How Eugene can reduce its (our) carbon emissions

The City of Eugenes latest effort to Engage me — this time a survey about its Climate Action Plan, years in the making but achieving only 40% of its essential goal — asks, <As the City Council reviews these additional policy options to mitigate carbon, is there any specific feedback you would like to provide?> Why yes, there is….

If I read correctly, the two biggest producers of emissions are Transportation and Residential/Commercial Energy Use. Thus, rather than hyper-focusing on natural gas, it seems the biggest impact could be gained by effecting these two basic changes:

INCENTIVIZE SMALL-SCALE LIVING

  • Support microhousing (photos above) and other worthy innovations in small-scale housing. Again and again, we hear of Eugeneans with innovative projects having to build them in Springfield. (Eugene sustainable architect Dylan Lamars Barnraising project is just the latest.) Get with it!
  • Legalize time-tested ways of living small, like boardinghouses, rooming houses, and SROs, throughout the city.
  • Incentivize providers of what is now labeled student housing (quads) to rebrand it, more accurately, as Sustainable Housing — since all except Titan Court allow non-students, and this way of living is far more sustainable than the traditional apartment or certainly the single-family home that now covers 70%+ of Eugene.
  • START SUPPORTING TINY HOUSES, and work with the many people wanting to create or live in tiny-house villages here. Wouldnt it be nice if the next article titled <City Council approves zoning change to allow for new form of innovative affordable housing>, passed excitedly from one pro-housing Facebook group to another, was about Eugene, not Minneapolis?
  • Make ADUs easy and inexpensive to build or create, waive fees and property taxes for those 400sf or less, provide preapproved plans on the Citys website, and host forums with City staff to advise residents who want to add an ADU to their property.
  • Encourage Eugeneans to rent out their extra bedrooms and backyard cottages to their fellow residents who need affordable housing, and de-incentivize Airbnb and other short-term rentals. Our priority should be housing our citizens, not tourists.

REDUCE CAR USAGE.

  • Start encouraging and rewarding car-free lifestyles. How about a Car-Free Citizen Award each year?
  • Build no more parking garages/lots, and convert some existing ones to other uses (such as housing/emergency shelter, as other cities have done).
  • Incentivize all buildings, residential/ADUs + commercial, to be built without parking. If we keep building it, people will never give up their cars.
  • Partner with the annual BRING Home + Garden Tour each fall to show car-dependent Eugeneans how to use buses, Uber + Lyft.
  • Incentivize transit-oriented development, especially along the EmX line and other major transit corridors, with minimal or no parking.
  • Put an end to the strange practice of building affordable housing in out-of-the-way areas with low Walk Scores that force residents to have cars.
  • Stop assuming that everyone has or wants a car. And acknowledge that electric vehicles (EVs) are too expensive for most Eugeneans. The sustainable long-term solution is to walk more + promote walkable neighborhoods and frequent, easy-to-use public transit, not for everyone to buy an electric car.

Following submission, I came across several eye-popping facts:

  • 55% of people who work in Eugene live outside the city. That certainly explains the surprisingly (to me) high level of car dependency in this supposedly progressive town. Unless you live on the EmX line in Springfield, it isnt easy to get into Eugene from outlying areas without driving…. Why this should be, that is a whole separate question. But even among Eugeneans, only 4.67% use mass transit.
  • Corvallis — in my day, we thought of this hour-north town of 67,000 as Eugenes backward, conservative, sports-obsessed rival — has more green buildings per capita than any other city in Oregon and is ranked first on the EPA’s national list of Green Power Communities. Corvallis! Mind blown.

    Not only that, Corvallis has a fare-free transit system and the second-highest percentage of mass transit users of any sizable Oregon city. (Although, it must be said, that percentage is only 2.41%.)

Published by Sherri Schultz

Writer & change-maker exploring micro-dwelling in Eugene, Oregon. Founder of Springfield/Eugene MicroDwellers: https://www.meetup.com/Micro-dwellers .

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