By Tony Wallin & Alex Harris
City council vote stops student housing project
The Arcata community filled the city council chamber on Aug. 29, only to witness a deadlock between their city council members over a student housing project.
Mike Pitino and Mayor Sofia Pereira denied council member Susan Ornelas’ motion to approve the project as a concept if Humboldt State University and developer AMCAL were willing to adjust their proposal.
Another motion laid out by Pitino to continue as is was also denied from a protest vote by both Ornelas and Brett Watson, who abstained from voting. No agreement was able to be met, three council members were unable to vote the same way.
This was the sixth meeting to address the controversial AMCAL housing project known as The Village. HSU has now supported the proposed 240 unit four 4 story building that will house 800 beds which has also raised concern with residents.
Retired HSU Biology professor, Milt Boyd, who was with the department for 38 years said he was there to observe the actions of the city with much concern regarding the project.
“I am a strong advocate for students and actions that will be beneficial to students, but this certain project is not going to end up benefiting students,” Boyd said. “Its going to be a problem for them.”
The majority of those who attended agree with Boyd. Many HSU faculty and retirees brought up problems dealing with traffic safety, noise pollution in the surrounding neighborhoods, affordability and lack of family units, which an administrator for HSU said they were unwilling to accommodate since their isn’t a need for it.
Out of 14 people to publicly speak, 10 denied moving forward with the project. Erik Jules, one of the directors of Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing and HSU biology professor was one of those to declare no.
“The problem that HSU has is retention, people come here and then leave. If we build more housing will it solve that problem?” Jules said. “Ill tell you what our problem is, we have a budget problem…We’ve lost teaching powers, we don’t have enough classes for students.” Jules said that building houses will not solve HSU’s budget problem.
Jane Woodward, a member of ACRH, had main concerns with safety regarding students and of those that live on the hill.
“I worry about the seniors that live on the hill. With 600 students crossing there it’s dangerous,” Woodward said. “They don’t have appropriate walkways to get students to HSU safely, there’s only one way in and one way out.”
It seemed as though all of the councilmembers were disappointed with the outcome of the meeting, as well most who attended. This disappointment seemed to resonate in the final comments by Arcata Mayor Sofia Pereira:
“I’m disappointed in the outcome,” Pereira said. “Students are struggling to find housing in this community and this was not a perfect project by any means but it met a lot of needs that we have in our community. So I am disappointed we are unable to move forward on it.”