Critics and allies sounded off on controversial housing plan

The proposal would bring 34 low- to moderate-income units to Everett’s Port Gardner neighborhood.

EVERETT — A contentious plan to build low- to moderate-income apartments in the Port Gardner neighborhood continues to draw criticism from many neighbors.

A Thursday night meeting also drew a handful of supporters on the project proposed by Housing Hope and the Everett School District aimed at homeless students.

Earlier this year, the school district declared the lot in the 3600 block of Norton Avenue excess land and agreed to lease the property to the nonprofit for 75 years.

“We didn’t choose this site, it happens to be a property that is surplus, nobody planned this,” Fred Safstrom, Housing Hope’s CEO, told a crowd of about 20. “The school district saw this as an opportunity to use this land as a way to help these students get to school.”

Last year the district had 1,266 students experiencing homelessness.

The agreement with the school district includes 34 low- to moderate-income apartments. That number could potentially grow to 50, Safstrom said. Families experiencing homelessness with children at Sequioa High School would be given first priority, followed by homeless households with students in the school district.

A proposed early childhood center as large as 10,000 square feet has been dropped from the project.

The apartments would be spread across several two-story buildings, each containing three to four units.

“You aren’t going to see one monolithic structure here,” Safstrom told the crowd.

The project was halted in mid-June after the Everett City Council placed a moratorium on supportive housing in single-family residential zones. Before that action, the project as described to the city by the developer would have been allowed to go forward.

Housing Hope is also pursuing another route to move the project forward. The nonprofit filed a petition to amend the city’s comprehensive plan in September requesting an upzone of the site to allow multifamily buildings. The change wouldn’t be out of character for that area, which has both single-family and multifamily housing.

Under current regulations, a developer would be allowed to build between five to 10 single-family homes per acre on the 3-acre site.

Critics, many of whom felt blindsided by the proposal, said the the building would increase traffic along a narrow street and eliminate green space many neighbors use. They also worried the project would negatively impact their property values.

“I just don’t think this is the right spot,” said Jenni Christensen, who lives across the street and wants the school district and Housing Hope to consider other locations.

A few neighbors spoke in support of the project, many of whom have argued there’s plenty of green space already in the area. Doyle Park is about one block north of the proposed site.

“I know we need this,” said Julie Teigen , who lives nearby and across the street from another Housing Hope building, Crossroads.

Teigen said she’s seen families who have moved into that building change for the better. And since she’s lived there, she said, her property value has only increased.

Neighbors will have another chance to comment. A second meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 26 in the cafeteria of Sequoia High School, 3516 Rucker Ave.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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