Nine questions about the future of Seattle’s parks for the District 3 candidates

A Cal Anderson movie night from above

Development, equity, and public safety — These are major issues in the 2023 race for the District 3 seat on the Seattle City Council. Turns out, you can learn a lot about the D3 candidates by asking about something else altogether — Seattle’s parks. Thanks to the Seattle Parks Foundation, we have answers to nine questions about the city’s public greenspaces from D3 candidates Joy Hollingsworth and Alex Hudson that help illustrate each candidate’s style and stances on key questions about the city’s parks system that also shine light on how each candidate would help lead the city.

For Hollingsworth, her thoughts on Seattle parks start with growing up in the Central District and her father’s long career as a Seattle Parks employee. The candidate says the biggest issue facing the city’s parks right now is public safety while she also addresses how she believes parks fit into her primary stance on social investments — “centering essential city services and expanding root cause investments for safe and thriving communities.” Other answers highlight her commitment to increasing efforts to address climate change and grow the city’s tree canopy in underserved communities as she hopes to champion growth strategies that balance preservation of existing communities. “The gentrification of my own neighborhood and displacement of Black families is a painful lesson for the City and community leaders that thoughtful planning is critical to successful urbanism,” Hollingsworth says.


Hudson’s parks perspectives offer a more forward-looking approach shaped by her time serving on the board of the Freeway Park Association. In her answers, Hudson places parks within her strategies for building a more dense, more affordable Seattle that also places a high value on greenspace and the tree canopy by dedicating more existing streetspace to become parks and mixing more multistory affordable housing into areas near parks. “We must reclaim more of our streetscape and return it to the people as greenspace. We must create more parks and protect the ones we have,” Hudson says. “High density development is necessary because the alternative is sprawl and further destruction of what little greenspace we currently have.”

Hudson also calls for more resources to be dedicated to activating and programming in the city’s most important existing parks including Cal Anderson. “Our parks are some of the places where our toughest social issues play out – homelessness, mental and behavioral health challenges, and by supporting programs like the Rangers, investing in REACH and other outreach workers, and supporting healthy activation we can ensure they are safe and welcoming for everyone,” Hudson says.

The full survey and D3 answers from the Seattle Parks Foundation are below.

1) What is your favorite Seattle park and why?

Hollingsworth: I grew up in the historic Central District neighborhood, where I still live today and rent the home that my grandmother purchased in the 1940’s with my wife, Iesha. While the neighborhood has changed immensely over the past four decades, one thing that hasn’t changed is the community building and fellowship that takes place in our parks and public spaces. My favorite Seattle Park is Garfield Playfield and Community Center. I spent every summer as a child growing up in programming at Garfield. To this day, I still stay connected with Ms. Shari Watts, the former Director of Garfield Community Center. It was Garfield where I have rich memories of my childhood, where I felt at home and in community. Garfield Playfield and Community Center was also one of the Seattle Parks that my dad, who was a career-long Seattle Parks employee, fought to ensure had the same investments and resources as parks in wealthier parts of Seattle. On City Council, I want every youth to have the opportunity that I did to access programming, enjoy safe parks and public spaces, and experience community.

Hudson: Wow, I’m not even sure I know how to pick! I’ve served on the board of the Freeway Park Association for a decade, and I love that park’s iconic architecture and innovation, especially how its lidding of a section of I-5 created this beautiful space. I helped to lead a community re-design of First Hill Park and feel an incredible appreciation for our little jewel box park that serves so many people. And I feel so lucky to live in District 3, with our abundance of Olmstead legacy park riches at Cal Anderson, Volunteer, and Interlaken parks. Continue reading

‘A threat of harm assessment’ — Seattle mayor issues executive order hoped to guide police in enforcing city’s new public drug use law

A SPD officer responds to a reported overdose near the city’s central library (Image: SPD)

With the new law opening the way for a crackdown on public drug use in the city going into effect October 1st, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has issued his promised executive order his administration says will help ensure a more equal balance of treatment and diversion efforts as Seattle Police enforce the law by establishing “a threat of harm assessment.”

“We are committed to learning lessons from the past, holding traffickers, dealers, and those causing the most harm accountable, and helping people access treatment and care through diversion services,” Harrell said in the announcement.

CHS reported here on the passage of the new law opening the way for more arrests and prosecution of public use of drugs like meth and fentanyl while also earmarking millions in spending for diversion and treatment programs. While the crackdown could help address concerns about street disorder and overdoses, it also is expected to tax the city’s law enforcement and treatment resources while adding to the challenges already faced by those living with addiction and living homeless in the city.

The new order hinges on a so-called “threat of harm assessment.” Harrell says the executive order “provides direction to officers on how to enforce the ordinance, including examples of how public use and possession can be established and factors that will guide the threat of harm assessment.” Continue reading

Seattle joins cities including Anchorage and San Diego in asking Supreme Court to rule on camping bans

As the city’s mayor is rolling out his 2024 budget proposal including tens of millions of dollars for affordable housing and homelessness spending, Seattle’s city attorney is fighting for the legal right for the city to sweep encampments without federal restrictions.

