Dear City Council: ACRH responds to The Village developer’s claims

Dear City Council: ACRH responds to The Village developer's claims

July 8, 2018         

Kevin Hoover - Mad River Union

ARCATA – The Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) Board of Directors has responded so some of the statements made by David J. Moon in a July 5 letter written to the City Council on  behalf of The Village's project applicant, Coleraine Capital Group and Amcal Equities.

The ACRH response (see below) denies Moon's claims that the group was founded by Arcata housing developer Steve Strombeck. "ACRH was formed by the three Directors (Erik Jules, John Bergenske, and Julie Vassiade-Alcock[sic]), states the letter.

ACRH also denies Moon's claims of NIMBYism by pointing to the large number of anti-The Village speakers at the June 7 City Council meeting. "The public testimony WAS NOT an orchestrated ACRH presentation," states the letter. It also states that most ACRH members live in neighborhoods that aren't adjacent to the project site, the Craftsmans Mall on St. Louis Road.

Moon had cited a Jan. 23 letter from Westwood resident Maureen Jules which listed a number of mitigations for the project, requested on behalf of neighbors. They include reducing buildings facing Maple Lane to two stories, greater Humboldt State and University Police involvement, among other issues that reflect the dialogue at that stage of the public process.

Moon claimed that all but one condition – that of coordination with local animal shelters – had been addressed in subsequent revisions and modifications to the project. Responds ACRH, "That letter (dated Jan. 23), which we’ve included below, was written BEFORE we even formed ACRH! It didn’t, and doesn’t, represent ACRH. To think he could use that letter as proof he’s addressed all of the concerns community members have is ridiculous."

ACRH also reasserts its position that The Village's student residents

Terms of HSU-AMCAl deal on student housing proposal released

July 6th, 2018 Times Standard - By Hunter Cresswell

Humboldt State University released a summary of terms drafted in its tentative agreement with AMCAL Multi-Housing Inc. on the controversial “Village” off-campus student housing project proposal this week.

Terms included allowing the university to purchase the property from AMCAL after one year. If the university chooses to do this, it would pay the city for the property taxes Arcata would lose out on with the state owning a chunk of the city. The terms would also require the university to ask for the Arcata City Council’s approval if it chooses to increase the number of beds in the facility above the proposed 602.

HSU Administration and Finance Vice President Douglas Dawes described these two items, the number of beds and the property taxes, as the “key concerns” of the City Council and Arcata residents.

“Those really are the terms of agreement to operate the facility,” he said, adding that he doubts any “substantiative changes” will be made to the terms before its signed.

“We’re pleased the Village earned the full support of HSU by implementing their requested changes to ensure a safe, affordable, inclusive, and rewarding student experience,” AMCAL Senior Project Manager Patrick Shanahan said in an email. “This critical housing responds to the severe housing crisis that negatively impacts the social and economic stability of both HSU and the city. HSU’s participation also directly addresses concerns raised by our neighbors in the public review process about wanting HSU’s involvement, affordable rent, responsible management and staffing.”

The project proposes to build three two-story buildings and two three-story buildings with 152 units for 602 students with 409 parking spaces at the southern end of St. Louis Road next to U.S. Highway 101. 

A community group, Arcata Citizens for Affordable Housing, formed in opposition to the project and is calling for the parcel to be developed with a mix of apartments and single-family homes open to all instead of being student-exclusive.

ACRH treasurer John Bergenske said he was left with some questions about the terms after his limited reading of them.

“I looked at it and said, ‘Holy smokes. Is this an AMCAL project or is this an HSU project/’” he said.

ACRH and its members have alleged that HSU and AMCAL have been inappropriately coordinating on this project behind closed doors, which AMCAL denies.

“Does this agreement survive if Humboldt buys the project,” Bergenske further asked.

According to Dawes, it mostly would save for language about option to purchase and the right of first offer.

“The 602 beds stays,” he said.

Bergenske also asked if this should be a three-way agreement between HSU, AMCAL and the city of Arcata.

“There’s a little bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario going on,” Arcata Community Development Director David Loya said.

He said the developer and university want the thumbs up on the project from the city before they sign an agreement, but the city wants to see the terms of the agreement before it gives the project the go ahead.

