Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Angst spreads in the Pearl

I should have expected this sooner or later, but my attention was not focused on the Pearl District, site of so much dense development over the last 2 decades.  Ushered into existence by Portland's Urban Redevelopment Agency in a new Urban Renewal District with a new streetcar line to attract developers, the area has been booming ever since.

Despite a brief downturn in the Great Recession, the Pearl has been home to mostly upscale condos mixed with a few (required) mixed-income and low-income developments.  The typical urban amenities followed - Whole Foods, eclectic pubs, restaurants and shops, built into the remnants of the warehouse district that once defined the area - before it acquired the shi-shi title of "The Pearl".

And the gentry moved in.  Empty nesters, young professionals, hip older professionals, wannabes.  When they started having kids, the 1-2 bedroom condos didn't quite fit, so some moved out, but for those that stayed, Jamison Park became their de facto back yard complete with dogs and kids, although the thought of kids playing in grass laced with dog poop makes me squirm.

The dream of Portland planners and City Hall of dense development, walkable neighborhoods, rail transit, urban amenities - the Manhattanizarion of Portland - was idealized in the Pearl.  This was where the planning elite showed off their forward-thinking, smart city.

But a game-changer is in the works:  Preserve the Pearl, LLC, is now in play.

I hope that as you read the excerpts here, and the complete article online, that you consider the parallels to the arguments residents in Lake Oswego have over out-of-scale development in downtown LO, and in our neighborhoods.  The problems are not limited to any particular city, any specific height or density in an area, but are proportional to a given neighborhood and town.

This gets to the heart of people's connection to the physical place on Earth they call home - the visceral, primitive need to connect with others around them and form a community, centered in a particular place.  It is the place they create, love and care about, and the place they will defend against what threatens it.

Planners talk a lot about "connectedness", "community-building" or "a sense of place", but the terms never get past words on a page of a textbook because theories of development do not match the reality of how people live.  This is why the public dislikes how elitist politicians and planners destroy the uniqueness of their neighborhoods and the cities they call home - no matter what their size or where they are.

Preserve the Pearl faces 'Godzilla' of development
Group fights city approval of new 150-foot tower

Portland Tribune, March 12, 2015  By Michael Bancud

“The word is out,” Burton Francis, a lawyer who lives in the Edge Lofts, says from a table at Urban Grind Coffee in the Pearl District. “Portland is on the block, it’s for sale. And this is our great opportunity to become like ... Seattle!”

Francis and neighbors Seth Johnson and Tom Lawwill, citizen members of Preserve the Pearl, have galvanized around the Portland Design Commission’s approval of Seattle-based Security Properties’ design application to build a 15-story, 150-foot apartment/office tower on what’s known as Block 136.

Preserve the Pearl LLC has filed an appeal to that decision; Francis wrote the brief.

The area west of The Edge Lofts, where the three live, previously had 75-foot building height limits.

The tower portion of the building would be up to three times the height of surrounding mid- and low-slung buildings. Nearby historic areas such as Northwest 13th Avenue will become like “Disneyland” as their original fabric is lost, they say.

Our concern is losing the uniqueness of the Pearl, which is already gone north of Lovejoy,” he says

Tom Lawwill is a longtime Portland real estate professional and a Preserve the Pearl supporter. He recently sold Pearl developer John Carroll the Jim Stevens Auto Body Shop, where Carroll plans to break ground on a 14-story apartment building

“I work it from both sides,” he says. “This isn’t about loss of views, and we aren’t anti-development. We’re just asking for respectful density. That’s all we’re asking for.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

City Council power grab

Differing opinions about Southwest Corridor planning erupt at Tualatin City Council meeting
The Tigard Times, March 26, 2015 By Caitlin Feldman

You can have your vote, but if your city council has Metro money and a pen, then they can act against the will of the people - even against laws the people have enacted.  By substituting the word "planning" for "design", the Tualatin City Council believes it has sidestepped the people's initiative and the meaning of the law.  No serious person is confused.  The meaning of the law has not changed: (edited). The city shall not spend any money or staff time on the design, construction or operation of light rail.   The  lesson for the public is:

Power, in the hands of those who covet power, can destroy the foundations of a democratic government: the will of the governed,  from whence all power comes, is aside for personal ambition.

It is true that our country is at war.  In every city and every small town, we are fighting for our future and our ability to control it - as we see fit.  Not as some government aperatchik believes is best for us.  Liberty, choice and freedom from an overbearing government are at stake.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

-- and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
Gettysburg Address, 1863

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Earth to Portland

File this one under:  "Things that are happening in Lake Oswego that people thought they could escape by moving to the suburbs."

OR:  "Simple ways to ruin a city."

Lake Oswego is becoming Portlandized.
We are following Portland off of the livability cliff just like good little lemmings with our eyes wide shut.  You see the problems other cities are having with failed policies and practices, yet you continue to do them.  Can anything be more stupid?

