Seattle Parks & Recreation Superintendent Jesús Aguirre:
As residents and community stakeholders of Capitol Hill, we are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss how we can work together to safely and immediately reopen Cal Anderson Park. Despite the current COVID-19 closure, we must reopen the park so that regular maintenance can resume and the community can organically come together to activate their public space and counter the dangerous decline we’ve sadly witnessed.
The Cal Anderson Park Alliance (CAPA) represents a broad and diverse group of Capitol Hill neighbors, businesses, and community leaders who have for decades successfully brought our community together to focus on the park that connects us all. Invested neighborhood organizations like CAPA are integral to a city’s future, and we believe we are uniquely positioned to help the City guide the safe opening of our park. We represent neighbors, community organizations, and businesses in properties immediately surrounding the park, including leaders from the Capitol Hill Farmers Market, the GSBA, Capitol Hill’s EcoDistrict, and Seattle Central College. Many of us live within a block and have been intimate first-hand witnesses to the evolving events of the summer of 2020.
Thanks to the hard work of community members before us, Seattle and Cal Anderson Park were honored in 2009 by Forbes as having one of “America’s Best City Parks,” affirming CAPA’s unique efficacy. Capitol Hill has a long track record of successful citizen involvement: Since our beloved park was established in 1901 (then known as “Lincoln Park”), those surrounding it have been deeply enmeshed in its affairs and invested in its outcome. In 1993, CAPA (then known as Groundswell Off Broadway) was responsible for advocating for park improvements that resulted in the redevelopment of the grounds we are familiar with today, ultimately re-naming the park in 2005 to honor Washington’s first openly-gay legislator.
CAPA hopes to carry forward the passion and dedication of those who came before us as well as those who have been historically left out of community dialogue. We share the belief that this public park is vital to the health and wellbeing of Capitol Hill and visitors to our city. Our uniquely urban environment is an immensely popular and natural gathering space, and the park’s history, design, and accessibility combine to serve a wide number of people who need access to safe open spaces as a respite from pandemic confinement. In recent years CAPA has sponsored and organized programs and events to activate Cal Anderson Park and inspire healthy, safe, and diverse usage. Sadly, with the park officially closed, we are not able to engage our community in the rebuilding of our shared space or healing from recent events. In fact, for those who pass by the park today, it’s nearly unrecognizable. Park garbage cans are currently overflowing, lights are broken or not working, and water features remain turned off, inviting graffiti, vandalism, and damage to critical community infrastructure that has certainly incurred more cost to repair than any funds saved. As a result of these disturbing developments, our dense neighborhood of people who live and work here (ranging in age from children to seniors) stays away from the park, fearful for their health and safety.
Together, we know our community can find constructive solutions… but only if the park is officially opened and maintained. We strongly believe that, aligned with the latest pandemic-related guidance from our public health officials, the community can work in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation and other City departments to safely re-open Cal Anderson Park. We are hoping to find a time to meet with you to discuss the current untenable conditions of the park and to chart an action plan for reopening the park again this fall. Issues we would like to discuss include:
- Continued public health and safety concerns
- Damaged and nonfunctioning park and community infrastructure, including Seattle’s first all-gender public restrooms
- Ongoing and unaddressed backlog of maintenance issues
- Opportunities for better communication with neighborhood and community organizations
On behalf of all Capitol Hill residents, visitors, and stakeholders, we would like to meet with you and urge you to address these issues immediately before more damage and harm occurs. We need your leadership to ensure that Cal Anderson Park is welcoming and safe at a time when the Capitol Hill community needs it more than ever. We are uniquely capable of galvanizing our community to ensure solutions are authentically community-owned, and we stand ready to work with you.
Cal Anderson Park Alliance (CAPA)
Jennifer Antos, Executive Director, Capitol Hill Farmers’ Market
Thatcher Bailey, President, Seattle Parks Foundation
Don Blakeney, Neighbor
Louise Chernin, President & CEO, GSBA/Capitol Hill Business Alliance
Jill Cronauer, Chief Operating Officer, Hunters Capitol
Taha Ebrahimi, Neighbor, Historian
Dr. Sheila Edwards-Lange, President, Seattle Central College
Erin Fried, Senior Community Development Associate, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict
Akeyla Jimerson, Community Development Associate, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict
Brie Gyncild, Board Member, Capitol Hill Champion
Michele Hasson, Board Member, AIDS Memorial Pathway
Julia Levitt, Neighbor
Donna Moodie, Executive Director, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict
Jason Plourde, Executive Director, AIDS Memorial Pathway
Jill Sherman, Partner, Gerding Edlen
Michael Wells, Board Member, Capitol Hill Champion