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Concerns raised about Oakridge Park Seniors Housing studies

The small Waluga Neighborhood Association has shown itself to be formidable when confronting issues important to its constituents. When WNA members first became involved in the planning process for the Oakridge Park Seniors Housing Development, WNA members were enthusiastic and committed towards working to ensure the project was viable and fit within its neighborhood.

However, early on during the course of DRC's review it became apparent that local resident input in DRC's process was of little concern. Lake Oswego's City Council and DRC (referred to as 'City') were going to approve this project regardless of how egregious the issues associated with the proposed development as planned.

The city repeatedly disregarded and dismissed concerns from citizens concerning the size of the proposed building (only four-story building in Lake Grove) and its inadequate parking (90 potential residents and only 20 parking spaces). Northwest Housing Alternatives offered evidence in support of this preposterous parking ratio. NHA referenced Hollyfield in Lake Oswego as a comparative project supporting NHA's parking study. However, facts show Hollyfield was not a comparative, and could only demonstrate NHA's parking study flawed. Nevertheless, NHA continued to assert Hollyfield was a supportive comparative but failed to divulge the truth about underlying parking ratio problems at Hollyfield.

NHA claimed that the maximum parking spaces used at Hollyfield were 13, and since Hollyfield has 30 units, they could simply add on 50 percent more spaces during peak times (6.5), which would then equal the necessary requirements at the proposed Oakridge Park project. One major problem existed… nobody asked Hollyfield management how many residents owned cars, or if Hollyfield's parking was adequate. When I say, 'Nobody' asked, I mean neither NHA, nor city staff that is responsible for verifying the applicant's data.

Had these questions been asked and truthfully answered, the city would have been faced with the truth that there are 17 residents who own cars at Hollyfield and countless visitor and service vehicles that park at Hollyfield's daily. Furthermore, even though staff and DRC were alerted that city records showed Hollyfield's chronic parking shortage, the city refused to do any research. What we now know is that the city's records show Hollyfield was originally permitted for 16 parking spaces. Two years later, the owners of Hollyfield requested an additional 10 spaces to alleviate the parking shortage, only to be granted seven additional parking spaces. The result is that the Hollyfield parking lot is actually permitted for 23 legal spaces. If the factual background doesn't demonstrate that the study is bogus and the data flawed, then nothing will be sufficient. The city it appears isn't concerned about proving what is factual or fictional.

Adding insult to injury to local residents, the DRC failed to give adequate or proper notice that the upcoming meeting on Monday, Nov. 5, 2007, would be open to testimony on the topic of parking at the proposed development. The lack of notice gave little opportunity to review or respond to the applicant's parking study. Even DRC refused to grant a continuance although repeatedly asked by numerous neighborhood residents (yet DRC is obligated to do so under city code).

If all of this wasn't enough, city council went one step further and determined that 'age, itself, (of a certain age) is a life function disability.' How insulting and demeaning can this statement be to Lake Oswego residents or anyone over the age of 62 years of age? Lake Oswego City Attorney Dave Powell may deny that council ever said that, but if he checked his facts, he would discover that he wrote those very words in the city council's findings that were issued after WNA appealed DRC's approval of Oakridge Park.

There are only two reasonable questions the Lake Oswego citizenry should consider:

Did the city willfully disregard the truth while showing preference to an outside agency in order to push the proposed pet project (despite well founded pleas from local citizens)?

or

Did NHA falsify its data with the blessing of city staff?

Either way the result is the same, a horrendous breach of trust by the city council, DRC and the city attorney.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow WNA board members for their hard work and backbone during this fight to do the right thing. I would also like to thank all the individuals who donated money to this cause.

Gail Stuart-Bowles is a resident of the Waluga Neighborhood of Lake Oswego.