Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, January 31, 2014

TriMet: Fix labor relations

This audit has taken too long in coming, but now we know for sure what we already knew for certain - that TriMet is going broke while the union is getting fat.  The next audit should tackle the other obvious truth, that light rail and streetcars cost more per passenger mile to get people from point A to point B than buses, and they still don't get people where they need to go at the time they need to leave and arrive.  Several cities have chosen to leave the TriMet fold.  What would happen if every other city followed suit?  Is loyalty a good reason to stick with public transit that is not very good for the public?  

Auditors to TriMet: Fix labor relations

Portland Tribune, January 30, 2014, by Jim Redden

Health care costs are biggest issue as state digs into transit agency

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - A state audit confirms TriMet's employee benefit problems but says rail maintenance is lagging, too.
by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - A state audit confirms TriMet's employee benefit problems but says rail maintenance is lagging, too.
An unprecedented state performance audit of TriMet agrees with the regional transit agency about a major source of its financial problem: unfunded employee health care costs and pensions.
Among other major findings, the audit reported that on-time maintenance of the MAX light-rail system has slipped in recent years. Although other maintenance tasks have only fallen slightly, the audit found, “On-time completion of preventive maintenance for tracks and signals appears to have decreased significantly since (fiscal year) 2004. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of track maintenance completed on time has dropped from about 92 percent to about 53 percent, and on-time signals maintenance declined from about 100 percent to about 72 percent.”
The audit did not criticize TriMet on some of the issues that generated headlines in recent years, however. Among other things, it did not find that the agency’s financial problems were caused by its extensive involvement in regional MAX light-rail projects. Nor did the audit mention the salary increases quietly given to managers while the agency was cutting service. In fact, the audit found that the earnings of general and administrative employees have fallen 7 percent since 2006, while the earnings of maintenance workers have grown 7 percent and the earnings of transportation workers have increased 10 percent

Megacity Blues

This is from our friends at Save Our Suburbs in Sydney, AU -- see link to their website in menu at right.  Fabulous images!  Frightening landscapes!

Hi SOS Members

This revealing article is appearing in the Discovery Channel Magazinewhich is a three time winner of the SOPA Award of Editorial Excellence.  Megacity blues is a most interesting discussion on cities, bringing up aspects we do not ordinarily think about.   I am one of three people interviewed by the author, the other two being Joel Kotkin (Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in California and whom some consider the world’s foremost futurist) and Dr Han Sun Sheng (University of Melbourne and an expert in Asia-Pacific studies).

Some excerpts from the article:

“mega-cities are creating societies that are in the most fundamental way unsustainable, with ultra-expensive housing and children who have no exposure to nature”

“People don’t want to live in high-density neighbourhoods all their lives. It is okay when you are in your twenties, but once people start having families they want space, not crowds”

“can’t understand why in the 21st century people are returning to the (overcrowded) restrictions of 200 years ago”

“a seventy percent increase in psychosis in high-density dwellers”

“shocking images of people living like battery hens in tiny cubicle apartments”

“large numbers of cars travelling at slow speed … public transport is crowded and uncomfortable and this is a significant factor in making (Asian) cities unliveable”

“this growth is driven by planners and the greed of developers”

“increases the gap between the rich and poor”

People don't like what the planners are pushing

This is fromJim Karlock, a long-time follower and researcher of land use planning topics.  His website, Portland Facts (link below), is full of good information on the folly of Smart Growth planning schemes, or, since the names change frequently, whatever they call compact urban, dense and car-hating development these days.

 * * * * * * *

People don't like what the planners are pushing - What a surprise! Nassett did a survey in North Portland ten years ago and found similar results on a lightly different topic. http://www.portlandfacts.com/smart/stjohnslombard.htm 

I did a similar survey on building size in NE Fremont street and got the same rejection of planner's schemes. http://www.BEAUMONTPLAN.com/Survey04b-Report-02.PDF 

And in 2002 the region votes against high density: http://www.portlandfacts.com/smart/metrodensityvote.htm 

More planning facts at http://www.portlandfacts.com 
Thanks JK 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's STILL not over!

The DRC hearing on the Wizer Block development finished up tonight with testimony from the opposition, neutral parties, and a rebuttal from the applicant.  At the completion of the testimony and the Commission's questions, the attorney for Save Our Village and Lakeview Village asked for a continuance to study new evidence submitted by the developer.

