On the Meeting at Fort Lawton and Use of the Land for a Future School
Big thanks to Valerie Cooper Lisa Reibin Evans for all their hard work on this issue and for their careful notes on this meeting on January 9, 2018. I do want to call out one key point:
Valerie and I were both surprised by the what was considered “infrastructure” by many in the audience and that perceptions of infrastructure were limited to amenities such as markets, shops, etc. but not inclusive or considering schools, adequate access to first responders, or impact on Metro services, etc.
It was also unsettling to hear how unaware the audience was as to the capacity issues the district faces and the resources that are critical and should be accessible to families in need at school sites (ie. Counsellors, Social Workers, School Nurses) to best ensure every chance for educational opportunity, student support and success and that these are not fully funded and thereby not readily available.
We heard so many in this audience say "it doesn't cost much to build a school" or "it's easy to add buses" or "these neighbours can afford to pay more in taxes to get these things into Magnolia".Start of narrative:
It was standing room only on Tuesday evening in Magnolia when the City, via the Office of Housing, hosted a community open house to present their Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) for the 29 acre parcel at Ft. Lawton at the southeast edge of Discovery Park. From the City those in attendance included Office of Housing Director, Steve Walker; Emily Alvarado, Manager of Policy and Equitable Development and Lindsay Masters, Project Manager, who directed the community engagement meetings late last spring.
Also in attendance were Council Members Sally Bagshaw, Teresa Mosqueda and Kashma Sawant. Eden Mack, SPS Board Director and Dr. Flip Herndon, Associate Supt. Facilities and Operations were also present but did not speak. A significant number of media outlets from print to radio to television were there to cover the story.
The room was filled well before the 5:45 start time and many stood outside, in the entry-way and doors, in an attempt to hear the presentation and with hopes to testify. The audience differed greatly from the previous two community meetings with the majority of the audience being from outside of the immediate neighbourhood – representing potential stakeholders in the process inclusive of Habitat for Humanity (staff and residents of Habitat projects); Real Change (vendors and Board Members) ; housing and homeless advocacy groups; community members who identify as housing challenged and/or homeless; citywide congregational assembly leaders; and, other non-profit and citizen advocacy groups. According to many, there was a concerted coordination effort from within the Homeless Services (City of Seattle - Human Services Dept.) to ensure representation and talking points for housing and homeless advocates; with that, the tone of this meeting differed greatly from meetings in the spring.
Lindsay Masters began the meeting and, after brief introductions and explaining the format of the meeting (two minute testimonials provided by those on the sign-up list), gave a brief overview of the DEIS which includes three options and a fourth “No Action Alternative”:
Alternative 1 – Mixed Income Affordable Housing and Public Park Uses Onsite (Applicant’s Preferred Alternative) Under Alternative 1, assumed development would feature a mix of affordable housing on the Fort Lawton site, including affordable rental and ownership and formerly homeless housing. A portion of the site would be rezoned to lowrise residential zoning. Public park uses would also be created, including active park facilities, preserved existing natural areas and conversion of an existing structure to a park maintenance facility. More specifically, the project under Alternative 1 would include 238 total housing units with 85 senior supportive apartments (plus one manager unit), 100 affordable rental units and 52 affordable ownership units. The project would also provide 21.6 acres of parks and recreation area, including two multi-purpose fields, a park maintenance facility and 266 parking spaces. All existing buildings on the Fort Lawton site except OMS - Building 245 would be demolished and removed. OMS Building 245 would be preserved as a parks maintenance facility.
No development would occur on the Talaris site under Alternative 1.
Alternative 2 – Market-Rate Housing Onsite; Affordable and Homeless Housing Offsite Under Alternative 2, development of market-rate single-family housing under current zoning is assumed on the Fort Lawton site, and construction of affordable and formerly homeless housing would occur on the Talaris site. Alternative 2 would include 113 market- Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center DEIS Page 1-3 Chapter 1 December 2017 Summary rate residences with 254 parking spaces on the Fort Lawton site. The Talaris site would include 238 affordable housing units (with the same numbers of senior, rental and affordable ownership units as Alternative 1), approximately 30,621 sq. ft. of community facilities and 295 parking spaces. The project would not provide any active or passive public parks on either the Fort Lawton or Talaris sites. All existing buildings on the Fort Lawton site would be demolished and removed.
The buildings on the Talaris site would be retained and reused; new buildings would be constructed on the site as well.
Alternative 3 – Public Park Onsite; Affordable and Homeless Housing Offsite Under Alternative 3, the entire Fort Lawton site would be developed as a public park; construction of affordable and formerly homeless housing would occur at the Talaris site. Alternative 3 would include approximately 34 acres of park and recreation uses, including three multi-purpose fields and 90 parking spaces on the Fort Lawton site; and approximately 238 affordable housing units, 30,621 sq. ft. of community facilities and 295 parking spaces on the Talaris site (with the same numbers of senior, rental, and affordable ownership units as Alternative 1). All existing buildings on the Fort Lawton site except OMS - Building 245 would be demolished and removed. OMS Building 245 would be preserved as a parks maintenance facility.
All existing buildings on the Talaris site would be retained and reused; new buildings would be constructed on the site as well.
