Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Monday, March 31, 2014

Town Centers are the new McMansions

7 years ago, Town Centers became the new McMansions - the housing type of the future - more density, more government influence and more public-private real estate deals where only private developers belong.  Government-planned housing for all.  Were the residents of Milwaukie aware of and did they  approve of the master plan for their downtown?

Portland developer, designer doctor Milwaukie’s facelift

DJC: That leads me to my next question. Town centers seem like the next big development. Metro is embracing them. Builders are building them. Is it going to get to a point where it’s almost like McMansions? Like McTown centers?

[Tom] Kemper: Well, I guess there is an element of McMansions at Villebois (Costa Pacific’s planned subdivision in Wilsonville), but you also are going to have a much higher density than the normal McMansion deal. You’ll have town homes. You’ll have condos and rental too. Look at Orenco Station that Costa Pacific did. When Villebois gets built out it’ll resemble more like Orenco than a suburban deal.

Building height matters

I was on a walk recently (in an unwalkable neighborhood with very few sidewalks!) and came across what is coming to be a common sight - another teardown with a larger new home replacement.  Infill development is a controversial issue in any city, but in Lake Oswego it is personal.  This is a small town where the character of neighborhoods, and the city, are sacrosanct - not to be tampered with lightly.  It's being respectful to one's new neighbors to want to fit in.  

BLOG: Yes, building height is an urban design issue

Brian Campbell
Brian Campbell
In the past I’ve written about controversies over building heights in downtown Portland and along certain corridors on the city’s east side. Height is a frequent topic when it comes to planning issues. It’s a building’s most identifiable feature for the average citizen, and often stands in for concerns about other aspects of urban development that may not be as readily apparent to the untrained eye. Many of these issues fall under the heading of urban design.
Urban design is a specialty that combines elements of planning, architecture and landscape architecture, and indeed all three professions are well represented among those who claim the title of “urban designer.” Urban design can take on vastly different scales – everything from the physical form of an urban region, to the design and placement of street furniture. While a building’s design is the provenance of architecture, its height and how it functions should be dictated by the context in which it is to be placed, which is where urban design comes in.
In a downtown setting, which has the capacity to handle large numbers of people, larger buildings are appropriate. As transportation and other infrastructure capacities diminish, so should the height and intensity of buildings.
Other important things to consider when judging the appropriateness of a building’s design are how the building behaves in relationship to the “public realm,” which is a city’s public and quasi-public open space, and the neighboring buildings and their uses. Key questions are: How does it affect those other uses, how does it relate to the person on the sidewalk, and how does it affect the surrounding natural environment?
Of course, urban design includes a lot more than those basics. Studying and understanding how urban areas work – and then creating vibrant, efficient and beautiful places – is an exciting and rewarding endeavor when done well.
Brian Campbell is an urban and regional planning consultant with 35 years of professional experience in Oregon. He has served as a senior adviser and principal planner for the city of Portland, senior supervising planner with the Parsons Brinckerhoff PlaceMaking division, and planning manager for the Port of Portland.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

See the NEW Wastewater Treatment Plant April 24

Why is the sewage treatment plant important - now?

Growth. Along with drinking water, more people mean more wastewater facilities.  And just like the water treatment plant, new construction will cost a LOT, and current residents will pay for it no matter when it happens as SDCs do not cover actual costs of infrastructure expansion.  Since Portland actually owns the Tryon Creek Wastwater Treatment Plant, Lake Oswego would pay for only a portion of the construction.  (Note:  A reader points out that the IGA with Portland requires
Ake Oswego to pay 50% of the plant costs while using 55% of plant services.)

How big?  How expensive?  What bells and whistles will be added to benefit development in Foothills, such as: enhanced landscaped visual buffer, enhanced odor control, pathways and park-like surroundings, additional flood mitigation for Foothills development, a Neighborhood Energy Utility  to recover heat and biogas for Foothills, AND grey-water piping for landscape irrigation at Foothills Development.  We may not have to worry about a lot of new residents coming to town because Lake Oswego is becoming too expensive for anyone to live in anyway.

The big question is, what does Lake Oswego actually need - no frills, no huge population growth?
What are the Engineers and the Citizens' Advisory Committee suggesting and why?

We will have a chance to see for ourselves at an Open House on April 24,  5 - 7 pm,  Oswego Pointe Condominiums,  Riverside Room.  Put it on your calendars and go.  This might be one of the few opportunities to get information on this huge project.

Check out this entry from BOJACK from 2 years ago:

Lake Oswego pump station move has familiar smell

They'll call it "green," they'll claim that there's a pressing need, but let's face it -- it's all about the condos. And Portlanders are about to pay for it through their sewer bills. Homer and Dike are about to take us to the cleaners yet again.

Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (CAC) Meeting

Date/Time: Wed, Apr 9, 2014 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) Meeting
The next meeting of the CAC updating the facilities plan for the City of Portland’s Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Lake Oswego will be held on Wednesday, April 9 on the 10th floor of the Portland Building, 1100 SW 5th Ave in Portland. The CAC will be finalizing their recommendations and preparing for the Open House on April 24. This meeting is open to the public.

The 800-Pound Gorilla

This Opinion piece, written by a Milwaukie resident for The Clackamas Review, sounds like she could be living in Lake Oswego.  Her concerns are ours, and most likely duplicate feelings of citizens from all over the Metro area.  State legislators who created oppressive "Climate Smart" laws and gave Metro so much power, should rethink the nature of this beast before it eats them too.  
The plans have been in the works for years; the consultants, developers, industrialists and NGOs have made a living off of them; politicians and planners have basked in the fading light of Portland's smart growth reputation.  But the plans don't fit what citizens in the suburbs want.  The destruction of neighborhoods by freeways and Urban Renewal was recognized and halted decades ago, but that doesn't stop today's planners from looking for new (and reviving old) ways to disrupt our communities and lives with even grander schemes about what we need today.  Here's part of Jean Baker's story.  Read the whole thing at The Clackamas Review Website.     

Neighbors fed up with Metro's track record
By Jean Baker, Clackamas Review, February 26, 2014
Those of us who, in the late 1970s, had big misgivings about the former Columbia Region Association of Governments morphing into Metro (the current regional government) did not imagine how much of Milwaukie’s (and all regional cities) government autonomy would be ripped away under the pretense of lower cost services and better facilities management of a few regional functions.
Over time it went from coordinating to an 800-pound gorilla who runs the show from behind the curtain and it is costing us dearly! It costs our tax dollars, our legitimate citizen participation process, input on critical developments which change the character of our city, of how taxes are or are not collected, of subsidies to the rich, and potential loss of safety, security and livability of neighborhoods.
For nearly 20 years, Metro has been busy proposing, promoting and ensuring that cities in its jurisdiction follow their version of smart growth. It includes putting high density, “affordable” and low-income housing in a mile-wide swath around every MAX light-rail line. With the stealth of a Wall Street bank, they are reversing the long-used system in which corporations pay taxes to governments, to where governments pay corporations to build. The public is forced to pay with tax dollars when it would cost less if a private party/corporation paid their own way. We in the neighborhood understand this, and appreciate that the Portland Tribune is talking about the backward, upside-down planners who are screwing up neighborhoods as they tell us they don’t have funds for needed local services.
For three years, I have felt that there was a problem in the city-planning process. It just didn’t add up: It wasn’t just me they didn’t want to know too much, they didn’t want people to see whole documents, in ordinance changes. Like looking through a hole in the fence to see the elephant — all we saw were little pieces without the full context of what the changes really meant, and in many cases, they failed to provide adequate information about which document was being changed and how it fit in with others. They have avoided a full review of the Comprehensive Plan for 23 years, choosing to chip away one little piece at a time, but constantly! Even they have trouble keeping track of the changes.
We have paid huge salaries for our planners who farm their work out to consultants at many times their huge salaries. Even our city manager claims degrees in law and land-use planning. So how did we get so messed up? How many planners does it take to screw up a neighborhood?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

When science gets it wrong, can we pull it back?

Unfortunately, Sustainability activists, lawmakers, rule-makers and enforcers are convinced that just about all human activity on Earth is damaging to the environment and should be curtailed or eliminated.  We are living in an age of environmental extremism where (false) alarmism over climate change is the reason given for all manner of restrictions on individual rights and freedoms. We see the evidence of the fear of climate change manifested in the overwhelming amount and complexity of land use regulations and social engineering.  There is a distinct feeling of entitlement that the believers, the elite, the "experts" have that they are entitled to tell the rest of us how we should live, and they base their grandiose beliefs and oppressive tactics on the shaky ground of ambition and poor science.
Climate Forecast: Muting the Alarm
Even while it exaggerates the amount of warming, the IPCC is becoming more cautious about its effects.  
Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2014,  Matt Ridley 

