Fort Lawton BRAC (FLARC)

The following statement is a consensus opinion by the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Discovery Park regarding the nearby Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center (FLARC) parcel, currently undergoing review by the City of Seattle’s Department of Housing.
 
We believe that the Army Reserve parcel in its entirety, should be incorporated into Discovery Park. To accomplish this, we urge that all man-made structures at the site be removed and the site be completely reforested with native trees and understory.
 
The 30 acre Army Reserve property is now heavily urbanized, with many acres of paved surfaces, buildings, and overlapping fences. As such, it is distinctly unfriendly to the wildlife that live and reproduce in the nearby forests of Discovery Park and Kiwanis Ravine. The property is uniquely situated between the Kiwanis Ravine and the larger green spaces of Discovery Park.
 
Growing a forest across this site would create a much needed wildlife corridor between the ship canal, the Ravine and Discovery Park. We recognize that there are a variety of competing interests for the use of this property. Suggestions include low income housing, a school and other uses like playgrounds, baseball fields and tennis courts. If one or some combination of these uses become implemented, we ask that any man-built environment on the site be appropriately and sensitively incorporated into a forested canopy, using a mosaic of legally protected indigenous plant communities distributed across the entire property.
 
In conclusion, we believe the best use of the Fort Lawton Army Reserve property would be full incorporation into Discovery Park and management according to its Master Plan.
 
Sincerely,
Board of Trustees of the Friends of Discovery Park
 
 
 
Please review the City of Seattle’s Department of Housing web page for project information.
 
 
To learn more about the Fort Lawton Redevelopment process, contact Department of Housing project manager Lindsay Masters at 206-684-0340.
 
 
Some Key Points:
 
The Fort Lawton Army Reserve Base is located on the north east corner of Discovery Park.  It is NOT part of Discovery Park.
 
 
In 2005 the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) selected Fort Lawton for closure.
 
The Army named the City of Seattle as the Local Reuse Authority (LRA) responsible for the redevelopment of the Fort Lawton site.
 
When one Federal Agency has “excess” property they wish to divest themselves of, other Federal Agencies have first dibs to acquire it.  In this way, the Veterans Administration took ownership of the building known as the FLARC (Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center.)  This is the newer building that sits up on the hillside against the Park.
 
Other uses of excess Federal property are also prioritized.  One use on the priority list is “parkland.”  However Seattle Mayor Nickels was less interested in acquiring the property to be added to Discovery Park (as the original Park founders envisioned) and more interested in keeping promises to homeless housing advocates.
 
The McKinney Act requires that homeless housing be considered for all Base closures, but it is not mandated that homeless housing be the final outcome.  In any event, the Mayor prevailed, and the City’s Final Plan for Fort Lawton includes homeless as well as market rate private housing rather than parkland.
 
 
This covers the BRAC process conducted by the City from 2006 through 2008.  Many many pages of documents are available here.  The latest updates on the process are also posted here on this City web page.
 
 
 
This is a letter from the Army about their continued occupation of Ft Lawton until 2011.
 
 
 
The Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council, founded by Elizabeth Campbell, filed a lawsuit against the City for failure to comply with it’s legal obligations under SEPA since the beginning of the BRAC process.
 
In 2009, MNPC won the lawsuit hands down 🙂 🙂 🙂  The City’s request for reconsideration was denied, the Appellate Court affirmed the Superior Court’s decision, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of the Appellate Court’s affirmation.  So now the case has precedential value, and has been cited in other lawsuits since then.
 
 
 
As of September 16, 2011 the Army has vacated the property – all buildings are locked, and all signage has been removed. The Army continues to own and be responsible for the security of the property.  The Army has contracted with Seattle Police and Fire to provide 911 response.
 
Starting August 2012, mowing and grounds maintenance will be resumed through an outside contractor.
 
Army Contact for maintenance issues, vandalism, graffiti, etc. (i.e. NOT “the BRAC Process” and NOT for active 911 crime or fire):
 
Facilities Manager: Michael.C.Shepard7.ctr@mail.mil
City contact for the BRAC Process: Laurie.Ames@seattle.gov
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Veterans Administration Property:
The VA Puget Sound Healthcare System took possession of the FLARC as planned in 2011, and work started to convert the upper level of the building to lodging for VA patients and their families.  
In January 2013 they began construction on a large covered entry-way where ambulances could drop-off patients.  This was completed, and in April 2013 the large parking lot below the building was re-surfaced and re-painted.  Unfortunately they never secured the parking lot and the grounds, so vandalism, dumping, graffiti, and illegal activities became the norm.
 
In February 2014 the grounds were finally cleaned up and the landscaping restored.  And the VA changed their plans for use of the building.  Instead of housing for out-patient veterans, it is now being re-purposed back to what the building was originally used for: office space.
 
So all those carpet halls with all those private rooms (each with it’s own ADA bathroom – shower, sink, toilet), common kitchen and eating areas, i.e. the entire upper level of the FLARC, is now being converted back to office space.  The plan is to leave all the living units intact, i.e. each one will become office space instead of living space – and each office will have it’s own executive washroom 🙂 🙂 🙂
 
Downstairs, the large rooms will be divided up with cubicles.  Outside, the grounds have been secured with fencing to prevent access and curb the illegal activity.
 
May 2014 – The VA currently leases office space downtown and elsewhere for their Administrative Staff that do not need to be located at the VA Hospital.  By transferring these employees to the Fort Lawton site (which they are now calling VA Magnolia) the VA can save money on leasing – they own the FLARC so no lease.  Approximately 200 employees will eventually be at this location.  June 14, 2014 the first 100 will move in, and the remaining are to be moved in by August 31, 2014.
 
Contact person for the VA Magnolia (Fort Lawton):
 
Scott Buffington
    206-277-3121
    
Army Property Updates
December 2013
Several City departments and groups had a Site Tour with the Army to discuss possible uses of the facilities prior to whatever the final disposition of the property turns out to be.
 
The Seattle Police Department was interested in Leisy Hall for their Canine Unit.  The Park Department was looking at the various motor-pool buildings for their maintenance activities.  The Seattle Conservation Corps was interested in Harvey Hall as well as some of the smaller maintenance buildings, but has since decided to stay out at Magnuson Park.  The Associated Recreation Council decided that the facilities were not suitably for what they were looking for.
 
March 2014
Currently the Park Department and the Police Department are still interested in using portions of the property.  The proposal would be for a lease agreement between the City and the Army for use of the entire remaining site (i.e. excluding what the VA owns.)  NO money would change hands, but the City would pay the utilities and provide upkeep and maintenance of the buildings and grounds.
BUT This proposal is on hold until Mayor Murray receives the report from the consultant hired in 2012 to re-assess the original Redevelopment Plan approved by the City in 2008.  This report is due sometime in 2014.
 
In the mean-time, the Army wants to divest themselves of the property – it is a headache to maintain, and because it is vacant, there is on-going vandalism, graffiti, and illegal activities on the site.  The buildings have been repeatedly broken into.  If the City does not step up and take possession of the property, the Army could decide to auction it off to the highest bidder (probably a housing developer.)
 
April 2015
“Rumor”has it the City is preparing to introduce a new public process in 2015 to move forward with their plan for mixed-rate housing.