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Readers' Letters

Plan is a recipe for disaster

In the last eight months, I’ve looked closely at the proposed Kessi plan to redevelop the Wizer Block. I’ve examined their blueprints, spoken to numerous people about the project’s history, and attended several LO Development Review Commission meetings to hear both the pro- and anti-development positions.

And after careful review, I am vehemently opposed to the Kessi development. I opposed their original plans in January, and I oppose their “revised” plans, which have changes that are mostly cosmetic and don’t address the central problem with the design.

Their plan to put a giant 200-unit apartment complex in the heart of the Lake Oswego retail core is both contrary to the character of our village and in violation of numerous Lake Oswego building codes. The Kessi group is trying to have the DRC grant exceptions and variances to all of these; these variances should not be allowed. (And yes, the units are all rental apartments, not condos — Kessi’s own proposals state this.)

I agree that the Wizer Block should be developed in a manner similar to the adjacent Lake View Village — a well-proportioned mixture of retail shops, restaurants and perhaps 50-75 condo units for purchase — and no apartments.

The current plan to cram 200 tiny rental units on that block — with monthly rents starting close to $2,000 — is a recipe for disaster. The increase in traffic, dog waste and city funds needed to support the bond to finance this project are absolutely not worth it.

Consequently, I strongly urge the citizens of Lake Oswego to publicly oppose the Kessi/Wizer Block development as it now stands.

Jon A. Bell

Lake Oswego

Down on the Wizer farm

I have never lived on a farm, but I can tell you that it must be a snap to merely care for some animals and harvest a bit of grain and such.

Farm boy Patrick Kessi, by the same token, knows it must be a snap to adopt an urban lifestyle by forking over $2,000 for rent on a 750-square-foot rabbit hole. Forget wide-open spaces — one parking space is more than enough. Trees and grass? A small bit sandwiched in between more than 200 other apartments should be more than sufficient.

See, the problem is a lack of accountability. Mr. Kessi is promising a rose garden of urban living, while never having any intent of living there himself. Forget any path to ownership or working toward equity in his units. Renting is the answer. He is not in this for the money, so neither should we. And he knows what sort of town feel we want, because he lives in the sticks.

Some critics have written that his private life has little to do with this fiasco, but I disagree. Living on a farm while boasting that living in a city shoebox is dandy is exactly the problem.

So I propose a solution. Mr. Kessi gets to build his vision of the perfect urban future — but he has to actually live there himself for a minimum of five years. I’ll say it again — accountability. If he thinks that his Wizer Block plan is the cat’s meow, then he needs to move on in.

I’ll be glad to care for his farm while he’s away. Gonna be a snap.

Brian Toye

Lake Oswego

Neighborhood is about to get dangerous

For 20 years, we have lived on Cedar Street, alongside the stairs coming up from Laurel Street. Those stairs, and Cedar, serve people heading up Bickner Road to Freepons Park. It’s a major walking and biking route for anyone wishing to traverse over to Hallinan Heights or Hallinan Elementary.

The Craig property, including their five other lots, is being sold to Roger Edwards of Silver Oak Custom Homes. His total planned development is 16 houses. Four will be on lots where single homes have stood. Four more will be at 1028 Cedar St., where one home has stood for more than 50 years. On the Craigs’ estate, at Freepons’ north end, there will be an eight-house development.

Sixteen houses equate to 32 added vehicles on Cedar Street. But children will have cars, friends will visit, deliveries will be made, yards maintained, homes cleaned, etc.

Cedar Street is 33 feet wide, Bickner Road is less than 14. Both are in ill repair, without sidewalks. The City has no plans to upgrade the infrastructure, nor will it require the developer to do so.

Apparently, the safety of its citizens is not as important as saving a buck or satisfying the desires of Roger Edwards, who tells everyone (including the City Council) that they can’t stop him and that everything is legal.

And so it would seem. The law favors those who come into an established neighborhood and make it a dangerous place to live. Neither the law nor the City protects the neighborhood, those who raised families there or those that still do.

So parents, beware. Carry children and pets if you’re walking to Freepons Park. It’s about to get dangerous. And no one who can affect any change toward safety cares; not the City, not Roger Edwards or the property owners.

Alan Elstad

Lake Oswego

Our village deserves better

I write this email with a heartfelt plea that the City does not approve the plan for the Wizer Block put forth by Pat Kessi.

The development of this apartment complex does not fit with a “village feel” for our downtown area. The enormous buildings are just that — an apartment complex with a few square feet of retail space thrown in to cover the core purpose of the development. The plan does not mesh with the small-town feel that our city plan calls for.

Perhaps it is a great apartment proposal, and perhaps Lake Oswego needs more apartments, and perhaps Mr. Kessi builds quality buildings, but the core of our village downtown area is not the place for it as currently put forth by him.