“Certainly the council could make it a condition of approval that the actual penned agreement come back for review,” Loya said.

He said the city council will likely continue its already-continued public hearing on the Village proposal during its rescheduled regular meeting next week until a special meeting on July 17.

“I’d be shocked if they got to the point where they have a penned agreement [by the 17th],” Loya said.

Dawes said the university is focused on providing “quality, affordable, safe” housing for its students. Bergenske said he and other ACRH officials will go through the agreement terms with a fine tooth comb before the next council meeting.

“Then we want to advise our membership on what we find,” he said.

Learn More

As part of this press posting, the ACRH has obtained a copy of the terms sheet referenced in the article.  To review the terms click on the link below:

‘The Village’ Student Housing At Arcata City Council

By Stephanie McGeary - Lost Coast Outpost, June 5, 2018

“The Village” — a large-scale student housing project on St. Louis Road, west of the highway — will go before Arcata City Council at tonight’s meeting. To allow ample time, the council will also hold a special meeting tomorrow night open to public comment on the issue. 

The project, submitted by developers AMCAL Equities in 2015, has been the source of some major controversy. A recent Mad River Union article exposed coordination between AMCAL and Humboldt State University on the project. Previously, Humboldt State had expressed no direct involvement with the development.

The Union article published a hefty 369 pages of HSU emails showing involvement with the project developers. The emails were obtained via a Public Records Act Request filed by the Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) — a group of over 400 citizens voicing concern over the Village development. 

ACRH co-director John Bergenske told the Outpost that the group hired an attorney to file the request when they noticed Humboldt State’s notable lack of presence during the Planning Commission meetings surrounding the Village. 

“They [HSU] were saying ‘we support this but we have no involvement,’” Bergenske said. This lead ACRH to think there must be an angle, and that AMCAL might be trying to sell this development to Humboldt State. 

Bergenske said it’s the lack of transparency around Humboldt State’s involvement that is so disconcerting. Of the pages 369 pages of emails, a lot of content was redacted. ACRH is now working to discover...

Arcata City Council Public Hearing - June 6th and 7th

Please consider attending the public hearing and show your opposition to this project by speaking for 2-3 minutes.  The ACRH has resources to help you prepare, just let us know.

ACRH wants to see what HSU blacked out in The Village document dump (Oh yes, we do!)

By Kevin L. Hoover - Mad River Union, June 1, 2018 

ARCATA – They who hold "The Village" student housing project in low esteem and want it replaced with a less dense alternative are asking for more documents detailing Humboldt State University's involvement with the developers.  A Public Records Act request by Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing recently resulted in a 369-page document dump revealing close coordination between the university and AMCAL Equities/Coleraine Capital Group. Revelatory as it was, the document included multiple redacted passages and pages, including key attachments.

Now, ACRH is asking what was obscured. A June 1 letter from the group's attorney, Howard “Chip” Wilkins III, asks for a complete, unredacted version of the document.  "As the California Supreme Court recently explained, the CPRA and the California Constitution do not allow HSU to conceal its plans with the developer relating to the project from public view, but rather provide the public with a right of access to this information..." states Wilkins' letter.  The Arcata City Council is set to consider the controversial project on Wednesday, June 6 and 7 after the Planning Commission declined to approve required General Plan and zoning amendments.   Below, an ACRH press release and Wilkins' letter.       


ACRH Fights for Public Records on AMCAL/HSU Coordination   As more and more evidence mounts that HSU and AMCAL have been coordinating a planned purchase or affiliation around their 800-bed private housing project in Arcata, and secretly working to put more students in each unit after certification, ACRH is demanding that all documents shared between the developer and HSU be made public before the special City Council meeting next Thursday, June 7th. The renewed California Public Records Act request is below...

Stop the Corporate Scam - AMCAL's True Intentions Revealed

Humboldt State and developers of The Village are closely coordinating after all

By Kevin L. Hoover, Mad River Union - May 26, 2018 


Even before the Planning Commission began considering the project, the developers were wooing Humboldt State with a plan under which the university could eventually acquire The Village and make a lot of money off it.

