Climate change, resilience, sustainability and the city

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Jeff Gudman and Joe Buck Thursday, January 30, 2020

Jeff Gudman


By using a focused, patient, integrated approach, Lake Oswego has over the last several years created and is continuing to build a thoughtful, sustainable approach to climate change that has, by and large, earned community and council support. That is no small feat, but what does it mean and how is it achieved? Here are some examples:

1) Climate Action Plan — In 2018 after two years of work, led by the Sustainability Advisory Board, the City Council unanimously adopted a climate action plan. Not 4-3, not 5-2 but 7-0 from a council reflecting the divergent views of city residents. How did this happen? By minimizing rhetoric and focusing on controllable, actionable city items.

The final document was not a chest thumping “look at me,” nor did it involve elected officials taking trips around the country or the world. It engaged residents, staff and borrowed, via phone calls, from people living in the city who work in these fields, while also using the internet and “stealing” good ideas from around the state, country and world.

The City council approved the Climate Action Plan for inclusion in an update to the Sustainability Plan for City Operations. That update is nearly complete with a council study session expected next month.

2) Streetlights — All City-operated streetlights were or will be replaced with energy efficient LEDs by year end 2020. All the streetlights will ultimately be replaced, including those with a very low rate of return. All were replaced because we are one community … all means all. In addition, most city buildings retrofitted their lighting for substantial savings.

3) Water meters — Over the next three years, every residential and most commercial water meters will be replaced with electronic meters. Existing meters are wearing out so the timing is right. One benefit is staff will be able to respond to water leaks more quickly. Every resident and business will have real time, if they choose, monitoring of water usage.

4) Food composting — The City was one of the first to offer, for a small addition in the monthly garbage/recycling bill, a residential curbside food composting program.

5) Clean energy — In 2019, the City renewed a 2015 contract with Portland General Electric to use 100% Clean Energy for city electricity. The City then entered into a Power Purchase Agreement with PGE through 2035 to buy 100% renewable directly from a new solar generation facility in Eastern Oregon that should be running in 2021.

Joe Buck


6) Pathways — After decades in the making, the City has almost completed right of way acquisition along the Willamette River. This is a critical piece of right-of-way to encourage walking in the city. The council, by acting on the knowledge that focused dollars is more cost-effective when it comes to the capital budget, will over the next several years be able to complete additional pathways.

7) Tree and Development Codes — The existing codes have, over time, produced a city with 50 percent tree coverage — the most in region. (Note: It is not only the number of trees, but the diameter/age or biomass of the trees that makes a difference.) Jarring as it is when tree(s) comes down, the City continues to work to make sure biomass is added. The recently opened Springs Living at Kruse Way is a wonderful example of that, and proof that the tree and development codes continue to protect and/or add to Lake Oswego’s beloved tree canopy.

8) Other — Whether it be the Farmer’s Market, the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network and more, the City is working in many small, incremental ways to make Lake Oswego resilient, sustainable and climate friendly.

We can’t prepare for the future if we are stuck in the past. We can use the past to instruct the future. Bold ideas by the City but grounded in reality. A thoughtful collaboration among many people. A balance between ambition and realism and a focused, continuous incrementalism to continue to make Lake Oswego a leader in sustainability and a great place to live, work and play.

Jeff Gudman served as a Lake Oswego city councilor from 2011-2018.

Joe Buck served as a Lake Oswego city councilor from 2015–2018.

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