North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

Nov. 28, 2002

A $2 million problem

City's top ADA priorities

Woods service Saturday

New Arcata House home

Housing proposal nixed

Eyeing Waterfront Drive

Arson suspects in jail

Protected areas expand

Video award

Thermal imaging cameras

A $2 million problem


Eureka city staff has a challenge on its hands: determining how to make $876,000 in upgrades to city facilities in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law.

The cost to modify all city facilities, outlined in a consultant's study, could skyrocket to more than $2 million when the cost of upgrading 600 intersections in and around downtown is included.

Given financial constraints, it could take 20 years to get the work done, estimated Brent Siemer, public works director.

"The work could be done sooner, but construction costs could be expensive," he said.Handicapped restroom sign

Although all city departments will have to make some changes, some of those will be as simple as replacing door knobs, Siemer said.

More dramatic improvements, such as adding handicapped-accessible bathroom stalls to public restrooms, will require more time and cost significantly more.

Mixed reviews

Even though the city is woefully behind in upgrading its facilities for the disabled, Jennifer Aggeler of Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral, a Eureka agency, said the city deserves a four-star rating for its efforts to help those who are hearing impaired.

If a deaf person requires sign language to understand what is being said at a city-run meeting, the city will provide a signer, she said.

"If our clients make a request [to the city] a week in advance, they get what they need," Aggeler added.

City Council meetings broadcast on Cox Cable, however, are not closed-captioned for the hearing-impaired. Aggeler said that needs improving.

The cost for the technology to provide closed-captioning can run between $4,000 and $15,000, and that doesn't include a real-time captioner, Aggeler said.

T.R. Wilson, president of the board of directors of the Humboldt Access Project in Eureka, said he has no complaints about the accessibility of city-owned buildings.

Wilson, 63, is wheelchair-bound. Although he has been in and out of a wheelchair most of his life (due to post-polio illness, strokes and complications from diabetes), for the past six years he has been confined to a wheelchair. He said the city needs to fix traffic lights to make the green lights longer.

"You take your life into your hands when crossing in a wheelchair," Wilson said.

The city could also use some handicapped restrooms downtown, he added.

One building that some disabled persons complain about is the Post Office and Federal Courthouse at H and 5th streets. Social Security disability hearings are held on the third floor of the courthouse, yet the building is difficult for many handicapped persons to access. But the building is owned by the federal government, not the city of Eureka. The federal government does not have to comply with ADA standards.

Robert Trevino, 52, is a volunteer with the Humboldt Access Project. He and his wife are both disabled. They must rely on canes to help them navigate stairs. He believes the city needs to step up its efforts at making Eureka handicapped-accessible.

Some handicapped parking, for example, is too far from the entrances to buildings and some places don't even have parking for the disabled, he said.

Other priorities

But before city officials look at bringing facilities up to the ADA's regulations, the newly elected City Council will have to carefully weigh the costs against other infrastructure projects, such as the boardwalk and Waterfront Drive. The three new council members and the new mayor will be sworn into office Dec. 3.

"We'll bite it off in chunks," said City Councilman Chris Kerrigan. "When we do our priority session, we'll figure out how we can make some improvements."

That session is planned for January.

The study of city-owned facilities by Equal Access, ADA Consulting Architects, examined 23 buildings, including City Hall; 15 city parks; 17 city-owned parking lots; and the 600 intersections. The San Diego-based architectural firm ranked city-owned facilities according to the most urgent in need of modifying.

The report was given to the City Council on Nov. 19.

The Adorni Center and the Municipal Auditorium are among the top priority sites (see accompanying story).

"Most buildings in the city are [top] priority because of age," said Bob Evans, co-owner of Equal Access, to the council at its Nov. 19 meeting.

The total cost for upgrading the 13 facilities, 16 parking lots and two parks listed as top priorities is $314,000, he said.

Some of the upgrades, such as lowering fire alarm boxes, can be done by the city's public works department, Siemer said.

