Arcata City
CA

Staff Report
2028
Direction Given
Apr 17, 2019 6:00 PM

Provide Direction on Village Housing Project.

Information

Department:Community DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:Report

Introduction

The Council decided to consider alternatives for the Village housing project at its February 6, 2019, meeting and provided specifications to the applicant on March 6, 2019. The specifications were a maximum of 400 beds for purpose-built student housing; 150 bedrooms of open-market housing with no more than 50% of the bedrooms in one-bedroom units; try to maintain a 65/35 student/open-market population split; and have a project population of 602 with a 5 percent “contingency,” allowing for a maximum population of 632. The applicant has provided a project based on these parameters specified by a majority of the Council at the March 6 meeting (Attachment A to the staff report). Staff is seeking direction on this project.

Discussion/Fiscal Impact

DISCUSSION:

The applicant has revised the unit mix to reflect direction given at the March 6, 2019, Council meeting (Attachment A). Based on the Council’s discussion of how to calculate population using unit density of 1.5 persons per 1-BR, 3 persons per 2-BR, and 5 persons per 3-BR, the project as currently proposed appears to meet the objectives discussed at the March meeting (Table 1). Staff would like confirmation from the Council.

Table 1. Project Specifications. The criteria outlined in the March 6, 2019, City Council meeting are shown in this table. The underlying calculations are included in Attachment D.

 

Council Criterion

Threshold

Project Statistic

Student Beds

400

399

Open-Market Bedrooms

150

150

Bedrooms in 1-BR units

fewer or equal to 50%

49%

Student/Open-Market population

Aim For 65/35

64/36

Total population

632 Max

628

 

Project Amenities

In addition to the project design specifications and the occupancy mix, the Council was interested in the amenities the project would contain. The applicant has shown on the plans the amenities proposed for the development. In addition, the majority of the Conditions of Approval (Attachment B) and Development Agreement terms (Attachment C) are still valid. The applicant has not requested to eliminate any amenities based on the revised project.

There may be conditions and development terms that are no longer valid due to the new project description. For example, the last iteration of the Development Agreement had language related to HSU paying the lost taxes to the City and Fire District. Since HSU will no longer be a party to the project, these terms will be modified. While staff cannot warrant that there will be no changes, the changes will reflect language nullified by the difference in the project description. The changes will not reflect reductions in amenities related to the reduced project size.

Staff has not invested the time into a critical review of these conditions with the uncertainty around the project progressing to hearing. If direction is given to continue this hearing, staff will evaluate the Conditions and Development Agreement terms for Council’s review.

 

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, which are not suitable to families with children and other household arrangements. The project would partially comprise units of different sizes.

 

COMMITTEE/COMMISSION REVIEW:

The Council may take action on the recommendation of the Planning Commission, received in 2018. 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:

Planning permits are charged full cost recovery pursuant to the City’s fee resolution.

Meeting History

Apr 17, 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 done work for AMCAL in the past. He left the Council Chamber at 6:40 p.m.

Director of Community Development Loya said staff was seeking direction from the Council on revised plans for The Village student housing project. He listed the project criterion and where the project currently stood: student beds--400:399; open-market bedrooms--150:150; bedrooms in one-bedroom units--fewer or equal to 50 percent:49 percent; student/open-market population--632/628. He said the question before the Council was if the project could move forward.

On inquiry by Mayor Watson, Director Loya said the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was processed by the Community Development Department in a manner similar to other environmental documents. He said he directed the work of the preparation of the EIR and its revisions, read every page and directed the arguments put forward to the Planning Commission and City Council. He later identified a provision in the City's Land Use Code (LUC) that specified EIRs would either be prepared in-house or the City would go through a Request for Proposal process and hire a consultant to prepare the EIR under staff's direction. He said this provision in the LUC was made known to The Village's developer and other developers. He stated it was his oversight that the procedure spelled out in the LUC was not followed in this case, and that local developer Steve Strombeck had repeatedly pointed this out. He confirmed that every single word in The Village's EIR was personally read by him and recommendations for approval were drafted by him. He said that if this project moved forward, to the extent its EIR required revision and that revision was outside the capacity of in-house staff, the City would issue an RFP and hire an outside consultant to do the work. He affirmed that on future projects requiring an EIR staff would accept an initial draft, but subsequent work would be performed either by in-house staff or a consultant hired by the City.

Mayor Watson invited the applicant to speak.

David Moon appeared before the Council and noted that in regard to the EIR, the developer had done exactly what it was instructed to do--hire a consultant that would work directly with City staff. He said the project before the Council reflected the motion made by it at its March 6, 2019, meeting and all the criteria had been met. In addition, the two- and three-story open market housing was now one and two stories. He said his understanding was that this project should move forward because it met all the criteria laid out by the Council the last time it reviewed the project.

Councilmember Ornelas said she had reflected on her approval of a limit of 632 occupants and was reverting to her original support of 602 occupants.

Mayor Watson invited public comment.

Tim Needham, attorney for Steve Strombeck, appeared before the Council and said he had previously indicated the City was not in compliance with its LUC requirement in regard to EIRs and pointed out that there was no provision for getting around those requirements. He said that to correct the City's error, it would have to hire an independent consultant to draft an EIR. He gave notice to the Council of the possibility that he may file a Writ of Mandate to require the City to comply with its own regulations.

An unidentified member of the audience appeared before the Council and said that the Eye Street and Maple Lane neighborhoods would be essentially be destroyed if this project was built. He implored the Council to ask the developer to make the project smaller.

Nick Lucchesi, a business owner in Arcata, appeared before the Council and voiced his support for the project saying the University needed help now and one reason that it was faltering was because Arcata was not providing enough housing. He asked the Council to look 25 to 50 years into the future at what Arcata would need in order to prosper.

