Monthly Archives: December 2012

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County to look at Central Ave. ‘drag strip’

By Jack Durham

Press Editor & Reporter


The stretch of Central Avenue between Anna Sparks Drive and Turner Road at the south end of town has been called a “drag strip” on more than one occasion.

The problem, neighbors say, is that the two southbound lanes merge into one lane before Mill Creek. Some drivers, especially those in the far right-hand lane, race to get ahead of the other cars before the lane comes to an end. This has resulted in a few McKMAC.websiteaccidents in the area, with cars going off the road before Mill Creek.

At the Dec. 19 meeting of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee, one neighbor said that some drivers speed up to 60 mph in the area.

“It’s a fatal accident waiting to happen there,” the man said.

County Public Works Deputy Director Chris Whitworth said that the speeding was an “enforcement issue” that needed to be dealt with by law enforcement.

But then McKMAC member Pat Barsanti suggested a solution – why not require cars in the right-hand lane to turn into the Mill Creek Marketplace, and have the other lane for cars continuing up the hill? This would force drivers to pick a lane further north up Central Avenue, rather than racing toward Mill Creek.

Whitworth said that the idea should be studied. “We could look at that,” he said.

Meanwhile, this summer the county plans to widen Central Avenue from Bartow Road to the driveway just uphill from Mill Creek. The county is basically installing shoulders on each side of the road for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Dow’s Prairie Road

The county had attempted to get grant funding to build sidewalks on Dow’s Prairie Road so children could get to school safely.

However, a survey of Dow’s Prairie students showed that most of them are driven there by parents. This made the grant application for Safe Routes to School funding less competitive for this particular project.

As an alternative to doing nothing, Public Works is creating a wider shoulder on the west side of Dow’s Prairie Road. The area is being trimmed and graded. The next step is to put down asphalt grindings.

Little Pond median project

Whitworth also showed the McKMAC a computer rendering of the median island that will be built on Murray Road at Little Pond Street next summer. There will be a raised median in the center of the road, with bulb-outs on either side of Murray Road. This will provide a safer place for students to cross. The project is estimated to cost $100,000.



Roundabout at Murray?

Although there’s no time-line for the project, Public Works has suggested that a four-way traffic stoplight might be needed at the intersection of Central Avenue and Murray Road due to increased traffic.

In last week’s edition of the McKinleyville Press, resident Scott Baker suggested in a letter to the editor that a roundabout be considered for the intersection. The idea was briefly discussed by the McKMAC.

“It’s one of the tools in the box,” Whitworth said about roundabouts.

He noted that if a roundabout was built at the intersection, traffic on both Murray and Central would need to be narrowed to a single lane in each direction before reaching the roundabout.

Whitworth said that contrary to public opinion, roundabouts work quite well. They also reduce accident rates.

As for the idea of a stoplight at the intersection, McKMAC members said they thought it might actually slow traffic at a location that seems to work well with the existing stop signs.

“It almost seems as if a light would back up traffic,” said McKMAC member Kevin Dreyer.

The McKMAC can be reached at






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Like making sausage – housing gobbledegook

For the first time in its short history, the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC) has taken an official position.

Ramblingcolumnbox.finalBut explaining the position taken by the McKMAC on Dec. 19, and what it actually means, requires a certain amount of bureaucratic jibber jabber and lots of acronyms, so hang on to your hat. Or better yet slam a Red Bull, because you’re gonna need it,

Every few years the California Department of Housing and Community Development (CDHCD) comes up with a number of housing units that must be “provided” by all of Humboldt County. By “provided” the state doesn’t mean that the housing units actually need to be built. It means that land must be zoned for the housing units, so if developers want to build the houses, they can.

In many ways its just an exercise on paper, except for one thing – properties do get rezoned. This is when things get heated. Suddenly people realize that an apartment building may be built across the street from them, and all hell breaks loose.

But it all begins with the mundane, murky world of housing allocations.

For the years 2014 to 2019, the state has determined that Humboldt must provide a total of 2,060 units. Some land can be zoned for single-family homes, but other properties must be zoned for high-density development like apartments to meet the needs of people with low and very low incomes, like newspaper owners, many merchants on Central Avenue, the clerks and waitresses in most of the town’s stores, etc.

It’s then up to the local government agencies in Humboldt County to divvy up those housing units and determine which communities must provide the properly zoned land. This is done through what’s called the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG). All of the cities in Humboldt County each get a single seat on the eight-member HCAOG board. The County of Humboldt also gets a single seat.

