2022 State of the City - Year in Review
2021 was a year of collaboration and connection as Eugene continues to respond to urgent needs while keeping an eye to the future as the city grows.
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact many aspects of our lives in 2021. Vaccines became available to most adults in the late winter and spring, but the Delta variant brought hospitalizations to a peak during the summer. As younger age groups started getting vaccinated, City staff continued to follow safety guidelines and supported vaccination efforts. Eugene Springfield Fire partnered with the University of Oregon, Bethel School District, and Lane County Public Health to assist with vaccination efforts across the community.
With COVID-19 physical distancing requirements implemented statewide for much of the year, the City Council, boards and commissions, and City staff continued prioritizing community connections through virtual meeting environments, including public forums and hearings.
After a long break from live performances and large audiences, the Hult Center began hosting shows again. With new safety requirements in place, the Hult has sold out shows while also offering COVID-19 testing on-site for free to all community members, including rapid testing.
Connecting the Community
New connections came in many forms in 2021. The past two years have highlighted how essential a consistent internet connection is for school, work, medical and mental health checks, and more. The Eugene Public Library Foundation and Friends of Eugene Public Library purchased and made available 250 wi-fi hotspots to be checked out by library cardholders.
The Library also expanded library card access to all students in the 4J and Bethel school districts.
Cultural Services remained committed to working with community partners to activate downtown spaces, bringing art and fun to everyone. Visual Arts Week, National Dance Week and Halloween Downtown all saw large participation, and Window Front Exhibitions has kept vacant windows downtown full of vibrant art.
As mask and distancing requirements created new challenges for people who need assistance hearing, the new Hearing Loop System now available in the Downtown Eugene Library as well as at the Airport, improved access for people with hearing needs.
The Eugene Airport also added three new airlines that are now flying out of Eugene: Southwest, Avelo, and Aha!.
People in Lane County now have a new way to connect to help in emergency situations – the Central Lane Communications Center launched text to 911, increasing access for people with hearing or speaking impairments, as well as situations where a crime is in process.
For the second year, Eugene Police connected with local kids through Safety Town online. Virtual Safety Town taught kids about the importance bike safety, fire safety, animal safety, and more.
The City of Eugene and White Bird Clinic partnered to connect people experiencing homelessness with primary and behavioral health care at the City of Eugene’s Day Resource Center. The building was leased by the City and served as a home base for the City's pilot outreach program during the pandemic. White Bird will continue to utilize the space as a medical clinic through the winter and as the City's outreach pilot concluded it has transitioned to providing space for Community Outreach for Radical Empowerment's (CORE) outreach efforts to youth in our community.
The City continued adapting its response to homelessness, an already significant issue with additional challenges brought by the ongoing pandemic.
As part of its plan to expand safe refuges for people experiencing homelessness, three new microsites and five new Council-approved Rest Stops opened this year. Those sites created access to shelter and an opportunity for stability for more than 110 people.
The Council also approved the opening of new Safe Sleep sites. Nearly 90 people have gotten off the streets at the first operating site, with more sites preparing to open.
More than 900 people have been served by alternative shelters supported by the City this year.
Temporary urban camps at Washington Jefferson Park and 13th Avenue were an answer to spreading unsanctioned camping after the start of the pandemic. A challenging situation for the City, and the unhoused and housed alike, staff have strived to monitor those locations, help connect people to services, uphold health and safety standards, and prepare people to move to safe, approved sites and return the spaces to their intended uses.
Over 2021 the City further elevated coordination and partnerships with Lane County Human Services, the Chamber of Commerce, the business community, and many service providers. Homelessness impacts our entire community, and we are all working together to find sustainable ways to improve living conditions and stability for people experiencing homelessness.
In coordination with Lane County, the City continues to support the development of more affordable housing, including 66 units of permanent supportive housing at the Commons on MLK and The Keystone, and 100 units of affordable housing at The Sarang and Iris Place.
Adding to the community’s total housing stock can also help make housing more affordable for everyone; 58 multi-family housing developments are actively under construction in Eugene.
Building permit turn-around time improved during the pandemic and the City’s Building Permit Services issued over 8,140 permits in Fiscal Year 21, including 44 multi-family housing permits, and completed 52, 493 inspections.
The City Council approved an ordinance removing barriers to build Accessory Dwelling Units or add on to existing structures. Coupled with the new Pre-Approved ADU Plans now available, our community may see an increase in units available.
In the fall, Councilors approved terms for the redevelopment of 1059 Willamette Street as a mixed income housing project where over half of units must be affordable to low-income households.
City staff continue developing the Housing Implementation Pipeline with a goal to create 6,000 new units of housing by 2027. The Housing Implementation Pipeline addresses a variety of housing needs, including shelter beds, low income and mixed income housing, and market rate housing.
