Local environmental groups have begun voicing concerns about a major mixed-use development proposed for the Cutten neighborhood just south of Eureka.
Plans for the 81-acre project, which would encircle the Redwood Fields recreation facility, call for 320 new residential units — both houses and apartments — along with 22,000 square feet of commercial development.
Comments on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report must be submitted to the county by next Monday, and some local watchdog groups are already calling the document inadequate.
In a letter submitted nearly a year ago, local nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, whose mission is to safeguard the county’s coastal resources, expressed particular concern about impacts to the riparian and aquatic habitat in Ryan Creek and its tributaries.
Executive Director Jennifer Kalt wrote, “[I]t can reasonably be argued that the area is inappropriate for further residential and commercial development,” though she notes that the decision to change the land use classification was made a quarter century ago.
Our country has a long history of building toxic factories, waste facilities, and freeways in minority and low-income neighborhoods, harming the health of people of color and ignoring their voices. Clean water for drinking, swimming, and fishing is essential for all of us - not just the privileged few. People of color are disproportionately affected by the loosening of EPA regulations, selective enforcement of existing laws, and lack of equal access to education, nature, and so many other vital aspects of American life.
Undoubtedly many of you have signed petitions, donated to national racial justice groups like Color of Change, Black Lives Matter, and police accountability projects, and read about how we as individuals - and as a society - can step up for those whose voices have been ignored for too long.
But what can we do here in Humboldt, where Black Americans are just 2% of the population? And more specifically, what can the environmental movement do to include more non-white voices? We’ve learned through trial and error that it takes building relationships and listening - it’s not enough to simply invite underserved and under-represented people to our events. We must participate in other communities' events, actively listen to their concerns, and ask how we can work together.
We hope you will join us in our commitment to actively participate in local discussions on racial equity and work to ensure that all people feel safe and valued in nature and our community.
Coming up on June 19 is an opportunity to listen, learn, and celebrate Juneteenth with the Eureka Chapter of the NAACP and Black Humboldt. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Black history is a part of U.S. history and is important to celebrate as we create safe spaces and inclusion for people of color in Humboldt County. Starting at noon, a variety of workshops and music will be accessible via Zoom, Access Humboldt Channel 11, Facebook, and Instagram. More info HERE.
We can also work on changing our own biases by becoming more conscious of them. Many non-white people don't feel comfortable or safe in nature - for reasons that have been made painfully clear over recent weeks. What goes through your mind when you see a Black or Latino man walking alone in the woods or at the beach?
Listen to the experiences of Botany Bae, the Black rare plant researcher who was handcuffed while doing his job, just because of the color of his skin. Read the words of Carolyn Finney, the experienced backpacker who still feels unsafe walking outside in the country of her birth. Learn about Rue Mapp’s encounter with racism in an Oakland city park which inspired her to create Outdoor Afro – an organization which encourages black nature lovers into the outdoors in over 30 states.
We stand with Black Americans in their struggle to live in a safe and healthy environment. And we pledge to do better to work toward a just society for all.
Here are a few more opportunities to listen and learn:
In a “virtual” meeting Thursday evening, the Humboldt County Planning Commission voted 4-2 to deny a special permit that would have allowed Eureka’s AllPoints Sign Company to rebuild a billboard that was toppled by high winds back in November.
The sign has been located in the coastal wetlands near Elk River for at least 65 years, according to a staff report and historic photographs. Its construction predates all the zoning and building codes that would apply to any new structures.
So the debate at last night’s meeting focused largely on the question of whether rebuilding the sign constitute repair or new construction.
Jennifer Kalt, director of the environmental nonprofit Humboldt Baykeeper, told the Outpost that sign companies usually don’t bother applying for permits to rebuild fallen signs. Instead, they simply rush out and rebuild them without permission. And she scoffed at the notion that this particular sign dates back more than half a century.
“There’s probably not a single board left from the 1940s, let’s face it,” she said.
“This county has been talking for 40 years about regulating these things [billboards] to get them out of scenic and coastal wetland areas, and it’s time to just do it,” she said.