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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Dave Ryan says: Abandon the L-K Street Couplet.
Embrace the L Street Linear Park and Pathway.

Arcata’s Transportation Safety Committee has been discussing the proposed L Street – K Street Couplet since January, 2022, shortly after the December 2021 draft plan first came out.

At the August 2, 2022, Dave Ryan, Chair of the Transportation Safety Committee, spoke for 9 minutes and told in the clearest terms just why he considers the abandonment of the L–K Street Couplet — and the incorporation of an L Street Linear Park and walking pathway — are at the heart of a successful Gateway plan for Arcata.

The Transportation Safety Committee gave a strong recommendation to the City Council to remove the L-K Street Couplet from the Gateway Plan. At the August 23rd City Council / Planning Commission joint study session, the Council and Commission had a presentation by Todd Tregenza of GHD, the engineering consultant. They then felt that the Transportation Safety Committee (TSC) would benefit from this new information and visuals, and might reconsider their decision.

Reconsider their strongly-stated position? I don’t think so. And, apparently, neither does David Loya, who, in responding to a questioning from the Council, said this: 

“I do think that the Transportation Safety Committee, you know, kind of understood these concepts of trade-offs between the the multimodal [i.e. putting walking, bike lanes, and vehicular all together] versus these other alternatives. And, you know, they they weren’t compelled, the majority of them weren’t compelled that those trade-offs were worth it. You know, we can certainly share this this presentation and see if the Chair wants to bring that back as a recommendation. But they’ve got a recommendation at this point.”

The reasons that Dave Ryan provided for us, and the TSC’s recommendation, are clear. In addition, I consider the presentation at the August 23rd meeting to be flawed, as I’ll discuss in another article.

Here is what Dave Ryan had to say.

Note: The quotes from Dave Ryan are all in the December 2021 draft Gateway Plan. Section titles and page numbers are in square brackets following the quote. Highlights have been added.


Dave Ryan  12:09 on the video

Okay, well, why don’t we just get right to that. So my comments that I have left are only about the section to the draft plan that discusses L Street. And I’d like to share some passages from the plan that I’ve found useful and helpful in catching the flavor of what the gateway area professes to be. I could summarize them, but I think the language used specifically is very effective in representing the visions and goals. So I pulled out a few specific sections or sentences and phrases to share and prefacing my position regarding the L Street proposal.

Dave Ryan  12:49
So the thing, one thing that I would just like to reiterate is that this is a draft. I believe it’s the very first draft or the first draft released in December, and it hasn’t undergone any changes yet that have been released as like a second draft. So I think we need to consider it in it’s early stages. And like any draft, it’s subject to revision. Some revisions are to be expected, maybe even some major ones. And that’s okay, at this early stage.

So I’m going to read some things from the plan that I grabbed out of it. I will try not to take too long. But they’re not necessarily in the order they appear in the plan. I just put them in an order that I wanted to kind of capture the essence of the visions and goals that are relevant to this committee. And some of them I know where I got them in the plan and I’ll give you those footnotes of what section it’s in, but others are just a little section.

Dave Ryan  14:00
So under the section under vision, Guiding Principle number 5, which is entitled “Design Circulation Improvements to Accommodate Planned Growth and Minimize Vehicle Trips.”

This vision is: “Reduce vehicle trips and parking demand from other parts of the City by creating convenient and safe pedestrian and bicycle corridors that draw residents and visitors into the Plan area via means other than motorized vehicles.”
[Page 30 of the December 2021 draft plan.]

Section 7 on Mobility 
“As stated repeatedly throughout this document, the Gateway area is envisioned to be a sustainable neighborhood in which residents have the option to live car-free without sacrificing safety or convenience. To do this, transportation needs must be met fully via transit, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure that connects seamlessly to all other City destinations. This has the subsequent benefit of supporting the City’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled (VMT).”
[Policy Chapter 7, Page 63 of the December 2021 draft plan, “Options for a Car-free Lifestyle”] 

So the reason I’m giving a lot of these things are, I think, they really do a great job of reflecting the City of Arcata’s goals and visions.
So I’ve got a few more here.

