A trifecta: from the owner of Bamboo Sushi

Letter by Kristifor Lofgren, Bamboo Sushi. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/18/14

Lake Oswego and its people are known as wonderful stewards of their lands. So what a great match we think it will be to locate in downtown Lake Oswego and partner with its citizens. We hope to move into the Wizer’s development, because the mission of the developer so closely reflects your and our mission — one of fundamental sustainability.

Developer Patrick Kessi has spearheaded sustainable, award-winning developments, and the Wizer Block will be built to the exacting standards of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification. We are the first sushi restaurant in the U.S. to be a “Certified Green Restaurant.” From the power we buy to the amount of water we use to our biodegradable to-go containers and compost program, we ensure a light footprint.

We are excited to be one of the retailers wanting to move into the proposed downtown Wizer building. We look forward to being part of the environmentally conscious Lake Oswego community. Vision, sustainability and business can coexist.

Kristofor Lofgren

Owner, Bamboo Sushi


Thoughts on the Wizer project

By Jeff DeWitt. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/18/14

Demand drives supply in this form of capital improvement, labeled physical capital. Lake Oswego has relatively high land prices compared with the rest of the state, including nearby West Linn and Portland, the most nearby economically stable/vibrant locations. Land prices are driven by Lake Oswego’s capital, highlighting strong social, natural and physical capital. Given the scarcity of land, while aiming to maintain constant or increased value per unit of land, we have to use wise strategies to gain additional economic agents to participate in the local economy.

Adding agents increases the number of potential consumers for local businesses, increases tax revenue and allows for the potential of further growth. To do so, given land scarcity, and to not hit the downward side of the urban utility curve, the recommended solution is to best utilize land, in this case by building into a less costly domain, the air.

To note an axiom of urban economics, “prices adjust to achieve locational equilibrium.” Utility of owners will adjust based on incentives and costs, such that added traffic, more dogs or more people will cause future physical capital improvements, generating further economic growth, all beneficial for a suburban economy’s long-run vitality.

Finally, property rights allow owners to maximize their ownership given established social conventions and local laws. If demand outweighs the naysayers, if economic growth will occur and the plan falls within local law, I recommend the project to occur, with a note that internal and external costs be noted and factored into an urban utility function, with the outcome remaining positive.

Jeff DeWitt

Lake Oswego



Council sets aside three nights for Wizer Block appeal

By Sandra Sorenson. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/18/14

The Lake Oswego City Council will hold a three-night special session next week to hear developer Patrick Kessi’s appeal of his rejected Wizer Block proposal.

The three sessions are scheduled for 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Sept. 22-24. The appeal will be heard in the City Council chamber at City Hall, 380 A Ave.

In August, the city’s Development Review Commission rejected Kessi’s plans for a 290,000-square-foot, mixed-use development at the corner of A Avenue and First Street in downtown Lake Oswego. The project would include 207 residential units and about 36,000 square feet of retail space.

Kessi has said he takes issue with the DRC’s ruling that “small-scale structures” were an approval criteria, and says three of the commissioners erred in deciding that the project’s ground-floor residential spaces do not meet the criteria for a high-density “compact shopping district” in the city’s core.

During next week’s appeal to the council, Kessi will not be allowed to introduce new evidence or make any changes to his already redesigned proposal. Under Lake Oswego City code, Kessi can only refute the findings that led to the DRC’s 3-2 rejection.

Public testimony is limited to three minutes per person, and only those who have previously submitted something for the record, either in writing or by testifying to the DRC, are permitted to speak. They will be asked to restate their previous testimony rather than introduce new points.

No new testimony will be accepted.

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



Wizer Block opinions should be based on facts

By Patrick Kessi. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/11/14

There was much I agreed with in last week’s Review editorial (“Wizer Decision isn’t about right and wrong: it is about shaping the city’s future,” Sept. 4.) Shaping positive futures for neighborhoods and designing sustainable buildings that enhance their surroundings is what we do. Looking to the future for Lake Oswego’s downtown core involves vision and long-term commitment, and that, too, is what we do. But we also rely on the facts to accomplish both objectives. So while I am not going to disagree with the opinions of The Review, I am going to disagree with the facts upon which the newspaper bases some opinions.

The Review’s opinion is that “decades of planning for a ‘compact shopping district’ with a small-scale village feel can’t be ignored.” With that I agree, and that is exactly what we accomplish with the Wizer redesign. But The Review’s facts are wrong when it claims that in writing development plans for this part of downtown, planners only supported commercial uses. That is simply not true.

The Lake Oswego Urban Design Plan (UDP) is the only document with a definition of “compact shopping district.” The UDP, under “compact shopping district” says:

1. Consider the four blocks surrounding the A Avenue/First Street intersection as a special retail district; and

2. Explore placing high-density, multifamily housing and commercial space on upper floors of shopping-district buildings to add activity to the core.

