Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Thursday, October 31, 2013

PF Chang's Closes Doors in the Pearl

The Stumptownblogger reports about what is happening to the "vibrancy" of the Pearl District.  You know, the neighborhood we're all supposed to want to be like?  The district hat wouldn't exist without huge amounts of redevelopment TIF (tax) funds and tax-supported streetcars.  Depending on what you call blight, and I guess PF Chang's is not high end enough for the Pearl and belongs in some un-blighted area instead.  Where land speculation and development in hopes of getting public funds for a project hasn't altered the landscape.

Go to downtown LO and see how many small, owner-run businesses are still around and count them again in a year or two.  Better yet, go back a few years and do the same.  What happened to the wonderful bread bakery on B Ave?  Wherever urban renewal goes, rents to up, and that is the plan - to get more property taxes from the property.  After spending tax money to do it.  And in areas that aren't blighted.  Did I get that right?

Have you kept count of favorite shops that have left town due to urban renewal and rising rents?

From the Lake Oswego Review one year ago on the closing of the Upper Crust Bread Co. on B Ave.

“If you want people to make private in- vestments to create businesses in an area, there’s no upside to somebody investing—like me—all of the money I put into that building, to not be able to get it out now,” she [Seeger] said. “As much as we love our customers, through this experience I couldn’t recommend anyone open a business in this community. The people who live in this community deserve so much better.” 

Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves


Smithsonian American Art Museum

1st Floor, North Wing

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 

PS:  I'm sure the artwork means that the Constitution secures our liberty and freedom to drive cars.  And park them too.  Without interference from the government.

Halloween Treat


* Jack B. - Wishing you well - Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oregon Passenger Rail Study

The State transportation planners have a plan for you - whether you want it or not:  A HIGH SPEED Passenger Rail Service from Eugene to Portland.  High Speed government trains?  Sounds like another make-work project for ODOT.  Anything to get us out of our cars, at any price.

This notice was contained in the LO Down e-newsletter:  Side Note: Though the preliminary routes do not come through Lake Oswego as in earlier proposals, the alignment with the Amtrack route to Oregon City may have implications for LO.  We haven't dodged anything yet.


Oregon Passenger Rail

Oregon Passenger Rail Study

The Oregon Department of Transportation is studying ways to improve intercity passenger rail service between the Eugene-Springfield urban area and the Portland-Vancouver urban area. The study will help decide on a general passenger rail route and evaluate options for train frequency, trip time, and improving on-time performance. The project team has evaluated preliminary alternatives for passenger rail routes and is ready to share the results with the public and get your feedback.
Attend an Open House
The needs and concerns of Oregon citizens are a key driver of the Oregon Passenger Rail study. Join ODOT to review the evaluation results and provide comments.
Oregon City – Tuesday, November 12, 4-6:30pm (Pioneer Community Center, 615 Fifth St, Oregon City)
Portland – Thursday, November 14, 5-7pm (PCC Climb Center, 1626 SE Water Ave, Portland)
Online Open House
Can’t make it to an open house? Visit www.OregonPassengerRail.org between November 5 and November 18 to participate in ODOT's virtual open house where you can review and provide comments on the evaluation results.

Do The Math & Read The Writing on The Road

Road Usage Charges

Once a government agency starts "talking about" or "investigating" or "studying" an issue, you gotta know what's next.  Implementation.  

Either government workers implement a program and save not only their own jobs and create a cushion of new employees, or they admit their ideas were not very good and are left without a project to work on and a reason not to be employed.  There are also a number of bureaucrats, the 4th (unelected) branch  of government, who take the power to create, regulate and control the public for their own agenda.  

And what do the bureaucrats do after their pet programs are up and running?  They think of new ones  to work on.  Another layer of government, more regulations and more state employees.  

You Prius, CNG and Leaf owners out there have to know you're the real target.  But then what would the incentives be to use more efficient and cleaner fuels?  

Example:  I drive a Prius that gets 41.5 mpg (but only 38 in the winter because of government-mandated ethanol blended gas).  At 10,000 road miles per year at about 40 mpg and at $0.30 per gallon gas tax, it costs about $75 per year in tax. With the new road use tax, (they call it a charge or  fee) at $0.015 per mile, the tax per year would be $150.  Why would I voluntarily choose the new tax program?  And you gotta know ODOT has a calculator or two, so what is their endgame?  

When will bike road miles, paths and improvements be taxed?

Note: Drivers will have the option of using a GPS to track when they are out of state, or just be charged on total miles driven.  Here's a new meaning for Oregon's motto - "She flies with her own wings" but with a GPS monitor and a tax meter running the whole time.  

Legislature approves volunteer 
per-mile road usage charge
The 2013 Oregon Legislatures passed Senate Bill 810, the first legislation in the United Sates to establish a road usage charge system for transportation funding. SB 810 authorizes the Oregon Department of Transportation to set up a mileage collection system for 5,000 volunteer motorists beginning July 1, 2015. ODOT may assess a charge of 1.5 cents per mile for up to 5,000 volunteer cars and light commercial vehicles and issue a gas tax refund to those participants. This will not be another pilot program but rather the start of an alternate method of generating fuel tax from specific vehicles to pay for Oregon highways.

Where Big Cities Lead, Should Others Follow?

