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Discovery Park Fort Lawton
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Dori: Fort Lawton, public golf courses should not be low-income housing

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

Fort Lawton, the historic military base bordering Discovery Park, is now going to be turned into affordable housing.

Fort Lawton and Discovery Park are wonderful open spaces. Not only that, but they’re pretty remote. It’s not real easy, if you are a low-income person, to get to the grocery store or pharmacist, or anywhere else you’d need to go from that location.

I know that this is controversial, but I don’t know why we’re doing low-income housing on prime real estate. Real estate varies dramatically. In Seattle, we have some of the highest-cost real estate in the United States. Do low-income housing anywhere — in the suburbs, in rural King County. Do it where you can acquire property for dimes on the dollar.

Here’s an idea — you could staff a PX-type barracks where people can access most of their needs, and you have the services for drug treatment and job training. If somebody can manage in a setting like that, you won’t have as many drug dealers out on our streets And fence the complex off so that the drug dealers cannot get in. Tell the residents that this is a place where they can get clean, build a community, and access services. Then, when they’re off the drugs and mentally in a better place, they can transition to housing that’s a little more expensive.

RELATED: Residents want to stop affordable housing development next to Discovery Park

But, this should not be done at Fort Lawton or at any of the Seattle public golf courses, which is the other plan they’re talking about. They’re seriously considering tearing up the golf courses at Jefferson Park, Jackson Park, Interbay, and West Seattle to put low-income housing there.

The golf courses actually make money — they toss 5 percent of their revenues to the parks so that the parks can actually pay their bills. They also serve seniors who want to stay active. They’ve got a program called First Tee that tries to get urban kids involved in golf. The public golf courses provide a way for average people who cannot afford to belong to a private golf club to still enjoy the sport.

If they make the golf course question part of a greater parks levy and allow people to vote on it, then fine. But I think government has a vital role, and that role is to take care of things where there is no profit motive. An example of that is parks — nobody else is going to build a park. You’ve got to have roads and public defense and green spaces, and all of those things are provided by government.

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