Page 1
Standard

No transparency

Created on Thursday, 16 July 2015 01:00 | Written by Tim Swearingen

I’ve followed the serious questions plaguing Patrick Kessi’s proposed $93 million Wizer project from the beginning. From LORA’s first assertions that “one-quarter of the residential units will be condominiums, and the remaining three-quarters will be apartments” (there are no condos now) to the DRC’s double-rejection of this enormous project, I’ve grown increasingly wary of the proponent’s claims that “they’ve listened to the citizens.”

LORA’s own Aug. 13, 2013 staff report said “if there is a conflict between LORA’s review and the Development Review process, the Development Review process supersedes.” City Hall ignored this when they reversed the DRC’s ruling.

But most worrisome as a Lake Oswego taxpayer is the lack of transparency on the financing for this project: $5.2 million of Lake Oswego’s money — that is, our money — is going to this developer. The rest is coming from “private equity” and “debt financing.” Why does neither Mr. Kessi nor anyone at City Hall acknowledge where the “private equity” and “debt financing” is coming from? Why are they not making this information public?

The people of Lake Oswego have a reasonable right to know where Mr. Kessi is getting his money from. Who are these mystery investors? What lending institutions are contributing to this? Why are the citizens of LO not able to see for ourselves if there are any conflicts of interest between our city government and/or city staff members and the developer?

It may be only $5.2 million of our money, but since our money is being invested in this controversial endeavor, I’d like to know who else we’re getting in bed with over this project. The lack of transparency about this project’s finances is highly troubling, and I see no one at City Hall willing to address this.

Tim Swearingen
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://portlandtribune.com/lor/49-opinion/266832-140316-readers-letters

Standard

Support Glass Butterfly

Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 01:00 | Written by Tom Grigg

I’m writing in support of all the businesses that have been told to vacate the Wizer Block in downtown Lake Oswego. In particular, I’m writing to support Phil Chizum, the owner of The Glass Butterfly, after reading his Citizen’s View last week (“After 26 years in downtown LO, I think there is a better way,” July 2).

The Glass Butterfly has been one of the centerpiece businesses of our retail core for more than 30 years. It’s threatened, of course, by developer Patrick Kessi’s football-field-size apartment complex, which Kessi and a compliant, all-too-eager Lake Oswego city government is attempting to rush into construction despite a pending court appeal.

Kessi has said “construction could start as early as September.” Not so fast.

First, Phil Chizum’s lease doesn’t expire until Oct. 1. Phil has the legal right to remain in his building until then. Second, before Kessi could even begin demolition of the Wizer complex, an abatement team would have to go through the building and remove any traces of old asbestos and lead paint. Only then could demolition start. Kessi hasn’t applied for a demolition permit.

Is Kessi threatening to bulldoze the buildings around The Glass Butterfly while Phil is still running his business? What do his statements reveal regarding his true intentions toward our long-time residents and our community?

I urge everyone to drop by all the current Wizer businesses and show your support with your purchases. Most important, drop by The Glass Butterfly between now and Oct. 1. Buy Phil’s merchandise, and voice your approval for his courage and for his unwillingness to buckle under to an outside developer and his unwanted complex.

Tom Grigg
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/266183-139497-readers-letters

Standard

After 26 years in downtown LO, ‘I think there is a better way’

Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 01:00 | Written by Phil Chizum

I agree with the neighbors and businesses opposed to the proposed large apartment/retail complex on the Wizer Block in downtown Lake Oswego.

By approving the development plan with not nearly enough parking spaces for the apartments and the 36,000 total square feet of retail (equal to three Glass Butterfly stores), the City Council has guaranteed there will be more problems for the neighboring residents and businesses if the project eventually gets built.

Lake Oswego is known for good schools and being a residential community. It is not a destination for shoppers, because of the natural barrier of the Willamette River and the opening of many shops at Bridgeport Village and on Kruse Way. It will be difficult to lease retail space in these conditions. Most people do not drive to Lake Oswego to shop and live within five miles of downtown.

Where is Plan B for this block? I believe one exists or should exist, should the current plan fail due to appeals or not being financially viable.

The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency has improved the downtown look of the area — but at what cost? Loss of local businesses, subsidizing developers with our tax dollars, higher rents and always fighting with the neighborhoods, businesses and citizens who do not want it.

Few people realize that all of the tax dollars of businesses in the redevelopment zone above their assessed values in 1986 go toward future development, not to the schools or city budgets. LORA was formed as a small department in 1986. It has now grown to an annual budget of $23 million in 2015-16 and includes over 20 blocks of the downtown core. LORA plans to borrow another $25 million in 2016- 2017 (ci.oswego.or.us/finance/lora-urban-renewal-budget). And we thought spending $17 million on SAFECO was a bad idea. Look out, Lake Grove: a redevelopment district was added there in 2013.

Doing business in the redevelopment zone is not an easy thing — always facing a new plan, government owning property and making no improvements on them, no long-term leases so you can improve your own business, the threat of being sold to a developer looking to make money. I say these things not as a bitter businessman who is closing his store. It was difficult to run a business in this environment, but we were able to succeed and I am grateful for the many years making a living as a small business, working with great employees and very loyal customers.

I am very much looking forward to retirement, travel and working part-time. I spent much of my life here, graduating from Lakeridge High School and owning a business downtown for 26 years. But I will no longer be a part of it. I think there is a better way.

Urban renewal districts in other cities have been eliminated and local laws passed, dedicating the urban renewal money to schools or other priorities. A new Clackamas County law forbids cities to declare urban renewal areas without a vote of approval by the residents. Any future urban renewal district will and should be decided by a vote of the people of Lake Oswego.

Go back to being a residential community. Fund schools better. Cut down the increased traffic. Quit wasting taxpayer money. Keep local small businesses. Let Lake Oswego voters decide what needs to be prioritized. End the constant madness downtown. End LORA.

