The Sisters of the Holy Names organization is one step closer to rezoning the old Marylhurst University property to allow for affordable housing.
During the Dec. 1 Lake Oswego City Council meeting, councilors unanimously voted to tentatively approve code amendments that would allow for affordable multi-family housing on the Marylhurst campus. Staff was directed to present a final ordinance for adoption Dec. 15.
"There is a lot of interest in the future development of multi-family housing on this site should the amendments be approved," said Jessica Numanoglu, the city's planning manager.
Marylhurst University, which was founded in 1893 and known as the oldest Catholic university in Oregon, closed in 2018 due to declining enrollment numbers.
In the two years since Marylhurst University closed, The Sisters of the Holy Names have been exploring options for the 40-acre property — and affordable workforce housing has emerged among the top contenders.
In 2019, the Sisters gathered input from local community members, the religious community, neighborhood associations, administrators at the senior living facility Mary's Woods and others about the property's potential uses.
Affordable housing for those in need was popular.
The site contains 14 existing buildings, five of which are historic landmarks and not subject to development. The Sisters indicated that their intention is to replace three existing dormitories and build 75 to 100 units of affordable housing there. Numanoglu said there are also sensitive lands surrounding the site, which would provide screening and buffering for the homes.
"They've all been delineated and they're all protected areas," Numanoglu said.
The Sisters are working with Mercy Housing Northwest — an affordable housing nonprofit organization — though no official partnership has been established and the tentative approval Dec. 1 only focused on amending city code to allow for multi-family housing on the site.
However, Numanoglu said the code amendments do include a provision that would require any new multi-family housing development in that sub-area to meet affordability criteria. Specifically, there must be a minimum of 20 multi-family units in the development and at least 10% have to meet affordability criteria for households making 80% or less of the area's median income.
Numanoglu said the planning commission discussed two possible issues when it evaluated the code amendments: traffic and the size of the site.
"Those in opposition cited concerns including traffic impacts to Highway 43, environmental impacts, maintaining the aesthetics and character of the campus (open space, building height, architectural integrity), safety, adequacy of public services," the staff report read.
The planning commission found that the proposed comprehensive plan and code amendments met applicable criteria and the specific housing needs in Lake Oswego.
"The proposed amendments would manage potential future traffic by establishing a trip cap for all uses, including multi-family, in Subarea I," the staff report read. "The trip cap assures the combined uses in that area do not exceed the AM and PM peak hour trip generation of the prior university use."
As for concerns about the size of the 40-acre site, Numanoglu said the planning commission found that the proposal complies with the criteria, showing no basis to reduce the size of the site any further.
Some councilors had questions about the trip cap — how it would be enforced and how to prevent exceeding the cap with the addition of new tenants.
Numanoglu said The Sisters own all of the buildings so it's in their best interest to monitor and make sure tenants comply with the trip cap.
The Sisters requested that the council make a decision about the code amendments by the end of December as funding becomes available for affordable housing at the start of the new year.
In other news
Also during the Tuesday evening meeting, the Lake Oswego City Council approved a handful of other agenda items.
The City Council voted to annex 2021 mayor-elect Joe Buck's recently-purchased property — which is located just outside city limits. The council — with the exception of councilors John LaMotte and Theresa Kohlhoff, who recused themselves from the vote — approved the annexation ordinance.
The council also authorized City Manager Martha Bennett to sign a construction contract for the rehabilitation of the Adult Community Center (ACC) with First Cascade Corporation for about $1.77 million.
Parks Director Ivan Anderholm said the anticipated budget, which would essentially give the center a facelift — including new electrical and HVAC systems, a new entryway and a redesign of program spaces — came in under the original budget of about $3 million.
"The slowest elevator in Lake Oswego will no longer be the slowest elevator in Lake Oswego," Anderholm said.
Finally, the council approved a cooperative procurement contract with Romtec Inc. for $653,648 for the demolition and reconstruction of the restrooms at Lower George Rogers Park and East Waluga Park.
"The restrooms are 30-plus years old and are in need of replacement as they have ongoing plumbing and floor drain issues," the staff report read. "The sewer lines are beginning to fail because of tree root infiltration and the floors, which are made of concrete, are no longer able to be kept odor-free due to the decades of fluid absorption."
Councilor John Wendland asked why they were spending so much money on the eight park bathrooms.
Anderholm said all of the new restrooms will be ADA-compliant and it was more affordable in terms of cost per square foot to go with a cooperative agreement rather than taking it out for bid.
Visit the city's website for more information about the Dec. 1 council meeting.
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