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As it prepares to clear Cal Anderson Park, city cites neighborhood support from nearby property owners, Seattle Central College, and businesses — UPDATE

(Image: CHS)

The City of Seattle is citing support from property owners, businesses, and community groups as it prepares to clear homeless encampments and activists from Cal Anderson Park.

“The situation within the park grows worse and more unsafe by the day,” one key letter — sent to Mayor Jenny Durkan December 14th and provided to CHS this week — reads. “The park has now morphed into a safety concern for both the individuals within the park and the neighboring community. Violence, drugs, vandalism, and other harmful activities in Cal Anderson are adversely affecting our community members to the point where any park activation efforts cannot make any lasting impact.”

The December 14th letter is signed by Hunters Capital’s Michael Malone who owns properties across Capitol Hill including the Broadway Building across from Cal Anderson, Shelia Edwards-Lange, president of Seattle Central College, Chris Persons, CEO of affordable developer Community Roots Housing, and a dozen more signatories including property owners, small business owners, and the developer of the major mixed-use project rising above nearby Capitol Hill Station.

Earlier Monday morning, city personnel accompanied by a dozen or so police officers marched from the nearby East Precinct to post notice of “order to remove all personal property” from the park.

Police arrested one person for investigation of assault for shoving an officer and say a second person who assaulted officers fled.

According to the notices, the park is to be cleared beginning 7:30 AM Wednesday. Seattle Parks says “a multi-day intensive maintenance and cleaning project” will follow. City officials tell CHS that there have been around 40 homeless people contacted by outreach workers at the park since last week and 10 were referred to shelter.

Activists, meanwhile, are calling for supporters to come to the park and help stop any sweep Wednesday morning.

Cal Anderson has remained officially closed and has been swept of encampments multiple times since this summer’s CHOP occupied protest was cleared out. Tents, mutual aid stations, protesters, and activists have returned — sometimes within hours.

What the city’s appetite for a more lasting clearance will be is unclear. During Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments, chair Andrew Lewis and the six other council members on the committee didn’t even bring the situation at Cal Anderson up though Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller did emphasize that “outreach is still occurring” for homeless people across the city despite the growing number and size of some encampments.

But Durkan, who started the month promising an initiative to reopen Cal Anderson, appears to have sizable support from property owners, businesses, and community groups in the neighborhood.

“At a high-level, I’d personally say threatening behavior in in our community should not be tolerated, whether it’s in a park or outside of our small businesses,” Don Blakeney, a member of the Cal Anderson Park Alliance tells CHS. “Unfortunately, serious issues have recently escalated in Cal Anderson Park this month, putting community members and city employees in harm’s way.”

More from Blakeney who spoke with CHS as a concerned neighbor and not on behalf of CAPA:

As for the community’s voice, the community has been vocal for months now, asking for thoughtful but urgent action to address the backlog of maintenance and safety issues in Cal Anderson Park.

Over the summer, Community Roots Housing and the EcoDistrict called for an end to violence in the park, on behalf of the community and the nearly 700 residents living in their income-restricted buildings nearby.

In October, variety of neighborhood and parks groups (including Capitol Hill stakeholders) called for the creation of an inter-departmental team to address the complex issues in Seattle’s parks in a letter to the City.

The Cal Anderson Park Alliance, also issued a separate letter to the Parks Department asking to reopen and activate the park.

Lastly, a community petition was circulated earlier this month that received over 1,100 signatures, calling for the reopening of the park.

“It seems that the community has been consistent in their ask for thoughtful but urgent action to bring a much-needed and much-used neighborhood open space back-online,” Blakeney writes.

The Cal Anderson Park Alliance was also getting set to release its own statement on the city’s planned clearance. We’ll update when we receive the statement.

UPDATE: Here’s the CAPA statement —

The Cal Anderson Park Alliance has been asking to have our park reopened in a way that is aligned with community values and provides safety and access for all. We believe the unhoused population in our park needs human services, kindness, and compassion. Sweeps of the unhoused population do not support their needs and are not supported by CAPA. We expected and continue to want housing services and humanitarian outreach. Our community is asking for transparency and participation in decision making about what happens in our park.

