A year in review: Lake Oswego's journey through 2020
This year was a challenging year at best. The city of Lake Oswego walked a difficult path along with the rest of the world as people worked to alter their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, which caught news headlines more than eight months ago after the first patient in Oregon was identified as a Lake Oswego School District employee. Following this news, the city's businesses struggled — and still do — to stay afloat as restrictions and safety protocols remain tight. But the year ends with a light at the end of the tunnel with news that a vaccine is on its way.
From wildfires to social unrest and police reform, there was no shortage of news to cover this year.
Below is a recap of the Review's top stories of 2020:
COVID-19 pandemic impacts Lake Oswego
The COVID-19 pandemic turned this year on its side after it was announced that the first Oregon patient was a Lake Oswego School District employee.
When the pandemic first arrived locally, grocery store shelves were wiped clean as people panicked, grabbing toilet paper and hand sanitizer until these items were out of stock.
People were uncertain of what the future would hold after Gov. Kate Brown issued stay-at-home orders in March. The city of Lake Oswego first declared a state of emergency March 22 and closed its playgrounds and outdoor sport courts, while people were encouraged to remain at home.
Businesses were heavily impacted and restaurants closed down, pivoting to takeout only. The city attempted to help those struggling through business grants and other resources.
Lake Oswego dispursed about $390,000 in small business grants to industries including medical, restaurant, personal service and retail.
As the pandemic progressed throughout the year, we heard how it shuttered businesses permanently and severely impacted industries like fitness centers and dine-in establishments. As the year ended, people rejoiced at the news of a COVID-19 vaccine on its way.
Lake Oswego City Council adopts Climate Action Plan
Lake Oswego reached a major milestone to work toward fighting the climate crisis this year, as the City Council adopted the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan in May.
The plan, which was first shown as a draft during the Feb. 18 City Council meeting, consists of more than 40 pages and addresses topics like waste and toxics reduction, climate adaptation, education and employee health, and community engagement. It was updated from a six-page climate action plan — which was voted to be incorporated into a revised Sustainability and Climate Action Plan in 2018 — for relevancy, plausibility and to include wider sustainability actions. The plan includes goals to reduce transportation emissions, promote energy efficiency, promote water conservation, protect natural resources and reduce waste and exposure to toxins.
Since the adoption of the plan, the city has created a short list of high priority actions and divided the actions into three categories: administrative actions, actions to be incorporated into the 2021-2023 budget and policy items that require City Council discussion. The policy items will be part of the council's 2021 goals and initiatives.
Developing a waste reduction strategy for the new City Hall is an administrative action that has already begun. Examples of policy items that will be discussed are gas powered landscaping equipment and how the city will decide to implement new vehicles into the city's fleet. Examples of items that would be incorporated into the city's next budget cycle would include reports on the tree canopy or providing TriMet passes to city employees who work at facilities outside of the downtown core.
Social unrest in Lake Oswego
Citizens around the country were outraged and heartbroken after the death of George Floyd — an African-American man who was killed May 25 by asphyxiation after a Minneapolis police officer held him on the ground and pressed his knee into his neck for almost nine minutes.
Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the nation — and locally in Lake Oswego — to bring attention to lives lost due to police brutality, calling on police reform and an end to systemic racism.
A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force was formed earlier this year as part of a council goal to foster more diversity at City Hall. By December, the DEI Task Force presented a substantial list of recommendations to the council that would help break down barriers that currently prevent a person from serving on one of the city's boards or commissions, or for applying to work at the city, among other categories.
There were four overarching recommendations: hire a full-time equity program manager; establish a permanent DEI commission, committee or board; create a training and development program that supports the implementation of DEI strategies for council, staff and boards and commissions; and form partnerships with organizations and businesses that support underrepresented communities.
The Lake Oswego City Council also decided to examine community policing at the council level and staff presented a process to the council, which would allow people to share a diversity of viewpoints on public safety in the community. The city of Lake Oswego selected a facilitation team of three in November, which will help move discussions forward with citizens about their experiences with local police.
Work on this topic will likely begin in February 2021 and will take about 12 weeks.
Through all of the city's work to foster a more diverse and inclusive community, incidents of racially-driven vandalism were reported.
Residents found their Black Lives Matter signage and other political signage vandalized. Community members were also outraged when two reports surfaced of severed deer heads left at or near homes in the Palisades neighborhood.
The suspect was identified as Thomas A. Jakmauh, 19, of Lake Oswego. He was charged by the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office with two counts of second-degree disorderly conduct and two counts of offensive littering — all misdemeanor charges. The 19-year-old's next court appearance will be Feb. 2, 2021.
Lake Oswego residents die in plane crash
As April Fredrickson watched her family put on their headphones and take their seats on the seaplane, she didn't think it would be the last hug, the last photograph and the last glimpse she'd take of her family alive.
April and her husband Sean, 48, his son Hayden, 16, and April's two children, 15-year-old Sofie Olsen, and 11-year-old Quinn Olsen, were on a family vacation in Idaho over the weekend of July 4.