City Attorney Ann Davison announced this week she is joining a group of city attorneys in locations including Tacoma, Anchorage, and San Diego as well as California’s state attorney asking the the U.S. Supreme Court to review a key court decision limiting sweeps and overturn “the Grants Pass decision” by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The decision established sweeps are a violation of the Eighth Amendment and punish people for sleeping in public when there is not adequate shelter available. Under the ruling, cities can restrict how people camp but it cannot execute a blanket ban on camping without adequate shelter resources. Continue reading

Mayor begins 2024 Seattle budget debate with status quo proposal emphasizing affordable housing and boost for treatment and diversion

(Image: City of Seattle)

You can track changes with the Seattle Budget Dashboard

Seattle’s efforts to shape the city’s 2024 spending plan are beginning with a proposal from Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office that he says “doubles downs” on his administration’s priorities with a more than 30% increase in planned affordable housing funding, maintaining the city’s more than $100 million in annual funding for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, and $26.5 million to boost the newly formed Community Assisted Response and Engagement departments. But the proposal’s largest components including spending for the city’s existing first responders at Seattle Police and the Seattle Fire Department would be maintained at status quo levels.

“Seattle is a different city than when I took office nearly two years ago – we are continuing to see real progress, even while acknowledging the complex challenges still before us. Many of our toughest issues can’t be solved overnight but with a plan and solid investment strategy, we can show meaningful progress towards building the One Seattle we want to see,” Harrell said in the announcement of his 2024 budget proposal. “This budget doubles down on the priorities that matter for the city, focusing on critical needs like public safety and homelessness, supporting downtown and a healthy climate, and embracing a back-to-basics philosophy needed to advance Seattle’s economy, quality of life, and the essential city services residents deserve.”

The budget planning comes in a city facing challenged revenue forecasts in coming years. A workgroup convened to brainstorm possible “alternative revenue” sources has proposed options including capital gains, vacancy, and congestion pricing taxes. For now, the city is working with what it has including its more than $200 million a year JumpStart tax on its largest employers like Amazon and Starbucks.

(Image: The Rise)

Harrell made his budget speech Tuesday from First Hill at a newly opened affordable high-rise housing development on surplus Sound Transit land at Madison and Boylston, “these buildings represent the kind of outcomes we’re trying to achieve,” the mayor said. CHS reported here in May at the opening of the joint project from Plymouth Housing and Bellwether Housing where Plymouth operates Blake House on floors two through five with a total of 112 studio apartments focused on serving seniors and veterans who have experienced chronic homelessness while Bellwether operates The Rise on Madison on floors six through 17 with “250 homes affordable to families making 60% or less of area median income.”

“These projects provide affordable housing for our neighbors and bring people who have experienced chronic homelessness indoors with the support they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives,” Harrell said.

The proposed budget now moves to the Seattle City Council for weeks of public comment, debate, additions, and subtractions.

Seattle’s operating budget reached $5.92 billion in 2023 with just over 40% of that earmarked for transportation infrastructure, utilities, and environment spending, and nearly 24% for administration at City Hall. The single biggest category beyond that base remains Public Safety at nearly 14% or $805.4 million. Its capital budget climbed to $1.51 billion in one-time spending and improvement projects.

In total, the mayor’s proposal calls for $7.386 billion in spending — down slightly from 2023’s approved $7.433 billion budget.

Continue reading

Mayor says Seattle’s ‘third public safety department’ ready to join police and firefighters in protecting the city with ‘welfare checks’ and help for people suffering mental crisis

(Image: CHS)

A small, $1.5 million pilot program hoped to help be the start of bigger changes to how the city responds to mental health and drug crisis 911 calls is set to launch next month and Mayor Bruce Harrell is calling for more money so support the department behind the program next year.

Harrell marked the formation of what the administration is calling “Seattle’s third public safety department” saying the new organization will align “existing community-focused and non-police public safety investments and programs” as it joins the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Fire Department in protecting the city.

Community Assisted Response and Engagement — or, in the Harrell administration’s love for warm-sounding acronyms, CARE —  is part of the next step in what the city has been calling a “dual dispatch” approach to providing better social support and resources while freeing up police to handle higher priority calls.

Harrell says he is calling for a $6 million increase in the department’s funding as part of his proposed budget for next year.

The pilot launching in October will transition the former Community Safety and Communications Center to include the deployment of social workers and behavioral health specialists with Seattle Police Department officers for a limited set of circumstances when mental health expertise is needed and the situation is deemed safe for non-police intervention.

