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Multnomah County is in the process of finalizing a lease on a building on Southeast Sandy Boulevard to house a new “deflection center” that will allow drug addicts to be deported and treated to avoid jail time, according to an email from County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson to county commissioners.

“I have an update to share on our progress through September 1st and our Treatment Readiness location,” Vega Pederson wrote. “After thorough negotiations with a potential building, our facilities team is in the process of finalizing a lease on a facility for our Treatment Readiness Dispensing Center.”

The address is 900 SE Sandy Blvd., Vega Pederson said in the email.

“There is excellent transportation for our law enforcement partners and all required service providers, both in terms of highway access and site access,” Vega Pederson wrote.

The site was first reported by The Oregonian Today.

The center, established by a bill amending Measure 110, the 2020 initiative to decriminalize hard drugs, faced opposition before its location became known beyond a small circle.

In testimony before the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, Susan Lindsay, co-chair of the Buckman Community Association, said she was contacted by Hayden Miller, senior policy adviser to Vega Pederson, who told her the center would be coming to the Buckman neighborhood.

“I have some concerns,” Lindsay said. “There was no direct involvement from anyone in the neighborhood. There is no benefit to a neighborhood that is thriving and trying to thrive despite many challenges to simply transport addicts from one part of the city to another and drop them off.”

The center’s mission and the definition of “diversion” are currently being worked out by Vega Pederson and a small group that includes representatives from law enforcement and prosecutors.

At a public meeting on June 24, county policy adviser Alicia Temple said the goal of the center is to “connect individuals who would otherwise be arrested for possession of a controlled substance to a mental health treatment plan and appropriate recovery.”

The Sandy site is diagonally across the street from Soho House, the chic, hipster, members-only club and fitness center that opened in Portland after having locations in London, Paris, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. It’s also near upscale sports bar Jackie’s, as well as the old Lolo Pass Hotel, which Central City Concern bought for a drug treatment center.

The building is owned by a company controlled by SolTerra, a Seattle-based developer that is building an apartment-hotel-spa complex not unlike Soho House on Northeast Alberta Street.

“The county has a short-term lease on this property,” said Danya Feltzin, SolTerra’s executive director, in an email. The county is “committed to maintaining a peaceful and orderly environment, respecting the community, and addressing all legitimate concerns of neighbors lawfully, promptly, and as effectively as possible. They will provide transportation to and from the site and will make every commercially reasonable effort to ensure that individuals using their services do not loiter off-site.”

The new center will open Sept. 1, as required by lawmakers, and will offer “screening, basic services, and connection to addiction recovery services,” Vega Pederson said in her email. It will be “open specifically for drug dispensing by law enforcement when those individuals are found in possession of drugs in consumable quantities.”

Multhomah County’s plans for the diversion center have infuriated state Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), who helped draft House Bill 4002, which would have killed parts of Measure 110.

“I do not believe Multnomah County’s proposal to place people in some type of drop-off center without any screening or aftercare plan is consistent with best practices or the requirements of the law,” Rayfield said in a June 12 letter to a group that included Vega Pederson.

The diversion center is slated to be built in the county commissioner’s district, which is represented by Sharon Meieran, Vega Pederson’s fiercest critic on the board, with whom she clashes over homelessness and drug policy. Meieran said she learned of the center’s location through rumors.

“The only real distraction that has taken place here is the distraction from responsibility,” Meieran said in a text to WW. “Neighbors testified today that they were informed only two days ago that a diversion center was coming to their neighborhood. That concerns me. What concerns me even more is that I was literally not informed AT ALL about a diversion center that is already being leased in my district.”