This is possibly the latest addition to Portland's advances on "compact" development:  "Small lot.  Tiny apartments.  New trend".  The project being proposed would place 56 micro-apartments on a standard 5,000 sf (50'x100') residential lot in Portland's Hollywood district.  No parking of course.  And the great bungalow home that is on the lot would have to be destroyed.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A Seattle architect wants to turn one big house into a lot of tiny apartments in Northeast Portland. It's a trend around the country that's coming to Portland.

It's also a trend in tiny living meant to reduce the carbon footprint and solve the housing crunch.

The building that could go in near Trader Joe's on Northeast 41st Avenue would have 56 units on a 5,000 square foot lot.

In light of these new developments in homebuilding, Metro should re-do their population allocations for the region;  it is obvious Portland has many more good, older houses on city lots that are taking up too much land for too few people that need to be converted into what Australians call, "broom closet" apartments, and others call "shoebox" apartments.

Just a couple of years before, the news outlets were stating that Shoebox Lofts Condominiums in North Portland were "micro" units at just over 500 sf.  How low can one go?  See below for other Portland examples of micro living (dwelling).

 The Freedom Center, 150 studio micro-apartments from 295 to 385 sf.

 The  Everett Micro-Lofts,   17 studio apartments, 288 sf sf.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What to do This Weekend

Planning Commission Public Hearing:
It's going to be a beautiful weekend - enjoy the weather, but leave some time to review and comment on the Comp Plan (part 2) for the Planning Commission hearing on Monday evening.  Package 2 includes:
  1. Land Use Planning
  2. Urbanism
  3. Community Health and Public Safety
Inquiries regarding the proposals may be directed to Scot Siegel, Planning and Building Services Director, (503) 699-7474.  

Mail, email, fax, or bring your comments to.City Hall Planning Department for the Planning Commission.  Ask that the testimony be part of the record. Note: It is too late to mail comments,so use another method of delivery.  

Oral testimony at the hearing will be5minutes for each person and 10 minutes for recognized neighborhood groups. 

City Council Public Hearing:
The City Council will hold a public hearing or the Comp Plan, Package 1 for the final time on November 5, at 7:00 PM at City Hall.  Package 1 includes:
  1. Community Culture
  2. Complete Neighborhoods and Housing
  3. Inspiring Spaces and Places
  4. Economic Vitality
  5. Connected Community
The City Council will make a preliminary decision on Package 1 and is tentatively scheduled to consider Package 2 in December.  Package 2 contains the Plan chapters on Land Use Planning, Urbanization, and Community Health and Public Safety.  

Inquiries regarding the proposals may be directed to Scot Siegel, Planning and Building Services Director, (503) 699-7474.  For information about the public hearing, call Catherine Schneider, City Recorder, (503) 675-3984.  

How to Comment:
Bring or mail written comments to:
Catherine Schneider, City Recorder
third Floor, City Hall
380 G Ave.
PO Box 369
Lake Oswego, 97034
Phone:  (503$ 675-3984
Fax: (503) 697-6594
Email: public_affairs@ci.oswego.or.us

Oral testimony at the hearing will be5minutes for each person and 10 minutes for recognized neighborhood groups. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

No Black Helicopters - Just Ugly Reality

Lest anyone think I am imagining black helicopters when I talk about Central Planners, please read the Letter to the Editor in today's the Wall Street Journal below.  Planning dictates that come from the state, Metro and the city have their genesis somewhere else.  But the need to fight New Urbanism and Smart Growth is not a lost cause - it is just difficult.  And imperative.  

From the Wall Street Journal: October 24, 2013, pg. A-16


'Smart Growth,' Housing and New Federal Mandates

Texas largely avoided the housing price meltdown, but so did Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and other bastions of "smart growth."

The state of Florida may have repealed its smart-growth law, but HUD, the DOT and the EPA have jointly funded regional planning in 45 regions throughout the country through their Sustainable Communities Initiative, bypassing state legislatures.
For the sake of reducing climate change and increasing prosperity, unelected regional planning consultants are recommending zoning and land-use restrictions, mass-transit buildup, increased subsidized housing (see Westchester County, N.Y.) and expanded bike and walking paths. What's really at play here is the planning concept of New Urbanism and Regionalism—restrict housing to urban centers, but if people still leave, tax them in the outlying counties to pay for your green, urban lifestyle.
Mr. Cox should review the Seven50 Plan for a "ladder of transit villages" running up the coast of southeast Florida from Miami to Vero Beach, following a commuter train and feeder bus lines. Urban Transit Boundaries (every U.S. county must have them) stop land development, while the less congested counties are targeted for more HUD housing, train stops and tax revenues. In the name of stopping the rising tides and job creation, the citizens of Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties must reduce their lifestyle expectations, start riding bikes and pay more taxes to support the region. Tallahassee isn't wearing the dunce hat. Washington, D.C., is.
Susan Mehiel
Vero Beach, Fla.

Our Collective Nightmare

The scene: Tthe entire East End Town Center, euphamistically referred to as a "Village", teeming with 4-5 story mixed-use buildings.  The code is 3 stories, but if I understood the Lake Oswego planner correctly last night at the Evergreen Neighborhood Meeting, a  developer may qualify for a 4th floor without going through any review if the 4th story is residential and it is tucked within the roof line.  A fifth story can be added as an approved exception.  Do you get the picture?

So here we are, sometime in the future - certainly before I am ready and willing to move on, and all of The EAST END AND LAKE GROVE TOWN CENTERS are wall to wall with the cookie-cutter, soul-sucking, parking-challanged, human warehouses like the ones going up in Portland as fast as developers can run to the building dept. to get permits.  A new urban ghetto.  If LORA is still in existence and solvent, or still has enough credit to borrow the big bucks it will need to pull this off, the drain on the city's general fund and city services will be horrendous.

