Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Saturday, October 24, 2015

EPA extends power over states

For the second time in the last few months, a sizable group of states have filed suit against th EPA.  In each case, the plaintiffs assert the EPA has overstepped its powers to make regulations that will limit freedoms and raise household expenses for Americans: One is called the Clean Power Rule, and the other is the Clean Water Rule.

The impacts of EPA's plans are wide-reaching and can be a hardship for many people.  These rules are the equivalent of heavy taxes on every property owner (and renter) and every person who uses electricity and heats their home.  Even though people will be cold and broke, they should feel proud that they are doing something noble for the common good.

After all, it's for the planet!  
(Is there enough wind and sun to power the planet's needs?)

Below are excerpts from articles in the US News and The Wall Street Journal.

US News, October 24, 2015 By Michael Biesecker AP
States and industry groups reliant on fossil fuelschallengeObama's Cean Power Plan in Court

"The Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation's history," said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, among those leading the challenges. "I have a responsibility to protect the lives of millions of working families, the elderly and the poor, from such illegal and unconscionable federal government actions."

The Obama administration and environmental groups counter that the rules are needed to cut carbon emissions while curbing the worst impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. They also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.

The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. At issue are dueling provisions added to the law by the House and Senate in 1990. The EPA's interpretation relies on the Senate language, but opponents argue that the House version should win out.

EPA already regulates other powerplant pollutants under a different section of the Clean Air Act, and the opponents claim the law prohibits "double regulation."

The states challenging the plan in court are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2015 By Amy Harder and Brent Kendall
States Sue Over EPA Clean Power Rules
Challengers are expected to focus on whether the EPA exceeded its powers by pushing utilitiesto shift to cleaner forms of energy

WASH­ING­TON—What could be a years­long le­gal and po­lit­i­cal bat­tle over the Obama administration’s main cli­mate change ini­tia­tive formally kicked off Fri­day, with two dozen states filing a lawsuit against reg­u­la­tions aimed at cut­ting U.S. carbon emis­sions.

The states sued in a fed­eral court here to chal­lenge the rules, which seek to re­duce car­bon out­put from hun­dreds of power plants across the na­tion. Con­gres­sional Re­pub­li­cans also said Fri­day they would in­tro­duce mea­sures in the com­ing week seek­ing to block the rules.

In the works since 2013 and is­sued in early Au­gust, the reg­u­la­tions require a 32% cut in powerplant car­bon emis­sions by 2030 based on emis­sions lev­els of 2005. They are de­signed to force the util­ity in­dus­try, the largest source of U.S. car­bon emis­sions that con­tribute to cli­mate change, to shift to­ward cleaner-burn­ing en­ergy sources over the next sev­eral decades.

The EPA is re­ly­ing upon a sel­dom-used sec­tion of the Clean Air Act called 111(d) as its au­thor­ity for the rules, which leaves an open­ing for le­gal scru­tiny. Chal­lengers are expeced to fo­cus on whether the agency ex­ceeded its pow­ers by pushing util­i­ties to shift to cleaner forms of en­ergy in­stead of just focus­ing on pol­lu­tion con­trols at fos­sil-fuel-fired power plants.

Se­nior EPA of­fi­cials say they are con­fi­dent the rules, known as the Clean Power Plan, are legally sound.

“The Clean Power Plan has strong sci­en­tific and le­gal foun­da­tions, provides states with broad flex­i­bil­i­ties to de­sign and im­ple­ment plans, and is clearly within EPA’s au­thor­ity un­der the Clean Air Act,” EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gina Mc­Carthy said Fri­day.

The state coali­tion’s law­suit against the EPA was filed Fri­day in the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for Dis­trict of Co­lumbia Cir­cuit, a pow­er­ful federal court that reg­u­larly re­views the le­gal­ity of gov­ern­ment reg­u­lations.

Many of the states and politi­cians lead­ing the le­gal and po­lit­i­cal challenges, in­clud­ing West Vir­ginia and Ken­tucky, de­pend heav­ily on coal for their economies and elec­tric­ity. West Vir­ginia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Patrick Mor­risey said the EPA rule was il­le­gal and “one of the most ag­gres­sive ex­ec­u­tive-branch power grabs we’ve seen in a long time.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An Aesop's Fable for our times

Aesop's Fables

by Aesop


A Man came into a Wood one day with an axe in his hand, and begged all the Trees to give him a small branch which he wanted for a particular purpose. The Trees were good-natured and gave him one of their branches. What did the Man do but fix it into the axe head, and soon set to work cutting down tree after tree. Then the Trees saw how foolish they had been in giving their enemy the means of destroying themselves.

