An update on the Fort Lawton affordable housing redevelopment project

The city’s efforts to acquire the former Fort Lawton campus from the U.S. Army and redevelop it into affordable housing seems to be moving forward, finally — though it’s hard to tell from the external indications.

Several years ago, the federal Base Realignment and Closure process designated Fort Lawton as surplus, making it available to local public agencies for redevelopment for a narrow set of purposes including affordable housing. The City of Seattle entered into an agreement with the Army for just such a redevelopment, and has proposed a plan, but local activist Elizabeth Campbell threw a roadblock in its way by challenging the plan (she and some other neighborhood activists would prefer to see the property used to expand Discovery Park instead). But after several legal setbacks, including her inability to retain an attorney to represent her and the dismissal of the Army as a defendant, that litigation has now gone inactive according to the City Attorney’s Office and is no longer impeding progress.

According to the Office of Housing, the city is now waiting for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (aka HUD) to review and decide on the city’s plan for the Fort Lawton property. There is no timetable for its response.  However, the city has been leasing the property from the Army and as part of that lease agreement is responsible for ongoing maintenance of the existing property and buildings. That lease expires on December 31, so as an administrative matter the city is working on a one-year extension to allow time for HUD to complete its review of the redevelopment plan in 2022 — and if all goes well finally transfer the property over to the city. The bill authorizing the lease extension was introduced this week, and may come up for final approval by the Council as soon as next Monday.

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