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will shortly publish the second part of its latest report, on the likely impact of climate change. Government representatives are meeting with scientists in Japan to sex up—sorry, rewrite—a summary of the scientists' accounts of storms, droughts and diseases to come. But the actual report, known as AR5-WGII, is less frightening than its predecessor seven years ago.
The 2007 report was riddled with errors about Himalayan glaciers, the Amazon rain forest, African agriculture, water shortages and other matters, all of which erred in the direction of alarm. This led to a critical appraisal of the report-writing process from a council of national science academies, some of whose recommendations were simply ignored.
Others, however, hit home. According to leaks, this time the full report is much more cautious and vague about worsening cyclones, changes in rainfall, climate-change refugees, and the overall cost of global warming.
The forthcoming report apparently admits that climate change has extinguished no species so far and expresses "very little confidence" that it will do so. There is new emphasis that climate change is not the only environmental problem that matters and on adapting to it rather than preventing it. Yet the report still assumes 70% more warming by the last decades of this century than the best science now suggests. This is because of an overreliance on models rather than on data in the first section of the IPCC report—on physical science—that was published in September 2013.
In this space on Dec. 19, 2012, I forecast that the IPCC was going to have to lower its estimates of future warming because of new sensitivity results. (Sensitivity is the amount of warming due to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.) "Cooling Down Fears of Climate Change" (Dec. 19), led to a storm of protest, in which I was called "anti-science," a "denier" and worse.
The IPCC's September 2013 report abandoned any attempt to estimate the most likely "sensitivity" of the climate to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The explanation, buried in a technical summary not published until January, is that "estimates derived from observed climate change tend to best fit the observed surface and ocean warming for [sensitivity] values in the lower part of the likely range." Translation: The data suggest we probably face less warming than the models indicate, but we would rather not say so.
In climate science, the real debate has never been between "deniers" and the rest, but between "lukewarmers," who think man-made climate change is real but fairly harmless, and those who think the future is alarming. Scientists like Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Richard Lindzen of MIT have moved steadily toward lukewarm views in recent years.

Read the remainder of the article using the link above.  Remember this article next time you hear someone says the sky is falling, but realize Chicken Little is really only good at laying eggs.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Define "Social Equity"

Can't do it?  Neither can the Planning Department.  Maybe it can't be done.

Never mind that "social equity" appears in both the Comprehensive Plan and the Transportation System Plan - no one knows what that means - at least not yet.  So far it appears to be one of those "feel good" terms that get thrown into documents for political reasons.  If it means something particular, we ought to know.

At the Planning Commission on Monday, March 24, the engineering and planning staff were asked what was meant by "social equity".  Not having an answer, they said they would check into it and get back to the Commission. Whatever the result, we are eagerly awaiting the definition of the term and how it relates to Lake Oswego's land use pwlans.

"Social Equity" is a tricky concept to nail down.  Does it refer to equal opportunity or equal      outcomes?  Can public bodies and the people who work for the public interest determine what is fair, just or equitable, and what should be done for the (our) common good?  Whose values - those of the staff or the occupants of the city that employes them?  What policies and practices are to be engaged or trusted?

Here are a few ideas to ponder:

Friedrich Hayek
New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas (1978)
To discover the meaning of what is called social justice has been one of my chief preoccupations for more than 10 years.  I have failed in this endeavor - or rather, have reached the conclusion that with reference to society of free men, the phrase has no meaning whatever.  

Individualism and Economic Order  (1948)
There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.  While the first is the condition of a free society, the second means as De Tocqueville describes it, " new form of servitude."

The Constitution of Liberty  (1960)
Even the striving for equality by means of a directed economy can result only in an officially enforced inequality - an authoritarian determination of the status of each individual in the new hierarchal order.

"Social' or Distributive Justice"  (1982)
A claim for equality of material position can be met only by a government with totalitarian powers.

* * * * *
What is Social Equity?  
Professor Bernadette McSherry
Melbourne Social Equity Institute, University of Melbourne

Part of the problem in trying to define the concept of social equity is that it reflects ideas of “fairness” and “justness” which have a normative* component in that they are based on moral values or considerations.  What one person thinks is fair may differ markedly from what another thinks is fair. Those working in different disciplines may also have different conceptions of the term. Philosophers such as John Rawls have explored how an equitable society may be brought about through notions of distributive justice and legal theorists have looked at equitable decision-making in terms of procedural fairness.

The concept of social equity also plays a role in areas such as regional planning, with Sharon Harwood, Bruce Prideaux and Doris Schmallegger (2011: 15) equating the concept with “the reduction in inter and intra regional differences in per capita income and employment” [references omitted] as well as in recent environmental research with sociologists including Daniel Faber exploring the effects of high pollution on disadvantaged communities.

*In philosophy, normative statements make claims about how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, and which actions are right or wrong.

* * * * *

Can We Achieve Equity for Social Equity in Public Administration? 

Kristen Norman-Major, Hamline University 
Journal of Public Affairs Education

In 2000 when the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) established the Standing Panel on Social Equity, it put forth the following definition for social equity in public administration:

The fair, just and equitable [emphasis added] management of all institutions serving the public directly or by contract; and the fair and equitable distribution of public services, and implementation of public policy; and the commitment to promote fairness, justice and equity [emphasis added] in the formation of public policy. (National Academy of Public Administration, n.d.) 

This definition clearly dismisses the idea of public administration as the neutral implementation of public policy by calling for fairness, justice, and equity in the provision of public policy, However, unlike the relatively objective nature of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness, the terms fair, just, equitable, and equity are highly normative and make it more difficult to reach agreement on what they mean and how they are incorporated in practice.

