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Don’t change LO character

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Kelley Lomax and Jim Smith

Please help us urge the City Council to not change the village character of Lake Oswego with the proposed Wizer Block development.

We love living in this area and the small town/village feel. The Wizer proposal does not fit.

We strongly oppose using any tax dollars for this.

Kelley Lomax and Jim Smith
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Inconsistent with local values

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Jacqueline Kyle

My husband’s parents moved to Lake Oswego in 1960. Over the years, we have been pleased to see development in our community, such as the Millenium Park project, the play structure and walking trails in George Rogers Park, the renovation of Our Lady of the Lake school and various appropriate high-density buildings. I would like to see more construction that enhances our small-town atmosphere and supports our excellent quality of life.

It would be detrimental to our community to allow the Wizer Block to be developed in a manner that is inconsistent with our local values and our city building codes.

Jacqueline Kyle
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Did Lake Oswego get the council we voted for in 2012?

Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Dave Berg

“A fool and his money are soon elected”
— Will Rogers

During the past year, I have received emails, phone calls and comments regarding the outcome of the 2012 election. It’s been interesting to hear from so many citizens about their views on the priorities within our community.

In 2012, there was a lot of hope and a very real expectation for dramatic change from the City Council. I often use the term “reform council” to express voters’ expectations for the group elected in 2012. It’s clear our community was very unhappy with the direction and the attitude of previous administrations. That resentment resulted in a clear vote for change and an optimistic view of the potential for a new direction in Lake Oswego.

I took over as chair of the Citizens Budget Committee with the new 2012 administration. I admit that I shared the optimism within our community. It was clear that fiscal responsibility was paramount in the minds of voters, and it is a core value with me. I had championed this term before it became de rigueur, and it’s been quite humorous to see some “tax and spend” officials take up that mantra, despite their consistently opposite behavior.

I do believe we have made progress in redirecting the course of our local government. But is it enough? Many are now telling me we still have much more to do. We have reduced positions, redirected funds to streets, established a debt policy limiting our total debt and added to our reserves. Still, the core issues like Sensitive Lands, water rates and the WEB have not been resolved. It seems that our leadership cannot find a clear pathway to closure on these key issues. That’s something for all of us to reflect upon, because resolving them requires decisively committed transformational leadership.

That is what many thought we voted for in 2012.

Today, residents quietly express disappointment, not only in terms of the resolution of core issues, but also in the inconsistent positions of some on our council. My perception is the community wanted a true “reform council” that would implement transformational change and avoid the negative controversial issues often driven by outside interests. The consensus opinion is that we aren’t there yet.

Over the past two years, we have observed some change, a slightly different attitude and several controversial issues driven by regional interests. How these issues are resolved will tell us a lot about what is needed to ensure we preserve our community character. The next few months should be very enlightening for most residents in Lake Oswego.

Will we see closure on the unresolved issues? Did we get the council we voted for in 2012?

The answer is that we only got some of it, some surprises we didn’t expect and some enlightenment regarding our elected officials. Maybe this council hasn’t gone as far as we wanted, but as one citizen put it, “Just look at the alternative.”

While reform never really comes swiftly enough, 2014 offers voters the opportunity to hold our elected officials accountable for their decisions. Let’s ensure we elect candidates who will continue the redirection toward a local government that respects its citizens and resolves issues to preserve our exceptional community.

Dave Berg is a 23-year resident of Lake Oswego, chair of the Citizens Budget Committee and a board member of COLA LO.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Proposal doesn’t meet code

Created on Thursday, 18 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Stephen Arnot

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.

We need a compact shopping district, not developer Patrick Kessi’s residential proposal. We have limited retail space in downtown Lake Oswego. It’s currently not enough to meet most local shoppers’ needs. Mr. Kessi proposes to eliminate 50 percent of the existing retail on the Wizer Block. More shopping variety will encourage more local shopping and help promote Lake Oswego as a destination point. We need a critical mass of available retail space to attract new merchants. Right now, we are below that mass.

I believe we would be violating the law to dismiss the DRC’s s extremely well-thought-out interpretation of the city codes. Our codes call for designs that include a large mix of retail for a compact shopping plan. The DRC is responsibly upholding this precedent, as should the mayor and council.

Lake Oswego’s Urban Design Plan mandates downtown to stay commercial/retail and the East End Development Plan requires small-scale structures. There are some decisions that are made harder than they should be. This one is self-evident. And because the rules haven’t changed, the council should agree with the DRC’s expertise on this. Mr. Wizer and his developer do not have the right to develop the property in violation of the city’s design and development plans.

Let’s plan for the future. As housing becomes denser in all adjacent neighborhoods, we will benefit from a stronger retail/ commercial downtown that can properly serve the community’s needs. Millennium Park should remain a terrific place for us to enjoy and a larger variety of shops will enhance the area.

This should not be a difficult decision. The proposed massive apartment is against code. Please do not approve the Wizer project.

Stephen Arnot
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


This is what we may get?

