Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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May 24

May 21, 2021

Posted on May 24, 2021 at 6:36 PM by Niyah Ross

This week started with the much-anticipated work session to review the final report and recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy. The facilitation team, Mo Young, the County’s Coordinator for Equity and Access, who volunteered her time to preside over the meetings, Kaz Zaidi and Kevin Alltucker who are City of Eugene staff, presented a summary of the Committee’s structure and process, broad themes, lessons learned, and reviewed each of the 50 recommendations. I encourage those of you who are interested to read the report and/or watch the presentation.

The Council’s discussion remained at the high level of initial reactions and questions, without delving into details on any of the recommendations. They passed two motions to initiate the next steps: first, they approved a motion directing the City Manager, Interim Police Auditor, and Municipal Court Judge to review the recommendations and return to council before the end of July with a proposed framework and process for deliberation and possible action on the recommendations. As Councilors noted, some of the recommendations are directly actionable, some require negotiation with other partners and levels of government, some would require statutory changes at the state level. This initial review with those filters in mind will help Council prioritize and target their consideration of the recommendations.

Secondly, Council directed the Manager to schedule a community forum dedicated to hearing feedback, reactions, and recommendations from the public on this report. Our goal is to review and consider each recommendation deliberatively and thoughtfully, and to maintain an open and regular series of updates. This is not a commitment to implement every recommendation as written; it is a commitment to study, consider all the recommendations, and respond with follow up actions. The Ad Hoc Committee also asked to be reconvened to hear updates.

On Wednesday, Council was updated on the City’s progress in addressing the number of unhoused people who remain in tents and cars throughout the city. As you know, the Council approved a plan to identify multiple sites for lease or purchase that could be used as safe tent and car camping locations. Wednesday’s update informed us that the team has narrowed the search to 23 City-owned sites and 12 private properties. They are working with eight providers to plan for the services that will be available at each site with the expectation that people staying at these sites would be supported in accessing medical and mental health services, income stabilization, access housing and/or shelter waitlists for available beds. Staff expect to return to Council next month potentially with sites that are confirmed or close to confirmed.

Finally, on Wednesday, Council reviewed the deal points for the redevelopment of the Steamplant. The local development team led by Mark Miksis and Mark Frohnmayer developed their proposal and conducted a community engagement process in 2019. The pandemic interrupted much work and has also shifted the possible configuration of uses within the Steamplant. The ground floor, including an outdoor overlook that would connect to a public plaza, will be designed as a community gathering space. In the initial designs, the upper floors were planned for co-working spaces. The impact of the pandemic on this model of office space is unclear – the developers are now considering the potential for either hotel spaces or apartments on the upper floor.

That uncertainty in turn impacts Council’s deliberation. The Council, as Board of the Riverfront Urban Renewal District, would be forgiving this development the cost of the System Development Charges as one of the main ways to provide some financial support to the project. The value of those SDCs could range widely depending on the use of the upper floors of the building. Councilors delayed a decision and asked for deal points that would clarify the upper limit of the City’s commitment. This will return to Council before the end of July.

Coming up this week are some big issues – Middle Housing, Wildfire prevention, and LTD’s Moving Ahead project. We were scheduled to vote on the revised ordinance governing Accessory Dwelling Units but have postponed that. Our 7:30 meetings are tending to run long, with a full 90 minutes of public forum testimony. Council prefers to avoid votes on complex issues at the end of a very long night – we will reschedule this for a work session time in early June.