The Betty Niven Papers reflect Niven's experiences on the Eugene Planning Commission and her related work concerning city planning and housing. The collection includes correspondence, reports, newpaper and magazine clippings, analytical reports, copies of planning ordinances and codes, surveys, and publications.
Betty Niven was born circa 1919. In 1947, she moved to Eugene, Oregon when her husband, Ivan, took a job teaching mathematics at University of Oregon. Her first involvement in community politics was in 1956 when she petitioned the city council to install sidewalks in the streets near her home on 39th and Hilyard. The success of that petition encouraged her to begin attending council meetings, which lead to her appointment to the Eugene Planning Commission in 1959. She served on the Commission until 1973. During her tenure on the Planning Commission, Niven encouraged citizen involvement, public opinion surveys, and compromise.
In 1964, Ivan Niven accepted a nine-month visiting professorship at University of California at Berkeley. Betty Niven accompanied him used the opportunity to take classes at the university’s planning school. Her coursework there exposed her to the recently adopted Berkeley Master Plan, which gave her the idea to create one for Eugene. She immediately set to working on the plan when she returned to Eugene. Berkeley also provided her with the idea that Eugene needed its own planning staff, which lead to the city’s hiring of John Porter as the city’s planning department director.
After her retirement from the Planning Commission, Niven’s continued to attend council meetings, and occasionally voice her opinions about issues. In 2000, the Eugene City Club named her “the Mother of Modern Planning in Eugene” while the city of Eugene named a street for her in front of a new low-income housing complex. Betty Niven died October 20, 2002 from stroke complications.