Jeremy Cotton appeared before the Council to give his unfailing support to this project, noting that he lived next to Craftsman's Mall. He said that if the developer had provided the Council what it asked for at the last meeting, it should move forward with the project.

Jack Roscoe appeared before the Council and distributed a written copy of his comments. He said there was a difference between this development and what a majority of the community wanted which was balanced size and that infrastructure improvements come first.

Dan Barton, a resident of Westwood Village and employee of HSU, appeared before the Council and said the project was completely out of scale with the neighborhood because of its massive size.

Patrick McDonald, who was employed in Arcata, appeared before the Council and said he applauded the project in its current configuration. He said it met the needs of HSU and the City's need for more housing and more mixed-use housing.

Steve Martin, a resident of Maple Lane, appeared before the Council urged it to, if approving this project at 602 occupants, be sure there were specific safeguards in place in regard to traffic, parking, etc., before the project was given final approval.

J. B. Mathers appeared before the Council and warned that the state would be getting involved in the housing crisis and in the end Craftsman's Mall would be housing. He said The Village was a medium-density project, but if the state took over, it could possibly put high-density housing there.

Julie Vaissade-Elcock appeared before the Council and said the developer should pay more toward upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, possibly as much as one-half million dollars up front.

An unidentified member of the audience appeared before the Council and pointed out that students lived elsewhere and spent money where they lived, but this project would bring students and their tax dollars into Arcata.

Jane Woodward appeared before the Council and distributed a written copy of her comments. She asked the Council to deny the project for failure to deal with traffic problems or, in the alternative, ask for further revisions to the project. She asked if there was a legal way to limit the number of occupants in the open-market apartments and to limit the student housing to one student per bedroom.

Erik Jules appeared before the Council and said the project as the wrong type, too big, and should be limited to 602 occupants. He said the community wanted housing available to all walks of life, not just students.

Anthony, an HSU student from Los Angeles, appeared before the Council and declared that HSU needed to take massive action in regard to housing in order to encourage students to attend. He urged the City to not neglect its number one economic driver.

Kimberly Tays appeared before the Council to support those opposed to The Village because it was too big and too impactful to the neighborhoods. She told the Council it should not move forward with the project because the EIR was written by the applicant's consultant and could be biased.

Alex Stillman appeared before the Council and said the City's wastewater system had a lot more capacity then in the past because of recent work on the inflow and infiltration problem. She said she believed Arcata needed many types of housing, and that having more student housing could free up single-family houses for families.

John Bergenske, a resident of Arcata, appeared before the Council and said the neighborhoods would bear the weight of this project. He said the project had significant unmitigable impacts and he called for a parking study.

Written communications in opposition to the project were received from Jim and Edy Vaissade, Jack Roscoe, Roger Clare, Denise Ziegler, Sarina Breen, Elizabeth Johnson, Carlisle Douglas, Steve Martin, Jennifer Raymond, and Nancy Rehg. Linda Medoff sent an email asking about the non-inclusion of affordable housing in the project

RECESS: The Council recessed from 7:45 to 8:00 p.m.

On inquiry by Councilmember Pitino, Councilmember Ornelas confirmed that she would not be willing to approve anything above 602 occupants.

Councilmembers Pitino and Pereira and Mayor Watson said they could support the project with a cap of 602 occupants.

PITINO MOVED TO MOVE PROVIDE DIRECTION TO STAFF TO PUSH THIS PROJECT FORWARD AT A 602 CAP AND WHATEVER NEEDED TO BE DONE TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.

Pereira asked about the rest of the criteria, such as the open market breakdown.

PITINO AMENDED THE MOTION TO STATE "THE PROJECT BROUGHT FORWARD AT THIS POINT, BUT WITH AN OCCUPANCY OF 602."

Councilmember Ornelas and Mayor Watson clarified that they supported the 65/35 split between student units and open-market units with a total of 602 occupants.

Director of Community Development Loya said he understood the Council's direction to be that the project be 602 maximum population based on the method staff used to develop this estimate and to try to get a 65/35 split between the student housing and open-market housing.

PEREIRA SECONDED THE MOTION.

PITINO AMENDED THE MOTION TO ADD THE LANGUAGE, "USING THE CRITERIA THAT DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT LOYA HAD CALCULATED BASED ON THE DISCUSSION AT THE LAST MEETING."

City Manager Diemer said that with reducing the number of occupants from 628 to 602, it may be difficult to hit the other criteria, such as the 50 percent single-bedroom units in the open-market housing, and she asked for the Council to state its priorities.

Councilmember Ornelas said the point the Council was trying to make was that it didn't want all the open-market units to be single-bedroom units.

Director Loya asked if the Council was okay with a mix of unit sizes in the open-market housing, without a specific number target, to make sure there was a good blend of those unit types.

Director Loya said pursuant to the Council's last discussion, the population was calculated using a persons-per-bedroom method for different-sized units. He said he can use that method to calculate occupancy to 602.

City Manager Diemer recounted the Council's criteria for approval of this project: Based on a 602 person cap based on the criteria established at the March 6, 2019, meeting which was on a per-bed basis for the student purpose-built housing, and on the open-market housing of 1-1/2 persons per one bedroom, 3 persons per 2 bedrooms, and 5 persons per three bedrooms; a firm hold on the 65/35 split between student housing and open-market housing, try to hit no more than 50 percent of the single units of the bedroom count in the open-market housing as single-bedroom units, but that would be the one criteria that could be adjusted to favor the 65/35 split.

Councilmember Pitino said City Manager's Diemer recitation of the criteria agreed with his understanding.

Councilmember Pereira asked if a split of 64/36 would be acceptable.

Mayor Watson said he would consider a 64/36 split as long as he could see the details.

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

RESULT:DIRECTION GIVEN