The Broadway Business Improvement Association is also supporting the clearance.

“The Broadway BIA’s core purpose is to support a thriving, clean, and safe business district for all, and the park is part of that ecosystem,” the BBIA’s Egan Orion said. “It’s become clear that the situation in the park has become unsafe both for both those living housed and unhoused in our neighborhood. Community Lunch, serving those experiencing homelessness on Capitol Hill and beyond, had to move its services away from the park because of safety issues. Nightly fires in the park and no park lighting (because of the park’s closure) has created critical safety concerns and because of these issues, police, fire, and medics are thwarted from safely responding to emergencies in Cal Anderson Park.”

“We strongly support housing and services for those living outside—especially during the darkest and coldest days of winter—and at the same time believe that a park open and safe for all should be an imperative for the city,” Orion tells CHS.

The Capitol Hill Business Alliance and the GSBA did not respond to CHS inquiries about their position on the city’s planned sweep.

Other letters provided by the city include a December 13th message to Durkan from Community Lunch on Capitol Hill, the nonprofit that has been providing hot meals for the hungry across from the park at Central Lutheran and at Broadway’s All Pilgrims Church for decades.

“At this time, Community Lunch on Capitol Hill has no plans for offering meal services out of Central Lutheran Church until we can ensure the safety of our guests, volunteers and staff. We are committed to serving all that are in need, but we cannot sacrifice safety,” executive director Jeff Wolcott writes. “We look forward to a time we can return and continue our mission in the Cal Anderson park area of Capitol Hill.”

The city is also citing this October letter from business and community groups about a “spiraling public health and safety crisis” in Seattle’s parks. Seattle Central College, the Freeway Park Association, and the 15th Ave E Merchants were some of the area groups and organizations represented in that call for action at City Hall.

Many of the names joining Malone and Edwards-Lange on the December 14th Capitol Hill letter were also part of that October message. Their criticism of the situation — and, especially, the activists — in Cal Anderson has grown even more pointed.

“The fact of the matter is that there are now dozens of people occupying the park who are not unhoused, but rather are treating the park as a base of operations for their occupied protest,” they write. “What this translates into is the blocking the entrances to the park, constant damage to park infrastructure, regular bonfires and intimidating and threatening behavior directed at our community members—not to mention the staff of our nearby institutions and city employees.”

“This is unacceptable,” the letter continues. “We urge you to honor the legacy of Cal Anderson and reactivate the park. We urge you to intervene and stop this threatening behavior, while working with the community and qualified service providers to help those in need so that they can find shelter and housing.”

“We stand ready to support the City doing the right thing for our neighborhood,” it concludes.

UPDATE: We have removed a portion of the signees from the letter provided by the city after some of the individuals reported receiving threats.


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Moving On
Moving On
2 months ago

Good. The way our anarchist and “activist” communities use people experiencing homelessness as political pawns is disgusting.

Then they have the nerve to turn around and try to shame the rest of us for wanting better for folks and caring about the collateral damage to the rest of us.

The emperor has no clothes here, people. We need major changes in both the homeless response and city governance.

Dan
Dan
2 months ago
Reply to  Moving On

All summer, I kept wondering what impact the endless battles between these protesters and the police were having on the neighborhood’s homeless population. My friends in their apartments were impacted by the tear gas in the air, so of course the homeless were breathing even more of it every night. And then there were the constant explosions, yelling, and fights. How many of our homeless are suffering from PTSD? How many are Veterans? How must this have affected their mental health? I’m sorry, but all of the comments from people pretending to care about the homeless ring hollow coming from this particular group, given what they’ve put them through for several months. They even smashed the windows of the church that feeds them.

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Even the actual homeless people are now being quoted as wanting the protesters to go away, because the protesters are putting the them at risk for more sweeps and pulling in the police with their antics.

“They way that they’ve done things has created a hazard to others,” a man who has been living in the park told Matt Markovich. “And that’s one of the few things that can get us swept right now is being a hazard to ourselves or others.”

