Large New Housing Project Proposed for McKay Forest

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

A large new residential housing development is being proposed for the outskirts of Eureka, cutting into the McKay forest in Cutten. The project proposes 320 new residential units, in a mix of single- and multi-family developments, together with 22,000 square feet of commercial space incorporated into the development across 81 acres of now-forested lands. The project would require rezoning and subdivision, bringing the project before the Planning Commission. A DEIR has been completed for the project, which you can access here.

EPIC, together with our allies at the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities and Humboldt Baykeeper, have numerous concerns with the project. We support the development of appropriately-sited and well-conceived housing that supports a diversity of housing needs, particularly low-income, affordable by design, and accessible housing, however, this project needs work. If the County wishes to allow a new large greenfield development at this project site, additional project measures are necessary to reduce the impact of the housing on the adjacent community and on the natural environment. You can read our comment letters here.

Neighbors are rightfully concerned about traffic and congestion resulting from the project, after all, the proposed development would cause substantial wait times at major intersections—up to 821 seconds at one intersection, in addition to other anticipated increases in traffic. The development needs to do more to get people out of cars and to complete trips by foot, bike, or bus. Better incorporation of pedestrianization measures, including traffic calming, location of bus stops and provision of free bus passes, dedicated bike lanes and connections to the Bay-to-Zoo trail that is under development are a start here. Our transportation decisions are influenced by our built environment. Let’s ensure  housing is built to reduce the need for cars and to promote healthy movement.

The development fails to adequately appreciate greenhouse gas emissions associated with construction and use of the residence, together with the loss of carbon sequestration potential. To compensate, the project would merely buy carbon credits. Not good enough. We can reduce carbon emissions by solarizing the project, where feasible, and moving all home energy use to electric (and not running new natural gas lines to the project). We can reduce carbon emissions by diverting more car trips to foot, bike or bus. We can sequester more carbon (and reduce impacts from forest conversion) by requiring the incorporation of natural planting for all of the development.

If there are many concerning aspects of the project, there are also things to appreciate. The project proposes a diversity of housing types, including low-income and multifamily housing, in addition to standard-fare single family housing. The developer is also planning the incorporation of commercial space within the development, which will help to make the new development more walkable. The proposed project would be much better if it doubled down on these elements. Let’s build housing that integrates multiple income brackets together, that more closely incorporates neighborhood commercial space, that provides for affordable housing by design, that allows for a car-free lifestyle and promotes healthy behavior.

The development of housing in California is a statewide priority and our development decisions now will affect our communities and our environment far into the future. Let’s get it right.