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'What we have in Lake Oswego is unique'

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else,” said Yogi Berra.

Lake Oswego has done a splendid job of involving hundreds of citizens to draft a plan that points us in a good direction.

One of the key elements in the proposed plan is the concept of a 20-minute walkable neighborhood. It addresses one of the emerging problems with past plans, namely that you would have to drive, sometimes long distances, for core services. With rising gasoline costs and concerns about climate change, there is a growing desire among some to have core services and amenities such as coffee shops and grocery stores more accessible. That is one of the elements of a concept called “smart growth.”

Some people are concerned that smart growth thinking will lead to the urbanization of suburbs and destroy the idyllic quality of life that people have come to enjoy in Lake Oswego. In fact, we would make the case that 20-minute walkable neighborhoods is a strategy that saves suburbs, not destroys them. We have to look no further than what happened to suburban property values when gas prices took a dramatic upturn a few years ago. Properties in those communities that were furthest from downtown Portland were the least desirable and took the biggest downturn in value.

We know from studies and personal experience that people like walkable communities. They like a nearby restaurant where they know the owners and can see neighbors. People take pleasure in walking or biking. Of course, with Lake Oswego’s hills and spread-out geography, this isn’t practical everywhere so the plan creates ideas, not rigid prescriptions.

Another objection to smart growth tenets is that it is trying to force people to give up their cars. Not so. People can always drive a car if they choose to do so. What it is trying to do is to provide alternatives for people who want to drive less. Interestingly, 25 percent of millennials under the age of 34 who could get a driver’s license haven’t done so. They feel that cars are a bad investment.

Given that our plan has a time frame out to 2035 we should keep in mind the changing desires of the next generation we want to become homeowners in Lake Oswego.

There are other sustainability aspects in the plan’s vision such as the desire to make locally grown food more accessible. Indeed urban agriculture is one of the more actively emerging sustainability issues. In our mind these sustainability issues very much have to do with land use planning and should continue to be a key part of our comp plan.

What we have in Lake Oswego is unique. Incorporating these issues doesn’t mean that we have to look more like Portland but instead, as plans do, looks at future trends and finds a way for us to deal with them that maintains the character of Lake Oswego not only for ourselves but for future generations.

As we move forward, let’s find a way to address people’s fears, find compromise and invest in new ideas that will keep our city vital and attractive as we move into the future. Warren Buffet says, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long ago.’”

Lisa Adatto and Gregory Monahan, Lake Oswego, are co-chairs of the Lake Oswego Sustainability Advisory Board.



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