Arcata City
CA

Staff Report
1982
Direction Given
Feb 6, 2019 6:00 PM

Review the Amended Village Housing Project with Proposed Mixed Occupancy Units.

Information

Department:Community DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:Report

Introduction

The Village Purpose Built Student Housing project had 12 hearings at the Planning Commission and 8 hearings before the City Council. Over the course of the public hearings, the community spoke to the Environmental Impact Report, the project design, and neighborhood impact concerns. The Council ultimately took a vote on the project, which was proposed to be 100 percent group quarters managed for student housing. The vote was split, with two Council members expressing a concern that the project did not include a mix of open-market and purpose-built student housing. The applicant has revised its plans to include a mix of housing types, as well as several other project modifications in an attempt to address Council and community concerns. This hearing is to determine whether the Council wishes to continue public hearings to consider approval of the amended project.

Discussion/Fiscal Impact

DISCUSSION:

On August 29, 2018, the City Council considered the project dated July 2018 (Attachment A). This project version was the result of several operational and site modifications, including four redesigns of the site and/or building elevations, that the Planning Commission and Council identified during hearings on the proposed project. Ultimately, the Council did not approve the project as amended, with a two-two split vote.  There were several issues identified during the split vote (Attachment B). The hearing concluded with an appeal to the applicant by Councilmembers Ornelas and Watson to modify the project to include several of the suggestions, including, importantly, a mix of open market apartments that could address non-student housing needs.

The applicant revised the design and operations plan based on the information they received from Councilmembers in August. Based on the revisions (Attachment C) and the new plans (Attachment D), Mayor Watson asked staff to put the revised project on the agenda to determine whether the Council wants to continue hearings on the project. Staff is asking the Council to give specific direction whether to take the steps and finalize documents necessary to hold a hearing to consider approval based on the proposed revisions of the project. 

Process overview

The Council may consider continuing the hearing as an ongoing review of the application from the last hearing in August, 2018. This continuation is not a new application, and the administrative record, public input, project review and environmental review established to date would attach to this continuation. The City Council may take action on the revised project and the Environmental Impact Report at a future noticed hearing. Council cannot take final action to approve the project at this meeting but can provide direction to finalize the documents necessary to approve the project.

Staff held a public workshop on the project revision on January 30, 2019. The meeting was noticed on the City’s social media, and through the City’s e Notification service. In addition, the Mad River Union had a story in the paper the week prior to the meeting. Staff also personally reached out to several interested parties to spread the word about the event. The meeting was recorded and archived on the City’s website. Staff will provide an oral update on the outcome of the workshop as this staff report was due prior to drafting an update.

The Council may also consider adopting resolution 189-10, which would initiate the process for the disposition of St. Louis Rd. The vacation of St. Louis Road requires additional time and several steps. 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 to make the decision to vacate. The first step to initiate this process is the adoption of Resolution 189-10 (Attachment E). 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. Taking this action now would streamline the hearing process if the Council decides to approve the project.

POLICY IMPLICATIONS:

The policy implications of the project are discussed in detail in the record and in the resolutions presented to the Council at its August 29, 2018, meeting. Those staff reports and resolutions are archived on the City’s watch meetings web page under the Council Meeting for August 29, 2018. The project would provide a mix of student restricted housing and open market housing with a range of room sizes to accommodate a range of household needs. The majority of apartments built or designed in the last several years are strictly one bedroom apartments. These are not suitable to families with children and other household arrangements.

COMMITTEE/COMMISSION REVIEW:

The Council may take action on the recommendation of the Planning Commission, received in 2018. The project approvals require a recommendation from the Planning Commission. The Commission recommended the Council certify the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), but the vote to recommend approval of the project did not pass. While there are many changes in the site design and management plan in the revised project, the amended project is similar to the project and alternatives considered by the Commission. The Council is not required to send the project back to the Planning Commission for review.

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW (CEQA):

Staff has not completed its evaluation of the EIR and the revised project. On the face, the changes appear to be consistent with the environmental analysis of the previous project version. There are several edits that will be required to reflect the revised project, but the analysis appears to apply to the current project. Staff will provide a more in depth review of the EIR if Council directs the continuation of the project.