If you don't believe that Lake Oswego has city-created parking problems, drive down the one-block section of Oakridge Rd. between Boones Ferry Rd. and Quarry Rd.  At certain times of the day, the cars lining the shoulders of the road choke the asphalt roadway and narrow the distance between passing cars. Why? City planners limited
parking at Oakride Park to 50% of its occupancy leaving the remainder of residents to fend for themselves.  The parking spaces in the lot are at such high demand, there is a drawing each year for the precious spots.  The city's plan was for the "old" folks to take a bus because old people aren't supposed to drive.  Later, they obtained an offsite space at a church, but that plan failed because people want to park near their homes.

Then there is the new Wells Fargo Bank.  Less parking by city edict than the bank wanted, so bank employees jockey for space on Oakridge with the Oakridge Park residents.  Totally predictable.  I suppose bank employees are supposed to take the bus too.  The Waluga Neighborhood Associaton complained, but it did no good.

And let's not forget Lake Grove Shopping Center.  It too, was built with fewer spaces than the owner wanted because of city limits on spaces.
When it opened, it was a mess.  Totally predictable of course.  Retail properties know what kind of parking their businesses need. Who was listening?  The bus runs by there too, so maybe shoppers are supposed to take transit to the store or to restaurants in the evening.  People in Portland don't even do that.  This is the suburbs!  The employees park off site at the owner's added expense.

Planning that is going on
for downtown will certainly cause big problems when density meets parking modifiers and new residents and their guests are thrown into the street to fend for themselves.  The surrounding neighborhoods will be hit hard and fewer people will be enticed to mess with shopping or dining downtown.  No wonder the Evergreen and the First Addition/Forest Hills Neighborhood Associations were have spoken up about about density and parking downtown.

If you want a livable city, contact your city council and tell them so.  

Portland has created parking problems through bad planning

GUEST OPINION:  By David Krogh
The Oregonian/Oregonlive March 24, 2015

David Krogh of Southeast Portland, ks a retired land use planner.  

...As suggested, new apartments are being constructed along many eastside transit streets with little to no parking of their own.

Why? Because the City Council is so gung-ho on promoting transit-oriented housing that it is providing fee breaks and parking reductions for new apartments.

So where will new residents park? On the street, of course!  If there isn't parking at the apartment building, the renters and visitors park in the neighborhood.

And the city also wants to increase densities.

All of this suggests that neighborhood character is not a priority for the city.

"Earth to Portland: The car is not going to go away, no matter how inconvenient the city makes it for drivers."

Sound comprehensive planning means development or density does not occur without adequate facilities.

The obvious solution is to keep anyone else from moving here. Does anyone have any idea how that can be accomplished?
We only live on less than 3% of the state of Oregon, but the politicians and planners and stacking and packing us in to a very small area.  As they rail against the mythical sprawl problem.
Thousands of units built with no parking.  But no way can renters be restricted to only those without cars.  Thousands of people with cars that live in those units are now lining the streets with their cars, and then add in the cars from visitors.  And this is the agenda that is being shoved down our throats by Fritz, Hales, Saltzman, Fish and Novick.  For our own good? 
"Bicycle use is expected to increase to nearly 30 percent of all trips.  Really!?!  Right now 6% of people are riding bikes in Portland.  And lets get a number on how many of those people own cars.  I question that this percentage is going to increase 500% in 20 years.  Portland has bragged about being a bike town since the 70's and it is still only 6% that are riding bikes.  Face the reality of that.
The City Council members have deliberately ignored the reality of the impact of infill, skinny houses and thousands of apartment units with ZERO parking, crammed into our neighborhoods.  Shame on them. 
If density is so great, why do 95% of Portland's "leaders" live in suburbia or exurbia? If cars are so evil, why do 95% of those same "leaders" own, and use, an SUV or other vehicle for commuting and pleasure? If rail transit is so great, why have all but one or two of Metro, Trimet's, and Portland's leaders never used the MAX, except for specious photo ops? If farmland is so precious, why do smug fools like Elizabeth Furse luxuriate on 40 acre exurban hobby farms that they say the rest of us ought to not have? If parking is so evil, why does City Hall have a parking garage? 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

LUBA decision April 9

March 18, 201, Eugene, OR
..........it was a beautiful spring day..........

The hearing was in Eugene on Wednesday at the University of Oregon Law School in one of the auditorium-style classrooms with student in attendance.  The rest of the audience was made up of the laweyers for both sides, Pattrick Kessi came to watch the next installment in the fight for his project, Lita Grigg from Save Our Village, and several people from Lake Oswego who had testified in opposition to the development design. No supporters of the project that I could tell.  (Where is the grass roots sentiment on this issue?)

The hearing was much like those at the City Council
with each side getting their say during their allkted time, plus rebuttal.  The LUBA panel of land use lawyers asked a few questions during the testimony, but they also had 60 pages of legal briefs to refer to.

Overview (from a non-attorney!):

Petitioner (against the Wizer Block design):  Argued that the City Council decision was inconsistent with the code.  Their decision to overturn the DRC denial of the project was based on the objective standards of size (number of feet high, number of stories, FAR ratio, etc.) and design elements rather than the definition of "small scale village character."  The deciding body must apply the definition and its meaning (intent) before it can consider the standards.

The respondent (Kessi group) argued that by following the standards they met the criteria which defined "village character" and "small scale."

