Transportation and housing costs are the top two issues Bend residents want city government to address, according to a statistically valid telephone survey conducted for the city in December.
That was borne out Wednesday evening, as representatives from a few dozen city committees, neighborhood associations and community organizations offered advice to the Bend City Council as it prepares to set citywide goals for the next two years.
Mike Riley, director of the Environmental Center and a co-chairman of the city’s transportation advisory committee, said the city must come up with a plan to pay for Bend’s transportation needs over the next 20 years.
“Putting a funding measure before the community is probably going to be the most difficult nut to crack for all of us,” he said.
The Neighborhood Leadership Alliance, a new city committee composed of representatives from each neighborhood association, wants to lead a neighborhood traffic safety program. Groups including the Orchard District Neighborhood Association in northeast Bend want to prioritize pedestrian and bicycle access. Bill Caram, chairman of the association, said planned neighborhood greenways are a start, but people want a full system of connected trails and the improved pedestrian facilities promised in plans for the Bend Central District.
The Mountain View Neighborhood Association, which is just east of the Orchard District, wants better pedestrian crossings and traffic mitigation, particularly along NE 27th Street. Chairwoman Beth Hoover said 27th Street contains two schools, many medical facilities and housing for older residents.
“I’ve seen people in wheelchairs, people with canes, people with walkers trying to cross 27th,” she said.
Sidewalks are this year’s main focus for the Central Oregon Coalition for Access. The group, which advocates for people with disabilities, wants city staff to produce semiannual reports before and after the summer construction season showing progress made toward addressing physical barriers.
Several groups, including the city’s Bend Economic Development Advisory Board, the Central Oregon Association of Realtors and the Central Oregon Builders Association, urged the city to focus on implementing its expanded urban growth boundary expansion. State regulators gave Bend the OK to annex and develop 2,380 acres around town in late 2016. Efforts to extend roads, sewer and water infrastructure to parts of that land and start building are underway.
Those three groups stressed a need to develop and maintain an inventory of buildable land within the city.
Tyler Neese, government affairs director for the real estate agents’ group, said a healthy housing market is a six-month supply of listings. The current supply is about three months, and it’s far lower for homes at lower price points, he said.
“Many residents pay unhealthy percentages of their incomes on rent,” said Cindy King, chairwoman of the city’s affordable housing advisory committee.
King urged the city to renew Bend’s affordable housing fee, a tax on new construction that funds low-interest loans to affordable housing developers.
Groups said the city should encourage housing for working individuals and families who earn too much to qualify for deed-restricted affordable homes but too little to afford available homes.
“Nobody’s complaining about the lack of mansions,” said Stephanie Senner, chairwoman of the city’s economic development advisory board.
Not all priorities were widespread. The Arts and Culture Alliance of Central Oregon, for instance, wants the city to dedicate some percentage of affordable housing units for artists and work on building up arts districts where artists can live and work.
The organization shared information about a “live/work zone” in the arts district of Los Angeles that allows housing only in conjunction with art studios or production spaces.
Bend4Trees is seeking the establishment of a city urban forestry advisory board that would work with the park district and school district to manage publicly owned trees.
The Boyd Acres Neighborhood Association and the Summit West Neighborhood Association want the city to prioritize preparing for natural disasters.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, email@example.com