BEND: Pump the Brakes and Include the Public in Planning for Middle Housing Code Changes

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We, the undersigned residents of Bend, support providing Bend residents with more housing choices and ensuring that those who work here can afford housing. We also support the City Council’s goals of increasing transparency, expanding community participation and public engagement, and improving equity.

Which is why we object to the City minimizing the public’s role in planning for code changes to allow more middle housing in Bend. We insist the City slow the process and engage the public before holding hearings on proposed amendments to bring the Bend Development Code into compliance with House Bill 2001.

Whether middle housing is eventually built in any quantity will depend on community acceptance — and building community acceptance should be a goal of the code update process.

HB 2001 required the City to amend its development code and gave it more than two years, until June 2022, to determine what will work best. The state rules give cities choices regarding several standards in areas like minimum lot sizes, off-street parking requirements, and the scale of buildings.

Cities like Eugene, Beaverton, and Hillsboro are using the time to do extensive public engagement, with surveys, public forums and open houses, newsletters, videos, web sites, an equity roundtable, and meetings with non-profit groups and city boards and commissions. Over a year has passed, but most Bend residents are just learning about HB 2001. We ask why Bend residents have not been given a voice in a process that obviously is so critical to our future.

City staff have already drafted code amendments to take to public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council this summer. They did so with input from a 15-person stakeholder group, weighted with developers and architects, and without a formal plan to engage the general public in the process.

To date, the City has not been transparent in its process, has minimized the community’s role in formulating BDC changes, and has done little to identify the needs of under-represented groups and whether the proposed code changes will serve them. This is inadequate and unacceptable, and it defies the Council’s own goals.

We support well-planned development of middle housing and want to see it succeed. But that takes public buy-in, and that requires time to make sure the community understands and supports the integration of middle housing into our neighborhoods.

We respectfully urge the Planning Commission and City Council to pump the brakes on the code change process and to engage with the public in this important endeavor before adopting any code changes. The true “stakeholders” are the people living in the City of Bend, and we deserve to be included in deciding the future of the city we love.