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In effort to ‘memorialize CHOP’ and improve Cal Anderson, community talks gardens, art, and lighting

(Image: CHS)

Following the central role Cal Anderson Park played in this summer’s Capitol Hill protest zone, Seattle Parks and Recreation is working with design firms to make some long term changes to the park — changes that could include a permanent home for protest art, a community garden program and a revival of CHOP’s “Conversation Cafe” in some form.

Wednesday night marked the first of a series of public meetings held by Seattle Parks in concert with DLR Group and HBB Landscape Architecture to narrow down how the park will change.

“The protests of the past couple months have required that we begin a conversation about how Cal Anderson can better service the community and more firmly speak to our values,” Andy Sheffer of Seattle Parks said at the zoom meeting. “The 2020 Cal Anderson project is about receiving ideas, developing ideas and piloting ideas for new programming elements.”

A second, daytime session is planned for Thursday starting at noon.

The project has a three part process with public meetings and surveys intermixed. While the first and current step is about “setting the stage and collecting ideas” according to Sheffer, September’s part two will focus on testing ‘the viability of ideas based on site constraints, opportunities and interests,” and October’s part three will revolve around “potential implementation of pilot projects and long term strategy around bigger action items.” Sheffer says Seattle Parks plans on designing and rolling out these pilot projects in late October or November.

In the hours after the July 1st police raid and sweep that cleared the protest camp and the area around the East Precinct, Mayor Jenny Durkan said she intended to “memorialize” CHOP with art and permanent features in Cal Anderson.

Although the City of Seattle is facing a $300 million budget deficit this year likely to continue into 2021 and the budgeting process for this project has yet to begin, Seattle Parks spokesperson Rachel Schulkin told CHS that Seattle Parks is “committed to making it work.”

Seattle Parks and the design consultants put forth three initiatives up for preliminary live polling at the meeting: a gardening program in line with the Black Star Farmers garden plots, retaining CHOP artwork, and forming a “conversation corner” reminiscent of CHOP’s “conversation cafe.”

Other things CHS heard at the meeting:

  • Much of the conversation centered around the future of Black Star Farmers gardens. Whether the garden will stay in its current spot in the center of the park after this fall’s harvest remains up for debate. “The garden has served as a backdrop for the conversations about race and how we can solve those by talking about food justice and land sovereignty in particular,” the garden’s creator Marcus Henderson said.
  •  Some public commenters wondered whether the garden will have BIPOC-exclusive areas and raised concerns over the security of the garden’s area as well as the space no longer being available for public programming like movie nights. “For years and years, that area where the garden is now has been used for kind of community things and now the garden is taking up a lot of [those] things,” commentor Gina said.
  •  Sheffer said Seattle Parks will generate a site analysis that will take current park programming into consideration, including the space where the garden sits being used for other events.
  • Commenters also raised concerns over what will become of art created during the protests, including the Black Power fist sculpture on Bobby Morris Playfield that Sheffer said Seattle Parks has been preserving and “is part of the art initiative discussion.” He also said curated shows of Black Lives Matter art are in the works and will be addressed at future meetings.

Another important CHOP element falls beyond the purview of the parks project. The large BLACK LIVES MATTER mural on E Pine is being preserved in a process overseen by the city. The city’s early steps in working with the community on preserving the CHOP art and mural on E Pine did not go well.

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.

Parks superintendent Jesús Aguirre and Durkan have said it is important for the park’s LGBTQ legacy to connect with the coming changes for the space.

Prior to COVID-19 and widespread protesting in response to racism and police brutality, stewardship group Cal Anderson Park Alliance had been working to seek community input as to how to improve public safety and infrastructure in the park, and board member Don Blakeney said they were already planning a process of hearing from the surrounding community this summer in order to address some of these concerns.

In recent years, the city spend thousands on a lighting and safety plan for the park that has yet to be implemented.

