Envision Eugene Process Supported but Relatively Unknown After Years of Work

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Do you approve or disapprove of the Envision Eugene planning process to chart future urban growth?

For complete poll results, click here.

Eugene Urban Growth Boundary Expansion Supported

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Do you support or oppose expanding Eugene’s urban growth boundary?

For complete poll results, click here.

Current Eugene Urban Growth Boundary Approval

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Do you approve or disapprove of the recent City of Eugene expansion of the urban growth boundary?

For complete poll results, click here.

Truth in Reporting (who can you trust?) by Pat Farr

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

 

The Eugene Weekly (EW, pronounced “ew”) reported on May 10, 2012 (just days before the primary election pitting Handy against me) that “Commish Handy Sues Opponent Pat Farr.”  That was the headline of a feature story (click here for full story).

On page 11 of today’s (June 13 2013) EW the tab reports on the Envision Eugene process.  Remember that Envision Eugene has already defined such important aspects of Eugene’s future as the amount of land needed for housing (both single family and multi-unit) plus how much industrial land will be needed inside the city’s Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate the projected population growth in the upper Willamette Valley.  It has also determined that no additional land will be needed for commercial development in the near future. See associated Forum Lane articles on Envision Eugene here.

EW states, “we’ve been skeptical about this project…In the past (such) plans  have gathered dust on shelves while developers do whatever they want.”  See the article here. Later on the same page the author writes that new and old restaurants plus new movie theaters have brought the vitality that City Manager Jon Ruiz and downtown businessmen and developers have struggled to revive.  (Doesn’t it seem that the operators of restaurants and movie theaters are in fact downtown businessmen?)

Regarding the May 10 story:  it simply was not the truth, nor was the untrue headline ever retracted.  Handy did not sue me.

Regarding the June 13 stories:  1.  Envision Eugene has already had an effect on the economic vitality of the city and is poised for continued progress, and, 2.  the author seems to both praise and disdain downtown businessmen in the same sentence.

What are we supposed to believe that is printed in the EW?

 

Will the Eugene City Council Majority (plus one) scuttle the Envision Eugene compromise? by Pat Farr

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

 

Envision Eugene has brought together many hundreds of local residents from all walks of life to help forge what the city will look like for the future and how Eugene will accommodate the expected growth in population that will occur.  See other Forum Lane articles chronicling the process.  See also the opinion expressed (“Process has reflected cooperation”) by Jeff Mills, chair of the Eugene Planning Commission along with six other Planning Commissioners.

 
It has been a process of looking at all options for industrial, commercial and residential provision and crafting compromises that most closely meet the needs of the growth and the lifestyle desires of the people who have lived here for years.  Even people who recently moved here for whatever reason—people who embody the continued growth from not just the local families who’ve been here for generations, but also the will of newcomers who want to relocate here—have been encouraged to weigh in.  See the article “No reason to sprawl” from Sunday June10 Register-Guard written with presumed authority by a man who moved here from California less than five years ago.

 
One of the key such compromises has been the mixture of single family homes to apartments and other multi-family developments.  The mix currently stands at about 62% single-family to 48% families and individuals (students, for example) living in apartments.  After months—years—of debate and data gathering, City Manager Jon Ruiz has put forward a recommended mixture that includes 55% single family homes.

 
Many contributors to the debate believe that 55% is low, and that the market has always leaned toward people wanting to live in and raise their families in houses that they own or rent.  But the compromise was arrived at through thousands of hours of discussion and public comment.

 
On Monday June 11 Southeast Eugene Councilor Alan Zelenka put forward a motion to change Jon Ruiz’ recommended single/multi family mix recommendation from 55%-45% to 52-48.  The motion was going to pass with Zelenka, Ortiz, Brown and Taylor in favor with the Mayor adding her yes vote to make yet another 5-4 decision.
While a 3% reduction in single family dwellings may seem to be a small compromise, consider these points:

 
1. With the current mix of single-family  to multi-family currently at around 62% single family, based on market driven causes that have existed for decades, the reduction to 52% is actually a reduction of 10 points from existing levels.

 
2. A reduction from 55% to 52% pencils out to be a drop of 499 homes being built over the planning period.  Using an average of $175,000 as the price of a new home (a very conservative average) that results in a drop of over $87 million in direct local economic activity.  That doesn’t include the additional jobs and economic stimulation provided by building that many new homes.

 
3. Homes in Eugene are already among the highest in the nation, recently second only to San Francisco, in cost of houses versus the median income.

