'The evolution of the Foothills plans has always been curious'
Reading the various opinion pieces in last Thursdays Review critical of the city councils reversal of the Foothills Urban Renewal District reminded me that in life and politics things are usually not as simple as they sound. So it is with Foothills that there are inconvenient realities that were not mentioned by the letter writers.
During last years election campaign Mayor Studebaker and Councilors Bowerman and ONeill stated their opposition to creating the new Foothills URD. When the outgoing city council voted 4-3 to create the URD at its final meeting on Dec. 18, much of the public testimony pointed out that the election had significantly altered the council makeup and it would be appropriate to let the new council decide the fate of the Foothills URD.
(Then-) Mayor Hoffman and the outgoing council knew on Dec. 18 that the new council would consist of three new members and two continuing members who were opposed to the creation of the new URD. Their vote on Dec. 18 was clearly a political calculation that almost dared the new council to reverse it (much like their similar action at the same meeting on budget committee appointments).
Those of us who voted in November for the new council majority certainly had the expectation that they would do what they said they would do during the campaign.
Then there are the myriad challenges with redeveloping the Foothills area. There is only space to address a few in this column. The elephant in that room is the Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. How to attract investors to build next door to a sewage treatment plant? The Foothills plan calls for Lake Oswego to be a financial partner in the venture. The city of Portland is currently planning to upgrade the facility and Lake Oswego sewer ratepayers will foot more than half of the cost commensurate with the volume of effluent we contribute. Those costs are unknown and are not included in the Foothills math.
Portland sent a letter to Lake Oswego last year stating that any cosmetic upgrades requested by the development partners beyond what Portland would normally do would be borne fully by Lake Oswego. That creates a potential that Lake Oswego sewer ratepayers could end up subsidizing the Foothills developers beyond the URD. There are also numerous environmental issues because Foothills is on a floodplain.
The evolution of the Foothills plans has always been curious. The first plan from several years ago called for mixed-use development with commercial, condos and apartments. Then Foothills property owners and the city brought in developers Homer Williams and Dike Dame to do a new plan. Homer publicly told the city council that development couldnt occur without the streetcar. Then the streetcar went away. Then the city paid Williams & Dame $1.3 million to do a plan without the streetcar. Which one is it?
The new plan calls for retail and apartment rental housing. Labeled our next great neighborhood, I have to admit Im skeptical. I question a neighborhood devoid of home ownership. The neighborhoods surrounding our downtown are a healthy mix of privately owned homes and apartments. Isnt our wonderful quality of life in Lake Oswego a direct result of that vibrant housing mix?
Jim Bolland, Lake Oswego, is co-chair of the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Action Coalition (LONAC) and a member of Lake Oswego Citizens Action League (LOCAL).
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