The Design Review Commission has reopened the hearing 
to evidence from anyone who wishes to offer it, in writing only, within a deadline of 5:00 pm, February 5.  Any party may then rebut the new evidence by 5:00 pm February 7.  City staff will write a report and the Commission will then review the evidence and make a decision on the developer's permit application.

So, if you have any last minute evidence to offer, now's your chance!  But please do your homework first - read the application and the Exhibits, Staff Reports, etc. from the project website.

The suspense is killing me, but from now on, it's a waiting game.  How about a game of Monopoly while we wait?

A Better City in 2013

LOCAL's Recommendations for Council Action in 2014

Here is a list of thoughtful suggestions from the Lake Oswego Citizen Action League for the City Council to undertake in the coming months and near-term future.  Up Sucker Creek hopes that the Council will take these recommendations to heart and signal a turn towards a leaner, more efficient and more authentic small town.  

LOCAL Listens

Lake Oswego Citizens' Action League

LOCAL is reaching out, asking questions about issues people care about.   The organization recently did a nonscientific survey around attitudes surrounding g the Wizer Block Development and related issues.  The results are on their website and include both the survey questions and respondents' comments.  LOCAL presented the results of the survey to the Development Review Commission at the hearing on the Wizer Block permit application.

It appears that LOCAL is the one group in town that walks the talk - making citizen concerns a top priority, and doing so in an objective, non-partisan way.  Thanks for asking.

The project as now planned is projected to have a total of about 215 to 228 apartments and condos. Is this number of units?
Number of Answer Response(s)              Response Ratio
About right 75                                               21.0 %
Too many 271                                              76.1 %
Too little 3                                                     <1 span="">
No Response(s) 7                                        1.9 %page3image7200 page3image7536
Totals 356 100% 

 page3image9620 page3image9704 page3image9788

The project as now planned involves heights of four and five stories. Is the number?
Number of Answer Response(s)                Response Ratio
About right  94                                                26.4 %

Too low  5                                                      1.4 %
Too high  
252                                                 70.7 %
No Response(s)  
5                                         1.4 %
Totals 356 100

It depends on what the meaning of the word "may" is...

In a MEMORANDUM marked Exhibit F-16 of  LU 13-0046 / Evergreen Group, LLC (the Wizer Block development), Deputy City Attorney, Evan Boone comments on the code concerning the 4th floor of the proposed project.

SUBJECT: 13-0046 / Evergreen Group, LLC

Fourth Floor Criteria– “may” 

This development permit application is for three buildings that contain fourth and fifth floors. Staff has found that the fifth floor is the subject of a request for an exception, but the fourth floor is permitted if it complies with one of the four criteria of LOC

“Number of Stories: New buildings shall be at least two stories tall, and new and remodeled building shall be no greater than three stories tall, except:
i. A fourth story may be permitted subject [to] the following:
  1. (1)  The fourth story is residential and is contained within a gabled or hipped roof;
  2. (2)  The site is sloping and the structure has three or fewer stories on the uphill side;
  3. (3)  The fourth story is significantly stepped back from the building plane created by the
    lower stories; or
  4. (4)  Fourth story design elements are used to break up the mass of a building, create visual 
    interest and variety, hide mechanical equipment, define an entry or define a particular building’s function. Examples of such design elements include dormers, towers, turrets, clerestories, and similar features.
The provision of a fourth floor is not an exception to the design standards; a fourth floor is allowed provided one of the conditions above is met. (The “may” is not discretionary; if one of the subsections (1)-(4) is met, then a fourth floor is permitted. See former LOC 50.65.025(4) and Ord. 2579, Whereas statement #3 and Sections 26 and 28.) As shown in the elevations (Exhibit E9), all three buildings are four stories, with a limited number of residential units contained in a fifth story. The applicant is requesting an exception to the limit on the number of stories; the criteria of approval for this exception are addressed in LOC 50.08.005, below. The fourth and fifth stories meet the conditions identified above as follows: ****”
Staff Report, LU 13-0046, pg. 9

(1) Prior to adoption of the Code Reorganization, this section was stated in “shall”, not “may”.
(2) During the Code Reorganization process, there was a scrivener’s change from “shall” to “may” but this was not noted as a change to the staff reviewers, the Planning Commission, or the City Council. Accordingly, it would qualify as a Code Reorganization Variance per Section 26, Ord. 2579. 

