Eugene City Codes

Article Written by: Suzanne Penegor

Eugene developer Hugh Prichard is a man on a mission. He addressed the Rubicon Society of Lane County on Mar. 26th about the onerous building codes in Eugene which currently encourage developers and investors to go elsewhere to build; he went on to say, this is why downtown Eugene is in such a poor state of being. Prichard told the Rubicon Society that the current city council as well as the staff with their anti-growth policies have created a downtown that is no longer economically vibrant. “Urban Renewal” and Government intervention has stunted its growth.

The irony of the Eugene building codes, Prichard noted, is that government policies intended to improve downtown Eugene have done exactly the opposite. The codes dictate the number of parking spaces new buildings can have downtown and that is limiting for builders and developers who can find more lenient regulations outside the downtown core.

For example, the US Bank building in downtown Eugene, which is 8 stories high and was built in the 1990s, and is the second tallest commercial building in Eugene, couldn’t even get a building permit under today’s building codes created by the Eugene City Council because of special requirements which need to be met first hand by the builder.

Prichard has brought these issues to the public forum by recently writing a guest editorial in the local Register-Guard newspaper, and hopes to spur dramatic changes in codes. Prichard said the Eugene planning commission will review its building codes in April.

Prichard went on to note all that has been built in downtown Eugene since 2001 is the public library–at taxpayer expense–and affordable housing, both of which are subsided by tax dollars. Building projects are virtually non existent because of the hoops the city places on the builders. Measure 37 helped take some pressure off and overrode the stringent city housing building codes before it was overturned.

Other cities such as Corvallis are more realistic about their building codes and allow riverside development for example, which is prime real estate. Eugene strict codes, which he called the “Go Build It in Gateway” policy, don’t address the economic concerns and stunt any and all growth.

It was also noted that business people in Eugene have become intimidated by the city council process because it is abusive to business people who speak out publicly.

Prichard has been actively campaigning for people to come and Testify to the Council regarding these concerns and placed an open invitation for anyone to come out and support the effort.

To hear more about this, and Prichard’s commentary on the issue, please visit

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 33 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post

    Socialism, stifles innovaction 🙁

  • Jay Bozievich

    We need to elect Jim Torrey to get some common sense on these kind of issues back at City Hall. (And re-elect Lane Commissioner Bobby Green and Springfield Mayor Sid Lieken)

    Kitty and her Council Cats all want “sustainable” business and growth. Yet, their no growth agenda failed to maintain enough industrial lands so that two large photovoltaic solar cell manufacturers passed over Eugene and Lane County. Family wage jobs in a “green” business, Eugene…not even in the running.

    No wonder Mayor Sid and the City of Gateway broke away from the Metroplitan partnership and are now establishing their own UGB. Sid, can you please annex Eugene?

    • David from Eugene

      Jim Torrey was Mayor when the current Zoning Code was adopted.

      • eagle eye

        Deetails, details, what are details? LOL!

        Pritchard may have some good points, though. I was impressed by his Register-Guard article. Worth considering, anyhow.

        • David from Eugene

          I heard him at City Club. He definitely has some good ideas. They are a good start but only a start.

      • Jay Bozievich

        David, Torrey was Mayor, but the worst parts of the code were last minute council amendments by Bonnie “I hate cars” Bettman. The amendments included the ridiculous 20 space maximum parking limit as well as the impossible 2.0 Floor Area Ratio. And as you know, unless there is a tie on the matter, which there was not, Jim does not get to vote. Try again.

        • David from Eugene


          If, as you point out, Jim Torrey was ineffective in the past bringing common sense to the zoning code why do you believe he will be any more effective in the future?

          By the way, if my memory serves, the FAR idea came from City Staff not the council and the original draft of the code had no parking permitted downtown, though in the defense of the staff that was unintended and they corrected it when it was brought to their attention. (the maximum number of spaces permitted was set as 150% of the minimum required and downtown no parking was required).

          • Jay Bozievich

            Dear Mr. Kelly,

            The worst problems of our downtown code are a result of a last minute political maneuver that you supported with your vote. Something that will be difficult to repeat because it only succeeded through deceipt and surprise which will not be available again.

