Arcata Planning Commission moves forward with McKinley statue removal project

City council will take up the issue again Feb. 20

Carlrey Arroyo, an Arcata resident, speaks to the Arcata Planning Commission at their meeting Tuesday evening. (Philip Santos — The Times-Standard)

The Arcata Planning Commission passed a resolution Tuesday night recommending the city council approve the President William McKinley statue removal project along with the necessary reports and amendments required to complete the project.

The commission’s discussion was fairly brief but touched on the potential scope of the project as well as the paperwork needed to complete the removal of the statue.

Community Development Director David Loya presented the commission with an overview of the recommended course of action, expressing a desire to have some type of recommendation for the Arcata City Council’s hearing on the project Feb. 20. Commissioner Julie Vaissade-Elcock began the discussion.

“So, we don’t have to get a demolition permit?” Vaissade-Elcock asked.

“This is one area I’ve evaluated in quite some depth,”  Loya responded.  “A demolition permit means different things in different contexts.”

The project, Loya said, doesn’t involve demolition of the statue, but rather its relocation in some form. Chair of the planning commission, Daniel Tangney, was curious about how much would actually be removed by the project.

“Further down it says that the landscaped areas, steps and or pedestal could remain depending on how this area is to be used in the future … can you provide a little clarification?” Tangney asked Loya.

The Environmental Impact Report, Loya said, is designed to evaluate removal of any of the components associated with the statue, including the steps buried beneath the statue, the base, and the planter surrounding it.

“We wanted the city council to have the flexibility if they wanted to go further to be able to go further,” Loya said.

Before moving to hear the public’s comments, one member of the commission proposed a change to the suggested motion. Commissioner Judith Mayer asked that a sentence which read, “The General Plan amendment and ultimate statue removal do not change the intended use of the site as a public space” have “and are intended to improve its use by a diverse community,” added to it.

“I think it’s important that we note the reason the statue would be removed is because of its impact on our diverse community,” she said.

When Mayer stated she had a proposed change to the resolution, members of the public appeared wary but thanked her later during public comment. Almost all of the people who spoke during public comment voiced support of the project moving forward.

Carlrey Arroyo, a resident of Arcata, expressed gratitude to the commission for what she later said was a high degree of openness and responsiveness to feedback in the process.

“I want to say thank you all for listening to all of our suggestions and including them in the final Environmental Impact Report,” Arroyo said as she described how both the council’s vote to remove the statue, followed by the public’s denial of a ballot to keep the statue, both surprised her.

“They proved me wrong … they voted to remove it. Arcata proved me wrong. People came out and said ‘no, that statue’s coming down.’”

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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