Being that McKinleyville is unincorporated, the closest thing it has to a seat on the board is the county’s single representative, which in 2012 was Supervisor Virginia Bass.

This is an important issue for McKinleyville because it’s going to have to absorb a substantial portion of those housing units. McKinleyville, after all, has lots of developable land along with a sewer and water system. It’s ripe for development whether people like it or not.

But there are concerns that if McKinleyville gets too many units, then it will have to rezone parcels and essentially toss out portions of the McKinleyville Community Plan. That plan has widespread support among people who are sometimes labeled as pro-development and anti-development (these labels are overly simplified to the degree that they are inaccurate. But the point is that the town’s general plan has strong support by different political factions, so people want to protect the plan. It’s a funny thing: For all the political bickering in town, there’s actually something almost resembling consensus when it comes to the town’s own General Plan.)

To protect that plan, it’s in the interest of the McKinleyville to have as few units allocated to the community as possible. How does one limit HCAOG from making McKinleyville take these units?

Naturally, by taking a position on what’s called the “Proposed Regional Housing Needs Allocation Methodology.” Yowza! You can download this awful document at the HCAOG website, but why would you want to? Take some smelling salts and let’s keep going.

This housing methodology uses a bunch a formulas to determine which communities get how many houses. The methodologies look at population and employment and a bunch of other factors. Then numbers are spit out. It’s kind of like making sausage, but not nearly as fun.

There are three different scenarios included in the proposal. The McKMAC voted unanimously last week to recommend the scenario that allocates the least amount of housing units to the county.

Under that scenario, the county would have to provide a total of 811 units. Many of those would be in McKinleyville. While that sounds like a lot of units, it’s less than another scenario, which had 906 units county wide.

The McKMAC discussed the possibility of asking for an even smaller allocation, but McKMAC member Greg Orsini wisely suggested that the committee make a realistic recommendation – something that might actually be considered, rather than a pie-in-the-sky recommendation.

The McKMAC could ask for less, but as Supervisor Ryan Sundberg has repeatedly reminded the committee, the county only has a single vote on the HCAOG board, That’s one vote on an eight-member board.

Keep in mind that if McKinleyville gets fewer housing units, then the cities get more housing units. The cities, like McKinleyville, would rather decide their own housing needs rather than have state bureaucrats dictate local land use policies. They’re motivated to push those units on other communities rather than their own.

So what happens if the McMAC gets its way and the HCAOG board agrees that the county should absorb 811 units? How much land will be rezoned?

It’s worth noting that the last time the state dropped its housing numbers on Humboldt County, it required a whopping 4,747 units. Some of these units eventually trickled down to Mack Town, where properties were rezoned for high density development.

However, after the economy crashed, very few housing units were built. Most of the rezoned land is still sitting there waiting to be developed.

According to HCAOG Executive Director Marcella Clem, the county could receive credits for that existing stock of undeveloped property.

So maybe very few properties will need to be rezoned in McKinleyville. This seems like it should be a simple yes or no question, but when planners are quizzed, they reveal that the whole process is kind of murky. It’s not a clear cut numbers game.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development, planners say, needs to be “convinced” to give you credit for the undeveloped properties. The county needs to plead its case and cross its fingers.

As for McKinleyville, the McKMAC’s vote last week marks the first time an official McKinleyville entity has been involved in the process of determining those housing numbers.

This is important because despite on the bureaucratic gobbledygook, these numbers might mean something for Mack Town.

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Trinidad ditches idea to build mini-roundabout

From the 12.26.12 edition


By Jack Durham

Press Editor & Reporter


Concerned about the visual blight that would come from all the signs, the Trinidad City Council has decided to ditch the idea of installing a mini-roundabout at the intersection in front of the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse.

The council was slated Dec. 12 to consider whether to pay GHD consultants $5,000 to study the idea, The city had received the money through the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG).

The council has received complaints of speeding vehicles at the intersection of Trinity and Edwards streets. A mini-roundabout was viewed as a possible solution.

A mini-roundabout is smaller than a regular, full-size roundabout like the ones on Guintoli Lane in Arcata. The minis typically don’t include a raised surface. Instead, the surface is painted on the street with signs and arrows directing traffic.

Given the number of signs that would be required near the roundabout, and the uncertainty over whether the area was even large enough for a roundabout, the council decided to forgo the idea.

The money will be returned to HCAOG.


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General Plan Update: Uncertainty Prevails

From the 12.26.12 edition


By Daniel Mintz

Press Staff Writer


The General Plan Update’s future continues to be hazy and there’s doubt that a staff-recommended schedule that charts its completion in late spring will be followed.

