Downtown Disastrous Development:
Eugene needs intelligent urban design
Ballot Measure 20-134 corporate welfare plan defeated by "all of Eugene," Nov. 2007
on this page:
- downtown privatization
- new City Hall
- Venice on the Willamette: Eugene's program for downtown pits
- Connor-Wooley-Opus development proposal - WITHDRAWN April 27, 2006
- Little Texas neighborhood (Federal Bldg / Whole Foods)
- Whole Foods: the Wal-Mart of health food
A few local websites focused on downtown Eugene issues:
http://keepitlocal.blogspot.com - A forum for discussing the benefits of local businesses and the impact of chain and big box stores
Taxpayers for Sensible Downtown Development
LETTERS IN THE EDITOR’S MAILBAG
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Find sustainable downtown plan
On Oct. 21, I attended a showing of the film “What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire” at the University of Oregon.
The film laid out the ramifications of humanity’s abuse of the planet, especially over the last 60 years, which is leading to the calamitous effects of global warming, pollution and societal stress. It seems we have no time to waste in putting a stop to our unceasing consumerism and consequent unsustainable economic growth.
The film made me question the whole basis for our city’s agenda for downtown development. I wonder now if we are really asking the right question. Instead of talking about how to finance downtown development, should we really be talking about using fewer resources to create a sustainable economy downtown?
For example, could the whole downtown area be a park and include a community garden and outdoor theater space surrounded by restaurants and amenities for downtown living, like a library, art galleries, grocery stores and a dance studio?
This film brought up so many questions for me that I will have to vote “no” on Measure 20-134, the city’s Downtown Urban Renewal Plan Amendment. I want to see a different vision for downtown.
|new City Hall|
The first public relations meeting to promote a new Eugene City Hall was held March 23, 2006. The literature provided by the consultants at this pro forma event suggests that the City Manager is more important than the elected officials since the unelected Manager will have more space requirements and will also be the "gatekeeper" between the public and the Councilors and Mayor.
|Venice on the Willamette: downtown Eugene's wetland restoration program disguised as building demolition|
TWO TWIN PONDS
Eugene's new swimming pool across from the City Library continues to fill up with rainwater (and garbage). It's an interesting start for the ongoing ecological restoration of downtown -- soon to be complemented by the proposed demolition of the City owned Atrium building and other structures. If the Piercy administration does permit demolition of their Atrium building, it would be advisable that they require a less steep slope along the edge of the new pit this would create, since the pit at the corner of 10th and Charnelton is definitely a severe public hazard. (It is astounding that the existing structure was demolished before a building permit for the replacement building was issued -- a permit that is many months in the future, at best.) Perhaps the Atrium building hole, the hole across from the library, and the hole on Willamette Street ("Aster's hole") could be interconnected with the old Mill Race to transform downtown Eugene into a West Coast version of Venice ...
ALTERNATIVES TO GARAGES
The Eugene City Council is moving forward with plans to spend about $30 million on parking garages downtown to subsidize developments for the Connor/Woolley/Opus and the Whole Foods/Giustina partnerships.
That's a lot of taxpayer money -- about what it cost to build Eugene's popular new downtown library.
Here, based on the city's own cost estimates, are some other things the city could use the taxpayer money for:
• Preserve 200 acres of ridgeline and 65 acres of riverfront for natural area parks, improve natural area access, buy land for a new natural area in West Eugene and buy land for nine new neighborhood and community parks for $19.9 million.
• Fund the city's property tax levy to reduce classroom size for two and a half more years.
• Cover most of the cost of a new $36 million police station.
• Build a new city office building that's one of the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in the world -- $25 million.
• Unearth the historic millrace through downtown and build a $4.5 million rail bridge over the canal and path.
• Install a new indoor swimming pool downtown (based on other cities' costs).
• Buy all of the 40 luxury homes and mansions on the local Home Builders Association's 2004 and 2005 "Tour of Homes" to house the homeless.
• Write a $130 tax refund check for every man, woman and child in Eugene. -- Alan Pittman
FUNDING THE GARAGE
You too may find yourself on the side of the opposition if you knew how council intends to fund the car house. The council is diverting: $250,000 from storm water funds, $400,000 from riparian funds, $475,000 from library funds, $5,035,000 urban renewal funds, $1,035,000 facility replacement funds, for a $7,195,000 total, and that's not where it stops.
There is to be a 2006 bond measure for the library, so why will they sacrifice these funds? Council just raised the storm drain fee a meager 30 cents for stream corridor acquisition and now they are already looking at diverting these funds to the garage. Council is planning to put a 2008 bond measure on the ballot to pay for a new City Hall. Shouldn't they be directing the more than $6 million of urban renewal and facility replacement funds towards the City Hall project? The taxpaying citizens of Eugene are not a bottomless pit for funding resources. Next time you open up your ballot to vote on a new levy, find out where the money actually went the last time you supported a levy.
In the few days after the controversial decision to squander our public funds on this beast, I was in a state of shock and disbelief. It was no surprise that Poling, Solomon and Pryor supported this thing, but our so called progressive Mayor Piercy? I was starting to think she was Torrey in woman's clothing. And what happened to Kelly and Ortiz?
Lisa Warnes, Eugene
We are completely blown away that developers Conner & Woolley would refuse to develop the nearly three blocks of property they already own if they cannot acquire the dozen small pieces of property they do not own.
This puts an unbelievably unfair amount of pressure on those small business owners who have managed to keep their businesses afloat in a less-than-bustling downtown Eugene. For what Conner and Woolley are essentially saying is that if they do not sell to them it is the business owners' fault that downtown redevelopment is at a standstill.
