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After CHOP, City of Seattle launches process on ‘a community conversation and vision’ for changes to Cal Anderson Park

As the Seattle City Council takes up its final push in the debate over Seattle Police funding in 2020, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle city officials are making good on at least one promise made to Black Lives Matter protesters — finding ways to make changes at Cal Anderson to “memorialize” the demonstrations and weeks of CHOP, the occupied protest camp that filled the nearby streets and the park in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“The protests of the past couple months have required that we begin a conversation about how Cal Anderson Park can better serve our community and more firmly speak to our values,” Jesús Aguirre, superintendent for Seattle Parks and Recreation, said in a statement on a new initiative to start the Cal Anderson planning process.

The Cal Anderson effort comes as as the Seattle City Council prepares its final rebalancing of the city’s 2020 budget and zeroes in on a major vote on the plan Monday. UPDATE: The final vote is being delayed a week and will now be held Monday, August 10th.

Today, the council will renew its debate on addressing #defundSPD goals as its budget committee holds its final meeting before Monday’s big vote. Although a Seattle City Council majority has committed to the long-term goals of defunding SPD by 50%, the path to getting there will be set this week and in the days leading up to the August 10th vote.

Compared to the budget maneuverings, the art and possible changes to Cal Anderson are minutiae in the pages of department spending being pored over. Officials have not yet established a budget for any of the work that could be planned for the Cal Anderson initiative. For many, city-backed efforts to create CHOP art and features in the park will echo with other City of Seattle initiatives stronger in symbolism than substance like the rainbow crosswalks of Pike/Pine.

But the process to shape Cal Anderson changes could also be important to Seattle City Hall’s attempts to patch damage done to its image and its connections to the communities around the recent months of protest. The city’s early steps in working with the community on preserving the CHOP art and the large BLACK LIVES MATTER mural on E Pine did not go well.

At Cal Anderson, the city says the park remains “temporarily” closed after weeks of clean-up and graffiti removal during collowing the end of CHOP. Most of the art and graffiti is gone though some elements like the BLM-inspired paint job for the park’s central bathroom building remain. Even the Bobby Morris sports field’s artificial turf got an overhaul and clean-up following CHOP.


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Named for the state’s first openly gay legislator, Cal Anderson Park opened in 2005 after being transformed from a weed-covered mess of a sports field, reservoir, and park — Lincoln Reservoir was capped and covered with Cal Anderson as part of a city parks levy project.

Anderson’s legacy will expand from the park later this year as the AIDS Memorial Pathway project will open and connect the north end of the park to development at Capitol Hill Station.

“This park has many meanings to our community, both as a gathering space, and a space to honor the legacy of LGBTQ leaders,” Aguirre said about the new initiative to create a new “community conversation and vision” for the park. “And yet, this is just the beginning. Parks are spaces for community to gather, to recreate, to represent our values—what is important to our community must be reflected in our parks.”

In the hours after the July 1st police raid and sweep that cleared the protest camp and the area around the East Precinct, Durkan said she intended to “memorialize” CHOP with art and permanent features in Cal Anderson. Durkan, by the way, also pushed an idea to create  a “shared space” for “the Black-led organizations” that would create “a community room in the East Precinct.” So far, there’s been no announcement of a process around that initiative as the building remains barricaded and surrounded by chain-link fence. The precinct headquarters conference room off the main lobby has frequently been made available to community groups for meetings over the years.

There is more than art to consider in Cal Anderson. Aguirre said his workers had been on hand to support some clearance aspects in the park and also collected some plantings from community gardens to be kept in city greenhouse facilities. It’s possible, he said at the time, that a community garden feature might become a permanent part of the park after its clean-up.

Seattle Parks told neighbors that the existing community garden plots established by urban farmer Marcus Henderson in the park during the weeks of CHOP occupation and camping won’t be maintained by city staff. “The current plan is to leave the garden in place until the late summer/fall harvest, and then work with Marcus and interested community on a longer-term plan,” the parks representative told CHS. The city has been reported watering some of the plots — and we’ve seen a few volunteer efforts from city employees — but residents are being encouraged to help take care of the CHOP gardens.