High Priority for transparency on TSP

The Whole TSP Makes One Wonder
Citizen ViewLake Oswego Review, March 27, 2014

Some 69 percent of the spending is slated for bike paths and trails to connect places in the city (page 107). Has anyone taken even rudimentary measures of the current usage of existing trails and bike paths/lanes? Some data was right under the planners noses in the traffic data presented. Bikes on roads at evening rush hour — near zero. Has anyone calculated the additional annual maintenance cost to the city of these new projects? Silly. 
Then we have the roads to nowhere. Projects 133, 134, 135 and 136 all are to expand Foothills Road from its current position north to D Avenue (parallel to the railroad) and extend B Avenue from the new Foothills Road to Foothills Park (see pages 41 and 42 of the March draft of the TSP). These projects are given “high” priority. High priority for what — stealth development of Foothills? Oh, and the cost estimate — a mere $10.5 million — which looking at the terrain and right of way needed is significantly underestimated. Has anyone looked at the current average day traffic to Foothills Park? I think not. Silly.
The proposed draft also has multi-modal projects. Yes, that means bus and transit. While the document refers to the aging of the Lake Oswego population and mentions the need for on demand/circulator transportation (page 88) it makes no real recommendation as to what should be done and contains no projects for implementing such a plan. Then there is a proposal (projects 101, 102.2 and 170) to study new transit centers with a cost of $200,000. Silly.
The TSP was never voted on by the Lake Oswego Transportation Advisory Board before being placed on the planning commission agenda as a public hearing on Monday, March 24. Some members of TAB had serious questions and issues, which were not addressed by the planners. Why has the TSP been rushed to the planning commission by the planners?
Some members of TAB are going along with the move to the planning commission and plan (as of this writing) to submit a letter of endorsement to the planning commission without a vote of TAB. Is this the proper procedure? What message does this convey to the planning commission?
Is our city dedicated to transparency and involvement of the citizens in its direction? The whole TSP scenario makes one wonder.
Gerry Good is a resident of Lake Oswego and a member of the Lake Oswego Budget Committee.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Which codes do WE want updated or consolidated?

The consultant on code writing for the city is Clarion Associates and Sera Architects.  Their report, was presented  to Council December 11, 2012, a little over a year ago.  We have had council changes and changes to the Comp Plan since then, so this is only a guide as to what was done earlier.  It does, however, give insight to the direction and intent of the code streamlining and update project - which is to require higher density in commercial zones and prohibit low density development.

The plan /project spells out how this might happen and if you have a good imagination, you can foresee what Lake Oswego will look like in the future - that is, nothing like it is today.  Certainly nothing left of our small town character.  Is this what WE want?  I suggest that the Central Planners and politicians who favor this stuff pay for it too.  They sure as heck didn't ask me if I want to buy this plan.
What are you going to do about it?
It's our city after all.

Lake Oswego Code Concepts Report 

Selected Excerpts:

Page 1:

The second effort, led by SERA Architects, is to evaluate current design and development standards regulating mixed-use development for potential barriers to development, and to update these standards to better facilitate mixed-use development. This work is intended to help implement the 2035 Community Vision, which calls for future commercial, mixed use, and high-density housing development to be focused within identified Town Centers, Employment Centers, and Neighborhood Villages. This portion of the project examines each of the commercial zoning districts applied to the 2035 Vision Map in order to determine whether current dimensional standards and other development regulations are inhibiting the provision of new residential mixed use projects within these commercial districts. 

Page 11:
This could have helped neighbors in dealing with the WEB rezoning, however, I don't know that the conditions mentioned couldn't be applied now without any changes.

Where two or more existing zone districts are being consolidated, generally allow any use allowed in either district unless adverse impacts of specific uses are foreseen. If so, try to address those impacts through use-specific standards or operational standards (hours of operation, points of access, etc.) or by requiring conditional use approval rather than prohibiting the use entirely. 

Page 13:
Newer versions of the code rewrite include community gardens in all city zones

New ‘urban agricultural’ uses need to be added to the agriculture section–with standards governing the use themselves, accessory structures, sales of agricultural products, and buffering from adjacent residential uses. 

Page 16:
Those interested in the height of buildings in the downtown core might want to check out the bottom of the chart on page 16 where there is a description of current code dimensions.  

Page 18:
 Minimum Building Dimensions:
While the draft dimensional table provides maximum building heights and lot coverage for each zoning district, an additional option is to establish minimum heights or minimum FARs in some or all of the commercial / mixed use zones. This strategy is intended to support the Comprehensive Plan Economic Vitality policy to maximize use of employment land through optimizing the development of vacant employment land. Setting minimums would discourageunderbuilding” on commercially zoned parcels. There is precedent within the Lake Oswego Community Development Code for establishing minimum development parameters. The Downtown Redevelopment Design District requires a minimum building height of two stories with some exceptions, while the Lake Grove Village Center Overlay requires that buildings fronting Boones Ferry be at least 27 feet high for 50% of the building frontage (along all other streets, buildings must be at least 18 feet tall for 50% of the building frontage). 