 
4. By widening the gap of affordable single family home prices that currently exists between Eugene and outlying communities such as Veneta, Junction City, Harrisburg, Creswell, etc. etc. etc., more young families who want their kids to grow up with a lawn for a backyard are forced to locate outside of the 4J and Bethel School districts, thus exacerbating the downward spiral of Eugene school enrollment.

 
5. The carbon footprint:  obviously living outside of the urban center of Lane County while working in the job center of Lane County causes thousands of additional vehicle miles to be driven and makes public transit a far less viable option.

 
I initially voted (of course) against the motion but I changed my vote to affirmative in order to be on the prevailing side, thus allowing me to have the opportunity to (under Roberts’ Rules) move for reconsideration at the next scheduled Council meeting.

 
I am shocked by Zelenka’s motion and the fact that it would have passed without chance for reconsideration if I had not changed my vote to be on the prevailing side.

 
After all of these months of everybody else’s work with Envision Eugene, and with the discussions and compromises that occurred to get to 55-45, the Council majority (+1) was ready to scuttle the plan in a short work session with an amendment that had been afforded no prior notice.

 
On Monday Councilor Betty Taylor said, “We don’t have to do what the Manager suggests.”

 
Councilor Chris Pryor countered by suggesting that we have hired the manager to gather information and provide his expert and well-studied recommendations.

 
Taylor truly believes that she does not have to follow recommendations.  She is correct, but we need to give credit to the broad range of individuals, professional and lay, who give us as a Council input on our decisions.  Taylor in the past additionally has said that even though we have committees and boards who work hard to give well-studied opinions we don’t have to listen to them either.  With her vote to kill the West Eugene Parkway she has demonstrated that she believes we don’t even have to listen to residents who cast their votes at the ballot box (twice in the case of the Parkway).

 
At some point even Taylor has to admit that we should take into account the good work of people who are willing to forge compromises that bring the best results for the community.

 
It is disheartening to see such cavalier treatment of those who work hard without pay to help the Eugene City Council make informed decisions.

 

Envision Eugene’s vision of Eugene is clearing. by Pat Farr

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

City Manager Jon Ruiz made a presentation to the Eugene City Council on Wednesday March 13 that brought together the many thousands of hours spent on gathering and processing information about the city’s future growth.

He thanked the Community Resource Group (CRG) for its months of long and well attended meetings, as well as the additional meetings by the Planning Commission, subcommittees of the CRG and the diligence of city staff in helping him prepare his very well-made presentation.

Ruiz detailed his recommendations addressing his “Seven Pillars” of the approach to providing adequate residential, industrial and commercial land inside the Eugene Urban Growth Boundary.  He is recommending modest expansion of the Boundary.

CRG members gather after Jon Ruiz' March 14 presentation, including Ed MacMahon, author Pat Farr, Mia Nelson, Rick Duncan, Dr. Shawn Boles, Laura Potter. Ruiz is in the right background.

Assuming a 1.4% job growth rate (modest, I believe, but safe) Ruiz is recommending adding around 350 acres for homes, 322 acres for parks and schools (mainly in Bethel), and approximately 475 acres for jobs.

Significantly, unlike historic precedent, Ruiz is suggesting an ongoing monitoring of performance toward the expected growth and adjustments to the plan after five and ten years.  I suggested that the review not begin at five years, but be completed at five years.  That would allow for immediate implementation of needed changes to the long-term plan as opposed to beginning a lengthy review at that point.  The suggestion met with approval.

Keep an eye on Forum Lane for more details.

 

Envisioning new houses in Eugene–but not the roads to get there. by Pat Farr

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

 

The Eugene City Council was given a presentation on February 22 about three possible areas for expansion of the Eugene Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate the anticipated need for new housing over the next 20 years.

All three areas are directly adjacent to the existing Urban Growth Boundary.  The three areas being studied are:

1.  The Bailey Hill/Gimpl Hill Study area.  This is a 365-acre portion of land located, as the name implies, surrounding the intersection of the two roads.  It has limited wetlands and a small amount of steep slope restriction.  It could accommodate as many as 800 homes.

2.  The Crest/Chambers Study Area.  Once again named for the intersection of two roads, this is a 725-acre group of parcels that could accommodate up to 1200 homes.

3.  The Clear Lake Study Area.  This is to the north of the UGB adjacent to Clear Lake Road and includes Bethel School District property and land surrounding Golden Garden Park.  It is roughly 143 acres that could add up to 520 homes.

But, lest you start to panic, it’s likely only one or two of of the areas being studied will eventually be added to our city. Extending services will be expensive and it does not pencil out well to consider adding new infrastructure to all three.