In an email exchange last October, Mr. Boone gave an informal explanation of how the code should be interpreted for the applicant's use.

Brant and Leslie:
First, it is noted that my reply is an “informal interpretation” under LOC

Any person may request the planning staff or the City Attorney for an informal interpretation. Such a request may either be oral or in writing, and is not subject to notice, appeal or a fee. Such an interpretation is not a final land use decision, however, and is not binding on City staff or City appellate authorities as it applies to future land use applications on the subject property or in general.
Second, in review of the legislative history of the current code version, it has previously been noted that the use of “may” in this subsection was an inadvertent error in the code reorganization process – it was supposed to be “shall”:
“[81913 Enote] There is a substantive difference between precode reorg and codereorg, based on "may" v. "shall". According to Jessica, there was no intent to change the text. 

Setting aside the availability of a Code Reorganization Variance for the moment, what would be the interpretation of “may” as used in LOC 

“May” is expressly defined as discretionary, per LOC 

The legal interpretation is 4 pages long and is worth reading - but read it with a grain of salt sprinkled on.  

I am not a lawyer!  Administrative law and land use codes are a complex legal study.  However, from a layperson's point of view - it seems extremely risky and unwise to hinge a legal interpretation of this magnitude on one person's recollection of what was intended when a code was writte and/or rewritten.  In most contracts that I have seen, once approved by the parties involved, the wording is set in stone unless all parties agree to a change.  

The allowance of a 5th story is inserted here as a given, although the code makes NO provision for any building taller than 4 stories!  Evergreen Group's attorney claimed the 5th story was permissible because it was within the height limits AND because the code did not expressly disallow it!  Wow!  Now one has to write everything you don't want as well as what you do?  Where does it all end?  If the common man can understand the meaning and intent of the code, why then are the lawyers having such difficulty?  Maybe that's why our judicial system puts our personal liberty in the hands of juries of our peers rather than lawyers!  


In a Memo for the DRC hearing on the Wizer Block development on Jan. 29 from three city engineers who responded to issues raised on January 22.

Issue:  What will be the impact of the development on parking when there are events at Millennium Park such as Farmers Market, and what are the development plans for what would most certainly be a worse situation than there is already?  Not only would even-goers be negotively affected, but so would neighbors, apartment dwellers and area businesses.
  • Special Events Permitting and Traffic Management:  
All special events are regulated by LOC 20.06.500, and must receive permit approval by the City Manager.  Each event permit application is closely reviewed by multiple departments within the City, including Police, Fire, and Engineering, and the applicant must abide by conditions of approval I posed by the departments.  This includes traffic control requirements during the events.  In the case of the Farmer's Market or any other sizable event held at Millennium Park, City staff reviews the requests and imposes conditions and makes recommendations for how to properly manage traffic flow for the event.  Engineering believes it is the responsibility of the event organizer to address the traffic impacts from its event, not to condition a private development to manage or control traffic or congestion caused by the special event traffic upon adjacent businesses and residences.  

Um...  If a semi-truck was hurtling toward you, wouldn't you get out of its way?   One can logically deduce that a huge apartment complex will create more traffic and congestion than what existed before it was built - and that since traffic and congestion in the same area is already bad when there are events at the park next door - it would seem to reason that the addition of a secondary source of congestion would be FAR worse, - nd that negative impacts of the development should be mitigated up front!  Here's a tip --
if you can see a big truck coming at you - get out of the way!   

Why wait until the accident you know is going to happen happens before you look at the code to see who's at fault?  Especially when the truck is moving very fast!  


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"The Locavore's Dilema"

From the Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2014

Notable & Quotable

Hirohito Shimizu in 
"The Locavore's Dilema: In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet" (2012):

Despite our current economic woes, we have almost vanquished famine.  Most of us live longer, healthier, safer, and more enjoyable lives than previous generations.  It seems incumbent upon us to put forward some constructive proposals to improve the global food supply chain rather than turn back the clock to some imagined era of pastoral bliss that most people escaped from when given the opportunity.  Growing more and better quality food, and doing so ever more efficiently, healthily, safely, and sustainably is what we should aim for.

Food consumption is in everybody's and the planet's best interest.  It is my hope that "Buy Local" will soon be replaced by the more desirable slogan, "Buy Global - The Planet Is Our Garden!"

