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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Magnolians Sue to Block Homeless Housing

posted by on October 15 at 14:26 PM

UPDATED: 3:30 P.M.

The Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council is suing the city of Seattle to stop a housing development on the Fort Lawton Army Reserve Base in Discovery Park.

In 2005, the federal government decided to close the 55-acre base, and the Department of Defense had asked the city to redevelop the land and include homeless assistance. So the city council passed a resolution in September, proposing the city’s Office of Housing develop more than 150 new housing units, including 85 units for the homeless.

But the MNPC, which describes itself in the suit as seeking to “maintain the environmental quality and residential character in the Magnolia neighborhood,” alleges that the city is violating the Discovery Park Master Plan, established in the 1974, and that it has failed to follow proper procedures for approving new development there.

But the city says the plan was thoroughly vetted with neighbors. “We went through a really long process with the community to redevelop the plan, which is what they are complaining about,” says Julie Moore, a spokeswoman for Office of Housing. “We had around 20 public meetings in 2008 alone.”

Although the group is framing this as an issue about unwanted housing and density, calling for “No Housing Developments at Discovery Park,” the gripe seems to stem from the prospect of homeless people invading Magnolia. Discovery Park historically has included a housing development—for military families. But in September, KING-5 Television reported that a member of the MNPC, Elizabeth Campbell, said, “It called for homeless assistance as one element and also the homeless could be located at a substitute site.” The MNPC, since the council passed the resolution, has been gathering funds for this legal challenge.

“The city is committed to the plan to end homelessness [in King County],” says Moore. “When the army closed the base we saw it as opportunity to build a mixed-income community. Right now there are a lot of parking lots there.”

The MNPC’s attorney hasn’t returned calls to comment.

RSS icon Comments


NIMBYs in Magnolia? There's a shock.

Posted by Greg | October 15, 2008 2:33 PM

who is the real trash?

Posted by CM | October 15, 2008 2:44 PM

Oh no, people on Magnolia don't want THOSE kind of people in the area. How novel.

Amazingly enough, they will win the law suit and the housing will become affordable for the well heeled. Watch and see.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | October 15, 2008 2:48 PM

Homeless people in Discovery Park? Impossible!

Posted by amp | October 15, 2008 2:51 PM

Mongolians back to Mongolia.

Posted by Algernon | October 15, 2008 2:52 PM

I gotta say, I don't really want a big housing development in the middle of Discovery Park either, regardless of whether it's populated with homeless people or yuppie assholes.

Posted by Matthew | October 15, 2008 2:55 PM

there are no services for homeless people in Magnolia outside of a bus ride downtown...and not that many bus routes either...

I am not thrilled with the idea... We have successfully avoided the condo infestation for the most part; we dont need a project across the street.

Posted by W2M | October 15, 2008 3:11 PM

Why not sell the land and use the proceeds to build housing in a more convenient location? Bonus: the new owner then gets to deal with the lawsuits.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 15, 2008 3:21 PM

@6: There already is a big housing development in Discovery Park. It's called Ft. Lawton.

Posted by Trevor | October 15, 2008 3:26 PM

Let's put the homeless where they belong--in poor neighborhoods far from lily-white Magnolia.

Posted by lorax | October 15, 2008 3:31 PM

Building homeless housing just makes it easier for individuals who want no responsibility in life to be homeless. Such places then are magnets for crime and a blight on the neighborhood. Better to get the chronically mentally ill and alcoholics into housing dispersed throughout the city so they’re not just encampments of despair and vulnerability.

Posted by raindrop | October 15, 2008 3:31 PM

@9, the current Ft. Lawton residents have cars, work on the fort, and have retail provided in part by the Army. As others have pointed out, any homeless housing will be dramatically different. There are two bus routes serving Discover Park, only one of which goes through the fort. The nearest grocery store? The most expensive Thriftway in the world.

Yeah, we could just chalk it all up to class bias, but there are some serious practical issues here, many of which have not been addressed.

Posted by joykiller | October 15, 2008 3:39 PM

Magnuson Park has almost the exact same situation -- a former military base in a rich white neighborhood with new low income housing.

Magnuson Park has 165 low income/formerly homeless people living there since 2000. Is Laurelhurst a ghetto now? Are the sick kids across the street at Children's Hospital getting assaulted? Are there needles all along Sand Point Way?