It is still undetermined how many homes will be needed in the next 20 years to accommodate the needs of our children and our grandchildren. The Technical Resource Group of the Envision Eugene Committee continues to work on the details.  At last brush we will need someplace in the range of 660 to 1475 new dwellings.  Rather a large spread, you think?  True, but a great deal of analysis is taking place and a broad view of perspectives are being considered in bringing together a recommendation.

Staff has outlined the infrastructure needs for the potential development areas.  It includes “facilities” that must be in place in order to serve the families that will dwell there.  When queried, staff translates “facilities” to mean water pipes, sewers, storm water collection, electrical and gas lines.  And, oh yes, roads.

The pipes and wires and pump stations and “downflow facilities” will be installed predominantly underground and paid for mainly by system development costs.  But the roads remain a very big question.  The first two sites listed are severely constrained by a lack of “transportation facilities” in the area that would preclude any new houses or shops or work places.  They are reliant on overburdened arterials:  West 11th and West 18th Avenues, both of which are already at or near capacity.

Once again, the now “dead” West Eugene Parkway, planned to ease the growing congestion on those two streets, comes back to haunt us.  Regional transportation planning had centered on the construction of the Parkway, approved by voters and funded by the state and laid to rest by the Eugene City Council and Mayor majority.

18th Avenue is burdened by traffic refugees avoiding the West 11th/State Highway 126 morass and traffic from West Lane County heading for the I-5 corridor has to join commercial and residential traffic or bog down at the failing Randy Pape Beltline Road/Willamette River crossing.

I have asked for an update on what is being considered to help ease transportation system failure in West Eugene, and we all wait to hear how it might be addressed.

 

Mayor Piercy’s Council committee assignments: not a surprise, but disappointing by Pat Farr

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Mayor Kitty Piercy has the authority and responsibility to appoint Council membership and liaison to the committees that provide valuable input not only on Council policy action, but in some cases policy recommendations that go much farther than the bounds of the Eugene City Council.

For instance, the MPC (Metropolitan Policy Committee), listed below, provides not only input but in some cases final authority on regional policy decisions, as in the case of recent LTD EmX land acquisition and construction support.

So the committee assignments are a split between those which are predominantly token in nature and those which bring about policy recommendations that affect the entire community.

Here is a copy of the memo sent to Council announcing the Mayor’s assignments (dated January 24):

“Dear Councilors,
I have most of the council assignments completed with very few changes from last year.  I replaced myself on two committees with councilors: HSC and Police Commission.  There is a new LCOG economic committee assignment that I’m asking Councilor Clark to fill.
Thank you all for your service on these committees in the year ahead.  I’ll ask Beth to make sure you know when these committees are meeting.

Human Rights Commission     Councilor Farr
Sustainability Commission      Councilor Zelenka
IGR                                                    Councilors Poling, Clark and Taylor
Travel Lane County                    Councilor Poling

Lane Metro Partnership           Councilor Farr
Housing Policy Board                Councilor Pryor
Lane Workforce Partnership  Councilor Taylor
LCOG                                                 Councilor Pryor
MPC                                                   Councilor Zelenka and Mayor Piercy

MWMC                                             Councilor Brown
PSCC                                                 Councilor Ortiz

McKenzie Water Council          Councilor Brown

Police Commission                      Councilor Clark, Councilor Ortiz
Human Services Commission  Councilors Ortiz and Farr
LCOG Economic Committee     Councilor Clark
LRAPA                                               Councilor Ortiz

Public Safety Coord.Comm.     Councilor Ortiz”

So what’s disappointing to me?

On January 14 I reported about the imbalance of citizen appointees to the committees.  The Register-Guard followed that article with a concurring editorial of its own.

Clearly the imbalance stretches beyond citizen appointments.  The Metropolitan Policy Committee conducts a wide range of business that is relevant to every jurisdiction in the county and beyond.  The Eugene Council membership will be, as it has been, represented by Councilor Alan Zelenka and Mayor Kitty Piercy with Councilor Betty Tayor serving as alternate.  You judge the balance.

