Oregon SBA backs Wizer plan

Letter by T.J. Reilly. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/4/14

On behalf of the Oregon Small Business Association Board of Directors, I write in support of the Wizer Block project with its mix of commercial, retail and residents.

Oregon has ranked in the Top 10 for states with the highest unemployment for 18 of the past 34 years. Small businesses and employers are key to the future prosperity of any community, and this state’s 34-year job problem can only be helped by a new wave of jobs coming from emerging small businesses.

The best-of-its-class retail and the small businesses that will be attracted to the proposed Wizer development in Lake Oswego’s center will be a net gain for the existing retail businesses there. Roughly 1,200 temporary construction jobs will be created, and the added retail and restaurants could add an additional 120 full-time jobs.

Lake Oswego, with the potential revitalization of its downtown core, can be a leader in helping Oregon’s recovery. The Oregon Small Business Association lauds Lake Oswego for its efforts at being a standard-bearer for small businesses and for the vision of this project, with local people living close to those businesses and contributing greatly to their success.

T.J. Reilly

President

Oregon Small Business Association

Clackamas

Judge Wizer Block project on the standards in place

By Michael Sander. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/4/14

After reviewing the facts, I am struggling to understand the recent decision made by the Development Review Commission as it evaluated the Wizer Block proposal.

In a close 3-2 final vote, three of the commissioners denied the application of developer Patrick Kessi because they decided that a definition is in fact not just a definition but a “criteria” for approving this particular project. Applying “small-scale structures” as criteria for meeting the code without definitively stating what “small-scale structures” actually means is quite confusing.

I was equally puzzled when I compared measurements of Lake View Village with the proposed Wizer Block buildings and tried to understand how Lake View Village can be defined as a “small-scale structure” and the Wizer project is not provided the same consideration. That seems inconsistent.

A side-by-side comparison indicates the following:

* The longest façade at Lake View Village is 311 feet. The longest façade at Wizer is 273 feet. So something that is 38 feet longer is a “small-scale structure” and something that is 38 feet shorter is not?

* The height range at Lake View Village varies from 41 feet to 63 feet. The height range at Wizer varies from 46 feet to 58 feet. So something that is five feet higher is a “small-scale structure” and something that is five feet shorter is not?

* The largest building at Lake View Village has a footprint of 72,479 square feet. The largest building at Wizer is 31,894 square feet. So a building that is more than twice as big is a “small-scale structure” and a building that is less than half as big is not?

If indeed there is something new for approval that requires developers to meet some ambiguous “small-scale structures” standard, then the Wizer design meets this standard criteria. The Wizer project is shorter, smaller and has less mass than Lake View Village. Yet Lake View Village passed the very same code review, even though it had to be granted 11 exceptions as opposed to only four minor exceptions for Wizer.

My family and I support and enjoy our Lake Oswego schools, parks and outdoor recreational activities. As we continue the climb out of the recent economic crisis, we should welcome economic opportunity. In my view, the proposed Wizer project provides a terrific complement to our downtown core and offers stimulus for jobs, small businesses and overall economic growth. The Wizer project should be judged on the standards currently in place, which clearly meet the definition of “small-scale structures.”

Michael L. Sander is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Don’t let government trample on the rights of property owners

By Bob Packwood. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/4/14

If there was a godfather in American Constitutional history, it was the English philosopher John Locke. Locke’s thinking was that political society existed for the sake of protecting property, which he defined as “estate.” Locke’s thinking was endemic in the writing of our founding documents.

On June 12, 1776, prior to the Declaration of Independence on July 4, the Virginia Declaration of Rights was unanimously adopted. In that document, it states that all men have certain inalienable rights, which include the enjoyment of life and liberty with the means of acquiring and possessing property. The philosophy of the Virginia Declaration of Rights has since influenced legions of Constitutions in America and elsewhere.

The bedrock of protecting property rights is predictability. Today, our laws, codes and rights allow us to have order and not chaos in our lives. We make personal and professional commitments based upon them.

