The Top 10 Stories of 2016
From supermarkets and politics to an AR-15 rifle, here's what grabbed Lake Oswegans' attention this year
Just when we thought we'd compiled our final list of the Top 10 stories of 2016, Mother Nature came along to throw a snowball or two our way, turning the decision-making process into something that resembled a slow crawl on an icy freeway.
It's hard to ignore the impact of this month's paralyzing Snowpocalypse, which started with gridlock Dec. 14 as snow fell well into the evening commute and left roads coated with ice for days. On some of Lake Oswego's hillier side streets, folks were still slipping and sliding a week later.
More than four dozen crashes, many involving multiple vehicles, left cars crumpled — so many, in fact, that the LOPD simply couldn't respond to all of the calls. Some drivers chose not to risk an accident and abandoned their cars on the side of the road — 25-30 of them along Highway 43 near Military Road alone.
That slippery reality made the Lake Oswego School District's decision to close schools Dec. 15-16 a popular one with parents, who also praised the district for sending kids home early before the storm had even arrived. The LOSD's decision to interrupt classes on Dec. 14 allowed buses to safely cover their routes — unlike in several other school districts, such as Beaverton and Portland, where children were trapped at school until late into the evening.
Suffice to say, it was a wintry mess. And yet…
Just as Lake Oswegans recovered from triple-digit temperatures this summer and powerful wind and rain in the fall, the city's residents accepted Snowmageddon, too, as part of the price we pay for living in this beautiful place. They greeted the holidays with grateful hearts, and they looked ahead to 2017 with a sense of optimism and hope.
As do we.
So consider the weather nothing more than a bonus as we count down the Top 10 stories of the year. Some, like the controversial dismantling of an AR-15, we will leave behind. Others will stay with us well into 2017, as new city councilors find their way and the school district deals with ongoing lawsuits, combats racism and promotes a bond measure to fix crumbling buildings.
Here then, in descending order, are our Top 10 stories of 2016:
1. DECISION 2016
Honestly, it's pretty easy to sum up the biggest story of 2016 in less than 20 words: Donald Trump. Kate Brown, Dennis Richardson, Ellen Rosenblum and Tobias Reed. And a big "no" to Measure 97.
There you go.
But the truth is, Lake Oswegans are much more likely to be impacted in their daily lives in 2017 by what happened in local races than by the political shenanigans in Salem and Washington, D.C. — and that will take a little longer to explain.
Because while Mayor Kent Studebaker was re-elected in November and four sitting councilors will also return, they'll be joined by two new faces: John LaMotte and Theresa Kohlhoff, who have the potential to shake things up in the new year. What will happen on Jan. 14, when councilors and staff gather for their annual goal-setting retreat?
Studebaker defeated Councilor Jon Gustafson and Budget Committee Chairman Dave Berg in the Nov. 8 general election, capturing about 48 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, a tight race saw Planning Commission Chairman LaMotte, attorney Kohlhoff and incumbent Skip O'Neill claim three open seats on the City Council; they'll join sitting councilors Jackie Manz and Joe Buck there, as well as Jeff Gudman, who will remain on the council following a narrow loss in his bid for state treasurer.
More than 87 percent of Lake Oswego's registered voters cast a ballot in the general election. But in an interesting twist, about 14 percent of them opted not to pick any mayoral candidate and many chose fewer than three City Council hopefuls — a reaction, perhaps, to a campaign that turned decidedly nasty in the closing days.
Under Studebaker's leadership, the council has prioritized infrastructure in recent years, with a particular emphasis on raising the condition of the city's roads to make up for years of relative neglect during the 2000s. Several major infrastructure projects have also moved forward, including a new Operations and Maintenance Center in Lake Grove and a new police/911 facility next to City Hall.
Both incoming councilors have expressed their approval for those results. But Kohlhoff's campaign focused on affordable housing, LaMotte made a case to voters for what he called redevelopment "with a vision" and Kohlhoff told The Review she plans to immediately start pushing her top priority, even if she views it as a long-term problem with no immediate solution.
"I would be asking that we get started on it," she says.
