The clock is ticking for negotiation and financial settlement for the hold on clearcut and construction on this neighborhood’s precious space.
By TREY KODMAN Reporter
EUGENE, OR — After the destruction of the hedge and a fence erected around the Greenway just north of Maurie Jacobs Park, between the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System and River Road in Eugene, OR, neighbors and the Greenway Guardians still wage the battle against the construction of the soon-to-be Lombard Apartments.
Homes for Good originally bought the 3.59 acres for $373,000 in 1998 with plans of constructing affordable housing. HFG Executive Director Jacob Fox said to the Register-Guard they don’t want the acreage, and it needs the money to repair its 1,600 already existing housing units in Lane County.
Eugene resident, and local activist documentarian, Timothy Lewis said in a phone interview with me, “They’re going to use the profit for a new office space. I think it’s disingenuous to be working under this Homes for Good bullshit title, and utilizing the sale of this property to pay taxes.”
But there have been adverse interactions with the Evergreen Housing Development Group, based in Seattle, WA, and Eugene residents. It was 2014 when Evergreen built, then later sold, the 192-unit ECCO apartments complex on River Road, a mile north of the Lombard Greenway.
The Greenway Guardians said July 2018, in an online news update that, “ECCO opened for tenants in 2014 and has since been unable to stay filled. Residents report shoddy craftsmanship, and many units go unrented, leaving us with a poorly constructed and unpopular building on our hands.”
Yet, others disagree with their direct action and legal filings like Lynn Porter, of Homeless Action, that says Eugene needs more affordable housing. Although, Porter said in his letter to the editor of the Eugene Weekly that the Greenway Guardians and neighbors are, in a derogatory sense, that these people all smell NIMBY — an acronym for Not In My Back Yard. The phrase was initially coined by author and journalist Antero Pietila in 1980.
The statistics reported on by Tom Adams at KVAL13 News, showed that Eugene has the highest per capita homeless population in the United States. At the same time, Oregon ranked fourth in states’ homeless per capita. Also, Oregon’s homeless rate has risen 14 percent over the last five years, and Lane County found that homelessness has risen 32 percent in over one year.
There have also been mixed messages about the foliage on the land. Greenway Guardians also say these apartments would kill dozens of heritage trees while Rodney Bohner, assistant planner for the city of Eugene, says they are not heritage trees.
According to the Eugene Building & Permit Services, “a heritage tree is any tree of exceptional value to our community. Classification can be based on its size (relative to species), history, location, or species, or any combination of these criteria. Classifying a tree shall be established by the administrative rule of the city manager.”
In 2018, Andrew Brand, Evergreen Housing’s executive director of development, said to R-G, “the earliest it would be that we would potentially start construction is summer 2019.” There have been apparent delays.
In my phone interview with Brand, he said, “We build needed housing that people gladly move into at their own volition. There is a shortage of housing overall.” He continued saying, “We have bought apartments in the past instead of just developing them, and we still own those apartments.” He also wanted to invite anyone to visit the Evergreen Housing website and see what their focus and mission are.
“We need contact-specific development, and in a city like Eugene, this doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit the context, especially for this land,” said Jasun Pladeo Wellman in a Facebook video post on April 22, 2020, Earth Day. “There are so-little green spaces left in these urban cityscapes that we create. I believe we need to be incredibly intentional with how we develop and what we do with the green spaces that still exist.”
Wellman continued, “Instead of putting in this apartment complex, or market-rate housing that is not going to serve the citizens of Eugene — it’s not affordable. What I would rather see with this space is an edible food forest with a tiny micro-village with people living in it. There is enough space here that we could put tiny homes mixed in with an edible food forest. We could ecologically develop this place in a way that doesn’t ruin the bike path behind us and yet turn into another urban place. People walk along that path all day just to get away from the urban feeling. Let’s not deprive them of space as a getaway. Let us develop something good for the bees, the birds, the bats, the bugs, what’s good for the human soul. Let’s develop a place that benefits the whole ecosystem.”
“They’re making a buck off of it so they can build their office space. So, you know, fuck that.”
Back in my interview with Lewis, he said, “If you’re talking about COVID, tiny houses are the way to go. The neighbors were down with a tiny home-styled village protecting the Greenway and having low-income housing that Jacob Fox talks about. But this isn’t low-income housing. This is market-rate housing, and they’re making a buck off of it so they can build their office space. So, you know, fuck that.”
“Destruction of greenways will take a long period of time for it to become self-evident that this is wrong, and millionaires shouldn’t become more billionaires. Such is the situation we exist in. These larger pictures are being ignored. And I think that is what is exhausting people around the neighborhood,” also said Lewis.
“The application should be denied, and Jacob Fox of Homes for Good should initiate a public process for this public land,” said Rob Handy, a former Lane County commissioner who would regularly hear land-use appeals.
Jacqueline McClure wrote in a Facebook post on May 12 at 1:07 PM, “It seems that we have received a response to the offer that was put in for a community organization to purchase the land to put in affordable housing. Who knows what the future will hold.” McClure’s post included a picture of the very first cutting of the giant hedge along the perimeter of the Greenway.
Unfortunately, many people directly involved in this story were not available before publishing. City Council Member Claire Syrett, Lane County Commissioner Pat Farr, Homes for Good Executive Director Jacob Fox, Lena Kartzov, and Jacqueline McClure were all reached out to for comment.
As this is an ongoing story, I invite anyone with further information to contact me at email@example.com or (541)630–1711.