Kevin
Kevin
2 months ago

One of the signatories on that letter is “Prinipal, Northwest Polite Society”. Northwest Polite society enjoys free use of public utility poles/boxes/etc around the city to force ads on anyone walking by.

When they make use of public resources to manipulate our behavior for profit, it’s fine. When their homeless neighbors make use of public resources to attempt to survive, it’s unacceptable. Is this really what we want?

stan
stan
2 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

You really don’t see the difference between a utility pole/box and a public park? Also, how weak willed are you that you are so easily to “manipulate” by a piece of paper tacked to a wooden log? Can’t you just ignore the flyers? Most people do.

What the community wants is to have an open park space where ALL people can gather in safety. The park currently doesn’t offer that since it’s blockaded by the “activist” set and has turned into a slowly decaying shanty town of tents that attracts criminal behavior and drug dealing/use that endangers all; including the homeless that are most vulnerable.

Nobody is against the homeless making use of public resources but it shouldn’t come at the cost of their health/safety or the rest of the public’s ability to enjoy said resource in a way that ensures safety for all. The current situation isn’t one that is a viable or sustainable use of public resources; especially when the folks hired to keep the park clean and maintained are routinely threatened and run off from doing their jobs.

The park needs to be restored to a space that can be used by all. Resources and outreach are being provided and I’m glad to hear that 25% of the people in the park are getting shelter. I hope that those calling for a blockade of tomorrow’s clean-up strongly urge as many of the other 30 to take the offers of shelter. Unlike the two people from this Seattle Times article who’d prefer to stay outside even though they admit they don’t feel safe – https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/seattle-plans-to-clear-homeless-encampment-from-cal-anderson-park-on-capitol-hill/

Jack
Jack
2 months ago

Until the city gets it together and finally figures out that providing housing for folks is the best way to fight homelessness, all parks should be open for all people to use including sleeping. It is winter, there is a pandemic, so it seems like a poor time to tell people with nowhere to go that they can’t stay in the parks. I mean, for real, might as well let people use the space. I walk my dog nearly every day, sometimes twice a day, in Cal Anderson, and I live right next to the park. I’ve hung out there for years. And the situation now is no more or less “worse” in terms of safety than it has ever been. At least now people are using the park 24/7. I’ve always thought it silly and a waste of space to not let people camp in parks. Just because the feel good liberals of Seattle don’t like to see homelessness doesn’t mean people should be booted without an alternative. I don’t know, reopen the jungle. Or, better, change city code to allow the ‘bathroom down the hall working mans apartments’, like above the Comet as well as elsewhere across the city, which were all closed in the late ’70s, to reopen as an affordable and secure housing option. We are all frustrated by the failure of this city for decades to effectively act on the homeless crisis. But out of sight out of mind is not a solution.

Capitol Hill neighbor
Capitol Hill neighbor
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack

No one here is suggesting out of sight out of mind. We should be able to have a conversation about violence and safety in the park and not have it be about homelessness. I also heard that those actually experiencing homelessness were offered shelter. Many accepted, that’s progress.

Steph
Steph
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack

I agree with this entirely. I’m in Cal Anderson with my dog 3-4 times a day, and I have line of sight to the park 24/7 from my apartment. I don’t see tent housing in the park as a major disruption. There’s a clear demarcation between living space for the houseless and the playfield, and it doesn’t seem to me that either encroach on the other. Even as I type this, there are folks watching the park entrances on the North side discouraging the sweeps while the playfield remains untouched. If it wasn’t raining, I’m certain it would be filled with soccer games and happy dogs, the typical afternoon scene. This was the case last night when a very small number of activists started gathering around the buildings in the park as well while conservatives peed themselves with excitement declaring things like “ANTIFA HAS TAKEN OVER CAL ANDERSON PARK.” I believe folks are really upset about the appearance of the tent sites more than anything else, which, IMO, we would better solve through improved waste disposal options for the area. Currently it seems the park only has a few public trash cans that are clearly not meant to carry the burden of household waste disposal – food waste, packaging from household items, etc. Bet providing more/better trash services and/or toilet options is cheaper than funding a single SPD sweep, which seem to both hurt people and be ineffective (see: reports of folks returning pretty immediately after previous sweeps). Side note: It feels especially heartless to sweep Cal Anderson in the middle of the winter holidays (reminder that we are 7 days into Hanukkah and Christmas is a mere 8 days away), and I have not heard a good argument for doing it now as opposed to waiting. I doubt that advocates for the sweeps would, themselves, appreciate needing to pack up their lives and find another place to live during this time. “Scroogey” is the nicest word that comes to mind.

