Seattle needs affordable housing — lots of it. We need to provide for all our citizens. But there must be better locations than Discovery Park.

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Discovery Park is probably the most beautiful park in Seattle — more than 500 acres of forest with trails threading woods and  meadows, and offering a breathtaking view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

It’s tucked away at the far west end of the Magnolia community, away from major thoroughfares, with only one roadway entrance. It’s quiet, it’s pristine, it’s a haven for people who want to temporarily get away from the urban environment and immerse themselves in a natural habitat.

And it’s being threatened.

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The area adjacent to the park, Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center, is now the proposed site for 238 apartments, town houses and row houses, in addition to 266 parking spaces, covering some 34 acres. This would be categorized as a “mixed-income community.”

Two points: First, I live in Magnolia, and I am all in favor of affordable housing. There are ball fields within two blocks of my house, and I would be fine with such housing at that site. This is not a Not In My Back Yard objection. And second, really? In the entire city, Seattle thinks that the best place to put up mixed-income housing is essentially in a park?

There will be construction. There will be noise. There will be traffic. There will be pollution. And that’s in the eight years before the housing will even be completed. Once built, there will be more noise, more traffic and more pollution. Does anyone truly believe that Discovery Park will remain the same? Does anyone truly believe that the park will retain its unique qualities that have made it such a beautiful area for both humans and wildlife to enjoy? I cannot fathom any solid reason why those who cherish the beauty of the city would choose this location.

Again, let me be clear: Seattle needs affordable housing — lots of it. We need to provide for all our citizens. But there have to be better locations than this one. There have to be better locations than such a natural milieu, one that will be forever compromised if this plan goes through.

A public meeting on this subject was held Monday evening; it was packed. Some people focused on how important it was to provide affordable housing but ignored where best to provide that housing. Others referred to the initial plan for the park, which did not include housing communities. Still others emphasized the plight of the local animals — seals, herons and the like — threatened by construction and pollution. They asked, “If we go through with this plan, what will the park be like in 20, 30, 80 years? Is this something our grandchildren will thank us for?”

The timeline for a final decision by the City Council is not definite, but it is expected to take up the issue this spring. Meantime, for more information, you may want to contact the Discovery Park Community Alliance: 

As supporters of the park say, “There are better locations in the city for low-income housing, but there are no other locations in which to grow the park.”

I encourage anyone who loves Seattle to urge an alternative plan, one that does not destroy Discovery Park.