Also included in the top priorities are upgrades to Jacob Haney Ball Field, Sequoia Park and all parking lots with the exception of the Myrtle and Sunny lots.

Modifying Jacob Haney Ball Field will cost the city $49,450. Upgrading City Hall will cost $38,250. The cost to upgrade the 16 city-owned parking lots is $61,500. The most expensive modification in the report, however, is to bring the Ink People Center for the Arts at 411 12th St., up to code. The nonprofit arts organization is on the top floor of the Municipal Auditorium.

In order for the art gallery to meet ADA requirements, the city would have to construct a 200-foot ramp from the parking lot to Ink People's offices. Building a ramp that length is not feasible, according to the report. The only alternative would be to spend $202,000 to build an elevator to make the gallery and office space above the Eureka Municipal Auditorium accessible. The report instead recommends relocating the arts organization.

Changing requirements

One problem for Eureka, as well as many cities across the country, is that the federal government is continually revising the ADA guidelines. That means the city has to play catch-up in meeting the act's requirements, Siemer said.

One example is the changing design requirements for intersections. Last summer, the federal government required every sidewalk in America to have a raised three-foot bump at each intersection to alert vision-impaired people they are entering an area where there are vehicles. The bumps have to be made out of a plastic material or an expensive tile, Siemer said. The material has a downside. Besides the cost of it, the bumps could create a slippery foundation for skateboarders, rollerbladers and strollers, he added.

Siemer said it could cost at least $14,000 an intersection.

"But we don't believe it will be that cheap," he said.

Congress passed the disabilities act in 1991. Under its guidelines, cities, counties, states and the federal government had until 1995 to comply. Evans reminded the council that while the ADA gave governments five years to make public facilities accessible, there is an understanding that everything can't be changed overnight.

A city was able to get an exemption if it could show it could not financially meet the requirements.

After the ADA was adopted, Eureka did a study of what it would take to meet the federal law. City officials discovered it would take a substantial amount of money, Siemer said.

Eureka didn't have the funds to move the study forward, he added.

Here are some of the sites in Eureka identified as top priorities for bringing the city in line with federal handicapped accessibility requirements:

City's top ADA priorities

City Hall, 531 K St.
Install four wheelchair locations with adjacent companion seats, two semi-ambulant seating locations, and one aisle seat without a sidearm or with an arm that is removable in the City Council chambers; provide listening devices in council chambers; modify handrails on exterior stairs; improve handicap accessibility in first-floor restrooms; install new drinking fountains; lower one public phone so that it's more reachable; relocate elevator call buttons on all three floors; provide audible signals for elevator; provide Braille signage for elevators; remove the existing elevator emergency call phone and replace it with a device that does not require voice communication; provide visual fire-emergency alarms.
Cost: $38,250

Adorni Center, 1011 W. Waterfront Dr.
There is a need for a more accessible route to the entrance of the center from the parking area or public sidewalk. Recommended changes include providing new handicapped parking; installing curb cut ramps from the accessible parking spaces; installing handrails along a pedestrian ramp; building a handicapped bathroom stall along with reachable faucets; and installing lower public telephones.
Cost: $29,900.

Municipal Auditorium, 1120 F St.
The city needs to post handicapped parking only signs; provide a van-accessible handicapped parking space; build a ramp from that space to a pedestrian ramp leading to the entrance of the building. Handrails must be installed on stairs and both the men's and women's bathrooms should be modified to include facilities for disabled persons.
Cost: $25,500.
(Not including modifications to make Ink People accessible.)

F and 2nd streets Gazebo
Install a railing or some other form of edge protection near the steps where the plaza drops off into the fountain; repair uneven joints and cracks in the brick surface and areas where wood spacers are missing; either remove the existing upper portion of the curving ramp and construct a new one, or close off the ramp access entirely and remove the upper level seating.
Cost: $8,000.

Woods service Saturday

There will be a memorial service Saturday for John Woods, who was instrumental in the founding of several Arcata-based community service organizations over the past 35 years and was once a counselor to troubled youths.

