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It takes a village

Proposed housing project survives but gets thrown back for modifications

The controversial housing project, The Village, survives another round of votes from Arcata City Council. March 6 was the second public meeting at City Hall this year after The Village’s development was voted against last October. Although most community members who spoke out opposed the project, city council members, Sophia Pereira, Paul Pitino, and Susan Ornelas, voted to keep the project as long as it was sent back to developers, AMCAL, for alterations.

“I appreciate looking at the other options AMCAL brought forward,” Pereira said. “But given the high demand for housing students will live in any type of housing that is available. We have homes built specifically for single families but we see students living in them because they need a place to live. We need to consider moving forward.”

The Village’s original project called for a four 4-story building, 240 unit and 800 beds for purpose built student housing. Last year the community was divided on whether or not they wanted such a large infrastructure to be built in residential neighborhoods off campus.

The plan was untimely voted against but the city council proposed a revision that included both students and open market housing. Mayor Bret Watson was the only person to vote against his fellow city council members but was originally a proponent for the revision.

“Everyone needs housing and we have heard this on all levels,” Watson said. “But the only way that I am interested in this project is if it is 65 percent and 35 percent (student to open market ratio) and doesn’t exceed over 602 beds.”

The new revisions for The Village has 400 beds strictly for student housing and 150 beds for open market and families. Of the 150 beds, half of them must be single bedroom and the other half available for units with two or three bedrooms.

Although Watson wouldn’t budge from 602 beds, the rest of the city council allowed for a 5 percent increase or decrease to that number, which would make it around 630 beds in total. This allows AMCAL developer, David Moon, and his partners to develop a new plan that they can resubmit with Arcata City planning commission.

“Our Turlock project is rated the number one student housing project in the state of California,” Moon said. “The property that sits behind the project has gone up in value by 10 percent and in two years we have had it 100 percent leased.”

Not everyone is convinced with what Moon said. President of Arcata Coalition for Responsible Housing, Eric Jules said The Village is too big and ACRH does not support the project moving forward. Jules reminded the city council that HSU was once a partner of the project but is no longer involved.

“This is a lot to ask for one area of the city,” Jules said. “We want a healthy development for the site and The Village isn’t that.”

Other community members voiced concerns about traffic, pollution and effects on climate change that The Village might bring. Keenan Milton of Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities said the current climate change is occurring because of the last 100 years of building design.

Milton said projects like The Village contribute to this and we need to change the way we build our infrastructure. Milton was also concerned with the amount of cars that would be added to the city because of The Village.

“If you build a parking lot people will fill it up with cars,” Milton said. “Having parking attached to an apartment is a subsidy for people owning cars. People without cars should pay less rent.”

There was one community member who fought for The Village project, Rollin Richmond. Richmond is a board member at The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation and said housing is pertinent for the community and we need to provide housing for students.

“Housing is an important issue and particularly in Arcata,” Richmond said. “Nineteen percent of students are homeless. I don’t have advice on the plan options to pick but we need housing.”

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