Reading time: 15-30 minutes. -- The second draft of the Gateway Code (form-based code) came out on September 22, 2023. This article compares the details of this draft as compared with the June 5 1st draft. There is much that is missing. This Gateway code is in need of much work. In my view, it is inadequate, and will lead to sub-standard results.
This is the 2nd draft of the Form-Based Code for the Gateway Area Plan, as delivered from the City's consultant Ben Noble. Dated September 22, 2023. You can view both the 2nd version and the 1st version here.
The City of Arcata is holding an open house on “Gateway Housing” at the D Street Neighborhood Center, on the university side of 101 at 13th & D. This will be on Monday afternoon, September 25th, from 4 to 6 p.m. If you are not able to attend that meeting , you can enter your comments here on Arcata1.com.
Read time: 7 minutes. Skim: 2 minutes. -- We can look at how Santa Cruz has dealt with some of the same issues we face here in Arcata. Santa Cruz already had an existing 20% inclusionary requirement. New proposal: Projects with a 25% inclusionary requirement get a 30% density bonus. Projects with a 30% inclusionary requirement get a 50% density bonus. Other issues: Public hearings for new larger construction.
Reading/viewing time: 6 minutes -- Transcription and all images from the video of Shading Analysis. This is a step in the right direction, but completely inadequate. It fails to fully illustrate what the results of solar shading would be with multiple 6-story buildings in the Gateway area.
Reading time: 4 minutes -- The "Gateway Area Form-Based Code Enhanced Content & Outreach" contract amendment with Planwest for $118,000 was approved at the December 21, 2022 Council meeting. The "Plan Area Massing Diagram" would be especially useful at this time, as we are discussing massing and building heights. Eight months later, and it's never been delivered.
The Form-Based Code for the Gateway area is now called the Gateway Code. It specifies the building height and massing for each of the four districts in the Gateway area: Barrel, Corridor, Hub, and Neighborhood. I am not implying that 5-story or 7-story buildings will be built -- only that, by code, they can be built.
This image was presented as a one-page handout at the June 13, 2023, Planning Commission meeting. It is a still image from the video presentation “Building and Massing” of the St. Vinnie's site on K Street.
“And our design standards and Community Benefits programs are unlikely to be implemented due to waivers and concessions.” --- Arcata's Director of Community Development David Loya has provided this video presentation of the various affordable housing programs. 15-1/2 minutes, July 28, 2023. VIDEO and full TRANSCRIPTION.
John Barstow served Arcata on the Planning Commission and the earlier Design Review Committee for 30 years. He retired in October, 2022. He favored a four-story building height and was not optimistic about the Community Benefits program. He also recognized that "The development of the Form-Based Code is really the hard part of this process."
The buildings are five to seven stories tall and have a boxy shape. The ground floor is a parking garage, sometimes combined with shops. Four or five stories of apartments or condos sit on top of this concrete “podium,” so they’re often called podium buildings. They cover a large area compared to older apartment buildings, often taking up a considerable portion of a block face. These buildings are prevalent because they maximize developers’ profits by balancing leasable floor area (more is better) with construction cost (less is better). Simply put, podium buildings represent a proven formula for creating marketable housing at a reasonable cost.
A critique of the Urban Field Studio report from the July 11, 2023, Planning Commission packet. There is further critique following the Urban Field Studio presentation at that PC meeting, available also on Arcata1.com.
Urban Field Studio evaluated the feasibility of the current draft Form-Based Code. They were assigned four specific sites, and asked to show whether the aims and goals of the draft Gateway Area Plan could, in their view, be achieved at those sites, particularly on being able to achieve the density of housing that the draft Plan calls for.
In the Gateway Area, the minimum number of parking spaces required is Zero. That is, if a developer wants to build a 48-unit apartment building, it's possible that there will be no parking spaces for those tenants. But at the same time, there'd be a MAXIMUM of 12 spaces -- even if the apartments had 2 or 3 bedrooms. My guess? Developers will not build by these constrictive rules.
This is the introduction to the lengthy article on the Urban Field Studio "Code Site Test. PLEASE READ THE FULL ARTICLE ALSO. It will take about 30-45 minutes to read. The full article has both critique and support by an expert of the Gateway Plan, and a good Q&A from Arcata's Planning Commissioners.