Phil Chizum is the co-owner of Glass Butterfly in downtown Lake Oswego.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/265482-138882-citizens-view-after-26-years-in-downtown-lo-i-think-there-is-a-better-way-

Standard

Fight isn’t over

Created on Thursday, 28 May 2015 01:00 | Written by Francie Manning

Why can’t the Wizer Block be more like Kruse Village? Kruse Village is open and airy. The buildings are not the enormous, overwhelming behemoths with narrow walkways between them that the Wizer plan proposes.

To those who say that we should put the fight to save the Wizer Block behind us, I say the fight is not over. They haven’t started construction. Lita Grigg, the mainstay of Save Our Village, and the Evergreen Neighborhood Association are to be applauded for taking the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals. I hope the appeals court pays more attention to “small-scale structures” and “village character” than some members of our own City Council did.

If construction is allowed to go ahead, I doubt I will be visiting some of my favorite restaurants and stores in Lake View Village as often as I would like. The older I get, the lower my tolerance for traffic and parking issues. And to have lunch out in front of Zeppo’s on a lovely summer day, the sun will be blocked by the proposed Wizer structures at 1:30 in the afternoon — in August!

Francie Manning
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/261903-133218-readers-letters

Standard

Wizer Block ‘still worth the fight’

Created on Thursday, 14 May 2015 01:00 | Written by Leslie Pirrotta

Re: Editor Gary M. Stein’s editorial (“It’s time for LO to move forward with Wizer project,” April 30): Mr. Stein believes it is time “for opponents to drop their appeal.” I disagree.

Stein does agree with Save Our Village and the majority of Lake Oswego residents that Patrick Kessi’s proposal for the Wizer Block does not complement our downtown and that “it will be too big and too dense for the corner of A Avenue and First Street,” a flagship corner. As Stein states, “the infrastructure now in place will not be able to handle the influx of cars and residents … that will be located there.”

A project that is too large, too dense and will create traffic and parking problems will seriously impact the quality of life and village character that we have worked to develop in our downtown core. I can hardly think of any hometown qualities more important to fight for than these qualities. To paraphrase Alexander Hamilton,”If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”

Sadly, some of our leadership may have fallen for this misplaced project. Had City Council upheld our Development Review Commission, a new, more fitting proposal may have resulted.

Obviously, we are not fighting a war, nor are we making history. But if you believe a cause is just and right, one does not walk away because of setbacks. Where would Europe be if Churchill had given up the fight when the bombs were falling over London? Where would America be if Lincoln had given up? Where would aviation be if the Wright Brothers packed it in after their first passenger death?

Had we citizens not fought back two years ago against the initial Kessi proposal, we would be staring at a regrettable five-story, monolithic project that citizens deemed an “institutional mega-monster.” Because we fought back, the developer was forced to at least slightly reduce the density and, in Kessi’s own words, “transition to traditional” design. Unfortunately, the current proposal still does not complement our downtown village character and it is still worth the fight.

If we prevail at the Court of Appeals, perhaps Gene Wizer will reduce his price and a developer will propose a redevelopment that the majority of citizens can wholeheartedly embrace. Winston Churchhill said it best: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Leslie Pirrotta is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/260313-131577-citizens-view-wizer-block-still-worth-the-fight

Standard

Lake Oswego citizens are still standing strong on Wizer Block

Created on Thursday, 14 May 2015 01:00 | Written by Lita Grigg

Mayor Kent Studebaker has expressed disappointment with opponents’ decision to take the Wizer Block plan to the Oregon Court of Appeals (“Wizer Block foes take fight to Court of Appeals,” May 7). The developers, the city and a number of Lake Oswego Review opinion articles will no doubt echo this sentiment by reinforcing previous messages to move on. They believe our efforts are a waste of time and money, and they’ve often asked where the money to fund this ongoing battle is coming from.

The answer is that it is coming from many Lake Oswego citizens who remain vehemently opposed to this project. The development team and the city have stated repeatedly that they’ve worked closely with the community and listened to our voices. This is absolutely not true.

This is a Portland-driven urban project that has been supported by our city staff and has compromised their objectivity when they became advocates for this massive development. Their role was to protect our city’s values by honoring a carefully thought-out and well-documented long-term vision. Now, however, the city is pursuing its own agenda, leaving us no other option but to take our claim to court if we wish to protect the town we love.

The massiveness of this project is not complementary or compatible with adjacent developments. If it’s too big to fit on one Portland city block, then it’s too big for Lake Oswego. Three buildings, each almost the size of a football field, do not constitute a believable interpretation of “small-scale structures” — a critical requirement for meeting the definition of “village character.” The developers have had to resort to installing problematic hydraulic lifts to stack and pack cars, just to meet minimum parking requirements. But it still won’t provide adequate parking for residents.

Yes, we are all tired of hearing about this case. But what’s at stake is our city’s future and the quality of life of our citizens. The large influx of new residents in an already bottlenecked area will add to unavoidable gridlock, competition for parking and the loss of the quiet, relaxing feeling that has made Lake Oswego the rare jewel that it is in this country.

Fortunately, we have a very intelligent population of citizens who recognize that this push for massive urban development and density is driving our town in the wrong direction. We wouldn’t be able to continue this battle if it wasn’t for the town’s active response against it. We join the Evergreen Neighborhood Association, along with the support of 22 neighborhood associations which comprise the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition. Our ongoing stance should send a clear message to the city of just how strongly many of our residents oppose this project.

The majority of Lake Oswego citizens want to uphold our long-term vision and move forward to the Court of Appeals, where our legal counsel is confident our case is justifiable. As a result, we still have a chance to strategically develop the Wizer Block in a way that will retain the quaint charm of our city. And that is a battle worth fight for.