Woods was found bludgeoned to death Nov. 15 in his Arcata home. His son, Benjamin Woods, 17, has been arrested and charged with his murder.

The younger Woods was also charged with use of a deadly weapon, first-degree robbery, vehicle theft and special circumstance of committing murder during the course of a robbery. He will be arraigned on Dec. 4.

John Woods was one of the founders of Youth Educational Services at Humboldt State University and authored the acronym Y.E.S. He helped establish and was a founding director of the Humboldt Open Door Clinic. He was one of the original members of the Arcata Co-op, now the North Coast Co-op, and helped form the Redwood Community Development Council.

Woods was raised in Southern California and moved to Arcata to attend HSU in the mid-1960s. During the Vietnam War, Woods performed alternative service at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. Woods worked as a general contractor under his business name, Home Services Community.

The service will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Arcata Veteran's Hall, 14th and J Streets, Arcata.

New Arcata House home

Just two days after its grand opening, Arcata House's newest transitional home is almost full, and representatives of the nonprofit agency believe that all six beds will be filled by mid-week.

The former Eagle's Hall (a fraternal organization) will give women with children and single adults a place to live until they can save enough money to move into permanent housing.

The house at 1005 11th St. has all new appliances, a large shared kitchen, two shared bathrooms, a living room, a dining room and a deck in the back yard. There are also two front rooms converted to office space for Arcata House. Solar tubes provide natural sunlight throughout.

On Saturday, neighbors, Arcata city officials and about 100 others got a first glimpse of the new house before residents moved in.

On Monday, Arcata House officials were making final preparations for a single mother with three children to move into the new facility. Another adult will also be moving in on Monday, according to Executive Director Karen "Fox" Olson.

This is the third house that Arcata House has built or remodeled in Arcata in 11 years.

Olson stressed that the Arcata House organization is not an emergency shelter, a rental service, a medical or mental health housing program, a domestic violence shelter or an alcohol or drug aftercare house.

The goal of Arcata House is to help people who are in temporary financial crisis. Residents are required to have a source of income, a percentage of which must be turned over each month. Those funds are placed in a trust to help residents save enough money to move out on their own.

"Moving into Arcata House allows a client to regroup, to create a plan [for moving out]. That's what we are aiming for," Olson said.

Residents are responsible for the upkeep of the home and must follow very strict rules: no drugs or alcohol, no weapons and a 10 p.m. curfew during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends, Olson said.

"Taking care of [your] room and the house are major requirements at Arcata House," she said.

In return, residents get a place to sleep, bedding, towels, dishes and cookware. Arcata House staff also help residents fill out rental applications and send them out to low-income apartments throughout Humboldt County, Olson said.

The appliances, bedding, towels and some food is donated. The Arcata 4-H Club donated several bags of canned food for the residents. Bank of America helped pay for a voice mail system for each resident.

On average, residents stay three to five months.

While some neighborhoods often balk at the idea of a transitional home in their midst, Olson said the neighbors along 11th and J streets embraced the project. Part of the reason for the area's acceptance of a transitional home was that the Eagle's Hall was an "eyesore in the neighborhood," Olson said.

"This was a dark dank structure," she said.

And some neighbors even had relatives who had lived in a transitional home, she added.

"There was very little nimbyism in the neighborhood," Olson said.

It took Arcata House about a year and $250,000 to turn the old fraternal hall into a new-looking home. The agency also saved on rent by relocating its offices into the front of the home.

Much of the funding came from the City of Arcata and through federal housing assistance monies.

While there are many people in Humboldt County in need of transitional housing, Olson said there is no strict waiting list at Arcata House. That is because they never know when a resident will move out. When a spot does open up at one of the agency's three houses, Olson will go back through the files and contact people who had submitted applications.

Housing proposal nixed

A proposal to build 50 moderately priced homes on 80 acres of converted timberland in Cutten was nixed last week by the Humboldt County Planning Commission.

The commission said the development was incompatible with the county's General Plan because it didn't provide enough housing.