stan
stan
2 months ago
Reply to  Steph

“Bet providing more/better trash services and/or toilet options is cheaper than funding a single SPD sweep…”

Seattle Parks has tried to go in and provide service and maintenance to the park but have been met with threats; hence, the reason they posted the notices to vacate and asked for SPD’s assistance. I’m sure you read that in the original post. If parks employees can’t provide those basic services then it becomes a public health hazard. Everyone keeps blaming the sweeps on SPD but it’s not their call to clear the parks; it’s the Parks department asking for back-up while they enforce laws against camping in the parks.

Your argument to just let people rot in tents in the rain instead of taking the offer of shelter that the outreach teams is providing is what seems heartless (and during the holidays no less ). Maybe you should be in the park with the “activists” encouraging people to accept the offer of a roof over their head. Otherwise those homeless that decide to stay are making a choice to live a life outside. And I don’t see where tax payer dollars should support private citizens’ personal choices to usurp public lands for their personal benefit.

Steph
Steph
2 months ago
Reply to  stan

I don’t think at any point I stated that people should choose to stay in tents vs. accepting shelter if offered, so the rush to call me heartless feels, idk, weird. But ok. The choice is not between sweeping the park and “letting people rot.” Clearing the park does not get those people who refused shelter into shelter. It just displaces them. The choice is between sweeping the park and… just not sweeping the park. My point about it being about aesthetics still stands, I think. It’s a respectable desire to have a nice looking neighborhood with a park unobstructed by ad hoc residences, but given the ways that houseless and underresourced people suffer, I catch myself feeling like the desire for a prettier neighborhood is a relatively privileged desire and I could probably stand to shut up about it. I don’t feel comfortable with the assertion that people are just refusing housing for no reason at all when in reality there are considerations like drug-free conditions (if you suffer from the disease of addiction and immediate detox is not a comitment you can make, particular shelter options may not be for you), COVID-related concerns about being in close proximity to a lot of transient people, the list is probably pretty long and personal for individuals. But if you’re comfortable with just leaving it at “they choose this life,” I guess that’s where we part ways. Cheers!

stan
stan
2 months ago
Reply to  Steph

“Clearing the park does not get those people who refused shelter into shelter. It just displaces them.”

“I don’t feel comfortable with the assertion that people are just refusing housing for no reason at all when in reality there are considerations like drug-free conditions…”

Actually some people are refusing because they prefer the street life. There have been several interviews quoting homeless in not just Cal Anderson but across the city that state as much. They will never accept shelter. So we should just allow they to stay? So that still leaves my question; and it isn’t about appearances.

It’s about folks, some of them addicts, that don’t want shelter, or to come clean, they don’t want back into “society.” They just want to do their own thing/drugs and are okay living outside and panhandling/stealing to do that. If they decide to set-up camp in the middle of the park, to live their personal choices, should we just allow that? Why then cannot I make the choice to build a cabin in the middle of Volunteer Park; if I so personally decide that’s what I want to do?

We had outreach workers find shelter for many of the homeless in the park.But the rest, they don’t seem interested. Why? Refusal of shelter is a personal decision that shouldn’t impact the safe use for ALL people to use a public benefit. This isn’t an aesthetic argument, it’s about public safety and welfare and the private taking of public lands. If you refuse an offer of shelter, and there’s a law against camping in the park, then you need to move on when asked.

wendolen
wendolen
2 months ago
Reply to  stan

I sincerely doubt that 3/4 of the people there refused shelter “because they prefer the street life.” Upthread somebody (maybe you) linked to a Seattle Times article that quoted two people who said they did; two is a lot more plausible to me than thirty.

