A Guide to the City of Lake Oswego, Oregon
Although it’s just eight miles south of downtown Portland, Lake Oswego is not your typical bedroom community. The thriving city of almost 37,000 is centered around the lake of the same name and bordered by the Willamette River, offering wonderful views and great walks.
In the nineteenth century, Lake Oswego was a thriving steel town, but after the smelter fell silent, the area was reborn as a residential development. Since the 1930s Lake Oswego has been one of the well-heeled suburbs of Portland, boasting graceful architecture and ample recreation. The parks, public golf course and meandering picturesque river make the community a pleasant retreat. Portland’s urban amenities are close by and Lake Oswego also supports numerous local cultural endeavors.
The most desirable property is around the large private lake fed by the Tualatin River. The lake is maintained by the Lake Oswego Corporation, and lake access is mostly deeded to lakefront property owners. The lake is closed to anyone but members of the Lake Oswego Corporation.
The Lake Oswego Corporation (LOC) is a non-profit organization that manages all matters regarding the 415-acre Oswego Lake: safety (via the Lake Patrol), water quality, maintenance, boat and operator licensing, lakefront building permits, and special events. The entity manages Oswego Lake through easement agreements involving 694 lakefront and about 4,500 nearby homes, representing 12,000 to 13,000 residents.
The LOC, with the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Lake Oswego, co-sponsor a variety of community activities. Events include: July Fourth Boat Parade and fireworks display; Earth Day, a water-quality education program; and a Christmas Holiday Boat Parade featuring lighted watercraft. The LOC diverts water from the Tualatin River and produces energy through its hydroelectric facility.
The lake hasn’t always enjoyed the reputation it does today. The Oregon Iron & Steel Co. managed it until 1941, when property owners incorporated as the Lake Corp. It wasn’t until the collapse of the iron industry in the late 1800s that Oregon Iron & Steel began marketing the lake as a playground for the wealthy. Sucker Lake’s name was changed to Oswego Lake and weekend cottages became year-round homes. Now, houses on the lake routinely sell for $1 million and more. Property owners have shares in the corporation, depending on the amount of lake frontage they own. Of the 6,000 plus shares, the 20 neighborhood easements each have one; the city, which owns property on Lakewood Bay, has 92.
Access to the Lake
It’s a 415-acre lake used by at least 800 registered boaters. But officially, Lake Oswego’s favorite playground is nonnavigable. That helps keep outsiders off the water. When Oregon gained statehood in 1859, the state assumed ownership of all land underlying navigable waterways, setting up a conflict with property owners who surround Oswego Lake and continue to claim it as their own. Landowners have since enlarged the lake and strengthened their legal position. In 1976, then-U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield won approval of federal legislation declaring the lake nonnavigable. But every few years someone challenges the ruling and wants to revisit the issue. They claim the state’s sovereign rights to the water supersede federal and private designations and that the city is obligated to pursue public access.
Lake Oswego One of Ten Best Places to Raise Children
Portland’s Lake Oswego has been identified as one of the country’s top ten most desirable places for parents to live in an annual study conducted in 2014. Lake Oswego took the number six spot.
The report, by online real estate brokerage ZipRealty, was compiled by analyzing the best-rated public school districts in 23 areas nationwide and the median price per square foot for real estate in those areas.
In order for an area to be considered, it needed at least 10 home sales to close in 2013.
ZipRealty also named Lake Oswego School District as the third best school district in the country with the most affordable homes in May 2013. The real estate brokerage company ranked school districts by coming up with a 1 to 10 score for schools — based on 2010 test scores and student-to-teacher ratio — and using the median price per square foot for a home in the district. Lake Oswego’s 9.6 school score combined with a median price per square foot of $167 netted it the third-place spot. The majority of the districts in the top ten are suburban ones outside major cities.
The Oregon State Department of Education awarded all the schools in the Lake Oswego a grade of “Outstanding” for the 2011-12 school year. They had achieved the same grade in previous years.
Communities in Lake Oswego
Historic Lake Oswego is known as “First Addition” which originated in the 1890s when the town was still called simply Oswego. This neighborhood is in the far east side of the city, north of “A” Street. It’s an area of 25-30 blocks of historic homes. You will also find many newer homes in the area. This property is so desirable that people buy up bargain homes and replace them with new ones. Many of the First Addition blocks have alleys.
In 2006, Cottage Living magazine named First Addition as one of the ten best cottage communities in the country. The national magazine gushed over the quaint homes, the easy walk to downtown and Lake Oswego, and the “jewel-box gardens winking from behind picket fences.”
