Lincoln City City Council takes a swing at a number of issues – Homeless, Affordable Housing, Pumping Up Tourism, New Role for Culinary at City Hall and Where To Put Eclipse Tourists
Lincoln City City Councilors loaded up a work session agenda with some pretty weighty issues, from pumping up tourism to doing SOMETHING about homelessness, and a few issues in between.
The consensus of the council appeared to be that the city should not create or operate a homeless shelter but rather support local organizations like churches and/or non-profits that are already doing what they can to meet the shelter and food needs of those with no place to go.
City staff said that beyond shelter and food, the homeless need access to showers and toilet facilities. As for showers, the city already provides showers for the homeless at the Community Center pool through shower vouchers paid for by local organizations and businesses. But staff inferred that there is already some discomfort expressed by regular Recreation Center users, especially when families with children mix with the homeless. The council was told that staff is looking for ways to better regulate the number of homeless that use their vouchers for showers – perhaps trying to schedule them during hours which conflict the least with regular Recreation Center patrons – and that it might be a good idea to have a coordinator to monitor things.
Staff also noted to the council that a homeless shelter might be something the faith community might be able to assemble with some help by the city. It was also pointed out that many homeless people are actively looking for work but lack an address, phone number and place to store their belongings as they try to get back on their feet, financially. Providing funds for post office boxes and storage is obviously a prerequisite.
Getting a non-profit group with a “can-do” attitude would make a big difference.
So – the bottom line – the city doesn’t want to necessarily lead the way on establishing homeless services, but it is willing to help churches, non-profits and the public in general to get the ball rolling.
Re-evaluating the role of the Visitors and Convention Bureau
Visitors and Convention Bureau Director Ed Dreistadt told the council that the VCB is about to debut some new TV commercials that will be shown on Portland TV stations. The theme is “Seven Miles of Smiles” that depict Lincoln City’s long, picturesque sandy beaches and of all the fun things to in Lincoln City. Dreistadt says tourism advertising works best when the public is just beginning to think about where to spend vacation time. And during the summer may not be the best time to “punch it up.” Those who come to Lincoln City made up their minds at least a month or two before they got in their car and drove here. August is the peak month for tourists so advertising well in advance of August is the strategy.
Dreistadt says the VCB is making it easier for potential out of town visitors to see which hotels and motels are available when they want to visit Lincoln City. He said rather than just being given a list of hotels and motels, the VCB website should show which hotels and motels still have vacancies so tourists don’t waste their time calling all over town trying to find a place to stay.
Dreistadt also reminded the council that with rare exceptions, the city’s tourism promotion budget should be used to launch new organized tourist-oriented special events and then turn them over to the business community – no more supporting events that require constant tourism tax dollars to stay afloat. If an event isn’t very successful, he said, then maybe the business community or local special event sponsors should come up with something else. Dreistadt said the VCB should be a source of start-up capital – not a permanent funder.
Dreistadt also told the council that with the recent retirement of the head chef and idea spinner for the Culinary Center, a change of direction is probably in order. Dreistadt said his thoughts have not fully evolved on the subject but emphasized that inviting tourists up to the top floor of city hall to watch cooking performances may no longer be the best way to use city facilities. He suggested promoting such events at local restaurants – something like a traveling culinary bandwagon around town to not only display local culinary talents but to more credibly promote Lincoln City’s better restaurants. And he added, the programs could invite some of the town’s high school and college students in to learn the fine art of gourmet cooking. Dreistadt said these ideas are still in their formative stages.
What to do about the Villages at Cascade Head – Affordable Housing
The council was also asked to give their thoughts about how the Villages at Cascade Head should evolve. City staff said developing a new master plan for the 63 acres of prime land at the north end of the city is in the offing. It’ll be a six to twelve month planning process. Once a plan is approved, The Villages might be farmed out to several developers to carry out the plan.
Staff was reminded that when the city bought The Villages property, it was a purchase from a distressed “mid-recession” developer. So the city got it for a fire-sale price. And some of The Villages property was projected to be quite eligible for affordable housing. But exactly how that might blend in with regular larger lot residential development has not been established. Staff said the recession, that all but gave The Villages to the city, has been slow to dissipate – which is a good thing because the city has time to plan and get the most out of the 63 acres involved.
The discussion then slid into how affordable housing might work in The Villages. Housing will likely be part owned and part rented. They acknowledged the difference between Work Force Housing and Affordable Housing – Workforce a bit pricier than Affordable. There are a number of new housing designs emerging across the country – some of them having very little to do with wood – and therefore more affordable since they’re delivered either fully assembled or in component parts. Either way they cost less. Sometimes a lot less. And of course there is always the sticky issue of how to finance affordable housing – down payment revolving funds – state or U.S. government assistance, investment tax credits – all kinds of options, including simply providing something not much bigger than the recently popularized “Tiny Houses” although Tiny Houses remain an option.
There was also discussion about “Big Houses,” which look like regular big houses but they’re really broken up into sections – up to four dwelling units within the whole house. There is a movement toward what’s called “inclusionary zoning’ where an apartment or condo development would have to reserve perhaps up to 20% of the total number of units for lower cost affordable housing.
But of course financing all this obviates the question of providing developers with greater numbers of units within a given space, governments charging excise fees per unit, fee in lieu arrangements, reducing system development charges for sewer, water, schools, roads, police and fire services that these developments put more pressure on.
Should City Take Over D-River Wayside?
The city council also got a pitch for the city to take over the D-River Wayside. City staff said the state has hinted that it needs help in developing the site beyond what many consider to be substandard restroom facilities. Visitors and Convention Bureau Director Ed Dreistadt chimed in saying that the wayside is a very popular gathering place for locals and for tourists. He said with the state’s help, and perhaps some city support, the VCB could set up a visitor’s center at the wayside offering brochures full of fun things to do, places to go, and where good lodging can be found – live greeters to offer a warm welcome to visitors to the town. Just in the talking stages, he said.
Solar Eclipse – August 21st! Where are 20,000 people going to park when they come to Lincoln City to witness it on the beach?
And finally, city officials know that a lot of people are going to come to Lincoln City for an event that happens perhaps once in 400 years at any give spot on the planet – A Full Solar Eclipse. Lincoln City and Depoe Bay will be the only places on the coast that will get the full effect of the eclipse before anyone else across the country. So it’s a big deal. But where are 20,000 (or more) visitors going to park? How will street traffic be directed. What plans does the city have to handle the crowds, medical emergencies, law enforcement issues, and any number of other societal matters (including bathrooms) which always comes with such a concentration of people in a small place. Lincoln City could swell to three times its normal population.
City staff told the council that planning for the eclipse is already underway but that no matter how efficiently motorists are directed to available parking, and no matter how traffic control flaggers might try to keep traffic flowing, there’s no guarantee everything will work smoothly. Staff suggested that visitors come the day before the eclipse, then enjoy the eclipse, then return home the day after. Two days in a motel or hotel, and then head home. At least that’s what they’re hoping for.