Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Creating and preserving more humane cities

This article explains exactly why this blog was created - to save the suburbs as a humane place to live, create a community, be healthy and raise a family.  It seems crazy that people should be arguing about the need for and value of such places, but we are now part of a world-wide rebellion against density, and against becoming a city that has lost its uniqueness and human scale.  This is worth fighting for.

Urbanization: Protest against gigantism
By Joel Kotkin

Excerpts from a longer article.  See website for full version.

People care deeply about where they live. If you ever doubt that, remember this: they staged massive protests over a park in Istanbul. Gezi Park near Taksim Square is one of that ancient city’s most beloved spots. So in June, when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to demolish the park to make room for his grandiose vision of the city as “the financial center of the world,” the park’s neighbors and supporters took to the streets. The protests were directed against what has been described as “authoritarian building”—the demolition of older, more-human-scaled neighborhoods in favor of denser high-rise construction, massive malls, and other iconic projects.

There’s just one problem with this brave new condensed world: most urban residents aren’t crazy about it. In the United States and elsewhere, people, when asked, generally say they prefer less dense, less congested places to live. The grandiose vision of high-rise, high-density cities manifestly does not respond to the actual needs and desires of most people, who continue to migrate to the usually less congested, and often less expensive, periphery. And as the people’s desires continue to run counter to what those in power dictate, the urban future is likely to become increasingly contentious.

The growing disconnect between people and planners is illustrated by the oft-ignored fact that around the world the great majority of growth continues to occur on the suburban and exurban frontier, including the fringes of 23 out of 28 of the world’s megacities. This, notes NYU professor Shlomo Angel in his landmark book A Planet of Cities, is true both in developing and developed countries.

All of this flies in the face of the argument, made by a well-funded density-boosting industry, that people want more density, not less. Lobbies to force people back into cities enjoy generous funding provided by urban land interests and powerful multinationals that build subways and other city infrastructure to bolster the cause of ever greater density.

Yet rather than re-think density, planners and powerful urban land interests continue to force ever higher-density development down the throats of urban dwellers. In the already pricey San Francisco Bay Area, for example, municipal planners have embraced what is known as a “pack and stack” strategy that will essentially prohibit construction of all but the most expensive single-family homes, prompting one Bay Area blogger to charge that “suburb hating is anti-child,” because it seeks to undermine single-family neighborhoods.

Rather than concocting sophisticated odes to misery, perhaps we might consider a different approach to urban growth. Perhaps we factor in what exactly we are inflicting on people with “pack and stack” strategies. Planners often link density with community, notes British social critic James Heartfield, but maintaining that “physical proximity that is essential to community is to confuse animal warmth with civilization.” When University of California at Irvine’s Jan Brueckner and Ann Largey conducted 15,000 interviews across the country, they found that for every 10 percent drop in population density, the likelihood of people talking to their neighbors once a week goes up 10 percent, regardless of race, income, education, marital status, or age. In 2009, Pew recently issued a report that found suburbanites to be the group far more engaged with their communities than those living in core cities.

A market—or simply human—approach would permit a natural shift towards smaller, less dense cities and, yes, the suburbs, where more people end up wanting to live. Those who prefer high-density living would still have their opportunity if they so desire. 

The primary goal of a city should not be to make wealthy landlords and construction companies ever richer, or politicians more powerful. Instead, we should look for alternatives that conform to human needs and desires, particularly those of families. Urbanism should not be defined by the egos of planners, architects, politicians, or the ├╝ber-rich, who can cherry-pick the best locales in gigantic cities. Urbanism should be driven above all by what works best for the most people.

Friday, January 30, 2015

North Anchor Project - tall or wide?

How big will it be?

This is a good question since the size of the lots determine what gets built there.  The city owns 3 tax lots at the north corners of 1st St. and B Ave.  the lots are not huge, so just how big can buildings be? If the footprint is small, the building might go higher than if the lots were larger.