Lita Grigg is a Lake Oswego resident and the founder of Save Our Village.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/260317-131640-citizens-view-lake-oswego-citizens-are-stillstanding-strong-on-wizer-block

Standard

Wizer Block foes take fight to Court of Appeals

Created on Thursday, 07 May 2015 01:00 | Written by Saundra Sorenson

Opponents of a plan for a mixed-use development on the Wizer Block in downtown Lake Oswego are taking their fight to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Attorney Greg Hathaway confirmed Tuesday afternoon that he had filed a petition for judicial review on behalf of the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and Save Our Village.

A third group — LO 138 LLC, which represents Lake View Village — participated with the others in taking the case to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, but opted not to participate further.

Hathaway, who represented both Save Our Village and LO 138 LLC before LUBA, will be working with attorney Daniel Kearns as the case moves forward. Kearns was hired by the Evergreen Neighborhood Association.

HATHAWAY
“We’re of the mind that the LUBA decision has committed an error, making (our challenge) very justifiable,” Hathaway told The Review on Tuesday.

In March, Hathaway argued before LUBA that the City Council was wrong when it voted to allow a 290,000-square-foot development at the corner of First Street and A Avenue. The city’s Development Review Commission had rejected the proposal a month earlier.

In its decision, LUBA concluded that “the City Council’s interpretation of the Community Development Code easily qualifies as a plausible interpretation” and that “petitioners’ proffered interpretation to the contrary is inconsistent” with the code.

But Hathaway says LUBA did not address a key point in its review.

“What’s really at stake is how underlying policies of the city apply,” Hathaway said. “In the Urban Design Plan and the East End Redevelopment Plan, the city clearly requires any development on Block 137 to be ‘village scale,’ to be complementary and to be compatible with adjacent development.”

He said state law — specifically ORS 197.829(1) — instructs LUBA in how to “grant deference to the city’s interpretation.” Under the statute, Hathaway said, LUBA must examine whether the Lake Oswego City Council erred in approving the Wizer Block development using four criteria.

Hathaway’s argument concerns the first three parts of that criteria, which require LUBA to consider if the council’s decision:

“(a) is inconsistent with the express language of the comprehensive plan or land use regulation;

(b) is inconsistent with the purpose for the comprehensive plan or land use regulation;

(c) is inconsistent with the underlying policy that provides the basis for the comprehensive plan or land use regulation.”

“LUBA never addressed our key issue: whether the interpretation by the city was consistent with the underlying policies of the Urban Design Plan and the East End Redevelopment Plan,” Hathaway said. “By statute, they’re required to address it.”

Hathaway said the city never conducted an evaluation to ensure that the proposed development was compatible with Lake View Village and the mixed-use development on Block 136.

“The city’s interpretation does not provide assurances to the community that the Wizer development is truly of village scale in comparison with its downtown surroundings,” he said. “It is our position that the Wizer development is too massive and out of scale with its surroundings.”

Mayor Kent Studebaker said Wednesday that he was disappointed by opponents’ decision to file the appeal.

“I recognize their right to file,” Studebaker said, “but I’m disappointed. The LUBA opinion was strong, and I would’ve thought that would’ve settled that. But if they want to spend their money on that, they certainly have the right to.”

Jim Bolland, co-chair of the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition, said the Evergreen Neighborhood Association board voted April 28 to keep the appeal alive.

“It’s been reviewed by a couple of different attorneys, and it’s very clear we have a viable case going forward,” Bolland told The Review on Tuesday. “We would not proceed with any kind of case that we didn’t feel was on very solid ground.

“It’s very important to note,” he added, “that in the context of our pretty shocking vacancy rate with retail downtown, this project is going to exacerbate the retailers that are fleeing. It’s going to be really bad for our downtown’s viability in the long term.”

Neither Bolland nor Hathaway would discuss how the two groups plan to finance the appeal. Bolland did refer to a “grassroots” fundraising effort, and the Save Our Village website currently features a general call for donations and a link to PayPal.

“It’s the way we always fund things — different people step up to the plate,” Bolland said. “At our LONAC meeting on Saturday, we walked away with $2,500” in donations toward the appeal “from people who have not changed their opinion.”

“All I know is that we’re prepared to go forward,” Hathaway said. “Our clients are willing to pay, and everyone is comfortable with that relationship.”

Bolland criticized a request last week from Redevelopment Director Brant Williams to the Citizens Budget Committee to set aside more city funds for the Wizer Block project. But Williams said Tuesday that the request was completely legitimate.

“We have a development agreement with the developer,” Williams said. “He’s obligated to set aside 135 public parking spaces and (establish) a public easement through the private property. Those are the two big elements. And in return, the Redevelopment Agency will contribute financially to the project.”

That contribution includes covering all associated development and permit fees, Williams said, which were estimated to be between $4.7 million and $5.3 million.

“On top of that, we’re contributing $749,000 (in East End Redevelopment District funds) to the project for overall construction,” Williams said. “The LORA board felt comfortable doing that, given that we’ll get primarily public parking spaces and public access easements to the big parcel there.”

Kessi’s proposal for the Wizer Block calls for three four-story buildings, with 207 apartments and about 36,000 square feet of retail space. Demolition of the existing Wizer building is tentatively scheduled to begin in September, Kessi has said, followed by excavation for underground parking.

The entire $93 million development will take about 22 months to complete, with a tentative completion date of July 2017. Planning will continue while the appeal winds its way through the court, Kessi said Tuesday.

“LUBA did not waiver in its rejection of the opposition’s appeal,” he told The Review. “It issued a strong and well-reasoned approval of the City Council decision. We are confident in that ruling and in the sound judgment of the Court of Appeals.

“Our company is in the final planning stages,” he added, “and ready to go through the final permitting process” for the Wizer Block.

