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Residents want to stop redevelopment of Discovery Park’s Fort Lawton

Fort Lawton at Discovery Park. (Joe Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons)

A citizen group is fighting back against the City of Seattle’s plans to turn Fort Lawton, the decommissioned Army base at the main entrance to Magnolia’s Discovery Park, into 238 units of affordable housing.

Spearheading the Discovery Park + 29 movement to save Fort Lawton is Seattle City Council District 7 candidate Elizabeth Campbell, who said that the city’s redevelopment plan will destroy a “jewel in the city park system” at a time when Seattle is already bursting at the seams with population growth.

For one, she pointed out to the Dori Monson Show, with the popularity of Discovery Park as an urban oasis, the Fort Lawton area is currently used for badly-needed overflow parking on busy days.

RELATED: City holds hearing to discuss low-income housing near Discovery Park

“The park is already almost at capacity on weekends,” she said. “An immense number of people come through there … the park needs that additional land to expand and maintain its integrity as a natural space.”

According to Campbell, the city is refusing to think long-term by ignoring its own parks plans, such as the 2017 Parks and Open Space Plan and Comprehensive Plan.

“All of those say that there is going to be a need for additional park space, and they’ve got to plan for 120,000 to 150,000 people in the next, say, five to seven years — well, they’re short of park space for those people,” she said. “So, you know, this is just kind of insanity that the city is marching on, and it’s more ideology than it is a kind of reasonable plan or course of action.”

The city’s plan for Fort Lawton includes three categories of housing — flats and houses for renter households at 60 percent of the area median income, townhouses for owner households at 80 percent AMI, and “homeless supportive housing for older adults, including veterans.”

It goes on to describe that the supportive housing would include onsite case managers, and that addiction and mental health service providers could possibly be brought onsite as well.

Campbell said, however, that the wording is disingenuous, noting that it would be not only the residents of the supportive housing, but also the residents of the units of affordable housing, who would “have issues.”

“It avoids the problem of describing really who is going to be there … the plan is for the city to monitor and have programming in place 24/7 for every level of resident that they have there,” she said. “So, I mean, it’s a highly problematic type of compound that they’re establishing.”

But Discovery Park + 29 is not about NIMBY-ism, she stressed, emphasizing that they support housing for people in need — simply not adjacent to a city park.

“It’s not about Magnolia keeping people out of the area,” she said. “There are lots of other spaces.”

As it is, she said, the city pays a private security company $6,000 a month, on top of city-provided security, to keep the park safe. She predicted these costs will only increase if more residents are brought in.

Through a public disclosure request, Campbell found that the Army major general in charge of the property wrote the city a letter telling it to restore Fort Lawton to the status it had been at when the city took over the fort two years ago.

“The city has allowed at least two of the buildings to be destroyed to such an extent that the Army is thinking about cancelling the city’s lease,” Campbell said.

Discovery Park + 29 plans to use litigation to attempt to stop the development of Fort Lawton. To learn more about this effort, visit the group’s website.

“The parks are critical to Seattle’s plans for growth,” Campbell said. “And it’s just selling our future down the road to just ignore this last piece that can be added to Discovery Park.”

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