26 June 2021
Officials pass parking regulation changes
Eugene Register-Guard USA TODAY NETWORK
Eugene officials passed parking regulations that have drawn support from businesses but criticism from advocates for people who are living in their vehicles.
The City Council passed the changes Monday night on a 7-1 vote. The changes to city code are enforceable starting July 24.
The updated regulations are designed to address business complaints about people living in their cars in commercial and industrial areas while also supporting commercial parking in downtown and parking in neighborhoods, City Manager Sarah Medary told councilors during a work session earlier this month.
They've drawn praise from the local chamber of commerce but criticism from others who describe them as another example of criminalizing poverty.
Councilors expressed reservations and reluctance over passing the changes but said the regulations address a 'dangerously explosive situation' that's impacting business owners, the unhoused and community members in west Eugene.
There are five updates to the code. Those changes:
Most of the complaints will be enforced after the city receives a complaint, staff said during the meeting Monday night.
According to a news release, staff are implementing a focused parking plan to prioritize areas with 'known camping complaints' in commercial and industrial areas in west Eugene.
Councilor Randy Groves, who represents the area, proposed the changes earlier this year. He understands the potential for unintended consequences but said 'some people are suffering hard' and councilors 'need to be responsive to what is going on right now.'
Groves added the changes address an immediate problem while the city works to develop so-called Safe Sleep sites where people can legally set up tents and sleep in vehicles overnight.
Councilor Jennifer Yeh, who serves as council president, said she wouldn't even consider the changes if the city wasn't also working on developing the Safe Sleep sites.
She was hesitant at first but said that changed once she started hearing stories, describing many of them as 'completely unacceptable.'
'I wish I wasn't in this place,' Yeh said. 'The situation is clearly out of con- trol.'
Councilor Matt Keating voted against the changes, saying he couldn't support the code updates because while they're intended to help in problem areas, they weren't written that way.
'I’m cautious and deeply saddened by how this disproportionately affects lower-income folks throughout our community,' Keating said.
Councilors asked for an update on enforcement within a few months, and Medary said staff will schedule a work session for that purpose after the summer recess.
Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A note of clarification from Councilor Randy Groves: My council motion that precipitated this ordinance change was based on blocked access for trucking into and out of businesses, lawlessness (serious criminal behavior), chronic dumping of garbage and raw sewage into city streets and wetlands, and the uncontrolled camping that was placing workers, other unhoused campers, customers and businesses in jeopardy in West Eugene. A council majority then moved to expand the motion to include all of Eugene. The ordinance change is intended to support the establishment of the "Safe Site" camps which will come on line shortly and provide organized and managed safe spaces giving our unhoused community a place to go. This ordinance is not about picking on the unhoused, it's about restoring order to an unmanaged, chaotic and dangerous situation. The ordinance change will only be effective if we dedicate enough resources to support enforcement.