Lake Oswego City Council specifies rules for adding ADUs
Following a long and occasionally heated public hearing, Lake Oswego city councilors gave tentative approval Tuesday night to a package of code changes aimed at streamlining the development process for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
An ADU is a small housing unit constructed on a single-family lot, either as a standalone structure or a separated portion of an existing house, such as a converted garage. One commonly cited use for ADUs is to provide an affordable but independent living space for elderly relatives of the primary homeowners.
A recently approved state law mandates that cities in Oregon allow ADUs, and they're already permitted in Lake Oswego. But earlier this year, the council directed the Planning Commission to prepare a set of code changes aimed at making it easier for residents to build ADUs here — with the goal of increasing the supply of affordable housing in the city.
During a prior council study session to review the Planning Commission's recommendations, a handful of questions and unresolved issues were flagged for discussion at this week's public hearing. The most controversial topic was whether to maintain a rule that requires homeowners with ADUs to live on the property in either the ADU or the primary house, meaning only one of the two units could be rented.
The Planning Commission had recommended changing the rule's wording from "owner occupied" to "principal residence," which was seen as giving more flexibility to homeowners who might take extended vacations. But during the council study session, some councilors had raised the possibility of removing the requirement altogether, arguing that it would be difficult for the City to enforce.
A half-dozen residents testified at the public hearing Tuesday, and a majority of them urged the council to maintain the owner-occupancy rule as a way to ensure that homeowners would maintain the condition of their properties.
Councilor Joe Buck angrily criticized that idea and said it stigmatizes renters by assuming that they'll be disruptive or bad for property upkeep. ADUs and long-term rentals are both allowed uses in Lake Oswego, he said, and homeowners should be free to do both.
"It doesn't matter who lives there, whether they're an owner or renter," he said. "They're part of this community and they're allowed to be here."
Councilor Skip O'Neil and multiple residents argued that doing away with the requirement would negatively impact neighborhood character. Property owners would be free to rent out both the main residence and the ADU, they said, effectively turning the properties into duplex housing.
"It would be the end of single-family zoning in Lake Oswego, and it would make all of our residential zones multi-family zones," said First Addition resident Jim Bolland.
Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff pushed back against the use of the term "duplex," arguing that ADUs are a different use and are still relatively expensive to construct. Removing the owner-occupancy requirement wouldn't result in a large number of new ADUs being added to single-family neighborhoods, she said.
"And even if we say they're duplexes, how does two families being there suddenly bring down the neighborhood?" she asked.
The council ultimately voted 4-3 to use both terms, changing the code to "owner occupied/principal residence." The council also voted to allow existing driveways to be counted as ADU parking spaces and to prohibit ADU entrances on the front of existing houses in order to avoid the look of a duplex.
Most of the other Planning Commission recommendations were accepted, including rules about design variances, a requirement for a firewall between a house and an internal ADU, and a procedure change that would only require ADUs to receive ministerial approval rather than a more complex minor-development approval.
With the council changes in place, the tentative code package was passed unanimously and will be brought back to the council for final approval at a future meeting.
Also on Tuesday's agenda:
— The council approved a 6.5 percent increase for garbage service rates and a $2.50 monthly recycling surcharge. Waste hauler Republic Services had also requested a renewal of its franchise agreement with the City and a change that would tie future rate hikes to the Consumer Price Index, but the council opted to hold off on those two requests. Instead, councilors directed City staff to evaluate them as part of a midterm review of the franchise agreement. The review is expected to take 90 days.
— The council gave final approval to the City's budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and reconvened as the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency board to approve the LORA budget as well.
— The council approved the purchase of a cluster of six properties that will serve as a staging area for the Boones Ferry Road project. Project manager Crystal Shum said the site was the least-disruptive option for the surrounding neighborhood because it will provide trucks with direct access to Boones Ferry Road.