The City of Lake Oswego is proposing new regulations that will require stormwater infiltration on all new construction AND some remodeling (driveway replacement or adding a second story to a one-story house), even if the footprint of impervious surfaces has not changed, or unless adding more than 200 sf to a home.  The new infiltration systems will need a O/M Plan and a restriction on the deed

Ok you think.  This won't really affect me.  It's sort of like the Sensitive Lands program - even if there are good intentions, I don't think it will work, and I wouldn't want to deal with the regulations on my property anyway!  Dodged that bullet!

Then maybe the City Engineers decide that all properties in the city need to be covered by the same rules.  You weren't thinking about that - that wasn't the deal.  You thought They would leave your house alone and you could ignore the intrusive and expensive stormwater codes.  The stormwater rules are part of the regulatory creep of government.  More government control, less freedom, more bureaucrats to administer, and rules to enforce, more unhappiness about where you live and wonder a out how it all got so bad.

When City Engineers filed the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) last year, the stage was set for what we see now.  But we don't have to accept what is being proposed in the current Stormwater Management Manual / Plan.  Much of the extreme regulation that is being suggested is not required by DEQ - it appears to be a construct of staff thinking.

Don't give government the means to destroy your city and your home.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Who sets stormwater policy in Lake Oswego?

Piling on regulations while no one is looking
Housing in Lake Oswego will never be the same.
If it's expensive now, it will be much more expensive tomorrow.  

It appears the engineering department has sole custody of all policy, code, permitting, implementation and enforcement activities in the city.  Policy-making is a legislative act and mainly a function of the city council.  The Stormwater Management Manual has been put into practice NOW, before the planning commission or city council have even seen the actual implementing policies and codes. A display of confidence that staff's plans are golden.

From workshop for design community held October 15: (note second bullet point)

Can you imagine what these new infiltration systems might cost with all the technical plans, permits, submittals, inspections, construction and maintenance?  And the O and M (Operations and Maintenance) plan that goes with the system?  And what needs to be filed with the property deed?  Even if infiltration systems are required, I can't imagine how the Feds or the State would require a deed restriction and an O and M plan.  LO is famous for piling on codes for no good reason.  If I were a builder today, I would ignore the plan until I was required by law to implement it.  Housing prices in LO will climb even higher, contrary to our Comp Plan requirement for affordable housing.

Here is what I imagine goes on in City Hall:
"That's a good idea!"
 "Yes. Let's make a regulation to make it happen" 
"What will it cost?  
"Cost is not the issue.  It's for the planet." 
 "Won't people object?"
"It doesn't matter.  We've already locked the city into our plan with the TMDL that we filed, even though the City Council wanted us to wait for the Sensitive Lands code to be fixed."

From the draft code for the Stormwater Management Plan: (emphasis mine). Code is to be discussed at the Monday, October 26, Planning Commission Meeting.  Full draft of implementing code is attached to the agenda.  Read all the documents you can, plan on going to the meeting or commenting beforehand.  Comments here will be heard.  

Comment: Maintenance is defined as, “Upkeep or repair of any structure or site feature necessary to keep the structure or site feature in good and safe condition...” (e.g., replacing a roof or resurfacing an existing driveway) and does not trigger stormwater requirements. Development (e.g., increasing the building height one story, rebuilding a street or driveway) would trigger stormwater requirements, even if the footprint does not change.

The City is required by the City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to reduce pollutant discharge to receiving waters “to the maximum extent practicable.” For large projects (3,000 square feet), the permit explicitly requires that City standards:
  1. 1)  Incorporate site-specific management practices that target natural surface or predevelopment hydrologic functions as much as practicable. The site-specific management practices should optimize on-site retention based on the site conditions;
  2. 2)  Reduce site specific post-development stormwater runoff volume, duration and rates of discharges to the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) to minimize hydrological and water quality impacts from impervious surfaces;
  3. 3)  Prioritize and include implementation of Low-Impact Development (LID), Green Infrastructure (GI) or equivalent design and construction approaches; and,
  4. 4)  Capture and treat 80% of the annual average runoff volume, based on a documented local or regional rainfall frequency and intensity.
Policy issue: City staff believe that stormwater requirements should be applied to all impervious surfaces on a site, not just the incremental increase in footprint of impervious surface. Staff sees this as necessary in order to meet the permit requirements listed above (particularly #s 1 and 2) for large projects. This also allows the City to get closer to meeting TMDL waste load allocations, and to make progress toward addressing ongoing local drainage needs. This is analogous to bringing wiring up to code, replacing aluminum with copper wiring by addressing some of the “load” that older development has placed on the City’s surface water management system. Staff is asking for concurrence on this issue, and guidance on the degree to which this should be applied to small and medium projects.