A reader commented on how small the footprints of the lots are.  The city had hoped to include the gas station property on 1st and State St., but could not make a deal with the owner.  Below are maps to show the actual parcel sizes for you to compare to nearby lots and buildings.

Will the city sell the lots independently to different developers, or are they being sold as a package deal?  Could the city remodel the existing buildings to retain the low density, or sell the property at a low cost so the development "pencils out?"


Are public meetings public?


The most recent meeting notice emailed to all registrants says that there will 
be a breakfast at this event.  I assume this is the reason for the head count.  
Still unusual to me.  Anyone else?  

Meeting on Saturday!

There is a Community Forum on the North Anchor Project on Saturday (9:00 am to 1:00 pm) at the Adult Community Center on G Ave..  The LORA Board, made up of City Council members, is hosting the event.  The City is requesting that attendees register in advance.

"Please register for the Forum below so that we can best plan for the event".

I have never seen this request before.  For the City Council Town Hall on January 10, no registration was required and there were a lot of cookies to keep people happy.  What is different about this meeting?  Unless there is some absolutely necessary reason why pre-event registration is needed, this is still a public meeting that follows the same rules the public meeting law spell out: The meeting should be open to all.  If you have questions, call the City Manager's office or the City Attorney. I hope to see you there!  To register, call: 503-534-4225.

Selected ommonts from the comments on Open Hall:
There were a few people who wanted a new library or public uses, and others that did not.  Some don't trust City Hall to get public sentiment right. Quite a few wanted a project that fits into the fabric of the downtown and not another Wizer's.
*  * * * * 
Let's have first, a City-wide VERY open, public series of meetings to fully explore the nature or kind of city (e.g. more PORTLANDIZATION vs. single family homes as merely 1 example) we the residents want to develop from this point forward, to include all projects Council is already eyeing (& NOT shaping opinion by the City or CONTROLLING the outcome) in a way truly to encourage and bring out what the public really wants to do with LO, not Council, not the STAFF! 
Do this NOW instead of, on the heels of COUNCIL'S POLITICIZED WIZER OVERRIDE, disingenuously ask for opinions one at a time to control and shape them and kick to the curb grassroots PUBLIC OPINION and WISHES one by one like target practice with a gun. 

I recall the voters rejected a new library. Please honor their vote...no new library. Provide services at the west end where the majority of LO citizens live and where the major source of LO taxes come from. Very very tired of the east end expansion and use of taxpayer funds to assist with private development that benefits the few with no services at all in the west end.

This site seems most appropriate for a true mixed use development; no more than three stories in height; street level-retail complemented by two levels of residential owner-occupied condominiums.
Oh, yes, and NO public subsidies!

Do not incur any additional debt. Sell off the site to private developers such as Gramor and allow them to develop the site within the parameters of the East End Redevelopment plan. A project developed by a committee will not prove attractive to developers. Do not handcuff the experts (developers) with concepts that are not workable.

I would love to see a great family friendly brewpub style restaurant. Something along the lines of the old Rams Head brewery. And maybe a Grand Central Bakery. A wine bar? LO needs some new, upscale, hip places!

More small businesses and restaurants. People want to support their local businesses. Build them and they will come. Also small affordable apartments or condos for the aging demographics of our city who would love to stay in LO but downsize from their large homes. Thank you for the opportunity to 
provide input.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stopping sprawl forcefully

By restricting land supply, government makes housing unaffordable.  It is astounding that so many places all over the world have chosen governments that are pushing the middle class into a lower standard of living.  Just like here.  

Middle Income Housing: International Situation 
Huffington Post, January 22, 2015  
By Wendell Cox, Principal, Demographia


Hong Kong, Sydney, Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area have the worst middle-income housing affordability in 9 nations, according to 11th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Median house prices in Hong Kong were 17 times the median household income, a measure called the "median multiple." Vancouver had a median multiple of 10.6, Sydney 9.8, while San Francisco and San Jose were each at 9.2. Other cities (metropolitan areas) with especially high median multiples included Melbourne (8.7), London (8.5), San Diego (8.3) Auckland (8.2), and Los Angeles (8.0). 