Created on Thursday, 18 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Lori Grady

Is the Wizer proposal really what this community wants to morph into?

The proposal is on property identified in city planning documents as being one of four “compact shopping district” blocks. The property is a prime retail block, yet as designed, the interior first level is comprised of: offices (not much vitality there!); a private library for the residents of the apartments; an exercise room for the residents of the apartments; a private patio for the residents of the apartments; a “Club Lounge” for the residents of the apartments; and restrooms and a sauna for the residents of the apartments.

Wow, this project is going to be a real generator of retail activity downtown!

The agreement between the developer and the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency, in Section 6.15, calls for the walkway between First and Second streets to be subject to “…the terms of an easement to allow reasonable access to the pedestrian corridor running east and west…” which is to “…seek to balance the residential nature of the improvements along the pedestrian corridor with reasonable public access.”

Shouldn’t the city have the language of this agreement made public before the City Council acts on the appeal? What if the developer and the city do not reach terms agreeable to both parties? Will the interior be potentially closed to the public?

All this property is zoned for commercial ground-floor usage, and this is what we may get?

Lori Grady
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Big politics, big money, big apartments

Created on Thursday, 18 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Tom Grigg

It is interesting to read that former Sen. Bob Packwood has decided to toss his hat into the ring on the Wizer proposal for Block 137. For Mr. Packwood to throw his political weight around in a town dispute, where he doesn’t even live, seems disingenuous.

Could the reason for his recent commentary be because his wife, Elaine Franklin, has been hired by developer Pat Kessi to persuade the community that a massive complex housing more than 300 residents in our designated retail core is an excellent match for our town square? The political spin team, spearheaded by Franklin, has stepped away from what is most significant.

Preserving Lake Oswego’s unique village character of small-scale structures is at stake. There is nothing small scale about the three proposed massive buildings. Each is close in length to the size of a football field. The Wizer Block is designated as our compact shopping district, one of four blocks that were planned as the city’s retail core. A project that is 87-percent residential apartments with 13-percent retail is not consistent with the city’s vision.

Citizens are well aware of what is at risk from outside voices proclaiming what is best for Lake Oswego. Most of the general public won’t be swayed by paid lobbyists or an out-of-town developer, none of whom have a stake in the livability of our town.

If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. I am confident citizens who live here will stand strong in honoring our codes that took decades of planning.

Tom Grigg
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Urban project doesn’t belong

Created on Thursday, 18 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Candee Clark Jones

It is reassuring to me to see that the DRC has turned down the current proposal for the Wizer Block. Having grown up in Lake Oswego with deep ties to the community, I do not understand why this project, which is appropriate to perhaps the Pearl District, is being proposed for a community that prides

itself on its beauty and its small-town village character.

As The Lake Oswego Review editorial (“City should hold true to vision for downtown core,” July 17) noted, our Fourth of July celebration as well as our other community celebrations have that wonderful sense of being in your own hometown with all the kids, parents, grandparents and community members gathered together. Millennium Park works as a wonderful gathering space. But with 207 apartments looming over it, the already busy park will become overrun with just too many people, dogs and visitors, not to mention delivery trucks, emergency vehicles and all of the other big-city experiences.

The Wizer Block is not big enough to meet the many demands that will be placed on it. This is not a project for Lake Oswego. It is an urban project and should be put in an urban setting.

Candee Clark Jones
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Public isn’t embracing urban planners’ view of a denser future

Created on Thursday, 18 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Editorial board

The prevailing sentiment among urban planners is that the Portland area is headed toward — and would benefit from — a denser future where more residents are living in condominiums, apartments and townhouses.

However, a recent survey of the people who live in this region ought to provide a splash of cold water on those notions. It turns out that only a small number of Portland-area residents want to live in such close quarters. Surprising or not, most people prefer to reside in a single-family, detached home — and, shockingly, a plurality even prefer the suburbs. (See story, Page A2.)

The survey was commissioned by the Metro regional government, which should be commended for its willingness to ask important questions. Now, however, the Metro council and staff must give serious consideration to the survey’s findings. Clearly, this survey challenges Metro’s narrative that the Portland area must continue to grow through infill and avoid expansion around the edges.

The regional government faces an essential question as it considers in 2015 whether to expand the metro area’s urban growth boundary. Should regional planners provide people with the types of housing choices they prefer, or should they instead tell people what types of housing they will be allowed to have?

The results of the recent survey are not ambiguous when it comes to the housing preferences of Portland-area residents. Four out of five Portland metropolitan residents said they wanted to live in single-family, detached homes. Only 13 percent prefer an apartment or condo, and just 7 percent prefer a single-family attached home, such as a rowhouse or townhouse.

The survey itself is notable for its comprehensive nature. It was conducted by DHM Research, which used a variety of techniques: an online poll; a “managed panel” of 200 residents each from Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah and Washington counties; and a “public engagement panel” of roughly 5,700 respondents from throughout the region.

Participants were asked to choose which style of housing and neighborhood they preferred, and were then asked what factors — such as housing costs and commute time — might encourage them to change their minds.

