After years of delays, affordable housing plan for Fort Lawton may move forward
More than 200 affordable units could be coming to a swath of land near Discovery Park.
Efforts to redevelop Fort Lawton — a former Army Reserve center in the Magnolia neighborhood — have been in the works for about a decade, delayed by legal challenges from other Magnolia residents and the impacts of the recession.
Now, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is advancing a draft plan that would see units for formerly homeless seniors, low-income renters and low-income buyers developed on the site.
The plan also sets aside land to be used as parks and open space. The draft plan will likely be sent to the Seattle City Council in March.
“As we continue to address Seattle’s housing and affordability crisis, this plan builds on our commitment to drive the development of hundreds of more affordable homes while ensuring that our neighborhoods can be vibrant, livable spaces for this generation and the next,” said Mayor Durkan in a statement.
“We will continue to listen to the community as we move forward on the redevelopment of this critically important public space,” she added.
The draft plan lays out estimates for how many units would be built on the approximately 34-acre stretch and how much they would cost.
In total, the housing portion of the development is estimated to cost $86.9 million.
At a public hearing about potential plans for the site in early 2018, people showed broad support for the idea of bringing affordable housing to the land.
City officials say they’ve done extensive outreach over the years and the proposal has strong support.
“Our hope is that there are no big surprises here and that people agree that this represents a great opportunity to move forward on using publicly-owned property to create an affordable and livable community,” said Emily Alvarado with the City’s Office of Housing.
But the plan to redevelop this site has met with opposition before.
Opponents have advocated for the site to become part of Discovery Park, an environmental learning center for students or a school.
Elizabeth Campbell wants Fort Lawton to be preserved as park land. She is the founder of the Discovery Park Community Alliance. She also founded the neighborhood group which blocked a similar plan in 2008, taking it to court.
Campbell said Tuesday the draft plan Mayor Durkan plans to advance is not the right use for the property.
She said the development would bring hundreds of new residents to the area and that’s a lot of people to add to the Magnolia neighborhood.
Campbell maintains that the City has not followed the rules with this process and she said she plans to challenge this latest draft plan as she has others in the past.
“I think it’s fair to say that we plan legal action,” Campbell said.
The plan includes 85 units of permanent supportive housing for seniors, including veterans, who have experienced homelessness. The total development cost for these studio apartments is projected to be roughly $28 million.
Up to 100 units of rental housing for individuals and families is planned. These would be set aside for people making up to 60 percent of the area median income — today, roughly $60,000 for a family of four. Development of these units is expected to cost about $40 million.
The plan also includes roughly 50 rowhouses and townhomes for buyers with incomes up to 80 percent of the area median income — currently about $80,000 for a family of four. This part of the development is slated to cost a little over $18 million.
Park space and multi-purpose fields are also included in the draft plan.
City officials say most of the land, which is owned by the Army, could be acquired for free or below market rate.
A public meeting on the draft plan is scheduled for Monday, February 11 at 5.30 p.m. at the Catherine Blaine Elementary school in Magnolia. Public comments will be taken at the meeting and can also be submitted to the Office of Housing by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail: Office of Housing – Ft Lawton, PO Box 94725, Seattle, WA 98124-4725. The deadline for comments is February 22, 2019.
If the plan is approved by the City Council, it would go to the federal government and the Army for approval. It may take years for development to start.