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City Council votes for affordable housing at Fort Lawton

Seattle Post-Intelligencer logo Seattle Post-Intelligencer 5 days ago By Joel Connelly, SeattlePI.com

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve purchase of surplus federal land at Fort Lawton that will be used to construct 237 units of affordable housing.

The long-delayed, $90 million plan will create 85 studio apartments for poor senior citizens, 100 rentals for low-income workers plus low-income seniors, plus as many as 52 affordable homes.  The plan also calls for two athletic fields.

"After more than a decade of community engagement, we can finally use this public land at Fort Lawton for hundreds of affordable homes, surrounded by parks and recreation space for everyone," Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

The housing will adjoin, but not disrupt, the large urban natural area of Discovery Park, created in the early 1970's.  The creation of a natural area won out over proposed use of the coastal fort land for a golf course.

In a dedication ceremony that will go down in Seattle history, presidential daughter Tricia Nixon depicted creation of the park for her father.  Nearby on the dais, U.S. Sen. Henry Jackson kept a grim silence.  It was Jackson who made the park happen.

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At the same time, activist Native Americans pressed for creation of a cultural center.  A would-be occupation was turned back by MP's.  But Congress heard the call and arranged for a 99-year lease on 20 acres of Fort Lawton.

The land is now site of the Daybreak Star Cultural Center, a legacy of native leader Bernie Whitebear, one of Seattle's "gang of four" civil rights leaders who became achieving players in shaping the city.

Durkan said she hopes to sign the legislation, authorizing that the city ask the Army to transfer the land, in the coming weeks.

The housing will be built by a trio of non-profits, Catholic Community Services, Habitat for Humanity and United Indians of All Tribes, with construction slated to begin in 2021.

The project was envisioned 11 years ago, but faced a lawsuit by conservative Magnolia activist Elizabeth Campbell. The city revived the plan two years ago.  It faced another suit by Campbell, but an administrative judge ruled in the city's favor.

A public hearing, in January of 2018, showed surprisingly strong support among Magnolia neighbors for construction of affordable housing.

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