Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SWEA Predictions

I am posting my predictions now, before the first Advisory Committee meeting tomorrow because I want to look back and see how close I came to the final plan.  Are these plans predictable from the start?   Or are the plans truly original and custom fit for each city and each area?   At least this time I will see the process from the start instead of hearing about it when the public open house occurs.

If anyone else would like to send me their predictions or guesses of what might result from the SWEA IGA, send them to upsuckercreek@gmail.com.  If you would like me to withhold your name from publication, just let me know.

Up Sucker Creek Prognostications:
Predictions for Southwest Employment Area Plan
October 1, 2014

The IGA is a Metro grant.  All regional governments contribute to the Construction Excise Tax fund, but jurisdictions need to apply to Metro to get any money back in the form of a grant.  All grants have strings attached.  My assumption is that Metro's goals will feature prominently in the end result.  LO can do what it wants and reject or change any plan that comes from this effort, but the pressure will be to cede to the advisory committee and staff and all the work that went into the plan, and to cooperate with our Metro "partner."   This is from the Staff report from the 01.21.2014  City Council Meeting regarding the IGA:

Metro’s Construction Excise Tax (CET) has provided local governments with planning grants to make land ready for development within the Urban Growth Boundary.

The purpose of the SW Employment Plan project is to enhance opportunities for redevelopment and high quality job creation in this underutilized area of the city. Metro’s CET grant program is voluntary; CET grants are matched with City funds and support local land use planning with the goal of making land ready for development and removing barriers to private investment. With the assistance of a consultant team, the City will work with property owners, existing businesses, neighborhood associations and other stakeholders to set specific project goals, and to identify land use, urban design, transportation, and public facility improvements needed to create a thriving district and to encourage private investment. The resulting plan will include any necessary development code amendments, along with shortand longterm improvement projects and financing strategies, consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
 Oops.  This isn't going to be that hard after all.  

The final draft will include: 

  1. A public "investment" scheme that involves both infrastructure changes and developer incentives.  I predict there will be a recommendation for a new (or expanded Lake Grove) Urban Renewal District and Metro TOD grants. A LID might be considered as part of a package if a URD does not bring in enough money right away.  
  2. The SWEA Plan will include multimodal connections including options for future BRT or light rail along Boones Ferry Rd. and the Kruse Way Employment Area.  For the initial phase, we will only see connections to the SW Corridor transportation hub at Bridgeport - like increased bus service and enhanced ped/bike paths.  
  3. To enhance opportunities for redevelopment, the city will produce codes that will be both non-conforming to the IP base zone and only need ministerial approval - no pesky public review or DRC to get in the way, thus removing barriers to mixed use (now called private investment).  These "Clear and Objective Housing Standards" will be applied in all commercial zones where mixed use that includes dense, multi-story housing is encouraged.  
  4. Mixed-use buildings will form a large chunk of the land along Boones Ferry Rd. and within a block or two on either side.  Housing will most likely be designated an area off Boones Ferry Rd. Though there isn't much room, there will be an attempt to create a Transit Oriented Development that planners can tout as live/work/play (and shop?).
  5. There will be a parklet and maybe a community garden for the employees and new residents (apartment renters), with bike paths and sidewalks throughout the area.  New pathways will connect the area to the city along BFR, Jean Rd., to Bridgeport, and all of the region.
  6. Successful (and good looking) light industrial buildings will remain, especially if they have good jobs, like Micro Tech. 
  7. The city's operations facility will be rebuilt - maybe on new land (this part is harder to guess) - and it will be done with TIF money generated from the URD.  (Bonds are so passé.)
  8. Unlike general obligation bonds, URD money can be spent any way the council wants, so there will be incentives for developers and infrastructure to set the stage.  Do I see a sports facility there?  Could be, but that isn't entering the plan just yet - maybe as unspecified park or public area.
  9. Parking will be at a premium.  Codes are already being considered  (but may be curtailed) that assume buildings next to bus stops (and maybe BRT or rail?) don't need many parking spots.  Plus, clients will be expected come from the densly-built mixed-use housing and offices in the area.  Parking standards will be unbundled from specific land uses.  (Imagine Lake Grove Zupan's parking lot on steroids.)
  10. Everything will look pretty on paper.  All the drawings will have acceptable buildings showing the same "vibrant" street scene with people eating at sidewalk cafés and leafy trees lining the sidewalk.  BFR will be a boulevard with a landscaped median between the RR tracks
  11. There will be no insistence that developers pay their own way or develop infrastructure.  The way things used to be done is history.  Now city planners call the shots on land use whether or not the market wants the product.  By using public dollars to cushion the risk, developers will be more inclined to do what the city wants.  
  12. The area will cater to new office/commercial/ development with residential above, while some warehouses will remain during the years-long transition.  More local/residential services will be located in the Neighborhood Village.  
  13. Tying it all together will be consistently-themed street lighting, accessories and furniture.   

Zoning, new codes, a land use plan, infrastructure, financial incentives....Metro's plans for strategic investment partners!  
Maybe I can find pictures and do maps to further test my skills, but this is enough for today.  Just remember - the area is a NOT blighted.  If nothing spectacular is happening in the IP zone, it is because: it is not financially viable, landowners like it the way it is, or they may be waiting for the mother lode of the public trough.  


  1. Thanks for these thoughts. Doesn't sound unreasonable to me.

  2. Maybe not. But if there is any public money involved such as urban renewal or fee waivers, or density in a way that existing neighborhoods will be negatively impacted..it could be very bad. In other words, it has to be done right. It's just whose definition of right will prevail. The public just doesn't get to vote on bond measures anymore that would give a thumbs up or down on infrastructure investments. It seems that developers have more control over the local government than the citizens.