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Council should stand behind majority

Unlike a developer, the Development Review Commission is not driven by market studies or personal investment. The DRC is driven by the city’s development code and comprehensive plan.

Last January, the DRC was ready to deny developer Patrick Kessi’s application for the Wizer Block. Did the proposed large buildings meet the requirement for village character? No. Staff interrupted the DRC’s impending denial so that a statement could be heard from the applicant’s attorney, Christen White, who requested a continuance “because of messages we got” and “questions about complex massing ... a series of buildings or too big a building,” adding, “... we have some significant work to do.” The DRC granted the continuance.

Did the developer then break up the buildings into “small-scale structures” as code dictates? No. The developer’s team heard what was needed the first time, but pushed it aside the second time. They resubmitted their application with a few design tweaks, but with buildings that are still corner-to-corner with unbroken facades. After 10 hours of testimony and eight hours of careful deliberation, the DRC determined that the revised proposal still does not comply with Lake Oswego code. The DRC is uniquely qualified to judge building mass and how it complies with our codes.

According to dissatisfied writers, since the proposal was denied, the DRC got it wrong. Therefore, the Evergreen Neighborhood, as well as LONAC, the LOCAL survey, the majority of thoughtful letters from actual Lake Oswego residents and The Lake Oswego Review editorial board all got it wrong.  Is it more likely that those who disagree with the vast majority of residents and the DRC are actually the ones who don’t get it? The Kessi proposal for the Wizer Block, time and again, has not met code.

This redevelopment proposal would adversely affect future downtown viability. The proposal reduces current retail by 50 percent. The complex consists of 87-percent residential (207 apartments), which is not consistent with the Block 137 designation as our “compact shopping district.” Additional mixed-use — retail and restaurants — would attract people to downtown, not a predominantly residential complex.

The developer designed problems into his project when he ignored the property as part of our “shopping district.”  With a documented 50-percent move-in, move-out rate, 100 apartments will change hands every year. Imagine two moving vans each week, double-parked on our streets as sofas and beds are hauled into and out of the apartments in the heart of downtown. Traffic will become stacked up and more congested.

Those favoring the project are quick to point out that Lake View Village opponents also warned of building size and traffic problems. It is worth mentioning once again that the original Lake View Village proposal was deemed too massive and residents voiced much criticism. However, unlike Mr. Kessi’s approach, Gramor totally redesigned Lake View Village to what we know today. There were no complaints after the redesign.

Mr. Kessi had a chance last winter to redesign his project into smaller buildings and to reduce the large number of apartments in favor of more retail. Instead, he chose to stay on his course. LORA tested the waters, but the City Council should stand in support of their town and the vast majority of its citizens:  the DRC, the ENA, LONAC, LOCAL and The Lake Oswego Review editorial board.

Philip Pirrotta is a Lake Oswego resident.

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