City Planning staff are working to implement Oregon’s Middle Housing law requiring large cities to allow more housing types in more places. Staff commenced a robust public engagement process, including a community survey, focus groups, and the City’s first lottery-selected panel.
In addition to housing, public safety and police reform were also critical community priorities. In 2020 the City Council created the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy to review current police policies and recommend improvements. Ten organizations representing marginalized groups participated, finalizing a report in April of 2021.
With an eye toward accountability in community safety, the City created a Citizen Advisory Board to monitor the collection and spending of the Community Safety Initiative Payroll Tax. The Board found use of the tax revenue met objectives and was spent in compliance with the purpose of the tax.
In June, the Eugene Police Department made significant changes to its Use of Force Response reporting to include other interactions like the use of a taser or when a firearm is pointed at a person. This data can now be reported along with demographics.
In the City’s Office of Equity and Community Engagement, staff have designed and delivered multiple trainings to increase the promotion of equity and belonging among City employees and the community. The team also collaborates with community partners to promote a culture of belonging in the community and make sure the voices of community members are being heard by our local government.
In a year with new and emergent needs, the City followed through on many long-term projects and commitments.
2021 saw increased safety for people walking and biking. The Northeast Eugene Livable Streets project created eight enhanced crossings, updated sidewalk access ramps and added pedestrian flashing beacons. Construction of a permanent pedestrian activated signal and median on Highway 99 provides a safe option for people crossing the highway and accessing the St. Vincent de Paul Lindholm Center.
Using funding from Street Preservation bonds, crews rebuilt and resurfaced 15 streets, including the transformation of Willamette Street between 24th and 32nd avenues – making it easier for people to safely walk, bike, bus, or drive in the South Willamette shopping district.
At the Eugene Airport, a new passenger jet bridge was added to the terminal and Taxiway Bravo has a safer new configuration.
Two City programs were recognized with awards from the International City/County Management Association. Eugene Springfield Fire’s Young Women’s Fire Camp was awarded the Community Equity and Inclusion Award while marking its 10th year serving young women in our area, and the Love Food Not Waste program earned the Community Sustainability Award for diverting thousands of pounds of food waste and creating locally produced compost.
The City’s Climate Action Plan 2.0 was developed to meet the goals outlined in the Climate Recovery Ordinance, and a new online dashboard allows community members to track progress toward those goals.
To meet the Climate Recovery Ordinance goal of carbon neutrality for operation in 2020, the City purchased carbon offsets through The Climate Trust, investing in forest management project in the Pacific Northwest.
Eco-minded vehicles were added to the fleet at Eugene Police, and Public Works began using an all-electric street sweeper to reduce emissions – one of the first cities in the country to utilize this emerging technology.
Major transformation of Eugene’s Downtown Riverfront is underway, and the community will soon enjoy a vibrant, active, and accessible riverfront district and community destination. The Riverfront Park will drastically change the way we experience the Willamette River when it opens in 2022, and a new network of streets is in place to support vertical development.
The 2018 Parks and Recreation Bond and Levy continue to improve community assets. While some projects have experienced pandemic-related delays, this past year saw the completion of significant renovations at Echo Hollow Pool & Fitness Center and Campbell Community Center. Both facilities are creating a renewed sense of excitement and attracting new patrons with increased programming and improved spaces.
Implementation of the operating levy, supporting park maintenance activities, has also kept pace and adapted to ever-changing conditions. These investments in new amenities and increased service levels were leaned on heavily as parks and natural areas continued to see large numbers of people using the system for their physical, social and mental health.
As we look to the coming year, our community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The City received $18 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. With input from the Budget Committee, this funding will go toward shelter and unhoused response, affordable housing, fire services, childcare, financial stability and continued COVID-19 response. An additional $18 million is expected in 2022.
While pandemic-related delays have pushed out some construction timelines in 2021, we’re excited to see many projects continue in 2022. Striker Field and Lincoln School Park renovation will both see construction this year, adding new and improved outdoor recreation opportunities in areas that are long overdue.
Major projects looking forward to opening this year include the renovated Sheldon Pool and Fitness Center, renovations to the 2.3-acre Berkeley Park, and the Downtown Riverfront Park.
This spring, community members will be welcomed to the City’s new Farmers Market Pavilion – a permanent, year-round location for the market and other community events. The Pavilion is the first development in the Concept Plan for the Park Blocks, which reimagines the Park Blocks as a dynamic public place for the Eugene community to gather.
All eyes will be on Eugene this summer for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 taking place at Hayward Field. A riverfront fan festival will bring people together to celebrate in TrackTown, USA and enjoy the hospitality of our community.
2021 was another dynamic year as we adapted to changing needs and timelines. As a community we will continue moving forward to find solutions, make connections, and work together for all of Eugene.