Eugene City Councilor Ward 8

Deeply Flawed

13 July 2022

 Randy Groves

NOTE From Councilor Groves: While I'm not opposed to the underlying intent behind the "Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities" land use rules being developed by the State Land Conservation and Development Commission, the devil will be in the details. Our Governor has directed this work.

My concern is that this set of prescriptive rules will have an adverse effect on housing development, something we desperately need more of. I am also concerned that the new rules as will most certainly increase the cost of development which is something we must avoid. Further, this is yet another example of an unfunded mandate imposed by the State without consideration of its effects on Oregon's cities. The burden of cost and dedication of staff time is something that should be taking into consideration before finalizing the rules.

Eugene staff are already developing Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities implementation plans while Springfield is preparing to challenge the rules depending on their final outcome. I'm only one Eugene city councilor but I applaud Springfield who is poised to take action. In my opinion, the other Oregon cities located in the eight metropolitan areas designated by the State including Eugene, should consider a similar course.

Again, my concern is not about responding to climate change, something we should be doing, it's about taking a path that moves in this direction while balancing our need for housing and moving at a pace we can afford and adequately manage. All too often in government we fail to look at collateral impacts and downstream effects of our decisions.

‘Deeply flawed’

Springfield ready to challenge rigid state rules, Eugene implementing

Megan Banta

Eugene Register-Guard USA TODAY NETWORK

Springfield is prepared to challenge new development rules that city officials say are too rigid if a state commission votes later this month to make temporary rules permanent without addressing concerns.

Oregon’s Land Conservation Development Commission adopted temporary rules in May that address climate change and equity issues by augmenting state law around housing development and other key areas in the Eugene- Springfield area and the otherseven largest metropolitan areas in the state.

Springfield and Eugene both have raised concerns about the rules and the language used, filing nearly two dozen letters with the state detailing their issues with the plan.

Last month, Springfield City Council authorized the city attorney’s office to retain special legal counsel to help file a legal challenge if the state implements the rules without addressing issues during a meeting July 21 and 22.

Officials want to see progress on climate change and equity, Mayor Sean VanGordon said, but they see the proposed rules as “deeply flawed, inconsistent and too rigid” and don’t think changes have addressed their concerns.

“For two years, Springfield and other stakeholders have identified significant issues that have gone unaddressed,” VanGordon said in a statement after the council vote in mid-June. “(The commission) needs to take more time and identify more resources.”

Eugene is not discussing an appeal as an option at this point, said Alissa Hansen, the city’s planning director. Instead, staff are focusing on implementation and advocating for state funding, she said.

Rules in development for two years

The Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities temporary rules are the product of two years of work, including 160 meetings within Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Department. The rule-making commission itself held 12 meetings. The work began in response to an executive order Gov. Kate Brown issued in March 2020, within which she directed state agencies to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Brown issued her order shortly after an ambitious, yet controversial, greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade bill died in the Legislature for the second consecutive year. The commission adopted temporary rules in May that augment three areas of state law: housing development, transportation planning and metropolitan greenhouse gas reduction targets.

They apply to the eight largest metropolitan areas in Oregon: Albany, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene/ Springfield, Grants Pass, Medford/Ashland, Portland metro and Salem/ Keizer.Among the requirements in the new rules, which are geared at prioritizing dense communities and walkability while deemphasizing automobiles, is the designation of “climate-friendly areas.” Those would become central to future developments as cities look to expand. Springfield staff and officials anticipate that the commission will adopt the temporary rules as permanent rules during its next meetings on July 21 and 22. And while the rulemaking process has taken a substantial amount of time, Springfield officials argue it failed to meet the goals of Brown’s executive order and will “adversely affect communities.”

City objects to ‘high level of detail’

Springfield doesn’t object to the underlying purpose or objective of the rules, Assistant City Attorney Kristina Kraaz said, but rather to the “high level of detail.” The rules will make it “harder to add housing at a time when the Springfield community and communities throughout the state are facing a housing crisis,” the city said in a news release.

Officials say the rules add requirements limiting housing types and homeownership opportunities and will increase costs of housing construction in the required climate-friendly areas.

Springfield officials also argue the rules would hamper the city’s efforts to make it easier for people to comply with development standards.

The city has been working to overhaul its development code to make the standards more flexible to encourage development, but the new rules are “so detailed it would make commercial development and the development process more cumbersome and expensive,” the release reads.

Overall, the rules would make it hard for the city to do things on a practical level, Councilor Marilee Woodrow said.

“I think it’s really important to go forward with this and stand up for ourselves,” she said before councilors voted.

Eugene focused on implementation

While Springfield prepares for a potential appeal, Eugene is looking at how to implement the rules and advocating for adequate state funding, said Hansen, the city’s planning director. The city participated throughout the process and made several comments, she said, but staff are shifting their focus toimplementation. “They did make some of the changes, not all of them,” Hansen said. “And at this point, they’ve said they’re not making any major changes.”Though the rules will be prescriptive, there’s some room for implementing them in a way that suits Eugene, she said, and community members will have plenty of chances for input as officials consider changes.

Two land use pieces will be coming up first, Hansen said, though not until after the council’s summer recess. The city will need to make changes to parking requirements, she said. Staff are sifting through code to figure out the city’s options, she said, and will bring those to City Council in the fall.

Eugene also will need to establish the climatefriendly areas if the temporary rules pass as the permanent measure.Downtown is already a prime spot for a climatefriendly area, Hansen said, with mixed-use areas, density and transitoptions. “It’s unlikely that we’ll actually have to make a lot of changes to downtown,” she said. The city also will need to make changes to the transportation system plan and other land use regulations, Hansen said, but those wouldn’t happen until a little further down the road.

What’s next?

Springfield staff are still working with other cities and organizations to urge changes, according to the release.

If the state commission does make the temporary rules permanent without addressing what Springfield sees as key issues, the city will retain special legal counsel, the release adds. Any legal challenge would go through the Oregon Court of Appeals, Kraaz said.VanGordon said there is “similar sentiment in other cities out there” that might want to join in the effort.

Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at mbanta@registerguard.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeganBanta_ 1.

A cyclist travels along the 13th Avenue Bikeway shortly after it opened in October 2020. A state commission has set temporary rules for Oregon's urban areas to improve walking, biking and transit opportunities, increase housing choice and supply and promote more equitable and inclusive development to decrease greenhouse emissions. PHOTOS BY ANDY NELSON/THE REGISTER-GUARD

Signage at an alley on 13th Avenue reminds travelers that bicycles ravel two ways along new thoroughfare on Oct. 21, 2020, in Eugene, Oregon.

A cyclist travels along the 13th Avenue Bikeway in Eugene that opened in 2020.

Randy Groves