2019-2020 Projects

Covid-19 Response

When the global pandemic swept into our community, the Policy Lab swung into action. We’ve been working with our Lane County partners to help them on (at least) three projects since March. First, we are working on developing a Roadmap to Reopening Lane County–Ben Clark, Alyssa Gamble, Bob Parker, and Tim Duy have been hard at work at this. Second, students in the MPA program have been working to captures some information on the lessons we are learning about the changing nature of work for Lane County employees since the start of the stay-at-home orders. And finally, the MPA students are also are working on recommendations on how Lane County can begin to phase its own workers back into their more public roles.


Data from Amazon Creek and other areas around Eugene indicate that concentrations of zinc in natural waters have been increasing, while concentrations of other pollutants have been decreasing. The causes and extent of elevated zinc levels are unresolved, but a likely source includes zinc-based roof and sidewalk de-mossers, commonly used by homeowners in the area. Work is needed to understand the potential sources of zinc to the environment, determine the extent of zinc contamination within the area, and identify potential strategies for minimizing zinc loading to the environment.This project will be conducted by the Environmental Science department in partnership with the Metro Clean Water Partners, Lane County, and the Oregon Policy Lab, and Soil and Water Lab at the University of Oregon. Research activities will include a literature review, data analysis of existing concentrations, water sampling and other field experiments. A summary of findings will be provided to Metro Clean Water Partners in the form of a written report and an overview presentation.

Sustainable Invention Immersion Week

The University of Oregon Business School conducts an annual Sustainable Invention Immersion Week in which students work in interdisciplinary teams to connect design and innovation to the science of sustainability to invent a consumer product. The 2019 project challenge was to design a new solution to address a need and that also reduces materials problems, using the State of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality Vision 2050 Materials Management plan as a framework. Participants examined how ‘upstream impacts’ minimize the environmental footprint of a product. Products must be economically viable, socially acceptable and have a net positive environmental impact when compared to existing products. This is a partnership with Lane County and RAIN Eugene.

Lane County Parks Funding

Policy Lab is working with Lane County Parks to examine funding strategies for deferred maintenance needs totally $20 million.  The county has 69 parks and open spaces covering 4,400 acres. The division does not receive any General Fund support and operates primarily on user fees, registration fees, and special sales taxes (transient lodging and car rental). Graduate students in PPPM 629 (Public Budget Administration) are 1) examining case studies of parks funding in other counties, cities, or park districts; 2) providing suggestions for sustainable long-term maintenance funding for the division. The final product will be a report that summarizes case studies, evaluates three funding packages, and provides a recommendation for a funding strategy that is equitable, neutral, efficient and productive.

Locating potential sites for shelters, navigation center, and/or supportive housing

Following the release of the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) report Lane County and Eugene officials have been looking for parcels of land in and around Eugene to locate a shelter, temporary shelter, navigation center, and/or permanent supportive housing/low barrier housing. In this project the Policy Lab will engage the students of PPPM 434/534 Urban Geographic Information Systems. This combined course of upper level undergraduates and graduate students will conduct a class project to locate potential locations of a shelter, navigation center, and/or housing. The students will use criteria to identify and map where these parcels of land may exist.

Peer-to-Peer Support Network Development for People Experiencing Homelessness

In this project the Policy Lab will work with the City of Eugene and the government of Lane County to help provide support to their efforts to aid people experiencing homelessness. The City of Eugene is currently working with people experiencing homelessness on capacity building for these individuals to provide peer support. This project will review and analyze policies/programs that enable effective peer-to-peer support networks generally; assess best practices in peer-to-peer networks for homeless/unsheltered populations specifically; participate in existing peer-to-peer capacity building activities to understand the needs and challenges these individuals are experiencing and provide direct support to peer-to-peer network; and provide recommendations to city and county stakeholders an ideal framework for successful peer-to-peer network development and sustainability.

Inter-Governmental Compact Models

Natural hazards in Lane County – extreme winter storms, flooding, wildfires, etc. – can cause negative economic, infrastructure, and social impacts that cross jurisdictional and agency boundaries. The predicted Cascadia earthquake threatens significantly greater disruption. It is increasingly clear that reducing risk and recovering from large-scale disasters requires cross-jurisdictional/cross-agency leadership, coordination, and collaboration. These collaborative efforts serve to share information and best practices, link and leverage local hazard mitigation efforts and resources, coordinate risk reduction policy approaches, and engage with state and federal agencies for technical assistance and funding support. This project will seek to review and analyze models that facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions (local, state, federal); assess needs of the Lane County jurisdictions by interviewing public servants and elected leaders across the county; and provide recommendations to stakeholders an ideal framework for a successful collaborative partnership based on the needs of the group.

Cleaner Air Spaces in Lane County

In the face of increasing threats from wildfires, governments are seeking ways in which to aid vulnerable populations during these events. In 2018 the Oregon Policy Lab provided guidance to Lane County on potential policy interventions to aid assisting vulnerable populations during wildfire events. This proposed project builds off of this earlier work, seeking to: review and analyze clean air shelter policies and programs globally; assess best practices in the identification and cataloging of cleaner air spaces; conduct interviews and research to determine the locations of cleaner air spaces in Lane County; catalogue the features of these spaces (size, capacity, security, quality, etc); and provide recommendations to stakeholders an ideal framework for successful communications and policies necessary for effective use of cleaner air spaces during a smoke event.