The preliminary report on the Fire Station #39 property recommends developing the site for low-income/homeless housing. This recommendation is based on FAS’s (Dept. of Finance and Administrative Services) evaluation of the site in terms of guidelines established by Council Resolution # 29799. The guidelines (and therefore the report) are structured around four main areas:
Guideline A: Consistency with Statutes and Conditions of Purchase
The report provides an incomplete picture of the FS#39 property.
- Both the property and improvements were originally purchased with community resources prior to its annexation.
- Historically, the building has been used for many civic functions: a city hall, library, community center, and a volunteer fire department.
- When the property was transferred via annexation to the City of Seattle, it continued to serve as a multi-functional civic space: a fire station, Neighborhood Service Center, and location for North Helpline.
None of these details are in the report. Understanding the community’s historic relationship with that property is essential to understanding the community’s wishes that it continue to be used as a civic space.
Also, FAS’s recommendation of a negotiated sale risks violation of Section 1.A.4.b regarding RCW 43.09.210 which requires it be sold at true and full value to a public service industry.
Guideline B: Compatibility and Suitability
The report contrasts traffic along Lake City Way with 30th Ave NE, saying that LCW is the retail corridor and painting a picture of 30th as a residential dead zone. This is misleading.
- 30th provides the primary entrance for the retail businesses on the Wilcoxon property (Elliott Bay, KaffeeKlatsch, FedEx, Bartells, etc.)
- The nearby Seattle Gymnastics Academy is an example of a successful retail business that experiences heavy traffic, despite its lack of signage and its location on a dead-end street.
- The report does not mention the Pierre Visioning Project anywhere in this context and this oversight is unacceptable. Outcomes from the Pierre Properties Visioning Workshop (conducted with Lake City residents in May 2012) indicate a desire to see 30th developed as a mix of pedestrian-friendly civic core and retail space.
- This omission is compounded by the report’s recommendation, which does not align with the desired economic development of the area along 30th as outlined in both neighborhood plans.
Under Section 1.B.1 the guidelines require that FAS’s recommendation comply with adopted neighborhood plans. The North District Comprehensive Plan clearly indicates the use of FS#39 property for civic purposes.
The report lists the following City-owned properties and claims they “serve the general community with recreational and educational opportunities.” The report uses this list to argue against retention of the FS#39 property for Parks or civic purposes. A simple site visit would illustrate that these properties are not functioning in the way the report claims.
Under Section 1.B.2 the report extensively details the need for more low-income housing throughout Seattle. However, the report fails to provide any details about why this low-income housing should be located in Lake City or at this site.
The only reasoning provided is a list of five “recent” housing developments. These are given as examples of “a multifamily and retail building boom,” ̶ the implication being that more low-income housing is needed to offset this building boom. On the list:
- Solara is the only “market rate” housing listed and it was built over 10 years ago.
- The other four projects – all low-income housing – were built in the last 3 years.
- There are more low-income/homeless housing projects breaking ground in Lake City this year that are not included in the report.
The City is using a recent building boom of low-income housing to justify adding even more. The report implies that the solution to a citywide problem is to concentrate low-income housing in Lake City.
Under Section 1.B.8 the guidelines require a review of “other priorities reflected in adopted City policy”. The Consolidated Plan and the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness are referred to as policies that supersede both the North District Comp Plan and the Lake City Civic Plan.
The report also refers to an unfinished Needs Assessment conducted by the Office of Housing & Dept. of Human Services as if it is a foregone conclusion that the site is appropriate for low-income housing. This Needs Assessment is not currently available to the public, nor was it available when the preliminary FS#39 report was written.
The housing developments cited within the report speak for themselves. In the last 3 years, Lake City has added 75 units of homeless housing for people with substance abuse problems and another 21 on the way for dual-diagnosis homeless, two SHAG subsidized senior housing developments and four large SHA projects.
- This does not include all of the other low-income housing in the area, such as Oxford houses, Section 8, DSHS group homes, subsidized apartments, etc.
- The report also does not take into account Lake City’s lack of equity with other Seattle neighborhoods in terms of economic development, pedestrian access and civic amenities.