Requiring the inclusion of stormwater management at the time of development has been determined to be a practicable approach to upgrading stormwater management “to current code” just as might be required within the footprint of the development upon property transfer or remodeling. This is consistent with all other Phase I MS4-permitted jurisdictions in Oregon (i.e., Portland-area, Salem, and Eugene). 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rainy season water disposal

Who own's the rain?

The City already held a workshop for design professionals (landscape architects, geotechnical engineers, architects, builders, etc) who will have to deal with new stormwater regulations.  This is  unusual since the new codes have not been approved and won't go to Council for a final vote until at least January 19, 2017.

It appears the Engineering Department is confident that nothing the public, the Planning Commission or the City Council has to say will change anything.  Why the confidence?

Given that the Waters of the U.S. Clean Water Rule has an injunction against its implementation, it would be wise to halt any regulation dependent upon this rule for now.  If strict regulations go into effect now, it is very likely that even if the Clean Water Rule is thrown out, Lake Oswego will be left with the more restrictive regulations because of the state DEQ's "no rollback" rule.

Review the materials linked below and attend this Open House.  Come prepared with questions.

Stormwater Management Plan Open House: 
Thursday, October 22, 6:30 to 9:30 at City Hall

This Manual, and related amendments to the City’s drainage and surface water utility codes, is a requirement of our current NPDES stormwater permit. The Manual emphasizes the use of infiltration-based approaches to stormwater management where possible, along with other low-impact development (LID) techniques to minimize runoff from roofs, streets, driveways, and other impervious surfaces. The manual will apply to the design of newly developing and re-developing sites, and has requirements based on different thresholds of impervious surface area.
  • View a draft of the Stormwater Management Manual here.
  • View Appendices here.
  • View Stormwater Manual Design Workshop presentation here.
Comments on the Public Review Draft Lake Oswego Stormwater Management Manual can be sent to the City here. Comments on the manual received by October 31, 2015, will be addressed in the Staff Report for the upcoming Planning Commission hearing on accompanying code amendments.
Some of the code amendments require concurrence of the Planning Commission, and all code changes require approval by the City Council. the current schedule for these actions is:
  • October 26, 2015: Joint Planning Commission / Development Review Commission work session
  • November 23, 2015: Planning Commission hearing
  • December 14, 2015 Planning Commission findings
  • January 5, 2016: City Council hearing
  • January 19, 2016: City Council adoption
  • February 18, 2016: Code becomes effective

Links to the proposed code amendments and supporting documents can be found after October 16, 2015 here as part of the agenda for the October 26th Planning Commission meeting.

Those darned whiteflies!

I really hate it when the whiteflies follow me into the car - I can't close my car door fast enough to keep a few from getting in.  Everyone is asking about them.  If you don't read the Oregonian, here's their take on the fly.

Don't pick up hitchhikers!

Does this white-winged inspect bug you?  How to deal with ash whiteflies.
The Oregonian, October 17, 2015. By Kim Pokorny

Clouds of small white-winged insects flying around homes, gardens and even parking lots up and down the Willamette Valley have the public more than a little annoyed.

"The ash whitefly, which was first detected last year, is becoming quite noticeable for most of us, particularly in the metro area, because they're floating around in high numbers," said Robin Rosetta, an entomologist with Oregon State University's Extension Service

So far, limited plant damage has been detected in Oregon, according to Rosetta, though the ash whitefly (Siphoninus phillyeae) can cause curled or stunted leaves and, in some cases, defoliation. The sap-sucking insect has a long list of plants it prefers.

To read more about the whitefly, and what you can (and can't) do about it, click HERE.   

Thursday, October 15, 2015

At the barbershop

Gossip.  News.  Debates. 
Where do you go to talk?