Frankly, it seems to me that Conner & Woolley are the hindrance to downtown redevelopment. In the 10 years that we have lived here (four of them in downtown) it is their property that has sat vacant, surrounded by established independent businesses that are thriving. Perhaps the city should use its eminent domain power to condemn Conner & Woolley's vacant property and find buyers who are willing to redevelop the last three blocks of prime real estate in downtown without any successful businesses.
Kimberly Harper & William Kennedy, Eugene
WHAT IF IT FAILS?
Those who want a vibrant downtown should consider the likelihood that the proposed subsidized Whole Foods store may not prosper. If it does not prosper, Whole Foods will close the store and leave Eugene. What a financial mess and eyesore that would create. A failed, subsidized Whole Foods could be the worst thing to happen to downtown Eugene.
Here's three points that make me think Whole Foods will fail. 1) Eugene natural food buyers have shown resistance to chains — look what happened to Wild Oats. 2) Eugene residents have shown resistance to shopping downtown — look at all the vacancies. 3) The Market of Choice new stores, especially their upcoming new south store, are strong competitors, with better locations and more customer loyalty.
Subsidizing a large national chain, Whole Foods, is too risky, and the cost of failure too high. Let's tell the city "no" to subsidizing Whole Foods.
Steve M. Brown, Eugene
SMELL THE NAPALM
Memo to city council people who think "stealing" private property or running Kiva out of business for the likes of Whole-Wal-Mart-Foods is a good idea: Please quit your day jobs and go join the Carlyle Group in Iraq. Why mess around with small potatoes when the gravy train is rolling big time in the Middle East? Get the hell out of puny Eugene, go soak yourself in some real oil, and get to smell the napalm in the morning. Fulfill your dreams.
And about that WEP thing that won't die, let me tell you that you already have road maintenance issues in Eugene that you can't afford. Go out and look at the streets. Are you kidding me? You need another roadway that you can't afford to resurface in timely manner? Our Massachusetts roads are all dying because of the Big Dig, which infused billions into the one project, but sucked the life out of every other roadway project. The overruns are killing us financially, and potholes are the major feature of every other road in the state. The feds stuck us with the overruns, and they will stick you with them too.
The real bottlenecks in west Eugene are the intersections anyway. It doesn't matter how many people from Veneta can get into west Eugene. What are they going to do when they get there? Will there be shorter or longer lines of cars at those intersections on 7th? It's a pipe dream dreamt up by the same fox guarding the Iraqi Hen House and Big Dig Hen House in Massachusetts. Federal money for local projects is not a boon — it's a curse. It creates thieves and liars and a wedge of control that they will use against you later.
Paul LeBlanc, Beverly, Mass.
I find the plan to hand over the most culturally interesting, pedestrian friendly part of Eugene (downtown no less!), at taxpayer expense, to a corporate special interest, shocking and most definitely obscene. There is no need to condemn thriving businesses because they refuse to sell. That's dishonest. Besides, one corporate interest does not need to own downtown anyway. Where is the diversity in that?
The planned parking lot/shopping monstrosity seems to have the intended purpose of luring 743 more cars into Eugene's downtown. And the benefit is? Ah, I mean apart from the hefty profit the developers and real estate broker will make on the deal. What about the rest of us? Increasing smog and the added obstacle course of cars to dodge? Brilliant!
And aren't the two shopping centers that are already car-accessible (Gateway and Valley River) having enough trouble luring shoppers to their stores/filling parking spaces as it is?
Do city planners really believe they'll lure new people into Eugene with this mostly chain-store mall? National chain stores you can find in any city or suburb in the U.S.?
Instead of revitalizing downtown, CWO's plan looks more like a sure-fire way to kill downtown, its unique culture and diversity and most likely its economy as well. And what becomes of the Saturday and the Farmers markets? And how about the livelihoods of all those vendors and craftspeople if those markets are driven away by the smog and cars?
I'm amazed the mayor or City Council would even consider such a boondoggle as this. I'm a professional and a fairly new resident of Eugene and for me it was the interesting, friendly and diverse culture that led me to want to live here.
Please! Let's spend wisely with an eye on the future livability of Eugene.
Deanna Rennings, Eugene
|Little Texas: City of Eugene subsidizing new megastore and Federal building|
The new downtown neighborhood around the new federal building should be named “Little Texas” -- the new “edifice complexes” planned for that area are extensions of Texan politics and economics.
Our new “Homeland Security” courthouse building is from the Texas based Bush. It is a component of a repressive preparation for the economic crises of Peak Oil - the new bankruptcy laws, the Patriot Act, etc.
The City is swapping publicly owned land with the Giustina family in order to bring in Texas-based Whole Foods, a company nicknamed the “Wal-mart of Health Food” for their predatory business practices. The Giustina timber company is a massive sprayer of highly toxic herbicides in Lane County forestlands and was a huge financial contributor to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Whole Foods is vehemently opposed to unions and has a track record of destroying locally owned food businesses -- this would be a disaster for Eugene. The City also wants a new parking garage next to the Whole Foods big box, right next to the new Bus Rapid Transit line. This parking garage would be completed just in time for Peak Oil and subsequent higher gas prices (and possibly gas rationing).
The proposed (and now canceled) sale of the EWEB complex to the Texas based Triad corporation -- at fire sale prices -- would further cement acquisition of strategic Eugene real estate by Texans. (Having both of the region’s primary medical facilities along river fronts could result in loss of hospitals during major floods or if a major earthquake destroyed upstream dams.)