Friends of Eugene Testimony on Envision Eugene 5/14/2012

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Friends of Eugene Testimony on Envision Eugene 5/14/2012

Postby Kevin » Mon May 14, 2012 8:51 pm

Dear Eugene Mayor and City Council,

Tonight, since our city manager has set aside the important process of collaboration he himself had fostered, our community is being forced to again take sides over growth, instead of seeking the real win-win solutions that we actually need to triumph over climate change, environmental degradation, economic inequality, and ongoing economic challenges.

While we would prefer to continue real collaboration, since we are forced to take sides: Please make no mistake. Friends of Eugene takes the side of science, the side of the future, and the side of the 99%, rather than the side of magical thinking, business-as-usual, and private profit at public expense.

Years of detailed study and several layers of public process have shown that Eugene can meet the state requirements for a 20 year supply of buildable land in all categories, if we adopt a planned housing mix of 45% single family, 55% multifamily, over the next twenty years, along with a few other modest, reasonable, and appropriate adjustments.

Our community and its expressed values deserve a chance to see and evaluate such a plan.

Instead, City Manager Jon Ruiz has recommended a regressive 55% single, 45% multifamily housing mix - the most regressive in the Willamette Valley - that by itself forces a UGB expansion.

We want a 45% single family, 55% multifamily housing mix because:

a) A housing mix of 45% single family, 55% multifamily is right for affordable housing. Lower income families need a strong supply of good apartments, above and beyond all that student housing.

b) A housing mix of 45% single family, 55% multifamily is right for the environment, because it will help save our wetlands, farmland, and forest areas from unneeded development.

We don't want to expand the urban growth boundary (UGB).

It is important for Eugene to stay within our current generous UGB. The quality of life in Eugene matters to all of us - and expanding the UGB will hurt our quality of life, not help it.

Many traditional development interests, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Homebuilders Association, and their members, representatives, and lobbyists, will testify at tonight's hearing, repeating the long list of conservative half-truths about the benefits of growth.

Tonight, the outcome of Eugene's future will significantly be determined by how well our Mayor and City Council listen when environmentally and community-minded citizens come out and speak from their hearts for _real_ shared prosperity, based on growing better, not just bigger. Growing inward, not outward. Growing together, not just for private gain at public expense.

Historical Housing Mix

The single biggest open issue in Envision Eugene is what's known as the "housing mix." This is the ratio of new housing which will be built as detached single family homes, compared to all other types of housing, called multifamily, including single family attached (such as row houses), small apartment and condominium buildings, and large apartment and condominium buildings.

Eugene had about 43,000 standalone homes and about 26,000 homes in multifamily buildings of some type, through about 2008. Comparing all the exact numbers gives us the city's "historical housing mix" of 61 percent single family and 41 percent multifamily.

With our 20 year population growth projection locked in at 34,000 people (about 0.9 percent per year growth), we are planning to build about 15,000 new dwelling units of all kinds over the 20-year planning period, through about 2031. We know that about 6,000 of those new dwellings will be single family, and we know that about 6,000 will be multifamily. The question boils down to the remaining 3,000 dwelling units. How many of those will be standalone, and how many will be multifamily?

This is not a question of pushing people who want them (and can afford them) out of standalone houses. In 20 years, in anyone's current proposal, we expect to have somewhere between 50,000 and 53,000 single family homes in Eugene -- all those we have today, plus several thousand more.

Future Housing Mixes

When the City's Envision Eugene Technical Resource Group (TRG) looked at housing mix, it documented impacts of housing ratios to bookend a reasonable range of options, 60 percent single/40 percent multi (similar to the historical rate), and 40 percent single/60 percent multi (a strongly progressive, sustainability-oriented rate).

However, because it has worked as a strictly technical research team, the TRG did not take a policy position.

The city of Springfield is planning for 52 percent single/48 percent multi. Corvallis is planning for 50 percent single/50 percent multi. Albany is planning for 47 percent single/53 percent multi. And the actual housing mix built in Eugene for 2009 and again for 2010 was 39 percent single/61 percent multi.

The city manager's current recommendation of a 55 percent single/45 percent multifamily housing mix would be most regressive of any of these comparators. It projects construction of 8,250 new single family dwelling units, and 6,750 new multifamily housing units, including student housing.

What Housing Mix Means

Friends of Eugene is advocating a 45 percent single/55 percent multifamily housing mix, the reverse of the city manager's recommendation. Friends of Eugene recommends that we plan for construction of 6,750 new single family dwelling units and 8,250 new multifamily housing units.

A pivotal difference is the amount of land it takes to add more standalone houses, compared to adding more attached dwellings. As it turns out, if Eugene plans for a housing mix of 50/50 or anything more progressive, our residential land need can be met sustainably, without the need for an urban growth boundary (UGB) expansion, thus preserving our surrounding rural farm, forest, and natural areas -- and the life choices of the people who already live in those outside-the-UGB areas.

