By Tim Kukes for CHS
Capitol Hill’s central park, Cal Anderson already has another busy summer of upgrades ahead in 2017. A $50,000 study included in this year’s city budget will also help set the stage for the next big upgrade for the 14-year-old park — new, more efficient, and safer lighting.
“One of the key things for Capitol Hill where you have 80% of the population as renters living in apartments – they don’t have backyards necessarily to enjoy,” Joe Sisolak, sustainability and planning director for Capitol Hill Housing, tells CHS. “Cal Anderson Park is the backyard for Capitol Hill. It is a critical space that a lot of people share.”
The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Cal Anderson Park Alliance have been advocating for that backyard to be a safer place at night. Part of that means improved lighting.
In 2015, two studies were conducted to assess safety issues within Cal Anderson Park. One study prepared by the Seattle Neighborhood Group assessed park safety according to Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) criteria and the other study, prepared by Dark-Light Design, specifically looked at technical lighting elements of the park. Both studies noted that the park had some serious issues in regards to safety and lighting.
“I walked through the park at night this summer, there are people hanging out or walking their dogs, and I can’t actually tell what they have in their hands,” Tari Nelson-Zagar, program manager for the Seattle Neighborhood Group and author of the CPTED report, said. “Should I be worried? If I have a cell phone in my hand and someone grabs it can I describe them later? Those kinds of details are lost in that kind of lit environment.”
Sisolak said the neighborhood’s advocacy helped Seattle Parks and Recreation get a $50,000 budget line item to fund a study for a schematic lighting plan that will build on the 2015 study.
Among the recommendations is an idea to mount LED lights on the park’s gatehouse to “softly illuminate the architecture of the gatehouse without creating an overwhelming visual element.” The study noted that the high contrast light around the shelter house plaza should be reduced by fully illuminating the plaza’s columns. The study also warned against over-lighting, especially with omnidirectional globes that shield views of the night sky.
Other recommendations included:
- Increase lighting along 11th Ave
- Increase lighting on paths while decreasing visual glare
- Light plants and trees throughout the park
- Enhance park entrance lighting
The Seattle Parks study funding comes through a program that provides monies for preliminary engineering studies and was approved in the 2017-2022 Capital Improvement Program. The study will commence as soon as a consultant is hired and is planned to take approximately 6 months.
“This project we want to provide lighting for safety while maintaining the historic character of the park,” Karen O’Connor, a spokesperson for parks said.
The 2015 study concluded that needed improvements would cost between $780,000 and $960,000 to implement. Once the new study is complete and a new cost estimate is in, the next effort for neighborhood advocates will be about figuring out how to pay for the needed improvements.
“This is part of much bigger effort to make Capitol Hill, particularly the dense parts of it, safe and accessible for everyone,” Sisolak said.