Ed Murray’s North Capitol Hill home Tuesday night was the target for a group of protesters calling for the mayor and City Hall to stop construction of the county’s planned upgraded Children and Family Justice Center on 12th Ave.
A group of around 50 protesters lined 10th Ave E near E Boston near the mayor’s home to call for a last-ditch effort to reject what is expected to be approval of city construction permits for the facility, a decision the protesters say is slated for Thursday:
No New Youth Jail Action Alert
Call the Mayor, County Executive, and City Council Today!
**Mayor Murray, Dow Constantine, the City of Seattle, and King County intend to give our children and families a new children jail for the holidays.**
On December 22nd the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection will release its decision about whether it will grant permits to King County to build a new children’s jail in Seattle.
Wednesday night, protesters chanted for no new youth jail and reminded the mayor they know where he lives. “We’re here outside of Mayor Murray’s house to let him know that we’re not going away, we are paying attention, and he can’t do something like allow his city government to pass this permit right before the holidays,” protest organizer Bana Abera said. “Obviously, we are paying attention.”
“We want to let him know that we are vigilant. And especially with him being up for reelection, we are going to make sure that he knows, if he doesn’t stop this jail, this will be the main issue of his campaign.”
Earlier this week, Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine were targeted by protesters at the announcement designating Washington as a “hate free state.”
Protesters concerned about racial disparity in the justice system and frustrated over building a brand new facility that they say perpetuates it have turned to targeting the ongoing permitting process for the facility as the various paper trails have been worked out by officials to construct the $210 million project planned to replace the old youth jail still in use near 12th and Alder.
Black youth in King County are roughly six times more likely than white youth to face a judge in juvenile court. And while the number of youth referred to juvenile court has been falling for years, the bulk of that benefit has gone to whites. In 2014, there were 467 admissions to youth detention for probation violations — 42% of those were for black teens and children.
The new facility has been shaped for changes in the approach to youth detention. Already planned for 144 beds vs. the current facility’s 210, Constantine slashed another 32 beds from the plan in 2015. Officials say the true capacity will be even fewer — with room for less than 100. The facility will also include ten courtrooms for criminal legal hearings involving youth.
In February of 2015, the King County Council approved the construction contract to build the new facility following a 2012 levy vote to approve the funding. In 2014, the City Council paved the way for building the new youth dentition center with an 8-1 approval of the land use bill to allow construction on the site. Kshama Sawant cast the lone opposing vote.
UPDATE 12/22/2016: The decision on the permit that potentially knocks down yet another milestone on the way to construction has been published along with the conditions placed on the project to mitigate environmental impacts. The SDCI also approved a series of proposed “modifications to development standards” requested by the county due to factors like security needs and a plan to enhance Alder with “features that welcome pedestrians.” The full document is below.
Mayor Murray, meanwhile, issued a statement Wednesday announcing he would not act to block the permit, saying he recognizes that “significant racial disparities exist in our city” and that his goal is to “keep all young people from entering the criminal justice system but that he could not intervene in “any permitting decision.”
The City of Seattle issues nearly 800 master use permits annually. Those permits are issued by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) according to technical criteria having to do solely with land use and environmental issues. King County applied for a master use permit for the new Children and Family Justice Center, with a decision from SDCI to be announced shortly. King County has designed and is funding the project, which resulted from a 2012 levy supported by County voters. The Office of the Mayor cannot intervene in any permitting decision, including this one, as it is a technical decision based on the County’s application. As the City Hearing Examiner’s decision on Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle clarified, the City must base any permit decision on the technical design facts in a permit application, and not on any policy considerations. I recognize that significant racial disparities exist in our City and the ultimately our goal is to keep all young people from entering the criminal justice system and I will continue to direct City resources to ending these disparities in foundational areas such as education, employment, and criminal justice.”
Opponents have until January 5th to file an appeal.