June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Councilors hear 2024 session will be ‘housing, housing, housing’

8 min read
While Eugene continues to seek funding from the state for housing at Crow Road, councilors emphasized that the city is missing opportunities to bring good-paying jobs here.

Eugene fine-tunes its priorities for the next legislative session coming in February, when the focus will be “housing housing housing.” On Oct. 4, Intergovernmental Relations Manager Ethan Nelson.

Ethan Nelson (Intergovernmental Relations manager): So this is our existing priorities. As you can tell, we’ve got number one is seeking funding for unhoused emergency response. Number one is still valid. We would tweak the number, the amount, to be probably around $4 million is what we’ve identified as a gap.

[00:00:30] Number two is funding for priority projects, which included the Clear Lake Road infrastructure, Crow Road infrastructure. Number two (a) and (b) are still valid.

[00:00:39] Three was: ‘Support increased state investment in mental health and behavioral health systems,’ and there was a couple priorities within there.

[00:00:47] During the short session, I would say we should not have that one on our priorities because I don’t see us having a discussion on funding for that. We can keep it as a broad one. I would be good with that as far as a priority, but I would recommend removing these different bullet items that are on here because they’re no longer germane to what’s being discussed.

[00:01:10] So if these are adopted, what I would spend the majority of my time working on would be, I would say three items: (1) Direct funding for unhoused emergency response. (2) Infrastructure funding. More than likely, economic development out at Clear Lake Road would not be as operable this year, but the Crow Road related to housing will be because of the HPAC work—the Housing Production Advisory Council.

[00:01:37] And then (3) we could have a broad one that continues to say, ‘Support increased state investment in mental and behavioral health systems.’ And so that’s how I would, I’d like to recommend that that would be our three moving forward.

[00:01:51] Councilor Randy Groves: Thank you, Ethan, for that. And I certainly understand why the Crow Road project would be put ahead just because it fits the bill and we need housing.

[00:02:02] When would we have a chance to come back at the Clear Lake Road piece with the infrastructure? Because, I mean, Councilor Evans and I have seen businesses walk that were interested in locating here just because there are no shovel-ready sites, especially in the size parameters that they would like.

[00:02:19] And these are employers that could be employing, you know, 1,000 people with living wage jobs. This is important to our stability. It’s important, I think, to the people who live here. I’m just trying to figure out timelines and how we go about tackling that piece.

[00:02:36] But again, I’m not saying that I disagree with what you’re suggesting and putting the Crow Road housing development ahead of it because that fits and we need that too.

[00:02:48] Ethan Nelson: Thank you, Councilor Groves, for the question. During the short session, more than likely there’s not going to be an opportunity to secure funding for the Clear Lake Road because the discussion right now, all eyes in the legislature and in the governor’s office and a lot of advocates, are focused in on housing infrastructure, housing production, housing, housing, housing.

[00:03:10] And so I think that what we’ll see is money getting allocated for infrastructure for housing, and that would align with our Crow Road project. We’ll, I still think we should keep the Clear Lake Road on there, but more than likely, it’s going to be a longer play and we’ll keep, I would say, just keep it on the list and keep advocating for it. It’s just where the money is going to come from.

[00:03:37] During the long session, when the state creates the biennial budget, that’s more likely where we’re going to be able to get either an agency appropriation or direct funding as part of a capital construction, a lottery bond, or something like that.

[00:03:53] Councilor Greg Evans: Going back to Councilor Groves’s question about the Clear Lake Road infrastructure, and emphasis on that: Yes, this is a huge priority for us because of the limitations that we have in terms of industrial property. Now, I understand from some conversations I’ve had over the last few days that Stratacache is poised to get SB4 dollars to start developing the Hynix site for CHIPS.

[00:04:27] And there’s a possibility that that is going to add 300 or 400 jobs right off the top, as well as looking at that $19 million investment of CHIPS money that’s going to benefit our community.

[00:04:42] But my understanding is that the governor does have a priority with doing economic development in the Eugene Springfield area. And that the Clear Lake Road infrastructure, really, we need to continue to emphasize our need to expand the number and the size of our industrial parcels so that we can get those prepped and ready for companies to come in and to be able to locate here, take advantage of, and build here.

[00:05:18] I can’t stress that enough, that Councilor Groves and I have been working over the last year or so on some of this and yes, we are losing out to other communities within the state and outside of the state. So, I just want to make sure that we underscore that with our partners in the governor’s office and with the legislature that we desperately need this funding.

[00:05:44] John Q: Councilors were also asked if they wanted to bring up any other issues relating to land use and housing.