Simply put, Lake Oswego will cease to be Lake Oswego except in name only.  It will still have a lake in the middle as I doubt that is going anywhere.  I'm just using my imagination, but the above scenario is real.  Perhaps not likely very soon in the numbers I have described, but real.  Next up are the North Anchor Blocks and the Safeway Block.  I believe the Safeway block sold recently, so land speculation downtown has begun.  That walkable city all of the existing neighborhoods and the newcomers count on?  They can advocate for a new grocery that fits the size codes for the Town Center and see if anyone bites and at what price.

It's the community development codes (CDC) stupid.  It's the codes that allow monster buildings like the Wizer Block to be built.  Who created and who approved these codes?  And why didn't we notice?  That is another story for another day.  Following the codes, it is the Urban Redevlopment Districts or Areas that help grease the skids for this nightmare.  Without this public largess (public debt courtesy of the citizens of Lake Oswego), many of these projects would not happen.  An example is the Foothills Development.  This council voted to dissolve the district, but another council might bring it back.  Given the right council, the URA will be re-approved and the project will be back, all 9 stories of it, and another city park will be trounced.

I realize some people in town want this extreme development to happen.  (Development is fine, but at a scale that fits what is already here.)  I know that the majority of Lake Oswegans agree.  I know that the people who initiated these plans and funded them with public money did so without a public vote.  The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency (LORA) can do this - just vote to create URAs and fund them with city debt with no say from the public, and usually without the public being aware of the extent of the plans.  To save us from blight.

If you want to see what can happen to a nice small town, see the City of Mercer Island.  Actually, you can see this happening all over the USA and all over the globe.  The plans all look the same and the planners are all following the same drummer.  The developers have their eye set on LO for now because of our demographics, but at some point they will have saturated the market, then leave to  find the next best place to ruin.  It's all about the money.  No matter how much someone tells you it's to save the planet, it's not and and we are being used.  High density developepment is not green - but that too is another story.

This is about the ruin of a town that evolved into a desirable place to live for over 100 years, but the citizens took for granted that it would stay nice without their involvement in political affairs.  They niavely thought that, like in the past, everyone felt the same way about their small town.  Therein lies the seeds of our collective nightmare.  It's a pretty black world out there where central planners and wanna-be developer politicians play with our landscapes and depend on our unconscious compliance to do so.   Can we save our town?   Time to wake up,  drink some coffee and email:  mailto:saveRvillage@aol.com  to help.  The developers and citizen supporters who wanted the monster developments in the first place are well-funded and working hard to keep it going.
Only we can help ourselves!  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Wizer Block Development:
Tonight, Wednesday 10/23, there is an Evergreen Neighborhood Association meeting at Our Lady of the Lake School at 6:30 pm to discuss the proposed Wizer Block development.  For attendees outside the Evergreen neighborhood, the Neighborhood Association will hold their meeting before there is any public comment, so please hold your thought until invited to speak.

Developer, Patrick Kessi is supposed to be at the meeting, and perhaps his attorney representing the development, Christy White (partner in the Foothills development group of Williams, Dame and White).

This should be interesting.

Comprehensive Plan Hearing:
October 28 --  Planning Commission -- Package 2  (Community Health and Public Safety,  Land Use Planning, Urbanization) (LU 13-0045)
If you are concerned about density creep, inappropriate infill in residential areas (small houses torn down and a monster home built in a block of small homes), commercial uses and multifamily increasing into your neighborhood, and most of all, preserving the character of your neighborhood and the city, then you should care about this.  The comp plan and has a lot of very important content that will affect codes and land use development for years to come.  And don't forget to read and comment on the Background Reports!  There have been a LOT of inaccuracies and fuzzy science in them, and they form the basis for the goals and policies.  These should be pointed out also

If you send me your findings on the Background Report,l I will do a fact check and report them here. 

Come to the hearing prepared with written testimony about which Section, Goal and Policy you are referring to and why you think it should be changed or deleted.  The best thing to do is to email your written testimony to the planning commission before noon on Monday to the council and Scot Siegel, Planning Director, and ask that it be entered into the record.  Then make notes of the highlight for your spoken testimony for Monday night.  If you can only do one thing, do the written testimony and get it in on time!.  Try to be as thorough and detailed with numbered references as possible.

You can find the document at:  Planning Commission agenda packet
 After this he last time you will have to comment on either Package 1 or 2 will be before the city council in Nov. and Dec.  there are a lower of problems with this document and it is huge, so please get working.

Suburbs are the Globally Preferred Lifestyle

It should not be a surprise to anyone that the majority of Americans want to live in suburban areas. The "geopoliticians" and "urban ideologues" disdain this preference and, through increasingly oppressive land use regulations are promoting their agenda of compact cities and New Urbanism.   Consider, if the preference weren't so obvious, they wouldn't have to work so hard to persuade us that dense cities are good and low-density suburbs are bad.

But the phenomena of humans needing and preferring personal space and viewing density as inhospitable and a factor in lowered quality of life is becoming obvious.  In places as far away as Brooklyn, NY, China, India, Australia, New Zealand, and beyond, people are demonstrating their need for a better way to live by either fleeing dense cities or fighting to preserve their quality of life in the suburbs (like I am trying to do with this blog).