Petitioner said that, using the standards to define "small scale vIllage character," one could build a Home Depot or a WallMart if the building facade had the "look" of the Lake Oswego Style.  In essence, one could technically follow the numerical standards and get something that was very far from the intended small scale, sophisticated, village character the Redevelopment Plan intends.

Ms. White, lawyer for the respondents, admitted that the code would not allow a single building because it would not satisfy discretionary codes.

If discretionary codes do determine what can and can't be built, what determines the meaning of  "scale" if not a discretionary decision about how something looks and fits into a space?  The meaning of small scale has to be seen in context with its surroundings.  The size and scale of the downtown core was established with existing  redevelopment projects.  The mass and size of the Wizer develooment would overwhelm the surrounding blocks and not be complementary, even if exterior elements were the same.  Looks, and number, don't define scale.

There were other arguments about the exceptions approved by the Council, and in my opinion, the respondent's reasoning was, in a word, silly.  The arguments didn't hold water and sounded desperate.  It will be interesting to see how the sharp, experienced attorneys on the board felt about the testimony - what war reasonable, and what didn't apply.  For that we will, have to wait until April 9.  That seems quick to me, but I welcome the end to the suspense.

Depending upon the outcome, the losing party could take their case to the Court of Appeals and then to the Oregon Supreme Court.   But one step at a time.

Bulkanizing the city

Split revealed at community summit
Community Summit meeting indicates that it may be time to rename the Office of Neighborhood Involvement
Unrest in the neighborhoods
Summit: Neighborhood associations push back
Emphasis on minority communities

These are the headlines and headings in an article on the front page of the Portland Tribune, "Unrest in the Neighborhoods", March 12, 2015, by Jim Redden.

The article outlines how Portland's activist Neighborhood Associations, created in the 70s and sanctioned by the City, are being undermined by activist minority orginazations, with the city's blessings.  Renaming the Office of Neighborhood Involvement as suggested by departmental staff  would be the final blow.

Staffers are considering replacing "Neighborhood" with "Community", to become the "Office of Community Involvement".  Angry Neighborhood Association leaders believe that the COP does not want to see geographically defined groups that are interested in place-specific land use thrive, but prefer instead social and economic justice groups that are more issue oriented.

A  private, nonprofit, fundraising, organization of people defined only by their minority status, does not represent the public at large.

Compare this to a group, open to everyone, that represents a geographic location where the members live.  Homeless people, people of color, tall people, short people, renters, property owners, smart, not so smart, disabled, young and old - they are all part of the neighborhood and members of a Neighborhood Association.

Which group best defines a city-sponsored, public entity?  Which group should receive funding with the public's tax dollars?

Cities in the Metro area are experiencing a tsunami of infill development, turning pleasant, family neighborhoods into battle zones with Neighborhood Associations forced to fight deleterious development. The fact that these changes are becoming more severe and happening more often makes it necessary for Neighborhood Associations to be involved in multiple issues each year.  It seems logical that planners and developers might see the neighborhoods as trouble.

Enter NGOs.  The shift away from exclusive funding for land-use-based public groups, though mandated bystate law, to NGOs, private entities with self-serving social-justice goals that align with city plans, erodes the strength and integrity of Neighborhood Associations.

Funding for private Home Owners' Associations on private property is happening in Lake Oswego.  Through a couple of types of public grants, private NGOs do work on private land for the benefit of property owners.  Grant money available for Neighborhood Association projects or projects on public lands, for the benefit of the public, may be diminished by these gifts.  The strength and viability of the Neighborhood Association network is threatened, even if it stay intact, it's ability to represent their constituent neighborhoods will be diminished.

Should private groups receive public funding?  When and why?
Check out your neighborhood Association to see what is happening in the city and where you live.
Neighborhoods in Lake Oswego.  Go to Coty website: Departmnts > Planning > About > Neighborhood Associations.   See both "Neighborhood Associations" and "Neighborhood Association Contact List" for information, or call Planning Dept. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rents are up, household incomes go down

Portland's rents rose at nation's sixth-fastest rate, study finds

The Hassalo on Eighth project will add 657 apartments to Northeast Portland's Lloyd District. The Portland area's rents rose seventh-fastest in the nation, the realtors' study found. (Elliot Njus / The Oregonian)

Rents in the Portland metropolitan area rose 20.45 percent over the last five years, giving the area the sixth-fastest rise in the nation, according to a new study from the National Association of Realtors.

The association has sounded the alarm before about the increasing unaffordability of rents in many metro areas. Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist, said Monday that the disparity between rent and income growth has become unhealthy, making it harder for renters to become homeowners.

"With rents taking up a larger chunk of household incomes," said Yun, "it's difficult for first-time buyers - especially in high-cost areas - to save for an adequate down payment."

Portland's low vacancy rates have helped fuel an apartment building boom. But many of the new units are entering the market at with rents above the median. A study by Zillow last month found that Portland-area rents rose 7 percent year over year, the seventh fastest rent rise in the country. The area's median rent was $1,587, Zillow said.

Portland's low vacancy rates have helped fuel an apartment building boom. But many of the new units are entering the market at with rents above the median. A study by Zillow last month found that Portland-area rents rose 7 percent year over year, the seventh fastest rent rise in the country. The area's median rent was $1,587, Zillow said.