Why are there such large differences in housing affordability? Put in layman's terms, the problem is land shortages created by planning policies. Cities have drawn urban growth boundaries, beyond which middle-income housing construction is virtually prohibited. Consistent with economic axiom, restrictions on supply lead to higher prices, other things being equal. These "urban containment" policies drive up land prices, which also drives up house prices. House construction costs are little different, for example, between the Atlanta and San Francisco metropolitan areas. But the land in San Francisco drives prices to more than three times that of Atlanta, income adjusted.

Urban containment seeks to stop urban expansion ("urban sprawl"). Yet, as The Economist indicates, sprawl can only be stopped "forcefully. But the consequences of doing that are severe." These include higher house prices and, according to Chief financial writer of The Financial Times Martin Wolf, "...ultimately force people to live in more cramped conditions than would occur without limits on supply."

There is increasing international concern about the declining fortunes of middle-income households. At the Brisbane G-20 Summit in November, governments around the world declared "better living standards" to be the highest priority and indicated a commitment to reduce poverty. This requires not only higher incomes, but avoiding policies that unnecessarily raise the cost of living, such as the cost of housing. Middle-Income housing affordability relies on a "plentiful and affordable" supply of land for development on the urban fringe, as urbanist New York University Professor Shlomo Angel indicates in his introduction to this year's Demographia Survey

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Big Brother is in your car with you

From The Antiplanner blog - my comments in red.  There are quite a few breadcrumbs leading up to a future that is more restrictive, more controlling than should be allowed.  It will happen unless the public starts voting for, and demanding people who understand how real people live, and what personal freedom and liberty is and what it is worth.  Once it is gone, liberty is impossible to get back. 

Why do we allow government so much control? 

Big Brother Wants to Watch You Drive

In 2008, the Washington legislature passed a law mandating a 50 percent reduction in per capita driving by 2050. California and Oregon have similar but somewhat less draconian laws or regulations.

 Does anyone have an idea how government can mandate - require and enforce - a 50% reduction in per capita driving?  What would it take to get you to drive half the amount you do now?  

The Obama administration wants to mandate that all new cars come equipped with vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, so the car can send signals to and receive messages from street lights and other infrastructure.

There is also the recent discovery of cameras that read license plates and record time and locational information that is kept by government agencies for an indeterminate time frame.   

Now the California Air Resources Board is considering regulations requiring that all new cars monitor their owners’ driving habits, including, among other things, how many miles they drive, how much fuel they use, and how much pollution or greenhouse gases they emit.

All manner of misdeeds are being done under the guise of reducing GHG, mostly demonizing and reducing automobile use.  Never mind the fact that even the EPA has proven that carbon emissions from autos is going down while the number of autos and vehicle miles traveled are going up!  Clean automobile technology is getting better and will continue to get better.  

The climate change, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions excuse is just that - an excuse for government to control public mobility and individual independence.  Why?  Why should government know where we go and how much we drive?  There are better ways to reduce GHG, but planner-government-activists keep trying to control you.  Why?  

Now the California Air Resources Board is considering regulations requiring that all new cars monitor their owners’ driving habits, including, among other things, how many miles they drive, how much fuel they use, and how much pollution or greenhouse gases they emit.

Continue reading this log post at The Antiplanner.

Is Lake Oswego protected?

There is a phrase in the text of this story from The Oregonian that explains how the micro-apartment cancer is spread, and how it can be stopped:

 "Micro-apartments — typically studio apartments around 300 square feet, and often less — have become popular in big cities that don't put a minimum on the size of housing units. They're positioned as an affordable urban option for singles and couples."

Is Lake Oswego inoculated against this disease, or are we vulnerable too?  Our Community Development Codes should be evaluated not only for what they have, but for what they don't!

