Forecasts show likely increases in jobs and households

Lake Oswego isn’t in for a growth spurt anytime soon, but it could gain in girth in the coming years.

That’s according to the latest housing and employment forecasts, which were prepared as the city updates its comprehensive plan, a document guiding where and how Lake Oswego will develop in the future. The city council reviewed the figures Sept. 11.

What should the community expect over the next 20 or so years? About 3,500 new households and 5,000 more jobs, according to the report prepared for the council by Denny Egner, assistant planning director.

Egner said the forecasts aim to ensure enough land is on hand and zoned for the proper uses, such as retail, office, industrial, multifamily housing or single-family homes, to accommodate Lake Oswego’s share of people and businesses moving into the region. Metro, the regional government, is charged with coordinating area cities’ forecasts and develops its own projections in a parallel process, he said, but those figures aren’t too different from Lake Oswego’s.

“The forecasts are just forecasts; they’re a best guess at what you can do,” Egner said. “Capacity is really key.”

Showing that Lake Oswego already has the capacity to accommodate anticipated growth of households and jobs means Metro is a bit less likely to expand the area’s urban growth boundary, the line limiting sprawl into places such as Stafford.

“The advantage is it helps Metro assure they’ve got capacity within the region that they can use then to justify a fairly tight urban growth boundary,” Egner said.

The new growth would likely be seen on vacant lots or through infill and redevelopment of existing properties.

For example, Egner said, “Most of our employment growth is going to occur through redevelopment. “We don’t have that much vacant land.”

Consultant Todd Chase of FCS Group noted that any local land that is available and served by infrastructure will likely see new development in the future, because the region is still growing — though many new residents are opting for more urban areas.

“People are still moving here with or without jobs,” he said, “but they are still choosing Portland ... to live in.”

He said Lake Oswego could benefit by trying to shift its low jobs-to-housing ratio.

“Anything we can do to rectify that imbalance or at least nurture the job growth in Lake Oswego is probably a good strategy,” said Chase, an economist and planner who has lived in Lake Oswego for about 20 years.

Properties that provide jobs also provide more to the city’s tax base than residential development, he said, calling Kruse Way “a powerhouse” when it comes to taxable value. There’s about $3 million per acre of assessed value on Kruse Way, he said, or about twice the amount per acre of residential properties in Lake Oswego.

Councilor Bill Tierney asked how city policies might better support job growth, and Chase suggested encouraging mixed-use areas, where housing can be built above commercial buildings. In addition, home-based businesses support the economy without much neighborhood impact, he said.

Some council members disagreed about how the forecasts might affect future land-use policies.

Councilor Mike Kehoe suggested that the numbers could drive “upzoning,” which could allow for higher-density housing.

But Councilor Sally Moncrieff disagreed. The report shows, she said, “We have existing capacity today to more than accommodate our forecasted numbers. ... It’s not driving increased density in Lake Oswego at all.”

Mayor Jack Hoffman added: “It isn’t a mandate for upzoning. ... It’s a snapshot of what the Lake Oswego area is with the zoning in place.”

“Of course the numbers don’t require upzoning,” Councilor Mary Olson said. However, she felt the council should pay close attention to the forecasts and perhaps have the authority to approve them before staff members share them with Metro.

“The comprehensive plan is our policy for the next 25 years,” Olson said. “These numbers will be used for everything going forward. ... I think it’s our responsibility to review and approve those numbers.”

Egner said he would soon provide a supplemental report with more data to the council.

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