UPDATE 6:40 PM:
CHS had an opportunity to talk with Seattle Parks spokesperson Don Harris about the Volunteer Park situation. He says the Slog post didn’t get the situation quite right. “It’s not a legal situation at this time. These families got a lawyer, I think, to represent their needs not to battle,” Harris said.
Harris tells CHS that the situation began when Volunteer Park maintenance workers began noticing more and more play equipment and gardening gear spreading into the park boundary. After a survey, Harris said homeowners were notified about their property lines. Most homeowners along the west edge of Volunteer Park have been quick to act on the request from Parks to vacate the city property, Harris said. “The two [the Stranger] focused on just happen to be the most complicated.”
In one family’s situation, contractors built an addition to the home that actually stretches into Volunteer Park’s property line thinking that the yard that existed when they bought the home represented the legitimate boundary lines. In the other, the family is moving its yard wall to comply, Harris said.
Harris said there was a 30-day deadline for the family to comply with the parks request with a 90-day window before the city took any kind of legal action. Harris said his department believes the 90-day window is very nearly if not already closed but that they are working to figure out an exact date before proceeding. “As long as we continue to see positive signs, we’ll continue to work this out,” Harris said.
This is not the first time this situation has been dealt with by Parks. In 2009, a small controversy erupted when two men briefly fought the city after similar encroachments were found in Seward Park. Harris said the negotiated solutions in that situation worked out just fine for the men — they kept their gardens — and the park.
Meanwhile, in other Capitol Hill parks news, Harris told CHS “there is nothing worth reporting” yet in the ongoing negotiations for the city to purchase the empty lot at Federal and Republican for a new park but that there are “positive signs of progress” in striking a deal with the land’s owner.
The Stranger’s Cienna Madrid has a fascinating story from the City of Seattle’s civil litigation front about a battle between the Parks Department and Federal Ave homes encroaching on the western edge of Volunteer Park:
Two families along the 1200 block of Federal Avenue East, on Capitol Hill, have lawyered up and are refusing to relinquish 2,813.3 square feet of Volunteer Park property that they’re functionally using as fenced back yards. According to a records request filed by The Stranger with the city, last July, the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department became aware of 13 residences encroaching on public space—including a hot tub pavilion and zip line into the park—and on January 15 of this year, residents were informed they had 30 days to vacate park land.
The public records request shows that the home owners removed the zip line and dismantled the hot-tub pavilion. But two families—Ralph and Lesley Althouse, and Charles and Kristen Wilk—have refused to comply, records indicate, still using park of the park as private yard space.
Slog goes on to report that the lawyer for the families is negotiating with the city and says that one possible solution put forward by Parks is a Revocable Use Permit that would allow the families to “rent” the 2,800 square feet of Volunteer Park on which their million dollar homes are encroaching. For $30,000 a year. We’ll see what else we can add to the story.
UPDATE: Before you assume the home owners in this situation are acting like entitled snobs, check out how Parks spokesperson Donald Harris describes the situation in this Slog update on their original story. Harris says the families are “working to comply” with the request to make adjustments to their properties and that one family has already agreed to move their back yard wall.