It was a week of hard, serious deliberations for council.
On Monday, council received a briefing of their funding options for city hall as part of the larger Town Square redevelopment. Council has the option to scale back or phase the investment in the Park Blocks to reduce the current need for approximately $13 million additional funds; and to consider an array of revenue sources to complete the city hall project. These are related but separate design and funding processes. Much planning and public outreach has been undertaken for the Park Blocks and farmers’ market; whereas the city hall is still in an earlier conceptual phase.
In the Town Square project, the Farmers’ Market and City Hall will share the same block. In the plans, the Farmers Market will stay where it has always been, but benefit from a permanent structure and the ability to function year-round. The City Hall will be on what is now a parking garage. Funds from the Urban Renewal District have already been designated for the Farmers’ Market, and that work can proceed without being tied to the Park Blocks to the south. The city currently has identified about $15 million of the city hall costs. We don’t yet have a specific figure for the full projected cost until a schematic design is completed. That design will enable staff to more accurately delineate the costs. It’s fair to say that council is functioning from an assumption of between $25-$30 million based on the most recent design in 2016 – but there is no certainty or commitment to that amount. This will come back to council later this spring. The options include a revision to the Urban Renewal District plan; a bond; or a package of several other funding sources.
Council also received on Monday an update on the draft of the Eugene-Springfield Consolidated Plan. This document is required by the Federal Dept. Of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It is an overview of our housing needs and community characteristics that guides our targets for increasing and improving our housing stock through the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME grants over a five year period – beginning in 2020. The document contains both revealing and sobering stats: 21% of our population are Latino or minority race; single person households comprise 45% of all households; and 21% of Eugene households are below the poverty level. Eugene is also noteworthy in that 52% of households are renters.
On Wednesday, council reviewed a complex series of options regarding proposed increases in the Parks and Recreation System Development Charges (SDCs). These are charges attached to new construction to help keep the expansion of our parks and rec facilities in line with the increased population resulting from construction. It is separate from the levy and bond that voters passed in 2018, which are designated for catching up with deferred maintenance and the need to improve existing, outdated facilities. The challenge facing council is how to ensure adequate revenue to support an expanded system while not overly burdening construction costs at a time when we need to build more housing people can afford. Council moved forward on a package that reduced the impact of increased fees on multi-unit housing; incentivized housing built close to transportation corridors; and delayed imposition of the fees for one year, followed by three years of phasing in the increased fees. That proposal will come back to council as a draft ordinance later this spring.
Finally, I draw your attention to the broad implications of the Republican walk-out in Salem. Not only does this walk-out impede much-needed legislation on climate change, the absence of Republicans in the legislature makes it impossible to proceed on other issues of significant local concern. The biggest is HB 4001, the Speaker’s proposal to create funding and flexibility to enable localities to more effectively address homelessness. Eugene is included in that bill to receive $5 million that would be applied to the operational costs of our homeless shelter and navigation center