It might be Michael McGinn’s administration of the city in a nutshell — a bold willingness to experiment and seek new solutions mixed with the momentum of City Hall’s bureaucracy when one of those experiments doesn’t work.
The mayor’s office and representatives from the community and organizations around Cal Anderson are talking about a pushback on one of those experiments rolled out this summer as part of a larger initiative by McGinn in response to growing concerns about crime in the park. That initiative included thousands of dollars for new police and park rangers as well as increased patrols from the nearby East Precinct.
It also included a small, relatively cheap, if not the most green, experiment — leaving the lights on in the park and above Bobby Morris playfield through the night to cut down on campers and drug activity and make the area safer for pedestrian activity.
While the burst of street robbery activity near the park and a string of violent acts seems to have, indeed, settled down with the end of summer, residents living nearby, including many in the Hunters Capital-owned Broadway Building west of the park across Nagle Place, complain that the lights are too bright and that the situation is adding to problems in the park, not solving them.
“We feel that while the idea was a good one in theory, it has created more bad than good,” a representative for Hunters Capital tells CHS. “[Cal Anderson] appears to be open 24/7 with the lights on and people are treating it as such.”
SPD also doesn’t likely have much good to say about the lighting experiment. Efforts to keep the paths, playfield and basketball court clear of use in the well-lit park between 11:30 PM and the park’s 4 AM opening have been a challenge. People in the area say police are called out regularly for some of the louder disturbances but other illegal activities in the closed park continue mostly unabated by the light with drug users retreating to the same areas like bushes or next to buildings and large trees that they utilize during the day.
In recent weeks, the park’s lights suddenly began being turned off again without any announcement of a change. CHS tweeted a question about whether the lighting plan had been shut down — the lights were back on again soon after.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office says McGinn is collecting feedback on the situation. “The Mayor’s Office, Parks and SPD will meet with residents and business owners to discuss the effectiveness of and any other issues involving the Cal Anderson lights,” he writes, inviting CHS readers to provide their feedback on the lights to firstname.lastname@example.org. A decision is expected before Thanksgiving but the spokesperson believes the administration can “reach a resolution much sooner than that.”