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Lawsuit over Fort Lawton affordable housing project dismissed after two-year court battle

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

In 2019, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to convert 35 acres of the city’s historic Fort Lawton situated next to Discovery Park into affordable housing. Nearly two years later, a court battle that has kept that project in limbo may finally be coming to an end.

Seattle will turn historic Fort Lawton into affordable housing

That fight began with a lawsuit filed by Elizabeth Campbell shortly after the council approved the project, arguing that the Fort Lawton area is often needed for overflow parking for neighboring Discovery Park, and that she had concerns over neighborhood safety should affordable housing residents move into the Magnolia neighborhood.

As SCC Insight’s Kevin Schofield reported, Campbell has subsequently seen a “revolving-door” of legal representation over the life of her lawsuit, all while frequently failing to follow court procedures. That culminated in her lawyer withdrawing from the case last fall, leaving her to represent herself in court.

Last week, a judge dismissed the case entirely, ruling that the U.S. Army — which still owns the property and was added to the case by the City of Seattle — could not be sued by Campbell because she had not adequately proven how the proposed housing development would negatively impact them.

Campbell will be allowed a chance to refile, but can only do so provided the Army is the only defendant. Because of rules granting the federal government immunity from lawsuits excepting extremely specific circumstances, though, Campbell likely has a high bar to clear in order to revive her lawsuit.

Residents want to stop redevelopment of Fort Lawton

Should the project be allowed to move forward, it would create nearly 240 affordable homes, spanning permanent supportive housing for seniors to apartment units for low-wage individuals and families.

According to Mayor Jenny Durkan, “a substantial portion of the land” will also still be used for “park and park-related uses, with the preservation of existing natural areas that support wildlife habitat.”

In the meantime, the judge overseeing the case has set a May 13 deadline for Campbell to refile her case.

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