Times Standard (Eureka)
McKinleyville needs walkable, bikeable town center
Arcata has the Plaza and Eureka has Old Town, but where is the “center” of McKinleyville? Where can McKinleyville residents gather together for an event, grab a bite to eat, and walk by storefronts, peering into store windows to see what is for sale? What part of McKinleyville would you recommend folks spend a few hours walking around on their trip up the North Coast?
Because McKinleyville has historically operated under the county’s land use code, the region’s third-largest community never developed such a place. If you want to go somewhere in McKinleyville, you drive. And if you want to go somewhere else afterward, you get back in your car and drive there as well. Few people park their car in one place and walk around McKinleyville or, god forbid, forget the car entirely and walk or bike to run errands around town. The city simply isn’t designed for it.
The current countywide land use code requires a lot of parking and a lot of fast, wide roads. The purpose of these requirements is to get cars where they’re going quickly and to make sure there’s space for them once they get there. That’s great if you’re a car but not so great if you’re just a person. And it’s really not great for the climate. What McKinleyville lacks is a walkable, people-friendly, climate-friendly, central location where people can live, work, and play without using a car as their primary means of transport.
The proposed McKinleyville town center is supposed to be that destination. The county’s vision is that it will be a new gathering place, a “center” for McKinleyville, that will provide much needed walkability and opportunity to the area. But in order for that vision to succeed, it requires certain ingredients. After all, there’s a reason the county’s existing land use code didn’t create such a place already.
So, how do you encourage people to get out of their cars and try walking or biking?
1) Stop requiring parking! Large parking lots take up valuable space that could be used for storefronts or housing and turn it into storage space for private vehicles. A sea of parking lots creates a space that is the opposite of walkable.
2) Slow down the streets. Ever tried biking next to a fast-moving lane of traffic — or walking across one? It doesn’t feel very safe, and that’s because it isn’t. Slowing down vehicle speeds by narrowing roads and providing real protection for bike lanes make biking and walking safer and more realistic.
The County Planning Department and the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee are trying to finalize new rules for the McKinleyville town center. They’ve made a lot of progress, but so far they still have unwalkable parking mandates in those rules, and they have not committed to a needed street redesign for Central Avenue. Go to https://humboldtgov.org/238/ McKinleyville-Municipal-Advisory-Committ for the committee’s web page, where you can find out how to weigh in.
The county’s vision is that it will be a new gathering place, a “center” for McKinleyville, that will provide much needed walkability and opportunity to the area. But in order for that vision to succeed, it requires certain ingredients.