Kohlhoff says she considers herself and LaMotte to be "problem solvers" who will be able to work well with the current council, even if there are disagreements about priorities. She also cautions against assuming that the other councilors would be opposed to issues like affordable housing and transportation options — it's not that those issues have been voted down, she says, just that they haven't been raised in the first place.
Two items that will likely not be on the agenda are marijuana businesses and broadband fiber. The council devoted considerable time to discussing both topics this year, but Lake Oswego voters decisively rejected the idea of a municipal internet network and upheld the city's ban on pot retailers, producers and growers.
Broadband is still technically an open question, because the ballot measure was only an advisory vote. But City Manager Scott Lazenby says his assumption is that the council "will choose not to pursue it anymore. They may discuss it in their goal-setting session, but I don't anticipate much more discussion on it."
At year's end:
• Studebaker, LaMotte, Kohlhoff and O'Neill will officially begin their new terms at the City Council's Jan. 3 meeting. The entire council will host an open house on Jan. 12, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Babica Hen (15964 Boones Ferry Road), to gather community input on goals for 2017. The council will then gather for its annual goal-setting retreat from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Jan. 14 at the Holy Names Heritage Center (17425 Holy Names Drive).
2. THE BILL COMES DUE
It's no secret that the Lake Oswego School District has earned a reputation for excellence. Year after year, polls and surveys consistently rank the district's schools among the best — if not No. 1 — in Oregon and across the country.
But while a decision during the Great Recession to defer maintenance and focus instead on funding for personnel and programs has paid off academically, the reality is that students, teachers and staff have reached those heights despite leaky roofs and rotting wood siding, cracks in foundations and load-bearing walls, serious safety and security concerns and outdated technology.
Now the bill has come due.
A study done last year found at least $98 million in seismic upgrades and deferred maintenance is needed at all school buildings, not counting soft costs such as personnel and design. Subsequent studies have revealed further maintenance needs and higher costs, including shifting soil under Lakeridge Junior High that will require complete replacement of the school.
Throughout 2016, School Board members and district staff reached out to more than 60 local groups, commissioned two phone surveys, created an online forum and held several public input sessions to determine how best to pay for needed repairs. And in October, the board approved a $187 million bond measure that is now scheduled to go before voters in May 2017.
"Full steam ahead," says board member Bob Barman. "Let's get this done right."
The proposal addresses deferred maintenance at all 10 schools in the district, replaces Lakeridge Junior High; performs safety and security improvements and tech upgrades; creates Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) centers at junior highs and high schools, and maker spaces/multipurpose rooms at elementary schools; and includes funding to replace the district's swimming pool.
It calls for a three-phase bond measure, with subsequent votes scheduled for 2021 and 2025. Altogether, the three phases would total a proposed $537 million.
"I think it provides a sustainable, logical and thoughtful phased approach to address our 25-year school improvement program," board member John Wendland says.
Each of the first two bond phases are estimated to cost $0.95 per $1,000 in assessed property value, with Phase Two generating more revenue because of an expected increase in property values. The third phase would involve a bond rate renewal that would not require a rate increase because the district will be retiring the $85 million bond passed in 2001.
"We can't overhaul our schools in one fell swoop," says board member John Wallin, "but with this bond, we are taking the first big step toward leaving a legacy for our students, one that I hope future boards and future voters will continue to support."
At year's end:
• Final language for the May 2017 bond measure is expected to be approved in February. The School Board then plans to form a citizens bond campaign committee to energize volunteers, raise funds and lead a community education effort.
3. SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES
No local story in 2016 generated as much controversy as the tale of the Rev. Jeremy Lucas, who says he was catching up on the news in July when he came across a disturbing Twitter message: A local girls softball team planned to raffle off an AR-15 rifle to raise funds for a trip to a tournament in California.
"It was jarring," Lucas says. "This is the gun used most often in mass shootings in the past decade."
Lucas, who preaches at Christ Church Episcopal Parish in Lake Oswego, says he knew he had to do something, so he spent $3,000 from a discretionary church fund and member donations to buy 150 raffle tickets. He says he had two goals: to help the team get to the tournament for which they had worked so hard, and to take the weapon out of circulation.
He won, and he accomplished what he set out to do. The team did indeed play in California, and on Dec. 9, a small group of parishioners gathered in the church parking lot to watch the destruction of a weapon and to pray "for an end to violence, for peace on Earth."
