Council's 2017 goals: And the final score is...
Each January, the Lake Oswego City Council holds a retreat to decide on a list of goals for the upcoming year. The goals can be anything — an open-ended call for further discussion about a topic, a specific action that must be taken or even just a resolution to continue making progress on an ongoing or multi-year policy.
With the year winding down, The Review asked Mayor Kent Studebaker and the council to take a look back at the work done on each of their 10 goals for 2017, and to rate the council's collective progress on each goal.
We asked for the goals to be rated on a 1-5 scale, which we broke down as follows: 1. Forgotten; 2. Limited discussion; 3. Lengthy discussion/moderate progress; 4. Fully on-track; and 5. Completed. The scores were compiled to produce an average from the entire council.
Several of these goals relate to ongoing projects or issues that were never intended to be resolved in their entirety this year. In those cases, a score of 4 (fully on-track) could be viewed as essentially full marks. Here's what the council had to say, with the goals rank-ordered by their average scores:
Goal: Maximize park land and resources for the benefit of the community, including exploration of artificial turf at Waluga Park and use of the proceeds of the Kruse/Carman property sale for pathways.
Average Score: 4.1
This goal consisted primarily of two specific to-do items on the City's agenda. The council got the first item out of the way earlier in the year by allocating funding to add artificial turf to the field at Waluga Park, which is scheduled to take place next year.
The sale of an undeveloped property at the corner of Kruse Way and Carman Drive took longer than expected, but ultimately did close in November. According to City Manager Scott Lazenby, the proceeds were deposited into the Parks Capital Fund and will be available for future projects.
Councilor John LaMotte also noted that the master plans for Iron Mountain and Woodmont parks were both completed by staff and approved by the council this year.
"Our Parks Advisory Board has worked hard to tighten up and prioritize park and path/trail projects," he said. "Hopefully we will see the construction of the long overdue Iron Mountain and Woodmont parks."
Goal: Support the creation of a Climate Action Plan based on advice from the Sustainability Advisory Board, consistent with Council policy direction.
Average Score: 3.9
The Climate Action Plan has not reappeared on the council's agenda after being added as a goal in January, but members of LOSN and the City's Sustainability Advisory Board have been hard at work behind-the-scenes to develop the plan.
The process is almost finished, and an early draft has already been shown to the councilors. Councilor Joe Buck, Mayor Kent Studebaker and others all commended what they said was a focus on actionable items.
"Many thanks go to Eliot Metzger, Duke Castle and the Sustainability Advisory Board and Lake Oswego Sustainability Network members who have headed up this volunteer effort with very little support from the City," Buck said.
The final draft is expected to be officially presented to the council early next year. Councilor Skip O'Neill did add one word of caution: The council may be hesitant to officially commit to some of the plan items if they prove to be too expensive.
Goal: Meet with owners of key commercial and industrial properties in the Southwest Employment Area, Lake Grove and downtown to explore redevelopment opportunities.
Average Score: 3.9
This goal received high marks from the council, due to a series of meetings held between property owners and a "rapid response team" composed of City officials and members of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce.
"The team has had several meetings with property owners, business owners and brokers to review development plans and concepts," said LaMotte, who served on the team. "We have re-established a City Council liaison to the Lake Oswego Chamber and are working together to encourage stronger relationships with each of the City's business districts."
LaMotte and Lazenby also pointed to a large forum event for property owners that was held earlier this month.
Goal: Continue to improve the condition of streets, to a Pavement Condition Index of 70 by 2021.
Average Score: 3.9
Improving Lake Oswego's average Pavement Condition Index (PCI) has been a council priority for several years, and 2017 kept up the pace with a large amount of paving work performed throughout the city.
The trend is expected to continue in 2018, and Councilor Jackie Manz noted that the City will have its hands full making sure residents are kept up to date on route changes and potential delays.
"The summer of 2018 will make for interesting travel in Lake Oswego," she said.
According to Lazenby, the passage of the state transportation package this year will also contribute toward further progress in upcoming years.
"The long-term goal of (a PCI of) 84 is unchanged," Councilor Jeff Gudman added.
Goal: Take steps to minimize the impact on businesses and residents of the Boones Ferry Road project.
Average Score: 3.5
The council generally gave this goal high marks, citing several meetings with property owners. Buck also expressed appreciation for the Lake Grove Business Association, which has served as an advisor for the project on behalf of local businesses.
