Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Story of Betty and Joe

The Story of Betty and Joe
(and what may happen when they replace their leaky roof)

Betty and Joe Williams had lived in Lake Oswego for over 45 years in the same house. They raised their 3 children in the home, they knew all their neighbors, and they adapted the one-level ranch home to their future needs because they planned on staying there for as long as they could. This was the house their children would come home to for the holidays. And this is where they wanted to live until they didn't.  Next year they would finally get rid of the old
wood shake roof and put on a shingle roof that would last them longer than they would be alive, and then all the big jobs would be done!

Betty and Joe were worried.  They heard from friends that the city was considering a new rule that anyone putting on a new roof over 1,000 sq. ft. would have to put in an expensive stormwater
infiltration system.  This was all new to the Williams. They couldn't understand why the city would make them hire professionals to design a rain garden or something like it just because they replaced their old wood roof!  But the city could decide on a 3,000 SF rule if they wanted.  That wouldn't help them, so maybe the minimum could be higher?
And to add more pain, they would have to have an "operations and maintenance manual" for the thing recorded with their deed (so new owners would have to keep it up, even if the infiltration system didn't work), and then have maintenance and reporting tasks to do each year. All to replace a roof?  How stupid. This regulation was infuriating, and really unfair.   Dozens of their neighbors replaced their roofs without this expensive new rule.  What were the Greenies trying to do them - throw them out of their home?  What could they do?

Jim and Margaret Summers down the street were planning to replace
their cracked and broken driveway.  Because they lived up a slope, the driveway was long - well over 1,000 sq. ft. - so they were in the same boat as the Williams.  They had heard that pervious pavers
might cost about the same as regular concrete, so the added expense wasn't the issue.  Was there any maintenance to do for a permeable driveway?  Why would the city want them to record the driveway pavers with the deed considering that NOTHING - certainly not a driveway - lasts forever?  They were pretty sure they could still visit their children and grandchildren in Texas this year, but best not to count on anything until all the costs were known.

When were the rules going to be voted on anyway?  Should they call one of the city counselors?

Betty and Joe wondered how their retirement budget, which they thought was generous 10 years ago, was going to survive the escalating water and sewer rates, and now this "rain tax" that only  some people would have to bear.  The financial landscape ahead looked scary.  Perhaps the government wanted everyone to live in a box in the city and turn the suburbs into forest preserves that a lucky few can walk or bike in, as if bureaucrats and environmentalists know what was here before humans touched the landscape.  Where would the next generation live?  Young people can't afford this!

The Williams and the Summers talked with their neighbors and friends at the Ming's annual holiday party and all expressed the same concerns.  They all faced the same ugly choices to pay an additional price to fix up their aging houses: 1. Take money from their retirement savings; 2. Take out a HELOC; 3. Defer needed maintenance as long as possible; 4. Patch, patch, patch; 5. Not do maintenance at all; 6. Move to a condo or apartment; or 7. Move out of the city.  Poor Mary Worth on the corner
and other single ladies like her would probably just not do the repairs or remodels they planned and the city would be the worse for it.  This is what happens when people can't keep up with the demands of government or don't feel the pride of ownership of their own land - they become de-facto renters with government making the rules.

Betty and Joe and their neighbors' houses had already lost value with all of the new building requirements and high cost of living facing property owners these days.  The stricter the rules, the less desirable the property was. They all agreed that Lake Oswego had changed and it was no longer the city they once enjoyed living in.

The old relaxed demeanor of the town had given way to a fancier, more controlled way of life, with so many rules that neighbors were now spying on neighbors.  What ever happened to live and let live?  Why does everyone want to control us and our land, they thought.  Just thinking about this mess made
them angrier and sadder. These ordinances get through one at a time and only affect a handful of people at first so no one pays attention - it's not THEIR problem.  But over time, when the noose tightens, everyone will be caught.  How do the politicians plan to keep themselves out of the messes they create?  Oh yeah, it doesn't affect them NOW, so it isn't a problem!  Evidently the "experts" are expert at persuasion.

Now they understood why those people were fighting against the Sensitive Lands on their property.  But what could they do, Betty and Joe thought?  Only rich people would be able to afford houses in the future. The City Council still has the choice to fight to turn back the clock - if only.  Or, the citizens could vote for a new mayor and council members who would.  It may be too late for them and their roof though.

Merry Christmas to all they cheered, but no Happy New Year, they mumbled as they headed for home that night, heads down and footsteps slowed by the huge financial and regulatory burden they all carried.

1 comment:

  1. This depicts exactly what life will be like for those in Lake Oswego on fixed incomes - about one third of the residents. Some have adequate funds to deal with the new regulations but many do not.
    But perhaps most important of all the new regulations will do very little to solve the pollution problem at which they are directed!
    Why? Because only a few hundred homes a year will be required to make these changes. It will take 40 years or more to cover all homes in Lake Oswego. is that a real solution?????