In the photo you can see that the streets are already lined with parked cars.  When the current apartments are chopped up into sleeping units with shared kitchens, and NO parking, where will the tenants' and shoppers' cars go?  There's only one place to go - into the residential neighborhoods.  Another Portland neighborhood wrecked by Portland's density codes.  

Micro-apartments proposed in SE Portland's Mt. Tabor neighborhood

The Oregonian, January 16, 2015  By Elliot Njus

The building at 6012 S.E. Yamhill St. in Portland, where a developer is proposing redeveloping a former group living center for international seminary students as micro-apartments. (Elliot Njus/The Oregonian)

A Portland development firm has proposed turning a former nursing school dormitory on Mt. Tabor into a 75-unit micro-apartment building.

Bridgeway Realty Resources has a contract to buy the building, 6012 SE Yamhill St., from its current occupant, a Christian nonprofit.  According to filings with city development officials, the firm wants to renovate the building and create high density "mini-units," with the ground floor used for storefronts and offices. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

UGB is a failure

says Clackamas County Commissioner, 
Paul Savas

Video clip is from a community forum hosted by CIA, Citizens In Action, a citizen-activist group based in Oak Grove.  The forum was held in mid-January.

This short clip is from a 2-hour video of the entire meeting.  The Vimeo website also shows clips of Metro Commissioner, Carlotta Collette, as well as the entire 2-hour forum.  

What does Savas have to say, and how would he solve the bureaucratic problems he describes?

Is the "Climate Smart Communities" effort a program Oregon should be engaging in at all?  What could we be doing that would give us the biggest bang for our buck, and just maybe, it is being done already and we don't have to anything at all?  

Monday, January 26, 2015

North Anchor Project ideas wanted

North Anchor Community Forum

Saturday, January 31
9:00 am to 1:00 pm
Adult Community Center
505 G Ave.

As you think about what you want to see on the city property at 1st. St. and B Ave., it might be fun to see what was proposed in 2010.  At that time the city was planning for a new library, a parking facility, retail and office spaces plus housing units and/or a hotel.

The 2010 plans are off the table, but it will be up to citizens to let the Council and planners know how big, and how high buildings should be, and what should be there.  In the end. It will be up to a developer to deliver a project that will make the investors money, or else get substantial subsidies from the city if not.  What do you think?  You may still write your comments on the Open City Hall forum (follow the link from the city's main web page).
  • More dense housing like at Wizers?   
  • How big and how tall should any building be?  What will a large developmet do to the downtown?  
  • Public parking? How much should the city (taxpayers) pay for parking, and who will be the beneficiary!  Downtown businesses?  Out of town shoppers?  Bus riders? Farmers Market visitors?   Would it be a relief valve for lack of parking at Wizers or other developments that get a break on parking standards? 
  • What about public meeting spaces?  What part of the development should be public, and why?  How much would it cost taxpayers? 
  • Retail?  Offices?   Would this bring shoppers and or jobs?  
  • Is there a developer interested in the property and talking to the city?  If so, what do they want?  
  • Will any of the ideas generated on Saturday actually "pencil out" and be used in a significant way?  
Here are images from the 2010 architect's concept plans that included a library as a central component.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wild life

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014

Photos from The Wildlife Photographed of the Year 2014 competition from the London Natural History Museum and the BBC.  There were 50 finalists out of  over 41,000 entries from all over the world, each one a masterpiece.

Galleries of the photos are online on different websites.  Google "Wildlife photographer of the year 2014" for multiple media sources.

Skill, luck and artistry intersect in beautiful images to show us more of the world around us.

Demographics change everything

Pew Research Center: Fact Tank
January 16, 2015 By Richard Fry

This year, Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers

This year, the “Millennial” generation is projected to surpass the
outsized Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau last month. Millennials (whom we define as between ages 18 to 34 in 2015) are projected to number 75.3 million, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). The Gen X population (ages 35 to 50 in 2015) is projected to outnumber the Boomers by 2028.
  Lighter areas contain newer construction, while darker areas are older. What stands out immediately is the difference between the Sunbelt--areas in the Southeast and Southwest where growth has been booming--and the Rustbelt--an arc stretching around the Great Lakes from North Dakota to New York. Nebraska and Kansas haven't seen much in the way of new construction either. This tracks pretty well with the overall population change in these areas. Over the past 10 years people have migrated to the Sunbelt and away from the Rustbelt. 