Units at the recently opened Grant Park Village apartments range from $1,194 for a studio to $2,619 for a three-bedroom unit, according to the project's website. At Hassalo on Eighth, studios will start at $1,008 and three-bedroom units will range up to $3,338. At Tupelo Alley on North Mississippi, listed rents range from $1,100 to $2,590.

Chart from the National Association of Realtors, Economists' Outlook has information on income and rent for metropolitan areas across the country.

     Rent Increases over the last 5 years (percent)
  1. New York City                                   50.07
  2. Seattle-Bellevue                                32.38
  3. San-Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara    25.60
  4. Denver                                               24.14
  5. St. Louis                                            22.26
  6. Portland                                             20.45

Planners make plans for others..

..and then go home to leave neighborhoods to deal with the consequences.

THIS is the REALITY of parking policies:  People have cars.  Even people who bike to work.  Even people who work from home and shop for food a block away.  Even old people.  Even people who move into hip, expensive apartments on SE Division or N Mississippi - they bring their cars with them.

The new-think, New-Urbanism theory is that if you make it more and more difficult and expensive for people to park and drive their cars, then they will want to use transit.  This is not reality.

When development codes give developers a way to get out of providing parking, they take it. Residents may not like it, but they may have few choices but to rent one of these expensive, car-free apartments and park in a neighborhood nearby.  Central Planners will point to the full apartments and say the urban, car-free lifestyle is popular - but this isn't the reality of the situation.

Metro encourages communities to have maximum parking standards with incentives for increased density that include lower parking!  Yes, that's right - increase the number of people, and reduce the parking requirement.  It doesn't make sense!  This doesn't work in the real world.  The code is here in LO too and is being used for the Wizars development.  Imagine the impact on the neighborhoods nearby.

Parking wars, Southeast Portland style
Oregonian, March 14, 2015 By Helen Jung

A visitor parks his Cadillac Escalade across part of Kent Tylman's driveway near SE 33rd Place and SE Division Street. (Courtesy of Kent Tylman)

Southeast Division is one of the neighborhoods that have keenly felt the pain of a dramatic increase in residents with the construction of seven new apartment buildings with at least 270 units over an eight-block stretch. With the city's blessing, most of the buildings include no parking at all for tenants while the others collectively add 55 spaces.

Supposedly, the idea was that developers would market the units to tenants who would bike or take the bus to work, said Richmond Neighborhood Association chairman Allen Field. Many do actually bike or take the bus, Field noted. But they also own cars that they keep parked along neighborhood streets. Insufficient parking, he said, is the biggest and most persistent complaint by neighbors.

At the same time, Division has become Restaurant Row in a city that loves its food scene. While that's a great perk for those in the neighborhood, the restaurants also serve as a magnet for customers to drive there from throughout the city. Visitors park without regard for the homeowners or their ability to even exit their own driveways, said Kent Tylman, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years. When this happens every day, patience and understanding give way to frustration.

The conflict isn't limited to the streets around Southeast Division. The same conflicts affect North Williams AvenueNorth Mississippi Avenue and other areas where Portland planning has forced density into mixed-use areas with little attention to the area's ability to support it.

Unfortunately for Division, things are about to get even worse, Field said. The neighborhood received notification that another project is slated to go up near SE 31st and Division - an apartment complex of about 27 or 28 units. The building, he said, will have no parking.

Living in food Heaven

The Oregon, March 15, 2015, ran a story about the price of food at several store chains in the area.  Anticipating the change from Albertsons to Haggen stores in some areas of town, the paper conducted a very limited and un-scientific survey of area stores to what prices were like at each.

The great news is that living in Lake Oswego affords us many opportunities to make choices about where to shop.  The bad news is that the least expensive store is the least convenient to get to for people without cars or time to go there.

Living in a more compact city would not necessarily give people more choices - ask the people who live in the Pearl and South Waterfront how many stores they have close to them, and what grocery stores they are limited to on public transit..  It will be interesting to see how the Lloyd District fares in the future.  I wonder what the ratio of grocery stores per capita is in Lake Oswego and the Pearl, compared to "shops and restaurants" that make for a "vibrant" town.  It was pretty vibrant and bustling in the 'burbs at local grocery stores yesterday, and it was a Sunday.

We compared prices at 7 different grocery stores, and the results surprised us 
Oregonlive, March 15, 2015 By Anna Marum
See the full story online at Oregonlive and view the interactive map of the results.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cyan or Aqua? Orange or Pumpkin?

His and Hers Colors - 
Men, Women, And Two Thousand Color Names

From Data Pointed via Washington Post. 9/18/12  By Stephen Von Worley

A beautiful visualization shows how men and women perceive and define color.  Interactive image portrays colors separated by hue, saturation, brightness, popularity name length - and gender.

Click on image to go to site.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What's growing next door?

The next big learning curve for real estate agents in Oregon is how to spot a marijuana grow house and what to do when they find one.   People who own rental housing should be especially vigilant of what their tenants are doing and make it clear in a contract what is not allowed.  Periodic inspections are just good business.

