Editorial: City changes will change Bend neighborhoods | Opinion

Tray Ling

Rising home prices and rents in Bend are inescapable. So much growth so fast has had fallout. The prices and growth keep going up. There are different ways to meet that challenge. They clashed Tuesday at the meeting of Bend’s Neighborhood Leadership Alliance. The NLA is made up of representatives […]

Rising home prices and rents in Bend are inescapable. So much growth so fast has had fallout. The prices and growth keep going up.

There are different ways to meet that challenge. They clashed Tuesday at the meeting of Bend’s Neighborhood Leadership Alliance. The NLA is made up of representatives from Bend’s 13 city-recognized neighborhood associations.

Some leaders of those neighborhood associations believe the city is going too fast to make code changes to allow more housing. And they are not convinced what the city plans will help. Others argue the city can’t act soon enough. Bend is in a housing crisis and the city needs to move, they say. Who is right? Who is wrong? Whatever the case they are very motivated because what the city decides to do will change Bend and its neighborhoods.

Some background: The city is in the process of making code changes to comply with state law — House Bill 2001. It passed the Legislature in 2019. A quick way to understand it is with an example. In theory, a home could be torn down next to your home and a quadplex put up in its place. That might not be what you want, though unless you have existing CC&Rs (covenants, codes and restrictions) blocking that in your neighborhood, that’s what the law says can happen. It could create more housing. It could change the feel of neighborhoods.

The law says cities over 25,000 in population must allow more “middle housing.” Duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, cottage clusters and townhomes can be built in areas zoned residential. Bend has until June 30, 2022, to get its code revised to allow that.

The city has limited wiggle room. It can have some design and siting requirements for middle housing “provided that the regulations do not, individually or cumulatively, discourage the development of all middle housing types permitted in the area through unreasonable costs or delay.” That is not a lot of room to wiggle.

Bend has also been looking at other, related code changes, such as reducing or eliminating parking requirements citywide. That wouldn’t mean builders and developers would not build any parking on a property for homes or apartment buildings. For instance, homebuyers generally want parking on their property. So that’s what homebuilders build.

Put new housing types in existing neighborhoods together with reduced or eliminated parking requirements and it gets people stirred up.

Hans Jorgensen, chair of Bend’s Neighborhood Leadership Alliance and representing the Awbrey Butte neighborhood, and Lisa Mushel, vice chair of the NLA and representing Century West, penned a letter calling on the city to slow down. They argue Bend has not held the kind of robust community discussion about these changes that they warrant. They point out Eugene has held more than 30 public meetings. Bend has held a mere fraction of that. There is no proof that accelerating this will create more affordable housing, Jorgensen said Tuesday.

Well that letter was tabled for now. Mayor Sally Russell popped into the Zoom meeting, urging the committee members to get more information and listen to the discussion at Monday’s planning commission. Other neighborhood association members, notably Rev. Morgan Schmidt of Larkspur and Summer Sears of the Orchard District, spoke out against the letter. Schmidt said Bend is in a housing crisis and “I am not willing to pump the brakes.”

Should the city slow down, seek more public comment and get more community involvement? Or should it move fast? Let the Bend City Council know what you think. Email them at [email protected]

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