Foster Avenue/Alliance Road, and 11th Street/K Street, all of the study intersections will continue operating at LOS C or better. The cumulative impact of all projects will result in LOS F, E, and E, respectively for the Sunset/LK Wood, Foster/Alliance, and 11th/K intersections. And, the Traffic Study indicates that any one individual project also has significant impacts using LOS C as a threshold. In short, any additional major development project that would route morning or evening traffic through the study intersections is going to have a similar significant environmental impact with respect to traffic.

 

Preferential Parking. Section 3513 of the City’s Municipal Code defines preferential parking as follows: When authorized signs are in place giving notice thereof, no person shall stop, stand or park any vehicle on any of the streets within any preferential parking zone, as enumerated by resolution of the City Council, for a period of time longer than four (4) hours at any time between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. any day except Saturday, Sunday and holidays; and when Humboldt State University is not in session.

The analysis of whether or not this type of parking restriction should be instituted is generally triggered by citizen complaints and typically arises in neighborhoods near the HSU campus or in residential areas adjacent to commercial districts. The point of preferential parking is to disallow the “storage” of vehicles all day, or overnight, by people who are not residents of the subject street or neighborhood. Residents may obtain a preferential parking permit from the police department.

In the case of the proposed Village development, neighbors to the south on Eye St. and to the west on Maple Lane and Stromberg Ave. have voiced concerns about the onsite parking being inadequate and the potential for offsite impacts created by car “storage” on these streets. This came up several times at the Planning Commission meetings and the City Engineer explained that once the project is built, City staff, in collaboration with the City’s Transportation Safety Committee and the police department, will assess the parking and car “storage” situation offsite and determine whether a preferential parking zone is needed for the Stromberg/Maple/Eye St. neighborhoods.

The discussion around parking for the project at the pre-application hearing centered on the alternative transportation options included in the project. The Council at that time encouraged a lower parking space ratio, recognizing that students would be close to campus and have the option to walk or bike. Due to public concern over parking, the project was modified to include car share, parking separate from rent, and additional bus service. The project already included indoor bike parking and other amenities to encourage mode shift. The project was further amended to include a higher ratio of parking to student.

While some are not convinced that the proximity and other alternative transportation amenities will result in mode shift, the project as modified is the most alternative transportation oriented project in the City. While there are no direct comparisons, HSU reports that only 30% of its on campus residents have parking passes. This was based on the 2017 parking study commissioned by the University. While these data do not confirm that 70% of students in the dorms do not bring cars, it is highly suggestive of this fact.

Letters received from the public since the June 7, 2018, Council meeting are included as Attachment C.

 

 

 

Meeting History

Jun 19, 2018 4:00 PM Video City Council Special Meeting

RECONVENE: At 6:30 p.m., the Council reconvened in the Council Chamber. PRESENT: Pereira, Watson, Ornelas, Pitino. ABSENT: Winkler (recused). STAFF PRESENT: City Manager Diemer, City Attorney Diamond, Director of Community Development Loya, City Engineer Class, Assistant City Engineer Khatri, Senior Planner Hunter.

Councilmember Watson disclosed ex parte communication saying a resident from Turlock who lived near The Vista project emailed the Council. He said he looked up her address and its proximity to The Vista.

Director of Community Development Loya said the evening's staff report addressed concerns about the actual differences in the level of service in the traffic impact analysis. He explained that Table 1 showed the nighttime level of service (LOS) and Table 2 showed the morning LOS. He said those tables showed a difference at the intersections in the number of seconds cars would have to wait. He said the intersection at Sunset and L. K. Wood was already impacted per CEQA, and the intersection at Foster Avenue and Alliance Road was not currently impacted, but would be. He said the staff report gave some discussion on preferential parking . He provided information on the cost of the dorms at HSU from HSU's website. He said there was additional correspondence received that day that was distributed to the Council. He reported that the City's Transportation Safety, Economic Development, and Wetlands & Creeks Committees had all reviewed the project at some point and their comments were incorporated into the Conditions of Approval, except the Transportation Safety Committee's which were incorporated into the Area-Wide Traffic Study.

City Engineer Class used aerial photos to show the path of the trail from the project site to Sunset Avenue.

On inquiry by Councilmember Pitino, Director Loya explained that when a traffic LOS got above category C, it was considered an impact per CEQA.