Metro officials might be tempted to ignore or explain away the overwhelming preference for single-family homes. If they accept the survey’s findings, it will be difficult for them to illustrate how the region can stay within its current urban boundaries.

Metro is mandated to maintain a 20-year supply of land for development within that boundary. It can justify keeping the boundary in place by projecting that a large share of future residential development will be multifamily housing. If that assumption falls, however, the boundary would need to be expanded.

Further complicating Metro’s urban boundary decision is the plain fact that the biggest chunk of land to come within the boundary in the past two decades is not going to be developed in the foreseeable future, if ever. The Damascus area was brought into the UGB in 2002, but a lack of infrastructure and a completely dysfunctional political environment have prevented even the most basic steps toward new development. Right now, residents are fighting to get their property de-annexed from Damascus because they are so disillusioned with their city.

As Metro looks toward its 2015 boundary decision, it must confront the failure of Damascus along with the public’s desire to have real housing choices. We acknowledge that the public’s preferences may change over time, and that a larger share of the population, particularly newcomers, might prefer condo or apartment living.

One theory is that younger people will be more satisfied with multifamily housing than their parents would have been, but nothing in the Metro survey gives any support to that belief. A majority of young people in the survey said they want a detached house.

We also recognize that people can hold conflicting views — on the one hand wanting to protect farm and forest land, while at the same time desiring a home with a yard in the suburbs.

Nonetheless, if the Metro council’s charge is to represent its constituents, it must take into account their housing preferences, or it will place at risk the public’s long-standing support for regional planning and conscientious land use.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


We all have to abide by the rules

Created on Thursday, 18 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Katherine Chartraw

A recent book I read discussed the fact that our society is based on and held together through a process of “consensual agreement.” We as a group make our rules and regulations and we all have an obligation to abide by those rules and regulations. If not, we will have chaos.

Developer Patrick Kessi seems to feel that he does not have that obligation. Perhaps it is because he is not a member of our community, or perhaps it is just arrogance on his part to disregard the rules we have in place. Our city planners decided long ago on a design for the development of our city, and Mr. Kessi’s obligation is to submit plans that follow that vision. He has chosen to do otherwise and has put forth his own interpretation that has strayed far from the intent of our development code, and he knows it.

Do not allow him to substitute a high-density apartment complex for the small-scale business structures called for in our city development plans. Do not allow him to direct the discussion to materials and massing and sidewalk widths and planter design, when the discussion should be about the actual building use. An apartment complex does not translate into a retail business area, and a cadre of political consultants cannot change that fact, regardless of what Mr. Kessi thinks.

Many recent letters to the editor have put forth the argument that the city of Lake Oswego has to allow landowners and developers the leeway to improve their property or else we are going to earn the reputation of being against improvement and growth for our city. They imply that development money will stay away from our lovely city. But that argument cuts both ways. It is also incumbent upon landowners and developers to submit proposals that comply with the intent of our codes so that we have intelligent sustainable growth for our city.

If we do not insist upon following our rules and regulations, then we will indeed have chaotic development that could very well create an atmosphere of instability and make developers think twice about ever investing in Lake Oswego.

This design plan for this apartment complex does not comply with our codes or with the vision for our downtown area, and the Development Review Commission had it right when it denied permission to proceed. Please reject the appeal from Mr Kessi.

Katherine Chartraw is a Lake Oswego resident.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Too soon to say goodbye – here’s to a village love affair

Created on Thursday, 18 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Andrea Arnot

Dear LO,

The first time I saw you, my heart was lifted into my throat by a thousand little butterflies.

I was taken by your proximity to the Willamette River and downtown Portland. Your marketplace on Saturday mornings and the way you supported the artisans and displayed their art swept me up. The open arms of your local merchants embraced me, and your varied architecture radiated authenticity. I wanted to cohabitate with you. I hoped I would get a chance to know you intimately.

It’s been seven glorious years and I still adore you. I still care deeply about you, as you have become my safe place and best friend. I always look forward to returning home. You are my haven.

I would be a coward if I said I didn’t care about the Wizer project. I know its future development is vital for continuing — even improving — our quality of life. But our city government has coupled with Patrick Kessi and his crew of developers to wreak havoc on our future growth. They want to sacrifice our love of the village square to the density gods. Let’s wrap our arms around each other and resist this temptation. The developers are singing a siren song, but be warned: The song is sexy and the developers’ plan is multifaceted like fashion jewelry, but ultimately seeks to pack us together in eco-cages.

Their supporters whisper that our community will be happier. Don’t be lured to the developers’ village of ruin. Let’s work together to defeat developers and urge the City Council to accept the Development Review Commission’s recommendation. The codes we pledged to live by stated that we must design for a large mix of retail. Our binding Urban Design Plan mandates that downtown stay commercial- and retail-focused, with small-scale structures. Let’s right-size this affair by respecting and serving the needs of our community, and honoring the Development Review Commission’s opinion.