Most housing observers find that a higher proportion of multifamily housing provides better affordability for the citizens who need it most. A higher proportion of multifamily housing also fits better into Eugene's plans for compact urban growth through mixed-use redevelopment of core commercial areas.

Many housing observers also note the unprecedented large demographic shift of baby boomers hitting retirement ages, and project that 20 years from now there will be a growing excess of single family homes nationwide -- not because anyone who can afford it will be pushed out of a house they want to be in, but simply through the process of consumer choice over time.

Jobs and People

Another important policy dial in balancing Eugene's growth within the existing UGB is the projected jobs growth rate. The city manager is currently recommending a 1.4 percent per year jobs growth rate. That means that over the next 20 years, while we add 34,000 new people in Eugene (about two thirds of whom are likely workers) we would be planning to add 35,800 jobs.

More new jobs than the total of new people!

Friends of Eugene currently recommends that Eugene instead plan for a 1.27 percent annual jobs growth rate. That is the average of the 0.88 percent population growth rate, with the high 1.67 percent rate projected for the next 10 years by the Oregon Economic Department (OED) while we hope to be recovering from the deep job losses of the Great Recession.

Projecting 1.27 percent per year jobs growth for Eugene is not only more sound and reasonable than aiming for a pie-in-the-sky number of new jobs greater than the number of new people, but it would also put less unreasonable pressure on our plans for constructive redevelopment in the commercial and industrial land base.

Questionable Expansion

Overall, the city manager's recommendation would expand the 34,000 acres currently inside the UGB by more than another 1,000 acres. About 250 acres of the expansion is for park areas which seem reasonable and appropriate.

Important questions remain about the proposed 475 acre expansion in northwest Eugene for large lot industrial growth, and the proposed 350 acre expansion, mostly in southwest Eugene, for residential growth in the form of new subdivisions with single family houses.

If Eugene gets to a housing mix of 47/53 or better, the residential expansion area would be moot - which would let the whole community better focus on our primary job of high-quality core-commercial redevelopment.

In the meantime, for both the industrial and residential areas, Friends of Eugene believes the community needs to see a full and accurate accounting of the both the taxpayer and utility customer costs of public infrastructure to support growth in those rural areas, and of the full environmental costs of growth into prime farmland, across wetlands in a critical habitat path, and over oak savannah hills.

Once the actual costs of expanding are understood, then the community should simply apply equal criteria to the options of growing inward or growing outward. This fair and balanced "alternatives analysis," which is required by state law before expanding the UGB, has not yet been done.

We need to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and our carbon footprint. We need to use shrinking public funds ever more wisely and effectively. An unnecessary expansion of our UGB will increase VMT and carbon pollution, and will waste public monies on expansion planning and infrastructure development and maintenance.

Growing Better, not just Bigger

Eugene's long-standing growth management policies say, "Support the existing Eugene UGB by taking actions to ... use existing vacant land and under-used land within the boundary more efficiently."

With a more modern housing mix, a more neutral jobs growth rate, and with a close and tough-minded look at a real alternatives analysis before jumping to propose industrial expansion, we can actually do what our community policy asks of us.

We can "support the existing Eugene UGB."

The best way to get there - perhaps the only way - is to continue real deep collaboration and consensus-building, so the community of Eugene comes to Council not divided over growth and talking past each other in three-minute chunks, but rather, with common findings like those forged in the West Eugene Collaborative.

It is now up to the Mayor and City Council to have this happen. Or, you can override the wishes of the community majority and approve the City Manager recommendation as proposed - using any number of convenient rationalizations - and thus send us back into the rut of sterile, factionalized, never-resolving controversy, and the citizen cynicism that accompanies it.

Friends of Eugene believes the result of real and positive community leadership will be a strong plan to grow Eugene better, fully maximizing the value of all our personal and community investments within the current UGB.

Friends of Eugene believes the result of real and positive community leadership will be a safer, greener, more prosperous Eugene for all of us who call this place home.


Kevin Matthews
Friends of Eugene
P.O. Box 1588
Eugene, Oregon, 97440

Please join with Friends of Eugene to help save our city's creeks
and ridges and rivers, for birds and fish and trees and otters and
people, too. For affordable housing and urban place and green space
and greater health and happiness.

This special part of Oregon needs all our hope, help, and love
together to create real solutions to grow better, not just bigger,
while reducing our carbon footprint, and addressing West Eugene
transportation concerns, for downtown revitalization and riverfront
restoration, for a healthy regional balance, to reach toward social
and political and environmental equity, to support all the efforts
for a safe, fun, sustainable, livable Eugene!

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