“It seems incomprehensible to me that a recommendation on building height could come out of the Planning Commission or the City Council until we have a full economic analysis of what it’s going to cost the City of Arcata citizens and the Fire District to actually provide the protection there.”
At the Planning Commission meeting on August 4th, 2022, the Arcata Fire District Board of Directors member Eric Loudenslager spoke to the Planning Commissioners for seven minutes during the oral comment section. This is what he said, in its entirety. The video is below, cued up and ready to play. You can scroll down to start the video, and then scroll back here to read the transcript.
Good afternoon. My name is Eric Loudenslager. I am a Director of the Arcata Fire Protection District, Division Four. I came to chat with you to present some things that the Fire District will be faced with owing to the Gateway plan and the expanded population in the General Plan.
Our three biggest challenges we’ll face are:
One, with building height.
The second is water availability infrastructure.
And the third one is access for emergency vehicles.
I’ve called in to one of your meetings early on and gave a short presentation — this one won’t be very much different. I also called in when the Planning Department had a local area meeting very early on about the General Plan and expressed some of our concerns. I’ve been not able to attend all the meetings via Zoom. But I’ve actually looked at all of them, gone through them. They’ve been very helpful, thank you, it’s nice to have that.
The Fire Department will face several challenges — three big ones — owing to the Gateway plan, although we have yet to see exactly what configuration that might be. Our three biggest challenges we’ll face are: One, with building height. The second is water availability infrastructure. And the third one is access for emergency vehicles.
We have a few specific comments and requests with regard to those.
The first, building heights. Going to 8 stories high – and I’m not sure how high it will ultimately go. But going to 8 high moves us into the mid-range and high-range building height, and we’re not equipped to handle it.
Our budgetary mechanisms for getting additional funds are not easy for us to get more funds. So the Fire Department will be put in a potential crisis, in jeopardy for being able to serve the emergency needs of the Arcata community and Fire District in general with heights that way.
We requested in a letter on the planning of the EIR that there be an analysis in there of what the Fire Department needs would be with different height buildings. And we were hoping that there would have been some interaction and dialogue between the Fire District and the folks that are developing the EIR so that we would have some sort of basis for the outcomes of that analysis, so that both the Planning Commission, the Planning Department, the City, and the Fire District would be on the same page when that analysis comes out. So that we all can concur with its findings.
We haven’t had any contact about that kind of analysis. We at least at this point in time, when EIR comes out, we would like to see the sections that are addressing the Fire District needs before it’s actually published so we can prepare for what’s in there, and whether we perceive that as adequate or not.
So that’s one request and perspective that the Fire District has.
The second has to do with the Code, the Gateway Zoning Code, the Form Code. I watched the presentation by Ben Noble and that was intriguing for us. The Fire District has certain responsibilities within the Fire Code and how buildings are laid out and designed and those sorts of things.
So with regard to the Form Code, the Fire District would like to have input and be involved when developing things like the streetscape which involve being able to get equipment in to the areas. We would like to have an opportunity to review and participate in developing things like building facades, because those, when you look at some of the Form Codes that are out there, they involve where the parking is and how you get into parking areas, and all of this bears on whether and how convenient it is, the feasibility for getting emergency services into those areas.
And while certainly the planners have the lion’s share of the responsibility of developing those plans, I think that the expertise that the Fire District can bring to looking at those and interacting with the people that are developing those plans could make an important contribution to making them better, leading to fewer conflicts down the road and having a more successful outcome for the City of Arcata and the people in the Gateway district.
One of the challenges that we’ve had is: It’s not clear — it may be clear to some other members of the public, it certainly isn’t clear to me — exactly how the flow of these documents. There’s the Gateway Plan, there’s the EIR, and there’s the Form Code, and exactly how those are going to inform each other, and how they’re going to come forward is not at all clear.
It seems incomprehensible to me that a recommendation on building height could come out of the Planning Commission or the City Council until we have a full economic analysis of what it’s going to cost the City of Arcata citizens and the Fire District to actually provide the protection there.
The video is below — a 7-minute segment, cued up and ready to play. You can press the play button to start the video, and then scroll back up to read the transcript.