Suburbs like Lake Oswego are precious environments where people want to live.  This does not discount those who prefer high-rises and city life, but there are places for that too; In this area, that place is Portland.  Metro should get used to that idea and leave the suburbs, the preferred place to live, alone.  The exodus from the suburbs to less dense small towns is already occurring.  Shouldn't we save the ones we have?

Excerpt from:
TAKING FLIGHT FROM ASIA    by Joel Kotkin 10/21/2013

For the most part, these highly urbanized Asians are headed to places that may not be exactly pastoral, but are decidedly less-crowded places, either in the suburbs of great cities or, increasing, to sprawling low-density regions such as Houston, Dallas, Charlotte and Phoenix. In large swaths of Los Angeles County's San Gabriel Valley, parts of the southeastern Orange County as well as the Santa Clara Valley, six cities, including tony San Marino, already are majority Asian, and many, including several in Orange County, are either there or well on the way.
For the most part, these primarily suburban places, widely disdained by the dominant media and academic classes, appear to seem awfully nice to Asian immigrants. Nationwide over the past decade, the Asian population in suburbs grew by almost 2.8 million, or 53 percent, while their numbers expanded in core cities by 770,000, or 28 percent. In Southern California, the shift is even more pronounced: In Los Angeles and Orange counties – the nation's largest Asian region, the suburbs added roughly five times as many Asians as did the core city. There are now roughly three Asian suburbanites for every core city dweller in our region.
This is not just an American phenomenon. Asians, by far the fastest-growing large ethnic group in Canada, constitute a majority in many Toronto suburbs, like Markham, Brampton, Mississauga and Richmond Hill. The same pattern is seen in areas around Vancouver, such as Richmond, Greater Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey. Asians, who, following New Zealanders, constitute a majority of newcomers in Australia, also tend to settle in suburbs, particularly newer ones.
It's most important to understand the reasons these people leave their homelands. Historically, people immigrate from places where there is a perceived lack of opportunity. Yet, many of the Asian countries seeing people leave – places like Singapore, Taiwan and China – have enjoyed consistently higher economic growth rates than any of the destination countries. What these immigrants increasingly understand is that, as their country's GDP has surged, their quality of life has not and, in many ways, has deteriorated.
These are the sometimes subtle but important things that tend to be ignored by geopoliticians and urban ideologues, attracted by the density and transit-richness of the Asian cities. “Everyday life,” observed the great French historian Fernand Braudel, “consists of the little things one hardly notices in time and space.” And, by these measurements, life in the United States, Canada or Australia is simply better than that in most Asian countries.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blight is in the Eye of the Beholder

What is blight, and where can you find it in Lake Oswego?   Maybe the State of Oregon can help here.  Oregon Revised Statute Chapter 457 FAQ:

How does urban renewal work?
The Oregon Constitution allows the Legislature to set up a system to finance urban renewal. Oregon Revised Statute Chapter 457 describes how the system works. This law gives each city and county the ability to activate an urban renewal agency with power to propose and act on plans and projects to remove “blight.” Examples of blight include buildings that are unsafe or unfit for occupancy or the existence of inadequate streets. The area where the work is to be done is known as a “plan area.”

An urban renewal agency is activated when the city or county governing body declares by ordinance that a blighted area exists in the city or county and there is a need for an urban renewal agency to function in the area. The urban renewal agency proposes a plan for improving the area. Following public notice and hearing, and after considering public testimony and planning commission recommendations, the city or county may approve the urban renewal plan by ordinance. Unless required by local law, no public vote is necessary. 

Below os the definition of blight.  Where does downtown Lake Oswego or Lake Grove fit in with these definitions?  Blight, really?  By whose standards?  BTW - (h) is a standard that can be easily abused to include property that a segment of the government feels doesn't "fit" their plan.  There may be others, but the standards for blight should be objective and high to protect property rights and preserve a private market economy. In the second paragraph above, one qualification for an urban renewal area is need.  How well do cities distinguish between need and want?  Is what we want the same as what we need?  A Civic Center, Art Center, Trolley Station, brick-lined streets, new Parks...?  

Chapter 457 - Urban Renewal

      457.010 Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise:
      (1) “Blighted areas” means areas that, by reason of deterioration, faulty planning, inadequate or improper facilities, deleterious land use or the existence of unsafe structures, or any combination of these factors, are detrimental to the safety, health or welfare of the community. A blighted area is characterized by the existence of one or more of the following conditions:
      (a) The existence of buildings and structures, used or intended to be used for living, commercial, industrial or other purposes, or any combination of those uses, that are unfit or unsafe to occupy for those purposes because of any one or a combination of the following conditions:
      (A) Defective design and quality of physical construction;
      (B) Faulty interior arrangement and exterior spacing;
      (C) Overcrowding and a high density of population;
      (D) Inadequate provision for ventilation, light, sanitation, open spaces and recreation facilities; or
      (E) Obsolescence, deterioration, dilapidation, mixed character or shifting of uses;
      (b) An economic dislocation, deterioration or disuse of property resulting from faulty planning;
      (c) The division or subdivision and sale of property or lots of irregular form and shape and inadequate size or dimensions for property usefulness and development;
      (d) The laying out of property or lots in disregard of contours, drainage and other physical characteristics of the terrain and surrounding conditions;
      (e) The existence of inadequate streets and other rights of way, open spaces and utilities;
      (f) The existence of property or lots or other areas that are subject to inundation by water;
      (g) A prevalence of depreciated values, impaired investments and social and economic maladjustments to such an extent that the capacity to pay taxes is reduced and tax receipts are inadequate for the cost of public services rendered;
      (h) A growing or total lack of proper utilization of areas, resulting in a stagnant and unproductive condition of land potentially useful and valuable for contributing to the public health, safety and welfare; or
      (i) A loss of population and reduction of proper utilization of the area, resulting in its further deterioration and added costs to the taxpayer for the creation of new public facilities and services elsewhere.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are Lake Oswego's Zip Codes Fat?

