October 4, 2022

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Should Eugene demolish historic properties to provide housing?

4 min read

Jon Pincus: Approving a demolition permit for a National Register property crosses a major threshold.

[00:00:07] John Q: Should we demolish part of Eugene’s history if it can help provide more housing? The City is taking public comment through March 31 on whether to demolish the Harry and Etta Chase House.

[00:00:20] Althea Sullivan: My name is Althea Sullivan. I’m a senior planner with the City’s planning division… The hearing today is on a request for the Harry and Etta Chase house.

[00:00:31] The applicant is proposing to remove three buildings which are part of the Chase Gardens Residential Grouping. The Chase Gardens Residential Grouping consists of five houses that were built between 1889 and 1945. The homes were associated with the Chase Gardens and the Chase Gardens provided vegetables, fruits, and flowers to the region and going as far as L.A.

[00:00:58] The houses that were associated with the Chase Gardens were placed on the National Register due to their association with the Chase family, the landscape created by them, and those agricultural and horticultural activities that I mentioned. The applicant is proposing the removal of three buildings to build a four-story building that would provide 123 units of low-income housing.

[00:01:26] The applicant has stated that would provide spaces for up to 379 residents, which would include seniors, families with small children, as well as domestic abuse survivors. And the applicant has stated that the housing would remain affordable for 60 years.

[00:01:45] John Q: Speaking against the demolition, Jon Pincus.

[00:01:48] Jon Pincus: I’m familiar with the property and I’ve always considered it to be part of an important set of cultural resources for the City of Eugene and Lane County. I’ve lived in the area for over 50 years and had many opportunities to view this resource in the context of the whole property and the other existing resources.

[00:02:09] And I believe that the resource continues to be viewed by many citizens as important in relation to the history of Chase Gardens and the Chase family. And I find the resources being considered also retain sufficient integrity to convey its historic and cultural significance, as outlined in the original National Register of Historic Places document.

[00:02:37] I very much support the goals of this project and I think that many people will do, and I believe that they can be achieved with the retention of the building that’s being considered. I wanted to address some of the points mentioned in the presentation and the report.

[00:02:58] I find some of the interpretations provided in the Staff’s analysis to be somewhat novel:… The notion that a cultural resource loses significance over time and the notion that advanced age diminishes historic significance…

[00:03:16] I think that by revisiting the design process, that applicants should be able to provide the public benefits described for the new development in a manner that enhances those benefits by retaining the historic structure as part of the complex.

[00:03:32] Approving a demolition permit for a National Register property crosses a major threshold. I encourage the Historic Review Board to carefully consider whether such actions should represent the standard of care the City of Eugene will be applying to registered or designated historic properties going forward.

[00:03:55] John Q: Phil Farrington supported the staff proposal.

[00:03:58] Phil Farrington: Good afternoon. My name is Phil Farrington… About 20 years ago, I worked as a planning consultant on behalf of the City to develop the Chase Gardens Nodal Development Plan.

[00:04:07] John Q: The nodal plan would allow redevelopment.

[00:04:09] Phil Farrington: It identified the potential for redevelopment of properties within this node. It identified the Chase Gardens node as an opportunity area…

[00:04:18] I think there was ultimately acknowledgement that the high-density residential uses and designations for the subject property and surrounding properties, quote, ‘includes the historic ensemble and the Masonic Lodge properties, which over time could accommodate infill housing at the property owner’s discretion.’ That’s what’s happening now at this point. The proposal is in keeping with this history that goes back three decades of policy declarations, approvals, considerable community input and support, policy declarations made by the City Council. I encourage you to follow the recommendation made by staff and all of this earlier effort made by other Eugeneans and city councils and to follow that policy declaration and support the proposal.

[00:05:01] We’re all intimately supportive of historic preservation. I would take umbrage with one of the comments that was made elsewhere in testimony, that this is not the last vestige of Chase Gardens. (It’s) probably the least reflective of the historic assemblage. So I think I’d encourage you to go ahead and approve the applications that are before you today.

[00:05:23] Kaarin Knudson: My name is Kaarin Knudson… we do support the application.

[00:05:27] Steven Baker: My name is Steven Baker… Most of the issues that have been raised that are used to justify the demolition were part of the original application and were not relevant.

[00:05:40] Althea Sullivan: With a decision due on April 22nd, you will all be seeing a request for me for additional dates that you’re available for deliberations. I will post those dates to the City’s webpage. Email or call me if you would like to watch deliberations.

[00:05:55] John Q: The City of Eugene’s Historic Review Board waits for the final public comment as it considers a rare demolition affecting the National Register of Historic Places.

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