Now that marijuana is legal in Oregon, expect more home-grow operations to spring up to satisfy demand.  Even though there will be commercial growers to supply the medical and recreational market, individuals will grow for themselves and the black market.  The black market that people thought would disappear when pot was legalized, will still be there for people who want to avoid paying state and local taxes on the stuff.

A seminar was held locally a few weeks ago to keep real estate professionals abreast of the evolving facts of life.  Here are notes from one of the participants:
  • There are currently 69,000 medical marijuana users in Oregon.  As of July 1 when pot is legal for recreational use, expect the number of users to skyrocket.
  • Even though there may be limitations on how many plants can be grown at home, who will search homes to enforce the law?
  • In the 60s and 70s the THC content of pot was 2-3%.  Today, through careful hybridization, it is about 30% - a 15-fold increase. 
  • There will be a greater demand for pot from out of state consumers.  
  • Homes that have been converted into grow operations are sometimes damaged beyond repair.  
  • Electrical wiring for lighting and fans can be extremely unsafe.  The humidity produced by damp growing conditions creates mold infestations in all parts of the structure.  Holes are punched in walls for ducting and structures built for lighting and other mechanical needs.  Windows are covered to hide what is going on inside.  Large equipment can be seen going into the home, but the occupants will not stand out - they will try to blend into the neighborhood.
  • Repairing grow houses to habitable condition can be extremely expensive.  New owners may sue if they find that all the mold or damage is not remediated.  
  • Even when fixed up and sold, criminals may target the house for a home invasion looking for plants and cash because they believe it is still a grow house.  
  • Grow houses are in the city and in the suburbs - in rental homes and in houses purchased specifically for pot production.  
The take away:  Be observant and let                  Click on image to enlarge.
police know about suspicious activity in your neighborhood.  If you are a rental owner, take precautions to prevent this from happening to you.

Thank you to a friend who passed this on to me.  As he said, it's the Wild West out there. 

One last thing:  This may be a good thing or bad, depending upon how you feel about legalized marijuana (I'm against it).  At the last Southwest Employment Area Plan Advisory Committee Meeting, a grower showed up looking for possible warehouse locations to set up shop.  The industry may be  uncomfortably closer than we thought.  

Oregon marijuana growers vie for real estate as they prepare for recreational market
The Oregonian/Oregonlive January 20, 2015 Noell Crombie

Nowhere is the trend more apparent than in the Portland area, where industry players are engaged in  a modern-day grab for warehouse and retail space.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spending on transit infrastructure

Transportation Mode                         Infrastructure      
                                                           Cost per mile        
Bus Rapid Transit.............  $$$
Streetcar.........................  $$$$$
Light Rail Transit..............  $$$$$$$
Automobile and Bus..........  $$  

Now factor in driverless cars and buses. 
Driverless Autos and Bus.... $$+

Self-driving cars use the same infrastructure as automobiles, with updates to make them "smart".   Autonomous driving has the ability to put more vehicles on the same piece of asphalt.  This will make the car and bus that are being denigrated today, an extremely efficient mode compared to other modes of motorized transportation for inter- and intra-city transit.  I assume that the autos of the future will be clean fuel cars: hybrid, electric, CNG, hydrogen, etc. which should appease the car-haters somewhat. 

The Car of The Future is 
Here Today!

Well, not here really, but the auto-car is rolling out in Great Britain.  It is just a matter of time before the cars are made public in the U.S.  Will the rail industry or other political or financial interests kill it?  

Driverless car debuts on U.K. roads 
money.cnn.com February 11, 2015
The U.K. Is racing to become a leader in the driverless car industry.

The UK just made itself a fantastic place to test self-driving cars
Wired.com  February 12, 2015 By Alex Davies

Britain to test a self- driving car on public 
Washington Post, February 11, 2015 
By Matt McFarland

Self-driving cars hit British roads next month: Four cities host trial projects featuring driverless shuttles to smart roads
Daily Mail/Mail Online, December 4, 2014 By Sarah Griffiths 

Why does government continue spending money on transportation options that work in highly dense cities but are extremely expensive in medium to small cities?  Whether it is federal, state or locally funded, it is still public money.  As pretty as light rail and streetcar transit is, it is still a Mercedes Benz we are buying, when a Toyota is all we can afford.  

Planning Commission considers...

...quality of life in Lake Oswego

As the Planning Commission discussed code issues at last night's meeting, there was a distinct shift away from a purely legal or technical meaning of the words, toward what the citizens want the codes to achieve - a high quality of life they moved to Lake Oswego to enjoy.

Quality of life is not a factor of a person's income or the size of one's home, but the day to day experience of living in the city.
  • A person may not think about it but a street will
    feel more friendly when houses are facing the street.   
  • Homes (including multifamily) that do not provide enough parking will be frustrating for the residents and the neighborhood as a whole.  
  • Shoehorning too many dwelling units onto a lot in an area of lower density changes the fabric and character of the neighborhood.  
The main theme behind these issues is: What are the development codes for?  Residents and builders will both benefit when the physical and functional quality of life that defines Lake Oswego is protected.  Quality of life is why people move to Lake Oswego, and we have been losing it bit by bit with inappropriate development.  Hopefully changes in the development codes will both simplify and correct the problems.  It was also exciting to hear Planners talk about other cities where codes support high quality development.  It will be interesting to see where this one goes.

