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‘A lot of opportunity from a human services standpoint’ — Amid continued sweeps, Seattle Parks moves forward with planning for Cal Anderson changes

It is either the City of Seattle’s most brilliant or most terrible ever idea. After months at the center of protest on Capitol Hill and a late summer dedicated to homelessness activism — and heavy-handed police sweeps, Cal Anderson Park’s planning process for new features and upgrades is continuing even as the city’s civil rights history unfolds around it.

After yet another police sweep of campers and activists from Cal Anderson and the hiring of private security to keep people out of the “temporarily closed” park where sunbathers, frisbee catching dogs, and tents still proliferate, Seattle Park and Recreation says it is adding safety and security, and human services components to plans for the 2020 Cal Anderson Park project. The community feedback process around the project is now moving into its second phase of planning with two public Zoom meetings happening this week on September 9th and 10th.

“There’s a lot of different issues going on in the park right now,” Andy Sheffer of Seattle Parks said. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity from a human services standpoint to better serve the overall community that uses the park.”

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The project is still in its multipart planning phase and no final decisions have been made on what the changes — or budget — will be. Through live polling at previous meetings, talking to people in the park and the results of a still-live public survey garnering over 3,600 responses, Sheffer says safety concerns have come out on top.

Previously discussed plans for the park include homages to three facets of Capitol Hill’s June protest zone: an art program, community garden and a “conversation corner.”

“We will move forward on elements that are generally supported by the public and those elements were all generally supported by the public,” Sheffer said. “What shape or form they take will be defined in these future meetings.”

Seattle Parks hired consulting partners DLR Group and HBB Landscape Architecture to guide the design process. At the next set of meetings, they will present the final survey results and a site analysis ahead of the last set of meetings and final decision-making in October.

“We’re moving quickly because there’s a desire for immediate action and that’s what we’re kind of responding to,” Sheffer said.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has said she intends to “memorialize” the Capitol Hill protest zone with art and permanent features in Cal Anderson.

Named for the state’s first openly gay legislator, Cal Anderson Park opened in 2005 after Lincoln Reservoir was capped and covered with the public green space as part of a city parks levy project.

Cal Anderson’s legacy will stretch out 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.

At the beginning of August, CHS spoke with stewardship group Cal Anderson Park Alliance representative Don Blakeney about the group’s work to address concerns over lighting and functioning bathrooms.

Those bathrooms, for now, remained fenced-off by the city after the most recent police sweeps of activists trying to occupy the park.

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

Seattle Parks says the end result of the 2020 Cal Anderson Park project will be a mix of immediate action items and longer term initiatives, also including upgrades to preexisting structures like the park bathrooms and programming for the Cal Anderson Shelterhouse that has been occupied by homelessness activists.

“The Shelterhouse could be an opportunity to have facilitated conversations, it could be an opportunity for meetings for the gardeners and to sort of take classes for gardening,” he said. “And it could support human services organizations when they’re performing counseling.”

The next set of meetings will be held on September 9 at 6 PM to 7:30 PM and September 10 from 12 PM to 1:30 PM. You can learn more at

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19 thoughts on “‘A lot of opportunity from a human services standpoint’ — Amid continued sweeps, Seattle Parks moves forward with planning for Cal Anderson changes

  1. This is a public park, not a political statement. Further, it’s a memorial park – to pervert it for a small subset of users is a slap in the face to the community (that actually use it) as a whole. They can find another place for the gardens (you know, maybe actually a pea patch somewhere?), and should repaint the buildings. Parks & Rec should do better.

      • Making the park a sociopolitical statement at the request of a few – yet very loud, very vocal, and ‘occasionally’ destructive individuals within the community – comes at the expense of the rest of the community. Whereas leaving it as a park serves everyone. Lest we also forget that the vandalism (ahem ‘murals’) as well as the gardens and the occupation of the shelter building were not legal.

      • @whichever: I agree completely. Cal Anderson has been a wonderful city park, and it does not need to be “improved,” especially if that means kowtowing to a bunch of far-left radicals. And memorializing the deplorable CHOP is a really bad idea.

        “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  2. Just a reminder that the silent majority who are appalled at turning our beloved park into a social service center and Black Lives Matter Memorial will be ignored unless we mobilize. Here is a link to a newly formed Reddit group to address this. If anybody else has more resources for those of us who want to make clear we do not want our neighborhood community park colonized please let the rest of us know.

  3. 100% agree with Whichever and Jaello above. Please let’s keep Cal Anderson as public open space welcoming to all, not just BLM activists and the drug-addicted homeless.

