Public Comment on South Willamette and Related Planning Issues - September 19, 2016

Thank you, mayor and councilors, thank you for your service, and thank you to everyone here who has come to listen and participate this evening.

Three points – about Envision Eugene, and about the future of land use in our community and related goals:

  • engage residents
  • add meaning to our statement of core values
  • manage growth explicitly

Let me cover each quickly, with a particular emphasis in each.

First, we need a process that truly engages residents as central to the planning team— whether that is a refinement plan, or an area plan, it must truly reach out to residents and must fully engage them. I agree that it must be led by residents and supported by staff. I ask also — perhaps echoing concerns about engaging the busiest of our residents, such as single working mothers — that we come with far better tools for engaging a much broader set of residents. This would be new, but it’s possible. Many of us are walking around with supercomputers and advanced telecommunication devices in our pockets, so we should be able to get beyond the 18th-century technology known as the postal service.

Second, be clear about our values – several speakers have pointed out that, in Envision Eugene, we have excellent values statements; I agree. Yet this is less obvious than it seems. Some elements that do not get enough attention.

  • The City council must frame the deliberations explicitly in terms of EE pillars. Having residents lead the process is necessary, but it is not sufficient. The neighbors’ deliberations must operate within the goals. With that framing of the deliberations at the outset, Council must be clear: refinement plans and area plans must return to Council for approval. 
  • Then to make that possible, I hope we take seriously all of the Envision Eugene pillars, and make trade-offs among them much clearer. That will mean, in the context of a refinement plan or other neighbor-led process, far better tools than we have had to date to understand how pillars relate. We’ve heard assertions, strong assertions, tonight about affordability and climate impacts — but our processes to date have had almost no information connecting various rezoning options to housing prices, transportation demand, carbon emissions, and more. Let’s fix that as we move ahead and make our process smarter.
Third, we must manage growth: That’s right, I said growth. We cannot build a wall, as has been suggested by a different candidate in a different setting; instead, people will move here, and therein lies much of our challenge. So as we embark on some sort of resident-led process, the City support must inform those deliberations with some sense of growth and, of necessity, change. Not managing growth will simply further damage affordability for most of us, especially tenants and low-income residents. Specifically, I ask that you take seriously the proposals to provide some quantitative citywide context; without endorsing any particular proposal, I will say, I have heard from many residents that they want to know that what happens in their neighborhoodhood is part of a citywide process. 
Thank you.