Opponents of those plans now have 21 days to file a brief with the appeals court. The city and Kessi’s attorneys will then have 21 days to respond; once those briefs are filed, the court typically hears oral arguments within 49 days.

“The opposition has said that they will take this all the way to the Supreme Court,” Kessi said. “But that seems more about delaying the project than the merits of the decisions about the project made by City Council and strongly affirmed by LUBA.”

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or ssorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/259307-130987-wizer-block-foes-take-fight-to-court-of-appeals

Standard

Three groups take Wizer Block plan to LUBA

Save Our Village, Evergreen Neighborhood Association and Lake View Village join forces for appeal

Three groups opposed to the construction of a 290,000-square-foot, mixed-use development on downtown Lake Oswego’s Wizer Block took their fight to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals this week.

Save Our Village, the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and LO 138 LLC — which represents the nearby Lake View Village development — filed their intent to appeal on Monday, naming the city of Lake Oswego as respondent and seeking to overturn a decision by the City Council to approve the plans.

“We feel very confident about our case,” Save Our Village founder Lita Grigg said. “I’ve said from day one that whatever it takes, we plan to stay the course.”

After nearly nine hours of public testimony, the Council voted 5-2 in September to overturn the Development Review Commission’s rejection of developer Patrick Kessi’s plan to build three four-story buildings at the corner of First Street and A Avenue. The development would include 207 residential units and about 36,000 square feet of retail space.

In their appeal to LUBA, the petitioners contend that the Council did not have the authority to overrule the DRC’s 3-2 vote to reject the Wizer Block plans. The DRC said the proposal did not reflect downtown Lake Oswego’s “village character” and its requirement for “small-scale structures”; that the residential/commercial split Kessi proposed was not appropriate for the so-called “compact shopping district” as defined by the Urban Design Plan; and that it violated code restrictions on ground-floor residential use in the city’s core.

“The petitioners have to take it one step at a time, to get LUBA to frankly agree with the DRC,” said Greg Hathaway, attorney for the petitioners.

Lake Oswego City Manager Scott Lazenby said there will be a significant burden on the groups to prove that the Council’s decision violated city code. LUBA reviews cases that concern final rulings on urban design review decisions, as well as issues involving comprehensive plan provisions.

If LUBA rules against the petitioners, it can require that they pay the city’s associated legal fees — an option LUBA exercises in cases it finds weak or not “well founded in law or on factually supported information.”

Despite the expense, LUBA can prove to be an attractive option. Although no new evidence is allowed in the case, the governor-appointed, three-member board tends to be more technical in its reviews. On average, it takes between four and eight months for an appeal to wind its way through the LUBA process.

Kessi has said it could take up to nine months before his group is ready to break ground on the Wizer Block, but that “we’re pursuing our plans and getting ready for construction.”

“This has been a long process, and a long public process,” Kessi said Wednesday. “We’re up to 14 public hearings now on the project, and the project’s been dissected by the DRC, City Council, neighborhood associations, staff — and because of the long, very public part of the process, we’ve made changes. We think the changes have made the project better. So the project meets code, and it’s the rule of the law. We’ve taken input and taken the best suggestions, incorporated them into development. Now it’s time to move forward, and we’re looking forward to starting construction.”

The petitioners could have filed a motion for a stay to prevent the project from moving forward, but that, if approved, would require the posting of a $5,000 bond.

“It’s very rare that a stay is filed,” Hathaway said. “There’s a lot of risk on the part of a developer to build something that they might never get approved.”

Hathaway said he is confident the petitioners have a case.

“I don’t think Lake Oswego is used to a situation where there’s a proposed development that has raised the kind of significant concerns by the community that we have here,” he said, “where the City Council has to choose — as opposed to all the parties trying to figure out all the ways to redevelop the Wizer property.”

Hathaway said he expects oral arguments in the case to begin sometime in January.

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or ssorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/238912-104826-three-groups-take-wizer-block-plan-to-luba

Standard

Street of Bad Dreams

Created on Thursday, 23 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Darryl Boom

Life just got easier for developers in Lake Oswego. Here’s all you need to do:

Ignore the Evergreen neighborhood and the East End Redevelopment and Urban Design plans.

Ignore neighborhood association surveys objecting to your vision by a vote of 140 to 10. The DRC? Citizen’s comments? Their opinions really don’t matter.

Don’t worry about village character. Just know that your vision will be our vision. A 90,000-square-foot building the size of the West End Building is just another small-scale building to us. In fact, you can put three of these WEBs on one block downtown!

You can also build a few hundred apartments if you want! A quarter-acre private patio? No problem. It’s been approved for the Wizer Block. If you need $5 million or $6 million to help you out, go see LORA. Promise tax revenue and a bit of parking, even though we both know you will use parking modifiers and street parking to make the project look just fine.

Remember to hire expensive PR consultants and a high-priced lawyer to help you sell your vision to the unsuspecting public. Keep telling them that four stories are the same as two stories, three WEB buildings are the same as six small buildings in Lake View Village, and that residential is what is best for our downtown compact shopping district.

To make the process easy, you can rely on our staff to approve your plan and write their version of any DRC findings. And even though we have two city lawyers, use your high-paid lawyer to write any City Council findings, just to be sure you’re represented fairly.

So good luck dropping three WEB buildings on another city block. Write lots of letters and just keep it under 60 feet!

Darryl Boom
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/237930-103104-readers-letters

Standard

Remember their names

Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Jeff Stier

The recent vote by the mayor and Lake Oswego City Council to approve the Wizer Block mega-development — overturning the Development Review Commission’s rejection — is an awful rejection of the views of the community these people were elected to represent.

Remember their names and vote to un-elect them. They are: Kent Studebaker, Jeff Gudman, Jon Gustafson, Donna Jordan and Skip O’Neill.

Get rid of these people. Send them back to jobs in real estate development. And for God’s sake, quit electing real estate developers to the City Council.

