While a number of Magnolia residents came to city hall on Monday to protest affordable housing plans at Fort Lawton as a big problem, the Seattle City Council celebrated a small victory after nearly 15 years of planning and study.

“This is really an incredible opportunity for us to celebrate the culmination, after 15 years,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. “This is about a community vision for affordable housing to be developed at Fort Lawton that has taken community engagement, planning and advocacy.”

The city council approved a legislative package on June 10 that moves forward plans to redevelop the Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center site to include 237 affordable housing units for rent and homeownership, with the bulk of the property — 60 percent — to be used for open space and two Seattle Public Schools playfields.

Councilmember Lorena González pointed out that 415 affordable housing units had originally been proposed, and now the council is moving forward with half of what could have been created if the city had proceeded in 2008, before the recession.

“We are now down to about 50 percent of that,” she said. “Part of that is because of construction costs and because of other realities related to the process.”

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission offered up the former 70th Regional Support Command headquarters to the city in 2005. The City of Seattle became the 34-acre site’s Local Redevelopment Authority in 2006. Magnolia resident Elizabeth Campbell and her Discovery Park Community Alliance group successfully challenged the original plan for a mixed-income housing redevelopment, and then the Great Recession put plans on hold. Campbell and DPCA then challenged the final environmental impact statement for the redevelopment proposal after it was published in late-March 2018. The Seattle Hearing Examiner upheld the FEIS as adequate in November.

The plan will be included in an application to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to acquire the Fort Lawton site.

Catholic Housing Services will create 85 supportive housing units for homeless seniors and veterans, at or below 31 percent of area median income, in partnership with the United Indians of All Tribes, and 100 affordable rental units. One unit will be house a site manager.

“On site there will be housing, case management, residential counselors and housing stability plans created,” Mosqueda said of the supportive housing, “so that we’re really not just creating a door and a roof, but we’re creating the ability for people to get stabilized.”

The 100 affordable rental units will be a mix of one- to three-bedroom units available to families making up to 60 percent of the area median income. A negotiated discounted sale with the Army is anticipated for acquisition of this two-acre parcel.

Habitat for Humanity will create 52 units of affordable-ownership housing in the form of three-bedroom townhomes and six-unit row houses constructed with sweat equity. These units will be available to households with incomes up to 80 percent AMI. To keep these homes affordable, they will not be available for resale for at least 50 years, according to the redevelopment plan. Habitat for Humanity will retain ownership of the land, and lease it to homeowners through a 99-year community land trust that is inheritable and renewable. Mosqueda lauded this as a way for people to pass on generational wealth.

The City of Seattle is committing to a portion of the estimated $28.3 million cost for the homeless supportive housing, as well as the $40.2 million projected for affordable rental housing, and $90,000 per unit of the $18.4 million homeownership housing portion of the project.

“It’s a huge opportunity, and it’s a rare opportunity to gain access to a significant portion of public land from the federal government at no cost,” Mosqueda said.

Mosqueda addressed concerns raised during multiple committee meetings and hearings leading up to the June 10 decision, such as the limited frequency of bus service near the site. The councilmember said SDOT and King County Metro have committed to exploring adding more stops and routes over time.

Seattle Public Schools will also look at increasing school capacity, Mosqueda said. SPS had considered a portion of the site for a new school at one point. Mosqueda said the district’s need for more playfields is a more “pressing issue.”

The city council also approved entering a memorandum of agreement with SPS on June 10, where the district will apply to the U.S. Department of Education to take up to six acres of Fort Lawton property to develop two athletic fields. The memorandum includes an outreach and implementation plan to be coordinated with Seattle Parks and Recreation. The district will pay the city predevelopment and caretaker costs of around $29,000 a year — up to $249,000 — according to the agreement, and then all costs associated with acquisition and development.

Mosqueda said an amendment in the legislative package also adds space for wildlife habitat, including local blue herons, by reducing the existing maintenance facility parking lot on the property by a third. Thirteen acres of the 34-acre property will be used for passive recreation space, Mosqueda said, and five acres of forest will be added to Discovery Park.

District 7 Councilmember Sally Bagshaw acknowledged the Magnolia residents who provided public comment on June 10, and also pushed back against false claims that redevelopment was taking away parkland.

“We’re not taking more of Discovery Park,” Bagshaw said. “Fort Lawton is asphalted now. We’re going to be turning that into housing, and a great portion of it is going to go into parks, as Councilmember Mosqueda said.”

Fort Lawton on Magnolia Bluff was originally established as an Army installation in the late 1890s. The Secretary of Defense declared 85 percent of the fort as surplus property in 1964. The City of Seattle created Discovery Park in 1972, after the federal government granted it the property through the Legacy of Parks program.

The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation’s Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center opened in 1977, after founder Bernie Whitebear led a protest and occupation of surplus Fort Lawton military base property, demanding its return to tribal ownership.

Councilmember Debora Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, pointed out UIATF also pushed for affordable housing in the ‘70s and again in 2000.

“Those neighborhoods fought us tooth and nail,” she said. “…This is a piece of property that the tribes have worked on for many decades.”

Opponents to the Fort Lawton Redevelopment Plan had proposed the city turn the site into more park space, and instead use available land in Interbay to develop more affordable housing. Bagshaw said Interbay and other neighborhoods will need to be explored in order to address Seattle’s immense housing crisis.

“I respect the fact that people say there’s change,” Bagshaw said. “You bet there’s change. Seattle’s changing everywhere, and no neighborhood is to be separated from this.”

According to a market study by the Greenfield Institute, nearly 83 percent of Magnolia is zoned for single-family residences, the neighborhood is home to just 3.5 percent of Seattleites, and accounts for only 0.31 percent of the city’s affordable housing stock.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted in favor of the redevelopment plan, but called it a “monumental missed opportunity” to build more affordable housing units. She noted a number of affordable housing projects in the city are building more units with just one parcel of land. Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group are developing 308 units on surplus Sound Transit property in First Hill.

The city council also approved rezoning the Fort Lawton site from Single-Family to Low-Rise 2.