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  • Writer's pictureslocumkent

The Irony of Eugene's City Hall

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

Picture of empty gravel lot with temporary fencing and signage.
A large vacant lot sits in the middle of downtown Eugene on the former location of the City Hall.

Before you read any further, you need to know that Eugene doesn't have City Hall. I don't have any idea where the mayor's office even is. In fact, Eugene has been without a center of local government for 6 years--since the old building was torn down in 2012.

Despite what may seem to be a desperate situation, the Eugene City Council recently rejected an opportunity to purchase EWEB's now-surplus 4th Avenue downtown headquarters to use as the city's new City Hall. Although the councilors claimed that they preferred to construct a new City Hall that met LEED platinum certification requrirements, they ignored the inherent sustainability in reusing an existing structure.

This is only the most recent incident in a long line of City Hall decisions that claim to be "sustainable," without actually living up to the hype. OBEC Senior Project Engineer Pete Slocum wrote the City of Eugene this morning with the following letter:

Dear Sirs:
I am a local civil engineer and active Eugene citizen. Although I am a LEED certified professional, I do not support the construction of a brand-new LEED-certified or “green” City Hall in lieu of remodeling an existing building such as the 4th Avenue EWEB headquarters.  As a structural engineer, I know there are many economical ways of seismically and environmentally retrofitting existing buildings.  It would take decades for the energy savings from a new, LEED-certified City Hall to offset the carbon footprint of its construction. In the long run, it is far more sustainable and “green” to reuse and remodel an existing building—an opportunity which has been offered to the City many times.
Eugene has long been known as an environmentally-conscious leader in urban planning and development, yet the old City Hall was torn down needlessly. We need to change the city’s well-intentional sustainability requirements to include obvious financial impacts and truly sustainable practices, rather than blindly applying short-sighted goals.  Let us not make the same mistake twice.
Your partner in a sustainable future,
Pete Slocum, PE

Despite the City's insistence on meeting the highest level of LEED requirements, it is ironic that the now-distributed City Hall functions are operating out of various buildings which do NOT meet LEED certification. It is time that the City begins to listen to its own retoric published on its website, which states the following:

"Efforts...are aimed at reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing reuse and recycling."

Let's hope that the City Council sees the truth before it's too late.

Picture of a large concrete building overlooking a river bank.
The Eugene Water and Electric Board's surplus headquarters has a commanding view of the Willamette River
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