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Magnolia residents debate Fort Lawton affordable housing plans

SEATTLE -- A couple hundred people attended a public meeting in Magnolia Monday night to voice their thoughts on the proposed development of Fort Lawton.

The once bustling military base is now open empty land. Fort Lawton Army reserve center, an old military outpost in Magnolia, has been the battleground in this neighborhood for more than a decade.

The project proposes to take 34 acres of the Fort Lawton site and develop it into 238 affordable housing units for nearly 600 people.

About 85 of those units would be for homeless seniors with services on site. Approximately 100 one to three bedroom rowhouses would be available to low income residents for rent, and the other approximately 50 units would be townhomes available for purchase for families making between $64,000 to $86,000.

“I truly live three blocks from there,” said Lori Snyder a longtime Magnolia resident who has attended past public hearings about the project and isn’t rolling out the welcome mat for her new neighbors.

“I just don’t think we have the facilities here in Magnolia for homeless housing,” said Snyder.

But ask another 40-year resident of Magnolia, Sue Olson.

“I would say I’m sorry they have such a narrow outlook on their fellow citizens,” said Olson.

She says the quiet community is lacking diversity.

“I think people who are given the opportunity in this neighborhood will thrive,” said Olson.

Hundreds attended the meeting Monday night at the cafeteria of Catharine Blaine School in Magnolia voicing opinions far more than just for or against the project, but raising concerns about the need for more public transit for people who would live at the new site. Residents brought up concerns for more police officers on the site and the need for more grocery stores to serve the community.

“I want to bring more people in to have more reason for bus lines and businesses and restaurants to open here,” said Magnolia resident Jenna Magee.

City council member Teresa Mosqueda says she will make it a priority to keep dedicated green space in the area.

“As we build density it is also a priority of mine to maintain green spaces,” she said.

The city says 60 percent of the 34 acres would be kept as green space. Some it would be built into Discovery Park and some would be made into new playfields.

Public comment and plans will be presented to the city council for their approval in about 60 days. The next step after that would be to get federal approval for land development at Fort Lawton, then the earliest pre-permitting would begin would be 2020.

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