The Humboldt Consequential

Eureka sets positive tone for zones, but economic disaster still in the forecast

This past Tuesday, the City of Eureka held a “set the tone for your zone” community meeting to gain input from Eurekans about how they envision the future look of the city.

There was quite a bit of buzz leading up to the event. Take this quote from Councilmember Kim Bergel, which sums up most of our political leaders’ approaches to planning and building in general:

““I think it’s going to be a really fun meeting and I don’t know a lot about it but I’ll be there,” she said.” (from the Times-Standard.)

Bergel, indeed, was there. Thanks for showing up, Kim.

We’re told there was quite the crowd, and it wasn’t just for the pizza and donuts. Rob Holmlund, Eureka’s Community Development Director, unveiled his master plan for the future development of Eureka, and it received quite the reception.

The top points he made were aimed at easing some irritating code restrictions and allowing for taller buildings. Sounds good on the surface, but what’s the catch?

Get ready for a major shocker, THC-heads: we actually really like the direction that Rob Holmlund is taking this, from what we’ve heard of it. Despite some of our previous criticisms, it sounds like Eureka’s Community Development Director is doing what he can to encourage building in Eureka.

Of course, the proposed zoning changes don’t address all of our problems, such as a lack of available industrial land and the apparent total lack of interest in providing more of it in the future.

But we digress. The real story here is this: Eureka is at least going through the motions of making changes that will allow for the type of growth needed to survive beyond the inevitable pop of the green rush bubble. Problem is, relaxing zoning restrictions just won’t be enough.

THC is told that a community member asked specifically about a plan moving forward to attract businesses, encourage building, etc., and received virtually no response other than “we’re working on a lot of things”. Sound familiar?

What’s even less encouraging is yet another quote from whiz-kid Kim Bergel from the same Times-Standard article, in reference to Eureka:

“For me I see it as a thriving business community.”

Umm…what?

Lest you think we’re picking on Bergel too much, we will add that she is a great cheerleader for any cause in the community. You can see the response to her enthusiasm in the community – go ahead and sign that lady up for another term.

But popularity isn’t the point. The point is that there’s a pervasive view in local leadership that our area is just one big break from Humboldt County becoming an economic powerhouse.With the way things are going, between industry trends and increasing regulations, we’ll be lucky to be afloat in ten years.

What we actually need is a break from our government’s half-assed attempts to generate jobs through visioning workshops and Quickbooks training. We’re tired of hearing lip service about “jobs” and “growth” when, aside from cannabis, nothing has changed for decades.

So the proposed changes to Eureka’s zoning are great, but just because someone is legally allowed to build a certain type of building doesn’t mean that they will. Hell, we’d argue that an economic turn-around could be accomplished even without proposed zoning changes, as long as Eureka would make it easier to build and for businesses to thrive.

It might require a little more than our politicians showing up to meetings about things they don’t understand, like providing incentives and actively recruiting businesses, or making permits less expensive, but the test of time has proven that it’s stretch to rely on decision makers to do what’s needed. Or to even understand that something more is needed.

But we’re really excited about the ability to build taller buildings.