"That continued cooperation, dedicated involvement and input will be needed now more than ever as we finally reach the construction phase of this transformative project for Lake Grove," he said.
Lazenby and Manz also noted that the City added an amendment to the community development code that prevents properties from being put into non-conforming status if they sell land to add to the right-of-way.
Overall, councilors expressed confidence that the construction impacts have been adequately addressed. The project is currently expected to begin construction work in the summer of 2018.
Goal: Explore options for economical housing for all sectors of the community (disabled, retirees, and especially workforce).
Average Score: 2.8
The council held an initial study session on economical housing solutions in June, with a follow-up in October. When assigning their ratings, several councilors noted the complexity of the topic — a wide variety of policies and options were discussed, and the council did provide City staff with feedback on several of them.
"We have the groundwork for a code rewrite to make Accessory Dwelling Units more attractive to build," Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff said.
On the other hand, she said, the council learned that Portland recently implemented a similar policy and has been struggling to prevent new ADUs from being used as Airbnb units. That's one of the issues the council needs to sort out to make sure it's getting things right for housing policies, she said.
"We hope to refine the City's development code in early 2018 to assess the few sites we have in Lake Oswego that may have potential for multi-family housing development," LaMotte added, "possibly including outreach to experts in affordable housing."
Goal: Decide on the future of the municipal golf course.
Average Score: 2.7
The golf course goal received generally low marks, due to a lack of any substantial decision or improvements to the course this year.
The council did hold a lengthy study session that examined several big-picture solutions, including substantial alterations to the physical size and number of holes on the course or possibly building a new home for the Parks & Recreation Department at the site.
"A lot of discussion so far, but no definitive answers," Studebaker said. "It is too important to rush a decision."
One significant decision did emerge from that discussion: The council is intent on preserving the golf course in some form, rather than eliminating golf entirely. The council is scheduled to revisit the golf course issue in January.
Goal: Construct pathway connections, using available System Development Charges.
Average Score: 2.5
Pathway connection projects are another recurring council goal, but 2017 appeared to show disappointing results. Two pathway projects were submitted for bids this year, but neither received any responses and the City is planning to re-advertise the projects in January.
"Our pathway projects have been the victim of a robust construction year," Manz said.
Buck added that it was disappointing to see the City take only "small bites at completing new pathways," but said he was encouraged by gradual progress on the issue.
Gudman also criticized a council decision to reduce the initial level of a new Transportation Systems Development Charge rate that was scheduled to be implemented this year, which he said will deprive the City of income and push some pathway projects back into the 'unfunded' category.
"The non-implementation of the proposed SDC increase will significantly impact the ability of the City to construct new pathways, bikeways, connections," Gudman said.
Goal: Adopt a strategy for addressing PERS increases, both internally (financial plan) and externally (legislation).
Average Score: 2.2
Most of the councilors rated PERS progress as fairly low, although many pointed to the state Legislature as the primary culprit.
"A lot of this depends on state legislative action," Studebaker said, "which has been sadly lacking."
Gudman noted that the PERS board is scheduled to publish its tentative increases for 2019-2021 this month, which will help the council plan how to respond next year.
At the local level, councilors highlighted the fact that Lake Oswego avoided adding any new staff positions, and Lazenby said the tax base has seen steady growth. O'Neill said the City will mainly need to focus on medium-term solutions.
"We're OK for the next couple of years," he said. "We're probably OK 25-30 years out, because the LORA (redevelopment districts) will be totally funded and all those dollars will be coming at our general fund. It's what happens 10 years out (that needs attention)."
Goal: Continue to work with regional partners on a Willamette Shoreline Trail for bike/ped use while preserving future options for rail.
Average Score: 1.9
The future of the Willamette Shore rail line has been a back-burner issue for Lake Oswego ever since the City joined with a consortium of nearby government agencies to purchase right-of-way with the goal of preserving it for future use.
In recent years, Lake Oswego has quietly investigated the possibility of turning the right-of-way into a bike and pedestrian path, but several members of the consortium want to make sure the trail could still be converted to transit use at a later time, and it's unclear whether the corridor's century-old easements allow it to be used for anything other than rail traffic.
"I want it for mass transit," Kohlhoff said, "and I am afraid we could lose the right to use it for rail if we did something else on it."
Neither of these issues has been definitively resolved, and both appear to still require considerable work. LaMotte also said the consortion members other than Lake Oswego don't appear to have much of an appetite for the bike path concept.