BUDGET/FISCAL IMPACT:

This hearing, the public engagement held on January 30, 2019, and any subsequent hearings will be billed to the applicant on a fee for service pursuant to our planning permit application filed on the project and the City’s fee resolution.

Meeting History

Feb 6, 2019 6:00 PM Video City Council Regular and Special Meeting

Councilmember Winkler recused himself from the discussion and vote on this item because he had previously done energy analysis work for AMCAL. He left the Council Chamber at 6:26 p.m.

Director of Community Development Loya said the developer was asking the Council to reconsider a revised project. He reported on a public outreach meeting held on January 30 attended by approximately 40 people. He explained that the project footprint looked the same with the buildings on the eastern side being four-story student dorms, and the buildings on the western side being open-market apartments of two and three stories. He pointed out that the major change was the management as the property would no longer be managed by Humboldt State University. He said that many people still had the same concerns as they had with the prior design. He told the Council that the purpose of this meeting was to obtain the Council's approval to proceed with the project or not.

David Moon, representing the developer, appeared before the Council and presented the revised plans for The Village. He went through the changes to the project noting the deeper setback from Maple Lane, a reduction in size from 800 beds to 651, addition of more trees on the west side, a change in the architectural style, the addition of solar panels, a bike share program, a car share program, EV charging stations, extension of the walking trail, improvements to drainage in the southwest corner of the site, and the addition of a bus stop. He said they felt the project was financially viable and met the needs of many in the community, not just students. He went on to state that buildings1 and 2 were re-oriented to the south, and buildings 3, 4, and 5 would be community apartments. He said the amenities were split so the student-focused amenities were all in the student side of the project. He stated that the community apartments had community-centric amenities such as a fitness room, social lounge, and children's play area. He said the primary change to the plan was the addition of non-student housing. He said the student buildings were increased to four stories on the east and the community apartments were two and three stories. He said they believed the property was best suited for high density housing, and believed creating opportunities within this medium-density project was merited.

Mayor Watson invited public comment.

Steve Martin appeared before the Council and said he found the proposal unacceptable because it was too big. He said the open-market housing existed on paper only. He said a project size of 400-450 resident would be appropriate. He declared the building and site design was essentially unchanged. He expressed his belief that all the open-market apartments would be rented by students.

Chip Sharpe appeared before the Council and said he often looked for agreements that satisfied everyone's needs without compromise. He stated this development on this site so close to the university was an improvement over what had been there. He encouraged the Council and community to continue to work to try to find sizable and suitable housing for students.

Colin Fiske, Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities, appeared before the Council and said that dense infill development was best for Arcata, and that moving people out of cars was a critical component of tackling the climate crisis. He said it was unfortunate that this proposal had 20 percent fewer beds and 20 percent more parking spaces. He urged the Council to encourage unbundling of rents and parking fees, request the applicant reduce the number of parking spaces, and direct staff to move forward with the project.

Gwen Roscoe appeared before the Council and said she was surprised how the project changed from 602 beds to 661 beds, and from 14 dwelling units per acre to 21. She said the open-market housing had no restriction on the number of beds, so she was concerned this would be an open door to further increases in population.

John Bergenske, the Director of Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH), appeared before the Council and distributed a copy of his comments. He said the open-market apartments would have a higher rate of cars and the parking proposed was inadequate. He said this would impact adjacent neighborhoods. He asked the Council to send the project back to the Planning Commission for assessment of the impacts of changes both currently understood and not understood. He said if the Council did not do this, ACRH would develop a ballot measure.

Jane Woodward appeared before the Council and said she had issue with the project's total potential occupancy stating there was the potential to double the occupancy of each bedroom in the open-market apartments. She recommended the four-story dorms be reduced to three stories. She encouraged the City to guarantee the infrastructure would be in place before the project was built.

Jack Roscoe appeared before the Council and said there were more units and less permeable space. He asked what market value for the apartments meant. He said this proposal was worse than the last one. He noted the parking was increased and said that increased the problems. He spoke about problems at The Vista in Turlock at CSU, Stanislaus.

