Letter to Seattle City Council 5/7/14
Seattle City Council -
Friends of Discovery Park sent a letter to Mayor Ed Murray in February 2014 about the impending sale of the private inholdings within Discovery Park - the former historic military houses. We have not had the courtesy of a reply from the Mayor even though we requested one.
Our concern is for Discovery Park, which completely surrounds these private inholdings, and the public’s enjoyment of the Park when these houses go from single ownership (US Navy/Forest City) to ownership by 22 private individuals. (Please note, the Landmarks Preservation Board has adequately protected the buildings themselves in the Fort Lawton Landmark District Guidelines - preservation of the historic structures is not the issue.)
Attached is a copy of our letter to the Mayor. It gives a history of the process that we have been through since 2005 to try to facilitate ownership of these houses by the City or a City/private non-profit partnership so that they could be managed in a way that would protect Discovery Park. Also attached is an explanation of some of the facts and concerns around this issue, and comments from a concerned Park supporter - just one of the many similar letters of concern that Friends of Discovery Park has received recently.
The Primary Function-Central Purpose of Discovery Park as stated in The Discovery Park Master Plan is: “to provide an open space of quiet and tranquility for [ALL] the citizens of this city - a sanctuary where they might escape the turmoil of the city and enjoy the rejuvenation which quiet and solitude and an intimate contact with nature can bring.”
Having a residential neighborhood that is just like any other Seattle neighborhood, located in the heart of the Park, detracts from this Primary Function-Central Purpose. It will have a detrimental impact on Discovery Park and the public’s enjoyment of the Park - it already has since the Navy turned over management to Forest City in 2008.
Just since the Landmark District Guidelines were approved in 2012 there has been a laundry list of violations and encroachments. The Department of Neighborhoods and the Park Department do not have the means to deal with these, nor do they have the inclination to engage in the confrontational actions that are required to address these issues. Last Spring, one Forest City tenant roto-tilled up a section of the Park for their private vegetable garden. It took DPR 6 months to resolve the issue because the tenants fought it all the way and threatened legal action. And that was with just one owner and one tenant, not with 22 separate owners.
On 4/30/14, Gary Blakeslee from Thrive Communities (the local “front” management company representing the buyer - Rise Properties Trust, a large Vancouver BC developer) met with the President of the Discovery Park Advisory Council and the President of the Magnolia Historical Society. He outlined that their marketing strategy will be to emphasize the history of the site, and the protected-forever location of the property i.e. they plan to capitalize on the fact that the buyers of these houses will always have a Park to protect their surroundings and their view - their own publicly funded private estate.
Our goal is to defend The Master Plan and protect the Park for ALL the citizens of Seattle to enjoy. We would like to see the City acquire the property as public or public/non-profit ownership. The houses could then be residential or low-impact business rentals. The rentals would come with “covenants” or “restrictions” in the lease agreements that promote the Primary Function-Central Purpose of Discovery Park as a core value. In general it seems to be very bad public policy for the City to ignore the impending loss of control over the very heart of the City’s largest and most natural parkland.
Please read the 3 attached documents, and watch the KIRO-TV news clip (link provided.) [These and additional information are on our website: www.friendsdiscoverypark.org.]
We would like to hear from each of you on this issue - do you support public or public/non-profit ownership of these Discovery Park inholdings, and will you, our elected officials, step up and facilitate this for the Citizens of Seattle ? Time is of the essence - the sale to “Big Real-Estate” will close soon.
Thank you for your time.
On behalf of Friends of Discovery Park,
Julia N Allen
Member, Board of Trustees
Friends of Discovery Park
~ Defending the integrity of Discovery Park for future generations ~