Lastly, and extremely important, was a discussion about the ministerial vs review process for permit approval.  If citizens are involved in a permit review earlier on, perhaps some of the more egregious development problems will be caught.  But code is law, and interpretation can be a slippery slope.  It's ime to get back to basics.

It's also time for citizens to be involved.  Let the Planning Commission know how development - good and bad - in the city affects you.  And attend meetings.

Monday, March 9, 2015

SW Corridor: (flawed) planning continues

Despite running into roadblocks in Tigard and Tualatin where voters need to approve any high-capacity transit (HCT), Metro is proceeding with plans for SW Corridor HCT, from Downtown Portland to Tualatin, and eventually, Sherwood with Newberg still in the distant concept stage.  The cities are called "Partners" because Metro can't tell them what to do - the cities must agree.

The documents for the SW Corridor Plan are HERE.  Or go to oregonmetro.gov and search for SW Corridor Plan.

The Steering Committee is revisiting the planning for the Corridor in order to find a way to convince citizens to get on board.   The required Environmental Impact Statement is too expensive and involved to make plan that won't get past an election.

Today's SW Corridor Steering Committee Meeting was held at the Tigard Library.  Committee members include representatives of Metro, Tri-Met, and all affected cities: Portland, Tigard, Tualatin, Durham, Sherwood.  Lake Oswego withdrew from the Steering Committee when it was concluded that the HCT route did not impact the city.

It should be understood that transit planning is about land use development as much (or more than) as transit. Are people moving to Tigard in large numbers that will make light rail feasible?  Or is light rail or BRT a tool to encourage developers to build where Metro wants growth to occur?  Development plans will tell you that the latter is true.

It is telling to note that automobiles are relegated to the same level as bikes and pedestrian travel modes, and although buses serve the areas now, they were not considered part of a new plan.  Also, ironically, NONE of the meeting participants used public transit to get to the last two meetings, yet there is a bus stop outside the library.  The people who promote transit really prefer to drive.  Who are they kidding?   Transit is for the masses.

Today's meeting focused on South Portland and Hillsdale.  Here are a few of the issues discussed - more detailed analyses are in Corridor documents.  
  • The route from Portland to Tigard would go through a tunnel under Marquam Hill, or use a surface route on Barbur Blvd.
  • In Hillsdale there are other options for tunneling ("cut and cover") to get to PCC. 
  • Tunneling would be for light rail (LRT) only.  
  • LRT would be about twice the cost of BRT.
  • One alternative was to leave things as they are and use "robust bus service."  No options were given for congestion pricing, etc., even though the forecast for growth in Hillsdale is low.  
  • Given the low projected population growth in Hillsdale, why is LRT the only transit mode under consideration for the community?  
Here are some points to consider that you will not find on the Metro website:
From testimony provided by Steve Schopp
  • There are hundreds of projects for the SW Corridor - most have nothing to do with the mega-HCT project.
  • The HCT project could cost as much as the PMLR $200 million per mile, or at least $2.6 billion for 13 miles of light rail (without tunnels).
  • Other costs not included in the DEIS are roadways, bike and pedestrian facilities, etc. and will be studied and funded through other collective federal, state, regional and local efforts.
Fatally Flawed HCT Corridor:

  • High cost (BRT est.: $750M to $1.2B; LRT est.: $1.9B to $2.4B without tunneling)
  • Marquam Hill tunnel would add $900M to $1.0B 
  • No public input or approval without public vote
  • No source of funding due to no voter-approved bonding source
  • SW Corridor not named in list of highest regional priorities by the Oregonusines Summit Transportation memorandum
  • Other priorities and needs in corridor will be deferred
  • Travel lane loss (increase in congestion)
  • LRT infrastructure will obstruct other functions while seldom being used itself
  • Failure to achieve outcomes
  • Cost to operate (PMLR will need $7 million/year to operate)
  • Enhanced bus service funding is sidelined (even though it's need is proven)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Connecting to NGOs

Who is buying your opinion?

A reader was appalled that several government agencies contributed to a Portland non-profit called Opal, a self-described environmental justice organization.

No one (or entity) gives away money without expecting something in return - a quid pro quo.  Governments at all levels give out grants if the recipients agree to do something that accomplishes the goals of the grantor.  The same goes when foundations grant money to government entities (or NGOs), and for all grantors and grantees along the food chain.   The mkney flow can go from government to government, government to private organization, or private organization to government.   The public is largely unaware of this spread of influence and how their government process (We the people?) works.

Some people see grants as "free" money, but when the recipient has to perform certain acts and often has continuing costs when the grant money ends, the grant becomes a Trojan Horse - a gift with hidden, or not so hidden strings attached.  

Here's an example of how it works:

Three federal agencies join forces to create a network of organizations to promote the Smart Growth philosophy to every community in America.  
HUD - DOT - EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities

Partnership Website: sustainablecommunities.gov.

The EPA sponsors Smart Growth America as a means to disseminate information and money to organizations willing to take the message to their communities and advocate for land use and societal change.  
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

smartgrowthamerica.org.  Check out the Our Coalition page where you can find the American Planning Association and the Congress for New Urbanism.

