Next topic for Arcata’s Gateway area plan: planning commission to discuss building heights, conducting a community poll tonight | Lost coastal outpost


Rendering shows an example of a possible building design in the gateway area | Images: Screenshots from the Building and Massing presentation video on City’s YouTube channel.

Arcata’s Gateway area plan may be nearing the next steps towards completion, with the Planning Commission discussing form-based codes and proposed building heights at today’s meeting, and possibly making an official recommendation.

As a reminder, the Gateway Area Plan (GAP) is a subsection of the City’s General Plan that must be updated every few years to reflect Arcata’s changing needs. The plan would rezone 138 acres of land in and around the Creamery District to facilitate high-density housing development. This is necessary for several reasons: First, you’ve probably heard that Arcata and Humboldt expect huge population growth in the coming years and people will need housing. Second, the California Department of Housing and Community Development requires all cities to create a viable plan for building more homes. If Arcata doesn’t meet this requirement, it won’t be eligible for all sorts of government grant programs and the like.

To prevent the city from having to build into surrounding farmland, city officials worked to identify existing locations within the city that had potential for housing development. The part of the city in and around the Creamery District, which employees dubbed the “Gateway Area,” employees say is ideal because it contains many unused sites designated for industrial use.

Tonight’s Planning Commission discussion will focus primarily on form-based code, something you’ve probably heard many times if you’ve been following the Gateway plan. If you want to dive deep into form-based code, this is worth checking out Video from the Form-Based Code Workshop, which took place on August 16th. Basically, form-based codes are a way for a city to have more control over how new buildings look. Rather than using traditional zoning that focuses on allowable uses for a site, Arcata, when applying a shape-based code, can incorporate building aesthetic requirements such as building heights, setbacks, and general building design.

The biggest concern with the city’s plans for the Gateway was the height of the building. Staff recommend that the maximum height should vary for different neighborhoods within the Gateway area, ranging from five to eight stories, which some community members and planners felt was excessive. The staff also recommend implementing a community benefits program, which would require developments to include a certain number of amenities that would benefit the community — such as green space, community gardens, rooftop restaurants, etc. — to accommodate building height and to determine density. The more benefits a developer provides, the bigger they can become.

Some planning officers have expressed concerns about the idea of ​​the community utility program, stating that some of the amenities listed may only benefit residents rather than the entire community, and that some of the amenities listed should be prerequisites for any new developments. The staff report includes a list of concerns and considerations to be discussed at the meeting, authored by Planning Commissioner Judith Mayer. You can read it here.

When the Commission feels ready, it can make a specific recommendation on any aspect of the plan, including proposed building heights, to the Council during tonight’s meeting. But that depends on how the conversation goes. According to the staff report, the commission is not yet in a position to make any decisions until all its concerns and those of the community are identified.

If you have concerns about the Gateway area plan, you should attend today’s meeting as the community will also have an opportunity to voice their concerns through a poll that will be conducted during the meeting.

“The survey results are not intended to show how important any particular issue is, and the results are not used in that way,” the employee report said. “Instead, the poll provides the public with an efficient way into the process to ensure all ideas are on the table among participants. There will also be a paper option in the session so those without devices can be heard. Also, since users can add as many replies as they like, the public can share devices in the meeting.”

The Planning Commission will meet tonight at 6:00 p.m. You can read the full agenda and instructions on how to view and attend, in person or virtually, here.


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