Arcata City
CA

Staff Report
1848

Continued Public Hearing on the Village Student Housing Project Located at 2715-2920 St. Louis Road; File No. 156-179.

Information

Department:Community DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:Report

Introduction

This is the sixth Council meeting on the project, including all continuations. During meetings on the 11th and 17th of July, 2018, Council members provided individual input on conditions each would be interested incorporating into the project. The applicant received and responded to the list of concerns and prospective conditions prior to the meeting on the 17th (Attachment A). The Council has been working through the items to balance the community need for student housing and concerns raised by the community through the permitting process; however, if the vote was called at the July 17 meeting, it appears the vote would have been tied resulting in a denial of the project. Councilmembers Ornelas and Watson provided conditions on the project they felt they would support. The Council should review the outstanding issues related to conditions on the project, including whether the project includes a family and/or non-student component, and provide direction whether to move forward with consideration for approval or not.

Discussion/Fiscal Impact

DISCUSSION:

The Council identified several issues and potential project modifications and conditions over the course of their review. The Council asked the applicant to consider a suite of conditions of approval that have been included in the staff reports and in discussions at the meetings, that are not reflected in the Conditions of Approval, the Development Agreement, the project descriptions, or anywhere else in the body of resolutions and ordinances that are required to approve the project. Staff has provided tables to track the issues that have been raised in the deliberations (Attachment A). In addition, the Development Agreement Terms Sheet has been updated to reflect the current deliberations at the Council review (Attachment B).

This hearing continues the discussion on the items raised by the Council. Importantly, at the last hearing, Councilmembers introduced the concept of adding family housing and a mix of unit types as a means to approval. The Developer reported at that meeting that they would consider the proposal and would have to consult with Humboldt State University (HSU). Subsequent, HSU has provided input on its student demographics, including its need and desire for family housing (Attachment C). In sum, there is a need for partner housing and they are incorporating this into the design. In sum, neither the applicant nor HSU is amenable to adding an open market component to the project. They did, however, agree to include a food concession among other conditions.

Staff is seeking direction from the Council now that the issues have been reviewed and the applicant and HSU have provided responses to the suggestions from the July 17, 2018, meeting. There are several items to clean up to encompass the deliberations and current project to the approval documents, the Development Agreement, and the Final EIR Findings and Statement of Overriding Considerations that will be triggered by direction to move forward. As such, staff is seeking direction before working on those amendments.

One of the necessary steps that requires additional time and processing is the vacation of St. Louis Road. The vacation process has been described in detail previously. And staff can provide an update as necessary on the details of the process as the Council’s interest dictates. In summary, the process requires a hearing at the Planning Commission for a General Plan Consistency Determination, and a separately noticed hearing at the Council. Adopting Resolution 189-10 (Attachment D) is the first step to initiate this process. Resolution 189-10 does not itself vacate the property and final vacation and disposition would follow satisfying several conditions of approval adopted by the Council after approval of the project.

Correspondence regarding the project received by the City between July 17 and August 9, 2018, is attached (Attachment E). Additional correspondence received prior to the hearing is included in Council’s “blue folder” items and will be appended to the record electronically and physically. The Council should consider these correspondences as part of the record.

Project Modifications and Conditions

The project has been modified considerably from the original proposal, and the Councilmembers have requested additional changes. The applicant and HSU (Attachment C) have responded to the Council recommendations. The plan set and elevations provided to the Council on July 11, 2018, which represent staff’s understanding of the project currently under review for approval is included here (Attachment F). This plan does not address all of the concepts the Council considered in deliberations, but represents the applicant’s current project proposal. The applicant has provided this plan set, as they described in hearing, as a response to the concerns they heard from the Planning Commission, Council, and community.

Development Agreement Terms

The Development Agreement terms sheet has been updated to reflect the current project description and terms as modified by the Council’s deliberations (Attachment B). Some of the items in the issues table (Attachment A) will be addressed in amendments to the Conditions of Approval. The terms sheet addresses many of the topics that have been raised by the Council and community. This document is included here to provide a current synopsis of the issues that are addressed in the Development Agreement. Additional issues, such as the added sidewalk in the Jay/Eye Streets neighborhood would fall under conditions of approval.

