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More changes planned for Cal Anderson as mayor tours park’s trouble spots

(Images: CHS)

Cal Anderson’s benches along E Pine? Goners. Bushes and shrubbery? You’re going to get clipped — some of you outright removed. These and other relatively affordable, possibly practical and hopefully effective measures were detailed by parks department staff on a tour of Cal Anderson Park prior to Tuesday night’s community town hall meeting.

“It’s about behavior not status,” Parks head Christopher Williams said.

Tuesday’s tour included Mayor Mike McGinn, parks super Williams and reps from SPD, Seattle’s park rangers, community representatives and a handful of select local media, CHS included. The TV news camera guy that showed up mid-tour was not invited. The three members of the Stranger staff who did, presumably, were. Laura Stockwell, the Capitol Hill mother who seemingly single-handled forced this late-summer issue around Cal Anderson safety on City Hall, also walked the park with the contingent.


The biggest questions — just how threatened do you feel in the park? — why Cal Anderson? — why Capitol Hill? — were never fully answered on the tour. Williams came closest — pointing out that Cal Anderson is the city’s “most intensively used” urban park. After the tour, McGinn chalked the situation up to a “tipping point” and told CHS he believes Cal Anderson has become a focus due to multiple smaller factors that are also at play in other parks in the city.

The tour included the benches along E Pine that, like any good benches in the city, are a mixture of Seattle’s interesting-ness and some of its worst behavior. In August, the 86-year-old father of Century Ballroom’s Hallie Kuperman was assaulted in a seemingly unprovoked attack as he sat on one of the park’s E Pine benches. He suffered an injured hand.

Parks staff told the mayor and the assembled tour that the plan is for the benches to be removed for an undetermined period of time until the current issues around the park’s safety subside and they can be restored.

Also up for whacking are areas of shrubbery in the park. Some areas have grown too high and offer people more places to do the stuff that people are worried about people doing in the park, some areas just need to be cleared, parks staff said.

Other solutions on the drawing board included the possibility of increased use of the community meeting space in the park’s Shelter House to put more people in that area of the park and the possibility of working with an outside organization to fund a Cal Anderson “concierge” to actively program events in the park — a strategy that has worked well in Pioneer Square, reps from Parks said, and something the Cal Anderson Park Alliance would love to have, CAPA rep Kay Rood told the tour. The new lights will also soon be operational on Bobby Morris which will return night-time games to the playfield and also increase use of the park.

Park ranger representatives on the tour said that, though it’s not posted anywhere in the park, there is a 24-hour hotline phone number people can call if they need ranger assistance: (206) 615-0387. Emergencies and reports of crime should still go to 911.

The tour also revealed some interesting anecdotes from the longer-term struggle parks has faced in keeping Cal Anderson a safe place to visit. The tour stopped by the basketball courts where a popular but little known park feature exists — an open electrical outlet popular for plugging everything in from radios to electric shavers. In another example from the front lines of the war on people’s bad habits, parks has experimented with different types of light bulbs in the Cal Anderson bathrooms to try to curb drug use in the park. Apparently, some types of fluorescents make it easier to see veins — a useful feature for heroin users.

The crowd at Tuesday night’s town hall

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30 thoughts on “More changes planned for Cal Anderson as mayor tours park’s trouble spots

  1. “…parks has experimented with different types of light bulbs in the Cal Anderson bathrooms to try to curb drug use in the park. Apparently, some types of fluorescents make it easier to see veins…”

    Also known as “track lighting.”

  2. Removing the benches isn’t going to do a GD thing except discourage people to hang out along the street scape, possibly making is less safe as there will be fewer “eyes on the street.” The nation is mired in depression, and a response here is remove street benches – this is madnesss.

    More benches should be put in.

    The situation will continue to get worse, as the economy is basically in a severe depression and the ranks of the desperate are growing by the day. GROWING BY THE DAY. I know that’s hard for many of you yuppie Seattle $100K/year earners to understand, but its the REALITY.

    If you don’t like it, get involved in helping reverse the last 30 years of American socio-economic madness, or move to Denmark- where the have more benches on the street and real bicycle infrastructure.

    Myself, I’m about ready to move to Vancouver BC where the rightwing death grip is at least several years behind where it is in the United States.

    warm regards, Paul

  3. Why do people always toss around threats like “I’m moving to Canada” ? Like they want our asses up there?
    We can’t clean up our own shit, so they should welcome us to inflict it on them?

    By the way, they have plenty of homelessness, street crime, break-ins, and drug addicts in Vancouver, too. Plenty.

  4. Why do so many people blame Capitol Hill’s problems on the recession?

    I’m fairly certain that that poor soul who got hatcheted in the head wasn’t killed by a man simply “down on his luck” and I’m pretty sure that all the crack heads living in our park aren’t crack heads just because they got laid off and can’t find a job.

    When you have a friend who was automatically given a restraining order against a transient male with violent priors who assaulted her because “he can tell she doesn’t like black men” there is a problem. We need to stop making excuses for these people and take back our neighborhood.

  5. Let’s face it those park benches are used primarly by the homeless. The senior was probably assaulted because he didn’t know that and worse, could’nt defend himself.

    Someone should have mentioned the other Homeless Habitat- the bus stop on 11th and Pine.

  6. Bench removal has always seemed like throwing out the baby with the bathwater to me. In this case, bench removal might have protected this 86-year-old man from assault… by discouraging him from leaving his home; is that such a big improvement? I remember when I was pregnant, and missing benches at bus stops made taking the bus significantly less pleasant. This doesn’t really seem like a good plan for a liveable city.

