A conflicted California Coastal Commission voted 6-3 yesterday to object to the Trinidad Rancheria’s proposed 100-room hotel project on Scenic Drive, finding it inconsistent with state coastal protections.

 

Commissioners made clear during the nearly two-hour hearing in San Diego that the main consistency issue lies with water, and namely whether the city of Trinidad has the capacity to supply water to the project. The city currently has several studies underway but can’t commit to providing water to the proposed five-story hotel adjacent to Cher-Ae Heights Casino until they are complete, which is expected to happen before August.

 

Multiple commissioners lamented that the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has jurisdictional oversight of the project because it is on sovereign tribal land, repeatedly declined staff requests to postpone Wednesday’s hearing until the commission’s meeting in August, which would have allowed for more local input and — potentially — completion of the water studies. Before the vote, several commissioners indicated they intended to vote to object to the project at this time but urged the Rancheria to resubmit its application so it can be heard at the August meeting.

 

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The controversial Trinidad hotel project failed to receive Coastal Commission approval at the commission’s meeting today in San Diego.

 

In a 3-6 vote, commissioners decided against signing off on the hotel’s consistency with state coastal policies. The Trinidad Rancheria tribe’s lack of a clear-cut plan for the hotel’s water supply remains a major issue, commissioners agreed.

 

Even with the rejection, multiple commissioners asked the tribe to reapply for approval as soon as it figures out the issues with water supply and the project’s visual details. Commissioner Donne Brownsey urged the tribe in the “strongest possible terms” to try again.

 

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Coastal Commission to discuss project at meeting in San Diego this week

 

As controversy over a proposed hotel in Trinidad comes to a head this week at the state Coastal Commission meeting, more than 1,300 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for more public input on the project.

 

The petition calls for a delay to the Coastal Commission’s public hearing for the project. At its meeting this week in San Diego, the commission is set to discuss the hotel’s consistency with California’s coastal policies.

 

The commission’s August meeting is set to take place at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka. And more than 1,300 people, at press time, have signed a petition asking the commission to hold off until then so that local residents can speak their mind about the project.

 

“What we’ve tried to do is provide a forum for people to learn about the issue and voice their concerns,” said Ted Pease of the Humboldt Alliance for Responsible Planning, the group that started the petition.

 

As it has in the past, the commission’s staff ahead of this week’s meeting has recommended an objection to the project’s consistency with state law. While most of the staff’s previous objections have been cleared up, staff members still report issues with the hotel’s height and water supply.

 

The Coastal Commission has lacked North Coast representation since the departure earlier this year of former 1st District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, who is also a member of the Rancheria. With no local representation on the commission until a representative is appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Coastal Commission will now have to choose its stance on a project that has divided Trinidad.

 

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The California Coastal Commission requested this morning that its staff shelve plans to hold a June hearing on Caltrans’ proposed plans to overhaul the Safety Corridor on U.S. Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata and, instead, to agendize the hearing for the commission’s August meeting in Eureka.

 

Surfrider Foundation California Policy Manager Jennifer Savage also addressed the commission during its public comment period.

Savage said the project — which seeks to spend roughly $35 million to build a new interchange at Indianola Road, replace the Jacoby Creek Bridge, add a stoplight at Airport Road and close all other medians on the roughly 7-mile stretch of highway — is complex and decades in the making.

 

“Our community really deserves a chance to weigh in,” Savage said, before charging that Caltrans’ plans have so far failed to analyze the impacts construction will cause to alternate routes, like Old Arcata Road and State Route 255 through the Samoa Peninsula.

Savage also criticized the project’s review for not addressing projected sea level rise, and charged that Caltrans’ public engagement efforts have been inadequate.

 

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After a meeting in Eureka hosted by Caltrans Tuesday night, one Humboldt County resident was concerned there isn't enough information about a proposed $35 million project to make safety improvements on the corridor at the Indianola Cutoff to go forward. 

 

"So, Caltrans is taking questions and answering them verbally, but it's not a valuable public comment session," said Jennifer Kalt, a resident within Humboldt County who says she was frustrated after attending the public input meeting Tuesday. "Caltrans's projects would go a lot smoother if they would get serious about taking public input," Kalt said.

 

"There are significant safety improvements needed in the corridor," said Jeffrey Pimentel, the project manager for Caltrans. He says the Indianola Cutoff sees a high rate of accidents. The cost of the project is $35 million, money Pimentel says is needed to protect those who drive through the area daily. 

 

Caltrans expects to meet with the Coastal Development Commission at the end of June in hopes of being approved for a permit. Pimentel says the public input meeting is required before they are allowed to receive the permit. "With our funding timeline and with all of the challenges on the coast, we have to deliver these projects by the end of June in order to maintain that funding," said Pimentel. 

 

"People have questions, they are asking about what's the traffic control plan or asking what the wetland mitigation plan is," said Kalt. "They should have that information to review before the public comment period and they don't, they don't have that."

 

"Our main goal is to make sure people get to their destinations safely and we're sure this is exactly what's needed in order to accomplish that goal," said Pimentel.

 

"We live here, we bike and ride on the corridor all the time and we have ideas for how it can be improved but they don't seem to really care," said Kalt.

 

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