On hand to help destroy the gun was Mike Martin from RAWtools, a Colorado Springs-based Christian organization that repurposes weapons into hand tools. Using a circular saw with a special blade, Martin and Lucas cut the weapon into several pieces and then forged them into garden implements, each marked with an olive branch to symbolize peace.
"It's a small, symbolic act," Lucas told The Review. "There are millions of guns, I know that. But this gun will never be used to kill kids in schools, kill people in a movie theater, kill people at an office party or at any other place of mass shootings. This gun will never be found by a child who accidently shoots a friend. ... It will never be stolen and used to commit a crime or used to threaten a family in a domestic violence situation."
Lucas's handling of the AR-15 after the raffle nearly got him into legal trouble when it was reported that he transferred possession of the weapon to a parishioner for safe-keeping, possibly in violation of a state gun law enacted in 2015. But after an Oregon State Police investigation, the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office determined that there was insufficient evidence to prove that a crime had been committed and announced that no charges would be filed.
That decision angered many in the community and the entire case prompted a flood of comments on social media, but Lucas insists that he would do it all again "in a second" if the result was less gun violence.
"This isn't about politics," Lucas says. "It's an expression of faith. There needs to be less violence, more peace and love. It's a symbolic gesture, but we need to keep working on this. We will make a difference."
At year's end:
• Lucas traveled to Washington, D.C., in December to attend the National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence, which took place on the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings. He took one of the newly created garden tools with him.
4. LEVELING THE FIELD
"I just want to be part of the generation that made it better."
That's how Lake Oswego High softball player Vivian Rittenour explains her decision in April to join nine other members of the Lake Oswego High School softball team in filing a federal Title IX lawsuit against the school district.
The girls say they have been denied equal access to the kinds of equipment, facilities, funding and publicity enjoyed by male athletes. And one point, their lawsuit alleges, school officials told the students and their parents that some of the inequities wouldn't be addressed until the softball team "wins a state championship."
That would be a difficult goal, the lawsuit says, "in light of the current inequitable treatment and benefits" provided to the team.
The lawsuit, filed April 4 in U.S. District Court in Portland by attorney Andrew D. Glascock, says parents and students have complained to the district about Title IX violations or unfair treatment of female athletes for years. It seeks relief under provisions of the 1972 law that prohibit discrimination based on sex "under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
Among other things, the lawsuit claims that the softball team is not allowed to use the boys' indoor hitting facility, even though they do not have an enclosed hitting facility of their own. The softball team also plays on a dirt field at Lake Oswego Junior High, while the baseball team gets to use an on-campus field with artificial turf.
The boys' field can be used even on rainy days because of superior drainage, the lawsuit says, but softball practice must sometimes be canceled because of drainage issues at the junior high. "There is no bullpen or any type of pitching area, warm-up area, batting cages or any way to separate the field to allow multiple practice stations," legal documents say.
The lawsuit says supporters of the softball team spent 14 months working with the district to design and engineer a hitting facility for the girls and secured a "substantial donation" to help with construction costs, only to be told in February that the facility would not be built "unless and until the Lake Oswego High School softball team 'wins a state championship.'"
The school district told The Review in April that some improvements had already been made in response to plaintiffs' concerns, "such as providing suitable inclement weather practice opportunities for girls' softball and an upgrade to the indoor softball batting cage." Additional improvements have included upgrading the indoor batting facility and adding an outdoor batting facility for the softball team, the district said.
But that's not enough to bring the district into Title IX compliance, according to representatives for the team.
"Defendants constructed a batting cage at the softball field," legal documents say, "yet it was constructed using turf from the LOHS football field that was removed due to defects, it is poorly constructed, is not enclosed, is not usable during inclement weather and is not adequate for practice due to its limited capacity, with just a single pitching machine."
In December, attorneys for the team filed a motion seeking class-action status for the lawsuit. If a federal judge grants that request, the original plaintiffs would be joined by every female student at LOHS (about 599 students, or 48 percent of the student body) and every future female student at the school.
"I didn't really intend on spending my high school years fighting for my civil rights," says LOHS junior Kelsey Deos, "and I know we don't want other girls to have to go through this, too."
