2018 city council candidate questionnaire

The Bend Neighborhood Coalition asked the candidates for City Council and Mayor in 2018 to address several issues affecting neighborhood livability. Eight of the twelve candidates responded to the questionnaire.

To read or download the complete responses, click here.

Among the questions, we asked the candidates where they stand on 8 policy issues. Here’s how their responses compared with BNC positions (% in agreement):

The top 5 issues on which the candidates were most in agreement are the following (note that the first three were also in the top 5 in 2016, but no progress was made on them):

  • Establishing a university district to concentrate campus-related development in adjoining mixed use zones, while protecting the character of nearby residential neighborhoods
  • Establishing parking districts in areas where nearby uses (commercial, educational, etc.) create excessive demand by non-residents
  • Planning for one or more entertainment districts where outdoor amplified music and late-night entertainment is concentrated and allowed to operate under more relaxed guidelines
  • Developing code regulating events on private property (e.g., duration, frequency, proximity to other uses, requirements for parking, public safety, etc.)
  • Creating neighborhood compatibility zones to buffer residential areas from the offsite impacts of adjoining commercial and mixed use areas (through a step-down in permitted uses)

Public meeting: The Shape of Bend to Come

When & where:

Tuesday, June 12th, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Downtown Library, Brooks Room 
(just inside the front entrance)

Why it’s important:

As Bend grows, new ideas will shape the way the city looks and feels. This meeting is a chance to learn about two of those ideas and see how they’re applied in a major new development.

Learn about:

  • Mixed use zones, especially the new mixed urban (MU) and mixed neighborhood (MN) zones.
  • The City’s nine new opportunity areas.
  • OSU-Cascades’ long-range plan for its campus.

Presenters:

  • For the City of Bend:  Damian Syrnyk, Senior Planner, Growth Management Department
  • For OSU-Cacades:  Kelly Sparks, Associate Vice President, Finance & Strategic Planning; and Blair Garland, Senior Director, Community Relations and Marketing

UGB plans should address affordable housing goals

The City Council is scheduled to vote April 18, 2018 on a staff plan to prioritize the development of five opportunity areas in the center of the City and an expansion area in the far southeast of Bend. The Council requested community input on the plan and held a public hearing.

BNC submitted comments to the public record expressing concern that the plan may not address Council Goal 3 to meet the need for a better mix of housing types and for more affordable housing units.

The idea of prioritizing the investment of public resources in a few expansion and opportunity areas would usually make sense. However, the City’s projected rapid population growth and urgent need for housing, especially affordable housing, argue for a plan that includes all UGB-targeted areas.

Among other challenges, the City’s plans need to reflect the demographics of its growing population. For example, changes to city code over the last two years create an incentive to build lots of studios and 1-BR units, but data indicates that 80% of demand is from retirees, empty-nesters, and young families, for whom these housing types are likely to be unappealing.

To read the BNC comments, click here.

City needs to help build a campus community

OSU-Cascades presented its master plan for further development of its westside campus to the Bend Planning Commission (PC) on April 9, 2018. Following a public hearing, the PC voted 4-1 to recommend the plan to the City Council for approval.

In comments to the PC, BNC chair Bill Bernardy, supported the plan and cited the university’s community engagement process as a model for the City.  Hundreds of volunteers provided input, which the university has incorporated into its plans, including setting a goal of housing 40% of students on campus.

Bernardy called on the PC to insist that the Council address issues the PC brought to the City’s attention in a 2013 letter, but which have not been acted upon in nearly five years, including forming a Town & Gown Committee, hiring a staff member for campus-related work, and adopting policies to mitigate the impact of the campus on nearby neighborhoods and the City as a whole.

The goal should be to build a campus community, not just a campus.

To read the comments submitted to the Planning Commission, click here.

Proposed Livability Committee

The BNC steering committee joined representatives of several neighborhood associations (NAs) in a recent meeting with three city councilors (Roats, Livingston, and Moseley) to discuss forming a standing committee to address the impacts of growth on livability.

Many in the room favored the proposal by Councilor Bill Moseley. He was involved in forming the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board, which reports to the Council. He thinks Bend should have a comprehensive, strategic approach to livability concerns and believes a structure like BEDAB would help move policy alternatives to the Council for deliberation.

Others in the meeting thought the city didn’t need another committee, but should further empower the NAs. One way to do this would be to give official recognition to the Neighborhood Association Round Table (NART), which is only an ad hoc group at this time. NA representatives serving on NART would then do some of the work envisioned for a livability committee.