- Nor does the report address the impact of the many “negative” community aspects located nearby, such as adult entertainment facilities, gun shops, marijuana related retail, etc.
Under Section 1.B.4 (Economic Development) the report states, “there may not be an immediate market for stand-alone commercial development due to the poor economy.” This is a direct contradiction to Section D (Potential for use by the General Public) where the report states, “The property would likely receive multiple, market-rate offers if made available through an open competitive process.”
Under Section 1.B.5 the guidelines require review of the property for potential as a park or open space. Yet this report only examines the possibility of the space as a community center, which would require an expensive upgrade. The option of tearing the building down and creating open space was not considered. Extensive community feedback suggested:
- Transferring and land banking the site for future development as civic space, such as a skate park, a flex-green space/outdoor music or theater venue, or a permanent location for the LC Farmer’s Market.
- These options would not require an expensive acquisition or intrusion on existing parks space.
- Funding for a skatepark in Lake City is currently being secured and the FS39 location would be ideal for size and location. The design could also incorporate other beneficial community components, such as a covered structure with community garden green roof. Produce from the garden could be used to support North Helpline.
Under res 29799 “Procedures for the Evaluation of the Reuse and Disposal of the City’s Real Property,” Section 5.A reads “It is the intent of the City to strategically utilize Real Property in order to further the City’s goals and to avoid holding properties without an adopted municipal purpose.” The City’s Skatepark Masterplan does indicate a potential municipal use for that space and we request a meeting with Parks to discuss this option.
Guideline C: Other Factors
Under Section 1.C.1 the “highest and best use” should be considered. The reports own finding is that the property’s highest and best use is as market rate housing with first floor retail and that the highest return to the city would be through an open bid process.
Under Section 1.C.1.1 (Physically Possible), the report mentions that, “Thirtieth Avenue Northeast has been closed to through traffic about three blocks north of the subject. This inhibits the flow of traffic moving north and south across the front of the property.” This is false. The street that is closed to through traffic is 28th Ave. NE, which is adjacent to the new fire station, not the old. 30th Ave. NE remains a busy through street.
Under Section 1.C.7 the “conditions in the real estate market” are described. The report refers to information from Colliers International that says developers are “anxious to build” in Lake City. They also say 812 housing units will be built in north Seattle between now and 2014 by private developers- adding further demand for civic amenities that are currently lacking. This again contradicts the claim in Section 1.B.4 that “there may not be an immediate market for stand-alone commercial development due to the poor economy.”
Guideline D: Public Involvement and Sale Options
The report states that FAS received comments from 219 separate individuals. This is also misleading. A petition with 203 signatures was gathered in person by Lake City residents and submitted to FAS, bringing the total comments received to 422 individuals.
Of that 422, over 90% state a preference for converting the property into a civic amenity. Only 9 explicitly state their support for low-income housing. These numbers present a striking contrast to the City’s recommendation.
The end of the report recaps the three potential options:
A) Use of the site for civic amenities
B) Selling the site via an open bid process for market-rate development
C) Use of the site for low-income/homeless housing and services
The report disregards option A by stating that DPR could not run two separate Community Centers. Yet nowhere in the community feedback is it documented that the public was asking for 2 community centers. This is an intentionally narrow definition of the feedback received.
The end of the first paragraph states “DPR has purchased and is planning the development of a large park site three blocks southeast of this property.” Assuming this is the recent acquisition on 33rd Ave. NE, this park site is 10,000 square feet, hardly a large park. The intent for that park space is as a community garden for the immediately adjacent low-income housing tenants.
FAS ignores option B and recommends option C because it helps fulfill a municipal goal. This completely disregards FAS’s own determination of the “highest and best use” of the property. It also disregards the will of the community as repeatedly expressed by the hundreds of residents who participated in the North District Comp Plan, Civic Plan, Pierre Visioning Project, recent petitions and letter writing, as well as the hundreds of residents who spoke out against the City’s intent at public hearings regarding this property.
This response was created in conjunction with the Lake City Neighborhood Alliance (LCNA), a coalition of representatives from different neighborhood groups throughout the Lake City area working to inform and empower our diverse community.