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Saturday, February 4, 2023
HomeCal Poly HumboldtTo Dr. Tom Jackson: You can do more -- Please.

To Dr. Tom Jackson: You can do more — Please.

See also:  “A reply to “Thankful to be a community partner”
by Dr. Tom Jackson, Cal Poly Humboldt” Click here

Dr. Tom Jackson became the president of the then-Humboldt State University in May, 2019. In January, 2022, the CSU Board of Trustees finalized the decision to rename and create Cal Poly Humboldt. Five months earlier, the state legislature had budgeted $458 million to support the university’s proposed doubling in the number of students — from 6,000 to 12,000 — over the next seven or eight years.

Growth that happens this quickly will have a big effect on all who live and come to Arcata — and not all of it good. 

An open letter to Dr. Tom Jackson


Dear Dr. Jackson —

We do not know each other, and we have never met or spoken to each other. But I would like to meet you and talk. I am aware that the decisions surrounding Cal Poly Humboldt’s expansion are not yours alone to make. You are the spokesperson and the figurehead, and so I, and many others, appeal to you.

You can see the potential vast change to Arcata that the proposed increase by Cal Poly Humboldt in the number students — and faculty and staff — that this will create?

In an area already affected by a shortage of medical facilities and personnel, an understaffed police department, too-low-budget fire protection, a need for more road maintenance, and a sewage-treatment facility that may be under king-tide water surges soon — is it any wonder that the people of Arcata view this expansion of Cal Poly Humboldt with some degree of horror? 

The small-town qualities that are so attractive to those coming to this area, whether students or not, will become a relic of the past. I’m not saying that no change is possible. Look at the Community Vision statement on Page 1 of Arcata’s General Plan 2020: “We’ll grow, but on our own terms.” For the University to double in enrollment in seven or eight years is not what I call “on our own terms.”

Let’s look at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as an example of growth. Similarly to what Cal Poly Humboldt is proposing, enrollment at UC Santa Cruz rose from roughly 6,000 to 12,000 — in a 21-year period from 1979 to 2000. And Cal Poly is intent on doing this in 7 or 8 years? UC Santa Cruz enrollment is at 19,000 — is that also in the stars for Cal Poly Humboldt?

In 1980 the population in Santa Cruz was 42,000. The non-student to student population was approximately 7 to 1 (or 6 to 1 if that 6,000 is counted as part of the 42,000, or somewhere in-between). By the year 2000, with 55,000 in the city, that ratio was around 3.6 – 4.6 to 1. Now, in 2022, the city’s population is 62,000 and the university is up to 19,000 — and is still expanding. The ratio now is 2.25 – 3.25 to 1.

Can you see the trend there in Santa Cruz?

Increasing the student population to 12,000 students at Cal Poly Humboldt over the next seven or eight years will change the non-student to student ratio in our town to a ratio that gets dangerously close to 1 to 1. That is: For every adult, teen-ager, child, toddler, and baby — there would be one student.

Yes, many students will be learning on-line and will not live here. Those will be countered by other additions to our community. There will be 700 to 1,200 newly-added faculty and staff, some of whom surely will purchasing single-family homes, and thus becoming a factor in rising prices and low supply in that niche of the housing market.

(The 700 to 1,200 figures are my estimates, based on faculty-staff statistics for other UCs and CSUs.)

My question of you is:  What are you willing to do about this?

Yes, you.  You personally. Words are cheap. Actions are valuable. What are you going to do?

You are a smart guy, and you’ve got smart people around you. Here are some ideas. There are a lot of thoughtful and caring people in our community who I’m sure can come up with more.