The art of CHOP will also be a factor in the discussions. The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Seattle Park, and the Seattle Department of Transportation said they worked with some artists “to preserve the public art around Cal Anderson Park and Pine Street.”

“We have worked with several individuals who were on site daily during the protests and who had been designated as responsible for decisions related to art produced on site,” a statement sent after the camp clearance read. “This included contacting several individuals who helped coordinate the artists who painted the Black Lives Matter street mural on Pine Street. Our overall goal has been to work with the artists to preserve and/or provide temporary storage of the artwork while the artists determine the long-term future of the artwork on their own.”

Starting next week, the city will begin holding “on-line discussions” to “engage the public on how changing assumptions and language can affect the design of the park space and create a sense of belonging for everyone.” It is bringing in design consultants DLR Group and HBB to aid the process. If Wednesday night doesn’t work for you, a second session has been planned during the day on Thursday.

Aguirre says the goal “is to engage community around how we can use Seattle’s parks spaces to support better outcomes for BIPOC communities in our city and our region.”

Join Seattle Parks and Recreation in a community conversation and vision for Cal Anderson Park


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18 thoughts on “After CHOP, City of Seattle launches process on ‘a community conversation and vision’ for changes to Cal Anderson Park

  1. Aguirre says the goal “is to engage community around how we can use Seattle’s parks spaces to support better outcomes for BIPOC communities in our city and our region.”

    Asians are the largest minority in the city and county. 70% of the city is white yet everything has to revolve around good outcomes for BIPOC people which seems to exclude Asians but include Hispanics? Which seems to exclude Jews but include Muslims? Despite claiming BIPOC is inclusive it is obvious that one demographic is getting far more attention then the rest of the 94% of Seattle combined.

    • and talk about a group of people who suffered horrific racism in Seattle! I spent almost an entire day at the Wing Luke Museum and was horrified and things those founding fathers did to people from China, Japan, The Philippines.

    • Most things in Seattle still seem to me to revolve around good outcomes for white people especially wealthy ones. It’s not even a close call.

      But the issue at hand right now is Black people being disproportionately killed by police. We say “Black Lives Matter” rather than “All Lives Matter” for good and substantial reasons. You should educate yourself as to what they are.

  2. Marcus Henderson, according to an article he gave to Crosscut not too long ago, has lived in Seattle for a year and lives in Columbia City. Any reason why somebody who is not a long-term Seattle resident and is not, and has never been, a Capitol Hill resident is making choices not people like me who actually have lived right across this street for 30 years? Why does somebody even feel comfortable going into a neighborhood they don’t live in and declaring it to be there in neighborhood and to be calling the shots? what’s going on with the leadership in the city and neighborhood that constantly defers to people based on race and leaves out the majority of this city when it comes to decisions.

  3. No. Just no. Cal Anderson park was created and named to memorialize Cal Anderson. Re-dedicate the East Precinct police Station instead. It became the focal point for the protestors. Cal Anderson Park just became a squatters’ space for the protesters. It is not right to erase the legacy of a man who instigated great change on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

  4. Sure, let’s memorialize a lawless occupation of our neighborhood that terrorized those of us that live here and resulted in at least one known rape in the park and two murders of young black men. So much to honor and remember.

    Has anyone else noticed the state of the park lately? The grass was completely damaged by the occupation and the city has not watered it since then. Our once lovely park has been left to decay and turn into a dry, disgusting, unusable wasteland. This is during a pandemic when our choices of places to go are extremely limited and public parks are one remaining option. Yeah, let’s memorialize how the park was left unusable for the entire summer.

    I can not wait to vote these idiots out of office.

  5. I don’t think that CHOP should be “memorialized” in Cal Anderson Park. That illegal occupation of public property by a far-left minority, and accompanying violence, was a disaster for our City and our neighborhood, and is best forgotten.