At year's end:
• No trial date has been set for the lawsuit. Federal Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman is expected to rule on the request for class-action status within three months.
5. 'DEEPLY DISTURBING'
Every organization, every community — and every family — has moments when not everyone behaves as they've been taught. But there can be a certain dignity in how a group or organization responds. Such was the case in November when Lake Oswego School District administrators were confronted with racist and anti-Semitic incidents at Lake Oswego High.
Rather than deal quietly with the incidents, officials chose to use what happened as a teaching moment. And they pledged to continue to work to improve school culture with professional training and conversations with students.
LOHS Principal Rollin Dickinson wrote to families on Nov. 7, saying he felt it was important to speak out about an anti-Semitic photograph that was displayed in the school cafeteria and a racist comment that was posted on a Facebook page run by LOHS students. A day later, Superintendent Heather Beck wrote her own letter, telling staff members throughout the district that creating the right response and culture will take the entire LOSD community.
"We will collectively address this head-on," Beck wrote, "and prove to ourselves and others that we are better than this."
One of the incidents involved a poll of potential senior pranks on a Facebook page managed by students that included this suggestion: "We create a club called Ku-Klux-Klub and find every black kid and sacrifice them." Dickinson says no one "Liked" the post, but no one objected to it, either — until one student finally came forward and told a teacher, who told the principal.
The second "deeply disturbing" display of intolerance involved a picture that was posted in the school cafeteria; it showed a concentration camp victim being pushed into an oven, with a caption that read "Easy Bake Oven." Dickinson says an administrator found a student taking a picture of the image with his phone but not taking the picture down. The administrator took the picture down instead.
Dickinson and Beck quickly took action, encouraging a front-page spread on school racism in the school newspaper Lake Views and initiating a series of small-group conversations with students. A Diversity Club met for the first time on Nov. 17 and "will lead conversations and events throughout the year," Dickinson says. Link Crew leaders — upperclassmen who welcome new students to LOHS — are establishing a student magazine that "will provide a venue for more student voices and creative approaches to these issues."
Jeannie Smith, whose Polish mother hid 12 Jews from the Nazis during World War II, spoke to students in November. Melissa Lowery led a staff discussion about her documentary "Black Girls in Suburbia." And in perhaps the most hopeful response of all, five local moms organized a march through downtown Lake Oswego in November to promote peace, love and diversity; more than 300 people attended.
"What's at stake is more fundamentally important to our students than anything else we will teach them," Dickinson says. "In this sense, this is, and really must be, a call to action."
At year's end:
• Additional professional development sessions and guest speakers have already been scheduled at LOHS, and Beck vows that the effort will be ongoing. "We have done a lot of work in our schools over the past two years around building positive school culture, but this is work that is never done," she says. "This is an effort that requires constant vigilance and attention on the part of all of us."
6. SHOTS FIRED
In a town where no call is too small, it's unusual for police to be called to the scene of a violent crime. But 2016 saw the first alleged murder inside city limits in nearly a decade, and bullets flew in October when robbery suspects led police on a chase that started in Southwest Portland, wound through Tigard and ended in an officer-involved shooting just outside Lake Oswego.
Neither incident captured the public's attention, though, quite like the case of Gregory Zagel, who said for months that he would not leave the Oswego Pointe apartment where he had lived for 14 years, despite a discrimination lawsuit he had filed against management there and a months-long eviction process that he contended was "blatant retaliation."
"Realistically," Zagel told The Review almost exactly a year ago, "I probably need to leave and just get a fresh start somewhere else, but it's hard to relocate when you have basically no money. This is the first time I've had to worry about a roof over my head, and to be honest, it's tearing me up. I never thought I'd be in a position like this."
Zagel ultimately lost his civil suit — which claimed religious and sexual discrimination — and at a hearing in December 2015, he agreed to walk away from his home in early January. But he did not leave.
Instead, Zagel spent the next several months trying to delay or overturn his pending eviction. And when officials showed up on April 20 to post a final eviction notice and change the locks on his doors, he fired a bullet into the floor of his apartment and barricaded himself inside.