Assistant City Engineer Khatri explained the LOS categories: A--0 to 10 seconds; B--10 to 15 seconds, C--15 to 25 seconds, D--25 to 35 seconds; E--35-50 seconds, F--over 50 seconds.

Director Loya said that at Foster Avenue and Alliance Road, the current wait time was 18 seconds and with the project it was predicted to be 26 seconds.

Director Loya said the City received a letter from Remy Moose Manley LLP with comments on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and that staff intended to respond to that letter. He said the findings for certification of the EIR would have to be amended for the new project. He said the Council, at this time, could not adopt the CEQA document. He said the only action the Council would take that evening was to adopt Resolution No. 178-64 to begin the street vacation process for St. Louis Road.

On inquiry by Councilmember Pitino, City Engineer Class said at the end of Eye Street there would be a sheer-in of about two feet of asphalt with flush-mounted bollards. He said the Development Agreement could include installation of some sort of barrier at either end of the bollards so that cars could not drive around them.

On inquiry by Councilmember Watson, City Engineer Class said the City would have an easement through the project site so that there could be connectivity from St. Louis Road to Eye Street in the event of some emergency.

On inquiry by Councilmember Watson, Director Loya said the Council could consider adjusting the on-site parking. He said there was currently excess parking per the City's zoning code, and the originally the project was plan as an alternative transportation project with fewer parking spaces. He said the traffic study did not identify the availability of parking as a contributing factor to an increase in traffic. He explained that the traffic analysis determined the student residents would be walking, biking, or taking the bus to school because by being parked at the facility, they were already parked as close to HSU as they could be. He said the impacts at the intersections were from bicycle and pedestrian traffic and how that related to vehicular traffic.

Mayor Pereira asked the Council to share their current positions on the project pursuant to the following categories: 1) They felt they had all the information they needed or there was no more that would come to them that would change their opinion and the decision they would render on the project; 2) They needed more time to make a decision; please state how much more time they need; 3) If they need additional information, please outline that for staff.

Councilmember Pitino responded that he had more questions.

Councilmember Ornelas said she did not need much more information, but she needed to see the agreement with HSU and the management ideas.

Councilmember Watson said he didn't feel good about the City's ability to control the project in the long term. He felt it was basically a project that it made sense for HSU to purchase, but HSU said it was not interested in purchasing it. He expressed concerns that after telling the community what the project would be, HSU would purchase it and make changes. He requested to see staff's response to the June 7 Remy Moose Manley letter.

Mayor Pereira said she wanted to be able to see the agreement with HSU and the applicant. She said she had concerns about the project long-term and how it would affect the community.

Councilmember Pitino asked about the missing section of sidewalk, about 100 feet, along Todd Court near Eye Street. He said the City should require the developer complete the sidewalk all along Todd Court to Eye Street. He said there also needed to be sidewalk on Eye Street from Todd Court south Jay Street.

City Engineer Class responded that there wouldn't be more traffic on Eye Street or Todd Court until the Canyon Creek Apartments were developed. He said that project would be required to bring all sidewalks around it up to standard.

Councilmember Watson asked for assurance that the EIR did not need to be recirculated with the change in the project and the proposed management by HSU. He asked if there was other housing the developer would consider on the site.

Councilmember Ornelas said she, too, would be interested in varied housing for the site and if the developer would be interested in that. She declared this type of student housing was not really transferable to other types of housing, such as for families. She said she was not comfortable with the size of the project and felt it was perhaps too much for this small community. She noted that HSU's Housing Master Plan of June 2017 had all kinds of interesting options for HSU housing. She said she would be more interested in a mix of housing types with a smaller project for 300-350 students.

Councilmember Pitino expressed his concern that infill requirements needed to be met. He felt it was unfair to say the City wanted infill, but only 300 beds. He said that did not meet the infill requirement of the City's vision for Arcata.

Councilmember Ornelas said she felt the student housing would be better mixed in with housing for multiple ages.

Mayor Pereira asked if the fact that the proposal was for purpose-built student housing keeping anyone from supporting it.

Councilmember Ornelas said it would be difficult for her to support this project as proposed. She suggested that perhaps HSU could make a deal with AMCAL to build purpose-built student housing on campus. Then there could be a smaller student development, of maybe 300 beds, on private property off campus. She said she was not against student housing, but thought this project was too intense and not well-designed for the site. She stated she would like to see HSU commit to some small bus service for the site, and that she did not see enough commitment for bussing, the trail, or security. She said neighbors in Turlock were promised things that did not come true--there were no security guards; there was not a number to call after 6 p.m.; things were left open. She asked who neighbors of The Village could call after 10 p.m. if there was a party. She said that, fundamentally, she felt this project would have too many students.