The launch comes amid increased criticism of Chief Adrian Diaz and skepticism around traditional policing in the city sparked by recent recorded comments from Seattle Police officers illustrating troubling biases and cynicism including the body cam video that captured a police union vice president making flippant remarks about Jaahnavi Kandula after she was struck and killed by a speeding police officer.

It also arrives as city leaders have signed the department up for a possible crackdown on public drug use in the city.

Backers hope CARE and efforts like “dual dispatch” will be the start of needed change and could help the city provide more substantial responses to the flood of so-called “welfare check” calls that come into 911 dispatchers from Capitol Hill and across the city every day.

Under the pilot, 911 calls dispatched involving someone suffering a mental crisis will include the specialists arriving with police at situations that don’t involve someone who is injured or sick, an “imminent danger,” weapons, or narcotics. Continue reading

City says north end of Cal Anderson continues to be ‘repopulated’ despite repeated encampment clearances

The city is trying to put a stop to a new pattern of homeless camping on the north end of Cal Anderson Park.

Monday, city outreach and clearance teams were again in the area and a city representative said workers provided campers with information and offers of shelter while directing the residents to clear the area.

“Cal Anderson is a site Unified Care Team monitors nearly every weekday as it’s frequently repopulated with tents and individuals,” the representative said.

The recent efforts have followed a pattern of outreach, clearance, and return. Friday, teams had visited the park to offer shelter and services. The city says there were seven campers and none “accepted referrals before leaving the area.” Over the weekend, the campers returned. Continue reading

From ‘may’ to ‘will’ — City Council wrestles over amendments to Seattle drug crackdown, treatment and diversion legislation

Critics say little of substance has changed in the legislation and no new spending will be part of the plan but the Seattle City Council appears ready to approve a revised bill opening the way for a Seattle Police crackdown on public drug use on Seattle streets while doing more to “emphasize diversion and health programs.”

Tuesday afternoon, the full council is prepared to vote on the bill after a roster of amendments were made last week as the legislation from Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office passed out of the council’s public safety committee. More amendments could further alter the bill in Tuesday’s vote.

Some opposition remains but it is not clear if citywide representative Teresa Mosqueda, District 2 representative Tammy Morales, and District 3 leader Kshama Sawant will be joined in expected votes against the bill.

“If today’s bill were to pass, it would embolden the reactionary Seattle Police Department to arrest and harass working people, especially people of color, on suspicion of public drug use,” Sawant said Tuesday morning in an email to supporters.

Opponents Tuesday will be armed with a report (PDF) from the Seattle Office for Civil Rights prepared at the request of Mosqueda. The SOCR briefing recommends against the bill, calling for the city fo focus on “housing first models,” and to “develop processes and policies to ensure people are not cycling through the criminal legal system and are provided with adequate treatment and care.”

“Drug prohibition has resulted in significant racial disparities both historically and currently, nationally and locally,” the memo reads. “It is likely this ordinance will continue that pattern.”

The briefing also says the proposed legislation will “will inevitably target people who are unhoused or unstably housed.”

The Public Safety and Human Services Committee approved the latest version of the legislation sponsored by councilmembers Lisa Herbold (West Seattle) and Andrew Lewis (downtown) last week after the Seattle City Council did not support an earlier proposal that members said lacked adequate plans and resources to provide support for treating addiction and providing options beyond incarceration. Continue reading

New Central District building with mix of workforce housing and apartments for formerly homeless people to open in 2024

(Image: Walsh Construction)

A new building with a mix of workforce housing and affordable apartment units will be ready to open in 2024 to join the growing area of development around 23rd and Union.

The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and Low Income Housing Institute announced their Good Shepherd Housing project is on track for a spring opening on 22nd Ave.

CHS reported here in 2020 on the housing development designed to create new homes for formerly homeless individuals and “low wage workers at risk of displacement from the Central Area.” Continue reading

Seattle’s latest homeless stats show camp clearance team now fielding 100+ ‘service requests’ per day

(Image: Unified Care Team)

A graphic from the latest Unified Care Team quarterly report

Seattle’s Unified Care Team, the city’s group overseeing homeless encampment removal and outreach efforts, says it executed 94 “priority site” and “RV resolutions” in the second quarter of the year.

The report (PDF) to the city council this week is part of a required reporting process put in place last year to keep the council apprised “about the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness who were engaged and connected to services, the number of people connected to shelter and housing, the number of declinations and why people refused help, how many people were displaced from encampment removals, and so on,” according to a brief on the session.

Work for the team is increasing. Officials say public requests for clean-ups and outreach to the team climbed over 9,300 in the quarter — more than 100 per day. Continue reading

Seattle City Council passes resolution supporting wage equity for homelessness service workers

The Seattle City Council passed a resolution Tuesday to answer calls for a 7% raise in city contracts to help ensure better wage equity for workers at homelessness service providers.

The resolution states the council will commit to working with private and public funders to make progress on wage equity and lay the groundwork for a 7% raise for contracts administered by the city. Continue reading