Today is the final day to tell City of Seattle officials what you think they should do with an unused plot of land at Fort Lawton. Your options: Build affordable housing on the site, build market-rate housing on the site, turn the land into a(nother) park, or do nothing.
In a housing and homelessness crisis, it may seem obvious that doing nothing is not an option. Yet neighborhood residents continue to oppose the proposal to build housing at the site.
The city's preferred option—affordable housing on site—would result in 238 total housing units at the currently vacant site. Of those, 85 would be apartments for homeless seniors with services on site, plus one unit for a site manager. A hundred of the units would be affordable row houses for rent and 52 would be row houses and town homes built by Habitat for Humanity for purchase. The rentals would be rent-restricted for people making up to 60 percent of area median income or $57,600 for a family of four. The housing for purchase would be for people making up to 80 percent area median income or $72,000 for a family of four. In total, the project could house nearly 600 people.
Seattle tried to build housing at this spot next to Discovery Park back in 2008, but neighborhood opponents killed the project by delay. Now they're threatening to stop the project again. Some opponents say the neighborhood can't handle the traffic from new housing. Some say there's not enough transit access. Some have emailed the city with comments like: “No housing, especially for homeless!?! Don't wreck the best open space in the city with a misdirected faux PC attempt."
And then there are the people who believe new housing will be a threat to nearby Discovery Park. A note for them about scale: Discovery Park is 534 acres. For comparison: Volunteer Park is 48 acres. Gas Works is 20 acres. The city's other two big parks are Carkeek at 220 acres and Seward at 300. The lot that could become housing next to Discovery Park and is just 34 acres. Under the city's plan, 21.6 of those acres would remain park land and open space around the new housing.
According to the City of Seattle, 40,000 low income households here currently spend more than half of their income on housing. To address its housing needs between now and 2030, Seattle will need 27,500 more homes for the lowest income people, according to the Housing Development Consortium. The most recent available numbers show that around 8,500 people are experiencing homelessness in Seattle. A city survey found that 93 percent of those asked would move inside if safe, affordable housing was available.
During an earlier comment period this summer, many city residents (including people who said they live near the site) emailed the city in opposition. But at a public hearing on the issue earlier this month, the mood was the opposite. Pro-housing speakers dominated the three-hour meeting. Since then, opponents have been organizing to email the city. In person and written comments carry the same weight, according to the Seattle Office of Housing.
After the Office of Housing considers public comment, it will issue a final environmental impact statement (EIS) this spring and send the plan to the city council. At that point, neighborhood opponents could appeal the final EIS in an effort to delay the project.
You can submit your comments through 5 pm today by email at OH_Comments@seattle.gov or by mail to Lindsay Masters, Office of Housing, PO Box 94725, Seattle, WA 98124.