Lincoln City City Council and Planning Commission – There is enough land for all classes of homeowners/renters
Lincoln City Councilors and Planning Commissioners got an ear and eyeful of ideas Monday night on how to begin to better meet the housing needs of today’s and tomorrow’s residents and workers.
Housing is tight all up and down the coast including in Lincoln City. Using the Nelscott area of town the city-hired consultants said to give Lincoln City the feeling of a real community, and not just various and sundry buildings lining a gun barrel of motorists just moving through, it will take some thought and careful planning.
The consultants suggested a new arterial to the east that parallels Highway 101 for locals to use without adding to the congestion on 101. Foothill Boulevard they called it.
The council was also told that business architecture should get away from the boxy look of individual stores and eventually switch over to larger buildings so that the architecture is more consistent and eye pleasing.
The consultants also recommended a new way of looking at how neighborhoods are situated. Instead of the typical 1960s scattering of neighborhoods with commercial in one area of town and housing in another they suggested channeling future growth in a style that housing is scattered throughout as well as commercial businesses – but done tastefully. That way neighborhoods become walkable and bikeable and going for groceries doesn’t alway mean grabbing the car keys. Same for haircuts to daycare. Again larger buildings with businesses in them more scattered about town.
Roads should be tree-lined, have bicycle lanes and housing that has a true front yard without cars parked on large concrete slabs outside the house or apartment complex. The consultants pointed to new housing trends that lets front yards be front yards which encourages neighbor to neighbor gathering areas with tree buffers between them and the street. Parking should be in the back in garages that line a wide alley. Housing with such settings not only hold their value better, but also longer. And the setting provides a far more pleasant sense of place, rather than featuring cars, oily driveways and garbage cans.
Then the conversation drifted into affordable housing – a monumental social and economic problem that has gripped many parts of the nation – no less so in Lincoln County and Lincoln City in particular. The shortage of housing is causing a local labor shortage in Lincoln City – so much so that the local fire department couldn’t rely on volunteers anymore to respond to fires and traffic crashes. So the voters passed a tax increase to pay for more full time fire-rescue personnel who can afford to live in or near the city. It’s very clear that a severe shortage of affordable housing has already started causing a burden on the whole town.
City Planning Director Richard Townsend told the gathering that Lincoln City has enough land for all the housing it needs. It’s just necessary that the more housing has to land on the right parcels of land. Most private property is very expensive. But it just so happens that the city owns hundreds of acres at the north end – an area called The Villages that the city bought from a distressed developer back in 2012. It has been suggested that the city could sell off that land to developers while reserving some of it that could be used as leveraging land swaps in other parts of the city – areas where land costs are more moderate and are closer to employment centers.
Beyond land swaps the city could offer density bonuses for a wide variety of housing – single family, duplexes and triplexes, cottage homes or mid-rise multi-family (four stories or lower). Developers could get reductions in their building fees, system development charges (for water, sewer, roads, schools, etc.) or get fee or tax deductions for including affordable units within projects of 20 units or more.
At the end of the meeting city staff said they would take all these ideas and wrap them around the city’s current building and zoning codes and see how the market responds to all this.
In the end, Planning Director Richard Townsend commented several times that the city has the land to meet its housing needs. It’s just that we’re experiencing fast rising prices for housing…prices that are increasing far faster than local wages.
So there are a lot of moving parts. Stay tuned.