The Eureka City Council discussed the county’s climate plan, funding preschool buildings through new construction fees and donated $10,000 to a film commission at its Tuesday night meeting.
During the second half of the meeting, Eureka City Schools Superintendent Fred Van Vleck told the council that his district could earn $5.6 million to build eight new classrooms for children in preschoolers if they impose new developmental fees.
“The reality is, it’s Sacramento, telling us, the local government, if you want that money, you have to charge a developer fee. For most school districts in the state, that’s okay because they already charge that, but when you walk into Humboldt County, that’s just not normal,” Van Vleck said.
Van Vleck explained that in 1986, the state allotment board allowed local school districts to decide whether or not to impose developer fees, and while Fortuna Elementary School District and McKinleyville Union Elementary School District impose the fee, most districts in Humboldt County do not.
The new costs would be $4.79 per square foot for residential construction and $0.78 per square foot for commercial or industrial construction.
However, during public comments, local builder Will Zerlang noted that imposing fees would dramatically increase permit costs, discouraging housing construction.
“If we add these fees, it will add $16,000 to the cost of the permit. So that’s going to take that permit cost for me, a small business, from $13,000, an increase of more than 1,000% in the last 12 years already, to $29,000,” Zerlang said.
“How are we going to handle this long term because implementing these fees on local builders is going to slow down all your guy movement that you’re trying to do here with the increase in housing,” Zerlang added.
Van Vleck awarded consideration to the statewide proposal for Universal Transitional Kindergarten, which attempts to include all 4-year-olds in the state by the 2025-26 school year. Van Vleck said that to accommodate the projected increase in the number of children, more state-code-compliant facilities need to be built.
“We just don’t have the…facilities to accommodate the increase in the number of students that we will have inside our classrooms. And so there’s an opportunity for schools in the city of Eureka to really capitalize on bringing Sacramento dollars here locally, at 100% of their cost,” Van Vleck said.
Council also heard an update on the county’s draft climate action plan, which can be viewed in full at https://bit.ly/39LmItu.
The plan aims to reduce Humboldt County’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and help California reach net zero emissions by 2045. However, while the report delivered to council offered suggestions on how to reduce emissions, local jurisdictions, Eureka included, have yet to commit to concrete plans.
Earlier in the meeting, the board voted unanimously to allocate an additional $10,000 to the Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission to help the commission bring two major film productions to Humboldt County, one of which could earn $20 million in direct dollars distributed in the county. Over the past 11 years, the commission has spent $12 million in direct dollars in Humboldt County.
Cassandra Hesseltine, the Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission’s film commissioner, didn’t divulge much information about the films, either studios, directors or titles, but she noted that their presence in the Humboldt County would have a significant impact on the local economy.
“The second feature, about three-quarters of the movie from what I understand, would happen here, it was actually written specifically for Eureka, and the director was just in town a few weeks ago, then we just had a Zoom meeting. I can’t tell you the names of his movies, because you’d guess who he was, but he’s tall,” Hesseltine said.
The $10,000 is intended to assist in the acquisition of an additional full-time or part-time staff member with the film commission.
Although there was still no guarantee that film productions would come to Humboldt County, Hesseltine noted that “fingers crossed that it all works out as this would be the movie of a lifetime”.
Jackson Guilfoil can be reached at 707-441-0506.