On January 12 I sent a  request to the Mayor asking to be assigned to the MPC

“I have submitted my board preferences to Beth.
I strongly want to be appointed to the Metropolitan Policy Committee.  My years of service give me a deep background in issues and inter-government work.  The current and immediate past membership from the City is imbalanced in its representation.  I am not asking to be an alternate.
In addition to my past elective record, School Board, three-times elected to Council and my time in the State Legislature, I present a balance of land use and social issue views that would serve the City well in MPC deliberation.
Having served as the only Councilor to regularly attend Envision Eugene meetings and my service as ED for FFLC  (FOOD for Lane County) I feel that I can represent our city and the council evenly and thoughtfully.
I understand that the representative is a council liaison and should only make votes supported by the council, but I’ve witnessed deliberation around the table and I believe that Eugene needs different representation.
Regards,

Pat Farr”

 

The Mayor responded with a denial of my request, stating that she wanted to keep the committee assignment the same, based upon maintaining the current direction of the MPC, including:

“Councilor Zelenka also has key assignments. He has become one of the state leaders on green house gas reduction and the scenario planning that we are doing through our federal livability grant, ODOT’s scenario planning, and the state directives for green house gas reduction.   So he too holds an important transportation policy role for our city on a number of fronts.”

Nobody can deny the significance of Zelenka’s work on greenhouse gas reduction and the City’s stated policy on the same.  But I contend that work could continue without continued assignment to MPC, which covers much more than this single issue.

The cited emails are in the public record.

The Mayor has the authority to make the appointments, but also the responsibility to do so in a measured fashion.  While MPC members are tasked to provide only the views and will of the government body they represent, obviously personal bias will always be present.

While I am pleased with the thought of my upcoming work on my assigned committees, I am disappointed with the continued assignment to MPC made by the Mayor.

 

 

Letter writer suggests: “Long before Occupy, thousands served homeless, hungry” article “doesn’t go far enough” by Pat Farr

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

It was suggested in today’s Register Guard that my Guest Viewpoint “Long before Occupy, thousands served homeless, hungry” in yesterday’s paper doesn’t go far enough, that it doesn’t address both the causes and the symptoms of homelessness and hunger.

In a letter entitled “Address causes of poverty” Sarita Lief of Springfield, while citing her long-standing history of volunteering (thank you), correctly points out that the disaster “will continue to grow until its causes are addressed” and adds that the “symptoms—unemployment, lack of shelter, hunger…” need relief. (Please read the entire letter, it is well-written.)

Who can disagree with Lief”s points?  I certainly can’t.

Each of the symptoms listed can and should be addressed first by tackling another symptom:  there are not enough jobs in Eugene to support the population.

The task of local governments in the coming year and for years to come will be to decisively do all that can be done to address the need for better paying jobs.  Jobs that bring better choices of shelter and better health care provision and greater education support to the community.

Watch closely as the Eugene City Council tackles the Envision Eugene Seven Pillars recommendations that are being forwarded by the Community Work Group and its task forces (see a video).  Recommendations have been developed over more than a year of extensive meetings and deliberation.

The Council will be looking at the important issues that attract new jobs and keep existing employers inside our tax base.  Land use that creates choices for potential location and relocation of employers; housing mix that encourages more affordable options for people who want to live here; environmental protection that keeps our city and county attractive and live-able.  You will have a chance to watch the discussion unfold beginning early in the new year.

Creating a lot of new jobs and not driving existing jobs away are by no means  the only ways we can help the men and women and families with the greatest needs.  But can anybody deny that it’s the best way?

 

 

Is a lack of land causing companies to locate jobs away from Eugene? by Pat Farr

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

It would seem so.  That is to say, yes it is.

In a briefing on Envision Eugene findings yesterday the Council heard that “We are not in the market to attract companies needing sites larger than 50 acres,” and that the state “is not able to forward industries to Eugene requiring larger sites.”

On November 22 I received a message from City Manager Jon Ruiz on my Council public email:

“Regrettably, I learned today from Rusty that Rexius has secured a location to relocate their business operations.  While still in the general area, it is outside of the Eugene urban growth boundary.  This comes after an extensive effort by Rexius to locate on a large tract of industrial land inside the Eugene UGB.”

This comes at a time when the lack of land available for larger manufacturing/high-paying companies to operate in Eugene is being studied in order to address the issue.

Councilor Zelenka noted during the Wednesday meeting that any recommendation that would add 50-plus acre sites to our inventory of land available for job creation would be “going after the gold ring.”  By this he is suggesting that we might be ignoring local businesses in our efforts to bring in new employers.  He also added that we did not “technically” need to add any large industrial sites based on the “history” of demand.  But clearly the lack of available land has been driving the cited lack of demand.

In fact, as noted in the email, our lack of suitable available land is causing long-time local businesses to relocate outside of Eugene.  By not allowing companies to grow within Eugene’s boundaries (and therefore within its property tax  base) we are significantly impairing their choices of where to build.  Rexius is not the first, and if we are unresponsive will not be the last.

Watch carefully over the next few months as the Council receives the recommendations of how to add land to our industrial base.  How individuals respond to the recommendations will be of note and the words they use will be telling.