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Danice Tombleson: 'My belief is they are treating these people like second-class citizens.'

I will preface my comments by saying that everyone is very supportive of providing low-income senior housing in the Tigard area. Our objection is to its location.

We all know that there is a need for low-income senior housing in Tigard. We also know that this is a "feel-good project," which is why some are afraid to report on it. The large number of individuals who are opposed to the current proposal are only opposed to the location they have chosen.

Among a barrage of other issues, it appears that it will apparently close down the Tigard Senior Center during construction, a center that serves the entire Tigard senior community and which is the location for Meals on Wheels in Tigard.

There was initially a petition opposing the project for which we had obtained 134 signatures, but unfortunately, COVID shut down our continued circulation of this petition. It was provided to the mayor and the City Council and it appeared to be totally ignored as irrelevant. We were even told at the council meeting where many individuals spoke in opposition to the project that we were lucky to even know about it.

This project looks totally different in person than on paper, and now that they have staked out the location of the building, it appears even worse.

From the beginning, they promoted the site as ideal for low-income seniors.

Among the selling points they kept using was its close proximity to downtown Tigard (where there are no grocery stores) via the Fanno Creek trail (which floods regularly during the winter) and to transportation. The access to transportation would be on Hall Boulevard, where the 76 bus goes between Tualatin and Beaverton.  If they wanted to go grocery shopping locally, that bus would take them to the Tigard Transit Mall, where they would need to transfer to another bus that goes along Pacific Highway for such shopping.

They say they would provide a shuttle bus on a regular basis, but this is not an assisted-living facility. This would be low-income individuals, whom many of us believe would want their independence. My belief is they are treating these people like second-class citizens.

Then comes the parking issue. Having lived next door to the Senior Center since it was built, I can say that the parking lot in normal times fills up daily for lunches and activities. There had been an agreement with the neighboring church (Tigard Christian Church at the time, and now Northwest Christian Church) for overflow parking, which overflow occurred daily and on a regular basis, often up to 10 or more cars. NCC has now canceled their shared parking agreement with the city and will not allow any overflow use of their parking lot.

It will also have a negative impact on individuals and families who use the Fanno Creek Trail, as many of them now park in the Senior Center parking lot.

The residents of Chelsea Loop, the family-friendly neighborhood directly to the west of the Senior Center, are also in opposition to this location. The city and NHA have suggested that their street might be used for overflow parking. The limited parking they have planned for the project also does not mention of visitors.

The residents of Chelsea Loop are extremely concerned about the effect this would have on their community, as there is a short path directly to their street from the Senior Center. 

Summing up the parking issue is the fact that there are currently 48 parking spots at the Senior Center. The planned four-story building will be built in the current parking lot, removing many of these spots. They then plan to squeeze in a total of 74 spots with two-way driveways.

This could also complicate the issue of the Meals on Wheels volunteers needing to navigate to the west end of the Senior Center. And I have heard many seniors will not want to return to the Senior Center due to parking issues.

They are removing the driveway around the western edge of the Senior Center. This would mean emergency vehicles would need to back out if they needed to go to the lower parking area. There will only be one narrow entrance to the apartments and the Senior Center from Omara Street. 

In our meetings, NHA kept referring to their project in Wilsonville. My husband and I have visited it more than once, and the circumstances there are totally different. Very adequate parking dedicated only to the apartments; short walking distance to a variety of shopping, including Safeway, Dollar Store, restaurants, bakeries and a Goodwill store; and a city park where they have events. We actually talked to a resident of that facility who had lived there for about 10 years, and when we asked her, she thought the Tigard location was a very bad idea.

They are using a Zoom meeting held in February of this year as fulfilling the requirement for a neighborhood meeting. Unfortunately, the access info they listed on their notice of the meeting posted outside the Senior Center and on Omara Street was wrong, and many were unable to access the meeting.

There are many more issues of concern. A large amount of the community is outraged at this poor decision and the indifference of the city to our concerns. I also apologize if I have unknowingly made any misstatements. As the neighborhood representative for this project, I have heard many comments and concerns from both seniors and neighbors, and I have attempted to represent them here. 

Danice Tombleson is a neighborhood representative on the Tigard Senior Housing Advisory Committee.


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