Today -Wednesday - 4:00 PM - DRC Hearing - Wizer Block

Continuation of  DRC Hearing on Block 137 permit application 

(Wizer Block development).  

4:00 PM at City Hall

Meeting will televised live on TVCTV Channel 28, 
but seeing it in person is far morel exciting!  

See the players duke it out!  

Come early for best seating!  Last week there was SRO!

Opposition to speak first today - you will not be disappointed!  

Ending the hearing will be the applicant rebuttal - 
after a disappointing start last week, expect to see them bring out their big guns. 

Whatever the outcome, this drama will be played out in front of the 
City Council as either side will most likely appeal the DRC decision.  

But like any good serial, you'll want to stay caught up on all the action 
so you don't lose track of all the details and the characters!  

This meeting is early enough that no food or dinner will likely be necessary beforehand, though eating, drinking, and headaches or cheering will most like
ensue shortly thereafter.  

Save me a seat!  (At the pub!)

T is for Transportation, P is for Plan, and S is for...

The  Open House for the Transportation System Plan was last night (Monday 1/27).  Here are some observations:

  • I was sure that the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) would be present and answering questions about the maps and information on the easels.  For sure they would be collecting citizen comments on transportation issues.  But no, the TAB was not involved in the event, and only a couple of its members attended.  Kudos to those who showed up, but the question remains as to what input they have had in this process.  
  • There were large maps all around made by Kittelson & Associates, transportation consultants for the project.  The maps had all types of information - trails, bike and pedestrian pathways, sidewalks, high crash intersections, congested areas, etc.  There were maps of existing conditions and proposed improvements - some more immediate, and some that are years off.  The maps were created using city, state and Metro transportation plans.  The maps made clear now regional plans impact Lake Oswego with crisscrossing trails and transportation corridors connecting expanding employment districts and town centers.  
  • One person lamented that the streetcar to Portland had been put on the back burner. (The project is NOT dead - it is on EVERY Metro planning map as a near term High Capacity Transit project - assumably just waiting for a more friendly city council to bring it back to life.)  The speaker believed that the streetcar was shunned by LO residents because they are "racists" and don't want the "riffraff from Portland" coming into Lake Oswego.  There was also an element of derision about people in Dunthorp not wanting a streetcar going past their homes during dinner time. I am not at all sure how racism fits into that argument at all, and I do not think that the riffraff argument is why most people objected to the streetcar.   Wealthy or not, most people would not want strangers passing close to their home several times a day either!  From Up Sucker Creek's vantage point, the opposition is chiefly due to increased density, increased urbanism, congestion, cost, and privacy concerns.  Crime is one factor, but USC never heard race brought into the argument.  Could the complainant be more specific?
  • The maps are not ready to be published yet, nor are the staff recommendations that will accompany them.  For a close approximation of what the LO maps look like, check out the Metro Refional Transportation Plan maps (RTP) and trail maps.  The LO Transportation System Plan is more a compilation of Metro plans than LO planning, though the City Council may accept or reject any of the plans or just not fund them.   
  • The Capital Improvement Project (CIP) transportation project list was not available to the  public at the Open House, and staff said it would be presented  with the complete Transportation System Plan (TSP) when it goes to the City Council in a few weeks.  However a list is available as part of the July 2013 TSAP meeting, though we will only know how it matches the TSP list when we can see them both together.  Here is just one of the Metro project lists.  The SW Corridor list has several (L-3 through L-6). These are not priorities, but still, I am curious about where a 30-acre park would be.  
  • Funding for TSP projects is problematic.  Most transportation funds come from street utility fees which are meant for streets, not for bike/ped projects, but items on the CIP list are 69% bike/ped.  Much Metro and State funding goes to projects that are mixed-use land use and supported by active transportation - could this have anything to so with this lopsided scenario? Read the Funding Summary Update (12/11/13)  Excerpts below.
  1. Future Projections of Funds Needed though year 2035
    1. Operations, maint., preservation & personnel (O&M): $6.2 M annual minimum target
    2. Infrastructure Expansion: $180 M total per Draft TSP Project List
      1. 69% bike/ped; 28% roads/signals/operation; 3% transit
  1. Projected Funding Shortfall
    1. O&M cost: +/- $800,000 shortfall*
    2. Personnel and programs: (included with O&M estimate)
    3. Infrastructure Expansion Projects: $140 M shortfall
  2. Potential Strategies for Dealing with Shortfall
    1. Operations, maintenance and preservation:
      1. replace “street utility fee” with multi-modal “transportation utility fee”
      2. 15% fee increase (paid by households/businesses) may fund $800K shortfall 
  • Finally, and most importantly -  It always amazes and angers this blogger and many, many others, that more complete planning materials are typically not available until documents are finalized and ready for City Council presentation, usually on the SAME night there is a public hearing and they are to be approved. This gives the public (and Council) only about 4 days to review the packet before giving testimony and the council approves the documents without due consideration of public comment.  I seriously doubt that this is what is meant by "Citizen Involvement."  The Open House was nice, but since there were no staff recommendations, policy and goal statements, recommended action measures, etc., it was a lot of show and very little tell, and this will become part of the Comp Plan. We now have to wait for the same drill of little time and little citizen input for this extremely important part of the land use puzzle - which by now seems to be intentional.