Establishing minimum building heights or FARs would help to prevent low-intensity, low-density, single- story / single use buildings. However, there are trade-offs associated with this strategy. It should be noted that many successful mixed use districts do have one-story commercial structures that positively contribute to the look and function of the district, and establishing minimum height / FARs could preclude desirable commercial – only developments (including banks, grocery stores, etc.).  

It's all in the CODES

From the city website on the Code Streamlining Project.
Click HERE for the webpage and more information.

Community Development 
Code Streamlining and Updates
Over the next year, the City will be working on improvements to the Community Development Code to make it more clear, concise, adaptable and user-friendly. The project will continue the work of the 2010 Community Development Code Audit and the Phase 1 Code Reorganization completed earlier this year, and support the Comprehensive Plan update.The project consists of three main components:
1. Updates to Commercial & Mixed Use Zoning
  • Simplification of commercial/mixed-use zoning districts
  • Streamlining the commercial/industrial use table
  • Removing barriers to mixed-use development
Has anyone asked if this what residents want and what will work for local businesses? 

2. Establish Clear and Objective Housing Standards
  • Amending the code to ensure that all housing types have the opportunity to be reviewed under a clear and objective review process (a state requirement). 
What kinds of housing does this address?  

3. Updates to the Adjustments, Alternatives and Variances and Non-conforming Structures and             Uses code sections.
I'm some Metro publications, this is a key element in changing a district from one type of  use  to another (Eg: industrial to mixed-use).  Where might these code changes be beneficial?  

How do the City and community benefit from this project?

The development code streamlining will make the code easier for the public to navigate, use and understand. The process will eliminate repetitive, confusing and out-of-date standards, resulting in time and cost savings for staff, creating more benefit for tax-payers and community members.
The Lake Oswego Community Development Codes are several inches thick with a reputation for being the most complicated around.  It would be wonderful if there was a real house cleaning and the book became manageable - and readable.  What makes Lake Oswego more difficult than other cities?
Removing barriers to mixed-use development will support the 2035 Community Vision and Map by facilitating the development of future housing and job growth in existing commercial and mixed-use areas, rather than in low-density neighborhoods. Providing a clear and objective review track for housing development will meet state rules by providing greater certainty and helping to prevent unreasonable cost or delay.
Facilitate ..future housing and job growth in existing commercial and mixed-use areas.  This is an incomplete description of what the goals are for these code changes.  All commercial zones in the city allow housing now.  I assume the changes contemplated would make it easier to build the mixed-use developments desired in Town Centers (Downtown and Lake Grove) and Employment Districts (Kruse Way and the SW Industrial Zone, now classified as Employment Area).  Do citizens even want high density development made easy without the fuss of dealing with limiting codes and potential public challenges to codes?
All updates should increase predictability in how the code applies, while respecting neighborhood differences.

How can I get involved?

Along with the advice of staff and a planning consulting team, Lake Oswego residents and stakeholders will have multiple opportunities to participate in the process. The project will benefit from local knowledge as well as national best practice expertise.
Public input will be sought through a focus group, advisory committee meetings, open houses, Planning Commission & Development Review Commission meetings, and public hearings. We encourage you to participate!
Have any of you heard of events and opportunities to participate?  
For the latest project information and opportunities to participate, visit this web page or email Jessica Numanoglu or call her (503) 635-0283 or email Sarah Selden or call her (503) 697-6524.

What is the project schedule?

The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2013.  The general schedule is as follows:
A.  Project Kick-off (August 2012).   Competed? 
  • Code evaluation/research
  • Focus group meeting with commercial development and business professionals
B.  Draft and revise code concepts (September 2012 – January 2013).   Completed?
  • A code concepts report will be prepared that lays out various options to address the project components
  • Advisory committee meetings, public open houses, and work sessions with the Planning Commission and City Council will be held to review the code concepts and identify the preferred alternatives
C.  Draft code amendments (February – May 2013).   Completed?
  • Draft code amendments will be prepared to implement the preferred alternatives
  • Advisory committee meetings, public open houses, and work sessions with the Planning Commission and City Council will be held to review draft amendments
  • Consultant will present the draft in a public meeting
D.  Work sessions and adoption hearings (June – August 2013).   In Progress 
  • The final code amendments will be drafted
  • Work sessions with the Planning Commission and City Council will be held
  • A public hearing before the Planning Commission will be held, resulting in a recommendation to the City Council
  • City Council public hearing and action

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What kind of future are we creating?

The middle class is disappearing, and the will to fix the problem - to grow the economy - seems to be fading.  Whether it is an individual or a business, looking to the Federal government for handouts, grants and subsidies has become a way of life.  But - any program or public expense that purports to help the local economy and bring in new jobs has to be looked at carefully.  How much government aid do we spend in taxes and loss of services for the actual jobs, increased property taxes and benefits that development brings?  
The concept of "mixed-use" development has come to mean apartment units stacked on top of (or next to) "retail shops and restaurants."  Architects' renderings of the Foothills Development, Lake Grove Village Center, Lake Oswego Town Center, and the Wizer Block Development show happy people strolling wide sidewalks next to open air bistros and a collection of "unique" local shops.  Once the construction crews have gone, where will the jobs be?  

