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Community weighs in on affordable housing plans for Fort Lawton

caption: Fort Lawton at night
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Fort Lawton at night
Flickr Photo/Joe Wolf (CC BY 2.0)

A plan to bring affordable housing to a swath of land near Discovery Park received overwhelming support from the residents who attended a public hearing Tuesday night.

Terry Cook lives near the proposed development in Magnolia. She said the addition of affordable housing and services for homeless seniors would benefit the neighborhood.

"Adding affordable housing to Fort Lawton will allow normal people with normal jobs to continue living in our neighborhood," Cook said.

Dozens of speakers packed the hearing Tuesday. Most agreed with Cook and pushed for the city to help ease the affordable housing and homelessness crises by building units at the Fort Lawton site, a former United States Army base.

But Magnolia Roxanne Duniway was one who disagreed with the city's plan. She said she welcomes affordable housing and housing for the homeless in Magnolia, and every neighborhood in the city. But she wants to see this land turned into a public park.

“This cannot be replaced. The city could buy up derelict properties or less expensive properties all around the city, I’m not saying that’s easy, but it can be done. What you can’t do is find a large swath of land that is useable as park," Duniway said.

An attempt to redevelop the site roughly a decade ago was met with a lawsuit from neighborhood groups. But the main criticism on Tuesday from residents was that the city is not being ambitious enough in its affordable housing plans.

Four alternatives for the land were identified through an environmental impact study and were presented at Tuesday’s hearing.

Alternative one is the city’s preferred plan. It would include a mix of affordable housing, including housing for formerly homeless tenants. It would create 238 housing units in total, as well as providing more than 20 acres of parks and recreation areas.

Alternative two would include the creation of market-rate single-family housing at Fort Lawton, with construction of affordable housing at a different site.

Alternative three would see the entire Fort Lawton site developed into a public park. Construction of affordable housing would occur at a different site.

Under alternative four, the city of Seattle would do nothing with the Fort Lawton site.

Emily Alvarado, with the city’s Office of Housing, said she she was not surprised by the support for the city’s plan from most speakers at this public hearing. “I think this tracks closely with the fact that housing affordability and addressing homelessness is a growing concern in the city," she said.

Alvarado said the city is taking public comment on the four alternatives proposed for Fort Lawton through January 29. Comments can be mailed or emailed and all comments will be given the same weight.

Once the public comment period is complete, a final draft plan will be released and sent to the City Council.

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