Monday, January 27, 2014

TSP Open House - Monday 4:30 - 6 pm City Hall


Date/Time: Monday, Jan 27, 2014 
4:30 pm. City Hall

Curious about the planning of Lake Oswego's transportation system? Then join us at an Open House on the Transportation System Plan (TSP), Monday, January 27, 2014 from 4:30-6:00 pm at City Hall. This is immediately before the Planning Commission meeting. The TSP document is a supplement to the Comprehensive Plan that guides planning and development throughout the city. The TSP process analyzes needs for transportation improvements, develops near term and long range projects, and establishes guidance for creating a multi-modal system supporting autos, bikes, pedestrians, and transit.
This open house will:
• show maps of planned transportation projects
• review proposed changes to street classifications
• explain funding outlook for transportation, and
• illustrate typical sections that guide our street improvements.
You are invited to come and see what’s happening, ask questions, and leave comments. We look forward to seeing you there!
* * * * *
Check out TAB agenda packet for documents related to the TSP.  Unfortunately, despite a public records request to see it, the Draft TSP has been withheld from both the TAB and the general public.  The TAB meeting handouts should have been posted to the TAB website, though it is unclear if all documents for the meetings including the TSPAC Committee are posted.  Further checking will determine what is available, though all working documents including TSPAC information, draft documents and technical reports from consultants should be made public upon request prior to the finished TSP.  
From the Staff Report for the Planning Commission work session at 6:00 pm on Jan. 27 in City Hall Council Chambers, immediately following the TAP Open House:
  1. New regional planning requirements are in effect since the City adopted its first TSP in 1997. These requirements are found in Metro’s Functional Plan which directs local jurisdictions to implement the Regional 2040 Growth Concept, a longrange plan intended to guide growth and development of the region over 50 years. The 2035 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), adopted by Metro in June 2010, identifies the transportation policies, projects, and strategies needed to implement the 2040 Growth Concept. The RTP also contains criteria for monitoring transportation system performance for all modes of travel.  (See also 2035 Regional High Capacity Transit Plan RHCT)

    Although State and Metro planning rules require the City to periodically update its Plan, the City chooses how to create a wellfunctioning, integrated transportation system that responds to local needs. The transportation plan must address increasing automobile traffic and alternative modes of travel, while maintaining neighborhood livability

    The goal is to finish the TSP in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan update. At this time, it appears that will be late spring or summer of this year. Remaining steps and key dates are as follows:

    Open House                                                                January 27
    Planning Commission Work Session                         January 27
    Planning Commission Hearing & Findings           March 10 and March 24 
    City Council Work Session.                                        April 15
    City Council Hearing and Adoption.                           
    May 19 May 20

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

    Given that there are three Metro plans that have requirements for transportation and land use in metro urban areas, how much freedom does the City have to choose how to respond to local needs?  The city's powers of Home Rule give it more power than Metro would like, but that is latitude the City rarely, if ever, uses.  Transportation and land use are tied together, so how much of the plan the Council  agrees to will determine how the city will grow.  Citizens need to become acquainted with the TSP in order to make their wishes known to the Planning Commission and City Council. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Protesters gather... Opposition will be heard

The DRC Public Hearing on The Wizer Block 
continues this Wednesday Night!

