More than 230 affordable housing units are planned on the former Army base property.
More than 230 affordable housing units are planned on the former Army base property.

Seattle City Council’s Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights Committee received an overview of the process moving forward with three pieces of legislation that need to pass to redevelop the former Fort Lawton Army base in Magnolia during its April 18 meeting.

The plan calls for Catholic Housing Services to 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 set aside for a site manager.

The 100 units will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for households earning up to 60 percent of median income.

Habitat for Humanity will create 52 units of affordable-ownership housing in the form of three-bedroom townhomes and six-unit rowhouses 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. A homeowners association will need to be formed in the future.

The property will need to be rezoned from a single-family zone, and is proposed to change to low-rise 2, which local architect David Moehring said is greater than what was previously proposed and would allow for taller heights. He shared this information with the Magnolia Community Council at its April 16 meeting, and the MCC is now reconsidering its previous letter of support for the project.

The redevelopment plan calls for 206 parking spaces for residents and another 60 spaces for parks and playfields visitors. Seattle Public Schools will use six acres to create two multipurpose athletic fields. If SPS decides later not to create the fields, that portion of the property would be transferred to Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The Office of Housing provided the plan for public comment at a March 4 community meeting in Magnolia, and last Thursday’s committee meeting was the first step in approving the legislation needed to carry it out. Once the plan is approved, the federal government will be asked to grant the City of Seattle the property through zero-cost public benefit conveyances.

A Central Staff memo outlines the housing committee’s schedule for reviewing the plan and legislation, with a full briefing expected on May 2.

Issues and options related to the plan will be discussed on May 16, and a public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 21. Housing committee chair Teresa Mosqueda said childcare will be provided.

The plan and related legislation are slated to be voted out of committee on June 6 and go before the full council for approval on June 10.

Work to get to this point in redevelopment of the former Army base has taken 14 years, said Emily Alvarado, manager of policy and equitable development for Seattle’s Office of Housing.

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.

The Great Recession also put plans on hold for nearly a decade, and in December 2017 the city announced a preferred alternative.

Campbell, who is now running for city council, filed an appeal of the final environmental impact statement for the project, which was affirmed by the Seattle Hearing Examiner last November.

Alvarado said the federal government had grown “antsy” about Fort Lawton’s redevelopment potential by 2017, at which point the city entered a lease agreement with the Army. Under the agreement, the city accepted a Jan. 1, 2020 deadline to have a redevelopment plan approved and submitted to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development office.

Alvarado noted 60 percent of the site is planned for parks and open space, while the rest will be for affordable housing, which the neighborhood is lacking.

A February 2019 market study prepared for Habitat for Humanity by the Greenfield Institute found median incomes in Magnolia “are significantly higher than those of the city of Seattle.”

“Magnolia’s population is made up of larger household sizes and slower population growth which can be credited to the established and wealthy nature of the neighborhood,” the report states.

The median home price in Seattle was $699,000 in July 2018, and $926,100 in Magnolia, according to the report.

“There are a total of six income and rent-restricted buildings in Magnolia, containing a total of 89 affordable housing units,” the report states. “This is approximately 0.75% of total housing stock in Magnolia. Put another way, despite being home to 3.6% of Seattleites, Magnolia contains only 0.31% of Seattle’s affordable housing stock.”