From the Sept. 21, 2011 edition:
(Three candidates are running for two open seats on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors. The candidates include David Elsebusch and incumbents John Corbett and Helen Edwards. The following is part of a series of profiles on the candidates.)
By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
John Corbett is seeking his third full term on the board of the McKinleyville Community Services District (MCSD).
Corbett was appointed to fill a vacant MCSD seat in 2002. In November 2003, he was elected to a full term. In 2007, he was reelected. He hopes to continue that pattern on election day, Nov. 8.
An attorney, Corbett serves as senior legal counsel for the Yurok Tribe, serves on the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, and is Vice Chairman of the College of the Redwoods Foundation.
In the past, he was the General Manager of the North Coast Co-op, served on the Coastal Commission, and even served on the Board of Supervisors in 1976.
Among the recent issues Corbett has dealt with as a board member is the county’s rezoning of proeprties for apartments.
The MCSD has been in conflict with the county over a large increase in the number of multi-family units which the Board of Supervisors recently mandated for McKinleyville, re-zoning some residential parcels to allow high-density development to occur in various locations.
The MCSD has stated that it does not have the infrastructure necessary to support this level of development, but despite MCSD’s objections, the Board of Supervisors approved the re-zoning plan on August 23.
Corbett said he feels that the county has backed itself into a corner by not looking at the big picture when it comes to planning issues. He said that there are huge numbers of existing low income houses throughout the county that the planning department has refused to count.
As a result, the county comes up short in the low-income housing department, and its need is artificially inflated.
“The big county planning issue is that one-third to 40% [of homebuilders] don’t use the county planning process. It’s the county’s problem – they don’t enforce their own laws. ….
“They’ve been aware of the problem since the 1970’s and done nothing. The county doesn’t count illegals, except for tax purposes, so they greatly underestimate their own low and moderate income housing.
“They exclude one-acre [or smaller] parcels. But if you look at the market that’s producing low and moderate income housing, that’s where it is. They exclude mother-in-law units. They exclude the illegals, which is probably where most of it is occurring.”
Corbett also believes that Community Development Director Kirk Girard should have taken issue with the state’s housing allocation numbers and with HCAOG’s allocation to the various cities and the county.
“One of the first thing we’ll be addressing with HCAOG is an honest appraisal of what the low and moderate income issues are in the county,” he said.
“The state numbers are off because they were based on a booming economy. They’re in the process of revising them downward because… the market is down,” he commented.
“The county has had a hard time coping with urban planning issues and concepts, because their land use planning applies to rural areas, and the cities handle themselves,” Corbett said.
In the incorporated cities, he says, mother-in-law units are encouraged because they provide housing for low and moderate income families. In unincorporated areas, such as McKinleyville, they are discouraged because of county regulations that may work well in the hinterlands, but are inappropriately applied in suburban settings.
“I’ve constructed around 200 low and moderate income units in Humboldt County,” Corbett said. “I like a mixed income approach rather than large segregated units of the poor and large segregated units of the rich, and I was able to do that in Arcata, Eureka, and Fortuna,” he said.
“The only place I couldn’t build it was [the unincorporated areas of] Humboldt County… most cities are bulldozing such large projects that the county wants to build. So I think there will be a re-appraisal.”
In any event, the densities that the county wants will not happen because of funding issues, Corbett said.
“The district can’t build what they want. We will be ineligible for state funding because the population growth the county wants is greater than what the state Department of Finance thinks is a growth-inducing impact,” he said.
“The Department of Finance will only provide so much for sewer expansion based upon a very conservative set of population statistics. After that, you have to fund that 100% locally, and no other entity has been able to construct new sewage works that way. I don’t think we will and I don’t think the citizens will vote exclusively for low income with no single family housing.”
The best way out of this dilemma for all concerned is for McKinleyville to have a seat at the table in the form of a Citizens Advisory Committee, he said.
“We now have unanimous support for that on both the Board of Supervisors, and the MCSD Board,” he said.
Despite the current conflicts with the County Planning Department, Corbett is optimistic about the abilities of the two agencies to work things out.
“We’re working great with the Sheriff, the County Library, and we’re working pretty good with the Board of Supervisors,” he said. “Public Works – well, there are some flare-ups with Public Works. But every relationship has challenges.
“McKinleyville has built most low and moderate income housing in the county with permits the last ten years. They will do so in the next ten years, with or without the county.
“McKinleyville citizens are very interested in the quality of their life. If you look at the development of the district, it’s been providing a higher quality of life through trails, ball parks, soccer fields, bocce balls, all those recreational activities… We have done a remarkable job of delivering it in an economical fashion.”