  • A stipend for not bringing a car to Arcata. If we are going to have thousands of more students, let’s please not have thousands of more cars. Universities have experimented with transportation subsidies for students who don’t bring cars — and have had “no car here if you live in the dorms” policies. 
  • Zipcars, Hourcars, and Evie Car Share.  For those readers who are not familiar, Zip cars are an “on-demand” system where cars are rented by the hour or by the day. Cal Poly Humboldt has an arrangement to have Zipcars on campus, but there are only two cars at this time. Let’s make it 40 cars, or 100 cars. The cost for a car is $11 for an hour, $33 for three hours, and $83 for a full day — all prices include gas and insurance. That may sound expensive as an out-of-pocket expense, but, when compared with insurance, gas, maintenance, and ownership costs for a car on a monthly basis, it is a good deal. In areas with greater Zipcar involvement, you can pick up at one location and drop off a a different spot. For example, Berkeley currently has 20 Zipcar spots. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has six spots.

    Moving upward in desirability for the future are Hourcars and Evie Car Share, both in Minneapolis MN. They operate on a non-profit basis, with start-up funding coming from about $10 million in government and other sources, and now have over 150 all-electric renewable-energy-powered vehicles (plus 50 ICE vehicles) for rent on a per-minute, hourly, or daily basis.
    My point:  If they can do it there, we can do it here.

  • Making an iron-clad, in-writing commitment to not purchase or negotiate for purchase on a single parcel in Arcata or in Arcata’s extended sphere of influence without discussing this with us first — openly and publicly. This includes not making arrangements for development with a non-university agent on any parcel in our Gateway Plan area or elsewhere in Arcata.
  • Calling off or reversing the purchase of the Creekside property. This parcel that was annexed from County land into the jurisdiction of the City of Arcata specifically and solely for the purpose of a senior living facility — annexed for that purpose. Without that annexation there would be no sewer hookups and no development of any kind. Talk about an underhanded move! Were it not for the years-long actions by Life Plan Humboldt to design and create a mixed-income senior living project, that parcel could not have been purchased for University uses.
  • Telling us what Cal Poly Humboldt is offering to partially offset Arcata’s infrastructure costs.  We’re aware of the lawsuit against Cal Berkeley to cap student enrollment — a lawsuit that went all the way to the California Supreme Court, resulted in a ruling favorable to the neighborhood group, and resulted in a new state law which effective negated the CA Supreme Court ruling. See the article on this website: UC Berkeley lawsuit decisions may affect Arcata too. Lesser known is the subsequent lawsuit, regarding what Cal Berkeley is paying Berkeley as a partial reimbursement of the city’s infrastructure costs. Cal had been paying the city just $1.8 million and then upped that amount to $4.1 million annually — even though the city calculates its costs directly attributable to the university at $17 million.  $4.1M is not enough, says the “Make UC a Good Neighbor” citizens’ group.

    What are the figures here in Arcata ?  Is the University willing to commit to certain dollar amounts or percentage of budget or per-student allocation as a payment to Arcata? For both on-going expenses and capital improvement needs connected with Arcata’s police, fire, roads, wastewater treatment, homelessness, and governmental costs. 

  • In August, 2022, the state legislature approved $458 million for the Cal Poly Humboldt expansion. Meanwhile, here at the Arcata government level, our Community Development Department is forced to make hard decisions about spending $1,000 or $2,000 or $5,000 for this or that, for a consultant or software or architectural design fees, all as part of the costs associated with creating our Gateway Plan — of which the University is a large beneficiary.

    How about Cal Poly becomes a better partner and helps us out here? I propose that 2% of that 458 million dollars be seen as important for our community development aid, to be paid to the City of Arcata over the period of Cal Poly Humboldt’s expansion — seven years. That would be $9.2 million, or $1,300,000 per year. And we’ll want the first two years of payments up front, to help with our current planning costs.

    Dr. Jackson, do you want to be a good community partner? You can make this happen. The Craftsman’s Mall off-campus housing has a projected cost of $200 million.  Find some funds there — You can do it.

Thank you.

See also:  “A reply to “Thankful to be a community partner”
by Dr. Tom Jackson, Cal Poly Humboldt” Click here




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