Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, January 15, 2016

Streamlining the land development process

What is the city's "Code Streamlining" project all about?

To answer that question, you have to go back at least 15 years.  Where were you and what were you doing in 2010-2012?   Were you aware of what was going on in the city back then?  Many of us do, but many more do not.  If you weren't around back then, or if you weren't paying attention to the minitue of code development, it is important to understand that Code Streamlining was originally called: Removing Barriers to Mixed Use.  Perhaps that term was too descriptive and made the public uneasy, but the project is now called renamed Code Streamlining.  Same project, same outcome, just new name. Let's make mixed use easier for the developer to build!  ;-)

Code Streamlining is being presented as an effort to "clean up" the codes and make them "clear."  I have nothing against organization and clarification, it's what and how that I am interested in.   Code changes are often called "housekeeping amendments," so it's a constant guessing game as to which ones apply to increased density and mixed use.   Why do we want mixed use so bad anyway?  (That's another story.)   Here is what to look for:
  • Changes to land uses within zones relating to commercial development and residential infill
  • Increasing density (up-zoning) by any means - by creating new housing types and calling it something other than multi-family like "multi-dwelling development" 
  • Reduction of setbacks and landscaping, increasing lot coverage, and reducing parking - sometimes offered as bonuses for adding dense housing to a mixed use project. 
  • Reduction or elimination of buffered areas that separate commercial and residential uses
  • Increasing building dimensions to maximize volume
  • Decreasing required facade breaks that cost the developer more 
  • Separating the requirement to build sidewalks and street improvements from the development
  • Lessening the requirement for open space to just a landscape strip along the street
  • The city might build a new park, parking lot or garage, recreation facilities, public space, or even an internet service to add amenities to entice new development - especially those things that make it less expensive to build here
  • Land speculation when there is no perceived demand
  • Holding public hearings on land use issues (arcane code changes) without adequate involvement by the public beforehand
  • A new area plan or urban renewal area is being considered, consultants are hired, etc. 
  • You feel it in your gut - something is amiss, but no one is talking about it and you can't get a straight answer.  Officials can't describe the city's planning goals, and no one in the planning department will describe their end game plan.  
All of the above have, or are in the midst of being done.

In case you forgot (I blogged about this before), there is a sequence to bringing mixed use to a city.
1.  Start with a land use study for an area
2.  Start to implement the plan by changing codes, changing land uses within zones, etc. to make it easier, less expensive, faster and less risky to develop the land.
3.  Create a funding mechanism - usually an urban renewal area- to give incentives to developers (corporate welfare)

To review the purpose and plans for Code Streamlining / Removing Barriers to Mixed Use Development, read the documents on this city webpage: 


On December 13, 2012, the City hosted a public open house to provide information about draft code concepts for streamlining commercial zoning land use standards and removing barriers to mixed use development in these zones.  The materials that were presented at the open house are posted below.

Lake Oswego is referenced in a legal research library --
Pace Law School Library: Research Guides

Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Legal Research Guide:           Streamlining the Land Development Process

This research guide contains links to primary and secondary sources useful in the study of land use, planning, and zoning law. Also included are pages focused on special topics in land use law.

Other Communities:

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