Council prepares to streamline ADU process
The Lake Oswego City Council appears ready to move forward on a package of code changes that would streamline the development process for Accessory Dwelling Units.
At a study session on Tuesday, Planning Director Scot Siegel and Senior Planner Debra Andreades outlined the proposed changes, which were developed by the Planning Commission following direction from the council at the start of the year.
ADUs, which are also known as Secondary Dwelling Units or SDUs, are separate dwelling units created on existing single-family lots. They are already allowed in Lake Oswego, Siegel explained, and can be standalone structures, additions to the main house or divisions within it, but they are limited to 800 square feet in any configuration.
ADUs are seen as a cost-effective way to integrate more economical housing options into existing neighborhoods, but they are currently treated by the City as Minor Developments. That means they require a lengthy review process and are subject to System Development Charges, decreasing their viability as an affordable housing option.
The Planning Commission recommended replacing one of the code's current subjective standards for ADUs relating to privacy between neighbors with an objective standard, which would allow new ADUs to undergo a faster Ministerial Review instead of the Minor Development process.
"That means it takes 30 or maybe 60 days off the process," Andreades said.
The current code requires an additional off-street parking space for a new ADU, but it can't be created by expanding the driveway into a yard setback area. The commission recommended a change that would give homeowners more flexibility by allowing them to count part of an existing paved driveway as a parking space.
A final regulatory change pertained to the "owner-occupancy" requirement in the current code, which states that the ADU builder must occupy the main existing residence on the property. The commission recommended changing it to a "principal residence" requirement to account for the fact that homeowners may take extended vacations.
The Planning Commission also recommended waiving System Development Charges for ADU projects in which the units will be reserved for households earning less than 80 percent of the median Clackamas County urban income, at rent levels of no more than 30 percent of the median income. The restrictions would apply for the first 10 years after an ADU is built.
Most of the councilors appeared to be generally supportive of the proposed changes Tuesday night, but they raised concerns about a couple of specific issues. Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff noted that the council is currently planning to reconsider whether to allow Short-Term Rentals in Lake Oswego and said she hoped that the code changes wouldn't be structured in a way that encourages ADU development specifically for use as STRs.
Councilor Skip O'Neill also questioned whether the rules for ADUs within existing homes would create an opportunity for homeowners to create what would essentially be duplex houses, which are not permitted in single-family residential zones.
"I think it's very important to have some parameters in the code that we're not creating density in single-family neighborhoods," he said, "because someone always tries to outsmart us."
Mayor Kent Studebaker conducted a series of informal polls of the council to provide direction to staff on each of the proposed changes. A majority of the councilors supported the 10-year SDC rule, as well as the proposed parking and ADU size requirements and the change to a ministerial development process.
However, the council voted against the "primary residence" requirement, opting instead to eliminate the owner-occupancy rule altogether. The Planning Commission had recommended the rule on the assumption that it would encourage property upkeep, but most of the councilors said they didn't think it would make a major difference.
Staff will return with a finalized list of code changes for consideration at a public hearing during a future council meeting.
Also on Tuesday's agenda:
n The council received an update on the planned redevelopment of the municipal golf course, which would add a new home for the Parks & Recreation Department on the site. Parks & Rec Director Ivan Anderholm reported that a recent independent assessment of the proposed building yielded a much higher cost estimate than what was originally calculated. City staff are still working through the new cost report to come up with a set of options for the council to consider at a future meeting.
n Acting as the LORA board, the council reviewed a series of alternative options for how to proceed with the development of a new City Hall and police station in light of last month's news that the original design was $20 million over budget. A more detailed list of options is expected to be presented at the council's June 12 meeting, with the expectation that the council will settle on one plan and direct staff to move forward.