The barbershop, the beauty parlour, the neighborhood pub...these are places you go to catch up on what's going on with your neighbors, people you've never met, and everything big and small that happens around town.  If you want to get the pulse of what the community, go get your hair cut.

What does the community thinks about the city's tree code?  Get yourself to a beauty shop and start the conversation and you'll find out.  People hate it.  I mean really hate it.  Those who are familiar with the tree removal application are incensed that the city tree removal application asks about every tree on your property - what kind it is, where it's located, and how big it is, even though you just want to cut down one tree.  They also require (unlimited) access to your property to check up on you.  These things tic people off.

For the average property owner, the city tree code is an infringement of their property rights.  Whose trees are they?! And whose yard?  It becomes a real insult when the city claims rights over trees one planted themselves, or are dead or obviously a safety issue.  I have not heard such a visceral dislike for any city regulation as the tree code, and today's discussion at the salon was no different.  In fact, one person begged that the subject be changed because it was so upsetting.

When a city or other government or institution has a rule that is disliked and the public knows is unfair and immoral, it is predictable that there will be a high incidence of law-breaking and a general lack of respect for government.  For years I have heard people talk about the ways they could kill a tree in order to remove it, or how they would remove it without asking for "permission" to do so. The only sticky part is the neighbor who takes it upon themselves to squeal to the city about unapproved tree cutting.  How many neighborhood disputes and feuds have been created because of the tree code?  Judging from my conversations, way too many!  It's a pity, and it makes life in Lake Oswego unnecessarily unpleasant.

For people who are fearful that, if given the chance, everyone will go out and cut down all of their trees for reasons they don't approve of, the rules seem fine, or maybe even too tame.  Would the city be denuded if the tree code was relaxed?  That is a stupid but popular belief - totally unfounded by fact.  At about 50% tree canopy cover, Lake Oswego has too many trees - many lots desperately need thinning to improve the health of the remaining trees and prevent forest fires.

This isn't a situation where property rights advocates are anti-trees - everyone loves their trees and many plant more trees than they remove.  It's not the trees that are the problem, it's that we have a suffocating nanny state that substitutes its judgement for ours about how to take care of our own property.

What do you think?  Tell your City Council.  Maybe you'll see one of them in a barber shop where you can talk.

If we desire respect for the law, we must first make laws that are respectable.
Louis D. Brandeis 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thoughts on the SWEA

What belongs in an Employment District?  

That's kind of like asking, "Who's buried in Grant's tomb?"  It's hard to take such an obvious question or the person asking it seriously.

"You're kidding, aren't you?"

"Well, no."

I attended a neighborhood association meeting Thursday night where a city planner came to talk to the group about what is going on with the planning effort for the Southwest Employment Area. I have been at almost all of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee meetings, but I wanted to hear if anything had changed since the last meeing in August.

In previous posts I have discussed which business types have the most employees per square foot, which ones have the highest paid employees, and which types of land use result in highest property taxes.  There are a couple of trifectas in the group, but the city needs to define its goals for the area before the planners and consultants put together their draft plan.  Maybe the public can help with that.  (Attend SAC meetings, participate at the upcoming Open House (date TBD), send your comments to the Planning Commission and the City Council.)

The bent nail in this board is the subject of putting housing in an employment district.  Haing a place close by for people who work in the district to live is reasonable, but no part of LO is very far away so this reasoning falls flat.

How much commercial or mixed use should be allowed in the SWEA?

From METRO website:
Employment areas include a mix of employment uses. They may feature higher concentrations of office and retail businesses. Retail businesses in these areas primarily serve workers nearby. This distinguishes employment areas from neighborhood business districts and other commercial areas that serve both nearby residents and visitors.

Metro places some limits on types of retail uses cities and counties may allow in employment areas; its goal is to ensure these retail uses are appropriate in type and size to serve needs of businesses, employees and residents of these areas.

Housing doesn't employ very many people.  In fact I can't think of any business other than self-storage that employees fewer people per acre.  Housing does not qualify as employment in an employment district, so why is housing being considered?

The planner suggested that some day in the future there could be housing in the Kruse Way Employment District sprinkled among office buildings.  Huh?  I can't imagine that office workers or apartment dwellers would enjoy this arrangement.  Just how urban are planners and real estate brokers and developers willing to take us?  