The bulk of shop clerks and food service workers will not be earning middle-class wages.  The answer isn't to build "workforce housing" - we know what a waste of money that is.  The answer might be to entice high-paying tech or manufacturing jobs to the city instead.  Grow the economy and all else will follow.  Well, maybe not mixed-use development.  Perhaps people will have to bike a bit further to get to their middle class jobs.  Or can we start measuring "happiness" instead of GDP or average income and call it good.  



Roughly one in three people born into middle class-households , those between the 30th and 70th percentiles of income, now fall out of that status as adults.
Neither party has a reasonable program to halt the decline of the middle class. Previous generations of liberals — say Walter Reuther, Hubert Humphrey, Harry Truman, Pat Brown — recognized broad-based economic growth was a necessary precursor to upward mobility and social justice. However, many in the new wave of progressives engage in fantastical economics built around such things as “urban density” and “green jobs,”  while adopting policies that restrict growth in manufacturing, energy and housing. When all else fails, some, like Oregon’s John Kitzhaber, try to change the topic by advocating shifting emphasis from measures of economic growth to “happiness.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Portland Light Rail Revolt Continues

Portland, the darling of the urban planning world, is showing cracks and fissures between the City of Portland and it's surrounding communities.  But Metro marches on, dedicated to planting trees that will bear no fruit, because they are so heavily invested in the Smart Growth / New Urbanism planning effort.  Take that away and Metro would be left with only garbage, the Zoo, convention and exposition space (and now a hotel), and parks (even one for elephants on Mt. Hood).  

Without extensive involvement by Metro, cities would be left to act as all other cities in the state instead of being dominated by the urban core.  It's not just the high capacity transit that is objectionable, it's the high density, mixed use development that comes with it that will change the character of their cities and take away the reason they live where they do.  

I doubt that green house gasses and automobiles have much to do with cramming people into Station Communities.  This is an industry (contractors, consultants, bond traders, developers, planners and Metro) that continually needs new, fertile ground to keep money flowing in.  Environmental issues are just the excuse to keep the public distracted - it is inconceivable that Metro and the transit/development industry doesn't know the metrics about HCT - they just don't care because it's public money at stake, not theirs. 

Millions have been spent on just creating the various Plans with no actual infrastructure having been built.  If one counted the entire amount of public dollars spent on transit, planning, urban renewal, federal grants and local matching grants, on legislative and local government time devoted to the transit and land use plans - how many billions of dollars would that be?  


At the same time, Portland's transit agency faces financial difficulty and has been seriouslycriticized in a report by Secretary of State. The agency has more than $1 billion in unfunded liabilities and carries a smaller share of commuters than before the first of its six light rail and commuter rail lines was opened. Moreover, the latest American Community Survey data indicates that 3,000 more people work at home than ride transit (including light rail and commuter rail) to work in the Portland metropolitan area. Before light rail (1980), transit commuters numbered 35,000 more than people working at home. Over the period, transit's market share has dropped one-quarter.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lake Oswego Land Use Hearing Tonight


According to Oregon land use planning laws, transportation and land use must be coordinated in a city's Comprehensive Plan.   The Transportation System Plan (TSP) is part of the Connected Communities portion of the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan.  When the separately updated TSP is approved - after Public Hearings in front of the a Planning Commission (tonight) and the City Council, it becomes part of the Comprehensive Plan, the land use Playbook for our city.

Planning Commission 
Monday, March 24, 2014
6:30 PM
City Council Chambers, City Hall

Written testimony can be sent to the Planning Commission by 5:00 PM tonight.  See the Planning Commission Meeting web page for tonight's meeting for more info. AND to get copies of the Transportation System Plan (2 parts - Body and Technical Reports).

DO NOT depend on others to carry the water for your concerns!  Speakers have 3 minutes and will be using it to express their likes and dislikes of the Plan.  If there is something that bothers you -


A sample of what is and what is not in the plan:

Map of proposed pathways - NW Quadrant (there are 4 maps that cover the city)
The map shows the pathways, but does not show which of them are on the city's right of way (ROW) and which are on private property cutting through private backyards and business driveways.  You will have to reference another city map with lot lines for that.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Pathways map is accompanied by a prioritized list of projects.
(See the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail System Plan and Maps on the Metro website.)

69% of the TSP listed projects are for bicycle and pedestrian pathways.  
The TOP 5 Bicycle and Pedestrian Pathway Projects are for Regional (Metro-related) Plans.
The TOP 10 have links to Regional Trails.
Number 11 is the "Willamette Steps" - a project related to the Foothills Development Plan.
X number of private properties encroached by proposed paths.  (Have not counted yet).

