A short burst of snowfall greeting the Winter Solstice across Capitol Hill also blanketed Cal Anderson Park’s challenges. Monday night, the park was busy with people enjoying the space.
For now, Seattle Parks says, Cal Anderson remains technically closed and the department has said weeks of work could still be ahead to fully repair and clean up the park. While there are hopes for new efforts to help Cal Anderson and make real changes to help address ongoing needs for shelter, addiction, and mental health resources, the first steps will be modest, according to details of some of the plans provided to CHS by city officials.
Meanwhile, the snow was also a reminder of Seattle’s challenges to help the thousands who live unhoused here. The city’s cold weather emergency shelters only open if there is a “a snow accumulation in excess of 1-inch and/or forecasted temperatures of 25 degrees or below.”
UPDATE 12/23/2020: Cal Anderson is now… open? New signage is up. We’re following up with the parks department to learn more:
Excited for this new difficulty rating system for our parks. Hopefully Seattle Parks will open some Blue Square and Black Diamond parks for more advanced park visitors. pic.twitter.com/tQS0h3wIpv
— matt (@mmitgang) December 23, 2020
CAL ANDERSON SWEEP COVERAGE
- SPD sweeps Cal Anderson to clear homeless encampments and protesters from park — UPDATE
- Cal Anderson sweep — Day 2: Police in the park, outreach update, graffiti removal, and plans for adding ‘ongoing connection to social services’ — UPDATE
- Cal Anderson sweep — Day 3: 11th and Denny gunfire, pre-sweep molotov cocktail attack, sad update in park overdose — UPDATE: ‘Antifa soccer’ arrests
SPD had come to Cal Anderson earlier to clear out dog walkers and other park-goers. But now dog walkers and black bloc soccer players seem to be enjoying the snowy scene together. Others are taking in an art show at Vermillion. pic.twitter.com/NHKXqA1OrR
— matt (@mmitgang) December 22, 2020
Within three days of displacing our houseless community from Cal Anderson, there are now pingpong tables and an information kiosk. But of course, there are no working restrooms. pic.twitter.com/tVeHIsdkqk
— ColorDecourage (@ColorDecourage) December 22, 2020
Snowball fights and frolicking dogs at closed Cal Anderson Park pic.twitter.com/K2uQEZe1qo
— Magneto was Right (@phaseballspl) December 22, 2020
First, we’re likely to see more clashes with police. Though there was not an “antifa snowball fight” to follow Sunday’s “antifa soccer” incident in which police responding to reports of possible black bloc on the Bobby Morris sports field ended up in a brawl with protesters and made seven arrests while sending one person to the hospital, the Seattle Police Department remains ready at the frontline on enforcement of the park’s closure.
Daytime in Cal Anderson is a slightly different story.
“Parks Ambassadors” are now working 10 AM to 4 PM at the park. Part of the city’s COVID-19 response, the 60 or so ambassadors are typically deployed across the city to “remind people to social distance and not gather.” They also are sometimes tasked with collecting usage data. Parks will be closed “if usage is too high,” the city says. At Cal Anderson, their duties also include letting people know the space is technically still off-limits.
More important long-term issues than park patrol are also part of the planning — but the next steps will be modest.
One community group at the core of what will come next says it isn’t asking for sweeps.
“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,” the group said in a statement prior to Friday’s camp clearance. “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,” the group writes. “Our community is asking for transparency and participation in decision making about what happens in our park.”
Officials say plans are underway to “bring activation efforts of art, music, ongoing connection to social services, community work parties, and recreation opportunities to the park, along with installation of community supported lighting” in hopes of addressing long-standing issues with the busy park.
But expectations should be tempered on the shape of the first things to come.
One example is a “community supported” lighting project. While community groups and the city pushed for a 2017 study for a $! million-plus lighting plan that would help secure and enhance the park with “new globe lights,” water mountain lightings, and new pathway new pole lighting and base lights, January’s installation will be much more modest. Seattle Parks is describing the project as “a tree lighting.”
For now, the city says there isn’t budget for the full light plan “We are gradually changing out the Luminaires to LEDs and increasing light levels,” a parks representative said. “The LEDs don’t burn out nearly as quickly which also eliminates the loss of light from burnt out lamps. Per the (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) studies, we trimmed the trees away from the existing globes to better light levels.”
Another element of moving Cal Anderson Park forward that might need some expectation trimming is the ongoing Activation Working Sessions. CHS reported here the community design sessions formed in the wake of the CHOP occupied protest clearance this summer.
Friday, participants said a previously scheduled teleconference to discuss the efforts to add activities in the park went on as planned despite that morning’s sweep.
But the city says that Friday session might be the last it participates in. The next meeting of the group is “TBD,” a parks representative said, as is the parks department’s “role in the future meetings.”
“The group will determine when and how to meet next,” the representative said.
Notes from the sessions to date will be posted on the group’s seattle.gov page.
You can get involved by emailing the 2020CalAnderson group.
You can also help more immediately.
Mutual aid volunteers have shifted away from Cal Anderson and have been gathering regularly at the Thomas Street Mini Park off Bellevue Ave E.