IMPORTANT presentation to the Planning Commission, July 11, 2023. Can high-density tall buildings be constructed in the Gateway Area? This report presents findings on four specific sites. The answer: In theory, yes. On a practical, economically-feasible, realistic basis -- the answer is NO.
What do we want our buildings to look like? Do we want a boxy building with 5-story walls that go straight up and completely shade the adjoining houses? It is all decided by the Form-Based Code. **** A very brief article with IMAGES that show our choices.
During the past more than one-and-a-half years of discussion on the draft Gateway Plan, we've seen a variety of important aspects of the plan come and go. Critical issues seemed to have arrived as firm promises and later vanished like smoke following a Planning Commission conversation of just a minute or two. Or vanished with no conversation whatsoever. *** An area that's near and dear to the hearts of Arcatans are building heights and the set-back and step-back requirements for new buildings.
The following is a letter sent by Fred Weis to the City Councilmembers. According to the Planning Commission's absurdly accelerated schedule, they are expected to deliver recommendations of a draft of the Form-Based Code, a draft of the Gateway Plan, and a draft of the General Plan following their meeting on July 11th. It is expected that these drafts will be rough and incomplete. With all the work that the Planning Commission has to do, you'd think they'd be working overtime, right? Nope. Their meetings have been shorter than ever.
The long-awaited initial draft of the Form-Based Code finally arrived. As promised, it does contain requirements for Inclusionary Zoning in the Gateway Area. *** Unfortunately the Inclusionary Zoning requirements are ridiculously low. To even call this "inclusionary zoning" is a stretch. This would be laughable except that this is a such serious matter -- and so important for the people of Arcata and for the future of Arcata.
"By his reckoning, only 8.5% of projects meet their initial estimates on cost and time, and a piddling 0.5% achieve what they set out to do on cost, time and benefits." -- "Over-optimistic time and cost estimates stem from both psychological and political biases: a reliance on intuition rather than data, and . . . “strategic misrepresentation”. This is when budgets are deliberately lowballed in order to get things going, on the premise that nothing would ever get built if politicians went around being accurate."
A letter to Arcata's City Councilmembers and Planning Commissioners: This draft Form-Based Code has about 40% of the information and code that is needed for a good Form-Based Code. It fails to provide for the intents and interests and purposes of the Gateway Plan. It does not fulfil our needs.
Note: This article was written June 10, 2022 -- almost one year ago. The topics that are brought up then are still current. The same issues that existed in May 2022 still exist in May 2023 -- one year later.
At their March 1 and April 5, 2023, meetings, the Arcata City Council formally directed the Planning Commission to do as much as it can -- as fast as it can -- to create complete and workable drafts of Arcata's new General Plan update, the new Gateway Area Plan, and the brand-new first-time-ever Form-Based Code for the Gateway area. The Council has requested complete working drafts of these three documents by the end of June, 2023 -- now (at the time of this writing) under 3 months away. ----
As the former Community Development Department long-time employee often said: "ANXIETY ON YOUR PART DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN EMERGENCY ON MY PART."
The Gateway code includes a MAXIMUM number of parking spaces at 1 per every 4 units -- which works out to one per every 4 to 8 tenants. A restaurant with a staff of six and hosting 35 or 40 diners would have a MAXIMUM of ONE space. How will this work out for Arcata?
This workshop was attended on Zoom by 26 participants, plus five members of the City Staff and the Form-Based Code consultant Ben Noble. -------- The public offered their viewpoints on the topics of Streetscape Design, Mobility and Parking, and Privately-Owned Open Space for a total of only 20 minutes. ------ This is not the way to have the community involved in helping to make decisions that will change the form and life in Arcata.
Here is a one-hour presentation on what a Form-Based Code is, some background of its development, some examples nationally, some Northern California examples, and the nature of the Ministerial Review permitting process.
To the Planning Commissioners and the City Council members: Let's move forward. While it's all good to be looking at the different pieces of the draft Gateway plan as you've been doing, there are larger unanswered questions present. It is my view that if you can get matters settled, then there'll be more efficient motion toward accomplishing what we all want: A good plan for the Gateway area.
Why this website exists?
Because this is what Ministerial Review looks like. The data center building on 11th Street goes against everything that's important to us. No jobs, no vitality. This is the blight in Arcata
Redwood City's Downtown Precise Plan was adopted in 2011, after three or four years of development. It is helpful to us because it incorporates a well-designed Form-Based Code -- and has a blend of Discretionary Review and Ministerial Review.