“Consider Non-motorized Campus Layouts. For areas that have incomplete block patterns and/or are currently lacking in vehicular roadways (such as the Barrel District), consider providing limited to no new facilities for motorized vehicles. Instead, consider creating a campus layout with vehicular access on the perimeter and robust non-motorized facilities throughout the interior. Plan for the infrastructure that would be required for these areas to serve as key park and ride / transit hubs.”
[GA-7e, Page 68]

Another one — so these are in Section GA under Mobility.

“Finish Incomplete Blocks with Active Transportation Infrastructure.” Active transportation infrastructure has been defined — I’m speaking now, not quoting — as those things other than vehicle traffic.

“Where the urban grid pattern is interrupted or incomplete, evaluate opportunities to continue the circulation block patterns with new connections that consist entirely of non-vehicular active transportation facilities.”
[GA-7g, Page 68] 

Dave Ryan  16:18
“Mobility infrastructure that Supports Car-free Lifestyle” — “reduce greenhouse gas emissions” [GA-7h, Page 68]

And kind of summarizing another one:

“A driving motivation in the new mobility infrastructures to ensure the Gateway Area supports a car-free lifestyle.”

I’m going to jump down a little bit. “Planning for non-motorized connectivity to other parts of the city with pedestrian and bicycle-friendly corridors that draw residents and visitors to enter the Gateway via means other than motorized vehicles.”
[The People’s Summary, Page 2]

“Reduce trips from other parts of the City and fulfill the potential of the Rail-to-Trail project.”
[Infrastructure, Circulation, and Parking, Opportunities, Page 22]

Dave Ryan  17:00

These are all verbatim right out of the Gateway Plan and they, I think, these are great, great items and visions that are part of the overall plan. Here’s just a couple of philosophy parts.

“The Plan Area can be thoughtfully designed with a cohesive sense of identity, including features and amenities that minimize any perceived lack of safety while transitioning the Plan Area to become pedestrian-dominated.” “Should radiate outward from the Rail-to-Trail and the Creamery Building.”

Says further: “Arcata has the opportunity to create cutting-edge, sustainable, equitable, and efficient new infrastructure about which the community can be proud.”
[“Unfulfilled Identity, Opportunity,” Page 22]

I agree 100%. “New non-motorized circulation systems can be created that provide improved connections to the Plaza, Valley West” et cetera.

“The public has made clear and interest to create a place where residents have the option to live car-free.”
[Vision, Page 29]

Here’s an interesting note.
The plan area currently contains no public parks, recreational facilities, or publicly accessible open spaces other than the Rail-to-Trail project along L Street.”
[Policy Chapter 6: Open Space and Co, Page 56]

This is verbatim from the plan.  It says:
“A paved Class I bike trail passes through the heart of Arcata, connecting the northern half of the City, to the Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary. The Area is also a bustling business hub, as well as a vibrant arts and culture node.”
[The People’s Summary, Page 1]


Dave Ryan  18:30
So now to my observation. Really, the L Street corridor is the only place in Arcata like this. Sure, there are trails and Class I trails throughout the City that we use to get to other parts of the City. This is the only one that has that flavor, like the Creamery District. You’ve got The Pub there, you’ve got the Arcata Playhouse, the coffee shop a little ways down the street, some other shops. I believe the Plan envisions other types of small businesses there. I’d love to see and I’ve expressed it before, it’s a great place for a local coffee shop, a bookstore or a bike shop, ice cream stand. This could be a wonderful destination for Arcata, this is a great opportunity to come up with something like this that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Arcata.

However, this plan proposes to put a street down there. Granted, keeping the trail there, maybe even enhancing it a little. But it’s still an area that people and pedestrians and bicyclists will have to compete with car traffic, which essentially will dominate the vibe.

Dave Ryan  19:46
I envision this being a Linear Park, at least south of 11th Street. Seventh through 11th is probably the biggest, well — 11th all the way to Samoa right now is really a pretty nice area through there other than the crossings. So I would say this would be a wasted opportunity if we continue with this Plan to include this as part of a circulation element with a new street. And I don’t think the Transportation Safety Committee personally should endorse this. I recommend we let the City Council know and obviously let Community Development know today that I would encourage the engineers and transportation planners to go back and revise the Plan so that this area is eliminated as being considered for new streets and car traffic. And my recommendation is that is to become a car-free Linear Park that prioritizes people.

I think you’ve got some smart engineers and transportation planners that have put together a fantastic draft plan. I just find this to be, unfortunately, a real missed opportunity and something that I personally can’t support.