During the following 24 hours, the LOPD and negotiators with the Clackamas County Behavioral Health Unit tried to persuade Zagel to come out. But when they lost contact with him overnight, an arrest warrant was issued and officers from the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and the county SWAT team were called to Oswego Pointe.
Police used explosives to break down Zagel's door and urged him via loudspeaker to exit the apartment. The standoff continued for at least 90 minutes, with no audible shots fired and no apparent response from Zagel. And then, at approximately 6:15 p.m. on April 21, police announced that they had found Zagel dead in the apartment he had sworn never to leave.
The cause of death: a self-inflicted gunshot wound, which had probably happened hours before the final confrontation. He was 61 years old.
"We kind of thought time was our best friend," LOPD Capt. Dale Jorgensen told The Review in the days following Zagel's death. "We kept thinking that he would continue making contact with us."
At year's end:
• Nancy K. Westbrook is still lodged in Clackamas County Jail, awaiting trial for the alleged murder of her estranged husband, Joshua G. Westbrook, at a home on Boones Ferry Road in early February. Police were called to the site of what they were told was a suicide, but they quickly determined that the death was a homicide and arrested Westbrook later that evening. She is being held without bail on charges of murder and unlawful use of a weapon; a trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 25 in Clackamas County Circuit Court.
• Joshua Luther and his wife, Michelle Luther, are also still in custody after leading police on a chase in October that ended near the Walgreens drugstore on Boones Ferry Road. Joshua Luther allegedly robbed a motel in Southwest Portland and police said shots were fired at officers as they pursued Luther's white minivan through Tigard and Lake Oswego. Luther himself was shot by a Tigard police officer as he jumped from the van and tried to escape on foot. The couple now faces a variety of charges, including aggravated attempted murder. Both are next due in a Washington County courtroom in April.
7. OUT ON A LIMB
It started with an Urban Forestry Summit in May 2015 and continued through months of committee meetings and often-contentious public hearings. But in July, the City Council gave final approval to a revised Tree Code designed to deal with a permitting process that was often described by residents as too cumbersome, too subjective and too focused on individual trees.
All along, the council said, the objective was to find a way to balance community aesthetics and environmental quality with "residents' desire for less-stringent regulation."
To do that, the council formed a 31-member Ad Hoc Tree Code Committee under the chairmanship of Lake Oswego resident Mike Buck and asked it to reach a decision by the end of 2015, but that deadline was later extended to June of this year.
"When we looked at the problems in a comprehensive way," Buck says, "we knew we couldn't do this in three meetings."
Instead, it took the committee nine months to submit changes that impact nearly every type of tree removal in the city. And even then, the revisions drew mixed reactions. Some residents said the new code was still too restrictive on homeowners, while others argued that the new rules don't do enough to protect Lake Oswego's extensive tree canopy.
"The only thing I'm completely confident about," City Councilor Jeff Gudman said as the process wound to a close, "is that someone is going to walk away upset."
That's no doubt true.
Even at the end, a "minority committee" submitted its own proposal to the council, insisting that the full group ignored the original directive to make the code less burdensome. "As time went on," committee member Tracy Marx says, "we were outvoted over and over again, and there were many heated discussions, and we just decided that we would write our own report."
Twenty-eight people testified in front of a packed council chamber at the final public hearing in July, but when that testimony was completed, the council voted 6-1 to adopt the overall committee's recommendations, making only one minor change to increase the threshold for Type I tree removals. Residential property owners will now be able to remove trees with a diameter of up to 15 inches at the base using the simpler Type I permits, instead of having to apply for the more-burdensome Type II permits.
The new code includes changes to the criteria and procedures for each of the seven types of tree-removal permits now offered by the City: dead trees, hazardous trees, emergency removal, Type I, Type II and major and minor forest management permits. It also revises the requirements for mitigation after trees are removed and seeks to simplify the entire process by putting more of it online.
And Buck says it accomplishes what the committee set out to do.
"This isn't exactly what I would have liked, but it's what our committee did together," he says. "So I'm really proud of it."
At year's end:
• Morgan Holen, the City's contract arborist, says the biggest change she's seen since the new rules took effect is an increase in the number of dead-tree removal permits, thanks to an expanded definition that adds trees in "irreversible decline" to those that are already dead. Meanwhile, the City's new web page for tree-removal permits — ci.oswego.or.us/trees — has been upgraded to a "one-stop shop" and now includes most of the functionality requested by the Tree Code Committee.