No, nobody notices except the people who had nowhere else to go.

Posted by jrrrl | October 15, 2008 3:49 PM

but if they have homes, then they're not homeless anymore!

Posted by i have a medium penis | October 15, 2008 4:03 PM

If it ever goes through (I doubt it will), Magnolia will get the nice cute homeless. Families with little children who have a "good" reason to be homeless. Probably in cute semi-detached townhouses designed by charitable architects. They will be forced to move away when the kids become unruly teens.

Meanwhile Columbia City gets a one block monstrosity on Rainier Ave., four stories of single rooms for mentally ill, drug addicted homeless. Living six blocks away its not that big a deal to me, I just hope there are pedestrian barriers along Rainier or it will be carnage with all the speeders.

Posted by Rainier Valley Resident | October 15, 2008 4:04 PM

7 & 12, Oh, please. Gimme a break.

If they add a hundred units of housing, don't you think they can add another bus route? Or add a few more busses to the current route? Duh.

Same for grocery stores and other services. If there are a few hundred more people there that need it, then some enterprising business will add another grocery store or other low-priced shopping to meet the demand. Problem solved.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | October 15, 2008 4:11 PM

@16, they're not adding housing -- the housing is already there. I'm sure Metro won't be adding more bus service to Magnolia anytime soon, given its current fiscal state.

Posted by joykiller | October 15, 2008 4:24 PM

Wanna be truly entertained, check out the Magnolia NIMBY central website:

The sky is falling....

Posted by YIMBY | October 15, 2008 4:45 PM

i am one of the lily-white residents of lily-white & lily-asian view ridge - i can say that the housing at magnusson has no effect on our neighborhood - we're up a STEEP motherfucking hill (70th) from sand point, and there's absolutely no reason to hump up the hill unless you live up there or you're training for mt. rainier. all our crime comes from junior high kids rifling the glove boxes of unlocked cars. and, most recently, murderers dumping the body of their victim.

lighted ballfields at magnusson can suck it, though - we sued over that & got the number cut by a third. the discovery park suit is similarly an effort to extract concessions from the city/SHA.

Posted by max solomon | October 15, 2008 4:57 PM

oh, and what @7 said holds true for view ridge, too. no services, infrequent bus service. all the homeless seem to drive.

Posted by max solomon | October 15, 2008 4:58 PM

Housing projects are generally a bad idea wherever they're sited. Cities everywhere are tearing them down and giving poor people housing vouchers instead. Building public housing projects next Discovery Park is a really dumb idea for many reasons. There is lots of room down in Interbay that is much more suitable for high density housing. The nearest fire station has one small truck and one steam powered antique wagon that they roll out for the kids. (They are not setup for giving bums rides to the liquor store.) Interbay has bus lines, grocery stores, restaurants, a big fire station, easy access to Ballard, Fremont, Queen Anne, Belltown, quick access to Swedish Ballard etc. It's hard to even get a cab to find the Lawton neighborhood.

Call me a NIMBY, but I rolled-the-dice with my life savings so that my daughter could go to Lawton School and so she wouldn't have to deal with the occasionally nightmarish conditions we experienced on Capitol Hill. (needles, vagrants, sexual predators, pit bulls, drunks, prostitutes, riots, tear gas, sirens, helicopters, scary people camping in our stairwell). That shit might sound exciting when you're 25 and single, but when your life revolves around housing, feeding, and clothing a 3 year old girl, you move to Magnolia and defend the quality of life. The city wants to add 300 housing units, but no new schools. In fact, the schools are full and talking about putting kids in "portables" (like Katrina survivors).

Despite the assumptions, Magnolia is not Mercer Island. The waterfront is wealthy, but the neighborhoods aren't. A lot of the neighbors are hanging on by their fingernails.

Median Household Net Worth $216,303
Median Total Debts $252,094

I went to the City's planning meetings. The whole process was a sham perpetrated by a paid public relations firm. It was designed to manufacture consent for an outcome that was pre-ordained. There was zero tolerance for dissent. The question of whether the housing projects should be built was off the table. The only questions were about landscaping and traffic patterns.

Posted by Curmudgeon | October 20, 2008 11:28 AM

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