            With Kitty and the progressives, they won’t wait to pull a fast one because they have the votes to keep the code just as utopian in their eyes as possible. Jim would be one step towards preventing at least outright smart growth central planning dictates in the code. I am not positive he can do it on his own but Kitty has already proven by her tie breakers she is no friend of common sense or Springfield would not have cut loose from the Metro Plan.

            As to Staff and the FAR, yes they originally came up with the concept but the planning commission dropped it for the most part and Bonny brought it back to life at the high end of any staff recommendation. Also remember, staff brings drafts to council after usually one sided public input processes orchestrated by the same groups that supported you, Bonnie and Betty like 1000 Friends, CPA.

            It has taken awhile but Hugh is just the first of the non-vocal majority that would actually like to see a safe and prosperous downtown. The winds of change are blowing.

          • David from Eugene


            First, I am not David Kelly, but thank you for the complement. Second, the public information campaign regarding the Land Use Code Update process was done by four groups working together, the Chamber of Commerce, Lane County Home Builders, the Neighborhood Leaders Council and Friends of Eugene and they did so at the request of Mayor Torrey. During that public information campaign great effort was made to get the public involved to educate them on the importance of the Zoning Code and the impact it would have on their lives. My feeling that as a result of the campaign there was much more public interest then there would have been if it had not happened, but less the what I would have liked to see. Third during the first read through by the Planning Commission, input was accepted during the commission discussions from representatives of all four groups. And as a result of that input the final product was less bad.

            The LUCU process was flawed, mainly because we backed into the process. The project started out as a very badly needed renumbering of the existing code, then minor fixes and eventually a full rewrite without ever having a community discussion on the fundamental policy concepts and possible trade offs that would underlie a zoning code.

            As to Smart Growth, I suggest you take a look at the City’s Growth Management Policies and the Shaping Eugene’s Future process that preceded them. That was one of the largest public processes that Eugene has had and with two exceptions there was across the board agreement from all facets of Eugene. The two groups that did not agree were members of the Chamber of Commerce and those with incomes above $100,000 (in 1994 dollars).

  • Dave A.

    Anyone who has been in downtown Eugene in the past five years should clearly see what a failure the socialist planners and their political supporters have made of it. Loads of empty storefronts everywhere. Yey across Interstate 5 in Springfield, it’s an entire different story. Lots of devlopment, a thriving Mall, and a much better economy.
    Eugene residents take your heads out and look at what your next door neighbors are doing. Get a clue!

    • David from Eugene

      I think an apples to apples comparison would be more fair—– compare Downtown Springfield with Downtown Eugene and Gateway with Valley River Center. Make the comparison that way and there is little difference.

      • eagle eye

        Good point. Whatever its problems, downtown Eugene does not compare to downtown Springfield. There are things that draw me to downtown Eugene. Downtown Springfield is just a dump, I never go there, except to drive past and marvel at how awful it is.

        • josh reynolds


          I believe for the first time there is some major emphasis happening in downtown Springfield coming from city hall that has not occured in the past. Remember, it has taken about 15 years to transform the Gateway district into “the” employment center of Lane County. In fact under Leiken’s leadership Symantec, Royal Carribean Cruiselines, Pacific Source and of course Peace Health have all been sited in Springfield. That probably has more to do with the fact that Springfield has been more interested in family wage job creation the past several years and creating a tax base. Granted there is more work to do in this arena with the tanking of the timber industry but the fundamentals are in place.

          Now, take this same leadership and put together a plan for downtown Springfield and come back in 5-10 years and my guess is you will have a completely different take. By the way, I find it interesting that the only folks who like to compare Eugene and Springfield live in Eugene. Springfielder’s in general could care less what Eugene decides to do or not to do with their community.

          As for the malls, Oakway is by far superior to both.

          • eagle eye

            Well, this thread began with somebody comparing Eugene unfavorably to Springfield, didn’t it?

