The city is pushing forward on its plan to develop 238 affordable housing units on a former military base adjacent to Discovery Park in an effort to meet the January deadline set by the federal government for the transfer of the property.
City officials have been trying to develop the Fort Lawton site for more than a decade but hit a delay when the Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council successfully sued in 2008 to force the city to undergo an environmental review for the project.
Now, the city is running up against a hard deadline. The lease with the federal government expires on Jan. 1, 2020 and chances of getting an extension aren’t good, said Emily Alvarado, manager of policy and equitable development with the city of Seattle.
“It is possible that the lease agreement could be negotiated,” Alvarado said. “We entered into a lease agreement because the federal government was getting frustrated with our slow process.”
That means that the city has roughly six months to approve the development plan for Fort Lawton, submit it to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and then make a formal request for land conveyances.
The conveyances are a rare opportunity to acquire the 34-acre parcel at relatively low cost to the city and incorporate low-income housing in a section of the city best known for its high land prices and opulent single-family homes.
The development would include supportive housing, 85 units for homeless seniors, affordable rental units and home ownership options while preserving the existing natural areas. Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Housing Services and the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation are partnering with the city to build the units, and Catholic Community Services will provide onsite case management for the permanent supportive housing.
The city also plans to include two multipurpose athletic fields and a maintenance facility for Seattle Parks and Recreation.
The inclusion of playfields is a reflection of the city’s values, said Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
“The statement we are making through that is that all households, regardless of income, and their children deserve the best,” Sawant said at the meeting.
The total cost of the development is unknown, in part because some of the land will be acquired through a negotiated sale and it’s difficult to predict construction costs, Alvarado said.
However, according to a May 2 presentation from the Office of Housing, the housing portion is expected to cost roughly $87 million and the two fields could come in at $7 million.
The proposed development has faced stiff resistance. The opposition, spearheaded by longtime community activist Elizabeth Campbell, fought to use the 34-acre parcel to expand Discovery Park. However, a public hearing on the evening of May 21 brought out fewer than 30 people to speak on the topic, 10 of whom were opposed.
That’s a steep decline from previous hearings on the plan when as many as 200 people turned out, but it doesn’t mean that the fight is over.
Campbell sent out mailers to households in the area advocating for the entire parcel to be used for parks and open space.
“We’re going to continue to oppose this project,” Campbell told council members at the public hearing.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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