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Saturday, February 4, 2023
HomeGateway PlanFor the Planning Commission & City CouncilPlanwest's schedule: We're completely off-course

Planwest’s schedule: We’re completely off-course

In a rush?  Skip to the requests for what the City Council can do. Click here.

The pictures tell the story.

This graphic was made in June, 2022. The Schedule of Work was hopelessly outdated even then, and it’s even worse now. It shows the Form-Based Code being complete in April 2022, the Draft EIR being ready in June 2022 and the entire Gateway Plan reviewed and up for approval by the City Council in December 2022

David Loya has told us that there have been updates to this Schedule of Work, but we have not seen any updates. Indeed, this is the plan that David Loya included in the December 21, 2022 City Council packet. 

 

 

What can we do now?

There are 40 specific tasks listed. As of December, 2022, how many have been accomplished? I would say: Two.

It’s time to revise this Schedule of Work. Please.
Let’s re-evaluate where we are, and adjust accordingly. As it is, we’re stuck. Read below for details.

What was the schedule?

On April 22, 2021, Arcata signed a contract with Planwest Partners to create a plan for the Gateway area, develop the form-based code, assist with General Plan amendments, write the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and more. A full copy of the 12-page contract is below, along with the February 19, 2021 proposal (133 pages) from Planwest that resulted in the awarding of this contract. The contract is for an amount of $509,181, with potential expansion to a figure not to exceed $600,000.

In this article, we will be concerned with one page from the contract, page 11, “Schedule of Work.”

In the viewer below, you can zoom in, pan left and right, expand to full screen (to exit full screen, use the button on the bottom), and download the page.

 

Three specific points:

  1. The work that’s been performed is terribly behind what was scheduled.
    As we can see, the schedule was unrealistic from the start.
  2. We haven’t seen any indication of Planwest’s engagement on many of the Tasks listed.
    Which tasks are they doing, and which are they not going to do?
  3. The Form-Based Code was scheduled to be released simultaneously with the draft Gateway plan, and open to public comment simultaneously with the draft plan.  The plan cannot be adequately evaluated until we can see the Form-Based Code — simple as that.

1.  We’re terribly behind what was scheduled

Reader, you can form your own judgments here. Take a look at the “May-22” column and see what is supposed to have been completed — and the completion was 8 months behind… or where we’re nowhere close.  Some examples:

      • Task 4.3: Community Open House.  Scheduled for May, 2021. Took place January, 2022.
      • Tasks 3.1-3.9:  General Plan chapter updates. Scheduled for completion January-April 2022. Currently on-going.
      • Tasks 4.1-4.2:  Public review of the Gateway plan and the Form-Based Code.   Scheduled for completion April, 2022.  In actuality the Form-Based Code has not even been released yet (as of June 1, 2022) and the draft plan review is on-going, likely at least August-September 2022. See more on the Form-Based Code, below.

Request to the City Council on the Schedule:
Ask Planwest to revise this schedule, based on real-life considerations. Make the new schedule available to the public.

 

2. What tasks are Planwest doing, and which are they not going to do?

Other people know a whole lot more about this than I do, but it sure seems that there are LOTS of tasks that we’ve seen no evidence of.  Section 5.3, the Special Studies:  Soils report, Traffic Study report, Noise Study, Biological Resources, and more — all scheduled to be completed in November, 2021.  Has Planwest engaged in public and community outreach as shown on this schedule?  Engaged in Planning Commission and City Council study sessions?  Assisted with the General Plan update?

I don’t know — but it doesn’t seem we’ve seen much evidence to the public that these or other Tasks are being done.

Request to the City Council on Tasks: 
Determine which of the Planwest Tasks are in actuality being performed by Planwest.  Make the new Task list available to the public.

 

3.  The Form-Based Code

The Form-Based Code was scheduled to be released simultaneously with the draft Gateway plan.

 

This did not happen. 

 

We still have no clue what the Form-Based Code might look like.

The Form-Based Code was scheduled to be released simultaneously with the draft Gateway plan, and open to public comment simultaneously with the draft plan.  This did not happen.  We still have no clue what the Form-Based Code might look like.

