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Appeal filed on senior housing plan

by: Northwest Housing Authority, 
New senior housing in Lake Grove would feature 45 units for low-income seniors.

A group opposing aspects of Northwest Housing Alterna-tives' 45-unit senior housing facility in Lake Grove filed an appeal with the state Land Use Board of Appeals Tuesday.

Jeff Novak, president of the Waluga Neighborhood Association, said his group feels the project is too large and does not provide adequate parking.

'We're not against the development,' said Novak.

But he said the parking and building scale are problems.

Martha McLennan, executive director of the Portland-based non-profit housing organization that will develop the structure, said she feels confident that there were no flaws in the city's approval process.

Still, she said she's 'very disappointed' about the LUBA appeal, because it could mean a several-month setback to starting the project. Northwest Housing had planned to break ground in the fall and be complete by the end of next year.

The $9 million development, known as Oakridge Park, would be located at 4255 Oakridge Road in the Waluga neighborhood.

Northwest Housing Alterna-tives, the developer, wants Oakridge Park to be four stories tall, have 38,000 square feet and 20 parking spaces.

Novak said he would like to see the project be three stories, instead of four. He said 20 parking spaces is not enough for 45 units.

The city's Development Review Committee approved a conditional use permit for Oakridge Park in November. The Waluga Neighborhood Association appealed that decision to the city council, which unanimously approved the permit last month.

McLennan said 20 spaces would be adequate because, statistically, low-income seniors have a low rate of car ownership.

In addition, nearby Lake Grove Presbyterian Church could handle overflow parking, she said.

Novak said his statistics show just the opposite.

'Seniors have the same vehicle ownership rate as young people; actually slightly higher,' he said.

McLennan said those statistics do not apply to low-income seniors and added that it's 'not tenable' for a senior making $12,000 a year to consider owning and paying for a car.

'It's not a priority for them,' she said.

City Councilor Ellie McPeak said the council felt 20 parking spots was sufficient and the council was satisfied that the church could be used as a 'satellite' parking area to handle overflow.

McPeak said there is a strong need for such housing in Lake Oswego.

'This will not cover the whole need, but it will certainly make a dent in the need,' said McPeak. 'The whole council is proud to approve this.'

The church plans to partner with Oakridge Park by performing health and wellness screenings and distributing donated food.

McPeak said she is satisfied that the development would be compatible with the neighborhood.

'In a neighborhood like this, there are a variety of buildings,' she said. She said the mix of nearby buildings includes an office building, a school and single family residential structures.

She said compatibility is sometimes a subjective judgement, but Oakridge Park has appropriate set-backs from the street and a compatible height at four stories.

McLennan said the building, which is designed by Michael Willis Architects, has changing material types and a façade that has stepbacks that will break up the mass and scale of the building.

She said she understood why the senior housing project has been a source of criticism from some members of the Waluga Neighborhood Association.

'There's a lot of concerns about the character of the neighborhood changing,' she said, referring to the proposed Lake Grove Village Center Plan. 'In some ways, we're caught up in the bigger story of a very active and dynamic process of change going on now, and with that comes a lot of tensions. Change is difficult for people to deal with.'

Still, McLennan said she felt it's 'pretty clear the neighborhood is sympathetic to the need for affordable housing.'