  6. Cal Anderson Park was established not only as a place for recreation for the entire community, but as a memorial to Cal Anderson, who fought tirelessly for the basic civil rights of LGBT people in our city and state. It also serves as a memorial to those who died of AIDS – predominantly gay men, who were pushed to the margins and scorned by the rest of society. As anyone who was alive back then knows, gay men were told they deserved what they got. It was called the “gay plague” and a curse on the lowliest of the fornicators. Politicians openly called for rounding up gay men and putting them in camps (not actually kidding about this). While the federal government looked the other way, hundreds of thousands of people died. We were scorned, spit at, belittled, and had our basic humanity denigrated.

    The park has served its purpose admirably, as a memorial and a community space. Look at the park on any sunny day – jam packed with people of all walks of life. Most probably have no clue who Cal Anderson was, nor do they probably care. But many of us still remember.

    There is no need to “reimagine” this park. If anything it needs to be fully restored and put back to its use as a place for community and to memorialize those who died of AIDS, and a local leader who fought like hell for them.

  7. So, this is ridiculous, Cal Anderson should be restored, CHOP memorialization should happen in a museum, and the City is going to get an earful from me on this attempted erasure of queer space. There absolutely should NOT be a “community conversation” led by activists on how best to use the park.

    However, looking at whether parks are equitable serving BIPOC seems like a great idea. I’d suggest the city start this examination with a look at Be’er Sheva and the shovel ready reconstruction plans for that park. You know, in Rainier Beach. Where a lot of BIPOC live. And the park space is limited and has not been upgraded recently. And the community has been lobbying for years to get these renovations done.

  8. Seems like a slap in the face to the LGBTQ community to propose to take a park that is *already* a memorial to an important person in local LGBTQ history, a park that took 12 years of planning and fund raising and community action to make a reality and just rebrand it, even rebrand a portion of it, to memorialize a 2 week failed experiment in utopian society….

  9. I wonder what the reaction would be if the new Africatown plaza being constructed in the CD was taken over by white lesbians from Magnolia or Jews from Mercer island who demanded space for their demographic to be acknowledged and celebrated on that plot of land. We all know what the outcome would be. This feels like intentional encroachment, erasure and colonialism by the BLM activist community who seem to believe every square inch of this planet needs to be devoted to centering blacks and their plight. The fact that decisions about Cal Anderson Park are now being dominated by activists who don’t even live on Capitol Hill, some who are extremely moved to Seattle, shows something seriously unethical and disrespectful about this community. Fear of being called racist will cause most people to turn a blind eye to this obviously disrespectful and invasive move from people with very little to no history in the Capitol Hill neighborhood they now want to have more of a say in then those who have lived in this neighborhood for generations.

      • “The protests of the past couple months have required that we begin a conversation about how Cal Anderson Park can better serve our community and more firmly speak to our values,” Jesús Aguirre, superintendent for Seattle Parks and Recreation”

        How long has Jesus lived on Capitol Hill? A quick Google search shows he’s lived in Seattle for less than 5 years.
        Marcus Henderson has lived in Seattle for 1 year and has never lived on Capitol Hill.
        So these are stakeholders who are calling the shots?

  10. If Seattle is really interest in equity they should start with the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, where there has NEVER been a Person of Color in the role of Director. Currently, the Exec Director, Deputy Director and the Racial Equity Manager are all WHITE. Additionally, of the 11 Managers with decision making authority, there is NOT a single black male in a position of authority. If even the city’s cultural office isn’t interested in equity, why would we believe the other departments would give a d*mn? Blowing spoke.

    “https://kingcountynews.org/2020/07/19/seattle-so-white-50-years-of-anglo-saxon-leadership-at-the-office-of-arts-culture/?fbclid=IwAR3TwV55CXw6uymqW0k2PUJJDqALHgg0ymrciYXln5La-hIp6HaEXjIK704”

  11. So sorry you are unhappy. Perish the thought that your color requirements are not fulfilled. We should fire the current director who is doing a good enough job that he survived a mayors transition? One could make the case that the office is disproportionately POC in relation to the city population. Here is a roster from the site. Enjoy your grievance:
    http://www.seattle.gov/arts/about-us/staff

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