If the bureaucrats in City Hall break their solemn pledge to protect our sense of community as outlined in our city codes, the bloom will soon be off the rose. Suddenly we will have 300 apartment dwellers and their beloved pets calling the downtown square their backyard. The crowding will make some agoraphobic, while others will just grumble about the parking fiasco. Let’s plan properly for the future. Let’s offer each other a reprieve from housing.

In the meantime, let’s dine out more, hold hands in Millennium Park, embrace local shops and continue to kiss on sultry August nights. Lake Oswego, you are still my Shangri-La. You still move me with your quiet, small-scale beauty. I’m still lulled by the sound of your train and I’m still seduced by your placid lake. Let’s start over. Let’s have a better plan. Let’s make memories. Let’s fall in love with a design that saves our future.

Andrea Arnot is a Lake Oswego resident.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Better alternatives to Wizer proposal exist

Created on Thursday, 18 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Matthew J. Keenen

The community has spoken, and the City Council should vote to uphold the Development Review Commission’s decision to deny approval of Evergreen Group LLC’s proposal for the Wizer Block.

The Wizer Block is part of the compact shopping district and should be developed accordingly. The city should not approve a development that air-drops a high-density apartment complex that is out of character with the neighborhood. There are other options that could achieve the objectives of the code and still encourage commercial activity more consistent with Lake Oswego standards.

Rehabilitation of the existing structure would be an excellent option, especially considering the ample underground parking available. Not all of the structures need to be kept intact and some could be added to accommodate the needs of potential tenants. Depending on the structural integrity of the existing structure, it may even be viable to build a second floor that could contain office space. This project would provide ample retail capacity for the compact shopping district and provide a facelift for the neighborhood.

Another option is demolition of the current site and development of a compact shopping district within the definition of village character. This project would adhere to the guidelines set by city code and would create a sense of community in the downtown core. The developer in this scenario might want to consider keeping the existing underground parking so that the city would not have to use urban renewal funds to make the project economically feasible.

There are examples of success to point to in Lake Oswego already. Lake Grove Village was a rehabilitation of an old Wizer’s store that is extremely successful and does not include multifamily housing. Lake View Village, across the street from Block 137, is another example of success that did not require multifamily housing to survive.

The Evergreen Group is not the only developer in town, and the proposed project is not the only option. A compact shopping district can and should be developed in downtown Lake Oswego.

Matthew J. Keenen is a Lake Oswego resident, member of the Transportation Advisory Board and candidate for City Council.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Citizens won’t benefit

Created on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Tom Ruddy

It seems to me that there are three constituencies involved in the Wizer Block project:

1. The owners and developers of the project;

2. The merchants of the area; and

3. Citizens of Lake Oswego (particularly of the greater downtown area).

As a 26-year resident of the area near downtown and a frequent visitor to the shops on First Street across from the proposed development, I would agree that the owners/developers of the project and the shop owners would benefit from the presence of 207 apartments across from their respective shops. However, those of us in the third category, who now frequent those shops, would find it nearly impossible to find parking or sitting space in the shops or in Millennium Park.

So although shop owners will continue to have a robust business, it will be unlikely that it would come from those of us who now frequent those businesses.

Tom Ruddy
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


No ‘village on steroids’

Created on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Katie Williams

Please register my vehement disapproval of the revised Wizer Block plan. In my opinion, it would forever change the village character of Lake Oswego, and instead create a “Village on Steroids.”

Katie Williams
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Council should follow will of the people

Created on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Roger Rollins

I appreciate a recent statement by Mayor Kent Studebaker regarding his commitment to confront the issue of city staff pursuing their own agenda rather than that of the City Council and to address it promptly whenever it surfaces. I support the mayor, and believe he and the current council have made good strides to reverse the direction of the previous council.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that city staff bias has been evident with regard to the Wizer Block deliberations. In the U.S. Armed Forces, officers are taught to be apolitical. That is, their focus is on executing the mission, irrespective of whatever political party or administration is in power at the time. Many of them do not vote as a sign of their neutral posture. The Lake Oswego city bureaucracy, from the top down, should learn a lesson from this ethic, and stop being cheerleaders for developers who advocate urban-style density.

I believe that climate change is real, and that all of us will have to make some accommodations to mitigate the impact of fossil fuels. However, extremism at any end of the planning or political spectrum spells trouble with the electorate. It shouldn’t mean that our city-center Millennium Park has to become a poster child for urban density, that our small-town environment has to become an extension of Portland, or that we should celebrate putting 16 houses in a space formerly occupied by four homes.

I respect the high-density Pearl District, as well as the low-density estates in Dunthorpe and everything in between. So why not allow citizens, through their elected officials, to choose how they want their town to evolve? The electorate said in the last election that they didn’t want a Pearl District in the Foothills neighborhood. The urban, high-density apartment complex proposed for the Wizer Block is a slap in the face to the electorate. An admittedly non-scientific survey of Lake Oswego residents recently showed that 54 percent do not want this development, while only 24 percent thought it was a good idea.