The Lake Oswego Review printed an article on 10/17/13 (pg. A-17), "Fat?  Check Your Zip Code". 

Unfortunately, the story starts to break down in the first paragraph.  And it just gets worse.  The Coalition for a Livable Future has a problem with drawing logical conclusions from research data.

I am not disputing the stated facts:
1.  Obesity is correlated with zip codes.
2.  Obesity is more likely to occur in lower socio-economic areas.

I object to illogical assumptions that people living in suburbs are burdened by obesity because of  inactive lifestyles - and dependency on cars.  If they only had access to bicycles, sidewalks and someplace close by to walk and ride to.  Like in the city where there are 20-minute, walkable neighborhoods.  At least this is the broken record some want you to listen to, over and over again, ad nauseum.  But it isn't true.

"Portlanders living in close-in neighborhoods are more likely to have trimmer figures and physiques."  

"People in outlying neighborhoods - and many suburbs - are more likely to sport love handles, beer bellies and other extra pounds."  

"Others found a strong affirmation for what the city of Portland calls '20-minute neighborhoods,' generally closer-in areas where residents can walk or bike easily to meet most of their essential needs."

Mara Gross, Executive Director of Coalition for a Livable Future goes on to claim that there is a "strong correlation between the ability to have a healthy weight and factors in our community: access to transit, having food, parks, walkable neighborhoods, etc."

The logic goes off track because of confirmation bias - people see what they want to see.  Some people want to believe that suburbs are unhealthy and people living there are sedentary, isolated, and do not have access to fresh, local foods.  Cities, on the other hand, are much healthier because of the benefits of public policies that encourage people to walk and ride bikes.  And this dichotomy is the basis for the difference between skinny cities and fat suburbs.  Hogwash!

"Residents of affluent areas such as Laurelhurst, Mount Tabor and Irvington have lower average BMIs, the maps show.  Those in [lower socioeconomic] neighborhoods such as Brentwood, Darlington, Lents, Centennial and Hazelwood are heavier on average, and those are areas where the city hopes to develop more 20-minute neighborhoods."  ???  Are the more affluent areas, 20-minute neighborhoods, or are they simply more affluent?  What is the factor that makes those neighborhoods more slender?  If it is a matter of education and wealth, how can public policy decisions such as 20-minute neighborhoods help with an obesity problem elsewhere.?

Yes, BMIs do track with socioeconomic status in cities and suburbs.  The map shows that low BMIs exist in the West Hills where 20-minute neighborhoods do NOT exist, nor do they exist in most of hilly Lake Oswego where 20-min. neighborhoods fail due to terrain.  The inner core of Portland is now a pricier place to live than many suburbs or outlying neighborhoods, so there is no surprise that BMIs are lower there also.

So how do 20-minute neighborhoods factor into the cause of obesity?  The problem is, until someone proves this with scientific research using solid data and not just sociological or philosophical wishful thinking, we won't know.  They are, however, a key ingredient of Smart Growth/New Urbanism and compact cities, so one has to wonder if that is the engine that is pulling this train.  Until then, pedal on!  And use smaller plates.

By Jove, I Think I've Got It!

Work, Live and Play!  That"s the Smart Growth Way!

I figured out why Lake Oswego is taking on a distinctive "Lake Oswego Style" that it has never seen before - the rustic, Arts and Crafts and Tudor design styles that seem so ... so precious that they belong in a themed resort town. It's because that is what the Visioneers of Lake Oswego's
Downtown were thinking when they remade the Downtown Plan.  How do I know?  Just take a look at the pictures below - they are highly suggestive of the design styles showing up downtown.  It's as if someone(s) wanted to make LO over into a resort so they could play where they live or live where they play.  Isn't that what we all want?

Until you eventually want to go home.  Or you find you can't afford your staycation.  Or perhaps you really liked Lake Oswego as a small town and that is why you moved here and now it isn't LO anymore.

Take a look and see if you can tell where the photos are from.   NOTE:  Some buildings are 5-6 stories tall. I was looking more at the style rather than height, though several do fit LO code.

Did you figure it out?   I am not sure which is which, but the images are from Vail, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Whistler, Telluride, and Bend.   

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Changing Plans for the East End - read me

The first well-defined plan for the East End Redevelopment Area managed by LORA (the City Council acting as the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency) was The East End Redevelopment Plan in 1986.  The plan defined a 4-block shopping district, an entertainment district, high density and public services districts, a transit interchange and a convenience shopping area.