            And read what you wrote yourself:

            “By the way, I find it interesting that the only folks who like to compare Eugene and Springfield live in Eugene.”

            after comparing Springfield favorably to Eugene.

          • josh reynolds


            Read my text. I am only talking about Springfield and what lies ahead. I did not mention one time a comparison between Eugene and Springfield. In fact my text was talking more about what leadership can do for your community.

          • eagle eye

            OK, I read your text again. Here is what I found:

            “transform the Gateway district into “the” employment center of Lane County. In fact under Leiken’s leadership Symantec, Royal Carribean Cruiselines, Pacific Source and of course Peace Health have all been sited in Springfield.”

            This has nothing to do with Eugene? Like, duh, “employment center of Lane County” and “of course” (your words) the Peace Health “siting”. Even if it’s implicit, the import is completely transparent.

  • Mike Clark

    The Planning Commission is having a hearing on the downtown building code changes on April 15. I would encourage anyone interested in seeing these badly needed changes happen, should come and testify. But, more importantly, the city needs to get out of the development business and focus on the things it can control or have real influence on.

    Eugene city government needs to focus on three things if we really want downtown to be revitalized. These code changes mentioned above, free parking and most importantly public safety.

    I have asked for a council work session on April 14 to discuss downtown public safety in Eugene. We are going to attempt to give the police repriortized funds to increase police presence in the downtown area (through at least the fall). We will also be discussing some ideas – develpoed by a working group of downtown business people, police officers, another councilor, myself and many concerned folks. We are going to attempt to make some code changes that will give these officers more tools to keep those people who would intimidate and harass others out of the downtown area. If you are interested in seeing something like this happen in Eugene, please look for the public hearing on the ordinance change and come out to testify.

    I beleive we also need to end metered parking in the downtown core.

    I think we can do these things. But we need those who agree to show up at the hearings and lend their voice and support.

    • Jay Bozievich


      Great set of priorities for downtown! More leeway for the free market in reducing zoning regs, actually accomodating the automobile, and finally, doing the first and most important job government was created for in the first place, protecting citizens from criminals!

      Keep up the good work and I will do my part on April 15th both verbally and financially…

    • David from Eugene


      Rather then patching the existing code for Commercial Zones, we need to develop code specifically for Downtown.

      The public safety “problem” downtown is more a matter or perception then reality. The more we talk about a public safety problem, the more people believe that there is one. I walk downtown several times a month, both daytime and evening. I have not been confronted, harassed or intimidated. I do see lots of different types of people, some of whom others might find intimidating do to their dress and demeanor. But last I checked, dressing differently or peaceably gathering are not crimes.

      As to parking, make the garages free.

      • women for public safety in downtown Eugene

        It’s always entertaining to hear guys talk about how safe downtown Eugene is for women. Women in Eugene have been threatened by transients in their cars and in parking structures. Women who work in downtown Eugene are concerned about walking to their cars in parking structures after dark or even in daylight hours. There is a public safety issue in downtown Eugene–at least for women and children. And they need protection from those who they find threatening enough to stay away from downtown and their homeless issues and public safety concerns. Downtown is not far from the railroad tracks or the Eugene Mission.

        • David from Eugene

          Before I respond to your comments let me make some thing clear, when dealing with something like Downtown, I consider perceived threats as something just as serious as real threats. My identification of part of the downtown public safety problem as being perceived is not a dismissal of the problem but rather a recognition that feeling threatened and being threatened are two very different things and the methods and tactics best suited to address perceived threats are different then those necessary to address real threats. Further, when both real and perceived threats are present they both need to be addressed before the public will consider the area safe. Just removing the real threats does not change the public’s view and addressing the perception without dealing with the real threat is just creating a target rich environment for the criminals.

          I never said downtown is safe at night for women, I do not think that it is wise for a woman to travel alone on foot anywhere after dark. Being a bit old fashioned, I make a point of offering to walk female friends and acquaintances to their cars after evening meetings. This is despite the fact that the Downtown crime rate is less then one Person Crime a day. (284 crimes; 2006 Data)

          While that crime rate is not what I would like, it does not in my mind support the view that Downtown Eugene is unsafe. This is why I feel that perception is a major component of the problem. And part of that problem is that there are significant numbers of individuals downtown whose appearance and general demeanor make some people uncomfortable. Not their actions, but their appearance.