Make no mistake, this proposal is a potential game-changer for the Lake Oswego community at large, and a gut check for the City Council. If the council is serious about following the will of the electorate, the desires of the neighborhood associations, the recommendation of The Lake Oswego Review and the decision of its own Development Review Commission, then it should uphold the DRC decision and reject this proposal. Otherwise, the council should be prepared for loss of any moral high ground and the confidence of the majority of the city’s citizens.

Roger Rollins is a Lake Oswego resident.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Keep your head

Created on Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Timothy Keenen

The 1967 classic “Cool Hand Luke,” starring Paul Newman, begins when an intoxicated Luke is sent to a Florida chain gang for cutting the heads off downtown parking meters. When the judge asks him why, he replies, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” He gets the name Cool Hand after winning a poker game by bluffing with nothing in his hand.

A City Council vote to approve the current proposal for the Wizer Block despite the Development Review Commission’s rejection may “seem like a good idea at the time.” but it is a bluff by the developer. The rejected plan is about maximum profit, not about maximum city character. Since this project violates the Urban Design Plan, which is code, the council should deny this project and plan for the future.

The vision of downtown Lake Oswego as a destination spot should include small-scale village structures filled with shopping and dining and next to adequate parking. Denser housing can be made available in our community outside the “compact shopping district.” The proposed Wizer plan rejected by the DRC reduces current retail space by 50 percent and adds to traffic congestion with a large residential apartment complex in three large buildings. The rejected plan cuts off the heads of our downtown parking meters.

Elections are coming up. After the judge sent Luke to the Florida chain gang, he faired poorly in the end. The vote of this council will dramatically sway voters. Council: Take some time. Sit back. Think this through. Is the rejected plan what is really best for our city? Is it a good idea at this time?

The rejected plan is a bad idea. Reject it. Keep the heads on our meters.

Timothy Keenen
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


DRC got it right

Created on Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Gina Coshow

I was impressed to hear that the Development Review Commission recently concluded that the proposal for the Wizer Block did not meet the city’s building code or the vision planned for downtown Lake Oswego and turned it down.

The developer has fought hard to locate his development in the Wizer Block. He has hired lawyers and political consultants to convince the city that the development belongs on the Wizer Block. But I, like so many others, feel that the proposed development has too massive a footprint for the site. Shoehorning approximately 414 people and 414 cars (two for each of the 207 apartments) and 102 dogs (one for every four apartments) into the relatively small area of the Wizer Block would strain the resources in the downtown area, change its unique character and violate building codes.

So I feel the DRC rightly concluded that the scale of the proposed development did not meet the character of “small-scale structures” in Lake Oswego’s downtown district and that the three proposed buildings are too large to meet city codes. The DRC joined several local organizations and the Evergreen and Hallian neighborhood associations, who have all voted against the project.

The next step is a meeting of the City Council, where they will weigh in on the proposed development. When they look at the facts, I hope they, too, will conclude that the proposed development should not be located in the Wizer Block and, in doing so, they will help leave a legacy that allows Lake Oswego’s core to retain its unique character and heart.

Gina Coshow

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Preserve small-scale village

Created on Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00 | Written by Mary Vigo

I support the Wizer development. However, as I learn more about the recent Wizer proposal, I believe that the Development Review Commission is correct.

The Wizer block is designated as part of our “compact shopping district.” Retail supports retail. A large rental apartment complex, with only 13-percent retail, will not create a more vibrant shopping and dining district downtown. We would actually lose 50 percent of the current retail at Wizer’s today.

I understand that guest parking for the apartments will be located on our streets. Parking is already a challenge on weekends and especially during concerts and during the farmers market. When you add the delivery trucks and moving vans that will be double-parked, we lose easy access to the restaurants and shopping we want to support.

It is disappointing that the developer did not go back to the drawing board last winter when his proposal was not approved and break up the buildings as requested, create more retail and lower the density. Much smaller buildings with much more retail would have created a redevelopment the entire community could embrace and anticipate.

I urge the City Council to support the desires of our community and preserve our small-scale village.

Mary Vigo
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Wizer decision isn’t about right and wrong; it’s about shaping the city’s future

Created on Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00 |

City Councilor Jeff Gudman was asked the other day about the biggest challenges he’s faced while serving on the Lake Oswego City Council, and we found his answer intriguing. The toughest calls, he said, “involved the conflict between two or three or four ‘rights.’”

To be clear: Gudman wasn’t talking about the Wizer Block, where developer Patrick Kessi hopes to place a mixed-use development with 207 apartments and 36,000 square feet of retail space. That issue won’t come before the council until later this month, and councilors are rightly keeping their feelings pretty close to the vest.

But on this controversial issue, in which the public discussion has revolved more around accusations, interpretations and insinuations than it has around facts, Gudman’s simple statement rings absolutely true.

There are a lot of “rights” here.

Kessi himself is right when he says that he walked away from Development Review Commission hearings earlier this year with the clear understanding that he would have to revise his proposal if he hoped to overcome the DRC’s objections. And he’s right when he says that he addressed the commission’s concerns in a redesign that includes significant changes.

