2020 State of the City - Year in Review
2019 brought many changes to our city, and as a community, we continued to meet new challenges with creative solutions to make Eugene a more resilient, safe and welcoming place for all.
Our resiliency was tested in 2019 with winter snow storms that left more than 18 inches of snow in the valley. Trees and power lines snapped, plunging thousands of people into darkness and blocking roads. First responders – including public works and utility crews – worked around the clock to clear roads of snow and debris. Following several years of active winter weather, public works has added four additional plows to its fleet.
In addition to preparing for snow, Eugene Springfield Fire led a project to reduce the risk of wildfire in the south hills. Working with Northwest Youth Corp and Oregon Department of Forestry, teams removed dead and downed material to reduce fire risk and improve safety.
- Community Safety
- Housing and Homelessness
- Plans to Action
- Great Place to Be
- Looking Ahead
Community safety remains an ongoing focus for Eugene. The City Council dedicated $8.6 million for 18-months of funding to stabilize public safety and emergency response services.
Additional funding added officers and a new Street Crimes Unit, which launched in mid-March. The group addressed and solved problems throughout the city, including targeting drug crimes, illegal firearms, and human trafficking.
In addition, community safety funding allowed the police department to hire four new Community Service Officers, who can respond to more non-emergency calls for service.
Community safety funding also added capacity to our emergency shelters, supported programs to get teens off the streets, and continued the Community Court program that connects non-violent offenders with social service providers.
In June, the City Council passed a community safety payroll tax ordinance that will provide ongoing, sustainable funding for city-wide public safety efforts. The payroll tax is expected to generate $23.6 million annually to provide faster, more efficient safety responses, deter crime, connect people to services, engage and help at-risk youth, support more investigations and court services, and add jail beds to hold those who commit crimes accountable.
Housing and Homelessness
The City and County continued to work together to respond to homelessness in 2019. Using the 10 recommendations from the Technical Assistance Collaborative report as a road map, the City Council directed $1.9 million toward key strategies to reduce homelessness – including the creation of a 75 bed low-barrier emergency shelter, launching a mobile outreach street team, and piloting a landlord engagement program to increase rental units available to people facing homelessness.
The City and Lane County also doubled the capacity of the Dusk to Dawn shelter – providing shelter to about 200 people every night of the year.
In addition to expanding emergency shelter options, the city continued its ongoing work to create more affordable housing.
In May, the City Council passed an ordinance establishing a construction excise tax in Eugene to create on-going, dedicated funding for affordable housing.
Three new development projects in 2019 will bring 148 units of affordable housing to Eugene, 15 of which will be for homeless veterans and people with disabilities. Additionally, rehabilitation work will preserve 282 existing low-income units – helping ensure equitable housing in Eugene.
The city continues to work toward greater access, equity, and diversity in our community and organization.
In July, the positions of Captain, Engineer, and Firefighter were assigned to women on the same apparatus at Eugene Springfield Fire, a first for our fire department.
In August the City hosted a Spanish language Fix-it Fair to serve Spanish speaking community members. Repairs were available for appliances, furniture, electronics, home and garden tools and more.
The Eugene Public Library is working to make library use even easier and more accessible for everyone by no longer charging overdue fines on children’s and teen items. This change removes unnecessary barriers, particularly for families already facing financial challenges, and helps to promote early literacy and reading among all Eugene youth.
Equity played a central role in this year’s Climate Action Plan 2.0. The plan includes specific work the City can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goals of our Climate Recovery Ordinance. An Equity Panel with members from six local organizations representing marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by climate change provided input that was included in the plan.
To meet climate goals and reduce landfill waste, residents can now put food waste in their yard debris bin instead of in the garbage – turning waste into nutrient-rich compost.
Going green also means greener ways to go. In partnership with LTD and Lane County, the City helped launch EmGo, a fleet of electric vehicles that transport people through downtown for free – making it easier to eat, shop, play, and work in downtown.
Getting around also got safer in Eugene. With the Vision Zero action plan officially adopted, street safety improvements blossomed. Infrastructure improvements like the new diagonal crosswalk on East Amazon are complete and in use, and Eugene Police’s Traffic Safety Unit is fully staffed.