Alternative 4 – No Action Alternative Under the No Action Alternative, the Fort Lawton site would remain in its existing vacant condition. The property would not be conveyed by the U.S. Army to the City of Seattle per the BRAC process. The City would terminate its lease of the property and the Army would resume maintenance of the site and facilities. Buildings and infrastructure would likely continue to deteriorate. The site could be conveyed to the City or conveyed or sold to another entity in the future, and could be developed in accordance with the uses allowed by the site’s current SF 7200 zoning
In regards to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and Seattle Public Schools and specifically the six acre parcel at the most southern end of the property noted in the MOU, Ms. Masters only provided a very brief statement that this site would not include a school and would be used for the purposes of sports and recreational fields.
** As the co-founders of the Fort Lawton Coalition, we (Valerie Cooper and I) are seeking if this was a broad generalization as to the “immediate” use of this land, due to the lack of current funding sources. [At this time] It is not feasible for SPS to build an additional school at this site, but utilizing the site for much needed athletic fields does fulfill an immediate need and does fit into the education mission of the district. We are confirming that this statement does not negate the possibility of future development of the site for an academic facility when and if need and capital budget allows. **
Public testimony began shortly thereafter with the caveat that every attempt would be made to make it through the eight plus pages of registered speakers. From the onset, the message was overwhelming, particularly from the NPO’s, advocacy groups and supporters, demanding:
- that Alternative 1 was the overwhelming preferred option with the caveat that the Talaris site remain in play and also be redeveloped for low income, subsidized and homeless housing;
- that Alternative 2 DOES and WOULD NOT move forward resulting in another development of unaffordable market-rate homes:
Furthermore, the speakers were consistent in demonstrating that:
- that this project move forward immediately and not be delayed;
- that everyone deserves a home and that no one in the City of Seattle should ever be homeless;
- that the parameters of this project were too small and that a project on 29 acres should not equate to 238 total housing units but should be maximized (and similar in scale and scope of projects such as Yesler Terrace) to have closer to 2000 housing units.
Testimony that did come from residents of Magnolia, which included Valerie and myself, did speak to the fact that many in Magnolia do and have consistently and continue to support the need for subsidized housing at Fort Lawton and throughout greater Seattle.
- that there is citywide and community wide support for this and projects like this;
- that infrastructure (grocery stores, coffee shops, etc.) WERE accessible in Magnolia and to this site and that these would also follow development.
Valerie and I tried to highlight our appreciation for the City’s and district’s MOU and now combined efforts to work together in the planning of projects, such as Fort Lawton, to ensure that the impact of such projects includes ample time and consideration for infrastructure, such as schools – particularly when developments are targeted or being built with families in mind. We highlighted that Fort Lawton is a microcosm of a planning process that has not worked or been inclusive of other necessary considerations. That moving forward (and this is particularly critical should there be movement on both the Talaris site, and perhaps the Roosevelt Reservoir site, as both were repeatedly referenced by housing advocacy speakers as sites that also need to be moved on “now”) infrastructure, which is inclusive of schools, has to be incorporated at the onset of planning.
The meeting ended at approximately 9:40 and with the instructions that a 45-day comment period extends through 5:00 PM January 29th, 2018 and comments may be submitted via email to OH_Comments@seattle.gov or via mail to:
Office of Housing
PO Box 94725
Seattle, WA 98124-4725
These comments will help the City to improve the completeness, accuracy, and objectivity of the analysis.
I will say that my personal take-away from this meeting was that I was pleased to see the commitment and support for low-income and subsidized housing and towards addressing the homeless crisis as seen throughout Seattle. There seems to a very strong contingent that is clearly demanding more housing at the Fort Lawton site and that should Alternative 1 move forward that the exclusion of the Talaris site from Alternative 1 be amended. Valerie and I were both surprised by the what was considered “infrastructure” by many in the audience and that perceptions of infrastructure were limited to amenities such as markets, shops, etc. but not inclusive or considering schools, adequate access to first responders, or impact on Metro services, etc.
It was also unsettling to hear how unaware the audience was as to the capacity issues the district faces and the resources that are critical and should be accessible to families in need at school sites (ie. Counsellors, Social Workers, School Nurses) to best ensure every chance for educational opportunity, student support and success and that these are not fully funded and thereby not readily available. I heard several times over members of the audience say “they can just build more schools” …. oh, if it were only that easy.
We encourage and ask that you please provide feedback and comments to the Office of Housing. Please provide acknowledgement as to the agreement that includes SPS acquiring six acres at Fort Lawton per the MOU and the importance of including schools in the planning process. Additionally, any thoughts on this DEIS should not just come from those in Magnolia, but also those in the NE part of the district as there is a distinct possibility (if this meeting was any indicator) that this can potentially impact schools and communities adjacent to the Talaris site and ample consideration should be applied to plan accordingly.
City’s Fort Lawton Redevelopment Webpage
Fort Lawton DEIS Documents:
Video of the meeting can be found at:
News Coverage of 1/9/2018 Public Meeting:
** This link at The Stranger also provides a link to Council Member Sawant’s handout at the meeting which I was not able to a copy of at the meeting. **
…and tomorrow Seattle Weekly will also be providing coverage of the meeting.