All this we have done. We have offered ground-floor retail and commercial space and balanced it with high-quality residences above, to fuel the retail. This is exactly what the UDP encourages.

The Review’s opinion that the design is not “small-scale” is also in error and factually incorrect. “Some buildings would be as long as 273 feet without any real breaks,” the editorial states. One Wizer building is 273 feet long — that is the longest. The longest building without a break at Lake View Village is 311 feet, or 38 feet longer, yet that met code and was judged to be “small-scale.”

Wizer is well within the code-allowed height, density and story allowance, as the Development Review Commission found, and is richly designed in the Lake Oswego architectural style. The fact is, Wizer is “small-scale,” and the code says so.

The Review’s opinion is that the downtown infrastructure cannot handle additional traffic caused by new residents in the core. Instead, the paper calls for far more retail. These two opinions are in conflict, and facts are being ignored. Retail and office trips account for the highest number of trips in and out of downtown areas. The mixed-use Wizer Block proposal reduces these trips. Wizer residents will walk to the core. But there is another important fact missing here. The UDP identifies a four-block district of residential, retail and office uses. Wizer and Lake View Village are only two of those blocks. Our proposed mixed-use design leaves traffic capacity for the remaining two blocks across A Avenue. With heavier commercial use on the Wizer Block, The Review would, in essence, remove capacity for those remaining blocks and violate the terms of the UDP, which calls for and encourages mixed use.

Thomas Jefferson said that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” The Review and I agree on principle, but our opinions differ. In my business, we cannot ignore the facts.

Patrick H. Kessi is principal of Evergreen Group LLC, developer of the Wizer Block (Block 137).

Plan will revitalize downtown

Letter by Rep. Ann Lininger. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/11/14

Our family enjoys visiting the shops and restaurants in downtown Lake Oswego. The redeveloped Wizer Block will offer many additional reasons for people in our community to spend time and money downtown. Local businesses will benefit because additional retail and commercial offerings will stimulate pedestrians’ interest in the area. The multifamily housing slated to be part of this development will help address Lake Oswego’s need for a variety of housing types.

The developer and his team have redesigned this project to comply with our city’s design and development standards. They have reduced the proposed height and number of housing units and have made other significant changes. If the current project conforms to Lake Oswego’s development requirements, I encourage our city councilors to support it. Lake Oswego’s future will be strongest if we create a vibrant downtown, offer residents a variety of housing types, and apply our laws and regulations in a fair and predictable way.

State Rep. Ann Lininger

Lake Oswego

Wizer plan will help businesses

Letter by Lisa Shaw-Ryan. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/11/14

As a downtown business owner and past president of the Downtown Business District, I understand retail businesses need a solid influx of customers to remain viable. Our city leaders understood that when they put the code in place for our downtown blocks. The current design of the Wizer Block is what they envisioned — a mix of commercial, retail and residents. New residents and top-of-the-line businesses will stimulate interest in Lake View Village — and the downtown core.

Preparing any community for change ruffles feathers, but part of leadership is weighing pros and cons and taking a stand. I am taking a stand in favor of the proposed redesign of the Wizer Block.

Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden famously said that, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” We should understand this window of opportunity. When City Council members have the chance to vote for this current project, I am confident they will show leadership and follow the code. The code as it stands is what brought us to this point downtown; it was designed that way.

Lisa Shaw-Ryan

Lake Oswego

Support for property rights

Letter by Tom Atwood. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/11/14

The opposition to the Wizer Block development illustrates a stunning hypocrisy in Lake Oswego.

One person running for the City Council highlights the issues of property rights. This candidate says: “I am a firm believer in property rights.” But in reference to the Wizer Block, this same candidate states that “… the scope and scale are out of synch with the village characteristics of the neighborhood.” What these two statements mean is, “Don’t mess with my property, but I have the complete right to mess with yours.”

If a development meets the city’s codes and zoning and master plan, it should be approved. Just because someone does not “like” it is not a reason to not approve a development, especially when the opposition to this development espouses support for “property rights.” Mr. Wizer has the same property rights as the rest of the community.

If the development was asking for zoning changes and code variances, that would be different. But in this case, all of the city’s requirements have been met.

Tom Atwood

Lake Oswego

Wizer Block: progress done the right way

By Paul Graham. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/11/14

As both a downtown small-business owner and a 40-year resident of Lake Oswego, I enthusiastically support the proposed redevelopment of the Wizer Block. An independent analysis says that this development could be worth $100 million to our town, but in so many ways that are harder to quantify, it could be worth much more to this community.

