Everett Housing Authority is asking for city approval for its proposed development of 16 acres of land currently occupied by the vacant Baker Heights public housing development on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett Housing Authority is asking for city approval for its proposed development of 16 acres of land currently occupied by the vacant Baker Heights public housing development on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett inches closer to Park District affordable housing plan

Building heights — originally proposed at 15 stories tall — could be locked in with council approval in July.

EVERETT — The Everett Housing Authority’s proposed rezone making way for a major development in north Everett could soon get the City Council’s stamp of approval.

Under the authority’s plan, restaurants, stores, offices, nonprofits and a public park would operate alongside 1,500 mixed-income homes, some in buildings as tall as 12 stories, in the so-called Park District.

Baker Heights, a World War II-era public housing development, currently sits on the 16 acres that would house the new complex. Once home to hundreds of families over nearly eight decades, the neat rows of buildings in Everett’s Delta neighborhood have been sitting empty since the housing authority shut down the development in 2019.

A three-dimensional rendering of the Park District is featured in the Everett Housing Authority’s proposed development plan. (Provided by the Everett Housing Authority)

A three-dimensional rendering of the Park District is featured in the Everett Housing Authority’s proposed development plan. (Provided by the Everett Housing Authority)

In March, the city’s Planning Commission recommended the council approve the housing authority’s proposed changes to city code, including reduced parking requirements and an allowance for taller buildings. Public hearings on the proposals will take place at the City Council meetings June 26 and July 10, with a council vote following the latter.

The housing authority “is working towards a phased 10-year design and construction process,” according to a city information page.

The first phase of construction, completed last year, did not require a rezone. That property, called Madrona Square, has 67 units for homeless families with children enrolled in Everett Public Schools and 38 more affordable housing units.

Some of the site’s neighbors in Delta, a historically low-income neighborhood, have expressed misgivings about the project. In a January public statement, the Delta Neighborhood Association cited the building height and the lack of community amenities, like a youth center, gym or library, as among its objections.

Last Wednesday, Jeff Kelly, chair of the neighborhood group, told the council he’d seen “many positive changes to the park district plan” after the association collaborated with the housing authority and the city. He mentioned wetland stewardship, preservation of Wiggums Hollow Park, part of which is owned by the housing authority, and pedestrian improvements as among the issues important to the association.

In letters of intent, the housing authority has committed to maintaining the park, turning nearby wetlands “into a conservation and education outdoor public amenity” and taking steps to support retailers in the Park District. The housing authority is working with the city on an agreement to “get credits” for pedestrian improvements, the authority’s interim Executive Director Mary Swenson said Wednesday.

A previous version of the plan had some buildings rise to 15 stories, a height reduced last month to 12 stories “to address concerns expressed by some that buildings … would be too tall,” according to the housing authority’s proposal.

The authority is still asking the council to change the height maximum for multifamily residential land to 15 stories. Developers would still need council approval to build higher than 10 stories.

If approved, the plan would also reduce parking requirements on site. Homes in the Park District would need only 0.7 parking spaces per bedroom. One-bedroom and studio apartments must have one space per unit under the current rules.

The parking code modification is based in part on data from King County, a transportation consultant for the housing authority explained at a previous meeting. In neighborhoods comparable to Delta, with similar “proximity to transit and other services,” tenants in three out of 10 units don’t own a car, consultant Marni Heffron said in February.

The influx of new residents would increase demand for police and fire services. The project’s environmental impact statement estimates the city would need to add eight new positions in the police department and as many as approximately 15 firefighters to match the population increase associated with the Park District.

The fire department would also likely need “a new or enlarged station,” according to the impact statement.

Per state law, housing authorities aren’t subject to property taxes. However, city Planning Director Yorik Stevens-Wajda told the council Wednesday, the housing authority has agreed to pay the city $230 per unit per year, starting 15 years after buildings are certified.

The city estimates that would bring in $345,000 annually to help mitigate the cost of increased public services.

The city would also see an estimated $125,000 bump in sales tax revenue and a $121,000 increase in shared population-based revenue from the state as a result of the development, Stevens-Wajda said at the meeting.

Taxes on the building construction would result in $6.75 million of revenue for the city, he added, noting the city would also collect $2.1 “million in park impact fees and $4.9 million in traffic impact fees.”

Council member Mary Fosse said she initially approached the Park District with skepticism, but she has been impressed by the collaboration on the project.

On the city’s housing shortage, Fosse said: “We can’t afford to lose any more of our neighbors.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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