If you live in First Addition, it’s a short walk to the “Village Center”, a 6-7 block area of offices, shops, markets, and a few restaurants. The north end of the neighborhood borders the 645-acre Tryon Creek State Park.
First Addition was where “additional” workers lived when a local iron foundry boomed briefly. Remnants of the foundry may still be seen a short way upriver at George Rogers Park, where picnic grounds, ball fields, tennis courts and cozy beaches offer a compact and inviting family-fun venue.
Visit the First Addition Neighborhood Association website.
Mountain Park a nationally recognized planned community in Lake Oswego with a population of approximately 10,000.
Mountain Park is situated on 700 acres of land and is located on a dormant volcano known as Mt. Sylvania in the Northwest corner of Lake Oswego. Mountain Park was the vision of Carl Halvorson and was developed in 1968. Most of the 185 acres of common area is undeveloped and maintained in a natural state and a large portion is manicured and beautifully landscaped. Mountain Park is made up of single family homes, townhouses, condominiums, and apartments.
The summit of Mountain Park (Nansen Summit) is 975 feet in elevation and a stunning 360 degree view. The entire Portland Metro area and the Cascades and Coastal Mountain ranges can be seen on a clear day.
As a member of the Mountain Park Home Owners Association you have access to all amenities including the Recreation Center, tennis courts, parks, playgrounds, 15 miles of walking paths, and a host of life-style enhancing services, programs and special events provided by the Mountain Park Staff.
Portland Monthly Magazine Neighborhood Guide
The Portland Monthly magazine features neighborhoods in their April issue every year. It has a ton of information about neighborhoods to include their pick of the best neighborhoods for the year.
To help those in the housing market, the magazine combines all the data from 120 neighborhoods and communities in the Portland metro area. Include in the story are housing prices, school ratings, demographics, crime statistics, parks, commuting information, and services. For the past three years, Portland Monthly has been cautiously optimistic about Portland’s metro area slow-simmering real estate market. But 2013 saw a surge of good news. Home buying is up—way up. Almost half of the neighborhoods have returned to the median home prices they enjoyed five years ago. In many places, crime is down. Indeed, a whopping 73 percent of people who took the magazine’s reader survey think it’s a good time to buy—and to sell—a home.
To visit the magazine’s website 2014 stories and numbers visit their Real Estate section — click on “Neighborhoods” to view the numbers for the Portland 90 plus neighborhoods and click on “Suburbs” for the numbers on 26 communities in the metro area.
Parks and Recreation
The Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation Department offers numerous programs and activities for adults, teens, and youngsters. Classes include gardening, golf, tennis, sculling, plus many others.
There is a city-owned sports center on the Willamette River, two public swimming facilities on the 405-acre Oswego Lake, a self-financed 18-hole golf course, indoor tennis center, and outdoor amphitheater right along the river.
There are 539 acres of parks and open spaces in Lake Oswego. In addition to the city’s parks, the 645-acre Tyron Creek State Park is Oregon’s only state park within a major metropolitan area and it is located in the northeast corner of Lake Oswego. Lake Oswego has 14 miles of bike lanes.
Lakewood Theater Company
The Lakewood Theater Company is a popular and financially successful member of the arts community, it is the cornerstone around which Lakewood Center has been built. Lakewood Theater Company began in November, 1952, when a group of Lake Oswegans decided that their community was not complete without a theater and decided to organize what was known as the Oswego Players.
Lake Oswego Walking Tour
Lake Oswego has reclaimed its industrial waterfront, turning it into a series of riverside parks. This 4.4 walk takes you from the Millennium Plaza Park with its view of Lakewood Bay and adjoining shops and restaurants, back to the origin of the once gritty mining town of Oswego. Click here to download the guide.
Community Demographics and Websites
- City of Lake Oswego 2010 US Census Demographics Profile of general demographics characteristics.
- City of Lake Oswego City website.
- Clackamas County Elections Division How Lake Oswego votes.
- Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce Chamber of Commerce.
- Lake Oswego Review Weekly newspaper.
1Lake Oswego Home Prices for 2007-2013
- Number of Homes Sold in Lake Oswego—► 830 homes were sold in 2013 and 9% were distressed sales. 710 homes were sold in 2012 and 22% were distressed sales. 607 homes were sold in 2011 and 9% were distressed property sales. In 2010 there were 564 homes sold and 22% were distressed property sales.
- Median Price for Homes Sold in Lake Oswego—► $445,250 in 2013, $404,475 in 2012, $390,000 in 2011, $400,000 in 2010, $408,000 in 2009, $492,500 in 2008, and $485,000 in 2007.