On inquiry by Councilmember Pitino, Councilmember Ornelas said she would be in favor of purpose-built student housing of 300 beds that was managed, and for that particular property she would like to see a more diverse development that addressed the community's needs and not just HSU's needs.

Councilmember Pitino pointed out that Janes Creek Meadow was built as single-family housing with second units, and it was virtually all students that lived there. He claimed it didn't matter what was built, if it was close to HSU it would house students.

Councilmember Watson said he had not seen any data that said building a project such as this off campus was good for the students and the neighbors. He said it would be a great project if it were on the campus.

Mayor Pereira invited public comment.

Jane Woodward appeared before the Council and relayed that she attended the meeting HSU held and learned that HSU had planned on-campus housing for freshman that would be ready in 2022. She also learned that the management agreement with AMCAL for The Village was not yet completed, that HSU did not currently plan to purchase The Village, but that either HSU or AMCAL would sign an agreement to pay the City's share of the property taxes and the Fire Department's taxes if HSU purchased The Village. She suggested the City's Happy Valley property was a viable location for a project such as this because the Ridge Trail went from there right to HSU. She said she would support this project if it were on the HSU campus.

John Ross, a resident of Maple Lane, appeared before the Council and said he would submit a letter addressing the redesigned project. He said he wanted to know what HSU planned to do with this facility and said the City should not relinquish control of the property.

Steve Martin appeared before the Council and said he appreciated the shorter buildings and that tey were sited farther east on the property. He said the sheer number and concentration of students was a problem for him. He expressed concerns about light, noise, people and cars. He said he felt this project would isolate students and that they needed to be integrated into the community. He said the units in The Village would rent for the same price as the most expensive on-campus housing at HSU.

Dan Walker, a resident of Arcata, appeared before the Council and said he though the student housing proposal was a great use for this land--it was close to HSU and provided easy access. He said Arcata did need low-income and senior housing, burt this site was ideal for student housing because of its proximity to HSU. He said not using the property for denser housing would be a lost opportunity.

Alex Stillman appeared before the Council and said the City really needed to think about whether or not it would have future development. She said Arcata nee4ded to provide for students. She noted that with mixed-use housing, there is no control over who lived in it and it would probably end up being rented to students. She said that if there was no longer a need for The Village to be student housing, it could be remodeled and turned into senior housing. She said it was time to step up to the plate--there was a developer who could build this project, which local developers could not build because it was too expensive.

Paul Bashman, a resident of Eye Street, appeared before the Council and said Arcata had a housing shortage since 1954 and there was a housing shortage nationally. He said infill projects were very important and that was why Arcata should not jump at the first opportunity that came along. He said the infrastructure was not ready for this development. He surmised that students would walk down Eye Street and not use the trail.

Erik Jules, a resident of Westwood Village, appeared before the Council and said he disagreed with a mixed-use development would only house students. He questioned what the best number of residents would be for the site. He said if the City's infill process had been followed, the community would have been consulted on the design and there would be a mixed-use project proposed for the site.

Judith Williamson appeared before the Council and said that not all students were the same and a lot of them would not fit into this type of housing. She said a more diverse housing development made more sense.

Written comments were received from Susan Hansen, Sean Armstrong, Daniel Gavin, Jane Woodward and AMCAL. The Council also received a copy of the HSU STude4nt Housing Master Plan June 2017.

Mayor Pereira closed the public comment period.

City Engineer Class said the City does require new developments to put in infrastructure for buses. He said that the buses go where the demand was. He said a bus route in that area would also serve the Janes Creek Meadow subdivision. He confirmed that the City would build the trail whether this project was built or not.

David Moon appeared before the Council and commented on the management of The Vista in Turlock. He said that one of the neighbors in Turlock was very opposed to that project from the beginning. He noted that HSU had a lot of resources to dedicate to management of The Village.

Councilmember Pitino said he would like to see a draft of HSU's management agreement.

On inquiry by Mayor Pereira, Mr. Moon said he could have a draft for the City as soon as it was ready, probably within the next couple of weeks. He said it would outline all the major terms. He said that HSU would manage the property and provide all staffing, police services by the University Police Department, etc.

Mr. Moon said that AMCAL had informally agreed to make a payment in lieu of taxes to the Fire Department and for the City's share of the property tax.