Individual property rights have been a strong component in our growth and in our economic freedom. Clear and concise laws define those private property rights, allowing citizens and business to make choices, decisions and investments. Clearly stated codes should not be subjugated to whim. No investor or business or property owner can plan prospectively if the code is ephemeral and constantly shifting.

There is currently in Lake Oswego a proposed Wizer Block development application that is not only a test of the code but also a test of government fairness. There is a willing private property owner who is the seller and a willing buyer of that property. The buyer, a developer, has submitted a plan which in all respects meets the language of the current code. He has based his design and his investment on the consistency and predictability of the current code.

Some are contending that there are other factors to be considered — factors that are not in the current code. Remember, this is a private developer using private resources to bring needed additions to downtown Lake Oswego. If this plan is rejected, is the next person contemplating an investment in Lake Oswego (with all of the preparatory time and money it takes) likely to take the risk when factors will be considered that are not currently in the code?

This country, this state and Lake Oswego have prospered well under the dictum of the protection of rights. We should not arbitrarily overthrow over two centuries of what has worked. Let’s be wary of any government entity trampling on individual liberties and property rights.

Bob Packwood is a former U.S. Senator from Oregon. He lives in Portland.

Wizer Block will make downtown a destination

By Brian Geraths. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/4/14

I’ve lived on the edge of Lake Oswego for about 19 years. Though I’m in another county, a high percentage of my commerce has been with the businesses of Lake Oswego.

Two years ago, I moved my business to Lake Oswego to be even closer to most of my clients in the Westlake area. This move has integrated my family even more into the downtown area, especially our regular trips to the farmers market and the follow-up visits to restaurants nearby.

My increased involvement with the LO Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club have me investing even more in the downtown area, which is unlike any other suburb I’ve experienced in the Portland metro area. We love it here! We circulate a great deal more in this community than we do in our own county.

Once the modifications were made to appease height and density issues on the Wizer Block, it was easy for me to imagine this structure coming to fruition. Needless to say, I was shocked by the Development Review Commission’s rejection, feeling strongly that the project was needed to attract a new generation of citizens and shoppers to greatly benefit the downtown area.

The congruent aesthetics of the redesign seem a great fit now, and the idea of more retail options has even more appeal. I stand to gain nothing as a business owner. In fact, other studios in our area stand to benefit from the added nearby business more than myself. However, I’ve become woven into this community enough over the past two years to look at the big picture and to know that change is needed.

In the late 1980s, I was working with my portrait mentor in Pendleton. I was actively involved with the downtown association, which worked in partnership with the local Chamber of Commerce to keep Main Street alive. All revenue was leaving the downtown area, even before the Walmart that now exists on the opposite end of town. While Pendleton’s demographic is much different, the layout and story for Lake Oswego is the same.

Downtown was the origin, it had a history and it had a great number of citizens who were there long enough to fear the change. Our goal was to unify all of Main Street, much like the town of Sisters had years prior. A thematic facade that enlarged the experience is exactly what has happened to Pendleton. It is surreal to walk down a themed sidewalk and to see so many more people on the sidewalks. A 60-year-old clothing store has evolved into a thriving restaurant and a shopping experience unlike anything I remembered.

I see the same for Lake Oswego, perhaps shy of the Wranglers and cowboy hats! It can be an upscale, attractive, village-themed destination, with more new citizens committed to the community. Older, younger — doesn’t matter.

Consider the potential the redeveloped Wizer Block will create for existing businesses. Retail has to be fed by people. Think then of the advantages of having residents living in the core who can walk to shop, eat and play with minimal needs for a car.

Brian Geraths is a Lake Oswego resident.

Let’s follow the rules

Letter by Estelle Mathers. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 8/28/14

As a long term resident of Lake Oswego, it is with concern that I write to express objection to events at the recent meeting of the Development Review Commission for the Wizer Block project.

