Downtown Eugene

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Unsustainable urban planning

A former Eugene City Councilor wrote me:

... our city administration's involvement precludes a real solution to the downtown's problem. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, they are committed to the big developer approach to "renewing" downtown ... our bureaucracy is not motivated by an interest in reviving the downtown.

The City is pro-construction and anti-people. This is true for City Staff, who try to convince downtown tenants that they do not belong there, and for most City Councilors, who don't like to discuss the 20 or so local businesses they are willing to displace downtown. When they were talking about pressuring landlords to fill the space downtown, to quote one in today's paper:

"Lord knows, the tenants might be worse than the empty buildings," said Councilor Chris Pryor.

I'm sure the tenants would appreciate that. It's the same kind of off-handed prejudice that makes the City Council dislike the bars that light up West Broadway at night, and dismiss busy arts-related projects as being economically unimportant, even though they have vast community support in comparison with a "Gap" or "Bed, Bath & Beyond". Any tenant is better than emptiness. If there's a problem, it can be dealt with, but the sheer desert-like quality of West Broadway during the day is the most important problem to deal with.

Unfortunately, they are still focussed on tearing down buildings, making the place even more of a desert.

New construction is pointless when the spaces are mostly vacant. New construction is supposed to meet demand, and there is none. It's very much the same irrelevant approach the City took towards opening and closing the street ... these things make no difference. What matters are the activities and the people in the area, not the amenities, the buildings, or the streets. Sure these could be improved, but the most important thing is relevant activity, people, organizations, businesses and events, forming a continuous fabric of life in a neighborhood.

I submitted a video to the city on this subject, as a response to an RFQ, so that they had to see it. But they focussed on the parts of the proposal they didn't like (buying and managing buildings, which is optional), and not on the fundamental points (1) no new construction is necessary (except in the vacant lots) and (2) there are actual people and projects in these places (3) if you want to revitalize downtown, support these and other community members to expand activty there.

Nothing is a greater sign that the city is insanely construction-focussed, than the unnecessary New City Hall, which should be stopped in its tracks by petition-initiative before it goes any further. A new City Hall is not a priority to the citizens of Eugene. Healthcare, jobs, education, quality of life -- these are important. It's possible to take take the money planned for City Hall, and fund new activity to completely address these needs, both downtown and throughout Eugene. Instead, they want to throw it away on unnecessary buildings ...


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