Environmental Review

Staff is still reviewing the issues raised by Griffin Cove Transportation Consulting, LLC in the Remy, Moose, Manly letter of July 17, 2018, and by Lozeau Drury, LLP on behalf of the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local Union No. 324. Staff will provide a progress update at the August 9, 2018, hearing. 

Meeting History

Aug 15, 2018 6:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

ON MOTION BY PITINO, SECONDED BY ORNELAS, AND WITH A UNANIMOUS VOICE VOITE, THE MEETING OF WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2018, AT 6:00 P.M., WAS ADJOURNED TO THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2018, AT 6:00 P.M., IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER. AYES: PEREIRA, WATSON, ORNELAS, PITINO, WINKLER. NOES: NONE. ABSENT: NONE. ABSTENTIONS: NONE.

RESULT:CONTINUED [UNANIMOUS]Next: 8/16/2018 6:00 PM
MOVER:Paul Pitino, Councilmember
SECONDER:Susan Ornelas, Councilwoman
AYES:Michael Winkler, Paul Pitino, Susan Ornelas, Sofia Pereira, Brett Watson
Aug 16, 2018 6:00 PM Video City Council Adjourned Meeting

ON MOTION BY PITINO, SECONDED BY ORNELAS, AND WITH A UNANIMOUS VOICE VOTE THE COUNCIL CONTINUED THE PUBLIC HEARING ON THE VILLAGE TO WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29, 2018, AT 9:00 A.M., IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER. AYES: PEREIRA, WATSON, ORNELAS, PITINO, WINKLER. NOES: NONE. ABSENT: NONE. ABSTENTIONS: NONE.

RESULT:CONTINUED [UNANIMOUS]Next: 8/29/2018 9:00 AM
MOVER:Paul Pitino, Councilmember
SECONDER:Susan Ornelas, Councilwoman
AYES:Michael Winkler, Paul Pitino, Susan Ornelas, Sofia Pereira, Brett Watson
Aug 29, 2018 9:00 AM Video City Council Special Meeting

Director of Community Development Loya told the Council that at this meeting it should signal its intent to move forward or not move forward with the project. He noted the following information was included in the staff report: current configuration of the project; responses to the Council's prior deliberations; a response from Humboldt State University (HSU) as to whether it could provide family housing; updated term sheet for the development agreement; staff's recommendation that, in the case of HSU purchasing the property, property taxes to the City and Arcata Fire District would continue as if the property were in private ownership. He noted that adoption of Resolution No. 189-10 would set a date for a hearing on the vacation of St. Louis Road. He said that resolution would require three affirmative votes to move forward.

On inquiry by Councilmember Watson, Director Loya said there was a letter questioning the methodology for the traffic study, and he had asked the consultant who prepared the traffic study to respond to that. He said the traffic study pertained to all the recent and upcoming development in that general area of town.

Councilmember Ornelas disclosed that since the last hearing on this matter, she and Councilmember Watson met and drafted a list of conditions that would need to be met in order for them to vote favorably on the project. She distributed copies of that list. She said she also sent an email to HSU, and distributed copies of that document. She relayed how she had spoken with Larry Schussler, founder of Sun Frost solar refrigerators, who told her the project was designed wrong, would cost too much to heat, was not designed for passive solar, and would be uncomfortable for those who lived in it.

Councilmember Watson disclosed that at a recent meeting of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, there was an agenda item that involved a lease extension at Craftsman's Mall, and said he abstained from the vote on that item.

Councilmember Pitino said he had calls from Eric Schimps and Pam Mendelssohn who both expressed their opposition to the project.

Mayor Pereira disclosed that she had a meeting with representatives from Operating Engineers Local 3, not related to City business, and questions were brought up about the village, which discussion included payment of prevailing wages.