The Lake Oswego Design Plan - A Guidebook for Development of the East End, was developed in 1988 to show a map and give a visual context for what was planned in downtown.  Page 50, "Typical A Avenue 'Boulevard' Treatment" image shows no building over 3 stories high mixed in with some that are 1 and 2 stories in height.  See also pages 51, 53, 57, 59 and 62.   Page 27, Section 4.3 describes the desired multifamily housing:  "2- and 3-story configuration with a mid-rise component being highly desirable".  (Diagram shows a 4-story building, but text does not support it.  All other images have a 3-story design).  Character:  "Housing should have a random village scale combining units into assemblages that give a finer scale and texture than commercial buildings".  The images are more what citizens are expecting - more human, small town scale, making use of the alleys as alleys, not covering them up with massive development.   Section 2.15 - Variety and Vitality: "Establishing a vital identity for the core area of Lake Oswego does not require adopting an artificial 'theme' to impose on new and existing buildings."  I don't agree with everything the plan says, but enough to make me a fan.  This plan sees LO for what it is, not as an artificial creation from someone who envisions something different than Lake Oswego.   

The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency East End Redevelopment Plan was updated in 2004  and shows many projects that have already been built.  Project J on page 25 shows the Wizer Block, Block 137.  Amendment 16 was added in December of 2012, effective January 17, 2013.  This Amendment created the new Foothills Urban Renewal District.  On Feburary 5, 2013, Amendment 17 repealed Amendment 16 and the Foothills URD was dissolved.

Another document that is important to the implementation of the Plan is the East End Project Priorities list that is on the EERP city website.  (Departments > LORA > East End District).  

Although many of the unfinished projects may never be completed or may take many years to do, they spell out a very different downtown than what most citizens realize or want. Here are just a few items that demonstrate some serious problems.  (In my opinion.)
  • For anyone interested in preserving affordable housing (the dictionary version of the word affordable), Project U spells out a plan for the existing modest (and newer) apartments on the block at 3rd and Evergreen to be purchased by the city and sold to a developer for new, high density housing.  This would not be affordable, nor would it be compatible with the existing residential neighborhood.  And our tax dollars would assist the developer in executing the plan.  
  • Project K requires the city to purchase the Safeway block and have a developer (or developers) use it for mixed uses.  Where would the residents in the high-density housing and surrounding neighborhoods buy food?  They would most likely have to get in their cars and shop outside the neighborhood - not exactly "sustainable".
  • Property for Project H, The North Anchor, was purchased last year by the last mayor and council and needs to be sold.  This is a top priority for the Redevelopment Agency.  This is a large block of land; it could be sold piecemeal or to one developer who would develop it as a mixed use retail, office or housing complex.  Other options are possible.  The size and mass of the buildings are not as constrained as most citizens who object to the Wizer Block will like unless codes to limit the size are approved or [public] Urban Renewal funds are cut off.  
These are documents everyone must study to understand where we were and where we are now, and to decide which version affords a higher quality of life.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dates and Information

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Upcoming meetings related to the Comp Plan.  See meeting agendas for documents related to each meeting.
  • October 28 --  Planning Commission -- Package 2  (Community Health and Public Safety,  Land Use Planning, Urbanization) (LU 13-0045)
  • November 5 -- City Council -- Package 1  (Community Culture, Connected Neighborhoods and Housing, Inspiring Spaces and Places, Economic Vitality, Connected Community) (LU 13-0010)
  • December 3 -- City Council -- Package 2  (Community Health and Public Safety,  Land Use Planning, Urbanization) (LU 13-0045)
  • January 13 --   Planning Commission -- Consolidated Plan (Package 1 + Package 2 + existing chapters carried forward)
  • February 17 -- City Council -- Consolidated Plan (Package 1 + Package 2 + existing chapters carried forward)
  • November 19 -- regular Council Meeting at WEB Building, Study Session on Boones Ferry Rd. Projet.  
Information Resources -  Can be found on the city website under Public Affairs Dept. - Click on Publications to see a list of what is available.  You can sign up for a subscription to receive some of the publications by email or call the Public Affairs Dept. if you have a question about the city.
  • Hello LO - Monthly newsletter mailed to all households - also available online.
  • LO Down - electronic newsletter published about twice a month. 
  • Council Digest - a weekly compilation of reports to the City Council from City Departments and outside agencies of interest to the Mayor and Councilors. The last part of the report has a schedule of upcoming City Council meetings.
  • LOpedia - a catalog of over 175 program and services definitions that provides information about what the City of Lake Oswego does, how it does it, and how much it costs. 
  • Citizen Attitude Survey - citizen attitudes on a variety of areas related to quality of life.
  • Annual Report - great information about how city government works plus key information on operations.  
  • Services & Activities Guide - information about services, facilities, events and opportunities to get involved in the community.  Even old-timers can probably learn something new.  Printed copies are available at city hall.  Contat the Public Affairs office if you cannot find what you need. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Will METRO step on Stafford?

Photo: Tiding File, Vern Uyetake

Stafford Hamlet held a second community meeting on Monday evening following a similar one on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, from the tone of the article in the Lake Oswego Review, it appears as if the Monday meeting was a more stressful affair.   The Town Hall meetings were held to allow residents of the Hamlet to review and edit planning maps and discuss the future of the area.

"Yet finding common ground hasn’t been easy, and Molly Ellis, a hamlet board member who is the chairwoman of the planning committee, came away displeased with the tone of the second town hall meeting Monday.
“The first meeting (Saturday) was a good deal more convivial and much more productive,” Ellis said. “It was a less strident tone — I was disappointed with the strident tone (Monday). Because we had an opportunity here to learn more; it’s not often that you get (Metro Deputy Planning Director) John Williams to give up his night and come out to your little community.”
At Monday’s meeting, Williams was joined by Clackamas County Strategic Policy Coordinator Dan Chandler, as well as local attorney Ed Trompke and a number of other representatives from both Metro and the county — including County Commissioners Jim Bernard and Paul Savas. There were about 25 people present."
Not mentioned was Lake Oswego Senior Planner, Debra Andreades who attended on behalf of the city planning department.  

