The board wants the city to upgrade electric vehicle charging infrastructure, examine ways to reduce conflict between trees and solar panels 

The city of Lake Oswego's Sustainability Advisory Board forwarded a list of initiatives it wants the Lake Oswego City Council to enact as a way to make the city more energy efficient and protect the environment.

The board presented these recommendations during a joint meeting with the council Tuesday, May 3. One of Lake Oswego City Council's goals is to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the community's resilience to climate impacts.

In 2020, the city adopted a new Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. Some of the new recommendations included using tree fund money to provide grants to commercial landscapers that would support the conversion to electrical equipment, jumpstarting a program to raise awareness on the benefits of keeping leaves on the ground rather than blowing them away, preparing a position paper on the use of solar power as it relates to tree preservation and starting a pilot project on the use of utility poles for electric vehicle charging.

"We'd like to take a lot of these ideas and create recommendations for how this can get folded into the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan so that those great initiatives continue in all of the decision-making and all of the planning processes," sustainability board co-Chair Stephanie Glazer said at the meeting.

Board member Buzz Chandler suggested that the battle between electric and gas-powered vehicles was over — electric vehicles won, in his view — and that the next frontier will be bolstering infrastructure to make electric vehicle ownership more convenient. This is why he hoped the city would start the program for installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure on utility poles.

The task force said current issues are that the chargers at City Hall are hard to use and chargers on A Street had been down for several weeks. The board is preparing a proposal for the City Council to consider.

"There's still the public perception about range anxiety (the ability to go long distances in an electric vehicle). We want people to be more and more at ease with this," Chandler said.

Mayor Joe Buck said he liked the utility pole idea, especially the possibility of providing more charging options for people who live in multifamily complexes.

Council President John Wendland did not think the city should get in the business of electric vehicle charging, preferring private industry to do that work.

Some councilors noted that many people cannot afford electric vehicles even if they wanted them, and added that it may take time for full energy-efficient adoption.

"We have to work on the question of equity and accessibility to electric vehicles," Councilor Massene Mboup said.

Glazer said they were looking at these issues through an equity lens.

Regarding the position paper, the advisory board would like to look into ways for preserving trees while also encouraging the use of solar power. Trees can sometimes be a hindrance to solar as they block the needed sunlight to harness the power.

"We would like to think of it as trees and solar rather than trees versus solar," advisory board member Mark Puhlman said.

Puhlman also hoped the city would use revenue from the city's demolition tax (which currently goes toward parks maintenance) or tree fund for the commercial landscaping program.

"It's the commercial contractors who are using their equipment all day, every day. That's where we see the greatest impact," he said.

City Manager Martha Bennett said the city would need to examine how funds could be reallocated before moving forward with any alterations.

"The idea of incentivizing this (electric) infrastructure is, I think, a good one," Buck said.

Puhlman added that leaves nourish the soil and provide microhabitats for organisms.

Overall, the council liked the ideas presented.

"We're at the very beginning of alternative energy," Councilor Jackie Manz said. "I truly believe we can move this forward if we put our heads together. I truly appreciate all the thought that has gone into this."

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