Jeff Stier
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/235575-99983-readers-letters

Standard

Council’s Wizer Block decision ignores the concerns of so many

Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Mary Ann Dougherty

Our mayor and four city councilors have overruled our Development Review Commission (a commission comprised of qualified professionals), and instead have given developer Patrick Kessi’s Wizer Block proposal the green light. Only councilors Karen Bowerman and Lauren Hughes upheld our DRC’s decision to deny the development.

Councilor Bowerman expressed concerns about traffic and parking problems around the bottlenecked block, the development’s monolithic buildings and the small amount of retail. Most retail will be for apartment residents’ private use — a private library, media room, gym and courtyard. (City code deems this commercial/retail.) A pittance of retail will be left for the public.

The Saturday before the Council’s hearing on the Wizer Block, I handed out flyers and talked with people about the development. I was astonished that people believed the development will bring needed retail and affordable housing. This attests to the extensive, disingenuous public relations campaign by Kessi. Those misinformed and misled by Kessi will be shocked to see his exclusionary development with very expensive rents.

Others I spoke with believed the Kessi development will provide generous parking. Won’t they be shocked to find street parking all around the Wizer Block will be private, for tenants only, and that only 268 parking spaces will be provided for the 500 new residents (and their guests) expected by proponents of this development.

Evergreen Road and neighborhood, as well as Lake View Village, will be inundated with cars as people search for parking. City code deems this adequate, and the code needs changing.

On Saturday, I also talked with several out-of-state visitors, some from as far away as New York City. All were happy to be going to a farmers market in beautiful Millennium Park. They’ll be disappointed next time when the farmers market has moved, due to Kessi’s development. Do you think they’ll come back to our downtown, to sit outside Zeppo’s in the large shadow of Kessi’s 58-foot-tall apartments?

Our mayor and four city councilors have chosen to ignore the concerns of so many of us who support our DRC’s decision. They’ve sold us out and handed $6 million of our tax dollars to Patrick Kessi and his investors, who will make a lot of money on this deal while they destroy the character of downtown and beauty of Millennium Park.

In August, DRC Commissioner David Poulson, before casting his minority vote in favor of the Kessi plan, gave a rather long, bloated speech about liberty and his duty to protect Mr. Kessi’s right to build the kind of development he wants. But what about the rights of citizens who want safe streets, not streets that will be blocked by the cars of new apartment tenants who have not been provided with adequate parking, and not streets that will be sped through by people impatient to get on or off a gridlocked A Avenue. What about the rights of those who will lose access to Millennium Park and nearby businesses due to crowds and a lack of parking?

It seems to me Commissioner Poulson believes that the rights of Mr. Kessi and his investors are far more worthy of protection than the rights of the rest of us. And I guess Mayor Studebaker and councilors Gudman, Gustafson, Jordan and O’Neill believe the same.

Mary Ann Dougherty is a Lake Oswego resident.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/235576-100257-councils-wizer-block-decision-ignores-the-concerns-of-so-many

Standard

A lack of leadership

Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Mike Story

I am appalled by the lack of leadership displayed by our City Council when it overturned the DRC’s rejection of the Wizer Block project.

My wife and I have owned a home in Lake Oswego for nine years. We moved back to the Portland area after being away for 40 years and chose Lake Oswego because we fell in love with the city, in particular the small village feel of downtown Lake Oswego.

The Wizer Block project seems intent on maximizing rental apartment space and putting four-story buildings on our flagship street, regardless of citizen input, traffic congestion and strong concerns voiced from Lake View Village and Evergreen Neighborhood representatives.

What upset me the most was the continual theme from five City Council members of “What can we do, it appears to match city code?” Not, “What is best for Lake Oswego?” Or, “We need to downsize and modify this project a bit more.” Or, “No approval until a thorough traffic study is completed.”

Only Councilors Karen Bowerman and Lauren Hughes seemed concerned about the long-term effect this project will have on Lake Oswego, demonstrating real leadership.

This position by the City Council is very disappointing, and has many residents re-evaluating living in Lake Oswego, or at the very least spending time in what was a wonderful downtown area. It also makes one wonder if the DRC has any real role to play for the Lake Oswego City Council.

Mike Story
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/235575-99983-readers-letters

Standard

By approving Wizer proposal, mayor and council ignored will of the people

Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Lita Grigg

Mayor Kent Studebaker and four other City Council members recently overturned the Development Review Commission’s decision to deny the current Wizer Block proposal. The mayor’s election pledge was to preserve Lake Oswego’s current character and prevent high density in our neighborhoods. His vote in favor of the project is really a vote against the constituency that elected him — a constituency that strongly opposed the project.

Councilman Jeff Gudman, who is up for re-election, also voted to support this ill-conceived development. Maybe it is time to take a second look at some of our elected officials in the upcoming elections, because if this project proceeds, our Council will be responsible for looking to revenue instead of listening to the voice of the people, who overwhelmingly said this massive development is simply too much for our beautiful downtown.

Three buildings, none of which would fit on a Portland city block because of their size, are not in keeping with city codes that call for small-scale structures. The current proposal is three times the size of its neighboring structures. This massive complex is 286,000 square feet, which is more square footage than Lake Oswego High School.

Did the council members who voted to endorse this massive complex not hear the cries from the Evergreen Neighborhood Association, whose members voted overwhelming against this proposal? Did they think it wasn’t necessary to listen to the critical concerns the citizens had? After all, Evergreen’s residential density was going to increase by almost 50 percent in a one-square-block radius.

Lake Oswego’s neighborhoods are important — not just our own. The word “village” is synonymous with Lake Oswego. Village on the Lake set a wonderful standard for village character, as did Lake View Village and the Oswego Village townhomes. It is concerning that the word “village” is under consideration for removal from our codes. It is apparent we are at a crossroads in the direction our city staff and Council wants to take us.