And through many twists and turns, the money dribbles down to local non-profits.

Check out the DOT and HUD for their sustainable partners.  Or not.  They all sound the same.

I don't have time to unscramble the web of connections between various organizations - below are some sites you might want to unwind yourself.  At one time I thought it would be fun to connect all the dots, but when I found out how many layers and interconnections there were, it didn't matter anymore - it was enough to know what was going on.

There should be more investigation into private foundations, their philosophies and goals, and how they are furthered in their gifting.  Many - probably most - activist groups survive on grants from a variety of groups, both public and private, and not on donations.

The understanding then is that the donating groups want someone else, or many someone elses to show "broad community support" for their causes, so they buy their love.  No wonder activist groups have time and resources to be involved in so many causes.  How can the average person compete with these paid lobbiests?  Imagine the amount of money being thrown into the messages we and our elected officials are receiving - a lot of it comeing from our own taxes!!



There are light rail and streetcar groups, sites for walking and biking, complete streets, groups that serve governors and cities CEOs, sustainabIe everything, and a multitude of sites with the word justice in them.  Good luck.  If you find anything especially good, drop me a line, but I bet you can't count them all or trace the money trail.

Adapting to alarmists

Or:  How to go lose your liberties in the name of sustainability.
The disturbing plan for Portland's citizens to be monitored and manipulated into a transformative culture based on the premise that their efforts will save the planet.  This is being codified in the updated and infamous document known as the Portland Plan.  From the Portland Tribune, 3/3/15, "Plan jells to tackle climate change":

"Authors also addressed the disproportionate impacts of climate change on the poor, elderly and people of color, and the consequent need to address equity in neighborhoods.  For Portland, that means adding more sidewalks, transit, bikeways, parks and other amenities in East Portland, and portraying those deficiencies as environmental issue as well as an equity issue."

It doesn't matter that more parks will not lower GHG - they just need to portray deficiencies as environmental issues.

Portland Tribune, March 3, 2015 By Steve Law
Plan jells to tackle climate change

Portlanders, you're driving too much and eating too much red meat.

And office tower landlords, you need to take major steps to cut energy usage.

The update [of the Portland Plan] promotes scores of changes in our behavior, lifestyle, government and business practices so we can do our part to slash carbon emissions and prevent serious global warming -- the biggest environmental threat to our planet aside from nuclear war.

The scary part is that means rolling back our carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels over the next 15 years, and 80 percent over the next 35 years.


The article goes on, and on, and on to tell us all how the City of Portland is going to save the planet by torturing its citizens.  In some weird universe, Portland Central Planners believe they can save the planet by - well, the list is long.  The recommendations that caught my eye were:
1) measuring carbon emissions by all the "stuff" we consume, including food,
Lake Oswego's GHG Inventory was based on assumed consumption of energy and material goods as measured by wealth.  In short, the more money a community has, the more cars they own, the more airplane trips they take, and the more stuff they buy, the more GHG they emit.  Imagine how LO compares to other parts of the Metro area.  No matter what we do - we are bad people!  The numbers weren't based on real data but theoretical models.  Great way to run a city and control its citizens.  
2) tripling the number of people who bike or walk by 2030 to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled
How is the city going to accomplish this feat?  I hate to think what draconian regulations will be used to force (encourage?) us to get out of our cars, but I can imagine some.
3) mandating owners of large office buildings to record and publicize their energy use, and for homeowners to have energy performance ratings "so residents will know how much energy they are using."
There is only one reason building owners would be required to measure and provide data on energy usage - to control how much they will be fined/taxed or what they will have to do to get to the city's standards.  Anyone who wants to know how much energy is being consumed just has to look at their energy bills.  Why then does the city or building owner need the additional information?  (The Energy Trust of Oregon will assess any building for free - through a tax on our energy bills -  for energy conservation, so getting that information is easy and needs no further help from government.)
4) Portlanders are being asked to "do their part" to save the Earth.  
While China dumps out pollutants so thick they cross the Pacific to the U.S. West Coast and pollute our air, we are made to feel weak and bad with guilt-inducing phrases about doing our part and taking on our fair share of the load.  And then there's Germany.  After years of subsidizing solar and wind power, Germany's economy is being hit with bad economic policies, specifically the government's decision to invest heavily in renewable energy sources.  The Economist, 2/14-22/2015, 'No new deal,'  "But the biggest problem for many businessmen may be benighted government policies.  The main policy is a huge subsidy to solar and wind. The surcharge that many firms have to pay on a unit of energy is larger than the entire cost of electricity paid by firms in America."  Are we to repeat Germany's mistakes?

What kind of regime is Portland creating with it's new Plan?  Will all of the Metro area be sucked into their vortex?  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Killing it isn't the answer

The interview below is one year old.  As Mr. Chandler explains, every year there is an attempt to overturn the ban on inclusionary zoning in Oregon, and this year is no different.  His comments in 2014 are still pertinent today.  You can hear him speak at a public hearing on HB2564 on February 23, 2015 and read his testimony online for a better understanding of the injustice to builders and developers if mandatory inclusionary zoning laws are allowed.   Read also testimony of proponents of the bill to see their arrogance and disregard for the rights of others as they plead their cases.  

