As our final week of meetings before council takes a summer break, we moved quickly through a range of key, long-standing decisions.
Monday began with a review of the riverfront development in light of public and council concerns about the amount of green space and the identity of the developer of the affordable housing project. Williams/Dame and Associates delineated an extension of the park and plaza adding 5,000 sq. ft of additional park; and also confirmed their commitment to serve as the developers of the affordable housing project to ensure that it’s quality and aesthetic flows with the other market-rate housing.
In the evening, council followed last week’s slate of public hearings with approvals. They favored all three requests from the Obie Companies to enable their proposed development to proceed; approved the 1,000 buffer between retail marijuana businesses and a smoking ban in downtown; and adopted a resolution designating Eugene as a Bee City. Five of these ordinances are key steps in our long-range vision of creating a robust and healthy downtown that extends to the river.
I understand the concerns about the smoking ban and the marijuana buffers, but I believe both are responsible, sensible, and responsive to the expressed goals of the people who live and work downtown.
On Wednesday, council began with a pair of items: I provided an update from staff about their ongoing work to address housing tools and strategies. This discussion emerged out of the Construction Excise Tax deliberation. Last spring, Council was unprepared to enact a CET without knowing how this tax to support housing projects might impact developers and builders of housing. Staff is preparing for a series of stakeholder conversations in the fall, engaging an economist to analyze impacts; and undertaking a code audit. This work will come back to council in December.
Second, Council voted to support a resolution endorsing Measure 102. This ballot measure would amend the state constitution allowing public bonds to be used in partnership with private developments of affordable housing. It is a narrow amendment simply to enable one thing to happen: voter approved bonds could extend credit to private developers to increase the funding sources and construction of affordable housing. Bonds would still be voter approved; but the constellation of possible builders would expand.
Finally, we closed with a presentation from staff about the planning for our “Town Square.” We have three major projects to transform the Park Blocks: urban renewal funds to reconfigure the parks and to support the creation of a year-round farmers market. Added to that is the expectation that the city will be able to move forward in building our new city hall on the county’s butterfly lot. Council will begin to work on elements of the city hall project when we return in September. There are budget priorities and key values that we can determine even before we know the outcome of the county’s efforts to clear the title so the land swap can proceed. The plan is to be clear about our budget and priorities and to find constructive ways to hear and respond to the public’s priorities and concerns. Stay tuned.