Eugene city councilors are feeling a little out of the loop when it comes to the construction of the new City Hall and their future offices there. Or lack of offices, as the case may be. Recently more than half the City Council questioned City Manager Jon Ruiz on the latest developments with the public building under construction that they were not aware of.
Eugene’s previous City Hall was torn down in March 2015 despite protests from local architects and aficionados of historic landmarks to make room for new buildings. According to the city of Eugene’s newly revamped website, Phase 1 of the project calls for a four-story building that will “include a public lobby/exhibit space, the City Council Chamber, the city manager’s office, the offices of the mayor and Eugene City Council, additional meeting rooms, support space, parking, a civic plaza and landscaping.”
However, those plans have apparently changed. In an email to Ruiz and her fellow city councilors on Jan. 30, Councilor Betty Taylor writes, “As I told you during our recent conversation, I am shocked that plans for the new City Hall do not include councilors’ offices.” Instead, she says in the email, the plans now call for “work spaces.”
Taylor continues, “You said that individual councilors told the planners (architects?) that they would not use the offices. They did not ask me, but that is not my main point.”
Taylor goes on to detail the many reasons City Hall would need offices for its elected officials, from having office hours open to the public to the ability to have a “conversation without the risk of discussing council business with a quorum outside of a public meeting.”
The current plans apparently call for the mayor and city manager to have offices separated by two floors from the “work spaces,” she writes, adding that this “indicates a lack of respect for the positions of ward-elected officials.”
She ends the message calling for Ruiz to reconsider and to have public discussion of the issue. Before the end of the weekend, councilors George Brown, Mike Clark, Greg Evans, Claire Syrett and Alan Zelenka had all weighed in on the issue, sharing Taylor’s concern with lack of offices or, in Clark’s case, the separation of space from the mayor and city manager.
EW asked Ruiz and the city’s Communications Relations Director Jan Bohman for a response. Bohman says that “plans for City Hall continue to evolve and develop” and that the staff and the design team have met with councilors “a couple of times” to update them and “will meet with them again soon individually to talk about the current office space concepts.”
Bohman also cites “a significant amount of input from the public,” but adds, “it would not be expected that office layouts would be a topic for a public meeting discussion.” She says there will be an update at a future council meeting in the next few months.
City Hall’s construction has been delayed one year in order to upgrade its seismic resistance. EW has asked Bohman for an estimate of how much that adds to the building’s previously estimated $15 million budget. Architects for the rebuild are Rowell Brokaw, the same firm that is part of a team looking to place a building on Kesey Square downtown. — Camilla Mortensen