The family first decided to go to Spokane to visit Sean's mom before celebrating the Fourth of July and heading to Coeur d'Alene Lake in Idaho July 5.
The family settled on a sightseeing plane ride, though April had been on a seaplane before and opted out of the excursion.
The Brooks Seaplane, which carried the four family members, a pilot and another passenger, collided with another plane — a Cessna 206 carrying two people — and crashed into Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Lake that afternoon.
Authorities said there were eight victims and no survivors.
Lake Oswego City Council selects new North Anchor developer
The long-awaited North Anchor project has made great strides throughout the year.
In March, the City Council unanimously voted to select Portland real estate developer Urban Development + Partners (UDP) as the new project developer.
UDP's mixed-use proposal for the North Anchor site includes a lounge area and rooftop access, an estimated 75 multi-family residential units, 60 hotel rooms and 6,000 square feet of ground floor retail space that could be divided into smaller spaces. These numbers are subject to change.
The project dates back to 2004, when the North Anchor block — the stretch of B Avenue between State Street and the alley between First and Second streets — was listed as the centerpiece of the City's East End Redevelopment Plan. The city began acquiring parcels at the site in 2010, and the first request for proposals (RFP) went out in 2015. Originally, the developers called for a part hotel, part age-restricted apartment building with underground parking. The project then turned into four floors of a high-end hotel with a restaurant and meeting rooms on the main level, including an above ground parking structure wrapped with retail on the far west end across First Street adjacent to the main building. However, the developer of that plan — Vanessa Sturgeon of Sturgeon Development Partners — pulled out in 2019, prompting the city to start fresh with another RFP.
UDP has now extended the memorandum of understanding with the city until June 2021 and is in the process of seeking a new hotel operating partner.
City discusses new affordable housing opportunities
Affordable housing has been a hot button issue for a while now but during a Jan. 7 meeting in Lake Oswego, Clackamas County staff and Commissioner Martha Schrader gave the city an update on where the county stands in regards to the issue, and how the county plans to use Metro's housing bond funds.
Voters approved Metro's $652.8 million affordable housing bond in 2018 to create affordable homes for vulnerable populations across Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah counties.
Just over $116 million was set to be allocated toward Clackamas County, which would help create about 21% of homes needed in the county. It unlocked $40 million that's available to anyone in the county, within the urban growth boundary, with a viable project to move forward.
With that as a backdrop, the city reached a milestone with the affordable housing project on the former Marylhurst University campus.
The Lake Oswego City Council moved forward with the rezoning of two properties to allow for multi-family affordable housing on the site, eventually approving code amendments that would allow for affordable multi-family housing on the Marylhurst campus. The site contains 14 existing buildings, five of which are historic landmarks and not subject to development. The Sisters of the Holy Names indicated that their intention is to replace three existing dormitories and build 75-100 units of affordable housing there.
The Sisters of the Holy Names initiated discussions with Mercy Housing Northwest, though a developer has not yet been announced. Funding becomes available for affordable housing at the start of the new year and The Sisters of the Holy Names will need to find a development partner and apply for funding in January 2021.
Wildfires hit home
After a devastating wildfire season struck close to home in Lake Oswego, many community members sought ways to help people who fell victim to the blazes.
Brian Wheeler with the Lake Oswego Fire Department was deployed for five days in September to help battle Clackamas County wildfires and said it was his first time being deployed.
While fighting the fires, Wheeler said they worked in 12-hour rotations and usually were assigned to protect people who opted to stay behind despite the evacuation notice.
Marie Heppner, Lake Oswego resident and veterinary technician at Animal Care Group of Lake Oswego, remembers going toward the haze and bright flames, instead of turning around. She was on a rescue mission with her boyfriend and friends to save as many animals as possible in areas with Level 2 and Level 3 evacuation orders. Level 2 means to be prepared to leave at a moment's notice and Level 3 means leave immediately.
Thankfully, Lake Oswego remained at Level 1 throughout the fires.
Other organizations like Lake Oswego Hunt and the Kiwanis Club of Lake Oswego gave back to the wildfire victims by offering help or donated items to those who were displaced or in need.
New mayor, City Council members elected in 2020
Leaders in various industries throughout Lake Oswego spoke highly of the local election results and appeared to have confidence in the next slate of elected officials. And with big issues to tackle including impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest and the climate crisis, the new slate of elected officials have their work cut out for them.
Joe Buck won the mayoral race by a landslide over councilors John LaMotte and Theresa Kohlhoff, garnering half of the vote.
After a tight race for the third seat on Lake Oswego City Council, Aaron Rapf prevailed over Melissa Fireside. Fireside lost by a slim margin and the other two seats will be filled with Masenne Mboup and Rachel Verdick. Emma Burke also ran and lost.
Buck, Rapf, Mboup and Verdick will fill the seats of outgoing mayor Kent Studebaker and outgoing councilors Skip O'Neill, Kohlhoff and LaMotte.
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