Joanne McGarry appeared before the Council and said that having ghetto-ized student housing next to family housing was not an integrated community. She said four-story buildings were not needed in this community.

Oz of Plaza Point appeared before the Council and said that housing was an essential element of the community and legacy housing should be considered. He said that parking should be considered and that fossil fuels were a point source pollution. He said that parking was an issue, so the developer should make their mark on the parking problem and then work on housing.

Eric Jules, a neighbor to the site and member of ACRH, appeared before the Council and said he was happy to see the open-market apartments. He said the numbers had gone up and the Council needed to know what the total was. He requested staff come up with estimates. He said he felt the project moved in the right direction, but that this was not the right proposal.

Keenan Hilton, board member of Citizens for Responsible Housing Priorities, appeared before the Council and said he lived in the last house on Todd Court. He voiced his support of high-density housing for this location citing the need for student housing and climate change. He said that designing responsibly for climate change was the most important, and that this location presented a great opportunity, was close to HSU, was close to the Annie and Mary Trail, and students were already the fabric of the neighborhood.

Judy Longshore appeared before the Council and spoke in favor of the project. She spoke about low-income people in Arcata unable to find housing. She said this project was wonderful because it increased the housing stock in Arcata, and once it was increased for some people, it was increased for all people.

Indigo McGinnis appeared before the Council and spoke about recently having difficulty renting out her spare room to students. She said it appeared there was more housing available to students and this led her to believe this project was too big by at least 20 percent. She asked the Council to consider the project's effect on the citizen economy.

Mayor Watson closed the public comment period.

Councilmember Pereira said she would like the density to be closer to what she supported in August. She said she agreed with continuing the conversation on this proposal.

Councilmember Pitino said he liked the project in August the most and liked this one second-best.

On inquiry by Councilmember Ornelas, Director Loya explained why it was not necessary for the Council to refer the project back to the Planning Commission, but that it could do so if it wished.

Councilmember Ornelas said she felt the project was just too big. She said she was willing to reconsider this project. She suggested the developer look at the winter sun line to determine if the courtyards would get sun. She said she felt the site needed private security.

Mayor Watson said he felt the project was too big, but he was interested in continuing to adjust it and consider it. He said his primary issue with the project was the number of occupants.

Councilmember Pitino pointed out that the addition of the open-market housing made the project worse and HSU would not manage it.

On inquiry by Councilmember Pitino, Councilmember Ornelas said she would consider the project if it had a total occupancy of 600 people.

On inquiry by Councilmember Pereira, Director Loya said he would have to research whether or not the City could impose an occupancy limit through rental agreements on the open-market housing.

Mayor Watson said he would be okay with the project if it had 602 beds with a 65/35 split between student occupancy and open-market occupancy.

Councilmember Ornelas surmised that a food store onsite could be staffed by students. She said she wanted to make sure the amenities were built before the project was finished.

ON MOTION BY PEREIRA, SECONDED BY PITINO, AND WITH A FOUR-TO-ONE VOICE VOTE WITH ONE ABSENCE, THE COUNCIL DECIDED TO BRING THE REVISED VILLAGE PROJECT BACK FOR A PUBLIC HEARING BEFORE THE ARCATA CITY COUNCIL. AYES: WATSON, ORNELAS, PEREIRA, PITINO. NOES: NONE. ABSENT: WINKLER (RECUSED). ABSTENTIONS: NONE.

ORNELAS MOVED TO ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 189-10, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ARCATA OF INTENT TO VACATE A PORTION OF ST. LOUIS ROAD ADJACENT TO THE VILLAGE HOUSING PROJECT.

THE MOTION FAILED FOR LACK OF A SECOND.

ON MOTION BY ORNELAS, SECONDED BY PITINO, AND WITH A FOUR-TO-ZERO VOICE VOTE WITH ONE ABSENCE, THE COUNCIL DIRECTED THE PLANNING COMMISSION TO CONSIDER THE VACATION OF ST. LOUIS ROAD. AYES: WATSON, ORNELAS, PEREIRA, PITINO. NOES: NONE. ABSENT: WINKLER (RECUSED). ABSTENTIONS: NONE.

RESULT:DIRECTION GIVEN