Mr. Kessi is quoted in a recent newspaper article as saying he asked his future tenants what they wanted and he is delivering that for them. His mistake was in not asking the people who already live here what we want, and it is definitely not the added congestion and density he is proposing.

He also “insists” this current design addresses all of the points brought up in opposition to his planned development, but that is just a diversion from the all-important real question of whether the proposal is even the correct fit for our village. The question is not about finishes or window square footage, but of fitting into the small-town village atmosphere clearly called for in our city plan.

This project cannot be undone once it is approved. We will have to live with this over-build forever. Instead of adding to the allure of downtown, it could very well force people to avoid the area completely. And what a shame that would be.

Mr. Kessi reminds me of a litterbug or a dog walker who leaves behind his messes for others to deal with. He is going to be long gone and we are going to be left with having to deal with the mess he left behind. Our village deserves better.

Katherine Chartraw

Lake Oswego

Wizer proposal ‘out of sync’

I am seriously concerned with the Wizer Block redevelopment. While I am a strong supporter of real estate development within our community, the scale, size and look of this project is dramatically out of sync with the small-town feel of Lake Oswego.

The number of units in this development is far too high. This number may be appropriate for downtown Portland, but not Lake Oswego. The size and height of this project is also far too large. The elevation on A Avenue and First Street looms over the surrounding areas, blocking light and changing the vertical character of the area.

I work in international architecture and have, throughout my career, seen significant missteps in development that permanently alter the community detrimentally. The City must stop this project. The City must also adjust its regulations to discourage projects that are not in balance with the city character in the future. I propose that buildings be no higher than three stories, and heights at the property line be restricted to 45 feet. Studies should also be made to restrict the number of residential units within a city block or defined area.

Please seriously consider this plea. Allowing grossly out-of-character projects to be developed will permanently change the character of this charming city, which is such a wonderful place to live and raise a family. Rejecting them will help maintain exceptional and growing property values.

Timothy Boot

Lake Oswego

Not what planners envisioned

As a former city councilor in the 1990s who worked and planned for the East End Redevelopment to take place, I can say that we never discussed or envisioned that Block 137 would become a big-box apartment complex.

We spent many hours with community members and time in a design symposium visioning that the downtown development would be a compact shopping district that would draw people to Lake Oswego and would create a “sense of place” for our community. Much of that “sense of place” has been accomplished with Lake View Village and Millennium Park.

The current proposal before the Development Review Commission ensures that what has been a good beginning to creating an attractive downtown for Lake Oswego is truly being threatened. The size of the proposed project will dwarf Millennium Park and add to the current congestion we are already experiencing on A Avenue and First Street. This large-scale project will put such a strain on the downtown that it will make it very difficult to continue with the further development of the East End.

The project needs to be downsized. As the Kessi project is proposed, it would not even fit on a block in downtown Portland. I have always wanted to see the continuation of the development of the East End, but it needs to be developed with the vision worked on and endorsed by the community that ensures that “sense of place” and maintains our village character.

Mary Puskas

Lake Oswego

A vote for a smaller project

Are you kidding? Two hundred-plus apartments, with one parking space each, in the middle of downtown Lake Oswego? Horrible idea.

The traffic and parking problems alone are unthinkable. And City staff, paid with our tax dollars, working with the developer to promote a high-density apartment complex — what is that all about?

There are so many ways the Wizer Block could be redeveloped. Shops and offices with a handful of high-end condos and lots of green space gets my vote!

Melinda McCaslin

Lake Oswego

Keep easement discussion open

We have been told that the Planning Department is considering removing or changing a city easement in the Hallinan neighborhood, specifically on or next to the Craig property which borders Freepons Park.

The property in question was developed to offset landslide and prospective lawsuit issues that developed after such a landslide event.

We can appreciate the City of Lake Oswego and developer’s concerns. It means the possible examination of such issues arising from the prospective development of the Craig property and the discussion of sensitive lands and adjacent property concerns.

I would suggest any and all actions related to property in the development area of Hallinan be put on legal/environmental alert.Such an alert would provide:

  • Adequate notification to the community via mail and email to property owners and the Hallinan Neighborhood Association; and
  • Opportunities for meetings and discussion with appropriate time frames.
  • Due to its sensitive nature, this land requires special consideration by City, Metro and state entities. Failure to provide proper recourse for the community could constitute collusion by the City with the developer. Keeping the forum open is in the best interests of all.

    Ann Lackey

    Lake Oswego

    (Editor’s Note: Scot Siegel, the City’s director of planning and building services, said this week that his department has not received an application to remove or modify a City easement or right-of-way bordering or near Freepons Park, or a request to modify or remove an existing conservation easement on the Craig property. The City is required to publish a public-hearing notice before considering removal or vacation of right-of-way, Siegel said, and adjacent property owners would be notified of Sensitive Lands reviews or development applications.)



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