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Business and community group letter: ‘Spiraling public health and public safety crisis’ in Cal Anderson and Seattle’s parks

Cal Anderson still closed

A group led by the Downtown Seattle Association and including representatives from business and community groups across the city has joined the call for repairing Cal Anderson and a roster of Seattle public parks they say are “experiencing a spiraling public health and public safety crisis.”

In a letter sent to Mayor Jenny Durkan and city officials and shared with media Monday, the DSA and the roster of groups including the Alliance for Pioneer Square, Visit Seattle, and the West Seattle Junction Association joined with Hill-area organizations Seattle Central College, Freeway Park Association, and the 15th Ave E Merchants in calling for the creation of an “interagency team” and “an immediate action plan” to address disrepair and encampments in the parks.

“Because of COVID-19, regular maintenance, programming and events in these parks have been suspended, leaving them without critical management or the usual anchor of positive social activity. Consequently, our parks and public spaces have become dangerous and chaotic — exactly the opposite of what people need at this moment,” the letter reads. “And acres of park space have been closed to the public because they have been closed by the City, vandalized or are inaccessible for use to the residents of Seattle.”

The letter’s passage on Cal Anderson includes a complaint about “groups of protesters” who have “continued to live in and damage portions of the park, including the newly remodeled community shelterhouse.”

“Other residents in the park exhibit serious behavioral health issues and present a danger to public health and safety.”

CHS reported here on a call from Capitol Hill advocates and group representatives including the Cal Anderson Park Alliance nonprofit calling on the city to address the growing park encampments with immediate outreach and efforts to clean up the public space.

Seattle Parks says Cal Anderson remains technically closed to the public.

Meanwhile, city officials say their hands are tied until a solution is put in place to replace the Navigation Team which had its funding cut as part of efforts to reduce police spending and increase spending on social programs.

“Early on in the pandemic, the City of Seattle put a hold on encampment removals ​except in instances of extreme public health and public safety concerns in response to CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” a city spokesperson told CHS earlier this month. “The recent vote to eliminate the Navigation Team currently leaves the City without any tools to address encampments that pose health and safety risks.”

The full letter from the DSA and neighborhood groups from across Seattle is below.


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louise
louise
28 days ago

“Interagency team.” Blah, blah, blah. The crazy city bureaucrats will never give the park back to the neighborhood. It’s going to become a social justice open space.

OldSkoolCapitolHill
OldSkoolCapitolHill
27 days ago
Reply to  louise

“give the park back to the neighborhood”

Public parks do not belong to one neighborhood. They are not your private fiefdom. They belong to everyone.

Including people interested in social justice.

At least the city is trying, Unlike you.

While parks are not an ideal substitute for adequate housing, until people like you actual get off your lazy asses and help pay for the types of housing necessary for the poor, indigent, mental ill, and those adversely effected by a pandemic then those parks are going to be the only spaces available.

Because the only other options are jails which you also do not want to pay for.

Glenn
Glenn
27 days ago

I will pay for jails.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
27 days ago

Well, most everyone is prevented from using Cal Anderson now, aren’t they?

We pay taxes, many of us happily, but are not the ones spending them on $12,000,000-per-mile bike lanes or excessive numbers of city staff paid over $100,000 per year, nor are we the ones who repealed the head tax or failed to recoup fees developers should have paid for additional height, nor did we cause damage to the park that now has to be paid for.

RWK
RWK
27 days ago

Your comment makes no sense. Yes, our parks are for everyone. But some of them (Cal Anderson, Miller, the park at 15th & E John, Denny Park, etc) have been allowed to be occupied by the homeless and far-left radicals, and this has resulted in everyone else being excluded. So, now, they are NOT for everyone.

Tim
Tim
27 days ago

Lol, the city is not “trying”. They have literally given up.

Just yesterday Herbold released proposed legislation that would make it impossible to prosecute misdemeanor thefts and assaults by people experiencing homelessness or drug addiction. There is no limit either. People could literally commit 100 assaults with zero consequences.

As much as you think that enabling bad behavior will help in the long run, it wont. The city is just accelerating the problem and will later state there was nothing that could have been done. Only major cities on the west coast are this bad at handling homelessness and drug addiction.

Tom
Tom
27 days ago
Reply to  louise

I support the homeless moving out of the park and to the same streets of the people who want them to “give their park back.”

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
27 days ago
Reply to  louise

– Herbold didn’t release that legislation – she tried to *hide* it in a budget bill and have it pass without publicity and without comment. She tried to sneak it through…..

And why…. because it is completely and entirely insane – it would give anyone who even claims that they have an addiction, a mental illness or is just poor the ability (and go ahead) to commit crimes without any penalty… It’s crazy. Yes- someone could literally commit 100 assaults without any consequences at all.

Don’t think traditional prisons work on people with mental illnesses or substance abuse problems – fine, in fact you are probably right BUT – that doesn’t mean they should just be turned loose to do whatever they want to the rest of us. These people need mandatory and supervised treatment – not a license to abuse the rest of society with impunity.