Mayor Pereira invited the applicant to speak.

David Moon, representing the applicant, appeared before the Council and reported that they were talking with Murphy's Markets to provide a market at the project. Regarding family housing, he said that HSU had performed an analysis and put together a formal position to the Council a few weeks prior. He said the applicant believed the project was a better project with HSU's involvement and it would be difficult for the applicant to take a position against the experience and position the university had regarding family housing. So, he said it appeared they were stuck on that particular issue and he was not sure how to overcome that. He said the applicant felt they had met most of Councilmember Ornelas's and Watson's demands, except for family housing, which he said was in the hands of HSU. He noted that they just opened developments at CSU Stanislaus, Sacramento, and Monterey Bay and they were all 100 percent leased. He said this project was critically needed in this area as it had more students coming from out of the area than any other school in the CSU system and offered the worst off-campus housing. He said a vote against this project was a vote against HSU, students, students of color, and local businesses. He said it was an excellent project and he hoped the Council voted for it.

Mayor Pereira inquired about payment of prevailing wages, and Doug Dawes, Vice President for Administration and Finance at HSU, responded that until HSU knew what the approved project would be, it would not know what its agreement would be with AMCAL. He said HSU would assure that prevailing wages would be paid if required by the project.

Mayor Pereira invited public comment.

Kent Sawatzky, a resident of Humboldt County, appeared before the Council and said he strongly supported the inclusion of family housing, the payment of prevailing wages, and the use of local labor. He recommended voting no on the project unless theses concerns were addressed.

An unidentified member of the audience appeared before the Council and said The Village was a bad idea and was located on the wrong side of U.S. 101. She spoke of how it would be dangerous to walk or drive from The Village to HSU. She recommended the project be built on the HSU campus.

Colin Fiske, Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities, appeared before the Council and said the Coalition had two primary requests for the project: 1) Un-bundle parking and residential rents, and 2) decrease the number of parking spaces and put regulations in place to keep students from parking in the surrounding neighborhoods. He said the Coalition encouraged the payment of prevailing wages and recommended the un-bundling of parking fees be included in the development agreement. He said the Coalition felt the site provided a rare opportunity for high-density residential development. He asked the Council to approve the project, with the appropriate conditions of approval, because on the balance it felt that was the most responsible course of action.

An unidentified member of the audience appeared before the Council and urged it to not accept the proposal. He stated he did not hear concrete, legally binding terms for the payment of property taxes. He said there would be no improvements to the L.K. Wood Boulevard/Sunset Avenue intersection, the project was too big, it would be a destroyer of the Eye Street neighborhood, and did not incorporate passive solar design.

Chant'e Catt appeared before the Council and said that 87 percent of the students at HSU came from out of town, and day after day she dealt with students who could not find housing. She said the need for students to have family housing was small, and most of those were looking for houses. She declared the students needed low-barrier housing and this was a good project.

Stephanie McCaleb, a resident of Arcata, appeared before the Council and listed the three reasons she did not support this project: 1) It was not affordable for students; 2) She was concerned about the loss of property taxes in perpetuity if HSU bought the project; and 3) She wanted to see the character of the City continue as it currently was with mixed housing.

Bob Beedy, a resident of Maple Lane, appeared before the Council and said he moved to Arcata because it was a special place with few corporate businesses, and he felt this project would encourage corporate businesses.

Kelsey Reedy, an HSU alumnus, appeared before the Council and expressed her concern that she felt the housing in The Village was not affordable. She recommended the project include blue light emergency call stations for student safety.

J.B. Mathers, an HSU alumnus, appeared before the Council and spoke of a student he worked with who had to leave HSU and his job to attend school somewhere else because he could not find housing here. He said a no vote on the project would hurt Humboldt State and Arcata, and would send a message to future investors that their money was not wanted here.

Debbie Coles, an employee at HSU, appeared before the Council and relayed a story of how in the last week she had to try to find housing for 15 students. She said it was the Council’s responsibility to plan for the future of Arcata, and that this was a good proposal that looked out for the City. She declared that Arcata needed student housing and asked the Council to vote in favor of the project.