Growth is important for any community, but it needs to reflect our time-honored village lifestyle and not undo everything we have done in the past decades to make our town beautiful. We have a proud legacy of one of the very few vibrant, special cities in America with true village character.

Save Our Village will continue to speak out and take the necessary steps to preserve the “village” qualities of Lake Oswego. Save Our Village is not anti-development. This is a protest against misplaced, inappropriate and harmful development. This is an appeal for common sense. Urban density is a reality, but it should not occur at the price of urban chaos.

The DRC should be commended for the hours spent looking at the Wizer project twice. They told developer Patrick Kessi to break up the buildings into smaller structures; he did not. Choices were made by Mr. Kessi; he chose to disregard our voices and chose to stick with big money, big politics and big apartments. Save Our Village chooses to appeal.

Lita Grigg is a Lake Oswego resident and the founder of Save Our Village. For more information, go to saveourvillagelo.com

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/235579-100535-by-approving-wizer-proposal-mayorand-council-ignored-will-of-the-people

Standard

Puzzled by decision

Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Ted Ricks

I am puzzled and disappointed to read that the City Council has overturned the vote of its Development Review Commission. I am interested to find out the reasons for ignoring a large segment of the population’s desire for a much smaller development on the Wizer site.

Ted Ricks
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/235575-99983-readers-letters

Standard

Council ignored plea to preserve our downtown

Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Leslie Pirrotta

When Mayor Kent Studebaker campaigned, he said, “Lake Oswego is a great place, and I’d like to make sure we maintain that quality and character of the town. I’d like to make sure people can afford to stay here and they’re not worried about what the government is doing to them.”

Did Lake Oswego citizens witness disloyalty and misuse of leadership by Mayor Studebaker and four members of City Council when they voted to overturn the Development Review Commission? The DRC, led by expert architects and a specialized attorney, twice rejected the Wizer proposal. The DRC reasonably determined that the proposed development, too large to even fit on a Portland city block, did not meet code for village character in mass and scale, and that the apartment complex, proposed for a block clearly designated in the Urban Design Plan as our “compact shopping district,” lacks critical retail.

Lake Oswego citizens have a government that ignored a year-long plea by a majority of citizens to preserve our downtown, deny this project and ask the developer to break up the buildings into smaller scale and add more retail to the ground floors as required by the DRC.

Mayor Studebaker and Councilors Gudman, Jordon, Gustafson and O’Neill had seven months — since February — to carefully study code and testimony regarding the most important decision our community is facing. Instead, they appeared unfamiliar with relevant issues, including details of parking and traffic, the actual size of the proposal in relation to other buildings downtown and the history of downtown development plans. Despite an overwhelming outpouring of citizen concerns, they appeared to rely on a staff that citizens called out for driving this redevelopment in favor of the developer.

These five council members appeared to ignore citizens’ concerns that letters were submitted in favor of the project by a Portland PR firm on behalf of Kessi and residents of Kessi’s Northwest Portland building. None of the writers of the supportive form letters had a connection to Lake Oswego. Yet, the vast majority of Lake Oswego organizations and residents rejected the proposal in favor of smaller-scale buildings and more retail. Only Councilors Bowerman and Hughes represented the interests of those who elected them.

Perhaps nothing will destroy our picturesque small downtown more than a 60-foot-high, massive apartment complex that is not “small-scale” and lacks “random village scale” (page 27 of the UDP). Instead of walking along A Avenue to window-shop at a quality antique store or a children’s boutique or a restaurant filled with diners, Lake Oswego residents will stare into apartment lobbies, wait in traffic and watch as double-parked moving vans unload beds and sofas.

It is a sad time for Lake Oswego residents who cherish downtown and hoped to have Wizer’s redeveloped in a way that preserves our unique, charming downtown. As one of the compelling citizen testimonies underscored, “You would never see the current Wizer proposal built in Cannon Beach, Essex, Conn., Los Gatos, Calif., or Carmel.”

With the upcoming election, look carefully at the candidates. Other downtown blocks and the Foothills neighborhood are primed for redevelopment. Only two candidates have taken a stand against the current Wizer proposal: Jackie Manz and Matt Keenen. Councilor Jeff Gudman voted in favor of the Wizer proposal, and candidate Joe Buck testified in favor it.

Leslie Pirrotta is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/235577-100393-council-ignored-plea-to-preserve-our-downtown

Standard

What was Council thinking?

Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Francie Manning

Re our City Council’s approval of the Wizer proposal: What were they thinking? Did they mistakenly think they knew more about city codes than the acknowledged experts on their own Development Review Commission?

What motivated them to go against the will of a majority of their constituents? They certainly could not have had the best interests of Lake Oswego at heart. How dare they leave as their legacy this massive blot on our landscape in the very core of our downtown!

I am particularly disappointed with Jeff Gudman.

Kessi will build these three monstrosities and then he’ll leave Lake Oswego and go back to Portland. We’ll be stuck with the consequences. Traffic in the downtown area will achieve gridlock at rush hour. But that won’t bother Kessi. Parking will be so difficult that many people will stop going to Lake View Village, the Farmers Market and Millenium Park. But Kessi won’t be affected. We will have lost many of our beautiful trees. But Kessi won’t care. The hardships caused by these monoliths will be many. Too many to enumerate here. But the hardships won’t bother Kessi. He’ll be in Portland counting his money.

And what about Gene Wizer? What could he be thinking? He lives here. He’s been a good citizen of Lake Oswego. Now his legacy will be these three monstrosities with his name permanently associated with them. Nobody will remember all the good he’s done. People will just remember The Wizer Block, the massive abomination in our formerly charming downtown.

Francie Manning
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/235575-99983-readers-letters

Standard

Wizer Block approval: How did we get to this point?