- 1-Year Median Sales Price Change for Lake Oswego—► In 2013 the sales price change was -8%. In 2012 the sales price change was 4%, in 2011 the sales price change was -3%, and in 2010 the change was -2%.
- 5-Year Median Sales Price Change in Lake Oswego—► 2009 to 2013 the sales price change was 9%. 2008 to 2012 the sales price change was -18%. 2007 to 2011 the sales price change was -20%. From 2006 to 2010 the change was -18%.
- Portland Metro Area Median Home Price—► $265,000 in 2013, $235,000 in 2012, $221,000 in 2011, $239,900 in 2010, $247,000 in 2009, $278,000 in 2008, and $290,000 in 2007.
- Portland Metro Area Average Home Price—► $310,600 in 2013, $275,000 in 2012, $263,300 in 2011, $282,100 in 2010, $289,900 in 2009, $330,300 in 2008, and $342,000 in 2007.
Homes for Sale in Lake Oswego
- Displays All Homes for Sale in Lake Oswego — View on all devices. Photos of homes displayed along with detailed description of property.
- Displays Homes New on the Market in Lake Oswego — View on all devices. Photos of homes displayed along with detailed description of property.
More About Lake Oswego
- Location Eight miles south of downtown Portland. You can approach Lake Oswego from the west on I-5 and the east on Highway 43.
- Origin of Name “Oswego” is derived from the Iroquois phrase “on ti ahan toque,” meaning “where the valley widens” or “flowing out.” The founders of Lake Oswego named it after their home town (Oswego) in New York.
- Neighborhood Associations The City has 21 neighborhood associations.
- Topography Gently rolling hills and some flat areas with mature trees in yards and parks.
- Parks 1,184 acres to include the Tyron State Park.
- 2Drive Time to Downtown About 20 minutes.
- Public Transportation View the schedules and a map of the Lake Oswego Transit Center. Lake Oswego has four bus lines and two of these routes, the 35 and the 36, go between the downtown Portland bus mall and Lake Oswego. No MAX light rail or streetcar service. It is a remote possibility that the popular Portland streetcar line may be extended into Lake Oswego sometime in the distant future. Transit Score provides a 0-100 rating indicating how well an address is served by public transportation. Ratings range from “Rider’s Paradises” to areas with limited or no nearby public transportation.
- 3Census 2010 Demographics Population: 36,619. Area size: 10.68 square miles. Number of households: 15,311. Median household income of $81,097 (metro area median household was $49,260). Diversity: 10.7% non-Caucasian. Percent of residents over 25 years of age holding a bachelor’s degree or higher: 66.1%. Median value of owner-occupied housing units: $535,300. See City Data for more information about Lake Oswego.
- Crime Stats The latest crime stats (by neighborhood) are available at the Lake Oswego Police Department.
- Sex Offenders Click here for the State of Oregon Sex Offender Inquiry System. After agreeing to the “Conditions of Use Statement” you will be redirected to a “Enter Search Criteria” page. Insert a zip code in the “Zip” field and click on the “Query” button.
- 4Shopping and Services Number of supermarkets: 5. Number of health clubs: 6. Public libraries: 1. There are three commercial areas in Lake Oswego. (1) A 5-6 block area known a First Addition along Highway 43 on the east side of the city. This commercial section continues south of the First Addition along highway 43. (2) A mix of malls and businesses on the west side of Lake Oswego and south of Kruse Way on Boones Ferry Road. (3) A mall on the north end (west side) of the city on Boones Ferry Road.
- Renters vs. Home Owners Occupied owner units in Lake Oswego according to Census 2010: 71.7%. Median value of owner-occupied housing units: $535,300.
- Who Lives in Lake Oswego Families drawn to the highly-regarded school system and quiet suburban life style as well as retirees who want to golf and enjoy the facilities of the Adult Community Center. The city residents are professionals as evidenced by the median income of $79,406 according to Census 2010. The percentage of residents 25 and older that hold a bachelor’s degree or higher is 66.1%.
- They Probably Drive Luxury vehicles such as BMWs and Mercedes are often seen on the streets of Lake Oswego along with SUVs.
- Biking 14 miles of bike lanes.
- Schools Lake Oswego School District. The schools in the Lake Oswego rate among the best in the state as evidenced by the state report cards and test scores.
- 5School Report Card Grades Click here for report card details. Select “Lake Oswego 7J” from the district list and you can view the list of schools in the district and select individual schools for viewing.
- Housing Types and Styles Lake Oswego’s original neighborhoods reflect a glimpse of England, with English Cottage and Tudor Revival homes designed by architect Richard Sundeleaf between 1920 and 1940. Today most residents live in new developments in a variety of housing types to include condos and townhomes.