Councilmember Watson asked if at the Monterey facility bunkbeds were added to house more students. He asked if there was concern HSU would purchase The Village.

Mr. Moon said that over the last two years, AMCAL had met and corresponded many times with HSU. He said it was to the advantage to the students to have HSU affiliated with the project. He said AMCAL and HSU only recently came to an agreement, and when HSU previously said they were not affiliated with the project, that was true. He said AMCAL had also met with the schools in Sacramento, Stanislaus, and San Jose, and that there was nothing insincere about HSU talking with AMCAL.

Councilmember Ornelas expressed her concern about HSU possibly wanting to double the number of residents.

Mr. Moon responded that HSU wanted to make some of the rooms double occupancy in order to lower the rent. He said AMCAL changed 30 percent of the units to be double occupancy in order to lower the rent. He said they would agree to 602 beds and that HSU had also said it would agreed to a cap of 602 beds and the payments in lieu of taxes.

On inquiry by Councilmember Pitino, Mr. Moon said that CSU, Monterey Bay was always looking to purchase the project in Marina. He said that at Marina, there was no agreement with the City to cap the number of beds.

Director Loya announced that at least twice in Planning Commission meetings he had said that AMCAL and HSU were in conversations about the project. He said HSU had told him that at this point nothing penciled out for them pro forma. He said the comment in the emails with HSU about doubling up the rooms was made because they were trying evaluate if the project could pencil out. He said City staff was always aware that AMCAL was meeting with HSU and talking. He said he wanted the Council to understand that the knowledge that HSU and AMCAL were having discussions was not made public when public records request was made, it was made public early in the Planning Commission's hearings.

Councilmember Watson said he felt the criticism was fair that it was hard to trust HSU. He asked if it was possible to make a legally binding agreement with HSU that it would not increase the number of units.

City Attorney Diamond said the City had, in the past, put conditions and management terms in an agreement and there were repercussions if those were violated. She said this would apply if the project stayed in private ownership and HSU managed it.

On inquiry by Councilmember Watson, City Attorney Diamond said that once a property went into ownership by HSU, the City would lose all ability to regulate it. The City could put restrictions on the land title itself. She said a restriction on the number of beds could be put on title and staff could look into that. Any restrictions put on title would not be extinguished upon transfer. She said it is a mechanism for restricting use of properties.

City Manager Diemer asked the Council if there was a list of requirements for the developer that, if it met all of them, the Council could support this project. She said if the Council could see that, it was worth working on that list. It might be that the Council's concerns could be addressed.

Councilmember Watson said he felt it would be best to approve whatever the community wanted. He said that was the City's future plan on infill--talk to the community first and see what it wanted. He said that if even 50 percent of the neighbors were embracing this project, it would be a different story.

Councilmember Pitino said if it was some kind of a homeless services project, it might have even less support. He said that any neighborhood you do anything in, the neighborhood doesn't want their neighborhood to change--ever. He said he saw this developer trying to change its project to make it acceptable to the neighbors. This project affected the whole City, not just the immediate neighborhood. He said the issue was student housing and this project dealt with that. He aid he would love to have this project work for everyone, and it appeared that was what the developer was trying to do. He said he only needed to see complete sidewalk on Todd Court and Eye Street.

PITINO MOVED TO CONTINUE THE PUBLIC HEARING TO JULY 11, 2018, AT 6:00 P.M.

PITINO WITHDREW HIS MOTION.

ON MOTION BY WATSON, SECONDED BY ORNELAS, AND WITH A UNANIMOUS VOICE VOTE, THE COUNCIL REFERRED THE VACATION OF ST. LOUIS ROAD TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION FOR DETERMINATION OF GENERAL PLAN CONSISTENCY. AYES: PEREIRA, WATSON, ORNELAS, PITINO. NOES: NONE. ABSENT: WINKLER (RECUSED). ABSTENTIONS: NONE.

ON MOTION BY PITINO, SECONDED BY ORNELAS, AND WITH A UNANIMOUS VOICE VOTE, THE COUNCIL CONTINUED THE PUBLIC HEARING ON THE VILLAGE STUDENT HOUSING PROJECT TO JULY 11, 2018. AYES PEREIRA, WATSON, ORNELAS, PITINO. NOES: NONE. ABSENT: WINKLER (RECUSED). ABSTENTIONS: NONE.

RESULT:REFERRED