Kessi’s scaled-down proposal for a three-building, 290,000-square-foot development at the corner of First Street and A Avenue now includes multiple facades to reduce the project’s monolithic feel and incorporates a more-traditional “village” architectural style. Kessi increased commercial space by 30 percent and reduced the number of residential units by 21. Gone is a proposed fifth story that would have required an exemption from city codes.

Most importantly, Kessi is right when he says that, except for a few minor requests for exemptions, his proposal meets the basic requirements of city code. And his contention that developers should be able to count on “clear and objective standards” that are predictable and fairly applied is about as right as it gets.

His opponents, led publicly by the group Save Our Village and behind the scenes by a variety of urban planners, local developers and others, say Kessi hasn’t done enough. They say that his project does not meet code requirements for “village character,” which essentially call for small-scale structures that “appear and operate like a traditional small town.” And they’re right, too.

The project is still massive and still dense. Despite the architectural changes, some buildings would be as long as 273 feet — longer than a typical city block — with no real breaks from corner to corner. Retail space would be half of what now exists at the Wizer’s shopping center. Parking would still be inadequate. And despite what Kessi’s traffic studies predict, the infrastructure is simply not in place to handle the increase in new residents or new visitors drawn to what is, at many hours of the day, already a gridlocked nightmare.

Local small-business owners and the Chamber of Commerce are right when they say that downtown Lake Oswego desperately needs the economic shot in the arm that would come from a mix of new residents and new retail establishments. That infusion of shoppers and diners would go a long way toward reinvigorating an area that now features several vacant storefronts.

But others point to a vision — crafted by city planners and endorsed by public vote — for a “compact shopping district” in the city’s core that rejects large-scale residential projects in favor of a greater concentration of retail space. A small-scale, pedestrian-orientated retail development would attract the kind of high-end shops and restaurants — and customers — that neighboring businesses now covet, the argument goes. And that sounds right, too.

Which leads us to this: What do you do when you’re faced with a lot of “rights?” How do you make a decision when, objectively at least, neither side is truly wrong? We think you do what the Development Review Commission did last week: You listen to both sides, you consider the applicable rules and regulations, and then you take a stand based on what you believe is best for the future of a city you love.

In the end, it can’t be about right and wrong. It must be about seizing an opportunity to step back, reflect on evidence and experience, consider principles and priorities. It must be about crafting a long-term vision based not only on the facts, but also on what you see when you look ahead.

It must be about leadership.

What will Jeff Gudman and the rest of the City Council see when they meet to consider the Wizer Block project this month? We hope they see what we do: that decades of planning for a “compact shopping district” with a small-scale village feel can’t be ignored; that you don’t have to accept a pretty proposal just because it meets the letter of the code; that the DRC was right in rejecting the Kessi proposal; and that when you are given an opportunity to shape the future, you grab hold with both hands.

In the end, that is the only “right” thing to do.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Decision will affect the future

Created on Thursday, 28 August 2014 01:00 | Written by Jaymee Delaney

“Don’t despair when things don’t go your way, maybe you were meant to be detoured.” — Anonymous.

I have lived in the Lake Oswego area for 15 years and find it to be an idyllic city with a village feel. My appreciation of the area came as I drove though Lake Oswego on multiple occasions through the years and observed that there were no towering structures overpowering the city.

The Wizer Block proposal advocated for massive buildings that would take away from the feel of this city. The Development Review Commission evaluated this Wizer plan and found it did not meet code, and their recommendation was to reject the project as it stands. I am unclear why proponents feel that a few “squeaky wheels” are forcing decisions at the DRC level. Let us move on and agree with the DRC. The Wizer project can still be built; it just needs to be significantly modified.

Downtown Lake Oswego will be enhanced with attractive smaller buildings with multi-purpose structures built to code. Economic development is exceptionally important in our small village, and the Wizer plan needs to understand that what is needed in LO are attractive shops, apartments and buildings that bring in locals to support economic growth.

Millennium Park Plaza is a destination for all to enjoy. It is akin to a relaxing French promenade. Last night, however, parking was terrible. My husband and I wanted to go to St. Honoré for take-out, and we could not find a parking spot. The park was having a concert and there were no parking spots. I can only imagine the area with more buildings without appropriate parking.

What is done today will affect the future.

Jaymee Delaney
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


DRC did its job

Created on Thursday, 28 August 2014 01:00 | Written by Lynn Haar

Recent letters in The Review have challenged the Development Review Commission’s ruling to deny the Wizer Block plan. On the contrary, the DRC should be commended as unpaid volunteers devoting their time to preserve the beauty and character of our town. Listening to the DRC, I heard many references to the various codes that it had clearly studied.

