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HomeL Street Linear ParkCreamery DistrictMay 16th Creamery Meeting: The discussion is minimized in the Staff Report

May 16th Creamery Meeting: The discussion is minimized in the Staff Report

Prior to the May 16, 2023, Creamery District meeting, it was expected that the purpose of the meeting was to have an open discussion with Creamery residents, business owners, and interested citizens on the potential impacts of the Gateway Plan on the Creamery District.

That is what the Planning Commission asked for at their November 8, 2022, meeting. To see what the Planning Commission actually said, please see the article “David Loya Trashes the Creamery Discussion – May 16, 2023.” That article contains a 12-minute video segment of that meeting where this is discussed and the transcription of what was said which you can read or skim faster.

But that’s not happened at the meeting. Instead, Community Development Director David Loya told the audience what the discussion topics would be for that evening. For other topics, he suggested writing to the Commissioners or coming to the Planning Commission meetings.

That was not the intended purpose of that Creamery meeting.

What people did say and what they wrote about can be read at “What People Wrote – at the May 16th Creamery meeting.” In that article, all the written comments have been transcribed so you can read them.

The purpose of the meeting — according to the Staff Report

“The objectives of the meeting were 1) to collect information on outstanding concerns and hopes regarding the Creamery District related to the Planning Commission’s Concerns and Solutions set adopted in November of 2022, and 2) for staff to provide information and foster conversation about issues related to the Plan’s expected impacts on businesses and residents in the Creamery District, on the Creamery Building, and on the Creamery District as a whole.”

The May 16 meeting was good — But it was not what the People and the Planning Commissioners wanted

Much good material was covered at the meeting. But it was set up as a discussions for information. That is: Staff telling the participants about the Gateway Plan, and answering their questions. All of that is good, and needed. 

But what was missing was:  Staff listening to the people who came. And staff reporting back to the Planning Commission just what it was that people were saying.

Staff was speaking and asking questions. What it seemed that staff was not doing was truly listening to the concerns of the people who’d come to that meeting.


What David Loya said at the start of the meeting

“First, we have the objective of collecting this information I talked about — providing it to the Planning Commission, City Council, on your concerns and your hopes for the for this Creamery District area.

“We’re going to be focused, but then secondly, we’re really trying to address these three topics that that the Commission heard: The impact on businesses and residents; impact on the creamery district itself; and the building.”

“You’ll have the opportunity to put your ideas, in your own words on these Post-its, we’ll compile that together, we’re gonna have a little bit of a debrief where we’ll start with the other ideas, spend about 10 minutes talking about, you know, what came up as other ideas. And we may not get through them all. But we’ll try and cherry pick some of the big ones with recurring themes that we’ve seen, just to kind of give some information about that.”

We’re going to take all this information, and we’re going to provide it verbatim to the Planning Commission. And so they can dig into as much detail as they want to about those. We’ll provide that in a report to them. My hope is that we’ll actually have that report prepared before their meeting next Tuesday. And they’ll have that available to them before they get into those topics themselves.”

The public wanted to know what the meeting is going to be about

From the public:  “Last week, a big concern of a lot of people was the L Street proposal for a one-way with K Street — is that not something that’s going to be discussed at all?”

David Loya: “We’re not talking specifically about that in these topics, but you can certainly put that on the Other Ideas.”

From the public:  “So what do you do with the Other Ideas list? If it goes on the Other Ideas?”

David Loya: “Well, all that means is that we’re not talking about them at our tables here today. But the Planning Commission will see these other ideas and then ….”

From the public:  “Does that just mean they’ll see the couplet concerns? Or how will they hear the comments about the other ideas?”

David Loya: “Any comments you put on this, they’ll be able to see. So if you want to write something very detailed, I would encourage you to write them an email.”

From the public:  “Am I alone in understanding — I thought this meeting was mainly about L Street.”

David Loya: “This meeting is not mainly about the L Street.”


David Loya on Home Ownership

“So backing up a little bit, the ownership opportunities. We do have a community benefit for people who are going to provide ownership in their projects. And so right now, at the densities that we allow for Arcata, it’s just not feasible to do a condo. But we think that in the future, it will pencil, you know. So not likely to see a whole lot of that in the near term. We might see more. [Person at the table asks: “But why? Why?”] It’s really expensive to condo a project. But you can see — it’s less expensive to do townhouses. So I do think we’re going see more of those in the near term. So there’s a specific incentive to give us ownership. There’s specific incentives to give us low income ownership. And there’s, and the, the other thing is — and this is sort of like, you know, a little bit of hand waving, I’ll acknowledge — but the housing stock trust, Chris, as you mentioned, we have 30%, around 30%, home ownership. Housing stock, single-family housing stock is largely held up in the investment market and the rental market. If you look at many of the neighborhoods, low income — this isn’t so much in Sunnybrae, but, you know, near the university, you know, all the way out to the Bottoms — you see high rental rates in those areas. And so, and then, to further this narrative, many of those units really haven’t been maintained. I mean, people are living in these really horrible conditions, because the owners know that they’re gonna get a fresh crop of students every year. So they don’t have to do anything. So part of the transition here is if you’re a student who’s just come to this community, and you’re weighing the options of “Do I move into a brand new Kramer Investments rental property or one that’s been maintained over the years? Do I move into a new high-density development that got built here in the Creamery area and the Gateway area?” Or do I move into one of these houses that, you know, like my first house, when I moved here to Arcata, actually grows mushrooms out of the walls. If you’ve got options, you’re going to choose the other. And then these investment properties, when they’re not getting some percent return on their investment or year over, you know, with the 7% increase in rental rates, year over year over year. And instead they’re having vacancies — they’re going to start thinking about selling those properties. And the idea is that, you know, those become a single-family homes potentially when there’s less of a market for an investment. That’s a long view and that’s not going to happen overnight.”

