Don’t tear down Fort Lawton

Posted on June 27th, 2017 by Sara

The following is a letter from a career military officer and Magnolia resident to the Seattle Public Schools:

The purpose of this communications is to provide Seattle Public Schools with specific information related to Harvey Hall, Leisy USAR Center and surrounding out-buildings, as a potential site for a new Seattle High School.

I am a retired Army Officer and Federal DOD Army Civilian Employee who worked in Harvey Hall and Leisy USAR Center between 1973 and 2000. I would like to convey to you as a former Army Officer Instructor; Enlisted Instructor; Finance Officer; Operations Officer; Administrator; Logistics Supply Officer and Facility Manager, my impression of these facilities as a potential site for a proposed high school.

During my twenty-seven years using these facilities, our Army Engineer staff and Facility Management Team spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for maintenance, repair and upgrading facilities on a annual basis.  Structural electric and communications were constantly upgraded with the latest technology including fiber optic cable installed throughout the facilities. Our federal budget provided us with sufficient funds to exceed all federal, state, county and city code requirements including environmental and HAZMAT. Over two dozen Engineer staff performed all aspects of planning and contract implementation.  We often used civilian contractors to perform highly technical building modifications, alterations, repairs, and special projects.

Facilities as of 2000, included updated classroom-ready areas, gym, cafeteria, conference rooms, vault, huge parking areas and multiple outbuildings for specialty education. Faculty lounge, counseling areas, library and other functions of a fully operational high school were all in place. Five separate parking lots provide ample room for staff and student parking.

From 2000 to 2017, I have no knowledge of vandalism or other similar destruction. However, these facilities, as of 2000, were impressive and would be a real asset to the Seattle School District meeting many of the criteria for infrastructure without the burden of large capital funding for buildings, property purchase, and renovation.

After listening to the Seattle Housing Authority on June 19 & 21 present their desire to provide homeless housing based on the Mayor’s vision, it seemed clear to many of us who live here that the Seattle Housing Authority has an intransigent, single-minded vision of building homeless housing, irrespective of the cost or effects to our community.

Secondly, the Seattle Housing Authority, while taking input from the community, is clearly unimpressed by the outpouring of support for a new High School at Fort Lawton.

Finally, the Seattle Housing Authority, Mayor and his Spouse in the Seattle Parks Department have an interest in selecting one option only for this site….and it isn’t a High School.

As a Seattle home owner, former elementary school teacher, taxpayer, army officer and federal employee, this is not how city government is supposed to be managed. When the community says, “We want a new High School for our sons and daughters in Queen Anne and Magnolia,” city employees should listen. We do not want a homeless center as part of an even larger Mayor’s vision of a “make-it-up-as-you-go along” agenda.

My bottom line is a request that you take a look at these former Army facilities and see for yourself this property is a turn-key, state-of-the-art complex that can support the Seattle School District. Having worked for nearly three decades in these buildings, I can assure you that a new Seattle High School could not find a nicer, more convenient location for our students.

9 responses to “Don’t tear down Fort Lawton”

  1. Marianne McCrary says:

    Thank you for your oat. I am in total agreement with you.

  2. Constance Rowe says:

    I totally agree with this retired army officer. As a technology coordinator in three Seattle area schools, I know first hand of the expense and complications of making a school technology ready. Since Fort Lawton is already set with up-to-date infrastructure for access to today’s technology it would be a great savings to the district to make use of that capability. Why waste what is already there?

    The Fort Lawton site is a perfect location for a high school. The surroundings cry to be used as a learning facility for biology, environmental studies, and many more science projects. The site is a natural for an educational facility in a multitude of ways. Use of that site for housing can in no way compete with the advantages that a high school there could provide to the teen population that might use it. Please keep the welfare of high school students at the forefront of your minds as you make this very important decision.

  3. Holly Cordial says:

    I can. It say how excellent this is. My husband and I are retired active duty Army NCOs, my husband is a federal GS civilian employee and my oldest son is enlisted. My youngest son is about to start Highschool. We live blocks from the park & buildings and fully support a high school there. We strongly disagree with the proposed homeless housing in such a facility or in the park at all. Having lived in Magnolia for the past two years and the seattle school district (Queen Anne first) I am sad to see how crime and homeless encampments has grown since first moving to Seattle.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for your wisdom.

  5. S. Linse says:

    This post incorrectly references Seattle Housing Authority instead of The Seattle Office of Housing – two very different entities. Seattle Housing Authority is not involved in the redevelopment of the Fort Lawton property.

    The City of Seattle Office of Housing, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and the Department of Neighborhoods held the Fort Lawton meetings.

  6. Pam Love says:

    Excellent. Can we get wider readership for this letter? Please send it to The Seattle Times Op-Ed.

    Thank you for sharing this information.

  7. Sherry Peck Moody says:

    Thank you for your input. As a lifelong Magnolia resident and SPS student, I, and many like me, have wanted a high school in our neighborhood. It is time for us to have our own high school and if all of the young families who have moved here in the last few years are an indication, the time is now.

  8. ReaderX says:

    Such a letter would likely be even more effective if it omitted the repeated jabs at the mayor and housing authority. There’s no need for a generic anti-gubmint vibe which, no doubt, would be ill-received. Instead, a clearer focus on the actual benefits of a proposed school and perhaps a brief, high-level foray into the disadvantages of other options.

    Given that the author feels there is political will to implement housing for homeless Americans, perhaps the most effective approach would include a suggestion or two for alternate locations in our neighborhood for such homes needed the least of these.


    I would like to talk by telephone or in person with residents of Magnolia about the proposed low income housing for the Fort Lawton site. My telephone number is 206-985-1578.

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