Council began the week on Monday with three public hearings. Although they did not attract a large amount of testimony, the first of those hearings is historically significant.
Council heard testimony from Sally and Willie Mims about a proposed code change that would designate the two Mims Houses in Eugene’s historic district as a Special Historic Zone. The code change would preserve the houses and also ensure that they are able to operate as a “Club or Lodge of State or National Organization.” The houses are already designated as historic landmarks. The Mims family was the first Black family to be able to own a house in Eugene, and their home provided housing for many Black students and visitors to our community who were not welcome or permitted to stay anywhere else. One of the houses is now the office of the NAACP chapter and it hosts many community events. The designation will enable the two houses to be fully used and preserved as a community center.
On Wednesday, Council discussed and adopted two resolutions related to System Development Charges (SDC). This conversation closes the circle on a decision council made in 2018 when they adopted Transportation System Development Charges. There was concern that waivers for Accessory Dwelling Units and other compact development housing types might have serious impact in the city’s budget. SDCs provide an essential source of revenue to enable the city to build out and maintain infrastructure to support new development. In 2018, Council passed a cap on the amount of waivers that could be approved annually, and to report back on the impact. This session provided that data. The cap has prevented some eligible developments from benefitting from waivers; but the total amount needed in those years is not a significant financial burden to the city. Council approved a resolution to remove the cap to ensure that all eligible developments would be able to benefit going forward.
In a second resolution, Council directed staff to develop a policy regarding SDCs related to building conversions from commercial to residential use. This was necessary in order to align and comply with newly passed state statute.
The second discussion on Wednesday offered a briefing and update on the City’s Climate Action. You may remember that when council repealed the gas ban in July, they directed staff to return with a work session covering the opportunities for building decarbonization that are available through federal and state funding. I will summarize a lot of information very briefly. Two huge federal investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act provide opportunities for the City to advance our climate goals through investments in energy efficiency, cleaner electric technology and electric vehicle charging. State opportunities passed in the spring in the Climate Resilience Package offer both regulatory authority and funding to improve energy efficiency and reduced emissions in commercial buildings, install heat pumps in residential buildings, and support green infrastructure, particularly trees. The opportunities come through a range grants, tax credits, rebates and discounts. The coming year will see increased outreach both to businesses and community members to make sure we all benefit from these extraordinary programs. There is a special emphasis in the federal programs on underserved communities and the city is directing efforts to be sure people who have the fewest resources and the most to gain from better housing will benefit from these opportunities. There’s a lot of good news here -- we are well positioned to make great strides on our climate action!