PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Residents from Lake Oswego’s Westlake Neighborhood made it abundantly clear at the city council meeting Tuesday night that they are not open to the idea of repurposing their tennis courts to become pickleball courts.
While the councilors did not have any item on their agenda related to pickleball, the 30-minute public comment period was dominated by the discussion.
Tuesday was the first meeting held since the city councilors voted 4-3 on Jan. 17 to immediately close the pickleball courts at George Rogers Park and to explore the option of transforming the tennis courts at Westlake Park into pickleball courts, while turning the George Rogers pickleball courts into tennis courts.
Councilors decided to close the courts after a year of Old Town Neighborhood residents complaining about the constant pop-pop sounds made by people playing pickleball. The George Rogers Park pickleball courts were built in 2015.
As they face the possibility of the sport moving into their territory, Westlake Neighborhood residents testified saying they have the same concerns as Old Town neighbors.
“After 8 years of hurting some people, why would you consider hurting somebody else in our community? Moving a problem is not solving a problem,” said Harlan Levy, a Westlake Neighborhood resident and avid tennis player who testified at the council meeting.
Old Town neighbors said the repeated environmental noise was bad for their mental health. At the Jan. 17 city council meeting, Jenny Davies, a public health doctor and environmental attorney, testified and explained that constant environmental noise like the plinking of pickleball can trigger the body’s stress response and can result in serious health conditions like high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
At Tuesday’s meeting, several people testified to share their concern about sound. Many of them were parents of young children who live across from the proposed pickleball site. They worry their kids won’t be able to fall asleep for naps, focus on homework or go to bed on time if there’s noise outside.
Emily James, who lives in one of the closest homes to the courts said that the noise from the pickleball courts would be a big concern for any parent, but it’s especially concerning for her. She has a child who is sensitive to sound.
“While I sympathize with people that want to have pickleball courts, I’m not sure that putting it at the expense of people’s well-being, especially children, is OK,” she said
Other people expressed concern about the Lake Oswego Fire Department station at Melrose Street and Bunick Drive. A task force commissioned in 2022 told the city they’d recommend building pickleball courts in places that are at least 150 feet away from homes. Neighbors in the area said the fire station is within that distance and pointed out that firefighters sometimes sleep there between shifts and the sound might bother them.
Doug Anderson was on the Lake Oswego pickleball site task force. He testified and confirmed Westlake Park was not the site they picked.
The task force recommended that any pickleball court site should be at least 150 feet away from the closest residence. A corner of the tennis courts at Westlake Park falls within that 150-foot buffer.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Anderson asked city councilors to consider installing temporary pickleball courts at four “imperfect” locations until new sites can be built. He suggested converting the tennis courts at Lake Oswego High School to pickleball courts could be a good idea and also asked the councilors to consider designating certain days as pickleball days at tennis courts around the city throughout the summer.
David Dunning, a Lake Oswego pickleball player, asked city councilors if they considered the mental health of pickleball players when they decided to shut down the only public pickleball courts in the city.
He also said Councilor Ali Afghan should have recused himself from any vote related to the pickleball courts since he lives near George Rogers Park and was outspoken against the noise from the courts in 2022 before he was elected to the city council.
Other Westlake neighbors testified saying they fear the sounds from pickleball courts could decrease the value of their homes, they don’t want the tennis courts to be removed and they feel pickleball players should wait until the city has enough funding to build them new courts in a more remote area.
The city did consider other possible locations to construct pickleball courts at the Jan. 17 meeting, but the mayor said the city did not have the funds for the extensive construction that would be required at those sites.
At the end of the half-hour public testimony, Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck encouraged everyone who spoke to participate in the public process as the city determines if pickleball courts should be installed in Westlake Park.
Ivan Anderholm, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said the city has scheduled a pre-application conference with the city’s planning department for Feb. 9. Both the Westlake Neighborhood Association and the Oak Creek Neighborhood Association have been invited to attend the meeting. The city will also schedule a formal neighborhood meeting to discuss the project.