LinkRider
LinkRider
23 days ago
Reply to  CD Neighbor

I agree that many people need mandatory /supervised treatment, but this is already a complicating factor in prosecutions.

It’s my understanding that psychiatric facilities currently do not allow admission of inmates with any current felony charges, even if the charge is non-violent in nature. These individuals often spend over three months at King County Correctional Facility (KCCF) while awaiting transfer to a forensic inpatient facility (often Western State Hospital). https://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/initiatives/harborview-leadership/Meetings/Final_Harborview_Leadership_Group_Report.ashx

Of course, people whose mental illness is so serious that they’re found not legally competent to stand trial, but aren’t sent to Western State Hospital, are often released.  https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/looking-to-quell-downtown-disorder-seattle-and-king-county-announce-plan-for-repeat-offenders/

But in nearly half of cases where they are too mentally ill to stand trial, they’re kept in jail illegally. https://crosscut.com/news/2020/10/inmates-mental-illness-are-illegally-stuck-wa-jails

It was surprising that the guy who stabbed another guy on the Link only got charged with a misdemeanor, and I’ve always wondered if this was because it would make it easier to commit him. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/sound-transit-worried-about-security-before-last-weekends-violence-in-downtown-seattle/

It doesn’t seem fair to psychiatric facility staff if someone is undercharged by the prosecutors just to make it easier to find a placement for them.

Ella Jurado
Ella Jurado
28 days ago

Friday night I saw a youth soccer team practicing at Miller Park there is a large tent set up right behind one of the soccer goals and the ball kept flying into the encampment. The lady that lives there got so angry and came out screaming to the coach and kids. Then 2 other nearby campers came out and got involved shouting “Leave my girlfriend alone”. Lots of swearing and almost a physical fight ensued. One of the coaches was holding back a parent. The cops were called I was there a good hour and they never showed up. What I do know is the teams pay the city to rent the field and they aren’t going to just back down and bow out quietly. I knew this was going to be an issue as soon as sports came back into play.

Joe
Joe
26 days ago
Reply to  Ella Jurado

That’s a sad and frustrating story all around

CantBelieveTheHype
CantBelieveTheHype
27 days ago

Public safety is their main job. How can they cancel the navigation teams without any kind of viable replacement strategy? Or did they think the homeless issues would go poof?

Mimi
Mimi
27 days ago

Human beings are smart and can invent all kinds of things and solve all kinds of problems. Yet, we’re supposed to believe that no matter how much money is allocated to address homelessness that it somehow is a problem that can not be solved. I believe that the real truth is that our elected officials are not interested in helping homeless people or restoring our neighborhoods. Why don’t they rent out space in the any one of the myriad of unoccupied buildings in this city? Rent out a hotel, rent out gyms in closed schools etc. There are lots of people who are out work. Hire some of these folks to manage these rented out spaces, keep the peace and keep them clean.

When we have natural disasters in this country public spaces are opened and cots assembled so that people have a warm place to sleep. Surely a pandemic counts as an emergency? Open up a building, set up cots and give these folks a warm place to sleep. Then go and clean up the parks and maintain them.

russ
russ
27 days ago
Reply to  Mimi

The majority of the people sleeping in the parks are not there because there is no possible shelter elsewhere. They are there becomes the norms of behavior expected in a shelter aren’t how they want to live.

There’s an interesting parallel to the mask debate. The park dwellers are kind of like the folks who refuse to wear masks. It inhibits their “freedom”. Strangely we condemn the former and condone the latter, even though both create real public health dangers for the rest of us.

Tom
Tom
27 days ago
Reply to  russ

russ, here’s a response under another post from someone who actually talked to the homeless outside the downtown shelter:

Real on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 – 11:15 am said:

I really question the whole narrative that homeless are camped out solely by choice even though there was a nice video put out a while ago about all seattle has done and their promise that anyone seeking shelter can find it during covid. Its simply a lie. Go down to city hall when u have the time around 7-8 and see what happens. Watch the people from pervious night file in, then watch what happens to the ‘overflow’ line (first come first serve basis if not there the previous night). Last time I was over there 2 people in overflow got in and about 10-12 were turned away. When I asked them where someone could realistically go they said unfortunately drunk tank is your sole option if u want to be indoors. Emergency shelter system is overloaded and underfunded it seems.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
27 days ago
Reply to  Mimi

The City is only interested in “restoring” neighborhoods by transforming them into clones of SLU. The displacement and gentrification are features, not bugs.

RWK
RWK
27 days ago
Reply to  Mimi

Thank you, Mimi….great suggestions. I would only add that, once these emergency facilities are set up, the City should clean up the camps and make it mandatory that the homeless go inside. Otherwise, they will continue to refuse to do so, just as they have done in the past.

Is this going to happen? Probably not, because the City only knows how to coddle the homeless.