2019 marked the first year of voter-approved projects from the 2017 road bond. From increased safety features and a new look for Barger Drive, to the latest rebuilt section of West 11th, about three dozen roads were resurfaced – a new record for the City.
For travel beyond Eugene, the new Eugene Airport Master Plan Update adopted in 2019 will strategically position the airport for the future by maximizing operational efficiency and business effectiveness.
Plans to Action
Plans for a new Eugene Town Square will transform the downtown Park Blocks, creating a permanent home for the Lane County Farmers Market, a new City Hall, and making improvements to help the Eugene Saturday Market continue to thrive. A series of public events and surveys engaged thousands of community members to develop a Town Square that reflects our community needs.
Dramatic changes are underway along the Downtown Riverfront. This spring, Mayor Vinis dug in on the 16-acre former utility hub and helped get dirt moving. Once completed, this space will be a vibrant new neighborhood and riverfront park and finally reconnect downtown to the river upon which it was founded.
The community was asked to help name three new Downtown Riverfront streets – and they responded, generating 11-hundred street name ideas. Using the City’s new online engagement platform – they helped select the names for the new streets – Annie Mims Lane, Wiley Griffon Way and Nak-nak Street – honoring early African American residents in Eugene and the indigenous language of the Kalapuya people who first lived here.
The new streets will one day lead to a renovated Steam Plant. This year a local development team proposed to adaptively re-use the Steam Plant, transforming it into a vibrant mixed-use destination that serves as a gathering place for art, culture, innovation, and community building.
Projects from the recent voter-approved Parks and Rec Bond and Levy began to take shape in 2019. The first bond-funded project, Tugman Park, was completed in August.
Bond funding allowed Recreation to move forward with breaking ground on Campbell Community Center and unveiling the final designs for Echo Hollow Pool & Fitness Center. About half of the 36 bond-funded parks projects are already in progress.
Levy funds increased Park safety with the addition of two year-round Eugene Police Officers dedicated to parks, two more Park Ambassadors, reopened restrooms, and additional maintenance in high-use parks.
Eugene’s Parks and Recreation divisions earned accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies and the National Recreation and Park Association, indicating that we meet the highest professional national standards that exist.
Great Place to Be
The vitality of our business community is essential to the prosperity of all of Eugene.
The City’s Business Loan program continues to infuse critical funds to help local entrepreneurs get their start or expand existing Eugene businesses. The program loaned more than 1 million dollars in 2019, creating new, local jobs while stimulating private sector investment and lasting partnerships.
Community partners – working with cultural services - brought together hundreds of artists in the second annual Visual Arts Week last summer. Together, they celebrated creativity through gallery, contemporary, and street art.
In addition, Cultural Services’ second annual EUGfun Coffin Races was a screaming success! Thousands of spectators came out to cheer on the competition of 36 hand-built, coffin-themed race cars in the Halloween-themed soap box derby.
EUGfun also teamed up with the Downtown Public Library to transform our favorite library into a space-age laser tag arena with live DJs, a retro-future arcade, and light art experiences. More than 1,000 people joined in the fun and games!
For the first time in more than a decade – a new City Manager’s leading the charge into the new year. Mayor Lucy Vinis appointed Sarah Medary as City Manager Pro Tem in October. Sarah took over for long-time City Manager Jon Ruiz – who announced his retirement after 39 years in public service.
Jon’s leadership was crucial in guiding the City through a major recession, establishing long-range plans for growth and prosperity, and passage of local bonds and levies worth $132 million. His focus on relationships helped restore trust and confidence in the City organization and set the stage for the World Athletics Championships in 2022.
Mayor Lucy Vinis, Governor Kate Brown, and University of Oregon President Mike Schill, along with USA eight gold medalists, officially took the baton as the next host city for the championships. Planning efforts continue to take shape to make sure Eugene is ready to welcome the world when an estimated 60-thousand people converge on Eugene and the surrounding areas to enjoy our beautiful city.
There was much to be proud of in 2019 – a year that closed out a decade of growth and innovation.
We welcome 2020 and look forward to working together to honor our past, empower new ideas, and strengthen connections for generations to come.