Public Safety: Jefferson and 15th/EWEB Substation

Updated March 12, 2020

This update from city/EWEB/EPD Team:

In terms of short-term actions:

  1. EWEB has removed vegetation/plantings around the substation to decrease hiding places and increase safety for EWEB landscape, substation and security crews as well as the public.  EWEB will continue to respond to clean-up requests as needed/appropriate.
  1. EWEB has also increased our security patrols at the site to three times a day with flashing lights and walking the site to get more eyes on the property.  This will continue through the end of the month. EPD will continue to request extra patrols for the area.
  1. With help from the City of Eugene, lighting in the area will be improved with two new streetlights in the alley to increase visibility.  EWEB crews will install the lighting tomorrow (Thursday).

Some longer term solutions are in the planning phases.  We are looking into No Trespassing signage which will allow police to more easily move people off site with risk of enforcement.  This requires the City to ‘close’ the public right of way so this is not a quick solution.

EWEB is also starting to define requirements for gates and/or fencing to prevent access to the alleyway and the north side of the substation.  This requires meeting strict safety standards for the substation as well as working around the Goal 5 area (water resources land use issues).  So this is in process but will take some time and coordination with the various property partners to figure out viable solutions.

I hope the short-term solutions, and especially the added lighting, provide some improvement to the issues we are trying to address.

Updated March 3, 2020

This from Janina Rager, Crime Prevention Specialist,Eugene Police Dept.: The City, EWEB and Lane County met last week to talk about next steps to improve safety around the substation. While we’re making progress, there are still some hurdles we need to clear.
The City and EWEB have an agreement to add two lights south of the substation. We’re still working through the logistics, including the equipment needed. We don’t have a firm timeline in place. If we have all the equipment on hand, we hope to have the installation in place within a month.
Alley gates
This is a bit more challenging. We know the City has the legal authority to close the gate. However, there’s still the issues of design and funding. There are certain specifications any gate will have to meet because of the proximity to the substation.
As of now, we’re considering a fence on the south end of the alley and on the west side of the substation near the pedestrian footbridge. This would create significant problems for people still trying to access the area to the east and north of the substation.
As for funding, we still don’t know how much the fences/gates could cost. Depending on engineering estimates, we may come to the neighbors to talk about how to pay for the gates. We’ll share more information here when we have more information – hopefully in the coming weeks.

Updated February 16, 2020

The area around the EWEB Substation, behind the Lane Events Center, at W. 15th Ave by the Fern Ridge Trail and the Jefferson Park Dog Off-Leash Area has been experiencing a steady increase in illegal and dangerous activity. The JWN, EPD, EWEB, the City of Eugene, and LEC has been working with neighbors to try to get meaningful mitigation in place, but the confluence of jurisdictions and rules around Amazon Creek have made it a challenge. The threat here is not just to adjacent neighbors. This is an area that sees significant public use as the confluence of bike and pedestrian paths, O’Hara Catholic School, the heavily used Jefferson Park DOLA, and event vendors and visitors to LEC. If you have experienced illegal activity or have been threatened or felt threatened in this area, please contact us:

Thanks to the exemplary efforts of EPD Crime Prevention Specialist Janina Rager and EWEB’s Gina Hobie, there will be lighting installed (see photo on right) soon. However, there are problems even in daylight, such as the recent incident of a pistol being fired in the ally adjacent to the substation. The alley is the main source of the problems.
The JWN Executive Board Chair has send the following message to city and county representatives and staff:
As you might aware, the problems around the EWEB substation near 15th and Jefferson greatly escalated with a firearm being discharged in the adjacent alley in broad daylight. On top of previously documented and ongoing issues with trespassing, burglary, aggressive and anti-social behavior, illegal camping, public defecation, and drug use the current environment poses a serious public safety issue that demands immediate intervention. 
The physical characteristics of the area have created an attractive nuisance that demands mitigation by the city, county, EWEB, and the Lane Events Center. In our estimation, the fact that there are has not yet been serious physical violence or injury (or worse) is a matter of pure luck. It is foolhardy to continue to roll the dice here.
While the JWN wants to commend the extraordinary efforts by Officer Janina Rager and EWEB’s Gina Hobie in working on the issue and the promise of security lighting in the vicinity, this most recent incident indicates that more significant action is needed.   
The threat here is not just to adjacent neighbors. This is an area that sees significant public use as the confluence of bike and pedestrian paths, O’Hara Catholic School, the heavily used Jefferson Park DOLA, and event vendors and visitors to LEC. 
A serious incident, particularly one involving a LEC vendor or guest could have, in addition to the person trauma, serious financial and reputational damage to the LEC. 
The city has spent considerable resources to encourage use of this transportation corridor and the perception this crossroads is not safe will undermine that investment. 
The JWN has spent considerable time and resources to rehabilitate the park and create the Jefferson Park DOLA. This was largely done to reclaim this area for public use. 
The overall potential for public safety and liability is too extreme to ignore. Moreover, there is risk of a destabilizing spiral where people will start avoiding the area thus ceding the space to even more undesirable activities and users. 
While the JWN understands the complexity of the interaction of so many public agencies and jurisdictions, an extraordinary threat demands extraordinary cooperation and action. 
First, public access to the alley adjacent to the EWEB substation needs to be restricted immediately. A temporary barrier can buy us some time as a more permanent solution is negotiated. To be blunt, if you all do not restrict access it is highly likely that neighbors will take it upon themselves to do so. That is the level of fear and desperation people are experiencing.
Second, we need enhanced regular day and night patrols in the area. Private security should be used if EPD and LEC resources are inadequate.    
The JWN Board requests a meaningful and  timely response and a plan and timeline for implementation.
Here is neighbors account of the problems (edited for length, privacy, and from first to third person perspective:
Neighbors observe individuals entering the alley with what appear to be stolen bikes and emerging in apparent states of psychosis. A neighbor was once very nearly assaulted as he was attempting to recover a PeaceHealth Ride bike from near Amazon Creek. More recently, a neighbor witnessed an individual attempting to break into a another neighbor’s garage who then fled down the alley after the neighbor began watching him and taking video with his phone. That neighbor also discovered that someone (likely the same burglar) had entered the property from the alley by breaking through a gate and then damaged a boarded-off window in another attempt to break in. 
Neighbors regularly find piles of garbage, human waste, hypodermic needles and other discarded drug paraphernalia (a likely reason for the previously mentioned psychosis). It is not a place they often go due to the risk of encountering dangerous individuals and bio-hazardous waste. 
While the situation in the alley has been both upsetting and dangerous for the past three years and two recent incidents involving firearms have motivated neighbors to organize for the purpose of getting some kind of gate or barrier installed over both ends of this alley. The first incident took place this fall, in which an individual affiliated with a group of un-housed campers near the south end of the alley was witnessed threatening another individual in the nearby Jefferson dog park with a gun. The second incident occurred this past Sunday and was recorded by a neighbor’s security camera, in which an individual is seen walking down the alley, casually raises a pistol and then fires it down the alley to the north. Both incidents have been reported to EPD.
We have already witnessed the alley being used as a base and redoubt for criminal activity in the area and have no reason to believe that such activity will not continue or worsen without significant intervention. 
The best intervention that I can imagine is to have both ends of the alley closed off with tall gates that would extend from the northeast and southeast corners of the wall surrounding the EWEB substation to the fences surrounding adjacent properties.