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Wednesday, March 22, 2023
HomeCity PlanningAffordable HousingPlanning Commissioner Matt Simmons calls Arcata neighborhoods "segregated"

Planning Commissioner Matt Simmons calls Arcata neighborhoods “segregated”


Matt Simmons, our new Planning Commissioner (two months old, since January 2023) has put forth the prospect of the entire residential sections of Bayview, Northtown, and “Arcata Heights” (i.e. upper I and J Streets) be re-zoned from the existing Residential Low Density to Residential High Density.  

I find the use of the word “segregated” when describing Arcata neighborhoods to be completely out of line.


There should be a public explanation and an apology.


Matt Simmons likely didn’t mean Arcata’s neighborhoods are racially segregated.


There is no valid use of this word — other than to create controversy.


In describing the changes he’d like to see to these neighborhoods, he uses the word “segregated” in referring to the existing zoning.  “Segregated” as in “set apart from other zoning” perhaps.

The far more common use of “segregated” is to mean “the policy of keeping one group of people apart from another and treating them differently, especially because of race, sex, or religion.”

I find the use of the word “segregated” when describing Arcata neighborhoods to be 100% out of line, and should require a public explanation and an apology.


What Matt Simmons proposed

The yellow-bordered areas would, by this proposal, be re-zoned as Residential High Density. The red-bordered region is the Gateway Area.

Matt Simmons: On Arcata’s “segregated” neighborhoods

About 2:31:07 on the video.  Listen to the video below.

“First, I’ll just say I like that suggestion. I think it doesn’t have to come before any of the work we’re currently doing. It’s just something I see as a potential future step. And then, second, I would just point out that, even with that change, if you look at that table of our land use designations by area, most of the City’s residential is still Very Low Residential or Low Residential. And so there are still lots of other opportunities where you can have your segregated Low Density area. I’m just thinking that these areas that are really at the center of town, and that I think if we’re — If there wasn’t this regulatory pressure, keeping them the way they are, would change. We can consider looking at that.”

What in the world is Matt Simmons saying here?

He seems to be saying that, since there are so many other Low Density Residential zoning areas in Arcata, if people want to the opportunity to live in a “segregated” neighborhood, then they can live there. That would be Westwood, Vaissades, Janes Creek Meadows, Curtis Heights, Sunset, Greenview, Windsong, Sunny Brae — all of those, are by Matt Simmons’s definition, “segregated” — meaning that they are more or less exclusively single-family-plus-ADU zoned, with no multi-family dwellings. He likely does not mean “segregated” in terms of these neighborhoods being closed to people of color. (We certainly hope he does not mean this.) 

So if people who own homes who live in the Bayview or Northtown or Arcata Heights established single-family neighborhoods do not want a four-story apartment next to them, then they can simply sell their house and buy a house in those neighborhoods…? Is that what he is saying?

No, of course not:  Homeowners are not going to sell their house and move to another Arcata neighborhood. I’m being silly. But the use of the word “segregated” sure seems like a purposefully-chosen loaded phrase. Particularly in terms of how Matt Simmons referred to “established neighborhood character” as a phrase that “can also be used as a bit of a dog whistle, when changes are happening that a community doesn’t want.”  What, calling a neighborhood “segregated” is not a huge dog whistle, coming from the other direction?

What are you saying here, Matt? That Arcata’s neighborhoods will continue to be segregated until apartments can be built alongside single-family homes? Isn’t this what the new State law is intended to address?

The goal is housing

What are we trying to do?
Make up for the post-World War II single-family zoning sins of the past by using currently-acceptable verbiage?
Our goal is to provide housing for people.

State law SB-9 will provide small ADUs at a cost that is inexpensively as can be done. There will NOT be homes purchased in Arcata neighborhoods and then torn down. It just isn’t in the cards.

You want more inclusion? Then do what can be done to lower the cost of permitting, fees, water and sewer hookups, etc. for ADUs. If we can lower the overall cost of construction of ADUs to under $250 / sq.ft. — which can be done — then there will be more small rentals in these neighborhoods.

See also:
New Commissioner Matt Simmons proposes huge changes to established neighborhoods

Neighborhood Map


Video of the February 28, 2023, Planning Commission meeting

Starting at 2:31:17 on the video

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