[Note: In the view of Fred Weis, very little of that paragraph makes sense or is accurate from a factual viewpoint. The idea that single-family homes will be “having vacancies” as people new to Arcata will instead select recently-constructed apartments is, I believe, a false narrative. For a renter to select one option over another suggests that there would be sufficient rental units that there would be an oversupply of housing — thus allowing people to choose. I do not see that happening in Arcata — ever.]

David Loya, at the end of the meeting, wrapping up

“I wanted to be able to close and let you know that we’re planning on taking the comments that you made here and providing those to the Planning Commission and the City Council. We’ll will compile them into a report with photographs of the comments that you made, your Post-its, the comments that we took down.”


Text of the staff report about the May 16 Creamery District Meeting. 

Highlighting has been added. The original in PDF form is below.

Creamery District Meeting Summary Report

On Tuesday, May 16th, the City of Arcata Community Development Department hosted a meeting to discuss the Gateway Area Plan’s expected impact on the Creamery District, the Creamery Building, and surrounding businesses. The meeting was held in the Creamery Building at the Arcata Playhouse and had 30 to 40 attendees.

The objectives of the meeting were 1) to collect information on outstanding concerns and hopes regarding the Creamery District related to the Planning Commission’s Concerns and Solutions set adopted in November of 2022, and 2) for staff to provide information and foster conversation about issues related to the Plan’s expected impacts on businesses and residents in the Creamery District, on the Creamery Building, and on the Creamery District as a whole.

Staff selected six Creamery District-focused topic areas for discussion from public engagement thus far:

1. Non-conforming uses
2. Relocation of existing uses
3. Community Benefits Program
4. Permitting processes
5. Architectural features
6. “Cool things” about the Creamery District, cool ideas for the District

Staff sat at three tables, each hosting conversations on two of the six topics. Community members provided feedback in 15 minute intervals, allowing them to comment on four of the six topics (and move freely between conversations if there was desire to participate in all six). People who wished to comment on other topics were encouraged to write their thoughts on sticky notes and place them on the “Other Items” poster. Participants were encouraged to write their comments in their own words (see photo documentation attached). Participants were further encouraged to write the Planning Commission, come to the meetings, or reach out to staff.

The following summarizes staff’s takeaways from these discussions.

Non-conforming uses and relocation. Understanding that the re-zoning proposed in the Gateway Area Plan would not require existing businesses to move their operations, business owners and District residents did not have concerns regarding non-conforming uses. Staff shared contact information with some business owners to discuss their specific situations in further detail.

Community Benefits Program. Many of the desires voiced in all topic conversations are already codified in the current draft Community Benefits Program (home ownership, green space, bike infrastructure, etc.). Participants generally understood and agreed with the Community Benefits Program direction.

Permitting processes. Participants left with a greater understanding of the ministerial review process. Learning that the public would still be able to participate in hearings as part of a ministerial process addressed many of the concerns voiced.

Architectural features. Feedback heard on desired architectural standards aligned with what has already been heard from the community through the Form-Based Code workshops and survey hosted over the last year. Participants were in favor of designs that utilize natural materials, have functional features (e.g. usable balconies rather than Juliet balconies), and consider environmental elements (e.g. plan for rain).

“Cool things.” The conversation on cool aspects of the Creamery District as it exists today was wide-ranging, reflecting both what staff have already heard (i.e. keep the District arts-centric and commercially focused, respect the historic structures existent, make the Creamery District identity more visible in the draft Plan) and adding new ideas. All “cool things” and ideas are reflected in the posters from the event attached to this report.

Other Ideas – There was also an “other ideas?” poster on which community members could place concerns/aspirations that did not fall into one of the six conversation topics. These spanned the topics of protecting the L Street corridor as a car-free space, limiting building height to 4 stories, ensuring that no buildings dominate the Creamery Building, ensuring the plan stimulates the local economy, and more. All “other ideas” from the community are reflected in the poster from the event attached to this report.

Staff report (PDF) and photos from the May 16 Creamery District Meeting. 

36-page segment from the agenda packet for the May 23, 2023, Planning Commission meeting.  Attachment “E. 2023.05.16 Creamery Dist Mtg (PDF)”  Pages 67-102.