The North Coast Journal did a good job last week of explaining the Creek Side developer's complaints as to why his project failed to get off the ground ("Growing Pain," Oct. 1). It should be noted, however, that the developer's failure is about much more than getting tangled up in the complicated politics of development -- it's about following the rules and getting it right. And those rules, as he found out, do apply to all of us.
After such diligent and indulgent use of civic and public time on this project, it is both foolish and cynical to say that City of Arcata officials and the citizens who tirelessly attended hearings in attempts to understand the impact of annexation and a 150-unit subdivision in their community, do not "understand" the issue of annexation.
As the evidence shows, it was the developer who failed to understand what must be done for Creek Side to meet the annexation requirements, and whose repeated attempts at revising EIRs and plans for the project demonstrated that his employees were ultimately unable to comprehend the language and rules that would have qualified them to make a bona fide annexation bid --- or unwilling to do so. The criteria for annexation are detailed in plain language in the General Plan 2020, available on line or at city offices or the library, and they are easy to understand.
As for fair hearings, the developer has had plenty of them over a five-year period, but each time that commissioners or the public questioned or pointed out the flaws in the Creek Side EIR the developers declared such objections were overstated, or "less than significant." And when the objections were placed into context with GP 2020, the developer was judged wrong.
As council members explained at their latest hearing in June, the annexation failed because among other things, it did not comply with a basic tenet for annexation: infill before expansion. While some have claimed that such an annexation amounts to infill, how can expanding the city limits be defined as infill?
Of equal importance, the Council pointed out that Creek Side was not fiscally neutral. Further, the landlocked parcel's map proposed access routes which proved virtually impossible to create, according to the Planning Department, and the city's ability to provide services such as police, fire, water and sewer are questionable and they were judged a financial liability.
Two years ago, in June 2007, Commissioner Ann King Smith pointed out that GP 2020 clearly stipulated that such expansion projects must wait until other infill opportunities had been exploited, and she read from a long list of more than 100 properties which provided infill sites to meet housing needs. As he announced the 5-0 negative decision, Commissioner Robert Flint said: Creek Side is clearly "too much, too soon."
Developers may whine about civic officials failing to understand their motives, and point their corporate fingers at neighbors who wish to participate in the effort to oversee orderly growth within the legal boundaries of General Plan 2020, but that doesn't mean that a developer's failures are the fault of the city or members of the community.
Because we have competent public officials, GP 2020, and a community whose social contract involves an agreement to "follow the rules," I believe we can be assured that when this project meets annexation criteria, it will get a fair shake.
Carol McFarland, Arcata
Danco's annexation proposal in Arcata continues the company's repeated attempts in its projects to thwart the explicit rules in Arcata's community-created General Plan, and doing so only in the name of making money.
The projections/opinions of the company's environmental and financial "experts" exaggerate benefits and underestimate negative impacts, and Arcata's city staff have not done their job of independently researching and testing Danco's claims. City staff's opinion that the annexation project conforms to the General Plan is not supported by the facts, the Planning Commission and the Council, and makes me wonder if staff has forgotten who they are working for: the public.
A thin veneer of ecogroovy features and token amounts of low-cost housing won't help future generations suffering from undisclosed or miscalculated costs and impacts. And Danco's flirtation with using LAFCO to ram their project down Arcata's throat shows its disdain for Arcata's needs. Last but not least is Danco's attempt to have a private meeting with City Council members out of public view. This is bad practice, and such a meeting would be illegal under the open-meetings Brown Act.
The City Council needs to investigate city staff's lack of commitment to the General Plan, and have staff's employee performance reviews include their performance on General Plan compliance and independence from developer influence.
Jeff Knapp, Arcata
Reading your heading "Growing Pains," I immediately thought you were featuring the CAMP program. Glad to see the article on the local housing market.
First, I submit that Dan Johnson's nose should be measured before and after his comment, "It is by no means our intent to shove a project down somebody's throat." Danco builders has been using the state mandate on affordable housing to do just that, to communities and neighborhoods, for years. Praise to Redway for keeping him out of their town.
Next I speak about affordable housing. The key to affordable housing is your car key. Drive to a town where your talents, skills and financial picture allow you to buy a house. It is madness that a California coastal college town is continually dumbed down by the Elizabeth Conners of this world, who insist that the public must actually subsidize your home purchase. (Who elected her anyway?)
Affordable housing advocates use the median home price to make the case seem worse than it is, when any fool knows that a first-time buyer buys at the low end of the price scale. I have seen good homes here locally, for as low as $100,000, far beneath their false figure.
The disgraceful burg known as Arcata perversely uses its regulatory powers to get any result it wishes, regardless of the law. (Kudos to Michael Winkler for acknowledging this fact.) Most egregious example: Marino's Club. Left dangling for two years by Arcata's pokey regulations, the owner was then told that he could only reopen a restaurant instead of the historic bar he operated for so many years -- thereby twisting the building department rules, the historical society rules and the rules of common decency simultaneously.
Lastly, Arcata, home to up to 1,000 grow rooms, has vastly higher income figures than the ones used to phony up the so called "need" for taxpayer assistance.
Joshua Kinch, Freshwater
*Sweet Spot: We're all out of ice cream! When the new shipment comes through, Jeff Knapp will receive some sort of Bon Boniere goodie for sending our favorite letter of the week.*