Safeco building 'does not speak community'
I am writing to express my concerns regarding the Safeco/West End building. In the local papers, as of late, there have been numerous (opinion pieces) addressing the cost, wisdom, purchase and reworking the Safeco building into a community center. The size of the bond measure required and resultant property tax increase is going to prove significant for Lake Oswego property owners as will the subsequent membership and user fees.
From the Lake Oswego residents I have spoken with, those tax increases and fees are more than they are willing to absorb. Their concern also extends to the need for a community center on the scale envisioned by the mayor and city council given the looming infrastructure needs (sewer and water) let alone whether or not the Safeco site is in fact the best location. To me it seems a Lake Oswego Community Center should speak to community and the Safeco building, no matter how it is configured, does not speak community.
I have visited the Safeco building on numerous occasions and there is no there there when you get there. The location is only easily accessible by automobile but not by bus, foot, nor bicycle. Common sense would dictate a community center that speaks community, accessible to all by all means, and with a budget easily and willingly absorbed by the citizenry. Not some edifice designed to appeal to the broadest audience yet serving none well at confiscatory prices. When I drive there, all from four-lane roads, I haven't a sense of arriving at a location that defines my city at least in the community center sense of the word.
At the time of the Safeco building deliberations I was a member of the Lake Oswego Natural Resources Advisory Board and gave the mayor and city council the benefit of the doubt in their decision to purchase the Safeco property. It is centrally located between east and west ends of the city and central to its population. As a result, I still believe there are positive aspects to its purchase by the city. Looking at the site it may serve best as a new city hall (although the negative accessibility aspect still exists).
As a city hall the Safeco property would better define our city than as a community center. When I visit the current city hall it is bursting at the seams as is the Lake Oswego Library. Personally, I would like to see the Safeco building become the new city hall, the current city hall the new library, and current library the new adult community center. I have been a resident of Lake Oswego for over 35 years and have seen it blossom into the beautiful city it has become. Over those years I have also been a member of many Lake Oswego boards and committees. When all is said and done, if I want to remain in Lake Oswego, I have no choice but to absorb the cost of the infrastructure updates. But I sure do not have to accept an additional frivolous expenditure no matter how it is couched. That frivolity is costing some local politicians a lot of political capital and has given birth to the Ask Lake Oswegans petition campaign. As for me, I have no choice but to support the petition campaign.
Russell Jones is a resident of Lake Oswego.