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Cal Anderson sweep: As snow temporarily blankets park’s problems, city tempers expectations about next steps — UPDATE

(Image: Renee Raketty)

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:

CAL ANDERSON SWEEP COVERAGE

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.


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Prost Seattle
Prost Seattle
3 months ago

Until we can get a grip on where we can house the homeless, why don’t we use the city’s golf courses for tent villages?

Gordo
Gordo
3 months ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

I’ve proposed this idea over email to Sawant multiple times. No response.

Crany Old Man
Crany Old Man
3 months ago
Reply to  Gordo

because this idea won’t score political points with those in her party, not nearly loud and flashy enough !

HTS3
HTS3
3 months ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

I’m going out on a limb here and assuming that you aren’t a golfer.

JaySee
JaySee
3 months ago
Reply to  HTS3

We have FOUR public golf courses. We could probably close one, and provide social services and sanitation. In that scenario, it would be perfectly reasonable for the city to proactively remove people from parks (rather than a sweep right before the holidays). In the context of a pandemic, closing a golf course seems like the bare minimum.

CHqueer
CHqueer
3 months ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

Just like Chavez did in Caracas.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
3 months ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

Tons of park land! It’s open! It’s available!

CHqueer
CHqueer
3 months ago

It is disheartening but not surprising to hear that the city still doesn’t seem to have the political will to maintain the park as a public space for the community and dislodge the destructive elements that lingered after CHOP. What will it take? More murders? A court ruling against the city for their role in supporting CHOP’s establishment and continued lawless zone in the park? Somebody should tally the total economic impact of CHOP to Capitol Hill. How much has it cost to clean up after the black bloc larpers? How much economic loss to neighborhood businesses goes beyond covid impacts? How much will it cost to restore the park to its previous condition? It must be in the tens of millions.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
3 months ago
Reply to  CHqueer

This is a disaster. These are extraordinary times. Please reevaluate your expectations of the world around you. We literally have the walking dead on broadway and throughout downtown. This is a huge disaster. No one is going to “fix” it. These human built systems can’t handle this (in fact they cause a lot of it). Our society doesn’t have limitless reach. Our politicians don’t have magic wands. Our police can’t clear a park and prevent any and all human activity that isn’t to your liking breach its non-existent walls. You are stuck here with the rest of us and it would be an act of humility to accept that and it is futile not to.

trailrunnr
trailrunnr
3 months ago

“the world around you” has many many large cities where crime, drugs, poverty, and mental illness abound. And yet somehow the parks in those cities are still places for everyone to enjoy. I refer specifically to Buenos Aires, a city of 11 million, in latin america. What they do have are specific, permanent slums (sounds bad but actually much more livable than the horrific mess in Cal A Park). It’s not an insurmountable problem to complicated to solve. I am fortunate to live both in Seattle and in BA. It’s enlightening.

p-patch
p-patch
3 months ago
Reply to  trailrunnr

It is interesting that parks, golf courses and other green spaces are seen as housing opportunities simply because many of the homeless have tents. If the homeless all owned cars, the “solution” might be parking lots and garages. I don’t like the idea of permanent slums, but given the city’s lack of leadership, I’m not surprised how reasonable this sounds.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
3 months ago
Reply to  trailrunnr

Plenty of parks are open in Seattle. Seattle is not the dystopian wasteland you and all the MyNorthwest comment refugees are trying to make it out to be.

C Doom
C Doom
3 months ago

Is a city required to provide housing to all that exist there but cannot afford to remain housed there? The answer if yes guides a set of policies, and if no would guide another set. But we must have a clear and agreed-upon answer first, which I do not think we have.

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
3 months ago
Reply to  C Doom

I’m going to say no – there is no one particular place – city, neighborhood, state, etc. that should be required to provide housing to everyone and anyone….

Why? Well lets think about this – Is there any group of people who is guaranteed to get exactly what they want? Of course not, what we all get tends to be an intersection of what we dream about, what is available and what we can afford. I’d make a bet there’s few people who live here at any income level who got their absolute ideal house/apartment in the exact spot they wanted it for the price they really wanted to pay. We all make compromises and there’s no reason to think that for some reason the poorest amongst us should be exempt from this… I’m not saying there should be no affordable housing – neighborhoods are better when there is a mixture of people, there should be some housing that meets the needs of a whole range of people, but just because demand outstrips supply in any one particular spot doesn’t mean that there’s a failure of the system. Not everyone will always be able to get their first choice….