When I saw the initial Wizer proposal last year, I was very concerned about the massive size of the five-story structures. They were quite uncomplimentary to existing redeveloped downtown buildings. This winter, the DRC gave the developers the opportunity to redesign and break up the buildings into “small-scale structures.” Unfortunately, the developer did not take this opportunity to get it right. Instead, he changed some of the design to be more traditional. But one of the buildings, so clearly presented in graphic form at a DRC hearing, is nearly as large as a football field! And all three buildings still have unbroken facades. In addition, the apartment complex proposed for the Wizer Block would be built in a redevelopment plan-specified compact shopping district. It cannot, by any stretch of some individuals’ imagination, be construed as true mixed use when only 13 percent of the structures are planned to include retail.

As a Save Our Village volunteer, I am disheartened that some would suggest that the DRC did not adequately research the applicable codes. If it were not for the time and efforts of the DRC members, we Lake Oswegans would be stuck with a huge apartment complex that does not reflect designated small-scale, village character-like structures.

I can only hope that the City Council will respect and uphold the DRC’s ruling and the sentiments of various neighborhood associations, Evergreen residents and the many voices of concerned Lake Oswego citizens like me.

Lynn Haar
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Council should uphold DRC’s decision

Created on Thursday, 28 August 2014 01:00 | Written by Mary Ann Dougherty

I would like to thank very much the Development Review Commission for its denial of Patrick Kessi’s Wizer Block plan. I would also like to thank very much the editors of The Lake Oswego Review for their July 17 editorial stating that the Kessi plan should be denied due to its small amount of retail and excess of residential units. Yet, I am concerned that the Lake Oswego City Council, which will make the final decision about the Wizer Block in September, might overrule the DRC’s decision.

When the DRC first considered his plan, Kessi was asked to break up the buildings into small-scale structures, per code. Kessi’s inadequate response was to make cosmetic changes to the facade to give the appearance that the buildings were smaller in mass, rather than creating actual space between these block-long buildings.

The DRC based the final rejection of the Kessi plan on its small amount of retail in an area that is designated as part of Lake Oswego’s “downtown retail core,” and its high-density residential units on a block that is not designated for such use.

City staff may claim that Kessi’s Wizer plan follows city codes, but the Development Review Commission has decided it does not. The developer of Lake View Village and Oswego Townhomes had to follow city codes by reducing the scale and density of those projects. Yet current city staff somehow believes that Kessi is not required to follow city codes and design his buildings to be similar in height and mass to those buildings on the adjacent blocks. (I’d like to note also that Lake View Village, at 99,000 square feet, provides 365 parking spaces, while Kessi’s 290,000-square-foot Wizer development provides only slightly more.)

I am very concerned after reading in a Citizen’s View in the Aug. 14 issue of The Review that city staff wants to change Lake Oswego city codes and do away with definitions such as “Lake Oswego Style” and “village character,” which now require “small-scale structures that appear and operate like a traditional small town.” These code changes wanted by city staff would make possible massive developments such as Kessi’s Wizer plan.

Our City Council should not overrule the decision of the Development Review Commission. They should deny the Kessi plan in favor of a new plan that will fit Lake Oswego village character and our downtown retail core.

Mary Ann Dougherty is a Lake Oswego resident.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


DRC was right: Wizer plan doesn’t comply with code or meet vision for downtown LO

Created on Thursday, 28 August 2014 01:00 | Written by Jim Bolland

On Aug. 18, the Development Review Commission adopted findings denying developer Patrick Kessi’s application for a four-story, 207-unit apartment structure. In denying the application, the DRC affirmed the legal position presented by the attorney for Lake View Village and Save Our Village — and supported by the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition, the Evergreen and Hallinan neighborhoods and countless Lake Oswego residents — that the revised development application for Block 137 does not comply with Lake Oswego code or the vision for downtown.

The DRC found that the revised proposal that reduces the current commercial use of the property by over 50 percent and consists of over 80 percent residential apartments is not consistent with Lake Oswego’s Urban Design Plan or East End Development Plan, which designate Block 137 as part of a “Compact Shopping District” and require retail/commercial development on that block.

Further, the DRC found that the definition of “village character” set forth in the Downtown Redevelopment District is a legal requirement and provides that proposed structures must be “small-scale structures” to maintain the village character of downtown. The three proposed buildings, each longer than a football field and none of which would fit on a downtown Portland block, are not “small-scale structures,” are too massive and do not meet the definition of “village character.” The DRC stated that before you “dress” proposed structures, they first must meet the legal definition of “village character,” and this proposal did not.

At last February’s DRC hearing, commissioners told Kessi to break up the buildings into smaller structures to meet massing and “village character” requirements. Rather than actually redesign the project, Kessi apparently decided that the legal definition of “village character” didn’t matter and that the Urban Design and East End Development plans were irrelevant. The DRC found otherwise.

The city’s processing of the application for Block 137 became rather surreal. Barry Cain, the developer of Lake View Village, said during the hearing that he felt city staff was holding Kessi to a lesser standard than Cain and others were held to for past developments. As past chair of the First Addition neighborhood, I agree with Cain’s assessment. The proof is obvious by viewing other downtown projects. City staff sacrificed their objectivity when they became advocates for this project. Ultimately, they damaged their credibility through questionable actions by the city attorney and by producing findings after the DRC’s denial that didn’t accurately reflect commissioners’ statements from July 30. On Aug. 18, DRC commissioners had to break for over an hour to rewrite critical sections of the findings themselves.