[00:05:52] Councilor Randy Groves: Thank you, Ethan. I’ve read this before, but now that we’re talking about it just reminded me. Under land use item 1: ‘Eugene opposes legislation that eliminates or weakens existing methods of annexation.’ Shouldn’t there also be something that says: ‘We support legislation that strengthens existing methods of annexation?’

[00:06:15] I don’t know if my colleagues can agree with that, but it just seems like we’re only talking about: ‘We’ll fight anything that makes it worse.’ But shouldn’t we be trying to find ways to actually make it easier? Maybe I’m in a class by myself.

[00:06:29] Councilor Greg Evans: I would add a line that says that we support legislation that ‘incentivizes’ annexation for unannexed areas within the urban growth boundary.

[00:06:45] Councilor Jennifer Yeh: Yeah, I like that better only because I wouldn’t want someone to think we were trying to force annexation. But I don’t think that’s what Randy meant. He meant, like, ways to help people be able to do it when they want to. So ‘incentivize,’ I think, is a good word.

[00:06:59] Councilor Greg Evans: My in-laws used to live on Maxwell and my father-in-law would say, ‘I will come into the city of Eugene over my dead body.’ …But the neighbors still around there still feel the same way, the ones who are not in the city, and feel like, ‘Okay, if we’re going to get police protection, we’re going to get sewers, that kind of thing, why do I have to come into the city of Eugene?’ So there’s still a controversial issue out there.

[00:07:28] Councilor Randy Groves: And I appreciate what you said, Jennifer. It was not my intent for hostile takeovers. I was just thinking specifically about River Road, Santa Clara and island annexation—

[00:07:38] Councilor Greg Evans: —In a much more proactive way than what we’ve had before (Right). We have had this conversation over the 10 years I have been on council and we keep being (for lack of a better metaphor) stuck in the mud around this. And we can’t seem to get any traction about, you know, either how we bring in unincorporated areas into the city, particularly in River Road and Santa Clara, and to do that in a way that makes it attractive to people who are residents of those unincorporated areas to say it will be of a benefit for us to become a part of the city of Eugene, instead of staying out of the city and staying in the county.

[00:08:25] John Q: Ethan said he would work with the city attorney and other staff on new language for annexation. Noting events in other parts of the country:

[00:08:34] Councilor Greg Evans: Can I ask a quick question about, I know that we are a sanctuary city, but given what has been occurring in New York and Chicago and a few other places lately, I go down to the equity and inclusion section: ‘We support legislation to protect refugees regardless of citizenship status.’ I think that’s fine.

[00:08:59] Do we need to make any kind of additions or adjustments to that when we’re talking about the possibility of accepting refugees and what numbers that the city could or could not accept in the case that we start getting people bused here from Texas or Florida or somewhere else.

[00:09:24] I think we’re going to have to deal with that item sooner than later. Right now we’re over capacity and population. We have no housing, you know, we don’t have the capacity to take care of the homeless, let alone taking care of a huge influx of refugees, is what’s happening in New York and Chicago now.

[00:09:44] I’m just bringing it up because it is a concern that I have around our ability to accept a significant influx of refugees into our community and the inability to take care of those refugees.

[00:10:04] Mayor Lucy Vinis: Yeah, thank you, Greg. I appreciate you bringing this up. I think, you know, this is so much bigger than we are at this point, and it is really not on our doorstep, and I think even the data around New York is that a small number are coming on buses shipped from other places. Most of that huge Venezuelan refugee population is coming on their own theme to New York because they think there’s opportunity there.

[00:10:27] So I just think it’s a bigger issue than we want to try to address in this document and I have serious kind of human rights concerns and about how we would even phrase such a thing. So I appreciate you bringing it up. I do think it’s like a bigger, deeper conversation.

[00:10:43] Councilor Greg Evans: We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. (Yeah.) Hopefully we won’t have to come to it.

[00:10:49] John Q: The committee also discussed fixes to Measure 110, which decriminalized drug use in Oregon.

[00:10:57] Ethan Nelson: Lane County, just two weeks ago, adopted a new legislative platform for this upcoming session with new language that basically said: ‘Support for reform of Measure 110.’

[00:11:12] And so my recommendation would be that the council gives broad guidance to say, yes, support reform of measure 110, but then that gives the city manager and designees (including and ideally the municipal judge, chief of police) latitude by which then we can all work together to advocate for appropriate pathways that are going to be popping on up during the legislative session.

[00:11:37] John Q: The city of Eugene hopes that after being shut out in 2023, the state legislature supports Crow Road housing infrastructure in 2024. Beyond housing, Councilors Evans and Groves point out: Eugene is missing out on opportunities to attract industry. They look to build on the $19 million the state gave to Stratacache at the old Hynix plant.

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