And this doesn't include the Roadway or Transit Sections where streets are up classified when conditions do not warrant it but for future anticipated growth.  Aren't you curious where that growth might me?

And NONE of the cost estimates include FUTURE MAINTENANCE on new infrastructure which could be considerable! Shouldn't we be taking care of what we already have before we add anything new?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Station Communities - Metro's successes

A "Station Community" is another term for "Transit Oriented Community" (TOD).  These Communities (makes one wonder what the word "community" means) are the way the climate refugees and other masses of people flocking to Oregon are supposed to live, in high-density, mixed-use areas, close to High Capacity Transit stations.  No need to own a carbon-spewing car (electric, CNG, hydrogen fuel cell cars too?) - the district has a lot of bike and pedestrian pathways to get around.  Some buildings are all residential or office mixed in, but the idea is for mixed-use, vibrant communities.  People will be employed where they live, or along the transit lines at other employment centers that are easily accessed from one TOD to another.

As for the Tigard Triangle, developers are being courted by Metro as initiators in the district so more development will follow.  Metro has a separate program and grant money available specifically for TODs.

From Metro's Transit Oriented Community webpage:
Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program has contributed to many of the regions' successful transit-oriented developments and has acquired key opportunity sites at transit stations. Through active engagement in the design and construction of real projects, the program has helped identify and remove obstacles to the creation of transit villages, main streets and mixed-used urban centers envisioned by the 2040 Growth Concept.

QUESTION: What is the measure of "success" of a TOD?  AND  Has Metro acquired any "key opportunity sites" in the area?   

Below is a map of the locations for potential Station Communities in the SW Corridor.  The map was created in 2011 - some locations may have changed.  More from the Tigard website.  

Stay tuned for new developments.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Train or bus to (where?) keeps rolling along

The Oregonian, March 20, 2014

Metro documents released this week show updated maps of possible paths for a light-rail or bus-rapid-transit corridor from Portland to Tualatin, and city and regional officials had them on display Wednesday night in Tigard. Tualatin residents can view the maps tonight at the Tualatin Police Department at 6 p.m.

Metro and the other Southwest Corridor Plan partners are looking for the public's input as they continue to narrow down the options. The newest maps show the paths still on the table, and the paths slated for "early removal" -- the ones that don't make as much sense because of financial or logistical obstacles.

The new maps are below (click "View full size" below each picture to enlarge). Larger versions, with explanations of the benefits and drawbacks of each option, are available in PDF form at Metro's website.
-- Luke Hammill

The routes in red have been rejected.  There are more maps in the Oregonian, but the Metro website has all the maps and reading material about the SW Corridor Plan.  The Corridor routes are still in the design phase but are being shopped around for citizen comment.  On the SW Corridor Plan Area map, Parts of Lake Oswego are included - Kruse Way and the SW Employment District (West end of Boones Ferry Rd., currently the Industrial Zone.  

How will the HCT affect LO?  Write me with your best guess at:  upsuckercreek@gmail.com 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Understanding the Budget Review process

The City Budget Review process is underway.  Below is the process for creating a budget for the city.  Meeting dates can be seen in a previous post.

At the bottom of this page (see link below) are links to past budgets including that for 2013-14.  The menu for the Finance Dept. has other information relating to the budget.  When the proposed budget for 2014-15 comes out in April, it might be good to compare them to see how things are different.  LORA Budgets are listed here also - another good read!  

For a review of last year's process, the City Manger (Tom Coffee) developed a package of good, better, best alternatives for each budget category after conferring with department managers.  This was an important document as it gave insight to what each department felt was essential to its functioning.  It is the document that comes closest to defining the Core Services of the city.

This Council, and the public, have expressed a desire to concentrate city resources on Core Services.  What does that mean?  Most can agree on the big things - maintaining current city streets before building new regional pathways is one.   But we might have bigger disagreements when it comes to cutting Parks & Rec programs that are enriching and desirable, but not essential to City functioning.   It is the Budget Committee's job to add and subtract from the list of competing wants and needs to come to some happy place we can all live with and that is fair to taxpayers rich and poor.

Note:  Besides clarifying what services were essential vs discretionary, the 2013-14 budget also separated the City's Reserve funds into separate funds.  This showed that many of the reserve funds were for dedicated expenditures and not available for the general fund.  What some people thought was an adequate reserve amount was quickly deflated to a sorry pittance.  Thanks to the Budget Committee (and to Dave Berg) who requested this information.

LORA (Urban Renewal) budgets are also available on the budget page.  (Does anyone besides the Budget Committee ever check these things?)

