The timing makes it an even easier target. Wednesday, forest green chairs, tables, and umbrellas were added to the cement plaza between Cal Anderson’s community house and its notoriously filthy bathrooms. That night, another in a short string of park muggings and robberies went down during the park’s late night darkness.
But there’s more to the, um, punchline — the patio furniture belongs to the new Cal Anderson concierge, a new, short-term role that Seattle Parks and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce hope might be made permanent with funding from the newly (mostly) approved Seattle Parks District.
— CapitolHillChamber (@caphillchamber) August 6, 2014
Responsible for helping visitors to the park with information, setting out the tables and chairs — and bringing them in again at night — and putting out the park’s new giant chess pieces, the chamber’s director Michael Wells asked CHS readers to think of the new concierge simply as dedicated Cal Anderson staff. Parks tells us the concierge will be on hand seven days a week from noon to 7 PM through mid-September. The new role might not seem like enough to quell the nighttime problems that seem to come to a head every August in the park — and it’s probably not. Seattle Parks also continues to deploy its non-SPD park rangers in Cal Anderson and in other parks through the city but their hours are limited to daytime hours. The rangers can’t make the park 100% safe, either.
East Precinct’s commander Capt. Pierre Davis, now five months into his tour leading the SPD officers that patrol Capitol Hill, tells CHS that foot patrols in the park started to increase in March as he took over. He also tells us he has no plans to ramp the patrols down after summer. Late night is another matter, however, as foot patrols are not being run after the park closes at 11:30 PM. The park remains a “hot spot” for East Precinct’s emphasis patrols. Officers have responded quickly to each of the recent robbery incidents but have been partly foiled by the large number of people fleeing the scene of the three recent robberies. Still, police managed to make one arrest of a 17-year-old and recovered a gun.
Unless it was somehow gated off at night, the things we love about Cal Anderson as a public, open space with lots of places to hang out will mean it will always face public safety challenges in the dark. And sometimes things even go south by daylight. It might seem particularly challenged again this August. Even the Pianos in the Park promotion hit a wrong key with its Cal Anderson deployment — after repeated need for repairs from damage suffered at the hands of vandals, etc., Seattle Parks opted this week to remove the piano from Cal Anderson. The move was a surrender to some of the realities of having a fantastic public park in the core of Central Seattle. Expect Bobby Morris’s plastic turf to still be sunnily crowded Thursday night, regardless. There will be a Parks-provided busker from 4 to 6 PM. And the patio furniture will likely be full Friday and Saturday as Three Dollar Bill Cinema screens another free summer movie and the Seattle Street Food Festival takes over 11th Ave. The Cal Anderson bathroom? Some problems are too big to solve.
Meanwhile, Cal Anderson isn’t the only Capitol Hill park with big city problems. New “CLIMBING PROHIBITED” signs have been posted beneath the Volunteer Park Water Tower. We’re told the designated historic landmark is fragile and “climbing is bad for the bricks and unsafe for the climber.” There was no word on how the no climbing request would be enforced.
— pete higgins (@pete_higgins) August 7, 2014