Council addressed several longstanding issues this week, beginning with a review of the first phase of amendments to the city’s “clear and objective” housing criteria.
Clear and objective criteria are required by state statute to ensure a known regulatory landscape for housing construction. A task force of 40 citizens, including neighborhood reps, builders, and affordable housing advocates, met in four 3-hour sessions to review city code and recommend amendments. Changes included some simple things, like replacing the term “needed housing” with “housing’ out of the understanding that all housing is needed in Eugene; to process improvements like concurrent reviews of planned unit development and subdivision requirements. Council approved the initial changes that will now come back in proposed code language. A number of challenging standards remain that will require more time for review, discussion and proposed changes.
On Monday council also received an update of the rest stop program. This program currently includes four rest stops, three of which house 20 people operated by Community Support Shelters; and a fourth operated by Nightingale Housing that hosts 11 with the capacity to expand to 20. Council has prioritized increasing the number of rest stops with a goal to locate them across this city. Finding locations that meet the criteria for siting (eg. not in a residential area or close to a school; but close to transit) that are acceptable to neighborhoods has been very difficult. Council requested a follow-up work session to discuss changes in the siting criteria; and also committed to working with their wards to facilitate the search for siting.
On Wednesday, we received an update on our recycling programs. The city has been forced to limit the amount and kind of plastics we can accept for recycling because China has refused to accept our materials. A couple of key insights from this session: food waste and wood comprise much more of our landfill than plastics (33% vs 9%); our recycling system is “form based” -the systems sorts based on the shape, not on the recycling code; and our landfill has decades of capacity remaining. That said, council is interested in stockpiling the plastic as a future building material rather than landfilling it; and also in exploring the feasibility of establishing a regional plastics recycling facility that would serve southern Oregon. The key take-away for all of us: attention to how you buy food and reducing your food waste benefit not only your household finances, they also help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Creating a recycling plant would be a great, aspirational goal – probably not within immediate reach but worth exploring.
We also discussed revisions to the nuisance codes. A number of changes in our community have not been reflected in our code and have impeded the city in ameliorating their impact on the quality of life. The code changes included language about odors – to respond to the impact of marijuana; hoarding and similar neglect in buildings that create health and safety hazards for the occupant and neighbors; and derelict and abandoned buildings. Council approved the code changes.
There will be no meetings next week, as it is the first week of the month. On the 10th, council will hear the findings of the Housing Tools and Strategies workshops; and on the 12th receive an update on our emergency preparedness. Council breaks for the winter December 13-January 9th.