For a glance at last year's decision-making process, look here:  http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/sites/default/files/fileattachments/boc_bc/calendarevents/18547/budget_committee_packet_4-25-13.pdf

For City budget website:

City of Lake Oswego Oregon Official Website
The City Council adopts a budget that is basically the financial plan for the City, which incorporates the
5-year Capital Improvement Plan.  It forms the basis for budget appropriations and includes any revisions or adjustments made by the Budget Committee.
Any citizen who is interested in reviewing the budget may contact the Finance Department at City Hall. Copies of the budget are also available for review at the public Library.  The actual budget document contains extensive line details and is about an inch thick.
There are four significant steps in a budget process:
  • April 2014 – The City Manager presents the Proposed Budget to the Budget Committee. This provides a starting point for discussions.
  • April 24, 2014 – Budget Committee meeting scheduled for public review and consideration of the document. The Budget Committee is made up of the seven City Council members and seven non-elected citizens.
  • In April and May, the Budget Committee deliberates on the Proposed Budget.
  • May 2014 - The Budget Committee approves the Proposed Budget, which may include some amendments, for recommendation to the City Council.
  • June 3, 2014 – The Adopted Budget. The City Council reviews and considers the Approved Budget, deliberates and, where they determine appropriate, makes further adjustments which are embodied into the Adopted Budget.
  • July 1 – Implementation of the FY 2014-15 budget. The services and projects within the Adopted Budget are implemented.
The Budget Committee also reviews the LORA Budgets which are posted on a separate page.
For the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency (LORA) budget documents click here.






The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is out with news of higher transit ridership. APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy characterizes the new figures as indicating "a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities.” Others even characterized the results as indicating "shifting consumer preferences." The data shows either view to be an exaggeration.

(Text emphasis in red is by USC)  This articles shows that News outlets by and large have quit doing their homework and rely heavily on Press Releases to do their work for them.  If an organization prints it, it has to be true, right?   

In Portland, considered by many around the world to be an urban planning Utopia, the data is hardly favorable. Since 1980, the last year with data before the first of five light rail lines and one commuter rail line opened, transit's market share has dropped from 8.4 percent to 6.0 percent. While spending billions of dollars on rail, working at home – which involves little or no public expenditure – increased by triple the number of people drawn to transit. And things have not changed materially, even during the claimed "fundamental shift." In the last five years, the working at home increase is more than double that of transit.
In Los Angeles, ridership at the largest transit agency continues to languish below its 1985 peak, despite having opened 9 light rail, Metro, and rapid busway lines and adding more than 1.5 million residents. Even this decline may be under-stated because of how transit counts passengers. Each time someone steps on a transit vehicle, they are counted (as a boarding). A person who transfers between two or three buses to make a trip counts as two or three boardings, which is what the APTA data reports.
When rail is added to a transit system, bus services are reconfigured to serve the rail system. This can mean many more boardings from transfers without more passenger trips. This potential inflation of ridership is likely to have occurred not only in Los Angeles, but in all metropolitan areas that added rail systems.
Transit Gains
At the same time, gains are being made in some metropolitan areas. Ridership has risen more strongly in transit's six "legacy cities," the municipalities (not metropolitan areas) of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington. Between 2007 and 2012, 68 percent of the additional transit commuting occurred to employment locations in these six municipalities. This is higher than the 55 percent of national transit commuting that these areas represented in 2012. The much larger share being attracted by these areas in the last 5 years is an indication that transit ridership, already highly concentrated in just a few places, is becoming even more concentrated.  Further, 50 percent to 75 percent of commuters to the corresponding six downtowns reach work by transit.
Rational Consumer Behavior
Even when the nation finally emerges from the Great Malaise, only vain hope will be able to conceive of a large scale consumer preference driven shift toward transit. The rational consumer will not choose transit that is slower or less convenient than the car. Where transit access is impractical or impossible, people will use cars. This is the case for most trips in all US metropolitan area, as the Brookings Institution research cited below indicates
The Brookings Institution research indicated that the average employee in the nation's major metropolitan areas are able to access fewer than 10 percent of jobs in 45 minutes. This is not only a small number of jobs, but it is a travel time that is approximately twice that of the average employee in the United States (most of whom travel by car).
More funding for transit cannot solve this problem. The kind of automobile competitive transit system needed to provide rational consumer choice between cars and transit would require annual expenditures rivaling the total personal income in the metropolitan area, as Jean-Claude Ziv and I showed in our 2007 11th World Conference on Transport Research paper (2007). It is no wonder that not a single comprehensive automobile competitive transit system exists or has been seriously proposed in any major US or Western European metropolitan area (Note 3).  Transit is about the largest downtowns and the largest urban cores.
Unbalanced Coverage
All of this appears to have escaped many media outlets, which largely parroted the APTA press release. For example, The New York TimesCBS News, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune were as parish newsletters commenting on a homily by the priest, for their failure to report both sides. A notable exception was USA Today, whose reporter consulted outsider Alan Pisarski (who has written for newgeography.com). Pisarski placed the APTA figures in historical context and expressed reservations about restoration of the transit commuting share numbers of 1980 or before. 
Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.