A major rationale for combining employment, housing and retail in one area is to create a compact, walkable Transit Oriented Development (TOD).  If one assumes Metro's Southwest Corridor high-capacity transit system ever comes to fruition and goes to Tualatin (Bridgeport is being discussed as a station), the SWEA could easily become a TOD with transit close by.  And Kruse Way is just a skip over the freeway from the Tigard Triangle which will also be served by the SW Corridor transit line.

Due to limited lands, building capacity (height, square footage) will bs restricted since the bigger the building, the more parking is needed.  Parking will still drive how intensely the land can be used.

Will light industrial still have a place in the district?  Industrial land is the meat and potatoes of a town, but everyone goes for the dessert.  What do you think should happen in the Emplpyment
District?   It isn't so easy to answer is it?  Unless you have your priorities set.

I can't wait to see how they plan to fund the district.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sixth Circuit Court expands WOTUS injunction to nation

On Friday, the injunction against the new Clean Water Act Rule, Waters The United States, was expanded to the entire nation.  Oregon cannot and must not implement any of the new WOTUS regulations.

What does this mean for the citizens of Oregon and Lake Oswego?

Oregon is one of a group of respondant and intervenor states that support the new Rule, so it will be interesting, to See how each responds if the Rule is overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court.  If Lake Oswego goes ahead with its new Storm Water Management Manual which is based on part on new State DEQ regulations, will it force unnecessary regulations on LO property owners?  Will the City and State be liable for financial damages for implementing new rules when it had foreknowledge of the nationwide injunction?

However the Supreme Court eventually rules, will the City or State be liable for any property or financial damages that result from new stormwater systems that pose an added expense to property owners and/or fail to work as proscribed?  The Stormwater Manual and other WOTUS-related regulations that are being evaluated have some serious issues to be resolved that most people won't know about until they have to deal with them, one by one.  

At this point, Oregon and Lake Oswego can chose to put a hold on the new regulations or lessen their impact on property owners until all appeals are decided.  But given recent history with the LOT
Water Treatment Plant project and the Wizer development, parties who are determined to see something happen rarely take heed of the trouble that may lie ahead.  Elitist agendas continually take presecdence over public interests, and citizens are left to shoulder the burden, one by one.

The next time you go outside when it's raining, face heavenwards at the droplets coming down and say a prayer of thanks to the EPA, the Corp of Engineers, and the United States for bounty of all the Waters.of the United States without which you cannot live.  Be careful where you put any water you brought in with you  - proper disposition of all WOTUS might make you a walking nexus!  Hooray!  

October 9, 2015
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stays WOTUS

Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Court) issued a stay nationwide against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) from enforcing the revised definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), also known as the Clean Water Rule.

This is a win for the 18 states that petitioned the Court that the Clean Water Rule went beyond the EPA and USACE’s regulatory jurisdiction and “altered the existing balance of federal-state collaboration.” The petitioners further contended that the new WOTUS definition was inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent (Riverside Bayview Homes, SWANCC, and Rapanos) and failed to conform to the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act.  The stay will remain in place until further order from the court.

The Court held that the stay is proper and allows for “a more deliberate determination” as to whether WOTUS was a proper exercise of executive power enabled by Congress and federal law. Additionally, the Court acknowledge the states’ concern over cooperative federalism and their shared responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. The Court reasoned that a stay “temporarily silences the whirlwind of confusion” of WOTUS and whether the final rule can withstand legal challenges.

The stay parallels the recent decision by the District Court of North Dakota that preliminarily enjoined 13 states from complying with the new rule.

Read decision HERE

Saturday, October 10, 2015

How would you spend $70 million of TIF debt?

High fives to Lake Oswegans who rejected fluff and chose substance.

Although I was tempted, I did not attend a session in City Hall where citizens weighed in on which urban renewal projects should go to the top of the list to claim the remaining urban renewal funds in the Downtown Redeveloment District.

With $70 million in available debt burning a hole in the city's pocket (think maxing out a credit card), having to budget for which candy in the candy store to purchase was tricky.  Everything looked good.  But 16 choices?  Oh my!

Since I wasn't there, I can only assume that "None of the above" was not one of the choices.  Even if urban renewal did some good in the '80s and '90s, the jump start for rejuvenation downtown has been accomplished.