Unlike Saturday when I attended, the big guns formed a sizable portion of the audience.  "The prevailing message from the county and Metro alike was that the voice of the community would be highly influential on any future development."   I hope that their voice is more than merely influential.
“What you hear is fear,” Ellis said. “People don’t really know what to expect now that we’re in the urban reserve, and they’re afraid. They’re afraid of losing the quality of life that they cherish here.”
I think residents of communities all over the METRO region feel the same as the folks in Stafford.  In Lake Oswego, citizens are fighting back against what they see as the incursion of high density development that will ruin the character and charm of the city as a small town.

Central Planners are the big bullies on the block these days with allies among developers, consultants, industrialists,  politicians, and NGOs.  Everyone wants a piece of the land use puzzle, and citizens are having difficulty being heard.  The professionals have access to money and attorneys to assist them with their plans while the average citizen does not.  Almost everyone who has a say in land use seems to have a motive other than what the citizens want, and more often than not, Goliath wins.  No wonder people in Stafford are afraid!  
I hope that Stafford residents are able to preserve their countryside and way of life.  I hope the big guys on the block stay out of their back yard.  And I pray for the same for Lake Oswego.  

WEB Rezoning

On October 8, the City Council voted to sell the WEB building to Kensington Group LLC contingent upon an inspection and rezoning the property to General Commercial.  The city also reserves the right to buy back all or part of the property and have the private road, Daniel Way, become a public right of way with an easement for the Daniel Way Pathway.  The details are spelled out in a West End Rezoning Proposal FAQ on the city website.

The Planning Commission will have a public hearing on the zone change in November, and the City Council will hold a public hearing in January.  A zone change application will be turned in sometime in October.  

The developers have not revealed their plans for the property, a source of concern and anxiety for neighbors and the public at large.

Wizer Block Back on the Block

The Lake Oswego Review has printed a story in today's paper about the Wizer Block development controversy and announced that the Evergreen Neighborhood Association is hosting another neighborhood meeting on WednesdayOctober 23, at 6:30 at Our Lady of the Lake School.  Like the last meeting, the public is invited to attend, but unlike the last meeting, only Evergreen Neighborhood residents will be allowed to speak for the first part of the meeting.  Developer, Patrick Kessi, and others will be at the meeting.

The LOReview also talks about the opposition to the development and the group, Save Our Village, that formed to fight the development's size and bulk as incompatible with the Evergreen neighborhood.  "The result is a new organization called Save Our Village, which is dedicated to putting the brakes on a project that could build 228 new apartments and retail space on the site of the old Wizer’s market. They charge that the development would drastically change the character of downtown Lake Oswego and that key aspects of the plan exceed city limits."   If people are interested in our cause, we encourage them to go to send an email to saveRvillage@aol.com,” Grigg said. “This is an ever-expanding project.”

For information about the City's redevelopment involvement with the block, see the City webpage under LORA, and/or click here to see the W&K Development presentation to the City Council.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Remembering Edgar Kline

My latest favorite plant - the hardy cyclamen - can be seen all over Lake Oswego, probably due to the work of Edgar Kline.  Kline had a native plant nursery on Bryant Road where the Black Forest subdivision now stands.  It was wonderful to walk or drive by the property when the flowers were in bloom, and it was sad to see that part of Lake Oswego's history disappear when the land was sold.  I sometimes wonder if the current homeowners have volunteer native plants from Kline's nursery popping up, or how the soil is for growing bushes, flowers or vegetables.

If you drive or walk by the Blue Heron lake easement on South Shore Rd. at Canal Circle, take a look at the field of cyclamen in full bloom.  If you have trilliums, lili's or cyclamen in your yard, perhaps they came from Edgar Kline's native plant nursery on Bryant Rd.

Photos below courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library.  Edgar Kline, 1965, with trilliums (top) and lilies (bottom).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

PC Meeting was Very PC

No, not THAT PC, but there was a definite showing of Public Concern.  Not a very elegant way to say it, but it was very nice nonetheless.  Besides the points made that clearly had the public's interest in mind when discussing urbanization, the Commission also briefly discussed citizen involvement as their role as the Citizen Involvement Commission.  (Two Commissioners for the price of one last night!).

As the planning meeting progressed, the commission engaged in a thorough discussion on annexation - when was annexation appropriate, land owner choice, the cost of providing services to newly annexed properties and the cost to annexed properties to hook up to city utilities and pay utility fees for something they were getting essentially for free (sewer) in the past.

Annexation might be a plus property owners when their septic system fails and they are facing the prospect of putting in a new one, or when the land is to be partitioned for [infill] development.  But for homeowners who living in the unincorporated parts of the Urban Service District (USB), this could carry a significant cost that makes an affordable home and lifestyle commensurately unaffordable.

When discussing urbanization outside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), the Commissioners were concerned with how development in the Stafford area would impact Lake Oswego - principally roads and utilities.  McVey and Stafford might bring lines of cars trying to get onto Hwy. 43 overwhelming neighborhood collector streets.  They suggested that developers pay the full cost of development if and when they requested services from Lake Oswego: Currently Lake Oswego's SDCs (System Development Charges) do not cover the full cost of development.