After a long night last Wednesday, the Development Review Commission were able to hear only the developers and the proponents of the Wizer Block (Block 137) mixed-use project.  The hearing was continued to this week (Wednesday, January 29, at 4:00 pm).  The hearing will be broadcast live on TVCT Channel 28.  Note in the agenda that only people who signed up at the previous meeting can speak at this week's meeting - in the order assigned.   The opposition will speak first, then neutral parties, then a rebuttal from the applicant.

Click here to see the project drawings submitted to the DRC.  Other Exhibits can be found on the Planning Department's project's website.

This development is a key step in fighting for the preservation of Lake Oswego.  The presence of Christie White in the Evergreen Group LLC (W & K Development) team is disconcerting.  As a principal in the Foothills Development group, Williams, Dame and White, the attorney could be looking at a win for the streetcar to Portland and the Foothills project.  By increasing the density in downtown, pushing the limits of the building codes, gaining the approval of the planning dept. and council, AND increasing congestion on Hwy. 43, a streetcar will be more palatable to skeptical Lake Oswegans, and the market for dense development (and urban development funds) will flourish.  Goodby downtown, and good luck Lake Grove, lower Boones Ferry and Kruse Way.

It means something specific to be labeled as a "Town Center."  The Amarican Planning
Association has developed model codes for Town Centers that dictate how they function and what they look like.  Lake Oswego has two TCs - Downtown and Lake Grove.  Making this TC a reflection of what we want will require codes that meet LO needs, not national models. Keeping downtown (and the whole city) livable is paramount.
    LU 13-0046: A request by Evergreen Group, LLC, for approval of a Development Review Permit to construct a mixed-use project, including up to 228 residential units and 28,000 square feet of commercial use in three buildings, with the following exceptions to the Community Development Code standards:
    • Residential uses on the ground floor in EC zone [LOC]
    • Fifth floor on a portion of each of the three buildings [LOC]
    • Reduction in the amount of storefront glazing [LOC]
    • Retail parking entrance on 1st Street [LOC]
    • Shared private/public parking provided on-site [LOC 50.06.002]
      The applicant is also requesting approval of two Minor Variances to the length and maximum grade of a driveway landing area per LOC; and, the removal of 25 trees to accommodate the project.
      The site is located at: 140 A Avenue, Tax Lot 08300 of Tax Map 21E 03DD. The staff coordinator is Leslie Hamilton, Senior Planner.
      This hearing was continued from the January 22 Development Review Commission meeting for receipt of oral testimony by interested parties who have signed up to speak at the January 22 public hearing, in the order assigned, starting with those who are in opposition to the application, then those neither for nor against the application and then applicant’s rebuttal. 
To call attention to the Development Review Commission hearing on the Wizer Development, the Save Our Village group mounted a demonstration protest at the site.  Using red balloons, the group showed how high a 60' building would go, and how overwhelming it would be.

From The Oregonian, January 17, 204
Protesters gather on downtown Lake Oswego street voicing opposition to Wizer block development

The protest came several days before the city's first public visitation to the project since August, when architects presented their conceptual designs to the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency. The Development Review Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. Grigg and the other protesters encouraged passersby to attend and share their opinions.

Protesters gather along A Avenue in downtown Lake Oswego. The balloons represent the height of the buildings that could be constructed at the longtime home of Wizer's Oswego Foods.

Metro practices BRT on Powell - Will they get it right?

Metro is fast-tracking a BRT line on Powell Blvd.  it is being planned to go east on Powell, then north on 82nd Ave. before it heads east again on Dividion, then finally north to Mt. Hood Community College.  Unfortunately for those who use Powell and can't get to where they need to go on a limited BRT route, the BRT will remove one lane in each direction for exclusive use of the system, leaving only one in each direction for automobiles.  The entire light rail/streetcar system to date has left the regular bus system in shreds so cars have been increasingly the default form of transit for years.   If the objective is to improve transit for the most people and to get people to use mass transit rather than cars, there are other, cheaper solutions that won't just rob riders from one bus line and out them on another.

Bus line gives Metro chance to get it right

The Portland Tribune Thursday, January 23, 2014  - Editorial

If planners have their way, a new transit line linking inner Southeast Portland and east Multnomah County could be in the design process as early as next year and under construction by 2018.

For those who are unfamiliar with BRT, this isn’t your father’s bus service. Instead of a bus system that moves people, but succeeds in slowing down other traffic, a BRT system has a dedicated lane of travel so that it doesn’t interfere with existing traffic flow. BRT systems also typically feature off-board fare collection and street-level platforms, and they have priority at intersections. In many ways, it’s a light-rail system without the train.

