Affordable housing project moves forward in Tualatin

Plambeck Gardens affordable housing project.
Carleton-Hart Architecture is the designer of the 116-unit Plambeck Gardens affordable housing project, which was granted a variance from parking and height regulations by the Tualatin Planning Commission at a Nov. 18 meeting. Courtesy Carleton-Hart Architecture
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Plambeck Gardens to be built off Boones Ferry Road in the Basalt Creek neighborhood

An affordable housing project planned for the Basalt Creek neighborhood received the go-ahead from the Tualatin Planning Commission last month, despite objections from neighbors concerned about traffic impacts and other issues. 

A barn sits on the 4.66 acre parcel.
A barn sits on the 4.66 acre parcel off S.W. Boones Ferry Road in the Basalt Creek area of Tualatin where the Community Partners for Affordable Housing plans to build a 116-unit affordable housing project. Courtesy City of Tualatin

Commissioners voted unanimously at a Nov. 18 meeting to approve a variance to city building height restrictions and parking requirements to allow project applicants, the Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH), to move the planned four-story, 116-unit apartment project forward. The variance was needed, according to the applicants, because both excessive sloping and soft soils on the 4.66 acre rendered much of the plot unfit and shrunk the area upon which a structure could be placed. This, in turn, also reduced the area available for parking. 

“There is an excessive slope on the north side of the site,” said Melissa Soots, a project manager and associate with Carleton Hart Architecture, the designer of the project. “The northwest corner is 12-and-a-half feet lower than the northwest corner of the building, and that area also has unsuitable soils. There’s also an existing hill at the northeast corner of the site, and that corner also has unsuitable soils and would have to be fully excavated to provide a suitable foundation.” 

CPAH acquired the property, which sits just south of the Horizon Community Church, in March 2020 after gaining support from the City of Tualatin. The City then annexed the property earlier this year. 

“We are a little more than midway through our development arc to get to construction,” said CPAH Housing Director Jilian Saurage Felton. “We anticipate construction would begin in early 2023, we are not at a complete design set yet and we would not move forward without knowing the commission will approve our request.” 

The project has already been awarded $16 million from the 2018 Metro affordable housing bond fund, and Felton noted that it is also backed by “a large amount of private investment” from private lenders and low-income housing tax credits.

The project will consist of two four-story residential buildings and a single-story community building. Apartments will be a mix of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units. 

Despite the ongoing need for affordable housing throughout the Portland metro area, there has been significant opposition to the project, primarily based around concerns over adding additional vehicle traffic to an already congested Boones Ferry Road. 

“You already have a huge bottleneck going into Tualatin High School, especially during school hours, and the traffic just super concerns me,” Tualatin resident John Miller said. “But if they already knew of the issues before they bought the land, it seems like a maximizing of profit.” 

Other residents testified that they are in favor of the project because of the overwhelming need for housing locally. 

“When I heard about this development, you could have heard me three blocks away from my ‘Yahoo!’” said Carole Grennough, a member of the board of directors for nonprofit group Family Promise of Tualatin Valley. 

Commissioners listened to public testimony for far longer than they debated the matter, moving to a vote just minutes after testimony concluded. From here, it will require an architectural review before any building permits can be issued. 

“If you got rid of your community center, if you could shoehorn everything in at three stories and make the site not super livable, it would defeat the purpose,” commission chair Bill Beers said. “It definitely aligns with Tualatin’s 2040 goals, which is something that is very important like (Commissioner) Ursula (Kuhn) and others have said. This is the last buildable land that is zoned this way in Tualatin.”