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Readers' Letters

Proposed development is too big for ‘village’

Since 1952 when my family moved here, Lake Oswego has mostly changed for the better. Some would argue that they miss the old village atmosphere, but as a past and current resident, I have to say the changes have been mostly for the better.

Which is why I am strongly opposed to the proposed five-story, 200-plus unit complex on the Wizer block. Lake Oswego still has the “village” feel. Probably one of the most carefully regulated and charming small towns in the U.S., Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., has extremely stringent building codes that keep buildings in scale and architecturally compatible. These codes (and climate) bring visitors to the area, but more importantly ,they keep the city livable for residents and ensure strong property valuations.

I’m not suggesting anything as rigid as Carmel’s codes, but to consider an enormously out-of-scale development such as is proposed in the Lake Oswego village is totally incompatible with the character of our city, other residential buildings in the neighborhood and the availability of parking, city street traffic flow capacity, etc.

Let’s not choose greed for added city tax revenues over the small-town charm that our city uniquely holds in the Portland metro real estate market.

Please join me in protesting the prospect of the outsized development that has been proposed by Mr. Wizer’s developers.

Mark Ohlson

Lake Oswego

Arguments against Block 137 work ‘don’t hold water’

We have waited many years for a “centerpiece development” for the prominent Block 137. We had a good start with Lake View Village and have continued improvement with the 555 Condominiums and the Umpqua Bank building that have improved the architectural character and added much needed vitality to our village community.

We now have a stellar design and development team that has proposed a development for Block 137 that raises the quality and architectural bar substantially.

As a 35-year resident, architect and local business owner, I am losing patience with efforts to stall new development in the downtown core. Opponents of the Block 137 project claim the design doesn’t meet the city’s codes. I have substantial experience with these codes and helped create some of them and know that their argument doesn’t hold water.

At 228 units, the Block 137 redevelopment is within density parameters for the zone. Parking is being provided with about 30 percent more than code requires, available to residents and the public. Traffic studies have shown that intersections will continue to operate at acceptable levels. The buildings are all under maximum 60-foot height requirements and feature the city’s preferred architectural styles. The project is very cleverly sculpted with careful attention to the surrounding streetscapes.

The developer is asking for a “code exception” for the fifth story, which fits within the gabled roof and does not add to the height of the building or exceed the density limit. From my experience, it is remarkable that this is the only exception requested on a project of this complexity.

The request adds to the design quality and adds “life” to the roof form. The architects and developer have painstakingly created a project that honors Lake Oswego’s unique character. Let’s not change the rules mid-game.

Ralph G. Tahran, architect

Lake Oswego

Don’t go forward with the wrong philosophy

As a concerned citizen I find the new proposed development unsavory.

It’s too big and foreboding.

I have lived half my life in the comfort of the village.

The “human scale” was and is so appealing.

This “human scale” I appreciated so is disappearing.

So many houses and lots (oversized lots) allowed for Gardens of Eden and good neighbors. Now houses are oversized and gardens are diminished and neighbors feel walled off. Please, let’s not go forward with the philosophy that “more and more and more and higher and higher and higher” is better.

It’s not.

Susan Schramm

Lake Oswego

‘I doubt that this is what LO residents want’

I recently saw an architect’s rendition of the planned Wizer block development. It’s unbelievable. Unbelievably bad. How could anyone approve a structure so out of scale with its surroundings. I doubt that this is what LO residents want. 

This structure will rob the businesses across First Street of afternoon sun. Hardly fair. 

The folks at the (Lake Oswego) Redevelopment Agency need to seriously rethink the scale of this proposal. 

Frank Junga

Lake Oswego

Donate used children’s books for needy kids.

Now you can donate your gently used children’s books to the Children’s Book Bank collection box at the entrance to Mountain Park New Seasons Market until Nov. 22.

When I taught remedial reading classes in middle school, it was such a joy to buy used books for my students who never owned a book before.

Get more information at childrensbookbank.org.

Marilynn Block

Lake Oswego

‘What is the present plan’ for Lake Oswego?

The mayor and council members show great glee and are patting themselves on the back for finally disposing of the practically empty 89,000-square-foot West End Building to end the money drain. I would pat them on the back too if I thought this was part of a long-range city plan, which it isn’t.

The former council thought nothing of spending more than $40 million of taxpayers’ money to build a new 60,000-square-foot library and multistory garage at the far east end of town, when they could have saved $20 million by moving to an upgraded WEB with a large parking lot and near the city’s center of population.