Debt incurred for urban renewal using tax increment financing is paid back with money that would otherwise be used for city services.  Thursday's LO Review reported that PERS contribution rates will be going up this biennium, putting an even bigger strain on the city budget.  If no personnel or services are cut, the city will be in deficit spending mode in a year or two, even without the additional PERS expense.

The City Council, acting as the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday night, agreed with the argument made by Redevlopment Director, Brant Williams that adding the WEB property to the Lake Grove Urban Renewal District would increase revenue so much that the city could pay off their bonds and close down the district sooner.  For downtown, the opposite seems to be true;  don't use excess money to pay off bonds, but spend the maximum amount allowed on projects that don't qualify as necessities and citizens may not want.  What does this approach tell you what might be in store for Lake Grove in the years to come?

Back to the meeting.  Judging from the list published in the Review, the citizens present at the meeting rated infrastructure and business projects as highest priority, and the redevelopment projects as the lowest.  I suggest that citizens request the city turn part of the second floor of City Hall into meeting spaces with the new police building is done.  The city can also rent space in existing buildings for public use - all the benefits of ownership without the hassle of maintaining and staffing a public facility that pays no taxes!

I keep meaning to put together a map of downtown showing all the property the city has purchased and converted to other uses, and all of  the projects past and future that were/are subsidized by public funds.  The amount of downtown property that has been directly transformed by government is simply astounding.  The city should have gotten out of the real estate business a long time ago.


I am continually confounded when people state a preference for mixed-use development, though it sounds like reaction here was mixed.  Perhaps fans ought to go to Portland to see how it is working  there.  Mississippi Ave. looks like it's filled with new-era prison blocks dressed up to look cool, but no matter, they still have no parking.  Do any of these fans live within 5 blocks of the Downtown Redevelopment District, or does the idea just sound good because it's "in"?

As always, let your City Council know what you think.  A list of projects can be found in the Redevelopment Plan on the city website in the Redevelopment Agency (LORA) department, and reported in the October 2, Lake Oswego Review.

What's next for downtown?
The city asks, the community for answers - tentatively
Lake Oswego Review,  October 8, 2015 By Saundra Sorenson

On Sept. 30, attendees got a quick history lesson: The East End Redevelopment Plan, originally adopted in 1986, was updated in February and provides a list of urban renewal projects ranging from infrastructure upgrades to property acquisition, with a total estimated cost of $70 million.

Seven projects are currently underway, but the plan identifies 16 more on a wish list that includes a transit center, a boutique hotel and a variety of street improvements and beautification efforts.

Although 30 people may not be a perfect sampling size, attendees provided city staff with the following priority measurements:

High Priority

Investing in/upgrading existing buildings
Attracting more specialty retail to downtown
Cresting more indoor public space and gathering places

Medium Priority

General street improvements
Public parking

Low Priority

Public plazas
Office space
Redevelopment projects

Mixed-use housing with retail had an equal split of high and low priority votes.

The Redevelopment Agency plans to submit a summary of public feedback to the LORA board during its next meeting on Dec. 1.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Multi-dwelling code not ready for prime time

City Council says "No" to Multi-Dwelling Development

A discussion of what multi-dwelling developments are is included in a previous post, but to summarize:

As written, the new housing type that the Planning Department recommended to Council on Tuesday night (October 6) would allow multiple buildings of one or more units on a single lot in certain zones.  The stated rationale was to legitimize the double duplex development on 1st and D, but as the code was written, the end result could look far different.

The planner attempting to explain the difference between "cluster housing" (or cottage housing) and the new code, and stated cluster housing codes were typically more complex and defined with architectural styles, etc.  However when asked. She ultimately admitted that this type of development would be permitted with this code.

The multi-dwelling development code was vaguely written and had few limits on what could be built.  Testimony was given regarding a planned row-house development in the East End Redevelopment District where each unit would have an apartment over the alley-facing garage.  Under current zoning codes, secondary dwelling units are only allowed for single family homes.  With this code in place, this limitation would be lifted and the apartments could be stand-alone dwelling units available for rent.

A major flaw in our development code is the lack of a minimum dwelling unit size, but that's another issue that needs fixing.

Perhaps the citizens of Lake Oswego will want to have some form of multi-dwelling development some day, but the nature of the beast and the location where it could be built would still need to be decided.  Since this would be a brand new housing type for the city, it should not be introduced as a vague concept through code amendments, but be a community-wide discussion about just what the housing would look, what are the pros and cons, and how it would fit into existing neighborhoods, since that is all we have anymore - existing neighborhoods with their own character and feel.