  7. Go spout that on centraldistrictseattle.com

    Seriously though, Capitol Hill is the most densely populated part of the city…and probably the most frequented by people who live in other areas. Not to mention the fact that a lot of the people here like to hear their own voices, so when the opportunity arises to bitch…they seize it!

  8. PS: Annoyed. up there is the most logical person I’ve seen posting on this site in a long ass time. What happened to Mike With Curls? That guy was crazy, but at least he was a realist.

    Everybody wants to blame these junkie homeless people’s actions on something else. SOME PEOPLE JUST FUCKING SUCK, PERIOD. Everybody wants to save somebody, without accepting the fact that they’ve made this position for themselves. If I had no ambition, goals, desire to succeed (and woo the ladies) I would be a homeless drunk too. Shit, half the time they eat better than most people that actually are struggling and victims of the economy (the guys that camp out in front of Cheesecake Factory, come to mind), they get tons of benefits that people that actually work don’t even get (free cell phone [for “job hunting” – yeah fuckin’ right], free healthcare, grooming, etc…) and all they have to do is stay drunk and harass hardworking people that are actually trying to live in this community and see it thrive.

    Doesn’t sound like a bad gig.

  9. It may not be that the crackhead or homeless person you describe is that way because they got laid off themselves. But it is possible that the place they use to get help, counseling, food, or a bathroom had to shut it’s doors completely or reduce it’s hours because of the recession. So yeah, I’d say that the shit-tastic economy is potentially a factor.

  10. I am so tired (literally, actually) of taking away benches being Seattle’s great problem solving idea. You know who else this punishes? The elderly, pregnant folks, people with small kids, folks like me with disabilities who have to rest a lot while we’re out walking. It’s a stupid idea that’s going to cause more long term harm than any problem it pretends to solve in the short term.

    Doubtless folks on here will tell me to handle it all my self, or man up and deal with my pain without inconveniencing the rest of society or some other smart remark like that. We seem to be coming to that in this country these days. As long as all the “right people” don’t have to see or experience a negative side effect of some political decision, then everyone else are just a bunch of whiners trying to ruin things.

    I am awfully glad they cut those bushes though. I’ve long thought those were a safety issue, especially in a neighborhood where people are at a higher risk for being physically assaulted by default.

  11. OK, someone has to mention the “elephant in the room.”….might as well be me.

    Obviously, “Community Lunch” is a magnet for the homeless, drawing many people to hang out in Cal Anderson Park before and after the lunch, and many of these people engage in antisocial and even illegal behaviors. Before anyone accuses me of being a cold-hearted bastard, I will say that I am not against feeding programs for the homeless….they are a compassionate and helpful thing….but they can also have unintended, negative consequences.

    I hope that Community Lunch will continue, but perhaps there is something the managers of that program can do to decrease the impact their program is having on Cal Anderson. I’m not sure what this would be. Suggestions?

  12. “Annoyed” speaks the truth.

    I am really tired of comments (like Paul’s) which whine about the fact that some people are trying to work on an important neighborhood issue (the problems in the park) when there is a greater problem to worry about (the recession). It’s apples and oranges, Paul. Maybe people feel like they have the possibility of effecting positive change in their community, but as an individual they cannot do much about the recession.

    I am quite sure that, if we had no serious problems with our economy now, there would be just as many homeless people (and others) causing trouble at Cal Anderson. To say the recession is a root cause of that dysfunction is just plan illogical.

  13. I completely agree actually. Removing the benches doesn’t solve the problem. The benches were a luxury, it’s not like homeless people have qualms with sitting on the ground.

  14. Indeed “the right wing death grip” is causing crack heads to murder people in the park. So in Texas there must be 1000 murders in their parks on a daily basis. Probably one murder a day in Othello, Washington considering how right wing they are. Seattle by this logic must have a crime rate that is very low. Liberal cities like LA, SF, NY and Seattle are surely the safest places to live in the country. The Seattle lefties are the only thing between an all out drug murder craze driven by white shirted republicans.

  15. I fully understand and realize the on going problems of the parks in the Capital Hill area, however that park is not the only park with problems. I live in the Renton Highlands area, the parks along with several bus stops need to be addressed as well. Some of these area’s aren’t safe either. What do you suggest be done about that?

  16. Removing benches doesn’t make rude and shabby folks disappear. As a previous poster remarked, most of them can — and do — sit on steps, retaining walls or the ground when the benches and bus shelters go away. For people who are old and people who have difficulty standing or walking, benches are essential if they are going to get out much.

    Portland has lots of benches — and all kinds of people use them. Perhaps if there were more places to sit, the less well dressed (and sometimes, yes, less well mannered, though I have had less well dressed people offer me a place to sit at bus stops–) would be spread more widely, and be less noticeable.

    And — really good advocacy, Cal Anderson users. The last few times I’ve been through the park, there’ve been a couple of uniformed Police officers. And yes, that is way more on-going coverage than Judkins or Othello parks get after people have been shooting at each other—

  17. Thanks to busybody parents who can do anything and everything except keep an eye on their children, nobody in Capitol Hill can enjoy bushes or sitting at the park any more. Instead of homeless people sleeping it off under bushes, they’ll now do it under direct sunlight.

    Nothing is being made safer, just less fun for everyone. But as long as those busybody parents feel safe, it’s forward-ho!