To allow the DRC’s chairman to reject the clear and objective standards of our city code was arbitrary and inappropriate. The majority of the commission voted several times that the project met each of the city code standards and was compatible with Lake Oswego’s architectural style, but notwithstanding the committee’s deliberations, the chair moved to reject the proposal based on subjective bias — hardly a fair and even-handed approach.

The larger community of Lake Oswego is encouraged to see this project now move to the City Council, where hopefully it will be evaluated on its merits and compliance with city codes, rather than on the personal whims of a few dissenters.

The Wizer Block project will greatly enhance the aesthetics of the Lake View Village complex which, at its planning stage, also suffered from short-sighted detractors but is now embraced by locals as a triumph. More importantly, this new development will attract the next generation of professionals to live, work and enhance the vibrant future of our community. To this end, let’s be fair and follow the rules.

Estelle Mathers

Lake Oswego

What now may become of the Wizer Block?

By Ray Phelps. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 8/28/14

My wife and I have lived in the city’s Mountain Park neighborhood for the past 37 years, raising six children in a well-managed city with wonderful civic, recreational and social opportunities. Certainly, there have been changes in our community and, in my opinion, they have been mostly for the better.

Several of my family members and I frequently visit the excellent shops and restaurants in the Lake View Village complex, which did not exist until 11 years ago. I well remember the opposition to the Village project. I now watch the current opposition to the Wizer Block development with a sense of déjà vu. I am amazed at the source of this opposition, since I recognize some of the current folks who oppose this project as the same folks who opposed the Village project and yet profess to be strong advocates of private property rights.

My wife and I have known Gene and Jan Wizer for many years. I was impressed, but not surprised, with the latest project redesign to address and satisfy the legitimate concerns of the Development Review Commission and the community. Those of us who know Gene and Jan would not expect anything less. My review of the staff report and the redesign of this project made it clear to me that the Wizer Block development meets the city’s established code requirements for height, parking and size of buildings.

Thus, I was very disappointed when I learned shortly after a public hearing that the Development Review Commission had rejected the recommendation of the city’s planning staff for “approval of LU 13-0046, as revised, with conditions.” I served for eight years as the non-resident business member of the City of Wilsonville’s planning commission. Applying this background, I reviewed the staff’s July 11 report and informed the Development Review Commission in writing of my support for staff’s recommendation for “approval … with conditions.”

Clearly, there has been a disconnect between the Development Review Commission’s charge from the City Council and the action taken by this commission in the matter of denying approval of the Wizer Block project. Codes are in place to give private property owners a sense of certainty about what can and cannot be done with and on their property. The denial of the Wizer Block project will set a chilling precedent if allowed to stand, as well as result in chaos in all future development planning in the City of Lake Oswego.

I am reminded of a very old adage I learned from my parents: “Be careful what you ask for.” I am very nervous regarding the future of sound planning in our community. Without predictable development codes such as the city had prior to the Development Review Commission gutting the city’s planning code, what now may become of the Wizer Block?

Ray Phelps is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Council can send out the right vibes

By Beth Levich. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 8/28/14

A decision to downsize is never made lightly, but even more serious is the decision about where to live. After our decision was made to downsize, we made a very conscious choice to move to Lake Oswego, and we subsequently put our names on the waiting list for one of the residences on the redeveloped Wizer Block.

Four years ago, I moved my business to Lake Oswego, joined the Chamber and the Rotary and became a thoroughly involved volunteer and sponsor for many causes, including the Arts Council. Downtown living with easy access to restaurants and shops is very appealing to us. Living in a building that is architecturally pleasing, with open spaces filled with art and great pedestrian walkways, is also important. But perhaps most important is living in a welcoming community among people with diverse opinions who come together to express their feelings in a studied, civil manner. We have been welcomed and have both made many friends in this town.