This may prove to be the most expeditious route, but it doesn’t address the most glaring problems in east Multnomah County. If ever there was a location in need of revitalization, Powell Boulevard certainly makes the cut. Yet the truly blighted areas on Powell are east of 82nd Avenue — beyond where the planned BRT line would divert to the north.

If the engineering can be worked out, it might make more sense to run the BRT line farther east on Powell before making the cut north to Division. In the process, the new BRT line would add some much-needed economic stimulus to an area of Portland that desperately needs it.

Economic growth takes up-front investment. Southeast and East Portland has seen increased crime and homelessness. It has not enjoyed the same level of economic recovery experienced in the rest of the city.  BRT can have a positive influence, but it has to be done correctly with dedicated lanes, attractive stations and other permanent features that give developers confidence that the line is here to stay.

The above article compares BRT to "a light-rail system without the train." Below is a research report giving an unbiased view of the benefits of light rail and, most likely, BRT. The solution to transportation problems just might be the common bus - restoring Trimet service of the past to more frequent service, more routes, and extended hours.  The economic benefits to q BRT and economic development may be illusory as the benefits are shifted from taxpayers to developers and landowners with property close to transit.  Gentrification too, can be detrimental to those of little means. Keep reading. ,

John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy  "The Streetcar Scam":
The rail lines were so expensive that [Pprtland's] transit agency was forced to cut bus service, resulting in a significant drop in transit’s share of travel. In 1980, before building any rail, 9.8 percent of Portland-area commuters took transit to work. By 2010, this had fallen to just 7.1 percent.11   

Peter Rogoff, the head of the Federal Transit Administration, thinks too many cities are wasting taxpayers’ money on rail transit. “Paint is cheap; rails systems are extremely expensive,” Rogoff said in 2010. “You can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a ‘special’ bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.”

Eugene Oregon, 100 miles south of Portland, proved this by painting the buses used on one route bright green and calling the route the “EMX.” The buses saved riders no more than one minute per four-mile trip, yet more than 60 percent of the riders surveyed think they saved much more. The mere image of a fast bus more than doubled the route’s ridership. 

Even to the extent that a streetcar, by itself, can enhance the value of nearby properties, it is likely that such an enhancement is at the expense of other property owners in the region. Researchers have repeatedly shown that the use of government subsidies to improve one district or neighborhood have zero net benefits for an urban area as a whole.16 Some research even shows that cities that subsidize economic development actually grow slower than those that don’t.17 Thus, rather than being a genuine social benefit, any increase in property values due to a streetcar are merely a transfer of wealth from property owners away from the streetcar to those nearby.

For rail transit in particular, research has found that rail’s effect on economic development is also a zero-sum game. Rail transit does not lead urban areas to grow faster; instead, at most it shuffles growth around from one part of an urban area to another.18 

Transportation projects only truly produce economic growth when they provide transportation that is less expensive, faster, and/or more convenient than what was previously available. Such projects result in new travel that would not have otherwise taken place, and that travel produces economic benefits such as more productive workers, lower-cost consumer goods, and access to better housing. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's not over.....the suspense builds!

The Design Review Commission reviews Block 137

The DRC hearing last night was standing room only and an overflow crowd at was forced to watch the proceedings on TV from the city hall lobby. The hearing was aired live on cable TV, so ther's no telling how many others decided to tune in.   To counter the chilled ambient temperature in the room, the moods were hot.  

Everyone was there - W and K / The Ecergreen Group and their team of architects, traffic engineers, lawyers, and other consultants, and probably investors, plus LO citizens, non-citizens, architects and general proponents of the 5-story massive mixed-use mountain.  The opponents were there too, but  the hearing ended before everyone spoke, so the hearing will be continued on January 29, at 4:00 pm at City Hall.  Be aware that this a continuation of the same meeting, so no new testimony will be heard.  

I was particularly impressed.d with the level of professionalism and technical knowledge that the Development Commission members displayed.  They had obviously done their homework; their questions covered not only the big stuff (congestion, height, etc.) but caught the nuances of the heart of the issues.  This was the Supreme Court weighing a case on its merits.  I will be interested in their decision after hearing their incisive and thorough beginning.  