The image below is taken from Page 11 of the contract (can be viewed in full above).  The image is modified to more prominently display the “Public Review Draft of the Arcata Gateway Area Plan” and the “Public Review Draft of the Form-Based Code.” Both were scheduled for release in April 2021, with review to be completed by April 2022.  

The Draft Plan was released in December 2021.  As of June 2022, it is currently being reviewed.  As of June 2022, the Draft Form-Based Code has not yet been released. 

It could take a year to be reviewed.

From the Planwest Partners contract. Image is adapted from the PDF file. The original contract can be viewed above.

Planning Commission Vice-Chair Judith Mayer, in February 2022:

“When can we expect to see a draft of the Gateway Zoning Code?”

 

“It’s very difficult to look at this in the level of detail I think we’re being asked to look at it, without having that draft code before us.”

For a planner, for the Planning Commission, and for any citizen attempting to analyze the merits of this plan, the Form-Based code goes hand-in-glove with the overall plan.  The Gateway plan cannot be adequately evaluated until we see the Form-Based Code.

Planning Commission Vice-Chair Judith Mayer spoke to this at the February 8, 2022 meeting of the Planning Commission.  “When can we expect to see a draft of the Gateway Zoning Code?” she said.  “It’s very difficult to look at this in the level of detail I think we’re being asked to look at it, without having that draft code before us.”

And further, from Vice-Chair Judith Mayer:  “I’m also looking at this idea of the form-based codes and the pick-and-choose model of development benefits and amenities. It’s a sound concept, it’s been tried, it’s been proven in many places. But the devil tends to be in the details, and until we see that Zoning Code and the design standards it’s really difficult to say a whole lot about what makes sense.” 

And:  “And we don’t have that information yet. That’s going to be in that Zoning Code and in the development standards, and I hope that we’ll actually have a chance to debate those things publicly rather than to see them at the last minute when there’s pressure to finally adopt the plan.”

It can be pointed out that the development of a good form-based code is a substantial task. Having a good Form-Based Code is critical to the success of any Gateway plan.  (Assuming that we are going to have a Form-Based Code at all, that is.)

If Mr. Loya requires direction from the City Council at this time, then he should be specific as to what form that direction should be given.

 

Then, after public discussion and Planning Commission and City Council input, that direction should be given.  And then we can move on. 

 

As it is, we cannot continue.

Community Development Directory David Loya has stated that he needs direction from the City Council as to which way to proceed.  I’m confused. Does he mean that we need to know if we’re going to have 8-story buildings or 6 or 5 before we see any of the Form-Based Code?  All the details about wide sidewalk setbacks, the amenities, the privately-owned public access open spaces, affordable housing percentages, owner-occupied housing opportunities — this all has to wait?  Wait for what?  Those elements don’t have anything to do with building height… or do they?  The details of these and so many other issues are critical to the success of a Gateway plan.  

If Mr. Loya requires direction from the City Council at this time, then he should be specific as to what form that direction should be given. That is:  What is his question. Then, after public discussion and Planning Commission and City Council input, that direction should be given.  And then we can move on.  As it is, we cannot continue.  We cannot evaluate the plan without the Form-Based Code, and the Form-Based Code is not being offered.

 

In the past I have requested for samples of what Form-Based Code is being worked on, or examples of what we might expect.  I’ve received nothing.

And after it is developed and presented to the Planning Commission and the public, it needs to be reviewed. Given the importance of the form-based code in creating the look and feel for so much development in Arcata, it would seem beneficial to have it reviewed by outside professional planners — other than by Planwest, the contracted developer of the code.

Mr. Loya has also stated on numerous occasions and in multiple ways that full Ministerial Review is necessary for the success of a Form-Based Code.  Planning Commission Vice-Chair Judith Mayer, as well as other cities’ implementations of Form-Based Codes, finds that not to be the case.  She has stated that there can be a good Form-Based Code [FBC] that is separate from Ministerial Review — that the two are in no way linked: The FBC is separate from Ministerial Review.