What is the present plan? Not to move the library? Or place the library in an empty school? Or spend $40 million to move it to another eastside location? Same with the city hall. What’s the plan, and how much will it cost us?

Will it be another whopping expenditure like the $115 million water plant we don’t need, that brings in water that is polluted frequently with gasoline, over very costly river and city crossings, when abundant, cheap, Willamette River water is a few blocks away?

Voters preferred not to fund the WEB for an unwanted $80 million recreation center, and polls of certain voters chose not to keep an empty WEB. So? The city should first formulate its long- range plan and poll voters of the entire city (not just eastside residents) to determine if they want to use the WEB to replace crowded facilities cheaply.

William Barbat

Lake Oswego

‘Change is inevitable’ for the Wizer proposal

Once again there is an outcry from a minority of well-intended individuals dedicated to sidetrack the development of the Wizer block. When will this group stop pleading their case on “I think” or “remember when?” and start dealing with reality and concrete facts surrounding this well-planned change? I am alarmed at the dialog of “I want change and a better reason to stay within our city boundaries to shop and live but not if you change what I am comfortable with or remember how it once was.”

Change is inevitable, and while it might not suit a few, Mr Wizer has every right to maximize the opportunity of his property moving forward without the unjustified and uninformed raising road blocks at every opportunity.

Jim Price

Lake Oswego

‘City council finally did the right thing with this white elephant’

Mayor Kent Studebaker finally nailed what I’ve thought since the day a former mayor bragged about what a great deal buying the Safeco building was for the citizens of Lake Oswego.

After nearly seven years this albatross is finally off our backs. It was an impetuous purchase at the time that resonated with people who want the city to pay for their recreational pursuits.

It is the same now as it was then: If you want a swimming pool, buy one or buy a membership in a club that has one. Ditto for exercise, tennis and golf or anything else.

The ridiculous idea that this location was suddenly the geographic center of Lake Oswego worked until you got out a map and a ruler.

Let’s all get over it. The city council finally did the right thing with this white elephant.

Jim Kroneberg

Lake Oswego

‘Thank you for supporting the renewal of the school levy’

An open letter to voters in the Lake Oswego School District:

Thank you for supporting the renewal of the school levy.

There is no greater reflection upon a community than the success of its schools and the children it serves. At any given time, only a small portion of the overall community has kids enrolled in K-12, and we owe those who do not deep gratitude for their support. A $350,000 home value means a contribution of $487 per year and many of you voted to contribute multiples of that number. 

There is no other community like this one, and though your gift is silent and seldom recognized, we do not take you for granted. It takes a unified community to have superior schools and it requires resources to deliver the goal of excellence. In 1984, then-principal (Bill) Korach, then-vice principal (John) Turchi and Earl “The Walrus” Ingle were at the helm of Lake Oswego High School, one of the oldest facilities in the district, a school that did not enjoy the current metrics of success and a school where Laker Pride served as a yearbook title.

The foundation was a vital component to bridging the gap between the district of 1984 and today, but I want to thank the bedrock on which the foundation’s bricks are laid: every household contributing to the levy, all the volunteers in classrooms, coaching, on committees, working sales and the kids who year after year meet or exceed our expectations.

The pride and strength of this community show in these kids. Thank you.

Scott Bullard

Lake Oswego

Downtown plan represents a ‘golden opportunity’

The Block 137 project represents a unique opportunity for our town of Lake Oswego to take a step into the future with an upscale feel that will hold housing, dining and retail space.

This is a golden opportunity to infuse additional life into our downtown community, without having to sacrifice the village feel that so many of us have come to treasure.

I know that many fellow community members have taken issue with the design and voiced fears about potential issues with parking, traffic and the general feel of the property, which the developers have gone to great lengths to address.

Ample parking will be available for residents and retail patrons and will be kept underground. There will be no unsightly, concrete parking structure that will interfere with the tranquility of the area.

In regard to traffic, studies have been done to ensure that the current infrastructure will be able to handle the additional patrons who will be visiting the new restaurant and retail shops. Having seen some of the renderings myself, I feel that the building’s aesthetics will make a great addition to our downtown core.

In short, Lake Oswego can only benefit from the construction of Block 137. This is a vital addition to our town, which will poise us for continued growth well into the future.