The General Plan calls for affordable housing to be built on the former Louisiana Pacific property. L-P sold the land in 1995 and the county rezoned it from timber to residential. Under the county's General Plan, the area, known as North McKay Tract, is supposed to provide at least 80 homes and preserve existing trails and open space.

Although the Planning Commission voted 4 to 2 against developer Robert Morris and Ken Huffman's proposal, some commissioners said the county wasn't showing enough flexibility, especially when no other plans for the property have surfaced.

It is likely that the commission's decision will be appealed before the Board of Supervisors.

Eyeing Waterfront Drive

The Eureka City Council approved a $300,000 contract with Redding-based North State Resources, Inc. to determine the feasibility of the Waterfront Drive extension project and assess its potential environmental impacts.

The company received the highest rating among five concerns that bid on the project. The environmental review of the 1.7-mile extension of Waterfront Drive is expected to take about 18 months. (See Journal story "Clashing Visions," Sept. 26, 2002).

The proposal calls for extending Waterfront Drive south from Del Norte Street to Truesdale Avenue. Environmentalists say the project is incompatible with an ongoing city effort to restore the 113-acre Eureka Marsh. Eyebrows have also been raised over Waterfront Drive's $9 million price tag.

Arson suspects in jail

Two Humboldt State University freshman remain behind bars on $100,000 bail each after being charged with starting a fire in the main stairway of Madrone Hall on Nov. 16.

Jonathan M. Stewart, of Torrance, Calif., and Brandon M. Wert, of Alta Loma, Calif., both 19, were arrested last week after a fire broke out in the three-story dormitory that houses about 50 students.

Two students put out the fire before firefighters arrived. Although no damage was done to the building, students were kept out until smoke was cleared from the stairway.

Stewart and Wert both live in another dormitory, Sunset Hall.

They were booked into the Humboldt County Jail on suspicion of felony arson of an inhabited structure.

Protected areas expand

The City of Arcata will get $2.6 million, the largest grant the city has ever received, from the state Wildlife Conservation Board to add 285 acres of old growth forest to the Community Forest and 150 acres of riparian forest along Jacoby Creek.

Funds for the purchase of the combined 435 acres come from Proposition 12, approved by voters in 1999, and Proposition 40, approved by voters in 2002.

The land was formerly owned by the Barnum Timber Co. and the upper portion of it is considered the headwaters of Jacoby Creek.

The additions will help Arcata protect water quality in the creek and bay as well as deal with flooding and drainage concerns in the Jacoby Creek Flood Plain.

Video award

Five McKinleyville High School seniors will compete in a statewide Environmental and Spatial Technology conference next spring after winning a regional competition for their three-minute video.

Logan Gloor, David Leen, Brian Sorem, Scott Wallace and Morgan White spent three weeks teaching themselves about video editing and animation in order to produce their award-winning video.

Last week the five seniors learned they had won the competition. They will now make a 10-minute version of their video to be shown at the EAST conference in Sacramento next year.

Thermal imaging cameras

So far, $3,000 has been raised to help the Eureka Fire Department purchase two thermal imaging cameras that allow firefighters to see into smoke-filled buildings.

The total cost of the two cameras is $37,000.

"Imagine how important this is to firefighters entering a building and trying to find someone," said Eureka Fire Chief Eric Smith. "You can fill a room with smoke and get a clear picture on the camera."

A thermal imaging camera detects temperature changes and works on the same principle as infrared technology The cameras are in use by most big city fire departments across the country. The Eureka Fire Department currently owns one camera.

The camera can also be used to detect hot spots inside a house so firefighters can get a better idea of how to fight a fire, and it can detect hot spots that may still be smoldering even after a fire is thought to be out.

National Fire Rescue Magazine, a trade publication for firefighters, recently wrote that without the cameras, firefighters were unable to locate a person inside a smoke filled room 40 percent of the time.

The camera also makes it much easier for firefighters to find their way out of smoke-filled buildings.

"Our goal is to place a camera on every engine," Smith said.


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