  • There were a projected 75.4 million Boomers in 2014. By midcentury, the Boomer population will dwindle to 16.6 million.
By 2050, I think I know where the "huge" numbers of people coming to the NW will 
be living.  Just a wild guess.

Median age of housing by zip

Age of housing isn't everything, but you can't build old houses.  Because of new home construction costs, existing homes are tidally less expensive.  The exception is popular cities with a lot of in-migration.

Map:  The age of housing in every zip code in the U.S.

Washington Post, June 24, 2014  By Christopher Graham

Depending on where you live, you may feel that the rent - or the mortgage - is too damn high. One reason for this? We aren't building enough new housing stock, particularly in city centers where demand is high and supply is low. 

One way to illustrate this is to look at the median age of housing stock across the country. I took American Community Survey data on this and mapped it nationally, at the zip code level. A small version of the map is [on website] but you'll want to click it [link below] for the full version - trust me, it's worth it.  

Lighter areas contain newer construction, while darker areas are older. What stands out immediately is the difference between the Sunbelt--areas in the Southeast and Southwest where growth has been booming--and the Rustbelt--an arc stretching around the Great Lakes from North Dakota to New York. Nebraska and Kansas haven't seen much in the way of new construction either. This tracks pretty well with the overall population change in these areas. Over the past 10 years people have migrated to the Sunbelt and away from the Rustbelt.

Link to webpage:

What kind of homes do Millennials want?

National Association of Home Builders 
Survey:  What Kind of Homes do Millennials Want?

USC reported on this subject the other day -
Millennials who want to settle down are buying detached, single-family houses.  But what kind of houses do they look for?

The NAHB did a survey in 2014 that answers this question.  In short, they are a lot like their parents: not much money starting out; they only need a smaller home at first; and older, less expensive homes are preferred.

Here is a link to the survey summary.  The entire survey is available through a link at the bottom of the webpage.

Portland Monthly Magazine: 2014 Real Estate 
Where are the hottest neighborhoods in Portland?  How do suburban communities compare?  Check out Portland Monthly Magazine's annual run-down on area real estate markets.  Notice that the "hot" areas in Portland are the modest areas of smaller or older homes in neighborhoods that are being fixed up and rejuvenated.  As the lower end neighborhoods turn over, prices go up and affordability goes down.  The suburban statistics for transportation and crime are interesting too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dark skies, shining on me, nothing but...

...dark skies, do I see.
Should We Have to Travel to See the Stars?  

Can you imagine what it would be like to step outside your own home and see the shooting stars?   What would it take?  Read about how to restore Dark Skies on the IDA website: www.darksky.org

Once a source of wonder--and one half of the entire planet’s natural environment—the star-filled nights of just a few years ago are vanishing in a yellow haze. Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars; poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone.   



The wonder of the night sky has been a constant since the dawn of civilization. It has inspired countless generations, poets, scientists and dreamers. Today this natural resource is threatened by the careless use of artificial light. The International Dark-Sky Association has been working to protect and preserve the night sky for future generations. The International Dark Sky Places program was developed to recognize areas with natural night skies and communities that are committed to preserving them through action, outreach and education.
IDA is actively engaged with government, volunteers and other organizations to raise awareness of the value of the night sky and to garner allies in our efforts to protect or heritage of a natural night sky.

Young families want homes in suburbs

How to attract young families to Lake Oswego?  

Young couples with children, or contemplating starting a family, are looking for single family homes with yards, in the suburbs.  Lake Oswego will continue to lose large numbers of young families to other suburban towns as tear-downs here continue to deplete the stock of affordable, starter homes.