Mike and Laurie Sterkowicz

Lake Oswego

‘Portland Public School District should take a lesson’

As a kid, I used to walk the streets of Lake Oswego with my dad: from Lakeshore Concrete at the base of Foothills Road, uphill to Lakeside Lumber and then across the street for an ice cream cone. Sometimes we would walk as far as the school before turning around so he could get back to work.

The merchants knew each other and Lake Oswego town was walkable and comfy.

It still is, but what is even more remarkable is the cooperation between the business community, the politicians and the school board remains strong. These are citizens who care enough to work together to secure the funding to educate their children for the future.

The Portland Public School District should take a lesson from this example.

Anne Coleman

Lake Oswego

Proposed development offers much that is good

I have reviewed the proposed development on the Wizer block in downtown Lake Oswego.

The developer has done an exceptional job of integrating our village character into the development, splitting it into three separate buildings and adding a public walkway between buildings. If you review the proposal, it is clear the height issue is dealt with while ensuring that the feel of the development from the ground floor is not hampered.

There has been talk about the number of stories in the development, but the real issue here is height, and the maximum height is not exceeded. The additional stories are created by adding much needed housing in the roof line.

I visit downtown Lake Oswego often to support our local businesses. As a consultant who works with small cities all over Oregon, I know that a healthy downtown reflects the health of the community. Our business owners desire a stronger residential presence in the downtown to support their businesses.

While we have a great core of businesses, our business district could be much stronger, and a stronger, more vibrant business district is beneficial to all of us. The proposed development on the Wizer block will bring additional taxes to our community and additional revenues in both construction excise taxes and local option taxes to our school district.

These additional tax revenues help share the property tax burden for all of us property taxpayers. With increasing costs of services, we have to either face cuts in those services or have new revenue to help pay for those services. I urge Lake Oswego citizens to look at the proposal at buildourvillage.com. You will find an exciting, thoughtful proposal that will help keep LO a great community.

Elaine Howard

Lake Oswego

‘Community needs to take a collective deep breath‘

I would like to add my support to the Wizer block proposal. The 60-foot height limit of the project is permitted by the city code in a commercial zone.

Gene Wizer (and the developer) are building to the existing code and he should be allowed to do so and exercise his property rights. There are only three residential floors above the commercial tenants (on A Avenue and First Street) due to the 14-foot height of the commercial spaces. A waiver from the code has been requested for the fifth floor of residences (in the dormers) on the residential side which has 10-foot heights.

Removing this floor would eliminate the 14 penthouse units but would not reduce the height of the dormers. These units are likely to be very popular in LO because of the views and would not reduce the number of residents or traffic count very much.

Also, the parking spaces cost $44,000 apiece. The density is needed to pay for the two floors of underground parking which is a benefit to the community (unlike the city of Portland, which has not provided for parking for some apartments and pushed the tenants out to the street).

The community needs to take a collective deep breath and really look at the benefits of this project compared to what currently exists on the site. It will create a vibrant downtown living space that will benefit the downtown businesses and provide needed housing for the entire community.

Rob Le Chevallier

Lake Oswego

Development adds to a ‘vibrant village life’

The following is an open letter to Lake Oswego’s mayor and city council:

Although many in our community have come down hard on the Wizer block project, I’d like to voice my support for it. As a longtime resident, I believe that there aren’t enough housing options for those of us who would like to remain in Lake Oswego with a downsized lifestyle.

The Lake Oswego downtown core is a beautiful, walkable area.

Adding more housing to the village opens up the possibility of staying in the town we love without sacrificing the lifestyle we enjoy. Grocery stores, restaurants and other services are all within easy distance on foot. We can be part of a vibrant village life, rather than living on the fringes and being dependent on a car any time we want to meet friends for coffee or pick up dinner.

With many seniors living longer and on fixed incomes, the burden of caring for a large home is often too much. The Wizer block represents the opportunity for many to continue to reside in the community that they have called home for so long, but in smaller apartments that are much more manageable, both in terms of size and monthly expenses like rent.

Lake Oswego, like the rest of the country, has an aging population. Developments like the Wizer block can provide a wonderful opportunity for older generations to live and be active in a beloved community.

Edward Hostmann

Lake Oswego

Wizer plan would generate congestion in downtown

We do not need the added congestion of people, pets and autos that the proposed development of the Wizer block will bring to our downtown.

Also, no public funds should be used. If the project can’t stand on its own as a viable commercial project it shouldn’t be built.