Alex Stillman, a resident of Arcata, appeared before the Council and spoke of how her granddaughter, attending Chapman University, lived in dorms purchased by the university in another town and had to ride a bus to school. She said the Council needed to think about the well-being of everyone in the county and support the project because it supported HSU.

Julie Vaissade-Elcock, a resident of Arcata, appeared before the Council and spoke of how she felt the developer was being given privileges other developers would not be given. She declared it was in the best interest of the citizens of Arcata to reject the project.

Mark Raymond, a resident of the Sunset neighborhood, appeared before the Council and said that HSU needed to build more dorms on campus and the 11-acre Craftsman’s Mall property needed to be available for other opportunities.

Steve Martin, an HSU professor, appeared before the Council and said that a no vote on The Village would be good prior planning. He expressed his concerns regarding transportation, parking, taxes, and occupation limits. He noted that HSU's enrollment had decreased by 1,000 students since 2015 and that there were currently empty dorm rooms on campus. He asked the Council to put this project out of its misery so the community could come up with a better project that addressed everyone's concerns.

Judy Scharnberg, a resident of the Janes Creek Meadow subdivision, appeared before the Council and said the project needed to use local labor and pay prevailing wages. She asked why the project was not being required to provide 20 percent of its units as affordable housing.

An unidentified member of the audience requested people not equate being against this project as being against HSU. He said that building up was not a good idea and that it made no sense to build residences for HSU on the west side of the freeway. He declared the project was a mistake and urged the Council to say no.

Erik Jules, a member of Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing, appeared before the Council and said that ACRH was still opposed to the project. He spoke about how students came to HSU, but then left. He said this problem was caused by not having enough classes for students and more housing would not solve that problem.

Jeff Hunerlach, Secretary/Treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, appeared before the Council speaking on behalf of labor. He said they were against the project as it currently stood. He recommended the Council approve the project only if it included the condition that prevailing wages be paid.

Councilmember Watson left the Chamber at 9:56 a.m.

Jane Woodward, a resident of Arcata, appeared before the Council and said she was appalled that HSU and AMCAL had not been willing to compromise and work with the City to address Councilmember Ornelas's and Watson's requests. She said HSU's excuse that it did not want to manage a mixed-use project was marginal, and that there was no reason that five acres could not be dedicated to family housing. She expressed her opinion that student housing should be built on campus.

Councilmember Watson returned to the Chamber at 9:59 a.m.

An unidentified member of the audience who lived on Maple Lane and was a member of ACRH, appeared before the Council and said she would like to see a mixed-use development on the site. She said that, although she loved HSU, she did not want to live next to 600 students.

John Rosa, a resident of Maple Lane, appeared before the Council and declared that the Craftsman's Mall property should never be sold to HSU because the City would lose control of the property. He said the transportation infrastructure did not exist for this number of residents. He stated that an infill plan for Arcata needed to be developed with input from all stakeholders. He said The Village should be built on the HSU campus and should include families, HSU staff, and others.

Mayor Pereira closed the public comment period.

On inquiry by Councilmember Watson, Director Loya explained that "affordable' meant different things in different contexts. He noted that students could not be included in rent restrictions. He said it was complicated because if a student was still claimed as a dependent on their parents' income taxes, it was their parents' income that was considered, not the student's income.

Councilmember Watson suggested the City develop a definition of affordable housing for students. He asked about responses staff was providing to the Council's concerns regarding the letter from Caltrans and a realistic cost estimate regarding traffic improvements at Sunset, a greater mix of unit types, options for zone parking in nearby neighborhoods, case studies that show a positive result from purpose-built student housing, and a provision for family housing.

Director Loya responded that responses to most of those concerns were still pending. Regarding the trail, he said that the City still needed to secure easements for it.

Councilmember Watson noted that HSU had said they only received one request for family housing, and that it was not hard to see that people were not requesting family housing because it is not currently being offered.