So it is with some disappointment that in the discussions and the proceedings to consider the redesigned Wizer Block, some in this community have seemed less welcoming to others than we first thought. The Development Review Commission, which is charged with interpreting city code, seems to have some members whose personal views got in the way of what they were tasked to do. They leave us with the impression, to paraphrase former Gov. Tom McCall, that people can visit but not stay!

We’ve always thought of Lake Oswego as progressive, with a real sense of community. We’ve always thought of Oswegans as people with foresight who recognize that their community has to have an economically viable future in order to support their great schools and parks. Yet the vibes being sent out right now from the DRC and the opponents of change do not seem to extend a welcoming hand.

The proposed Wizer development seems to us to be entirely in tune with Lake Oswego’s vision for the future and its whole sense of community. The new design is most certainly in sync with its neighbors. It definitely meets any objective standards established by the city code. Its residents will add tremendous vitality to a downtown that is in need of a facelift. So what is it that some in LO are afraid of? Surely not us!

We chose you as our future neighbors. We look forward to living among you, continuing to dine with you, shop with you, share opinions with you. In short we want to fully become part of your tax-paying community.

I gather that the City Council will deliberate in September on our potential future residence. I hope that the vibes they send out will be welcoming ones. We look forward to having our perspective of Lake Oswego as an inviting place in all senses of the word restored.

Beth Levich is a Lake Oswego business owner. She and Pete Schulberg live in Southwest Portland and are on the wait list to move to the Wizer Block.

Allow positive progress

A letter by Michael Buck, originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 8/21/14

The City Council should not weigh the volume of rhetoric engendered by personal interpretations but gauge if the Wizer development adheres to and complies with the standards mandated in the code.

Codes are minimum expectations placed on developments, and the public has a responsibility to help determine how to maximize a development’s potential for the greater good of the community. But this dimension of the “maximum” comes with some limitation and discretion. The developer is assuming the risks of investment and must study many external marketing factors before deciding what will work to compensate for this financial outlay.

For example, developer Barry Cain, recognizing the surplus of office space in the Kruse Way corridor, decided it would not be prudent to follow the clear intention of the office-campus zoning and reconfigured his building design to cleverly circumvent zoning direction and provide for predominantly commercial retail space. Since he met the basic standards of the code, his development, Kruse Village, was approved, even though it is a novel departure from the other office campus buildings.

Retail survivability in the downtown core has been very volatile with many good merchants closing doors recently. An infusion of mixed use may very well stimulate the area for existing businesses and Lake Oswego would be wise to welcomingly accept young professionals moving here.

Our town needs to continue revitalization, and it becomes more difficult to accomplish when the social and political environment lacks trust and security. Fears breed increased anxiety. We need to fall back on what brings us harmony and that is our common accord to be good neighbors — looking out and helping one another.

That’s the kind of increased density we need. Gene Wizer, a friend of the community, is living testimony to this hope and I urge the council to allow positive progress, based on conformity to stipulated expectations, to continue in our town.

Michael Buck

Lake Oswego

Council has chance to set things right

By Vidya Kale. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 8/24/14

Expectations were high. The developer listened and revised the Wizer Block redevelopment proposal by staying within the height and floor limit and designing buildings that complemented Lake View Village. The DRC, a democratic institution in an enlightened city, should carry out the wishes of the majority while ensuring that the views of the minority are honored and that various design and legal regulations are not violated. Alas, the DRC rejected the proposal, initiating a setback for the city of a decade or more. Fortunately, the City Council has an opportunity to set things right.

Interestingly, Lake View Village faced the same degree of opposition and similar arguments. Ultimately, the developer was granted 11 code exemptions. In the end, it turned out to be a beautiful project that enhanced the livability of our city. When I volunteer at the Saturday market, I am constantly amazed at the number of out-of-town folks saying good things about our city. The revised Wizer Block design is in line with the facades presented by Lake View Village and maintains the character and aesthetics cherished by our citizens. The addition of another walkway to Second Street will make it even more attractive.

