Group vows to keep fighting senior housing project

From her front yard, Danice Tombleson has looked down on the Tigard Senior Center since it was built, and she can’t imagine a four-story building being built next to it.
From her front yard, Danice Tombleson has looked down on the Tigard Senior Center since it was built, and she can’t imagine a four-story building being built next to it. Barbara Sherman/Tigard Life

Dozens of senior citizens fighting to prevent an affordable apartment facility from being constructed next to the Tigard Senior Center were angry and disappointed after City Hearings Officer Joe Turner denied their appeal on Feb. 2.

Northwest Housing Alternatives received city approval to construct a four-story building with 58 one-bedroom apartments for people age 62 and older called the Along-Side Senior Center Housing Project. It would be located adjacent to the Senior Center on a current parking lot with its main entrance opposite the Senior Center entrance.

Danice Tombleson, who has lived in the original Omara house that overlooks the Senior Center since 1972, formed a group called Citizens for Sensible Senior Housing and hired an attorney to fight the project.

Her group argued that too many waivers were given for the project to be approved, including allowing only one ingress/egress, plus the parking is inadequate, there would be a negative impact on the Fanno Creek Trail, there are no basic services or public transportation close by, and the Senior Center, which has been closed due to Covid-19, would remain closed for the anticipated 14-month construction period.

“Final approval of the funding by Washington County does not take place until March…” Tombleson said. “I plan on reaching out to the mayor and City Council… The City Council by all appearances does not care about the Senior Center, and I plan on pointing out to them that the closure of the Senior Center for 2 ½ to three years will in all reality kill it.”

Tombleson added that “the Senior Center will be the required common area for the apartments,” and she noted, “The many seniors I have spoken with say this will be a takeover by the residents of the apartments as capacity in the past could sometimes be limited.”

The City of Tigard owns the Senior Center facility and leases it to the Meals on Wheels People, which operates it and runs all the programs. The Meals on Wheels People closed the center to in-person dining and activities when the pandemic hit except for its meal-delivery program, which will have to be changed to a different location before the apartment construction starts in March/April.

Several of the seniors shared their thoughts on the project via email with each other and Tigard Life.

Pat Biggs, who was a long-time member of the Tigard-Tualatin School Board, wrote, “In reading the decision by the hearings officer, I still don’t understand how they are going to get 72 parking spaces. They talk about a ‘hammerhead’ turn-around for large vehicles (fire trucks, garbage trucks). That will take up some of the parking area they are counting on… No one seems to want to address the obvious parking limitations.”

Loretta Holstein, who lives close to the Senior Center on Omara, wrote, “So discouraging. How much do you want to bet that our Senior Center never will open again, at least in the location where it is now? It is hard to put a lot of trust in our city, the way it works… So sad. Only a miracle will stop this.”

Jean Viets added via email, “Thank you, Loretta. I agree!”

Sharin Moznette asked, “Can we get out a big letter-writing campaign and hand-carry those letters to a City Council meeting… and present those letters and our list of specific concerns, and request them to respond (in the moment) to these letter-writers (and the many they each represent) and to our list of concerns?”

Tombleson is still planning to fight the project and is asking for the public’s help by contributing to Citizens for Sensible Senior Housing. Checks should be made out to the Jeffrey Kleinman Trust Account and mailed to 8885 S.W. Omara St., Tigard 97223.