      • Mike Clark


        I respectfully disagree with you. I’m glad you come downtown once a month or so and are comfortable doing so. My office is in the dowtown core. I am there every day. I walk on the downtown mall several times a week. I hear the stories from the businesss owners and from all kinds of folks who feel threatened, intimidated and harassed. I see the windows bashed out with bricks. I hear about the threats of violence, the spitting on people, the abusive language, etc. It needs to end. We need to say enough.

        • David from Eugene


          As I said above the crime stats do not support the reputation that the Downtown has. This is not to say that we should not address the crime, but that we need to address the perception of a crime problem too. And the first step in that process is to stop saying there is a major crime problem downtown.

          As to deploying more police and other security forces, I question how effective that will be after 1 July when the County effectively gets out of the public safety business. Without having a jail, or prosecutors to back them up an increased Police presence is likely to be less then an ineffective approach.

          • Mike Clark


            Because the 2006 crime stats don’t seem to you like a problem, then that out weighs the actual experience of those of us down here today? Because one doesn’t report a crime, an abuse, a harassment, then maybe it didn’t happen? Tell that to my friend Betty as she is sobbing from being called a (n word) and told she or her daughter will be killed if they speak to the police. Wow. You are really out of touch. I am starting to suspect that “David from Eugene” may be David Kelly.

            Real crimes are happening daily, today.

            You are right about the county. But if we rally mean what we say about wanting community policing that will deter crime BEFORE it happens and thus not need to lean on the county, we need to add police NOW and increase patrols downtown. It is the only logical solution.

          • David from Eugene

            Unreported crime and the intimidation of witnesses are real problems and we do need to deal aggressively with them. We need to do the same with the other crimes being committed downtown. But even if you double them, the crime stats, do not seem to indicate support the level of danger that much of Eugene perceives as being downtown. I am not saying that is no crime downtown or that we do not have a problem with crime downtown, only that there is less crime downtown then many believe.

            That perception of a major crime problem is problem that also needs to be solved if we want a vibrant downtown. It takes people living, working and shopping to make an area vibrant. Scared people don’t come downtown. Solving it will not be easy because perceptions are much harder to deal with then reality. Every time a public official, like your self makes statements about how unsafe downtown is, the harder it is to get people downtown. And in many ways those statements are not necessary, you and the rest of the City council already know of the problem and the need to solve it. You may not agree on the best solution, but you are all aware of the problem. And as the council has the final say on the City Budget, you can fund additional police for downtown if you want to and further you are also in a position to apply pressure to the City Manager if necessary to insure that the funded police find their way on to the street. I am absolutely not advocating that any one say that the downtown is safe, only that people stop saying that it is not.

            The current lack of jail beds and lack of prosecution of minor crimes is already having a negative effect on public safety by making many of the minor crimes and offences effectively legal. Modern police derive much of their power and effectiveness from the sanctions imposed on an individual for anti-social behavior by the rest of the legal system. Remove the threat of those sanctions and the lawful power of the police diminishes greatly. And more importantly, failure to enforce the minor laws and sanction the minor offences only breeds contempt for the law and increases the likelihood that a minor offender will move on to major crimes. If the County, as it appears it will, adopts their worst case budget, and Eugene does not do something outside the box like buying the county jail we are going to have a major crime problem and not just downtown. And putting more Police on the street will not solve that problem.

            And no I am not David Kelly, but thank you for the complement.

          • Eugene and transients forever

            An employee that relocated from Salem to Eugene a few years ago said that Eugene has a real pro-transient rep from other Oregon cities. While this may be way cool for the lib set, it’s not real cool for downtown business owners or those who would like to do business there. Mike is correct that the public safety needs to be addressed and the libs like David also would rather ignore these real concerns. Thank god for councilors like Mike Clark, Jennifer Solomon and George Poling on the other side of the aisle who give us some common sense in a town in desperate need of some.

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