PS:  My comments about the Stafford Hamlet were countered with the Commission's concern's about how future development there would impact LO.  This concern is wholly appropriate and I am glad
they are thinking about this.  My concern is that local jurisdictions be allowed to make their own plans on future development independently of an overseer like Metro.

In fact, one Commissioner, Adrianne Brockman, recalled that in the past when CRAG (Columbis Region Association of Governments) managed regional affairs, it was an assembly of local elected officials who brought their concerns to the table and worked the out problems as individual jurisdictions using their own staff.  Currently METRO has umpteen staff members working on plans that seem to be quite different than what individual jurisdictions want. Instead of our local elected officials speaking for us, they are relegated to a representative committee, if they get that opportunity at all!  In many ways, CRAG was a better model for giving cities a say in how they developed.

Naming the Bridge For The Mystery Train to Milwaukie

Here's your chance to name a bridge

Monday, October 14, 2013

Trains are Dead - Long Live Buses

Interesting editorial in this week's (October 10) Portland Tribune:
Buses could be better option than rail.

"Here we go again:another proposed light rail  line, another epic battle.

The destination this time is Southwest Portland and the Tigard-Tualatin-King City area.  Already, people who view trains as inherently undesirable are mobilizing to block them from encroaching on their communities.  A Washington County citizens' group has gathered the necessary signatures to place a measure on the ballot that would give Tigard residents the final say on whether high-capacity transit makes it to their area.

On the other side of the issue are the seemingly unstoppable forces that have succeeded in pushing light-rail and streetcars into many - but not all - corners of the metro area.  They've faced critics, ballot measures, legal challenges and funding shortages before, but somehow managed to survive."  

Good news for the Tigard folks.  A bit of Clackistani Fever Has spread to Washington County.  It takes a lot of work and coordination to get a measure on a ballot.  Several people have talked about doing something similar with hot button issues in Lake Oswego, but so far, nothing has emerged.  I know it takes time and effort, but if the cause is good, good people will follow.

The Tribune is now pushing the concept of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a cheaper, effective and more flexible alternative to rail transit.  About time someone started thinking straight.  The infrastructure is already there, buses can go places trains cannot and can change routes as needed, there are drivers on buses that provide a level of security, and a necessity to pay for fares that keep freeloaders and most thugs off the buses.  If anyone has been on a modern bus recently, it looks and feels just like a light rail car.  Too bad if it's not cool.  Too bad if Portland loses its moniker of the darling of the "Smart Growth" movement.  If it works and we can afford it, that's all that matters.  The downside of the true BRT is the removal of a lane of car traffic for exclusive use of buses.  There are hybrid systems where buses share the road with cars, so the implementation of a BRT bears watching.

Whether or not a BRT works in Lake Oswego remains to be seen.  There are still the "seemingly unstoppable forces" ready to lay tracks to Foothills if given a chance, and developers willing to build Transit Oriented Developments (aka Wizer Block and Foothills Development and ?) to help the needed density along.

The editorial concludes:
"Bus rapid transit could be the key to completing the remaining corridors in Portland's renowned transit system.  It's doubtful this region can continue to bear the cost and controversy of large light-rail projects.  BRT, however, can tie into a system that's already in place - saving taxpayers' money and potentially mollifying at least some of the rail critics who are on record as advocating buses over trains."  

I'd rather not be mollified however.  I'd rather have the certainty that Tigard citizens may have - to be able to vote on the future of our town rather than have Metro tell us what it will be.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stafford Hamlet Leads the Way in Self-Determination

I had an opportunity on Saturday (10/12/13) to attend a Stafford Hamlet planning meeting.  There will be another one Monday night for those who couldn't make it on Saturday.

The energy and interest in the group attending was exciting to see.  There were invited speakers - Clackamas County Commissioner, Paul Savas, a land use attorney, an expert in land use planning, and someone from the County Conservation Dept.  I am sorry I did not get all the names - I was more interested in the conversation than the introductions.

The most inspiring thing about the meeting was the unity among the participants.  Whether or not they all agreed on a particular plan concept, they were all adamant that they wanted to be in control of the future of the Stafford area when it moves from being an Urban Reserve to within the Urban Growth Boundary.  The Hamlet wants to manage its growth themselves, and toward that end, they are designing their own land use plan.  Self-determination - it works for individuals and it works for local entities too.

Stafford Hamlet's specific plans may not fit our needs, but in their single-minded view of how they want to keep their rural character, Lake Oswego could learn a lot from this dedicated group.  From an Oregonian article earlier this year:

Group petitions to let Stafford residents vote on urban growth boundary inclusion
By Justin Runquist, July 17, 2013

" 'Citizens can and should be involved in influencing the decisions made by government which affects them,' Adams said in a statement released by the coalition. 'That's the American way and the Oregon way.'

About 150 residents – including some current and former members of the Stafford Hamlet board – are part of the group, Adams said. Their goal isn't to prevent growth altogether, but to preserve Stafford's rural legacy and kick off a discussion about how land development would impact the community, he said."

"The decision on inclusion is ultimately up to Metro, Adams said. He looks to Damascas, which has become mired in civic turmoil since it joined the UGB nearly a decade ago, as a harbinger of what could become of the Stafford Hamlet.

'I think even Metro, having gotten their hands burned at Damascus, would understand the wisdom of an advisory vote so we know going in where is the will of the people,' he said"

BELOW ARE CONCEPT DRAWINGS ONLY AND BELONG TO THE STAFFORD HAMLET!   These are posted here for information only, and NOT as a suggestion for Lake Oswego land use planning.