Project set to begin to keep Cal Anderson’s ‘fountain mountain’ from crumbling

(Image: CHS)

Scaffolding will cover Cal Anderson Park’s “fountain mountain” this spring and, possibly, into summer for much needed repair work to keep the structure from crumbling and get the water flowing properly again, Seattle Parks announced Thursday.

The scaffolding will be installed this month around the iconic water feature to provide access for repairs:

The granite stones which make up the surface of the cone fountain will be partially removed to allow for the underlying support structure to be repaired, and then the stone surface replaced. In addition, the pump system will be assessed and made operational. Subsequent vault cleaning and testing of the flow system will commence following completion of the work.

Like many elements in need of repairs and upgrades around Cal Anderson, problems with the Waterworks fountain mountain date back well before CHOP and a year of protest in the park. Continue reading

They’re trying to recall Kshama Sawant — What happens next?

Recall Sawant representative Henry Bridger (Image: CHS)

Backers of the campaign against City Councilmember Kshama Sawant are hoping to put the recall question to District 3 voters on a special election ballot of its own, a campaign representative said at a Thursday afternoon press conference in Cal Anderson Park following Thursday’s state Supreme Court decision allowing the recall to continue.

Henry Bridger, campaign manager and chair of the Recall Sawant campaign, said the recall vote cannot appear on the August primary ballot and officials have told the campaign a special election can’t be held between the primary and the November General Election. The recall campaign backers also don’t want to appear on the General Election ballot, Bridger said.

High turnout could be a concern with general elections typically bringing out higher rates of participation. But this D3 question could be different. With the 2021 elections deciding both a hotly contested mayoral race and the two citywide seats on the Seattle City Council, there may be concern about the recall question driving heavy turnout in District 3, potentially impacting the massively important races.

“This is about her, not about electing someone,” Bridger said Thursday at the Cal Anderson press conference when asked about the strategy. Continue reading

Two years later, justice moving forward in fatal Cal Anderson shooting

The 2019 crime scene

Saturday brought the two-year anniversary of a fatal shooting in Cal Anderson that left a 21-year-old dead after a night of basketball and hanging out on a March evening in the park.

While several shootings in recent years across Capitol Hill and the Central District remain unsolved, the suspect in the March 2019 murder of 21-year-old Hakeem Salahud-din was identified and taken into custody thousands of miles away in Columbus, Georgia. News of the arrest was missed by many during this summer’s chaotic times around Cal Anderson.

Two years later, Zaquai McCray, 19 and a resident of Tacoma at the time of the murder, has been charged after his June 2020 Georgia arrest and awaits trial for murder in the second degree in a case currently scheduled to start proceedings in November, according to King County Superior Court documents.

Police say Salahud-din died in the park after he was shot in the head during a March 20th, 2019 fight near the Cal Anderson basketball court prosecutors say he became part of after his 17-year-old sister was punched in the face. Continue reading

As trial begins in cop killing of George Floyd, Black Trans Lives Matter march crosses Capitol Hill

With reporting and photos by Renee Raketty

2021 has brought quieter weeks of protest and marches on Capitol Hill but activists were on the street this weekend to remind that Black Trans Lives Matter.

“I don’t care if you’re transgender, female or male. You’re disrespected, period,” one organizer told the Sunday group of marchers. “They see what they see because it is more important to them than who is in front of them — contributing to the patriarchy — than respecting what the human in front of them knows what they are.”

A crowd of about 75 people gathered around the Bobby Morris Playfield to light candles and hear speeches from BIPOC organizers for the Sunday afternoon march and vigil. Some attendees also wrote messages or the names of transgender people whose lives were cut short by transphobic violence. Still others brought flowers to lay at the site in their memory. Continue reading

Amid outcry over inequity, Hugo House announces resignation of executive director — UPDATE

Swenson (Image: Hugo House)

Calls for change at Hugo House have led to the resignation of executive director Tree Swenson, the organization announced Friday morning:

The Hugo House Board of Directors today announced the resignation of executive director Tree Swenson, effective immediately. Swenson leaves Hugo House in strong financial health after nine years of steady growth under her leadership, including a new home for the organization on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Director faces call for resignation amid demands to make Capitol Hill’s Hugo House ‘a welcoming and supportive place for writers of all races’

Writers, teachers, and members in the community around Capitol Hill’s Hugo House are calling for the resignation of the nonprofit’s leader for failing to adequately respond to calls for change born out of the Black Lives Matter marches and occupied protest this summer on the streets outside the 11th Ave literary center across from Cal Anderson Park.

UPDATE: Representatives for the group calling for the resignation tell CHS their “advocacy to reform Hugo House has been ongoing for several years.”

“This latest push came as a pushback to (Hugo House’s) performative statement on race equity sparked by the events in summer of 2020,” Shankar Narayan, an advocate involved in the effort, writes. “So it was a response to HH’s false effort to capitalize on BLM, not BLM itself” that inspired the effort.

In an open letter from July, a group of writers and members were joined by a list of around 200 signatories criticizing executive director Tree Swenson and Hugo House over “structural and systemic racism” and the nonprofit’s failure to serve as “a welcoming and supportive place for writers of all races” — Continue reading

With its focus shifted to ‘providing critical services,’ Seattle Parks planning delayed at least another year by pandemic

Seattle Parks and Recreation announced last week it will further delay the planning for the next six-year cycle of spending on the Seattle Park District, putting off changes to how it invests in maintenance, recreation affordability, park development, and supporting community events and programs.

The delay will give the process more time for “additional community outreach and understanding of changing community needs due to the pandemic and recovery efforts,” the department announcement said. Continue reading

After Cal Anderson sweep, other Capitol Hill park encampments grow

A sign of protest before the Cal Anderson sweep

Though outreach efforts moved many campers into shelter in the sweep and clearance of tents and encampments from Cal Anderson just before Christmas, officials acknowledge camps have grown in other parks away from Capitol Hill’s core and tell CHS work to connect people to available facilities continues.

At one Seattle Parks field, Cal Anderson campers moved in immediately following the Friday, December 18th police raid and city worker sweep. Some brought vehicles and the shelter materials that had become parts of the scene for weeks along 11th Ave where Cal Anderson has now been officially reopened to the public after six months of closure.

Others joined the camps at Capitol Hill’s smaller park in the following days. A Seattle Parks representative tells CHS “there is no limit or measurement managed by SPR about how many people can camp.” Continue reading

Cal Anderson Park ‘reopens’

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

New signs have gone up around Cal Anderson Park announcing that the space is again open to the public. Some new signage spells out the “NO CAMPING” restrictions in the park and provides a roster of “local resources” including information on hygiene facilities and available library bathrooms as well as information on how to connect with housing and shelter referrals.

Neighbors around the park say the signs are new as of Wednesday.

The park has been officially closed since the CHOP occupied protest was raided and cleared in July — though it has remained in use by strolling neighbors and dog owners throughout and even as the space remained a center of protest and encampments through 2020.

In its announcement of the reopening, Seattle Parks says “more activities, maintenance, and services” are planned for Cal Anderson in 2021. Continue reading

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.” Continue reading