Created on Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:00 | Written by Gerry Good

Our City Council overturned the Development Review Commission last week and approved the Wizer development. Many of us disagree, including this writer. How did we get here?

In the late 1980s, the Urban Design Plan (UDP) was developed, then the East End Redevelopment Plan (EERP). These plans are general guidelines for what our community wanted, and there was extensive interaction between the community, city planners and the redevelopment staff. Why? To create a downtown of which all were proud. These documents were specifically designed to guide the development of detailed codes.

So what happened in the past decade or so?

A substantial proposal for Block 138 came along. It was not as big as the current Block 137 (Wizer) proposal, but big. The community was aghast and voted it down. Then there was another proposal for Block 138. The developer met with the community and staff and eventually presented a project that satisfied all and met code — Lake View Village. This project was designed to be small in scale, with no more than two stories on First Street and A Avenue. It had no residential space. City planning staff supported this plan.

Since then, there have been various changes to our code suggested by staff and approved by city councils. While these changes did codify some of the UDP or EERP, they did nothing to implement a “compact shopping district” on the four blocks surrounding A & First. The code became less clear and objective, which allowed for arbitrary interpretation.

Today, the revised EERP does not even mention residential as a use for Block 137; it is designated for mixed use, but residential is never mentioned. Suggested uses include a library and a hotel with first-floor retail.

I wonder if this City Council thought about the UDP and EERP when it consented to a Block 137 development agreement with Evergreen Group LLC that included residential. I think not. I wonder if the planning department believes that our code should flow from the community plans that we have developed, the UDP and EERP? I think not.

How do we get a situation where we have specifications for everything down to the sidewalk and benches, but nothing to define what we want in the “compact shopping district?” Why didn’t planning staff build anything into the code for these important four blocks over the years? Why didn’t previous city managers and city councils make sure that happened?

It’s simple — we got what the staff and elected officials wanted. We are now getting a monster proposal for Block 137 (yes, I am not in favor of it), which planning staff has supported while giving the community the cold shoulder. Why didn’t staff support something more akin to Lake View Village?

City Councilor Skip O’Neill referred to our complicated codes. He is correct, but he missed the real issue. The bigger problem is that the code does not reflect what the community wants; it’s what staff wants. The code allows siting and massing standards for very long, big buildings with no significant breaks. It allows a large number of apartments in what is to be a shopping area. Why?

Ask yourself if the City Council knows there are code issues and that the community is not happy. What are they going to do and when? Answers are long overdue.

Gerry Good is a Lake Oswego resident and member of the city’s budget committee.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/235578-100490-wizer-block-approval-how-did-we-get-to-this-point

Standard

With no collaboration, Wizer proposal doesn’t fit

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Betsy Michels

I have been following the debate over the Wizer redevelopment proposal.

For 12 years, I lived in a charming, small town in Germany. I appreciate enjoying a similar, small-town lifestyle since returning to my hometown of Lake Oswego. We have a gem here in Lake Oswego, with our distinctive small-scale buildings and the redevelopment that has thoughtfully taken place over the past 15 years.

The Wizer model, however, just does not fit.

When the first proposal for Lake View Village was presented, most residents felt it was too massive and not of village character. So, due to public outcry, that proposal was scrapped. What we know as Lake View Village today is a collaboration of the builder and the public.

Unfortunately, I do not see that same collaboration with the developer of the Wizer project. His original plans were for three large buildings that did not fit the code designation as our “compact shopping district” or our village character. Rather than redesign as he was asked to do last January at the development review hearing, the developer simply reduced the complex by a small number of apartments and added a little articulation.

The complex is still a very large apartment block with half the amount of retail that we already have at Wizer’s today. I just can’t see how this large apartment complex will enhance our town — it does not add shops or restaurants, it reduces them. It does not add character; each unbroken building is almost the same size as a football field!

It will add more congestion and change the small-town look and feel of Lake Oswego. If you add more downtown residents, you need to add much more retail to support the density. In addition, the project is so large that established businesses will lose support during a two-year construction time frame.

I ask the City Council to support the DRC’s decision and not approve the proposed redevelopment. Its size does not meet the definition of village character and it cannot qualify as a “shopping district” with so little retail.

Betsy Michels is a Lake Oswego resident.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://www.pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/234837-97150-with-no-collaboration-wizer-proposal-doesnt-fit

Standard

We need to stop this project

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Matt Cutts

Many Lake Oswego residents are vehemently opposed to the potential Block 137 development near Millennium Park, as well they should be. It would destroy the livability of our downtown and flagrantly disregards existing city development guidance, so I oppose it.

The Development Review Commission rejected this development because it was too massive in scale and out of step with the area’s village character in August. The project violates Lake Oswego Urban Design and East End Development plans.

This complex would dwarf the existing retail shops in Lake View Village and the rest of downtown Lake Oswego. It would result in traffic and parking issues which would transfigure our quaint town into yet another overdeveloped urban nightmare.

The scale of any new development should meet code, should match the scale of existing retail outlets near Millennium Park (two-story maximum), and should include parking for any proposed apartments within the same building in the basement or other locations.

I am joining with the merchants, neighbors and neighborhoods such as the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition in opposing this project. I am writing to voice my emphatic desire as a Lake Oswego voter for our City Council to uphold the application’s denial, preserve our downtown, and protect the property rights of current business owners. We need to stop this project!

Matt Cutts
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://67.205.23.189/lor/49-opinion/234857-99166-readers-letters

Standard

Do not approve Wizer plan

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Carol and Bob Mason

We have lived in Lake Oswego for a little over two years, and during that time we have come to make regular use of the wonderful retail and restaurant resources in the heart of downtown. We strongly oppose the current proposed development of the Wizer Block.

We do not oppose a development of the block that would contain retail shops and restaurants and perhaps a very small, limited number of apartments or condominiums. It does not take an understanding of the city code to recognize that First and Second streets and A Avenue could not support the number of proposed apartments. Current traffic is already a challenge.