This Blogger was not surprised and therefore not entertained by most of the testimony.  The development team gave a technical overview of the site and buildings, then the the developer, Patrick Kessi, and his technical team of consultants took the floor with more illustrations and talk.   The kind of talk one does when trying to ask for a favor.   Citizen proponents gave in person, the same rhetoric that was in the paper - nothing new here.  The questions from the commissioners were far ranging:
  • What is the definition of a mansard roof?
  • How would event parking for Millenium Park be handled? 
  • How and where would frequent restaurant and retail store deliveries and garbage be handled?
  • Where in Lake Oswego is there a 20' alley?  (About the width of the public walkway that also includes street furnishing)
  • How well does courtyard retail do? 
  • What is the impact of shade (from the shade study) on other parts of the city?
  • Glazing exception conforms to design, but why doesn't design conform to glazing requirements?
  • Parking access is offset from Lakeview Village, but what about congestion on 1st?
Blogger was somewhat surprised that the city engineer was called upon to answer an applicant question about where certain traffic count numbers came from.  If you are interested, you should see the TV replay or audio (at the library soon), because it wasn't clear to me exactly what she said.  It sounded like she blended numbers from different studies to put together a set of figures for the developers.  If you have better information, please let me know.  

Another pleasant surprise was the number of architects, design professionals and citizens that did NOT like the repetitive and, shall I add, suffocating, design limitation for downtown.  "Gable-itis" is how one architect described it.  In fact, the original redevelopment plan (by other architects) specifically warned against requiring a particular design style and promoted a mix of styles with uniformity in only the (public) streets, lighting, medians, signage and pedestrian features.  Boy were they singing my tune!  Who ever made up this "Lake Oswego Style" should be hung from the highest, steepest pitched gable in town!  Time to rewrite that code - before even one more "LO Style" development is built!  

This Blog was most interested to read the excerpt (below) from an article in today's Oregonian, with comments from the 2 opponents of the development who had time to speak.  It is important because it refers to a type (mixed styles of architectural design) and scale (1-3 stories) that is what the citizens wanted when the district was formed, and expect to see now. This vision of Lake Oswego (including Lake Grove) is livable and delightful and human!

Years ago, the city intended to build the area into a commercial center, Bolland said, but the developers behind the proposal said only about 10 percent of the space in the new buildings would be commercial.

"The concept was that this was going to be the retail commercial core of our downtown," Bolland said. "And that was seen as a catalyst to redeveloping the rest of the downtown. So, it seems that, particularly with this proposal, we've drifted very far from that vision that really was hugely supported in the community at the time."

The struggle between the "streamlined" zones and codes, and "removing barriers to mixed-use" development vs the still practiced single-type zones is emerging as a town-character-busting movement.  Current planning trends favoring urbanized suburbs are running smack dab into the center of our town.  Much to the public's surprise, the codes already reflect a lot of that flavor, but the "code streamlining" and "removing barriers to mixed-use development" that is taking place now ( still in draft form but heading for approval) will bust the door open to more mixed use in every part of town that can conceivably be called commercial.  To save the suburbs, small towns, and OUR small town, massive buildings like the Wizer Block proposal need to be stopped before they start -in our codes. 

This is the firs step, but hang in there, when this one is finished, no matter the outcome, the code updating must be addressed if we want to preserve what's left.  This is OUR town - we have home rule.  The planners should give options, not direct them.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Come early tonight - Doors open at 5:00 pm!

Come early to the DRC Hearing tonight on the Wizer Block, or be prepared to stand.  Doors open at 5:00 PM.  There are a lot of people interested in this, and many are sure to be there for the show.  Do not be Unruly!  Unruly people can watch the program live on Channel 28 at home.

 Read background material to follow along, and see the elements of The Evergreen Group's Permit Application.  Click Here. 

Pictures can tell a story - but you have to know how to read them.
The size of people on the drawing would be teeny - much smaller than the height of the 1st floor!
The only blue sky one would see when near this building would be facing up or at an extreme angle.

Updates  (from city website)

The developer has submitted their Development Review application, and a hearing has been scheduled for the January 22, 2014 Development Review Commission meeting. The meeting will be broadcast live on Tualatin Valley Community TV Channel 28. The Planning Department will provide additional information on the City's project webpage under the case file number LU 13-0046. 

The City Council will only get involved in this project if there is an appeal of the DRC's decision.

From the City Calendar, the merting starts at 6:00 PM