As the Millennials age, the number of singles will dwindle, and apartments will lose their attraction.  Lake Oswego has what people still want - single-family home neighborhoods and a great place to raise a family.  Can Lake Oswego keep its charm, livibility and affordability for future families?

Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2015  By Kris Hudson
Millennials Yearn for Home in the Suburbs
New Survey Shows 66% of Millennials Want to Live in the Suburbs

One of the hottest debates
mong hous­ing econ­o­mists these days isn’t the trajectory of home sales, but whether mil­len­ni­als, those born in the 1980s and 1990s, want to re­main ur­ban­ites or even­tually re­lo­cate to the sub­urbs.

Some de­mog­ra­phers and econ­omists ar­gue that the pref­er­ence of mil­len­ni­als, also called Gener­a­tion Y, for city liv­ing will re­main long last­ing. And sur­veys of these young ur­ban res­i­dents have tended to show that they don’t mind small liv­ing quar­ters as long as they have ac­cess to mass tran­sit and are close to en­ter­tain­ment, din­ing and their work­places.

But a sur­vey re­leased Wednes­day by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Home Builders, a trade group, sug­gested oth­er­wise. The sur­vey, based on re-sponses from 1,506 peo­ple born since 1977, found that most want to live in sin­gle-fam­ily homes out­side of the ur­ban cen­ter, even if they now re­side in the city.

“While you are more likely to at­tract this gen­er­a­tion than other gen­er­ations to buy a condo or a house downtown, that is a rel­a­tive term,” said Rose Quint, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s as­sistant vice president of sur­vey re­search. “The ma­jor­ity of them will still want to buy the house out there in the sub­urbs.”

The sur­vey, which was re­leased at the as­so­ci­a­tion’s con­ven­tion in Las Ve­gas, found that 66% want to live in the sub­urbs, 24% want to live in rural ar­eas and 10% want to live in a city cen­ter. One of the main rea­sons peo­ple want to re­lo­cate from the city cen­ter, she said, is that they “want to live in more space than they have now.” The sur­vey showed 81% want three or more bed­rooms in their home.

“The pref­er­ence for the sub­urbs sug­gests that fu­ture de­mand will be in the form of sin­gle-fam­ily homes rather than con­do­mini­ums more preva­lent in cities,” said David Berson, chief econ­omist with Na­tionwide In­sur­ance Co. “That’s also good news for fu­ture sub­ur­ban sin­gle-family sell­ers, many of whom are baby boomers.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lake Oswego: Open for Business

Remove Barriers to Mixed Use Development

Why did Lake Oswego spend so much time and so much money on creating Clear and Objective Housing Codes when many of the commercial areas were already code compliant?  (See yesterday's blog post.). And, why has the city forged ahead with increasingly dense urbanization in spite of overt citizen rejection of these plans?

Example of mixed use with vertical housing density and transit.

Metro, State, Federal, and NGO Involvement:
As USC has described before, there is an effort to spread "Smart Growtj" development nationwide, and throughout the world.  There is an order to how governments change existing land use regulations to allow for Smart Growth (compact, form-based, high density) development.  All of this is described in Metro documents ("Toolkits") for their "Strategic Partners" in the region, but the steps are common to all Smart Growth development.   Lake Oswego is in various stages of the transformation process of changing from low-density, zone-based development codes to medium and high-density, form-based codes.  There is very little vacant land left, so redevelopment is the only way to grow the city: UP, not out.
  1. ID locations for Town Centers, Main Streets, Employment Centers, Neighborhood Villages, etc. for density and mixed use.
  2. Use grant money to hire consultants to design an area plan, including new code.
  3. Make changes to Comprehensive Plan to allow mixed uses.
  4. Change regulations for noncompliant uses and variances to aid the transition to mixed use.
  5. "Streamline" development codes to "remove barriers" to mixed use development.
  6. Add incentives for developers for increasing housing density. 
  7. Create an Urban Renewal District to use public taxes to entice developers to build in an area.
  8. Recruit developers who want to develop the kind of project the city government wants.   
  9. Voila!  A dense, mixed-use downtown or neighborhood.
  10. Everyone is happy.  No?  Property tax income didn't exceed added expenses?  Livability?  
Lake Oswego Planning Department:

Lake Oswego has been planning for mixed use for years. Current code changes have been in the development process for the last 4-5 years, and probably well before that.  See Planning website for recent project documents, filed under Projects on main page.