Whether either idea will be acted on remains unclear. Mayor Roats seemed to prefer recognizing NART, but expressed a concern that neighborhoods across the city have different priorities, and might have trouble separating immediate problems from what’s best for long-term citywide policies.

BNC favors both empowering neighborhood associations and forming a standing committee

BNC believes there doesn’t have to be a choice between empowering the NAs and having a better structure for getting livability issues before the Council. To be effective, the NAs need some additional support from the City and clear direction on what is expected from them. They also need to know that they can and should take positions on issues before the City. At the same time, a group appointed by the Council (including NA reps), with a standing parallel to BEDAB, would facilitate access to the Council regarding livability issues.

City chooses growth over neighborhood livability

The new City Council recently adopted goals that will determine how money and staff resources are committed over the two-year period starting in July.

The Neighborhood Coalition had supported addressing three issues this year: amending the noise ordinance to reduce decibel levels to more closely match the standards in other cities; terminating the ability of non-conforming vacation rental permits to transfer on sale; and forming a standing committee to maximize the university’s positive benefits to the city and minimize potential negative effects.

The Council decided not to revisit the noise ordinance or the short term rental ordinance. It also did not specifically endorse forming a Town & Gown Committee, but rather adopted a vague objective to, “Develop a communication system to connect the City with OSU-Cascades and Neighborhoods.”

The City keeps saying that it has no bandwidth to address the implications of growth. Apparently, all of its attention is to be focused on growing the city, and the consequences will have to sort themselves out later.

BNC believes city government needs to strike a balance between making growth happen and addressing the side effects of growth.

Priorities for managing the growth of tourism

“If you build it for the residents, the tourists will come. If you build it for the tourists, the residents will leave, and eventually, the tourists will stop coming.”

These words from award-winning journalist and urban critic, Roberta Gratz, are worth keeping in mind when thinking about tourism.

Tourism Should be Viewed in the Context of the City’s Growth

Several newspaper articles and City Club’s recent program on the growth of tourism, have called attention to the pluses and minuses of tourism’s impact on Bend. But tourism isn’t good or bad in its own right — the question is whether Bend’s policies are up to the task of handling the impacts of tourism.

The reality is that it’s difficult to distinguish between activities that mostly involve tourists and those for residents. Both locals and visitors are attracted to Bend’s restaurants, pubs, and festivals, along with its great outdoor recreation. That means that managing the growth of tourism is part of managing overall growth.

And, the key to managing growth in a way that keeps Bend livable is to minimize incompatible uses, especially those that spill over into residential areas, where the City’s permanent residents don’t expect or appreciate nuisances like noise and congestion. Unfortunately, gaps in the City’s current policies not only allow for incompatibility, but often enable or encourage it.

Priorities for Managing the Growth of Tourism

With this context in mind, the Bend Neighborhood Coalition has issued a position statement outlining five priorities for managing the growth of tourism (click here for the full statement). These include:

1) Ending the transfer-on-sale of old-style short term rental permits in order to achieve an actual reduction in the density of vacation rentals.

2) Lowering sound levels, requiring a permit for outdoor entertainment venues, and shifting enforcement of the noise ordinance from the police to a sound technician.

3) Adding criteria for noise and event permits so that variances are granted sparingly, don’t affect the same neighborhoods repeatedly, and are used for events that have a community focus, not a private commercial focus.

4) Diversifying tourism promotion to appeal to groups and families that want to sample Bend and perhaps decide to relocate themselves and their businesses here, while phasing out the practice of awarding prizes for completing the Ale Trail.

5) Developing a vision for one or more entertainment districts where outdoor music and late-night fun is concentrated and allowed to prosper under more relaxed guidelines.

Why It’s Important to Have Good Policies

The price of not acting on these priorities is greater conflict — conflict that makes neighborhoods less appealing for Bend’s permanent residents and requires expensive City resources to manage. As Bend becomes more densely populated, we will need policies that acknowledge the increased potential for conflict and promote compatible uses before conflicts arise. We will also need more consistent enforcement of the rules.

So, we support the tourism industry as an important part of the local economy. At the same time, we would like to see it managed in a way that minimizes the impact on livability for Bend citizens. Additionally, we believe the City owes it to its permanent residents to work toward a more diverse economy, so Bend isn’t affected so negatively by the declines in tourism that inevitably accompany recessions.