As far as addiction, I am sure you know that there is quite a range between “don’t want to come clean” and “can’t commit to stop using immediately without critical physical or mental health implications.” There may be a handful who love being addicts and don’t want to stop… but they would be unlike any addicts I’ve ever known, in that case, and I think it’s more likely that this is your uncharitable fantasy than anybody’s reality. “Scroogey” really is the kindest word I can think of for you, stan.

Steph
Steph
2 months ago
Reply to  wendolen

Thank you for this. It gives me hope that there are other compassionate souls out there. People who assert that addicts just want to be addicts, or the houseless just want to be houseless, lack compassion for the human conditions that inform ongoing hardship, IMO. I’m very comfortable with the assertion that well-meaning people from all walks of life can lose their north star and spiral into difficult circumstances that cause and reinforce homelessness. Become addicted to substances, fall victim to mental health issues, incur irrecoverable debt that makes stable housing unattainable, lose jobs in inflated housing markets, experience home life trauma that makes long term residency in one place untenable, the list of reasons is, again, long and specific to the individuals living in those circumstances. Reducing the hard choices people make in managing their lives downstream of hard circumstances to simply “they choose this life so they get to live with the consequences, even if they’re dehumanizing” is 1) often not helpful at all. Imposing additional hardship (e.g., by putting someone’s hard-gotten tent into a dumpster when it’s raining in December) is not a forcing function that causes lost people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps as many privileged Seattleites seem to wish. That is a fantasy. In some cases additional hardship is a death sentence. And 2) it’s simply selfish and lacking in big picture compassion. I use Cal Anderson park every single day, multiple times a day, along with hundreds of others. I have never thought to myself “I can’t walk my dog in this neighborhood because there are tents over there on the other side of the field.” People CAN and DO coexist here. Let’s be real, it’s about people who have stable housing wishing the view out their window was tidier, or wishing they didn’t have the stigmatized homeless living in their neighborhood. “But it’s a public park.” And the houseless are part of the public whether they are part of your social circle or not. Folks resorting to the park for housing is a symptom of PUBLIC problems, not the failures of individuals that do it. “But it’s the law.” Laws are changed all the time to accommodate the needs of the public and put bumpers on to ensure minimum human need is met. We ought not hide behind what is “law” in order to pursue what is RIGHT. And looking out my window at Cal Anderson right now, I see a dozen or more homes missing, in the middle of the holiday season, on a cold rainy day. Where are those people now? Where did they go? What did they have to do post-eviction in order to find other space to dwell in? How did they transport themselves and their belongings? How will those whose tents went in the dumpster stay dry tonight? None of that is RIGHT, even if the park looks a little nicer for it. I swear I will lose my mind if I don’t see the “community” start using that side of the field immediately. For all the noise they made about the homeless making it unusable, I bet it will remain unused because the playfield has and will always be a more practical option anwyay. Today has been heartbreaking to watch.

RWK
RWK
2 months ago
Reply to  Steph

“(if you suffer from the disease of addiction and immediate detox is not a comitment you can make, particular shelter options may not be for you)”

If a homeless person is offered detox/treatment, and refuses, then he/she will have to accept the consequences. It’s called “personal responsibility.”

It’s bogus to claim that homeless people are refusing shelter because of crowded, unsafe conditions at the shelters. I am sure the shelters are following CDC guidelines about social distancing, masks, and hand-washing…..otherwise they risk losing their legal status.

Steph
Steph
2 months ago
Reply to  RWK

It’s not, in fact, bogus. “I’m sure the shelters are following CDC guidelines…” You are not, in fact, sure. Please at least Google it and read any one of many articles about the spread of COVID in shelters before you speculate. Also, the reason social distancing can be maintained in many instances is because non-shelter facilities have been turned into shelters, temporarily departing from the “big room full of beds” model. Hotel rooms, etc. are being used. But for how long? Is it a safe bet to leave your same-location-every-night tent situation in favor of a precariously funded hotel? CARES Act funding that allowed the conversion of facilities in Seattle expires at the end of the year and I don’t see the federal government doing much about it. Some people have to make life or death decisions for themselves and their families based on real information on this topic, rather than on dismissive speculation. Food for thought.

wendolen
wendolen
2 months ago
Reply to  Steph

CARES Act funding that allowed the conversion of facilities in Seattle expires at the end of the year and I don’t see the federal government doing much about it.”

