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Another side of Oakridge Senior Housing Project

I have been following with a great deal of interest the proposed development of the Oakridge Park Senior Housing Project. In the July 10th issue of the Review, Gail Stuart-Bowles wrote a citizen's view expressing her views on this project that also mirror points being made by the Waluga Neighborhood Association in its continuing opposition to this project. Inasmuch as her column contains a number of untruths, misrepresentations and convenient omissions, I would like to offer a response.

As a matter of disclosure, I am not a member of the Lake Grove Presbyterian Church nor am I in any way connected with Northwest Housing, the non-profit developer for this project. I have attended all of the DRC hearings as well as the city council meeting where WNA made its appeal of the DRC decision and, as such, have considerable knowledge regarding the public discourse surrounding this project.

My responses to statements made in her column include the following:

Statement: '....during the course of DRC's review it became apparent that local resident input in the DRC process was of little concern.'

In fact, during both hearings members of the DRC were extremely solicitous in gathering information from both sides. Each hearing went on for over four hours and in many instances, testimony from speakers was allowed to exceed time limits by significant amounts.

Statement: 'The city repeatedly disregarded and dismissed concerns from citizens concerning the size of the proposed building (the only four- story building in Lake Grove) and its inadequate parking.'

To the contrary, the DRC required that height concerns be addressed and, in response, the developer's architect made numerous changes by incorporating stepbacks in the building's facade and adding design elements to scale down the larger unbrokens areas of the exterior wall surfaces.

As for the parking issue, Stuart-Bowles letter conveniently omits information regarding accommodations for additional parking that were agreed upon by the developer and Lake Grove Presbyterian Church. First, they agreed that the project's manager would not be allowed to park on-site. Second, they agreed to make it known to applying residents that limited on-site parking would be provided on a first come-first served basis and remaining residents needing parking would be provided with shuttle service parking at the church's parking lot located 1,100 feet from project. (As a condition of approval, the DRC required that a formal evaluation of this arrangement be made after the project had been in operation for a specific period of time.)

WNA's concern over parking is predicated on the contention that parking is already at a premium in their neighborhood and that this project would exacerbate the situation. In reality, by frequent observations taken between last November to the present at any given time an average of 1-2 cars use the 15 available on-street spaces in this block of Oakridge Street.

Statement: '....the DRC failed to give adequate or proper notice that the upcoming meeting on Monday, Nov. 5, 2007 would be open to public testimony on the topic of parking at the proposed development.'

At the end of the initial DRC hearing on Oct. 7, 2007, I distinctly remember that both sides were informed that the purpose of the Nov. 5, 2007 meeting was to deliberate the information gathered at the initial hearing and that no further testimony would be allowed. Despite that admonition the DRC did end up allowing testimony because of WNA concerns regarding the developer's parking study.

Statement: '...city council went one step further and determined that age itself is a life function disability ...'

After failing on all preceeding arguments opposing the project this statement refers to WNA's last-gasp attempt immediately prior to the LUBA hearing to derail the project by trying to show inconsistencies between the city's definition of 'congregate housing' and that of the federal government. In truth, there are at least a dozen commonly accepted definitions being used by housing agencies and developers throught the United States and this linkage to the fed's definition should be a non issue.

In conclusion, if representatives of WNA insist on opposing this project in the court of public opinion I would hope that at the very least they make a modest attempt to portray all of the facts in an accurate and complete manner.

Rick Parfrey is a Lake Oswego resident.