A Reversal Of A Vote Halts Plans For Transitional Housing In Clackamas County

Oregon City, Ore. — Clackamas County  has halted plans to purchase a Quality Inn for use as transitional housing after County Chair Tootie Smith announced that she has reversed her earlier vote in favor of the purchase. The county commissioners had voted 3-2 in February to buy the building for $15.2 million, primarily using state and Metro affordable housing bond funds. The building would have been repurposed under “Project Turnkey,” which converts hotels into non-congregate shelters for people who are homeless or displaced.

Smith indicated that her reversal was prompted by public feedback and directed county staff to plan a series of public meetings to gather more input. The board of commissioners will separately convene a “blue ribbon committee” to look at ways to address homelessness, she said. The plan for the hotel drew opposition from businesses, with the original vote in February drawing more than three hours of public testimony during which business owners argued that the hotel’s location would cause a negative impact on the surrounding commercial district.

A Change.org petition against buying the motel gathered almost 2,000 signatures, highlighting some of the opposition that Smith alluded to. The hotel is next to a large strip mall with several businesses, including a McMenamins restaurant. On Tuesday, the property’s landlord filed a lawsuit against the county hoping to stop Project Turnkey. It claimed that putting transitional housing next door would violate deed restrictions suggesting it would be “Out of harmony with the restaurant operating within the shopping center.”

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek shared a statement in response to the vote reversal, calling it a “very disappointing step backward at a time when every leader in Oregon needs to be doing more — not less — to address our homelessness crisis.” Commissioners Mark Shull and Ben West, both of whom voted against the hotel purchase, said the county should pursue other strategies to tackle homelessness and addiction. Commissioner Martha Schrader said she agreed that Measure 110 was a mistake but said she wouldn’t change her vote in favor of purchasing the hotel, arguing that county staff had worked to make sure it would be a drug-free community. Commissioner Paul Savas, who voted in favor of the purchase, was not present at Wednesday’s meeting.