The City of Renton sure is doing their damnedest to make sure they evict those houseless people who the county has been sheltering in the Red Lion since the spring as fast as they possibly can. (Which probably translates to disallowing that arrangement from being renewed even if the property owner and the county want to make the same deal again.)

RWK, you realize when you say “personal responsibility” you look like a complete caricature of a heartless conservative, right? Now tell us the one about bootstraps!

To get serious for a moment: I seriously doubt that anybody has offered anybody who has been living in the park free drug treatment, and I don’t think that’s what Steph was referring to, and I don’t know if I believe that you in good faith think it’s what she was referring to. Residential drug treatment is fantastically expensive, and the demand outstrips supply — a couple years ago a (housed) friend of mine needed to go into treatment. He was doing this from a place of remarkable privilege, so he had insurance which covered a lot of the cost, and FMLA leave from work (rather than losing his job!! I still kind of can’t believe it). He ended up having to go to Salt Lake City for it, because if you need simultaneous psychiatric and substance use disorder care, there are very few facilities who can take you. He had no money for travel expenses (because right up to admitting he needed rehab, he was spending all his money on drugs). If he hadn’t been able to borrow money from his mom for the bus ticket, the rest of his privileged circumstance wouldn’t have mattered, and… well, he might have been living in the park by this winter. If you were responding in good faith, please stop trivializing the level of burden you’re putting on these people. (If it was just a confusion over terminology: “detox” generally just refers to the first few days after an addict stops using, and the physical symptoms they experience from stopping, such as the DTs with alcohol. Some detox symptoms can be fatal. The word *is* often used as slang for drug treatment programs, and if you’re in treatment, you will receive medical attention for those symptoms, but treatment is not implied by the word.)

Rosalia
Rosalia
2 months ago

After the cleanup, how about ongoing nightly patrols so this cycle doesn’t just start again?

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
2 months ago
Reply to  Rosalia

wrong answer

The Ghostt of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt of Capitol Hill
2 months ago

I meant, right answer.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
2 months ago

Haha hilarious ;)

RWK
RWK
2 months ago

The “activists” (aka far-left criminals) are begging for a fight with the SPD. They not only welcome it, they live for it. Hopefully, both sides will show restraint as this mess is cleaned up, but I’m not optimistic.

David
David
2 months ago

As a resident of the neighborhood with a kid, we never go near Cal Anderson anymore. We park in Zone 4 and have been paying for parking at nights since this got so bad. And, since we’ve taken a drastic hit to our income since COVID, it’s really not something we should be having to pay for.

The violence coming from the encampment is bad. People screaming and fighting, berating passers-by, murdering each other…

I’m the first one to come to the defense of the unhoused, but this isn’t the way. Just look at the messaging on the fencing: “give us housing now” is posted up right next to “kill cops”.

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
2 months ago
Reply to  David

Give us housing now – but only if it doesn’t come with any rules, so that we can do whatever the f* we please there, until it’s such a hell hole that no one wants to go there anymore. Then we’ll move back into the park and complain there’s no where to go again…..

Society has rules for a reason.

Hillery
Hillery
2 months ago

The never ending story

cleanupseattle
cleanupseattle
2 months ago

Please move forward with this sweep. If people were so concerned about losing their free land, they should have treated it with more respect. Fires, narcotics, weapons…need we question why this should be cleaned? I’m baffled why we let the homeless slide on the basics of life. We aren’t asking too much but clean up after yourself. Seattle was once the most beautiful city, it’s now littered with trash, feces, etc. we need to help the mental ill, not enable them.

M M
M M
2 months ago

Considering that you had to edit out names of some of the signees due to threats speaks volumes about what kind of people those “activists” are.

How about… if the homeless want to be neighbors, then maybe they should be good neighbors? Threatening people, banging outside at night and trashing the park is certainly not it.