Last Oct. 31, David Moon, president of Coleraine Capitol, wrote St. Onge, Dawes, Brumfield and Michael Fisher, associate director of Planning and Design.  Moon alluded to a meeting with HSU officials the previous week and mentions a “tax-exempt bond program” soon to be presented to CSU Stanislaus regarding his group’s Vista housing project in Turlock. 

“The program will provide the University with the opportunity to share in surplus project cash flow (in excess of $100 Million) over the term of the bonds (35 years) and to have the buildings gifted to the University debt free at bond maturity,” Moon stated..."

Humboldt State’s ‘The Village’-related email traffic

By Kevin L. Hoover, Mad River Union - May 25, 2018

Humboldt State’s ‘The Village’-related email traffic

Deadlocked Planco punts Village to council

By Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union - May 22, 2018

ARCATA – An even-numbered Planning Commission last week deadlocked 2–2 on approval of findings required for The Village student housing complex. But that doesn’t end consideration of the 700-bed project – it just bounces it upstairs to the City Council, where it was destined to go all along.

When it gets there, the council will also be even-numbered and subject to decisionmaking paralysis. Councilmember Michael Winkler will sit the matter out over conflict-of-interest issues, since he has long served as an energy consultant for AMCAL, the project’s developer.

Due to strong criticism by neighbors and others who formed an opposition group called Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH), the project had followed a herky-jerky path to possible...

ACRH Alternative Highlighted

Planco urged to consider alt-Village

By Kevin L. Hoover, Mad River Union - April 10, 2018

ARCATA – In a visualization of the alternative plan offered by opponents of the proposed “The Village” student housing project, residents stroll among buildings of an agreeably human scale, where the lanes are lush with gardens and greenery, and everyone looks to be young and/or in love.

The idyllic mix of attractive housing suggested for the site by Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) resulted from reverse-engineering and eliminating everything the group’s members don’t like about The Village, augmented with ideas aired at a recent scoping session plus the expertise of Arcata-based project management and design firm Greenway Partners.

The alternative plan was unveiled at last week’s Planning Commission meeting and on the group’s website, At its previous meeting, the Planco had finalized its review of the permits, plans, zoning amendments, development agreement and Draft Environmental Impact Report for The Village.

ACRH Boardmember John Bergenske asked the Planco to include his group’s plan...


Read the entire article and additional coverage of the ACRH's opposition to The Village project application by visiting the Mad River Union

ACRH's Design Workshop and Alternative Highlighted

The (Alternative) Village People

By Kimberly Wear, NorthCoast Journal - March 22, 2018

When a massive student housing project goes back before the Arcata Planning Commission on March 27, a recently formed community group will be presenting more than a show of opposition to the proposal — they have an alternative plan.

"We believe there's a better way than The Village project," says John Bergenske, one of Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing's (ACRH) three directors.

With a bit more than 150 members, the group has coalesced over concerns about a real estate development company's bid to build a three- and four-story complex to house 700 students on the Craftsman's Mall site, which sits across U.S. Highway 101 from LK Wood Boulevard north of campus and currently consists of a rambling collection of old warehouses and assorted buildings broken up by an occasional trailer and a few small homes.

With a website and nonprofit status, ACRH is readying to offer a different vision for the 10-acre parcel, one with a focus on what Bergenske describes as "blended density" that is integrated with the community rather than the exclusive domain of students...

Get Involved

The ACRH is making tremendous progress on our creating a wonderful alternative to The Village project for our community, and having a lot of fun while doing it!  Get involved to join the community inclusive development movement.

ACRH Alternative Gains Traction

Citizens' Group Conjures 'Village' Aleternatives

By Kevin L. Hoover, Mad River Union - March 15, 2018

ARCATA – As Arcata’s Planning Commission grinds through hearings en route to probable approval of The Village, an 800-bed student housing complex to be sited at the present location of the Craftsmans Mall, a citizens group which objects to the proposal is developing an alternative plan for the site.

Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) held a design charette at Arcata Elementary School (AES) last Thursday, soliciting community comment on a project that might avoid the many problems it sees with The Village. These include the project’s size, capacity, traffic impacts, loss of tax revenue and consequences for adajcent neighborhoods.