At the August 2013 City Council hearing for the Design Development Agreement for this proposal, Mayor Kent Studebaker told an already alarmed public that they would have their opportunity to argue against this project at future DRC meetings. Mayor, the public has spoken, the legal arguments have been made and the DRC has affirmed that this application does not meet the legal requirements for “village character” or the “Compact Shopping District.” It would be a legal misstep for the council to consider overturning the DRC denial, no matter how much they may wish to see the project happen, because, to be real here, you cannot argue that these three buildings, each longer than a football field, meet the legal definition of “village character.” Can you?

Jim Bolland is a Lake Oswego resident, co-chair of the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition and past chair of the First Addition/Forest Hills Neighborhood Association.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


DRC formally rejects Wizer block proposal

Created on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:52 | Written by Saundra Sorenson
Commission adds details to amended ruling ahead of developer’s likley appeal

Lake Oswego’s Development Review Commission formally rejected a proposal for a 290,000-square-foot, mixed-use development on downtown Lake Oswego’s Wizer Block this week, adding detailed amendments in advance of a likely appeal to the City Council in September.

Monday night’s final decision affirmed the DRC’s 3-2 vote in July to deny developer Patrick Kessi’s request to replace the former home of Wizer’s Oswego Foods with three four-story buildings at the corner of A Avenue and First Street. The development would have included 207 residential units and about 36,000 square feet of retail space.

In July, the commission was divided on whether Kessi’s proposed design reflected downtown Lake Oswego’s “village character,” and also whether the residential/commercial split he proposed was appropriate for the city’s so-called “compact shopping district.”

Monday night’s vote mirrored the earlier session: DRC Chair Bob Needham and Commissioners Gregg Creighton and Kelly Melendez voted to approve the amended findings; Vice Chair Brent Ahrend and Commissioner David Poulson voted against the motion.

Prior to the vote, the commission agreed that a detailed explanation of the denial would be useful in any future appeal. “Even in a denial, it’s important to reference these things,” Ahrend said.

The commission took a 10-minute break during the session, with each member drafting detailed amendments to their findings.

The amended decision concludes that Kessi and his Evergreen Group LLC did not meet the requirements for requested exceptions because their design “does not accomplish the purpose of the Urban Design Plain in a manner that is equal or superior to a project designed pursuant to that standard,” the commission wrote, adding that the design did not achieve “the Urban Design Plan’s purpose of creating a high-density Compact Shopping District clearly designated in the plan for the blocks bounded by State Street, Second Street, B Street and Evergreen Road.”

The report also found that city code prohibits another aspect of the design: first-floor residential use outside a permitted area adjoining Second Street — specifically, a courtyard that would be used only by tenants.

Kessi has said he plans to appeal the decision to the City Council, which will next meet on Sept. 2. Any decision by the council could also be appealed to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Uphold DRC’s decision

Created on Thursday, 14 August 2014 01:00 | Written by Dennis Shebel

Initially, I was glad to see that the Wizer Block would be redeveloped. However, like others, I now believe the project is too big for our downtown.

The Development Review Commission concurs with virtually every organization and The Lake Oswego Review. I agree with the decision of the DRC. Simply put, the developer has not taken the steps necessary to break up the buildings and reduce the number of apartments to boost needed retail downtown on a block designated primarily for retail.

This Wizer redevelopment has created what Mayor Kent Studebaker wanted to avoid — disharmony. The debate should now be over. The City Council should uphold the majority will of its constituents, neighborhoods and LO organizations.

There has been too much dissatisfaction in recent years with our local elected representatives who don’t listen to informed citizens. Citizen Jon Bell’s testimony in front of the commission was compelling. The attempts that were made to upend his testimony were shocking and alarming. The City Council should vote to uphold the will of the citizens and the DRC, and demand that staff be held to a much higher and ethical standard.

Dennis Shebel
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @


Essentially, nothing changed

Created on Thursday, 14 August 2014 01:00 | Written by Diana Boom

Picture a five-story cutaway drawing of a building — a cross-section like a doll house. Now remove the first-floor ceiling to create a space with a very high ceiling. The outside of the building hasn’t changed — it isn’t any shorter or smaller.

I just figured out that that’s what the developer did when he redesigned the Wizer Block buildings. He didn’t really remove the fifth floor — he simply removed the first-floor ceilings in certain parts of the buildings so that the first-floor spaces have higher ceilings. That is why, contrary to what most people believe, the mass and height of the buildings did not essentially change.

What’s wrong with the Wizer proposal is that they’re trying to squeeze a four-story apartment building into the heart of the downtown shopping district. The DRC did the right thing in denying the application. I hope the City Council follows suit. Most of Lake Oswego will be watching.

Diana Boom
Lake Oswego

Article originally posted with the Lake Review @