For those who like to preach about injustices of all kinds, making one class of businesses bear the burden for a community social responsibility seems to be OK.  How can this even be constitutional?  

 Opal - an activist group mentioned below - in a NGO in Portland, calling itself a group for Environmental Justice.  It is funded by 6 foundations, 1 religious group, and 3 government agencies: City of Portland, Metro and the EPA.  I call your attention to this group as representative of the kind of activist voices that populate public hearings and purport to speak for the masses.  What is the agenda of their funding organizations, their board of directors and staff, and what do any of these groups do to further the cause of liberty and freedom in America?  Who speaks for you?

Lobbyist behind Oregon's inclusionary zoning ban argues that killing it isn't the answer to gentrification  

The Oregonian/Oregonlive, Mach 24, 2014 By Anna Griffin

Advocates for poor Oregonians and economically diverse neighborhoods say lifting Oregon’s ban on mandatory inclusionary zoning is a critical step in preventing gentrification and financial segregation.

Oregon is one of just two states -- Texas is the other -- that bar county and cities from essentially requiring developers to include a certain percentage of affordable housing in new construction.

Jon Chandler, CEO and lobbyist for the Oregon Home Builders Association, was the driving force behind that ban when legislators approved it in the late 1990s and he remains the leading force for keeping it in place.

"My fear was that if you give citizens activists a tool they’re going to use it even if there are other tools that they should try first. We didn’t feel like being the tool."

"There was a bill last session that didn’t get out of committee on inclusionary zoning, and the testimony on it in a hearing got into food deserts and rent control and transit headway and poor people in East County not being able to afford to get to jobs downtown. They talked about the lack of park landdensity dumping, the fact that there are too many apartments on 82nd Avenue…. Those are all extraordinarily important issues, but they don’t have anything to do with this bill."

"This time what struck me wasn’t that I was worried about the bill passing, it was the fact that you had a bunch of young Turks, the OPAL people, environmental justice advocates, leading it. They were talking about issues that were important. But this is not the right solution."

"What we hear all the time is ‘we need more tools in the toolbox.’ It’s the tool we don’t have in the toolbox. But I just don’t think that particular tool would do what people dream it might do. In a lot of places what they’ve found is that inclusionary zoning and rent control in some places have had the opposite effect. They actually lower production of housing, not just affordable housing, because people say ‘to hell with it. I’m not building there.'"

Monday, March 2, 2015


I am old, not an idiot.

I'm old enough to remember what REAL exclusionary housing practices were:  Deed restrictions on race and ethnicity, children and the disabled being shut out of rental housing, cities where red-lining occurred, sellers and landlords refusing to sell or rent to certain classes of people.  In some cases there were laws that supported discrimination, and in other places it was a practice that was not prohibited.  Exclusionary housing practices were made illegal with the Fair Housing Act.

Now I learn that exclusionary zoning exists and must be eradicated.  It is considered something as innocuous, and important, as zoning for lot size, and preserving the character of a neighborhood.  A R-7.5 zone is more exclusionary than R-5.  R-10 or 20 is extremely exclusionary, while R-0 (multifamily) is least exclusionary.  Lot size limits are considered by some to be exclusionary (exclusive?) because larger pieces of land represent a higher cost for the housing on it, which makes the zoning itself a barrier to affordable housing.  This was all new to me.  Depending on the community, a large-lot house is very affordable, so this can't be the problem.

The word "exclusion" means that people are being intentionally barred from entry.  In the case of lot size, there is no intent to exclude and no discrimination regarding who can own a lot or buy or rent a home.  There is nothing exclusive about a larger lot except perhaps a person's income, which will always be unequal.  Is "classism" the problem then, and not housing?

It is ironic that the same people who have degraded the suburbs as merely "sprawl" and devoid of cultural integrity, now think that those neighborhoods are the places they want to live, or want others to live.  But it is not the character of the place they respect or desire, but the opportunity to make the suburbs into something that is more to their liking.

The means by which this transformation is to take place is through Inclusionary Zoning - an anti-market, anti-capitalist, anti-business and anti-profit model of social justice which makes affordable housing the responsibility of new home builders.  It doesn't work.  But that doesn't stop social equity activists from trying to impose an unfair and costly program on a community.

Because there exists simpler and less expensive ways to provide housing for the truly needy, even in wealthy communities, the IZ "solution" is not a housing program at all but a social jab at specific neighborhoods.  Large lots and low income people live all over the Metro area, so the "exclusionary" dilemma that the IZ laws want to solve are bogus.  Dispersing poor people out of poverty pockets is not difficult and can be done without spending huge sums on subsidized housing or taking advantage of builders.  The IZ laws are about something more dark and ugly.

Read about Inclusionary Zoning and its effectiveness HERE and Download the Paper by the Reason Foundation: Housing Supply and Affordability: Do Affordable Housing Mandates Work?

    HB 2564 - Inclusionary Zoning in the 2015 Oregon legislature  

    Bill Title: Relating to affordable housing.
    Catchline/Summary:Repeals law that prevents local governments from imposing conditions on approved permits that effectively establish sales price for residential development or limit purchase to class or group of purchasers.