The city code for mixed-use development wisely refrains from setting exact numbers for apartments, condos and retail. To achieve financial justification, the developer needs flexibility. Nevertheless, the retail area was increased by 8,000 square feet over the minimum LORA recommendation and the number of apartments was reduced by 21. In my walks around downtown, I counted 22 vacant storefronts, including three in Lake View Village. This does not indicate a healthy occupancy rate. What downtown needs is more customers, while our schools need more pupils. Projections for the Portland area indicate that 85 percent of the new construction will be multi-unit. Multi-story dwellings are inherently more energy- and resource-efficient. The developer is also providing more than minimum parking spaces and four times more bicycle spaces.

In addition to vague comments about character and density, with the word “massive” being kicked around like a soccer ball, one hears mention of excess traffic even though studies show that the incremental traffic increase would be small and easily absorbed.

Arguments regarding code and character can be readily refuted, but what about unspoken and barely spoken issues about the nature of the potential residents? Clearly some of them will be empty-nesters currently living in Lake Oswego homes who are ready to downsize. Some will be couples and families with school-age children who love the city and who someday will be ready to buy. Given this, you have to ask, what is the common good here? Do we want a village that existed in 1950 or a 21st-century city that is diverse and inviting and alive in every sense?

Finally, there has been much discussion about private property rights. Testimony at City Hall on sensitive lands and a transportation plan was full of passionate demands that individual property rights trump all other possible benefits when it comes to land use, private or adjacent. How should we look at the Wizer Block in this regard? The Wizer family loves Lake Oswego too much to see it descend into stagnation. I urge the City Council to approve this project.

Vidya Kale is a Lake Oswego resident.

 

Wizer proposal creates a healthy mix

By Maggie Martin. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 8/28/14

For a total of 40 years, I have loved living in Lake Oswego. With foresight, its people and its many city governments planned for its evolution from “gritty to pretty,” to use Lake Oswego author Marylou Colver’s words.

As I and my three walking partners walk our three-mile route every morning, we admire the careful thought that has gone into developing our town. But when we get to the town center and halt for coffee, I cannot help but notice how relatively few people are in the core. Certainly, the Tualatin-West Linn traffic is going past us, but I’m talking pedestrians walking, breakfasting and congregating in the center.

So it is with positive thoughts and a great deal of confidence in the decision of our city government that I view the proposed Wizer development and all it will add to the energy and productivity of Lake Oswego.

My architect father taught me an appreciation of design and also an understanding of the economics of taking a building from design to completion. It’s a laborious process and one that the developer and our city government is currently going through on the Wizer Block. I have watched the developer do due diligence and make the changes asked of him by the Development Review Commission.

I have seen some in the community point out their concerns and watched as the developer addressed them. Now I see a design that fits well with our LO “village” style and a design that meets all of the criteria set by our city government — residents, restaurants, shops and office space. But now the new plea from opponents is for a “compact shopping district” instead of residents, because they fear that residents in the core will cause too much traffic. That is a red herring and simply not true.

Most of our traffic is commuter traffic, much of it from outside our area, going straight through our town twice a day. The rest of the day it is cars with shoppers or diners coming into our town. The majority of residents of Block 137 will be coming and going to their homes either on foot or at non-commuter times.

The opponents of the redesign should understand that in all traffic studies, retail causes the highest number of daily car trips, commercial the next highest and residential the lowest. So if a four-block compact shopping district is what they want, then far more traffic is what they will get. Four blocks of retail needs people to feed it (Lake View Village is finding that out with some of its businesses closing for lack of customers).

People will need cars to satiate their shopping appetite. Do these opponents or our local governments really want a shopping mall in our core?

A “village” functions with a healthy mix of people, shops, restaurants, walkways and gathering places. I look forward to drinking my coffee with the residents of that block who won’t need their car to join me in our center. We should all look forward to Lake Oswego being praised again for another landmark development.

Maggie Martin is a resident of Lake Oswego.