This code was unanimously rejected by the Planning Commission, but the planning staff who initiated it still recommended it for Lake Oswego.  In a 5-2 vote, the City Council agreed with the Planning Commission and rejected multi-dwelling developments.  That is a wise and good decision.

Here are some examples of cluster, or multi-dwelling developments found on the web:



Thursday, October 8, 2015

Food grows up on CO2

Plants grow better with increased CO2!

More articles tell of the emerging vertical farming industry in the U.S. and the world that in some ways may compete favorably with traditional farming techniques.  Vertical farming might not appeal to traditionalists or the self-reliant home gardener, but it may be the way food is grown in the not-so-distant future, and that might not be a bad thing.  For those who believe food production will become even more dominated by big business, I suggest learning how to grow food and to harvest and preserve seeds - then share your knowledge with friends.

See verticalfarm.com website for videos and more. 

How Vertical Farming Is Revolutionizing The Way We Grow Food
Interesting Things, September 15, 2015
Sources: leafcertified.org | USDA

As Alarcon explained to io9, environmentally-controlled farms like the one implemented by IGES have a number of inherent advantages. Compared to conventional farms (and depending on the exact configuration and technologies used), they’re around 100 times more efficient in terms of their usage of space, 70-90% less reliant on water, with a lower CO2 footprint. Foods are grown without the use of pesticides, they’re nutrient-rich, and free from chemical contaminants. And because they can be built virtually anywhere, CEAs can serve communities where certain foods aren’t normally grown.

“In greenhouse production the aim of all growers is to increase dry-matter content and economically optimize crop yield,” Alarcon told io9. “CO2 increases productivity through improved plant growth and vigour.”

Ambient CO2 level in outside air is about 340 ppm by volume. All plants grow well at this level, but as CO2 levels are raised by 1,000 ppm, photosynthesis increases proportionately, resulting in more sugars and carbohydrates available for plant growth.

Why Vertical Farming Might Be Our Planet's Future
Interesting Things, October 7, 2015

Explosive growth that will take place in the
world’s urban centers as we reach 2050. To keep these people from starvation, architects and farmers have combined their talents to create Vertical Farming. Although not entirely new, these farms are becoming more efficient and may appear as skyscraper greenhouses throughout many urban cities. Vertical farming can take many architectural shapes and offers a number of key solutions to the problems of efficient food growth.

See links to sources and more stories on the topic on this website.  

A ground breaking groundbreaking

What if you went to a groundbreaking, 
only to find a hole in the ground?  

The developer and investors of Block 137 may win their case at the State Supreme Court, but if they don't, it could be embarrassing.

Consider this:  After the appellant (Save Our Village) filed its appeal, the respondents (Evergreen Group LLC and the City of Lake Oswego), filed their response.

The appellant's attorney Greg Hathaway read the response, and in an unusual move, he asked the court if he could respond to what he felt were statements that were not true.  In an equally unusual move, the Supreme Court granted his request.  What this all means is not certain, but if there is anything wonky about the developer/city response, it is nice that it won't go unnoticed.

As for the groundbreaking on the 19th... I think I would wait for an all-clear from the court before I started celebrating.  Just in case.

From the Wizer Block developer website:  timeline-lo137.com

                                  SAVE THE DATE! BLOCK 137 GROUNDBREAKING 

                                              When: Monday, October 19, 2015

                                Where: Wizer Block, SE Parking Lot at Roundabout 

                                                          Time: 10:00 a.m.

Join in as the community celebrates the groundbreaking of the first mixed use project to be built in downtown Lake Oswego in thirteen years.

It may look quiet on the Block but there’s lots going on behind the scenes in order to prepare for groundbreaking, deconstruction and demolition. The City is reviewing the last of a mountain of documents. All air quality testing is finished, so we have worked with the City to open up the security fence on “A” Avenue, until we are ready to start the deconstruction phase. That way you can enjoy the Wine Walk this coming Saturday, and the next to the last Farmers Market of the season. Weather forecast for Saturday is sunny and 73 degrees. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Block 137: One step forward, one step back

Taking steps toward heaven or hell?  The picture changes depending which side of the street one is standing on.  What is the developer doing now?

