The center of Eugene features an small (4400 square foot) city-owned open space officially known as Broadway Plaza and commonly called Kesey Square, after the statue of Oregon author Ken Kesey that's prominent there. Kesey Square hosts films, performance art, and festivals; it also hosts, not so intentionally, transients and street people. A Eugene group has proposed to buy the plaza and build a five-floor building with stores on the ground floor and 35 to 40 apartments above. In response, the city council invited anyone interested to submit redevelopment proposals for the plaza, which were due on January 15.
The Eugene city council faces two small glitches in its redevelopment effort. One is the combined political will of the Eugenians (?) who love the quirky plaza even with its problems. The other is a clause in the deed by which the Eugene urban renewal agency gave the park to the city. Eugene is no stranger to old deeds getting in the way of new projects, and those old cases are about to get some new company.
When the urban renewal agency gave the property to the city, it stated in the deed that it was dedicating the land to the public for a park. The word "dedication" is a magic word not just for candidates and cornerstones, but also for conveyancing. The street in front of your house was likely not just given, but dedicated, to the public by a long-gone developer. Chapman Square and Lownsdale Square in downtown Portland were dedicated to the public. The fun with dedication is that Oregon law regulates how cities can undedicate (the technical word is "vacate") dedicated public streets, avenues, boulevards, alleys, and plats -- and how to vacate "any public square or other public place." ORS 271.080 allows a city to vacate a public place if enough neighbors petition to vacate the place. ORS 271.130 allows a city to vacate a public place at a public hearing without a petition from the neighbors, unless -- and here's the hitch -- unless the owners of a majority of the nearby area object in writing. The Knower of All Things says that some of the nearby property owners will object, and the city council won't find them to be merely merry pranksters.