8. PRESERVING THE PAST
Marylou Colver knew when she founded the Lake Oswego Preservation Society that the nonprofit would fight to preserve important pieces of Lake Oswego's past. And it has, with some impressive victories to show for the effort.
"But I never realized that the Society, which is still fairly young and small, would end up in a statewide legal battle," Colver told The Review — a legal battle that wound its way in 2016 to the Oregon Supreme Court.
There, in mid-August, the court ruled that the current owners of the 1855 Carman House could not remove an historic designation from Lake Oswego's oldest home. The unanimous decision was not only a victory for the Society and its legal partners — Restore Oregon, for one, along with nine other organizations, municipalities and state agencies that signed on as "friends of the court — but also for the defenders of more than 3,200 historic properties statewide.
Restore Oregon called the ruling "the most far-reaching legal decision for the field of historic preservation," one that will impact "the fate of 3,200 designated landmarks across Oregon communities, ranging from Portland to Pendleton, The Dalles to Oregon City."
Colver, who was honored at Restore Oregon's Restoration Celebration in November for her efforts, agrees that "it's not just about one house. This whole case is about whether a subsequent owner can opt out, even though they knowingly purchased an historic landmark. (That would) defeat the whole purpose of the designation and of protecting historic landmarks."
Oregon's Supreme Court justices agreed, and yet in an ironic twist, their ruling does not specify what will happen to the Carman House now.
"What I wish for is a good steward," Culver says, "that somebody will buy it and restore it, and that it will continue to be a single-family home for the next hundred years or more."
The home's current owners, who represent the Mary Cadwell Wilmot Trust, say they would be happy with that outcome, provided they are able to sell the house "at a fair market value." In the meantime, Trust member Marjorie Hanson says, they will look into the possibility of subdividing the rest of the property while leaving the Carman House standing.
"It's great to say, 'This is now going to be preserved,'" Hanson says, "But will it? It would take a very special buyer."
At year's end:
• Colver and the Lake Oswego Preservation Society are currently transforming an historic 1880s iron worker's cottage in the Old Town neighborhood into a history center and museum. A fundraising campaign to help furnish the 700-square-foot building is underway, with opening ceremonies planned for the first quarter of 2017.
9. PIPE DREAMS
When crews for the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership lowered an elevated segment of pipe into place over Oswego Creek next to the McVey Avenue Bridge in March, it was an historic moment: The pipeline that stretches over 10.5 miles from the Clackamas River to Tigard was finally complete.
Four months later, the $254 million project went fully online, providing water to both cities after three years of controversy and construction.
"This complex project has been a huge undertaking, and we appreciate the patience and understanding of all residents whose lives have been disrupted," Project Director Joel Komarek told The Review in July. "After years of hard work by many dedicated people, we can celebrate meeting our goal to provide a new water supply to our partner Tigard by July 1, 2016."
The centerpiece of the project is a series of new water pipes from Gladstone to Tigard. A raw-water pipeline carries untreated Clackamas River water from a new intake facility in Gladstone under the Willamette River to an upgraded treatment facility in West Linn. More new pipe brings water from the treatment station through Lake Oswego to the Waluga Reservoir. And a final new segment moves water from the reservoir to Tigard's new Bonita pumping station.
Construction of the treatment plant upgrades started in 2013, while the pipeline work got underway in 2014. The completed system, which has the capacity to pump up to 38 million gallons of water per day, gives Tigard control over its water supply for the first time in the city's history.
"This summer marked the beginning of our two communities owning and embracing a new, resilient and state-of-the art shared water system," Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker says. "That is some-thing we are extremely proud of."
The project proved controversial in its planning stages. Lake Oswego residents faced rapidly rising water rates, and West Linn voters were furious when the City Council there voted to allow the expansion of the treatment plant. All along the pipeline, noisy construction had angry neighbors demanding compensation; drivers who had to navigate months of jarring installation work on Highway 43 were pretty unhappy, too.