  4. Agree with Whichever and Jaello. Sadly, Cal Anderson has been dangerous for years, and Chop and its aftermath have only made it worse. Would like to see it cleaned up, and with regular police patrols. No garden; that will only get vandalized, and as was pointed out, that’s better suited to a pea patch. Think of it more like Volunteer Park, not, as Whichever said, “a political statement.”

    • How is someone who confidently claims knowledge about the institutional histories of Seattle’s parks and gardens also unfamiliar with the origins of the term “p-patch”?

      To be clear, I personally don’t think that having this kind of knowledge is a prerequisite for having an opinion worth taking seriously. But on what basis does a community of “the silent majority” claim authority to draw exclusive boundaries around the “neighborhood community” and “all [who are welcomed],” if not on something like familiarity with local history?

      • Cal Anderson is a great place to enjoy the grass, and is not as good for growing food as a P-Patch (what history are you referring to? Please share!) since you can’t use fertilizer. There are some things that we could do to make it more welcoming to families, but in general, it should be a place for people to get outside so they have a break from isolating at home.

        Of note, the P-Patch program prioritizes the needs of BIPOC and other groups:
        – Black or African American
        – Indigenous/Native
        – Latinx or Hispanic
        – Households making 30% or below Seattle area median income*
        – Immigrants or refugees
        – People who need to garden in an accessible raised bed (accessible gardens)
        – Organizations that serve seniors or children and youth (up to age 24)

  5. I’m at no. Particularly for human services counseling. Privatizing for non-profit use is still privatizing.

    I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation, to be honest.

  6. Not just Cal Anderson, but all parks should be made into homeless support sites until EVERYONE is housed and we have total social and economic equality. Not one dollar on recreation until critical human support is 100% resolved. What’s more important, your kid on a swing set or a human avoiding death on the streets? It’s time to defund Seattle Parks. Not just 50% but 100%.

  7. See below for those wishing to engage in the discussions. Ideally this will include those who strongly disagree with the suggested direction:

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

    Seattle Parks and Recreation invites the community to participate in the second of three online discussions for 2020 Cal Anderson Park, a project to engage the public on how changing assumptions and language can affect the design of park spaces and create a sense of belonging for everyone. Please join us on-line for a discussion about the future of Cal Anderson Park on Wednesday, September 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at or Thursday, September 10, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Choose either day to participate.

    What is important to our community must be reflected in our parks. Our goal is to engage community around how we can use Seattle’s parks spaces to support better outcomes for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LGBTQIA+ communities in our city and our region.

    Together with the community and Seattle Parks and Recreation, Rico Quirindongo will lead the consultant team of DLR Group and HBB, Inc. to discuss, inventory, and prioritize ideas for interventions to Cal Anderson Park. On September 9th and 10th, we will discuss survey results, site analysis, programming opportunities, as well as new ideas and community feedback. Through this continued public process, we will identify short term action items and long-term strategies to enhance the sense of belonging in the park. Additional opportunities to support the 2020 Cal Anderson Park conversation will include surveys, interviews, and additional public meetings in October.

    Thank you to everyone who participated in the August online meetings. Recordings of the August meetings and additional information are available for review here For additional questions about project or to request meeting accommodations or interpretation please contact

  8. It was an interesting meeting tonight. They went through the presentation of the survey results which called about new gardens, activating space, community centers, etc. But when it came down to the Q & A the basic and realistic concerns/questions came out:

    1. The survey was online and was posted in various social media channels. There really needs to be tempered with a survey of the residents that live within a certain block radius of the park because they will give a feet-on-ground result of people who are more inclined to use the park (versus someone who only know about it virtually from the news).

    2. Before anything can be even considered about net new adds to the park, address basic safety/hygiene issues that have been growing even before the CHOP occured.

    3. How can new features/functions be even considered (that require maintenance) when the existing park features/landscaping have been in continuing disrepair for years.

    The basic gist I got out of the Q&A is take the time to ask the right populations about their thoughts and fix what you have before adding new stuff.

    • I agree.. it was good to see so many people come out and point out the facts you mentioned above. Of note, Andy said the changes would be more when it comes to programming than physical changes. And he kept reiterating this was a reaction to George Floyd’s killing. And to make BIPOC people feel safer and more welcome. I’m sorry, but I fail to see why a police brutality incident on the other side of the country means that the activist community gets to take over our park and center it around the concerns of one racial group.

  9. The city is busy preparing to lay off workers who provide public services, the same people who support with their paychecks other Seattle jobs like the restaurants these workers patronize, the rent they pay, the groceries they buy. Yet the city “hired consulting partners DLR Group and HBB Landscape Architecture” for this process? Please tell us what that cost.

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