Planning Commission Vice-Chair Judith Mayer:

I am concerned at the idea of a ministerial approval for any project larger than any project we’ve seen in Arcata today.

 

No matter how carefully the development standards and the Zoning Code for a plan like this will be crafted, there’s going to be an opportunity for developers of huge projects to do things that we hadn’t anticipated.

 

And by offering, by putting our hands out and offering a ministerial approval for such huge projects, we’ve closed the door on the ability of the community to continue to say “Oh yeah, we haven’t thought of that.”

 

And we’re stuck. We would be legally stuck.

 

Mr. Loya:
“I will continue to present this option [i.e. Form-Based Code] to the Council as the best interest of the city and its residents/business owners based on my professional knowledge and opinion.

Sometimes the right thing is not the popular thing. But I’m hoping that folks will start to embrace the community design process and get on board with the idea that we can have more control by designing it now. If the Council does not wish to pursue a ministerial FBC [Form-Based Code], then my recommendation will be to abandon the FBC altogether.”

Mr. Loya:
“So you asked, can there be a middle ground. I will pose a question back to you.

Why invest the time and energy into a master plan now if it is going to be modified on a project by project basis in the future?

The point of this process is to give certainty to the community now about how the streetscape could look if it is developed. If we are going to allow future decisions to affect the outcomes, then there is really no purpose to investing in uncertainty.”

 

For greater discussion and many quotes on this subject, see the article “Ministerial review vs. Public Comment + Planning Commission review” on this website here.

 

 


To say in once again: We’re at an impasse.  Mr. Loya states that without full Ministerial Review, there’s no point in developing a Form-Based Code.  The Planning Commission believes the opposite.

We can not — and should not — go forward until this is established.  Which direction does the City want to go on this?  Mr. Loya and the Planning Commission appear to be at opposite positions on this.

What’s more, the public has little idea what “ministerial review” is — or the implications on the future of Arcata. 

A vote or determination without public awareness is simply wrong.

 


Requests to the City Council on the Form-Based Code issues: 
1: The Form-Based Code was scheduled to be released at the same time as the draft plan.  It was not.  Determine what conditions are needed for Planwest to develop and release an initial draft of this Code.  Determine an appropriate time period for public, Planning Commission, and potentially external review of the Form-Based Code, and request an appropriate new Task schedule.

2:  Stop all discussion about chapters and aspects of the existing draft Gateway plan.  Established whether we’re going to see full Ministerial Review or Discretionary Review (i.e. public comment and Planning Commission Review) — or a blend of the two.  Until that determination is made, we won’t see a Form-Based Code.  No FBC, then no adequate evaluation of the plan.  

Direct Mr. Loya to specify the direction he seeks.  Determine what it will take resolve the Ministerial Review issue.  Request the Planning Commission to devote a full session to this discussion, or establish a task force, or consult experts — in short, do what it takes to get this done.  We need it.


 

Summary of requests to the Arcata City Council
(and the Community Development Department)

1. Revise the schedule. 
Ask Planwest to revise this schedule, based on real-life considerations. Make the new schedule available to the public.

2. Which Tasks are still on the table?  
Determine which Tasks are in actuality being performed by Planwest. Make the new Task list available to the public.

3. The Form-Based Code and Ministerial Review.  
Request Mr. Loya specify the direction he is seeking. Supply that direction. Pause discussion about the existing draft Gateway plan until we know if we’re headed toward full Ministerial Review or not.  Determine what conditions are needed for Planwest to develop and release an initial draft of the Form-Based Code.  Determine an appropriate time period for public, Planning Commission, and potentially external review of the Form-Based Code, and request an appropriate new Task schedule from Planwest.

Feel free to contact me through this website here to initiate a dialogue on any of this.
Or we can talk.
Thank you.


Planwest / City contract documents, below.
Click on the icon at the upper left to show the Thumbnails.  Use to search.

The 12-page contract with Planwest Partners, April 22, 2022

 

The 133-page “Request for Proposal” (RFP) document from Planwest Partners, February 19, 2021

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