Seniors await new digs

In one room, they're playing cards. In another, they're learning different painting techniques. Sometimes they just sit around and chat. But whatever these senior Huntington Beach residents are doing at the Rodgers Seniors' Center, one thought looms in most of their minds: when will a new senior center be built?

"It's been promised so much in the past and it should have been completed by 2009," said Pat Masino, the kitchen supervisor at Rodgers Seniors' Center. "If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

Masino, who has been at the senior center for almost eight years, said she was excited when she first heard word that a new facility was going to be built. But after watching plans fall through over the years, she hasn't been holding her breath.

"It's nothing to get excited about," she said. "I'd like to see it happen because this place is so old and terrible. Everything about the place is old."

Plans for a new Senior Center have been in limbo for years. A proposal to build a center in Huntington Central Park was approved in 2006 and was slated to be funded by $22-million park fees generated by the Pacific City project.

That idea was met with opposition from a citizens' group called the Parks Legal Defense Fund in 2008. The group argued that the funds from Pacific City could not be used for the center because the money was required to be used to create new open space. After a few turnarounds in court it was ultimately ruled in 2009 that the city would be able to use the funds.

That signaled a go-ahead for the project but by then the funding from Pacific City had dwindled to $7 million.

Another hurdle was the environmental impact report for the project which the Parks Legal Defense Fund and Council Woman Connie Boardman has found issue with. It was last approved by the council in April.

With that hurdle seemingly cleared, the city now needs to find the funding for the project which is expected to cost about $20 million. They are also considering if it should even be build in Central Park after all.

The idea of rebuilding the current building or finding another location have been options the city has recently considered.

Gail Furguson, who has taken art classes and coming to the center for the past 12 years, pointed out some of the things she thinks needs to be fixed or replaced.

Loose-fitting ceiling tiles, chipping paint, window blinds that are tied up to prevent them from falling are just a handful of issues Furguson has with the building.

"[The city] is letting this building disintegrate around us," she said. "You can't flush the toilets once. You have to flush them three or four times."

At the end of their art class, the restroom next to the classroom is known to smell, said Pat Stark, who also takes art classes with Furguson.

Furguson would like to see the city build a new senior center at Central Park and thinks the current building needs more than sprucing up.

"I don't think it needs a refresher. What are you going to do with that bathroom?" she said. "We had tiles that were falling in on us at one point."

"I share the frustration that I've heard. It's taken seven years and nothing has happened," Boardman said at a special meeting on Jan. 25.

Many may be frustrated with the lag in progress, but some are content with the current situation.

Ty Hardin is happy with the current senior center, offering him a place to relax and be around friends.

After nearly 25 years in the film industry, starring in 1958 TV show "Bronco" and the movie "Battle of the Bulge," Hardin is happy that Huntington Beach even has a senior center.

"I love the idea that I don't have to go to the Screen Actors Guild retirement center," he said. "You've got a bunch of crazy kooks out there. Here [at the Rodgers Seniors' Center], I'm in a natural environment."

Though Hardin is content with what is currently available, Furguson, 73, and Stark, 78, want to see the city move forward and build a new center.

"Maybe [the city] thinks a new one is coming, but I don't know if we'll ever see it in our lifetime," Stark said.

Twitter: @acocarpio

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