To assist in crafting the plan, ACRH has engaged Arcata-based planning firm Greenway Partners.

“We believe there’s a better way than The Village project,” said John Bergenske of ACRH. He said the group is fast-tracking development of a proposal to be presented to the Planco at its Marsh 27 meeting, when it next considers The Village.

A good plan, Bergenske said, could compel the Planco to force major changes to The Village.

Beyond that, an approved Village project would go on to the City Council for final approval, where it could also be halted. “The Planning Commission is ‘practice’,” Bergenske said. “The real game is the council. We’re not even into the game yet.”

Another option is developing a ballot measure in opposition to The Village. Bergenske said ACRH now has about 100 members, and he asked attendees at the AES gathering to each recruit 10 friends. With 1,000 members, he said, it would be clear to all that the group could gather enough petition signatures to qualify a ballot initiative. he also asked for donations via the groups website,

Greenway Partners Principal Kirk Cohune asked attendees for “game-changing ideas – what we want, not what we’re opposed to” in order to help create a “compelling, community supported project.”

Criteria for a replacement for The Village would be a project that works on a design level, could be financially viable and is actually developable.

He said Greenway is fast-tracking its planning in order to have something to present to the Planco at its March 27 meeting. “We have 19 days to do work that normally takes four months,” he said.

He said Greenway is “reverse-engineering” The Village to ascertain its costs. Cohune added that it is “not uncommon” in California for alternative projects to be developed in response to a development proposal.

Greenway planner Jason Brownfield then displayed slides of a conceptual design for the 10-acre Craftmans Mall site, one intended only as a conversation starter.

The conceptual layout includes a mix of single-family dwellings and apartment buildings of various shapes and sizes. The homes are located on the parcel’s west side, minimizing visual and other impacts on Maple Lane. That street’s residents have been particularly upset over effects The Village would have on privacy, noise, shading and their property values.

Farther northeast are a variety of larger structures, and some smaller ones to the southeast.

Options for the site include the family homes and the apartments, but also senior housing and even tiny houses.

An additional one-acre site to the north of the Craftsmans Mall on St. Louis Road, owned by Mad River Lumber, might be available for commercial facilities to provide “items of necessity” for the residents of the main parcel.

Options discussed include stores, a laundromat and a coffee shop.

ACRH Formed to Organize Opposition to the Village Project

The Village starts shrinking as new group creates alternatives

By Kevin L. Hoover, Mad River Union - February 25, 2018

ARCATA – In its seventh hearing on The Village student housing complex, Arcata’s Planning Commission got into the weeds – or at least the landscaping and other minute details – of the proposed project. The Planco spent considerable time on Design Review, with the project’s finalized Environmental Impact Report expected to be complete by the next meeting.

The development, which would be located at the site of the Craftsman’s Mall, appears to be steadily marching toward Planco approval. Should that occur, the City Council would next take up the project and make a final decision.

By way of appeasing critics, project proponents presented commissioners with some new alternatives. Three different façade designs were offered, and one story was removed from the two westernmost of the project’s four structures. That in response to strong criticism of the mammoth project’s bulk by residents of Maple Lane, which lies to the west and below The Village.

The downsizing would reduce the student population from a nominal 800 to 700, but would not affect the project’s four-building footprint or the number of parking spaces.

Meanwhile, a well-organized opposition group known as Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing (ACRH) is creating an alternative housing plan for the Craftsman's Mall site.

ACRH, a newly registered non-profit, says it supports infill and high-density student housing, but opposes The Village. Its alternative plan will be developed by Arcata planning firm Greenway Partners. A public design charette is set for Thursday, March 8, at a location to be announced.

ACRH has been soliciting members from the Westwood Village neighborhood via Facebook. Associate membership applications and other material is available at the group’s website,

Representatives of the group addressed the Planco, scolding city staff for allegedly advocating for The Village. The ACRH reps claimed the project is widely disliked by the public.

Boardmember John Begenske summarized the group’s stance on The Village as “too much, too soon and not well enough thought out.”

The Village will again be considered by the Planco at its Feb. 27 and March 13 meetings.