County OKs Transitional Housing Project at Former Hotel Despite Opposition

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners on Thursday narrowly approved a plan to buy a Quality Inn located on Sunnyside Road in Clackamas and transform it into approximately 100 units of transitional housing for county residents experiencing homelessness.

County officials said the price of the hotel will be $15.2 million, most of it paid for with state funding and Metro affordable housing bond funds, including an approximately $8.0 million award from the Oregon Community Foundation as part of Project Turnkey.

The remaining amount will be covered with a combination of voter-approved funds from the state and Metro. No county general funds will be used for the purchase of the hotel, officials said.

The vote followed more than three hours of public testimony from local advocates and community health professionals, elected officials, business owners and residents, some in favor of the project and others sharply opposed.

“I’m not opposed to Project Turnkey, however, I am opposed to the location you selected,” said Happy Valley Mayor Tom Ellis. “This is a high-density business district, and as we all know, brick-and-mortar businesses are struggling right now after the pandemic.”

“These businesses, especially a lot of folks behind me, they’re still fighting for their businesses,” added Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam. “And just as they get on their feet, they have the commissioners put in a homeless facility right in the heart of their businesses.”

The inn is located at 9717 Southeast Sunnyside Road, just off the Interstate 205 exit. It abuts a commercial area densely packed with businesses and restaurants along Southeast Stevens and Bob Schumacher roads and is less than a quarter-mile from the Clackamas Town Center mall.

The Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center is just across the street, and its leaders have formally expressed their support for the project.

“We think it’s the right move to support the most vulnerable in our community,” Dan Field, director of community health for Kaiser Permanente Northwest, said Thursday.

Ultimately, county leaders were nearly as divided on the project as the general public, with Commissioners Mark Shull and Ben West, who had telegraphed his opposition in a tweet Sunday, voting no and Commissioners Martha Schrader and Paul Savas voting in favor.

Chair Tootie Smith was the tie-breaking yes vote and explained her decision was based on the desire to address homelessness in Clackamas County.

“I was elected to solve problems,” said Smith. “This is something that this board has inherited for the last two years, and as a public official, we are trying to solve this problem. … Our residents recently prioritized homelessness as the No. 1 issue they care about.

“We know that purchasing this property is the right thing to do to help residents living outside stabilize their lives and get into permanent housing.”

Savas pointed out that the fears of business owners were proven to be unfounded when they decried the county’s establishment of a Veterans Village in 2018, and the county has been renting out hotel rooms on McLoughlin Boulevard to transition people out of homelessness for years.

“There’s a mandate to fix this problem,” Savas said. “This is part of the solution.”

While supporting the project, Smith acknowledged the concerns of business owners, local elected officials and residents.

She said the program will have 24/7 security, property management and crisis staff, and will also provide services such as case management, physical and mental health care, substance use treatment, financial education and healthy food.

“The county pledges to be good neighbors,” Smith said. “We are among the safest counties in this state because of the investments we make in public safety infrastructure. We will bring those resources to the table for this project as well.”

Officials said the county will continue to meet with adjacent businesses and will establish and abide by a “good neighbor agreement.”

The county will now enter a 30-day escrow period as the purchase of the hotel moves forward. Staff will also begin the process of choosing an agency to run the wrap-around services.

The first residents will begin to move in starting in July, the county said.

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