We live in a charming town with a comfortable way of life. However, our community will grow and change over time. That’s healthy, not something to fear. Our city codes allow for and guide that growth and density in a way that keeps Lake Oswego the community we want to continue living in. It gives us a “village atmosphere” without shackling us to a “village notion” that we have outgrown. Well-thought-out, balanced change is what will sustain our comfortable way of life.

We need to think about attracting new residents and businesses, as well as retaining the ones we already have. We must make it possible for people who love living here to stay a part of our community through the different phases of their lives, while at the same time attracting new people.

As I look around, I wonder how our children will be able to live nearby once they go out on their own, start their careers and raise young families. And where will parents go when the demands of taking care of a large home become too much for them, yet they would still like to live here? Right now, Lake Oswego simply does not offer enough housing options for people on those two ends of the spectrum.

Without young families choosing to make their home here, our population will continue to age and our tax base will dwindle, having a profound effect on both our economy and our schools. As our retirees leave town, their disposable income goes with them, and local small businesses will suffer as well.

I think the downtown area would be energized with new Wizer Block residents and businesses. We need more people living downtown, instead of driving to the downtown. Local businesses need more customers close by to survive. This high-quality project helps provide the housing and the people we need.

Downtown can accommodate density better than the surrounding neighborhoods. This project fits the vision and adheres to the city code. The planned beauty of the space and the vision for it will provide multiple long-term benefits to Lake Oswego. We should embrace the opportunity for a downtown economic engine, which is sorely lacking right now.

The City Council needs to green light this project.

Paul Graham is a Lake Oswego resident and business owner.

Wizer Block: the right project at the right time


By Bill Gordon. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/11/14

As a supporter of Patrick Kessi’s proposal for the Wizer Block, I strongly urge the City Council to approve his appeal of the Development Review Commission’s denial — a denial that seems to be without any meaningful objective basis.

Here are my Top 10 reasons for supporting the Wizer Block project:

1. It is code-compliant except for four minor exceptions that even the DRC approved.

2. It is totally consistent with East End redevelopment goals. The revised project, which includes many citizen-driven enhancements, is architecturally very pleasing. And certainly the density, height and massing are under code limits.

3. The downtown business climate cannot thrive without more people. Although there are several successful restaurants, I’d argue that many of the other retailers struggle and there are vacant storefronts throughout the East End. A vibrant economic downtown cannot be created with a few farmers market days and a dry summer season.

4. Obviously, traffic and parking pressure will increase since the current Block 137 is so under-utilized. But traffic studies indicate that less traffic is generated with a substantial residential component as opposed to a larger retail/commercial-based project. Regarding parking, the project provides for significantly greater spaces than are required by the city.

5. Any city planner, in any city, would tell you that relatively higher-density developments belong in that city’s downtown core.

6. The project is largely a private transaction between Gene Wizer and the Evergreen Group, a vetted area-based developer, and both are clearly committed to a very high-quality project.

7. The project will generate about $600,000 in incremental property tax revenue.

8. A rejected project likely would lead to much greater financial participation by the city, and perhaps litigation.

9. A rejected project would probably delay the long-awaited redevelopment of arguably our city’s most central block for many years.

10. Property values almost always increase in high-demand areas where well-planned, substantial and high-quality investment is made. This should be no exception in the surrounding Evergreen and First Addition neighborhoods.

I’m on the Evergreen Neighborhood Association board and am president of the Oswego Village Townhome HOA — the complex on Block 136. I’ve attended all the formal meetings on this project and many more private meetings, including a number with Pat Kessi. I am convinced that he and his group are right for Lake Oswego. And this project is exactly right for Block 137 — one that we’ll be proud of and enjoy for decades.

I think that even most of the opponents will come to acknowledge it as a success — like what happened with the opponents of Lake View Village, Millennium Park and our own townhome complex on Block 136.

Bill Gordon is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Lake Oswego: Where progress goes to die?

Letter by Doug Fish. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/4/14

Lake Oswego is very quickly getting a reputation as a place where “progress goes to die.”

The yearlong back-and-forth about what should go on the Wizer Block resulted in a redesign involving a renowned city architect and incorporating the best suggestions from the Development Review Commission. Yet the DRC, albeit very narrowly, turned their backs on a fabulous design that is perfectly suited to the space and which, by city code standards, is neither too big nor too dense.

Our downtown needs “people energy” to help the small businesses thrive and to expand our tax base. The existing Wizer Block is a weary space. The redesign, with its Lake Oswego-style buildings housing retail, commerce and people — and with open gathering spaces and pedestrian walkways — will wake up that block. The whole of downtown will benefit.

I urge our city to welcome this project. We need to alter a growing reputation that we don’t welcome progress and that instead we choose to snooze our way to stagnation because we fear change.

Doug Fish

Lake Oswego