Citizens group takes on City Hall over senior apartments

From her front yard, Danice Tombleson can see the proposed site of the Along-Side Senior Center Housing Project.
From her front yard, Danice Tombleson can see the proposed site of the Along-Side Senior Center Housing Project, which would be built in the area behind her. Barbara Sherman/Tigard Life

Danice Tombleson has lived in the original Omara house overlooking the Tigard Senior Center since 1972. While she is supportive of the center’s programs that enhance seniors’ lives, she is critical of the city’s plans to construct 58 one-bedroom, affordable apartments for seniors and veterans next to the senior center. 

The latest version of the Tigard Senior Housing alongside the Senior Center shows a four-story, 57-unit apartment building.
The latest version of the Tigard Senior Housing alongside the Senior Center shows a four-story, 57-unit apartment building laid out in a simple rectangular shape on the eastern edge of the property. Courtesy City of Tigard/Sera Architects

With other like-minded folks, Tombleson formed a group called Citizens for Sensible Senior Housing and hired an attorney to fight City Hall to try to prevent the city from going forward with the project.

“The plan that was approved gave the project many waivers, one of the major ones being only one ingress/egress, which would greatly hamper access by emergency vehicles… ” Tombleson said.

The group cites other reasons for the project to be located elsewhere: inadequate parking; being situated too close to Fanno Creek and the Fanno Creek Trail; and causing a negative impact on the senior center, which would be closed during construction.

The four-story complex, called the Along-Side Senior Center Housing Project, is proposed to have 26 parking spaces in addition to the senior center’s 48 parking spots.

Tombleson said the location is not close to transportation and shopping, adding that although the complex would be close to the bus line on Hall Boulevard, “to get to any shopping, (seniors) have to change buses at the Tigard Transit Mall to go to Fred Meyer, Safeway, etc.” 

She added, “Almost everyone is supportive of building more affordable housing for seniors, but this is just not the right location.”

Tombleson has been a member of the nearby Northwest Christian Church since 1976, and the church has a parking overflow agreement with the city that allows senior center guests to park in the church lot if the senior center lot is full.

“I have been informed by the church representative that even though the current overflow plan is still in place, once construction begins, they will cut it off,” Tombleson said. 

Citizens for Sensible Senior Housing filed a land-use decision appeal application with the Community Development Department, and there will be a public hearing on the issue before Washington County Hearings Officer Joe Turner on Monday, Dec. 13, at approximately 7 p.m. depending on other agenda items.

For those wondering why the senior center has been closed to in-person dining and activities for so long, that decision was made by Meals on Wheels People, according to Joanne Bengston, executive assistant to the Tigard city manager and mayor. She said the organization is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Oregon Health Authority to prevent the spread of Covid.

“The city leases the building to Meals on Wheels People for a very nominal fee, and although the city owns the building, we do not provide any of the programming that takes place on site,” Bengston wrote in an email.

As far as reopening for in-person dining and programs, Bengston said, “Unfortunately, they haven’t settled on a date yet, but they continue to provide Meals on Wheels food-delivery service.”

Sean Farrelly, the city’s redevelopment project manager for the Town Center Development Agency, said in an email that Tigard Senior Center programs will be temporarily relocated during the apartment complex construction.

“The anticipated construction period is 14 months, starting in March/April 2022,” Farrelly said. “The Meals on Wheels People are currently evaluating temporary locations to run their Tigard programs from during this period, as well as evaluating when to return to in-person dining and activities, post Covid restrictions.”

Meanwhile, opposition is growing against apartment complex. Marilyn Sturm, a member of Citizens for Sensible Senior Housing, said that the proposed parking plan puts seniors at risk and added, “Surely (the city can) move this housing project to a more accessible and senior-friendly location close to banking, shopping, restaurants and pharmacies.”

Loretta Holstein, who lives close to the senior center, added, “Who gets on a bus if they don’t have transportation and does major food shopping? For older folks, that would be a challenge, putting all their purchases on a bus. It is even a challenge using one’s own car.”

People may provide public comment testimony during the Dec. 13 meeting by calling 503-966-4101 to be placed in the caller queue. Written public comment may be submitted electronically to garyp@tigard-or.gov. All comments must be submitted before 4:30 p.m. the day of the meeting. To join the hearing, click on www.tigard-or.gov/your-government/public-hearings.

Tombleson is asking people to contribute to Citizens for Sensible Senior Housing’s efforts by helping to pay legal bills. The treasurer is Lois Otting, and checks should be made out to the Jeffrey Kleinman Trust Account and mailed to Otting at 8885 S.W. Omara, Tigard 97223.

“Any amount, even $5 or $10, would be greatly appreciated to show support to move the project to a more accessible and senior-friendly location…” Tombleson said. If people have questions, they can email her at dltombleson@gmail.com.