W. H. Gillison

Lake Oswego

Development will ‘help our city thrive’

The Wizer block development makes sense for Lake Oswego. This is a key downtown property.

Right now it is underused and is on the verge of being an eyesore. We are fortunate that Mr. Wizer has proposed a first-class, attractive development that will help our city thrive for years to come.

Lake Oswego is a town with an aging population. There are many citizens who have been here for many years who want to leave their big houses and move to a convenient and classy place that will allow them to walk to shopping, movies and restaurants. There is already a long list of people interested in moving in.

It also offers a new option for young people and many others who may not want a larger and separate home. The apartment and condo lifestyle is increasingly popular throughout the country, and it makes sense to offer this choice here in Lake Oswego.

The plan will benefit more than those who choose to move into the development. I am impressed with the design and the commitment to quality from the developers. The plan offers public space and walkways, and hides parking underground.

This will improve the ambience for the whole downtown area. In addition, adding people who live downtown will add customers for our many unique and interesting small-town businesses. All of this will also add to the city’s revenues, which will help all of our taxpayers. New city revenues will also help us afford investments into our community and our schools.

Lisa Adatto

Lake Oswego

‘Benefits will accrue to the city’

Many of the letters recently published in the Review on (Block 137 development proposal) decry any increase in residential density and resulting increase in population. The writers ask for retaining Lake Oswego’s village character essentially by restricting population to current levels or less than called for in the current plan. Others in favor talk about how the current proposal does not violate the code.

Few, if any, mention benefits that will accrue to the city as a result of this proposal.

The amount of on-site, underground parking provided exceeds what is required by the current code. This aspect should avoid unreasonable spill-over into the neighborhood. The Lake Oswego School District will receive a quarter of a million dollars upon granting of a permit. Many more local shopping opportunities will be provided for our citizens with the new street-level businesses enabling residents to walk or drive shorter distances to our downtown rather than traveling to locations outside our beautiful village.

In addition, the city’s tax base will eventually increase and residents will benefit as a result of the tax burden being shared by more residents.

Roger Hennagin

Former Lake Oswego City Councilor

‘Common Core is a slick sales job’

Your recent editorial (Oct. 31) praising the Common Core State Standards just repeated the platitudes of the promoters without any critical thought.

Luckily, the new school board in Lake Oswego is more perceptive. Simply by entertaining proposals for charter schools, they will do more good for more students in the Lake Oswego School District than the Common Core could ever hope to do.

The Common Core is a slick sales job and we Oregonians ought to take a closer look at the truth behind the hype. For just one example, proponents of the Common Core would have us believe that these “new” and “rigorous” standards will improve achievement in our schools.

These standards are not new nor are they effectively rigorous. Instead, they are the same recycled progressive education foolishness that thinks that having primary grade children sit around and analyze literary forms, discuss mathematical solutions to complex word problems or attempt to write persuasive essays is more rigorous than teaching basic academic skills.

There are no Common Core standards (or test items) to measure whether elementary students can read accurately and fluently, spell correctly, write grammatically with correct punctuation or do simple arithmetic.

Students are dropping out of our high schools simply because they lack the necessary basic academic skills to succeed at high school work. The Common Core will only make that problem worse as fundamental academics are crowded out of the primary school day to make way for “rigorous” foolishness.

Don Crawford

Portland State University adjunct professor and former executive director of the Arthur Academy charter schools

Portland

Students ‘need the skills and facts to think with’

In (the Oct. 31 editorial) “Standards are not the Enemy,” you claim that the Common Core standards are ambitious and rigorous.

They are ambitious but they are certainly not rigorous. Common Core purports to teach critical thinking. American graduate schools are the best in the world and attract foreign students in part because they do teach critical thinking.

Unfortunately, most American college graduates can no longer compete with the foreign students, particularly in the STEM subjects, because Americans are no longer learning the basics skills and disciplines in K-12.

Yes, our students need to learn how to think, but they need the skills and facts to think with. That knowledge is acquired in the early grades through memorizing, drilling and repetition. Mozart may not have needed to learn his scales in order to write great music, but Mozart was a genius.

Common Core math doesn’t teach math in the primary grades — at best it teaches some mathematical theory. Even a cursory comparison between the vague mathematical Common Core standards and the clearly articulated and detailed Saxon Math standards illustrates the difference. By the sixth grade, when our students are required to reduce fractions, they cannot do so because most of them do not know their multiplication tables.

Chana Cox

Lewis & Clark College emerita

North Plains

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