We are disappointed that this matter could not have been put to a vote by all the citizens of Lake Oswego. It affects every resident who likes to frequent the heart of downtown, not just the nearby neighborhoods. Instead of drawing residents to the center of town, the traffic that would ensue from the apartment density would cause many to avoid the downtown area. The scale is massive and there is no way that moving vans, delivery trucks and apartment owners’ cars would not cause gridlock.

We request that the City Council please withhold approval of this plan and not permit high-density apartments to be included in any future proposal.

Carol and Bob Mason
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://67.205.23.189/lor/49-opinion/234857-99166-readers-letters

Standard

Focus on current residents

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Eric and Denise Schmidt

I am writing on behalf of myself and wife to join those opposed to the Wizer Block project. The reasons are so well documented by others; however, this project clearly detracts from the Lake Oswego culture and force-fits a mini Pearl District in our downtown village.

The love of downtown will be shifted away from the current residents and to the tenants of the new building if it is allowed to be constructed. We already have empty retail locations in Lake View Village, and the mass of the building will destroy the reason why so many of us decided to live our lives and spend our hard-earned money in the village of Lake Oswego.

The new tenants will be at the expense of the existing residents, as I know many of us are prepared to relocate if this project is commissioned as is.

Eric and Denise Schmidt
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://67.205.23.189/lor/49-opinion/234857-99166-readers-letters

Standard

Let this be the end of it

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Margaret Harkson

I am vehemently opposed to the big-city intrusion of the Block 137 Wizer/Kessi development into our beautiful, small community. Lake Oswego was chosen as the winner of the “America the Beautiful” contest two years in a row. This costly, gigantic, three-football-fields-long development belongs elsewhere. It benefits few.

This seemingly innocent project threatens not only the future of our Millenium Park, so long awaited and achieved, but also our beautiful views of Mount Hood and our relative peace and tranquility. We are a small city of neighbors. The desire to live in such a bucolic small community is what brought us all here. Let us remain a small village that rejoices in small things.

Codes are established to be respected and followed. They represent the will of the majority through our representatives. No elected official(s) should have the ability to exclude any restrictions that are already established in code without a vote of the residents.

Let us finally call a halt to this costly, time-consuming, endless revisitation of the Wizer/Kessi development. Let us, the current residents, vote on becoming a big city or remaining restricted as we are, if that is what it takes to move on. The Wizer Block has requisitioned innumerable hours and expense from everyone, most importantly our representatives. It has caused strong discord in our city.

Please, let this be the end of it. Reject the planned development of Block 137.

Margaret Harkson
Lake Oswego

Standard

LO would lose its charm

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Diana Harrell

I am a long-time resident of Lake Oswego (50 years). I attended Lakeridge High School and settled here to have a family. One of the things I have always enjoyed about Lake Oswego is the quaintness and charm of a small town. It is a community of people who will bend over backwards to support one another. For example, when my husband was sick and then died, the community rallied by my family’s side. We were overwhelmed by the love and support that we received.

In addition, I spent six years involved in the Lake Oswego Women’s Club and am on my seventh year with the National Charity League/ Lake Oswego Chapter. I have made many friends, have done my share of charity work, have volunteered in the schools, etc. I do it because I love my city and the friendships that I have made here.

I believe that the Wizer Block project will destroy the small-town feel that has drawn me and so many others to Lake Oswego. I enjoy frequenting the downtown restaurants and shops. I love the Farmers Market, the local plays and the summer concerts. But if the project passes, Lake Oswego will lose its charm that we all adore.

I don’t want a huge apartment complex destroying the aesthetics of our town. I don’t want to trip over hundreds of people and their dogs. I don’t want to fight the traffic or have to fight for a place to park. I am not opposed to growth and development, just not in downtown Lake Oswego. If the project passes, I will seriously consider leaving Lake Oswego.

I am greatly opposed to the Wizer project and think that it would be a huge disservice to our beloved town.

Diana Harrell
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://67.205.23.189/lor/49-opinion/234857-99166-readers-letters

Standard

Reject the Wizer project

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Gunnar Sedleniek

I strongly urge our mayor and City Council to agree with Lake Oswego’s Development Review Commission and deny the Wizer project. It simply does not meet our city code.

Gunnar Sedleniek
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://67.205.23.189/lor/49-opinion/234857-99166-readers-letters

Standard

Protecting our front yard

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Diana Petty

Last Saturday morning, on my way to the farmers market, I encountered a woman with a clipboard who stood on the sidewalk on First Avenue in the Wizer Block. The woman was canvassing in favor of the proposed development of 207 apartments plus retail space. She presented herself as wanting to live there.

Then I learned from a friend that this canvasser was actually a well-known political consultant. I returned and asked her if she was being paid to do this work, and she answered, “I am working for the developer, yes.”

People who live in Lake Oswego should know that paid operatives are presenting themselves as concerned citizens, while our unpaid friends and neighbors are donating their own time and money to oppose this massively out-of-place apartment complex.

The paid consultant suggested to me that opposition to the project is just a case of “NIMBY: Not In My Backyard.” I disagreed and can site several reasons for opposing it: increased traffic congestion, parking problems, cost to taxpayers, the opaque design, inadequate space for new businesses and restaurants, constant turnover of residents and more.

But there is also a communal reason for my opposition. The area around the Wizer Block is more than a shopping district. Millennium Plaza Park, over which these buildings would loom, is where we go for concerts on summer evenings and winter strolls. It’s where we end our foot races and parades, where we show off our town to visitors. It is also the place where we gathered in shock and grief for a vigil after 9/11.

No, our opposition is not a case of “NIMBY.” It is our front yard that we are trying to protect.

Diana Petty
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @ http://67.205.23.189/lor/49-opinion/234857-99166-readers-letters