In the Arcata City Council’s first meeting of the new year, the focus was around an appeal of a previous decision to approve the Westwood Garden Apartments project which was OK’d in September. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that new council members were, of course, not necessarily part of the previous decision.
The appeal of the project was primarily brought forth by tenants, who were requesting to have the city’s appeal fee of $1,867.38 refunded. One of the leaders of the appellants stated they had a receipt to show that the cost was in fact over $2,000 in total.
Arcata resident Fred Weis, spoke in support of the appellants.
“I filed an appeal 23 years ago for the Windsong Project,” said Weis. “It cost $185.”
He went on to explain the perceived procedural errors that went into the proposal while also harping on an issue that many other public commenters took exception with: the $300 cost of a translator at the expense of the appellant.
“Why doesn’t the city provide translation free of charge?” said Adam Taylor, a resident at Westwood. “That should be refunded.”
A man who introduced himself as Glenn Caldwell also voiced support for refunding the appeal fee in full.
“I am a property owner in the city of Arcata,” said Caldwell. “I pay taxes, and I’m happy to see some of my tax dollars going to refund these appeal fees.”
Initially, Councilmember Alex Stillman proposed a motion to refund $1,217.38 to the appellant, which would not have included the work cost of the city or the cost of the translator. Mayor Sarah Schaefer and Vice Mayor Meredith Matthews proposed a motion to refund the entirety of the fee, but that was rejected by Stillman and Councilmember Stacy Atkins-Salazar. A motion to refund $1,517.38, including the cost of a translator, was ultimately passed by the council.
Later in the meeting during a presentation by the appellants, Weis pointed out discrepancies with the initial proposal. One contested issue was the alleged inclusion of 84 indoor bike storage spots, but in fact Weis pointed out that the design appeared to show the bike storage as outdoors. Another issue was the lack of specific inclusion of a 48-inch diameter Redwood tree that was not acknowledged in a request for tree removal. Lastly, Weis took exception with the term “unrestricted affordable housing” as a counter-intuitive, given that the only way to ensure affordable housing is to include certain income and cost parameters.
After two hours of discussion, a final motion was passed affirming the original plan and rejecting the appeal. The lone condition was that the project proposal be updated to include 84 enclosed bike parking spots.
Jake Matson can be reached at 707-441-0526.