Evergreen Group LLC, led by Patrick Kessi of PK Development, has finally produced evidence of financing for the Wizer Block.  It's been a long time coming.  The development agreement requires proof of secure financing before building permits can be issued, however, that didn't stop the city from issuing permits weeks ago.  Week after week, the only word from the Kessi camp had been "we're working on it."

At the LORA meeting last night (October 6 - following the regular City Council meeting) Redevelopment Director, Brant Williams presented another amendment (the 7th) to the development agreement.  The developer has secured an equity partner for financing the project and will not be using an instutional lender.  Good or bad for LO?  If the project goes belly-up, there will be no lender to foreclose.  The owners will have to be diligent to make sure this is a successful project for the center of our downtown.

The development agreement has a clause that requires LORA to make its first payments at closing.  But closing can't take place until all contingencies are met, but there is an appeal pending before the State Supreme Court.  The developer and equity partner suggested recording the deal but not finalize the agreement until the Supreme Court has made their decision - this could be in about a month.  No LORA funds will be given out until the appeal is done.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Where will redevelopment go next?

No bureaucracy tries to work itself out of existance.  

Ponder, this:
(This meeting was last week - text below has been edited to reflect this.)

East End Redevelopment 
On Wednesday, September 30, a community meeting WAS held by the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency to help the Agency prioritize future redevelopment projects for downtown Lake Oswego. Join us from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lake Oswego Council Chambers in City Hall, 380 A Ave.
Over the past 20 years, public and private projects in the East End Redevelopment Plan have transformed portions of downtown Lake Oswego into a vibrant and attractive place for both shopping and dining. Urban renewal projects have also created unique gathering spaces for outdoor community events and activities like the Saturday Farmers’ Market and concerts all summer long.

Why does Lake Oswego even have an Urban Renewal District downtown anymore?

If Downtown LO is now a "vibrant and attractive place for both shopping and dining," what more help does the district need to give it a boost out of blight into a place private developers and businesses will want to invest in?

I think the key here is the word "transform."  Government is not finished with its transformation of our city.  It's not about blight anymore, or even higher property taxes for the city (the higher taxes all go back to the District); urban renewal these days is about funding density and growth.  Keeping  redevelopment going with new projects is also job security for bureaucrats and a windfall for property owners and developers.

When the city makes decisions about which properties will be part of the plan, when they select project proposals and choose developers and make financial grants to them, they participate in crony capitalism.  What developer in his or her right mind would invest in new buildings anymore without a government subsidy?

One way for the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency (LORA) aka City Council to get public buy-in for more urban renewal spending is to ask them to play Sim City with them.  How can anyone - citizens, council member or city staff - give up that rush of feeling like they can control the city's future?  The power of government and easy money is a seductive and addictive combination.   Don't expect anyone to give that up easily.

Friday, October 2, 2015

How well do you know your planet?

I apologize for not keeping up with this blog lately.  This is the end of the construction season and I have had several projects going that have needed my full attention.  There is a lot to talk about, but for this moment, allow me to share with you another set of satellite images I hope you will find as fascinating as I do.

This website, dailyoverview.com,
has the most marvelous satellite images I have seen - in number and detail.  You won't regret time spent perusing this site!  Each of the pages accessed from the home page has delightful photos - check them all out.

Don't forget to take the QUIZ!  For those who like an extra dose of challange, take the quiz before looking at the photos on the website.  For everyone, take your time and look closely at each image before selecting - don't answer quickly unless you are sure.  How well did you do?

See article about the site at:
Citylab, September 24, 2015  By John Metcalfe

Mighty and Ominous Satellite Images of the Human Condition

The Daily Overview presents refugee camps, environmental horror, Florida housing projects, and fields of lovely Dutch tulips.
  In his years of sifting, [Grant has had two shots particularly stick with him for very different reasons. One depicts huge rows of gumball-colored tulip fields in the Netherlands—an “amazing view of harnessing the landscape,” he says. The other shows the world’s biggest encampment of refugees in Dadaab, Kenya, which holds hundreds of thousands of Somalis trying to escape war and hunger.

The Dadaab refugee camps in 2014. (Daily Overview / Satellite images © 2015 DigitalGlobe)

USC NOTE:  Take a first or second look at Apple Maps.  They are superior for showing detail of landscapes in wild and lonely places of the world - and your own backyard.