July 16, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 29

News

In tug-of-war over Lake City’s vacant fire station, housing advocates lose

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

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In 2011, the Seattle City Council and then-Mayor Mike McGinn announced their plan to turn the former Fire Station 39 into a shelter and day center.

One year later, the plan changed: The city decided to replace the building with transitional housing for up to 50 households earning less than 30 percent of the area median income — $26,000 for a family of four. (“At forum, Lake City residents blast plan for housing,” RC, Oct. 24, 2012).

Now, city leaders are considering leasing the empty Fire Station 39 on 30th Avenue NE and NE 127th St. to the Bill Pierre family to use to store auto parts.

Nearby residents, business owners and service providers support the decision, which will give them two years to discuss the redevelopment of Seattle’s northern-most neighborhood and possible changes to zoning codes for the upcoming update to the city’s comprehensive plan.

“It gives us some breathing space to finish up a lot of big planning efforts in Lake City that could affect the future of that site,” said Janine Blaeloch, vice president of the Lake City Neighborhood Association’s board of directors.

Housing advocates worry that the city is abandoning its intention to use surplus property for housing and services.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute. “There is a need for new housing, especially permanent, affordable housing for families with children.”

The deal is not final, said Cyndi Wilder, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS)

“At this time we are reviewing the lease proposal, but there is no lease agreement in place or in process,” Wilder said.

The Pierre family, a name synonymous with Lake City’s auto row, approached FAS with a proposal to lease the site, Wilder said. In June, FAS presented the proposal to the Lake City Neighborhood Association.

The fire station sits at the edge of the commercial core. It has been empty since November 2010. For two years afterward, the building housed homeless people.

Nickelsville and Union Gospel Mission each used the building as shelter.

Neighbors complained that the presence of homeless people was hurting Lake City’s businesses and causing crime and street disorder.

Lake City has room for transitional housing and services, but not at that site, Blaeloch said.

“At least for now, the city is recognizing that [the property is] a really critical piece of our civic core, and it needs to be held in limbo for a little while so we can figure out what we’re doing,” said Janine Blaeloch.

Lake City social service providers shrugged off news that the fire station would be used as auto parts storage.

The neighborhood is getting more apartments and will have plenty of room for low-income housing elsewhere, said Jonathan Neufeld, a community minister who runs God’s Little Acre, a drop-in center for homeless people in Lake City.

“It doesn’t feel like a big deal,” he said. “It’s temporary and the city needs time.”

Members of the Pierre family did not return calls for comment.

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