RG Editorial: Don't Block Compact Development

A test for density in Eugene

An Editorial in the Register Guard calls out the fact attempts to block Amazon Corners, a multi-story, mixed use apartment building built by a local developer next to an Albertsons, brings up the question of if Eugene is serious about it compact development goals.

In fact, neighborhood preservationists have been successfully using a wide variety of tactics to attempt to block compact development in Eugene for years, and not just development in the form of multi-story, mixed use buildings.  Zoning changes have been modified at the last minute to make it harder to build backyard cottages (R-1 Zoning amendments, 2014.)  Medium Density Areas have been effectively down-zoned so that only low density style housing can be built (JW-SAZ, 2009.)  Attempts to add Missing Middle Housing to the code (SW-SAZ, 2015), or to allow particular underutilized parcels to be used for low-income or emergency housing (Naval Reserve, 2012) to have been blocked by calls for refinement plans. 

And when that doesn't work, appeals and legal battles are thrown into the mix, frequently based on grasping any technical error that can be found. Multi-story mixed use buildings like Amazon Corners which are strictly complying with code and asking for no exemptions are challenged on their traffic studies.  Supported housing for low-income, ex-offenders gets thrown back for re-review based in part on if the oak trees "limit" or "prohibit" access in a particular place (Oaks at 14, 2016-17).  And a co-housing project on vacant land gets tied up in appeals for years with no end in sight, causing substantial harm to Eugene residents who just want to build a home (Oakleigh Meadows, 2013-????.)

And as a result, while we have managed not to expand the Urban Growth Boundary yet, we also have not been as successful as we need to be to in building enough housing to keep housing prices affordable.  The question asked by the Guard-- is Eugene's commitment to compact urban development a lie-- is one it is about time we were all asking.

If Amazon Corner is stopped or delayed in ways that make it prohibitively expensive to proceed, however, the signal will be clear: Zoning designations that allow such development can’t be relied upon, and the goal of accommodating growth without far-flung subdivisions will be revealed as wishful thinking.
— The Register Guard Editoral