The ever-changing update process was again revisited at a Dec. 17 Board of Supervisors hearing. A recently-formed ad hoc stakeholders group is being increasingly called upon to review the update but its members are still working on the update’s Circulation Element after several weeks and they’re unsure if they’ll continue with other sections.

Their work is now driving the update’s course and supervisors again held off on decision-making to allow them more time.

The group’s work on the Circulation Element mostly involves re-wording policies for clarity but the creation of a countywide transportation plan is also recommended.

Board Chairman Virginia Bass said her decision-making would be helped if the group continued its work. She asked Dan Ehresman of the Healthy Humboldt Coalition, one of the group’s members, if there are plans to review other sections of the update.

“We’ve talked about that quite a bit and we have concluded that we’re not going to make that decision until we are completely done with the Circulation Element,” he responded, adding that “this has been a monumental amount of work for all of us.”

“So that’s not a ‘no,’” said Bass.

“It’s not a yes,” said a member of the group from the audience.

Supervisors had originally asked for a so-called short list review focusing on the limited number of policies that drew split votes from the county’s Planning Commission. The stakeholders group has done a policy-by-policy re-wording of the Circulation Element, however, and outgoing Supervisor Clif Clendenen suggested a more focused approach “rather than retread what wasn’t contested at all in front of the Planning Commission.”

Doing that may “allow the county to have a General Plan by the summer,” he added.

So far, supervisors have spent as much time talking about the update’s process and its schedule as they have on its contents. After a staff presentation on the ad hoc group’s work, supervisors discussed scheduling but resolution was elusive due to the group’s uncertain status.

Saying he wants to be a “realist,” Supervisor Mark Lovelace commented on the numerous update completion schedules that have been unfulfilled. “I will be greatly surprised if we’re not still here this time next year,” he said.

“I want to see it get done also but I’m more concerned with getting it done right and having as many groups represented in the final plan,” said Supervisor Rex Bohn.

Supervisors agreed to discuss the update’s completion schedule further at their regular meeting on Jan. 8. The next update hearing is set for Jan. 14.



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Goodbye Hammond Bridge? County looks at replacing rusty trestle


By Jack Durham

Press Editor & Reporter


The Hammond Bridge is disintegrating and, at the current rate of corrosion, will be unsafe in 10 years, give or take.

With this in mind, Humboldt County Public Works has launched a study looking at alternatives for replacing the pedestrian bridge…(To read the entire article, buy a copy today. Here’s a list of locations where you can purchase the paper. Better yet, subscribe!)

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County: Median on Central Avenue would reduce crashes

From the 12.26.12 edition

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By Jack Durham

Press Editor & Reporter


Placing a median strip down Central Avenue would reduce vehicle accidents and “enhance the overall ambiance of the community,” according to Chris Whitworth, Deputy Director of Humboldt County Public Works.

Whitworth discussed the project at the Dec. 19 meeting of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC).

The county has received $800,000 in funding for the proposed median, which would be built from School Road to Hiller Road. The main impetus for the project is to reduce accidents on Central Avenue, which is the most-traveled and most-accident-prone road in the county’s system.

Central Avenue averages 18,000 vehicles a day, with about five to 10 vehicle accidents a year, according to Whitworth. Studies have shown that the installation of raised medians with dedicated left-hand-turn lanes can reduce accident rates from 25 percent to 50 percent, Whitworth told the McKMAC.

Central Avenue between Hiller and School Road has two lanes in each direction divided by a continuous, uninterrupted center turn lane. One person at the meeting described the existing median as a “suicide lane.”

Whitworth said the county is planning a raised median with a “hardscape” surface made of cement patterned and colored to look like brick. Left-hand turn lanes would be included along the median.

McKMAC Chairman Ben Shepherd inquired about the possibility of including landscaping in the median, and noted that there’s already an existing Central Avenue Landscape Maintenance Zoned administered by the McKinleyville Community Services District, Merchants and property owners pay a monthly fee on their combined sewer and water bills to maintain landscaping on either side of Central Avenue.
Whitworth said that landscaping was a possibility, but there would have to be a way to pay for its maintenance, something that the county doesn’t have funds to do. One option is to include low-maintenance trees in the median.

“We have a lot of leeway to modify what we’ve proposed,” Whitworth said.

The median project will likely return to the McKMAC at a future meeting, The county hopes to start construction next summer,

The McKMAC can be reached at




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