The code development projects have been to update nonconforming land uses and variances, create clear and objective housing standards for mixed use development in commercial areas, and other "housekeeping" changes.  Some code changes have been stalled for closer examination by the Planning Commission (parking codes, building heights, etc.).  Not yet considered, but part of the consultant's report, is consolidating zones and changing height and FAR allowances, dwelling units and setbacks within the new zones.

Part of the exhibits is a set of graphic depictions of Lake Grove with a more dense code applied.  Look for the December, 2012 Open House material.  These codes are being adjusted (status unknown), but it gives one a peek at what density looks like in LO.

Lake Oswego City Council:
On January 10, the City Coumcil met to create policies and goals for the year.  Here are a few Draft of the 2015 Goals and updated Policies:
2015 Goals
  • Streamline the development code to make it more business-friendly, while still maintaining community standards.
  • Improve the city's infrastructure to meet current standards and provide for managed future growth.
Policies - Economic Development
A thriving business community builds the city's property tax base, provides jobs for Lake Oswego residents, and provides goods and services for residents.  The City of Lake Oswego will actively encourage business investment and expansion by:
  • Reducing regulatory barriers (complexity, time and cost in processing applications, amount and scope of regulations) wherever possible, without sacrificing community aesthetics and livibility.
  • Financial or land use incentives when warranted by benefits to the city provided by the new or growing business, as decided on a case-by-case basis by the City Council.
Answer to yesterday's question:
For a number of years, at least since the 2004 Downtown Redevelopment Plan underwent major expansion and amendments, Lake Oswego city government has been on track to increase density in the city using a Smart Growth model. This model also fits with the State's and Metro's Climate Smart Communities (questionable) goals.  The "benefit" to Lake Oswego is twofold:  1) development that increases the property tax base, and 2) meets environmental and social goals of increased density within the UGB.

The purpose of Clear and Objective Housing Standards is to make it easier for developers to create housing units in Oregon without undue interference from local governments' regulatory codes and procedures.  The law does not preclude Development Review Commission and public review.  The Design Districts in Lake Oswego, including Lake Grove and Downtown, are very objective and specific.

The concern is that if the Clear and Objective Standards relax the standards and/or give the planning department more control of the approval process, the result will be development that citizens don't want and doesn't fit the vision of LO residents for the city.  The feeling is that the city should weigh the concerns of residents over those of the developer.

Google search results to "remove barriers to mixed use" for more information on the subject.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Revising codes: Community Involvement

You learn something new every day.

At the monthly Neighborhood Chairs Meeting with the Mayor last Saturday, the chair of the Old Town Neighborhood said the Clear and Objective Housing Standards were already settled in Old Town, and the new standards did not apply to them.  They had already worked out codes that the neighborhood could live with if a developer decided to build there.  The new standards would apply to all [other] commercial areas in the city, and were very upsetting to the rest of the group that represented neighborhood associations from all over the city.

What did the Old Town neighborhood association do, and how did they do it?

The answer to this question came at last night's City Council Public Hearing on how to process permit requests for all developments that include housing (think Wizer's).  Senior City Planner Sara
Selden's presentation included information that the Old Town neighborhood has its own Design District Overlay that is part of the Community Development Code.  The Design District language is specific to that limited area and is already tightly written, so it is clear and objective.

Ok.  That makes sense.  The city wants cohesion within the city's three established Design Districts, and to enforce those visions, it approved codes that are specific to the districts that are tightly written, and clear, and objective.

Shouldn't the same rules apply to all Design Districts, including the Downtown Redevelopment Design District?