Much of the controversy surrounding the Partnership project has died down, but one issue remains unresolved: the amount of water scheduled to be drawn from the Clackamas River. An Oregon advocacy group called WaterWatch filed a lawsuit claiming that permits issued to Lake Oswego and other nearby water agencies would collectively draw too much water from the river and threaten endangered species of native fish.
A final decision on the case is still pending and will likely not be reached for several more months. But in any case, Komarek told The Review, it will likely be "decades" before Lake Oswego and Tigard reach the 38-million-gallon level; according to the project's website, the two cities combined currently only use about 20-26 million gallons per day during the peak season.
Lake Oswego residents can also expect one of the project's peskier side effects to stick around: high water bills. Rates were raised dramatically to cover the cost of the project; according to the city's master rates and fees booklet, water costs rose by 25.5 percent in 2011 and 2012, plus another 12.5 percent in 2013.
The current rates aren't going to go back down now that the project is completed — the final bond payment isn't expected until 2035. However, City officials say that from here on out, rates are expected rise at a slower pace with no more major jumps.
At year's end:
• There's still a couple of project pieces left to complete: a few remaining upgrades at the West Linn treatment center, where a small contracting crew will remain on site through May 2017 to get an ozone treatment system up and running and finish final site improvements such as landscaping; and a tangential project to replace the roof of the Waluga 1 reservoir in Lake Oswego, which will be completed in the spring.
10. MARKETS OF CHANGE
For 25 years, the grocery store on State Street in downtown Lake Oswego was Joe Albertson's supermarket. The store on Boones Ferry Road was an Albertsons, too, before it became a Haggen Food & Pharmacy. And for a while, we even had a Walmart in the neighborhood.
My, how the local grocery landscape has changed.
In January, Walmart announced a massive restructuring that involved the shuttering of 269 stores in the U.S. and abroad, a move that affected 16,000 workers. The Lake Oswego store, which employed 90 people when fully staffed and 64 at the end, was among those that "just didn't meet the metrics for success," Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia told The Review.
Shoppers disagreed, saying the store filled a much-needed, lower-priced niche in the community. But on Jan. 28, Walmart closed its doors for the last time. And at year's end, the building on Jean Way still sat empty.
In June, the Lake Grove store that Albertsons sold to Haggen in 2015 (one of 146 stores Haggen bought during Albertsons' merger with Safeway) became an Albertsons once again after a week-long conversion process.
Haggen apparently bit off more than it could chew when it purchased the stores, and the company filed for bankruptcy in September 2015. The store on Boones Ferry Road was one of 33 "core" locations that Haggen planned to auction off earlier this year, before reaching an agreement to sell most of them back to Albertsons.
Now, the store boasts expanded deli, bakery and specialty cheese sections and an increased focus on natural and organic items. It held on to three favorites from the Haggen bakery: scones, cinnamon swirl bread and jumbo cinnamon rolls. But the name? As of this week, it was still Albertsons.
Not so on State Street, though, where Albertsons is no more. In July, the store was transformed into a new, "customer-centric" concept called 365 by Whole Foods.
The much-anticipated 365 boasts an intended "hang-out factor," with space at the front of the store for a juice bar called Canteen; Next Level Burger, which sells fries, shakes and plant-based burgers; and a café area with free Wi-Fi and seating for 60 people.
The store's design emphasizes a modern, tech-friendly aesthetic and energy-efficient features. The whole building uses LED lighting, for example, and cool pricing kiosks help reduce the use of plastic bags by allowing customers to buy "by the each," rather than by the pound.
Reviews of the 365 concept have been positive, but folks weren't very happy in the weeks leading up to the store's July opening when the California-based owner of the Oswego Village shopping center started stepping up enforcement of its parking rules and began towing customers' cars away.
Whole Foods was quick to point out that it was not responsible for the new policy and that, as a tenant of Oswego Village, it had no control over enforcement of the parking rules.
"We didn't ask for anyone to be towed from the lot, regardless of what rumors you might hear," the company said. "As long as you're patronizing one of the stores in the center, towing and ticketing shouldn't be an issue."
At year's end:
• California-based CenterCal Properties announced in November that it wants to fast-track a redevelopment of the Providence Mercantile complex at Boones Ferry Road and Kruse Way in 2017. Among the proposed additions if the sale goes through: a grocery store.