Yes. Addressing the potential impacts of new development has been the main focus of the work for over five years, and is the basis for creating the proposed code. Here are some of the impacts that have been studied:
In 2014, City staff used the Redevelopment Estimating Tool (RET), an analysis framework developed collaboratively by staff and a community advisory committee, the Technical Resource Group, to compare the redevelopment expected to occur under the South Willamette Special Area Zone with the baseline of expected redevelopment under existing zoning. The conclusion of the study was that the code had minimal impact on the quantity of redevelopment, potentially 60 additional units over 20 years in the entire area. If City Council voted to implement economic incentives, such as the MUPTE program, it would raise the number to 250 units in 20 years. The study demonstrated that the primary cause of redevelopment in the area would be the financial balance between construction costs and rents or sales, and not land use policy.
Traffic and transportation
From the outset of the Concept Plan development, a key concept has been to facilitate a walkable neighborhood. The code would put setbacks in place that are needed to make Willamette Street and other streets safer, more attractive, and more walkable, as well as provide more parking in the district. This has not been at the exclusion of cars and other travel modes, and there are a number of provisions that address specific needs for people driving or on bicycles, but in a way that helps the district overall look and function better.
At the same time that this code is being considered, the City of Eugene’s Transportation System Plan, a state-mandated, long-range plan to guide transportation investments, is also being updated. For its traffic analysis, this plan incorporated the proposed code update for the South Willamette district. Based on what’s expected to happen over the next 20 years, the TSP projects no need for additional infrastructure beyond what’s already been planned, which includes the restriping test of Willamette Street, and lots of other projects in the Eugene Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan.
As is already the case city-wide, any larger project that happens in the district will be required to do a traffic impact analysis to see if that particular project will trigger any needed improvements like crosswalks, signs, signals, etc. on a case-by-case basis.
In addition, the code update will comply with state rules specially designed for districts like South Willamette, where the community is trying to create an active, livable center in a currently auto-oriented, commercial district. The code update meets all the state’s criteria, which includes maintaining car traffic capacity as it does today, but also supporting other, more active transportation modes like walking, biking, and transit. This makes the district safer and more attractive, while providing residents and visitors with more transportation options.
Parking has been discussed thoroughly from the beginning of the project several years ago. Based on those conversations, the South Willamette Concept Plan lays out several ways to address parking over time, and those ideas have been built on by more recent, detailed options drafted and presented to the Eugene Planning Commission by the City’s Parking Manager. Considering that the scale of change in the district is expected to be small and rather slow, this allows time to be proactive and implement parking options ahead of, or in conjunction with, new projects that may come along.
In addition, the proposed code would create capacity for more than 235 parking spaces on Willamette Street, about the same parking capacity as the Pearl Street Garage on 10th and Oak in downtown. Under the current code, new commercial buildings wouldn’t be able to provide parking between the building and the street. The proposed code would create space for, and allow, new parking on the street, in addition to a safer, more pleasant pedestrian realm, in keeping with the vision of the Concept Plan.
The proposed code also reduces the minimum private parking requirements to be consistent with other recent parking standards in the city (such as Walnut Station), and increases the options that property owners have for meeting those requirements, including the use of on-street spaces, shared and time-flex parking, and off-site facilities. These standards, coupled with the proposed parking management options, reduce the amount of land dedicated to automobile parking, in line with our community’s climate change and energy reduction goals. The proposed parking standards balance the need for automobile parking with other needs such as to reduce impervious paving (which also reduces urban heat island effect), reduce housing costs, and use more land for other uses, from housing and commercial space to parks, gardens and patios.
The potential for change in the district has been thoroughly studied, including how the proposed code might affect whether or not owners could choose to redevelop particular properties. Based on the expected level of redevelopment in the district (i.e., 250 units in the district over 20 years if incentives are applied), the code itself won’t have much impact on property values or rents over the next 20 years. Changes in affordability would be driven over this time period more by the market and local economy, not the code.
Some say the code will decrease property values if a large project goes in next door. Others say it will increase property values too much by making the land more attractive for redevelopment. Each of those options could be seen as a positive or negative depending on one’s viewpoint. The improved transition standards are designed to mitigate impacts of new development.
Housing affordability is a city-wide issue (in Eugene and many other communities) that Council and City staff are exploring further as part of a larger conversation (see Consolidated Plan, Fair Housing Plan, etc.). Smaller homes located in town near services and amenities, with options for singles, couples, retirees, etc. are typically more affordable, especially factoring in the cost of transportation.. Pushing development to the outskirts of town, far away from services with no access to transit, and limited ability to walk or bike, increases the cost of living for those residents. The code promotes livability through better regulations on design, transitions, more diverse building types, better streets, etc., while also allowing more people to live and work close in. To the extent the code succeeds in achieving these goals over time, it should have a net positive effect on housing affordability.
The school district has been involved in discussions for several years, in particular around the former Willard School site. Our current understanding is that South Eugene schools have been experiencing decreasing attendance for a number of years. The district is aware that needs may change in the future as the demographics and composition of Eugene neighborhoods continue to shift. For example, Willard School site is currently being held in reserve by 4J for future needs.
Given the modest changes expected through redevelopment over the next 20 years, the code itself will likely have little effect on schools. Demographic and related economic trends, e.g., whether or not new families are starting or moving into or out of the area, will be the main drivers of school attendance.