Figure 50.05.004-A: Downtown Redevelopment District 

There was no answer to this at the meeting, even though the discrepancy was questioned specifically as this was NEW information for citizens (and I assume for Council too) that needed explanation and follow-up.   The planners present were mum.  Had any of the Councilors or the Mayor asked the question, the planners would have had to answer.  NO ONE ASKED.  Either they were totally uninterested or they knew what was happening and wanted the downtown developed quickly, with as little interference from the citizens as possible, or didn't understand the implications of what was said.

There's more:
The other revelation to the Council and citizens was Sara Selden's description of how other cities in the region handle clear and objective housing standards.  We were told that clear and objective standards meant that there could be no opportunity for citizen input or appeal on a development because a developer would have met all the requirements of the "clear and objective" code.  The planning staff would interpret code and make code compliance decisions, then issue permits in a ministerial process.  If I misunderstood, others did too, because this was what we were told.

But that is not how the other cities were doing things.  They continue to have public reviews of developments through their Development Review Commissions, with citizen right to comment and appeal decisions.  Clear and objective isn't always so clear, so having the DRC and public point out code problems is part of the process.  It also shows where code should be improved.

What I learned last night:

For the three design districts in the city, especially the Downtown Redevelopment Design District (DRDD), the city is in compliance with state law already!

So why are we doing this?  
Why go through all the expense, planning time, and citizen anguish to fiddle with code for the downtown when it should only apply to Lake Grove and Kruse Way and maybe the Industrial areas when they are developed - Foothills and the SW Industrial zones.

My answers tomorrow.  

At the 1/20/15 City Council Meeting the Council was asked to select from 4 options for how applications for the clear and objective housing code path will be handled.  The Council approved Option #4 in a 4 to 3 vote:  Yes: Mayor Studebaker, Councilors Gudman, O'Neill, and Gustafson.  No: Bowerman, Buck and Manz.  Read the Staff Report on the meeting website (Item 6.4 on the Interactive Agenda), and watch the meeting video also posted on the main meeting page.

Note:  The Planning Commission did not approve of ministerial decision-making on commercial developments and passed the recommendation, to not cut citizens out of the process, on to the Council.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Changes in Old Town

Albertson's will shutter State Street store in February

The Lake Oswego Review (January 15, 2015)
 reports that the Albertsons store on State Street will close for good sometime in February.  This will leave a big hole in the State Street shopping center, and diminish food store choices for those living in the East End and Old Town.

What will happen with the space?  The property owner has a FOR LEASE sign out front, but someday the property may be sold for redevelopment.

Remember the Foothills Development Plan and the Portland to Lake Oswego Streetcar Plan?  Each had earmarked the Albertsons proprty for development related to a streetcar line.

As the LO Review points out, when Albertsons is gone, the Safeway store on A Avenue will be the only grocery store left in the East End.  And... the Safeway block is marked for other purposes in the revised (2004) Redevelopment Plan.  Who knows if a grocery would be included in a new development.

If the Safway closes too, and there is no replacement all-purpose grocery store, then the grand plan of having a walkable town center where residents can "meet their daily needs" within a half-mile of their homes is DOA. Old Town will be in that situation after February.  Maybe people will eat out more.

All the plans and planning are doomed when executed because humans rarely behave the way they were supposed to, and the market does what it does, irrespective of one city's plans. 

Give it your best shot!  Predict the future!
If the Albertson's property is ever redeveloped:  what do you think will happen on the site?  Should the present Oswego Village buildings remain or should there be apartments there instead?

Here are other plans for the area that have been created from 2010 to 2012, but maybe you see something the planners and designers didn't.

More to read

Don't forget to check out the "LO Scorecard" blog for what's happening inside City Hall.  You won't find this kind of news anywhere else!  Read the latest post, "Who does the city serve?"


May this video bring beauty to your day.  
Adam Simmons:  St. John's Bridge 2015

Click on image for video link.