A Pivotal Moment for Arcata’s Gateway Plan

The Collector

January 13, 2023

A Pivotal Moment for Arcata’s Gateway Plan
The bike and pedestrian-friendly infill plan for the Gateway area has been stuck for over a year in the Arcata Planning Commission. But the City Council just appointed two new Commissioners who could change the dynamics and help move the plan forward. Matt Simmons is an environmental attorney and outspoken supporter of the Gateway Plan, and Peter Lehman is an advocate for transit and transit-oriented development.

Unfortunately, the new Commissioners’ first meeting this week was dominated by a presentation from the Arcata Fire District that argued the city shouldn’t allow any new building over 3 stories, because there isn’t enough capacity to fight fires in taller buildings. If the city followed that advice, it would eliminate the density that is key to the Gateway Plan’s walkability and bikeability.

What the Fire District’s presentation actually showed, however, is that they can’t meet the standards to fight fires in almost any buildings, including those already built – buildings many of us are living and working in right now. If the Fire District’s analysis is accurate, it indicates a current crisis in firefighting capacity, not a future problem with building heights. The District and the local jurisdictions it serves should figure that out now. Because we have a responsibility to keep existing housing from burning down just as much as we need to build more housing close to jobs, schools and shops.

Next Thursday at 6 pm is the next public opportunity to weigh in on the Gateway Plan, at a city-sponsored workshop about the form-based code which will implement the plan. Show up and show your support for dense, low-car development in the Gateway area.

Complete Streets vs. Car Dependency in Eureka
At their meeting next Tuesday, the Eureka City Council is scheduled to adopt a Complete Streets Policy. Eureka is following the lead of Arcata, which adopted the region’s first such policy last year. These policies, when fully implemented, can be critical tools for creating a network of safe, comfortable and convenient facilities for walking, biking, rolling and even public transit. They require that every street project – from re-painting lines to building entirely new streets – must accommodate all modes of transportation by default. We’re very excited that our region’s biggest town – and the place where our bike and pedestrian safety crisis is most concentrated – is on the verge of adopting this policy.

Unfortunately, at the very same meeting, the Council is also set to approve an agreement with a local developer to extend for another 10 years the 2007 approval of a suburban subdivision in the woods at the very edge of the city. Lundbar Hills is far from downtown and accessible only by dangerous and distinctly incomplete streets and roads, but the Council already gave preliminary approval a couple of weeks ago. This follows Monday’s approval by the Eureka Planning Commission of a new drive-through restaurant design for the Target parking lot on 4th Street, despite recent pleas by residents to ban drive-through businesses altogether. Eureka officials clearly want to move toward safer streets and a more walkable city, but they still can’t seem to stop approving car-dependent forms of development.

Person Killed While Walking on Highway 299
We grieve the loss of another community member, and our thoughts are with their family and friends. Local highways are often the only way to get between communities, and for people without access to a vehicle, that means walking or biking on them. But these roads are not designed for safe walking and biking, and they are the site of many of our region’s bike and pedestrian fatalities. This has to change.

Dangerous Local High-Speed Chase
We understand, to put it mildly, the need of law enforcement officials to apprehend a suspect in a double murder case. But other people’s lives shouldn’t be put at risk in the process, and high-speed chases are notorious for killing bystanders. Photos and descriptions from this recent local chase make clear that it’s only a matter of luck that it ended safely.

Make reporting on Street Story part of your routine.
If you’re out walking, biking, or rolling on local streets, you see hazards and experience near-misses pretty regularly, maybe even every day. Make it a habit to report those things on Street Story. Your reports help us advocate for safer streets, and help government agencies get funding for improvements. La versión de Street Story en español está disponible aquí. 

News from Beyond the North Coast

Electric Cars Use the Same Roads as Gas-Guzzlers
Gas taxes don’t fully fund road building and maintenance, but they do pay for a big chunk. So with the climate crisis demanding a switch to electric vehicles (and a lot less driving in general), the state is looking at ways for EV drivers to help pay for the roads. You can enroll in a pilot pay-as-you-drive program right now!

Bay Area Disability Rights Pioneer Dies
Among many other accomplishments, Hale Zukas played a key role in making sidewalks and public transportation more accessible to people with disabilities.

Newsom Cuts Clean Transportation Funding
Is it a priority or not, Mr. Governor?

Parking Garages Are Bad For Cities
Watch this explainer video to find out why.

The Collector is CRTP’s weekly transportation news roundup, published every Friday. We focus on North Coast news, but we also include relevant state, national and international transportation news – plus other items that we just find kind of interesting! To submit items for consideration, email colin@transportationpriorities.org.