John Mierke is a housing authority board member and resident of Baker Heights. His household is one of the roughly 100 waiting to be relocated from the aging complex. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

John Mierke is a housing authority board member and resident of Baker Heights. His household is one of the roughly 100 waiting to be relocated from the aging complex. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Questions remain on the breakup of Baker Heights property

Mayor Franklin asked the Everett Housing Authority to delay a vote for additional public input.

EVERETT — After receiving pushback from some in the Delta neighborhood over the future of Baker Heights, the board of the Everett Housing Authority postponed a decision over the aging affordable housing complex.

The board was scheduled to vote Sept. 24 on a new plan that could more than triple the number of proposed new units on the land. The existing complex is set to be torn down.

Mayor Cassie Franklin this week requested the delay “to allow for additional outreach and opportunities for input,” spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

Many neighbors and others recently reached out to the city with concerns and questions about the Baker Heights property, Wiggums Hollow Park and the Friendship Garden, Pembroke said.

The housing complex is in northeast Everett. Wiggums Park sits on the northern edge of the property. The garden is shared by Baker Heights and Delta residents.

“At this time, the city is not advocating for a specific outcome but wants to ensure there is time for additional engagement with the communities that will be most affected,” Pembroke wrote in an email.

The housing authority held a public meeting Sept. 19 to present the new options. The board also was briefed this week.

The proposal calls for increasing the number of units up to 200 and selling leftover land to Washington State University to expand its branch campus in Everett. The new housing complex would be a mix of subsidized units and apartments affordable to households making up to 80 percent of the area’s median income.

A board vote was scheduled for Sept. 24, five days after the public was informed.

Members of the Delta Neighborhood Association have said there was not adequate time for input on the suggested changes.

“We want better consultation on the project,” said Mary Fosse, who chairs the association.

Housing authority board member John Mierke says the redevelopment initiative had been shelved for a while.

“We couldn’t come to a decision on how to break up the property in regards to selling,” he said in an interview Friday.

He is also a resident of Baker Heights. His household is one of roughly 100 still waiting to be relocated before demolition. About 144 households have moved.

The authority is unable to use federal funds to renovate the aging complex, which dates back to World War II. The original idea was to retain 3.6 acres of the property to build 60 subsidized units, with a focus on students in the Everett School District experiencing homelessness. The remainder of the 15-acre site would have been listed for sale.

The sale proceeds are to be used to acquire four to five new properties to replace the apartments being lost.

The new plan keeps more public housing units at the Baker Heights location. At a recent meeting, Ashley Lommers-Johnson, executive director of the Everett Housing Authority, said additional units were recommended because the city needs more housing.

The Delta Neighborhood Association has criticized the potential increase, saying there is an inequitable distribution of low-income housing and public housing in the Delta area.

The neighborhood association also urged the housing authority to retain the portion it owns of Wiggums Park. The association had been working with the city to install a soccer field in that area.

The housing authority intends to include that land in the sale. With the recent changes to the redevelopment, Pembroke said, the city has given up on the goal of a soccer field.

The housing authority is hosting a meeting to collect additional public input. That is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Baker Community Center at 1401 Poplar St. The board is holding a special meeting at noon Oct. 8 to vote on the matter.

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

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