Councilmember Pitino spoke about how he didn't want to miss the opportunity to have some control over what was built on the site and that the requirement for rezoning of the site for the current project gave the City some say over aspects of the development via a development agreement.

Councilmember Watson said that including family housing on the site would be a selling point for HSU. He said he did not see The Village as being affordable for students. He declared it did not fit into the neighborhood and he felt that the inclusion of family housing would help. He said the traffic issues at Sunset Avenue and L. K. Wood Boulevard needed to be addressed before the City increased traffic there. He said it was clear to him that this was an HSU project and it seemed that would trigger the payment of prevailing wages. He said he wanted to see an agreement between HSU and AMCAL before the Council considered approval of the project. He said he felt strongly that there was a way to have a project that was more agreeable to the surrounding neighbors.

ORNELAS MOVED AND WATSON SECONDED TO APPROVE THE VILLAGE PROJECT IN CONCEPT WITH ALL THE ASSOCIATED REQUIREMENTS THE CITY HAD ALREADY BEEN DISCUSSING AND WERE IN THE LIST OF TERMS, PLUS: 350-PERSON PURPOSE-BUILT STUDENT HOUSING, MAXIMUM; 250 FAMILY STUDENT HOUSING, MAXIMUM; SOME PERCENTAGE DEEMED FAMILY HOUSING, NOT JUST GRADUATE STUDENT HOUSING; A DEDICATED BUS ROUTE; PAYMENT OF PREVAILING WAGES OR REQUIRED LOCAL LABOR; INCLUSION OF A FOOD MARKET; TURNING THE COURTYARDS AROUND 90 DEGREES TO THAT THEY SEE SOME SUNSHINE; UN-BUNDLING OF PARKING AND ROOM RENTS.

On inquiry by Councilmember Pitino, Councilmember Ornelas said her definition of family housing was that at least one person in the family was an HSU student.

Director Loya instructed the Council that it could not approve the project at this point; that it needed to first take action on the environmental document and the only action it could take that day was to introduce Resolution No. 189-10 stating its intent to vacate St. Louis Road.

Mayor Pereira said the Council needed to make a decision on the project that was currently before it and needed to decide whether it was going to advance the project as it currently stood.

Councilmember Pitino called for the question.

THE MOTION FAILED ON A TWO-TO-TWO VOICE VOTE WITH ONE ABSENCE (RECUSED). AYES: ORNELAS, WATSON. NOES: PEREIRA, PITINO. ABSENT: WINKLER (RECUSED). ABSTENTIONS: NONE.

PITINO MOVED TO APPROVE THE PROJECT BY DIRECTING STAFF TO AMEND THE APPROVAL DOCUMENTS TO INCLUDE THE FINAL CONDITIONS AND TERMS AS DEVELOPED THROUGH THE PUBLIC HEARING FOR CONSIDERATION AND ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 189-10.

Councilmember Watson asked if HSU was willing to provide family housing at the project.

Doug Dawes, Vice President for Administration and Finance, responded that based on the demand HSU had, and their on-campus and other housing available for families, they didn't see the need for it in this project and would not support family housing mixed use on this project.

PEREIRA SECONDED THE MOTION.

Councilmember Ornelas said she believed there could be a project and she requested HSU be creative about this. She said she would be abstaining from the vote on this motion as a form of protest.

THE MOTION FAILED ON A TWO-TO-ZERO VOICE VOTE WITH TWO ABSTENTIONS AND ONE ABSENCE. AYES: PEREIRA, PITINO. NOES: NONE. ABSENT: WINKLER (RECUSED). ABSTENTIONS: ORNELAS, WATSON.

RESULT:DEFEATED [2 TO 0]
MOVER:Paul Pitino, Councilmember
SECONDER:Sofia Pereira, Mayor
AYES:Paul Pitino, Sofia Pereira
ABSTAIN:Susan Ornelas, Brett Watson
ABSENT:Michael Winkler