A controversial 75-unit, four-story Gateway Apartments senior housing project on Monterey Road took a big step forward this month as the city council approved a $25 million dollar construction bond.
The controversy isn’t in the money, which is coming from the state, but from the fact that the project has no sidewalks linking it to buses, stores or parks. It will be built in the middle of the east side of Monterey Road between 10th Street and Luchessa Avenue and will have a sidewalk in front of it, but not to the end of the road in either direction.
The city council voted 6-1 to approve funding and earlier voted 5-2 to approve construction, after the developer threatened to sue the city if it blocked construction or tried to force it to build a sidewalk all the way to 10th Street. Daniel Harney voted no twice and Mayor Roland Velasco voted against it once.
The application for Gateway Apartments, a 75-unit, four-story complex proposed for a 1.86-acre site on vacant land was initially denied by the Planning Commission on February 18. The applicant appealed the decision to the council, which discussed the project at sessions on March 21 and April 4. The applicant, AMG & Associates, had threatened to sue the city and each council member if the appeal is denied by the council, so the issue was also discussed during closed session. The project has since been sold to Danco Communities, of Arcata.
The presiding voters argued that the city needs affordable housing for seniors, despite the hazards of this one. The complex would have 67 low income units for single people earning under $59,000 and eight units for those with a very low income under $39,000.
“There is no safe way to walk from the senior project to downtown or to grocery stores or doctors offices,” said Harney.
Velasco compared it to the 262-unit Alexander Station project around the corner, which was approved but drew thousands of complaints from residents afterwards from people who said they were blindsided by what has become the city’s tallest and most dense housing project with too few parking spaces.
“I didn’t like the location away from transit, away from the services people will need,” said Velasco of the newest project. “I also didn’t like backing it up against the rail line. The point I was making is that somehow because someone says it’s affordable or senior housing, you shouldn’t have to approve it. Alexander Station is a perfect example of not enough thought going into a project. They hide behind the idea that we need the housing.”
One of the biggest complaints with the approval Alexander Station is that it won’t have enough parking for residents and they will spill out onto already crowded streets. The builder allocated 1.7 spaces for each apartment, while the public anticipates at least two cars per unit.
“Even the developer admitted there won’t be enough parking,” Velasco said.
The council had asked AMG to build a sidewalk from the project to 10th Street, which the developer said would cost $1 million, according to Harney, but the company declined.
The new company is putting a raised sidewalk and gutter in front of its building, but it ends there. It has contributed $73,000 in fees for a future sidewalk to continue to 10th.
Velasco said he expected sidewalks to services to be built as more housing is added to Monterey Road, but for now, the city was suffering from a “leapfrog approach” to construction, rather than a more considered plan for the whole area.
Vice Mayor Dion Bracco had a business near the site, but has since bought a large property near Home Depot for his towing business. He feared the city wouldn’t see a sidewalk along that part of Monterey Road “in our lifetimes.”