“I hope to get some sense of what priorities folks want and then I hope that the city will actually put money towards some of this stuff,” Blakeney told CHS, “because Cal Anderson has long been at the back of the line for some of the basic improvements like functioning lights and functioning bathrooms.”

After this week’s session the Cal Anderson “step two” meetings will take place September 9th and 10th. Project information can be found at seattle.gov.

 

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16 Comments
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Jake
Jake
1 year ago

I’ve been here over a decade and the willingness of the city to just hand over large parts of the park to causes other than recreation — which us taxpayers support — is infuriating.

The idea that a neighborhood park needs to be some sort of cultural ode to CHOP is ludicrous. If the city wants to do that there are plenty of other spaces. This is the only large recreational park available in this part of the hill. It’s primary purpose is not cultural, but recreational.

How is this even happening? We’ve gone into a sort of loony, performative leftism that even most liberals like myself cannot support.

LAR
LAR
1 year ago
Reply to  Jake

I agree. I am furious. Is there any movement to take control back from those who are attempting to hijack it?
They are contradicting themselves left and right.
It’s supposed to be respectful of the history and community of the park but they are allowing people with no history of living in that neighborhood (some don’t even live in the city) lead. To call it rude is an understatement. They are colonizing our neighborhood and weaponizing an incident of police brutality in Minneapolis to do so.

BK
BK
1 year ago
Reply to  LAR

lol!

Sarah Webb
Sarah Webb
1 year ago

The online meeting was a joke. No one listened to any comments that they didn’t want to hear.

LAR
LAR
1 year ago
Reply to  Sarah Webb

Yes it was! They dismissed by question. I wanted to know how long Marcus had lived on the hill. I have heard he doesn’t and is actually new to the city.

Glenn
Glenn
1 year ago
Reply to  LAR

He doesnot live in Capitol Hill and has livedin Seattle for about one year.

p-patch
p-patch
1 year ago

Was CHOP a grass-roots effort that started in the hearts and minds of Captiol Hill residents, or was it something imposed on the community by outsiders? Just because the park was a convenient gathering point doesn’t mean we need to treat it like Gettysburg. The park’s namesake was from and for the community. I think the jury is still out on whether or how CHOP positively impacted Capitol Hill or Seattle as a whole.

GregM
GregM
1 year ago
Reply to  p-patch

It certainly didn’t improve our reputation as a destination for tourism or business.

Eli
Eli
1 year ago
Reply to  p-patch

Let them memorialize CHOP by creating a pedestrianized superblock (but without the anarchy and violence.)

Michelle
Michelle
1 year ago

LOL at people trying to “harvest” anything from Cal Anderson park. I live down the street and can barely stand to walk through the park in its current form, let alone eat anything from it. Furthermore, I think those of us who actually live here (my family has been in the neighborhood for three generations) would like to have a park that works for the needs of Capitol Hill residents. We have suffered enough due to CHOP.

Concerned CH Resident
Concerned CH Resident
1 year ago
Reply to  Michelle

Maybe people would stop vandalizing apartments and condos in CH also.

LA
LA
1 year ago

Its city property, paid for by my taxes too, and there is no need for a garden to feed the growing number of homeless camping out again. The tent city issue needs addressing as well. The mentally ill living there make it unsafe for me and my family.

Adam
Adam
1 year ago

It’s really heartbreaking seeing the decline of Cal Anderson Park. It used to be a such a gem for the neighborhood 10 or so years ago. And based on these carperbaggers pushing their agenda, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be getting any better.

Cal Anderson deserves better.

Let's Go
Let's Go
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam

Absolutely agree. Cal Anderson Park is a mess, and avoid that area in my daily meander. After 15 years on Capitol Hill, I am disgusted and the mess these wonder assets are in. I support the message, and the protest, but this has evolved into nothing more than a garbage dump. The gardens – really – give me a break.

Jaime
Jaime
1 year ago

We just started a Reddit group for those who have qualms about the current state of the park and the plans others are making for it in the future. We would love to hear from like-minded individuals.

https://www.reddit.com/r/HandsOffCalAnderson?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share