dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

Eugene and Paris Have Some Amazing Similarities

January 11th, 2019 by dk

I’ve caught some flack lately from readers and friends for comparing Eugene to Paris. What does our quiet little town have to do with one of the greatest cities on Earth — a city with 2,000 years of history and 2.2 million residents? More than you might have guessed.

Start with the physical size of each. Eugene takes up 40.54 square miles, Paris 40.7 square miles. You read that right. The difference is 100 acres. With the ongoing annexations in the Santa Clara area, Eugene’s footprint will soon be larger than Paris’s. They are currently almost identical.

This little factoid could come in handy the next time we are debating whether Eugene needs to expand its urban growth boundary. Paris holds more than 12 times as many people, and still retains its quality of life. We complain about the influx of visitors in Eugene before a big football game or the Oregon Country Fair, but Paris draws an estimated 34 million tourists every year. It still functions fairly smoothly.

Paris must make room for all those people with vertical growth, right? Wrong. Paris and Eugene instituted building height limits around the same time and for the same reason. Ya-Po-Ah Terrace opened in 1968, obscuring some views of Skinner Butte.

Tour Montparnasse was constructed from 1969 to 1973. It regularly makes the short list of ugliest buildings in the world. It sits on the axis between the city’s two most recognizable structures. Stand at the Arc de Triumph and look at the Eiffel Tower. Montparnasse looms exactly behind Eiffel.

Parisians love their Eiffel Tower the way we love Skinner Butte. By the mid-1970s, both cities instituted height limits for new construction. Theirs are more strict than ours. We allow 12 stories in most places. Paris currently allows no more than seven.

Both cities have a river that meanders in from the east, taking a hard turn before it reaches the city’s center. The River Seine turns left and the Willamette River curves right. Each river carves a quarter of the city away from the rest. The southeast quadrant of Paris famously became home to French Bohemia. Our northeast section has most of the city’s McMansions, leaving the rest of Eugene more Bohemian. They have their Left Bank bookstores. We have our North Bank restaurant.

If you feel adventuresome, hike down to each river’s edge and you can see how residents survived centuries ago. Huge mooring rings remain embedded in cobblestone from when merchant ships would dock in Paris’s center. Eugene’s muddy riverfront is often littered with the remnants of people camping without any conveniences more modern than a bicycle.

Finally, the two cities share a remarkably similar terroir. A friend who had a landscaping business in Eugene told me he was amazed that they were growing all the same plants in Paris as he had tended in Eugene. The seasons and the soil are mostly the same.

Eugene regularly struggles to articulate its ambitions. We share plenty of characteristics with what many consider the greatest city in the world. Paris has 37 bridges and Eugene has only nine, so we do have a little catching up to do.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments

Leave A Comment

Are you human? *

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.