Lawmaker calls for Seattle to give county control of City Hall Park following closure
In the wake of a clearance and closure of Seattle’s City Hall Park, King County could soon aim to take full control of the park itself in the days to come.
The downtown Seattle park is currently closed for the next 2-3 months, following work from the JustCARE program to move over 70 people who had been camped out in the area into shelter spaces. Those efforts had come partly as a result of concerns voiced by neighboring King County Courthouse employees regarding safety conditions in the area.
As work begins to repair and restore City Hall Park, King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles has introduced legislation that would look to transfer its ownership away from Seattle and over to the county.
“It is time for us to reimagine this space to ensure that it is safe for people to congregate, recreate and traverse safely for years to come,” Kohl-Welles said in a news release. “We can also take this moment to think big about its future use. I strongly believe that this property should be managed and owned by the County rather than the City of Seattle because of its close proximity to the courthouse and other county campus buildings.”
Kohl-Welles proposes a variety of uses the county could employ for the park, including a conversion into an expanded “civic campus” and the construction of on-site affordable housing. The county’s new role would also include “planning to provide support and relocation to any future encampments that might crop up on the site.”
Any such action from the county council would also require the approval of Seattle city leaders. In the interim, Kohl-Welles is asking County Executive Dow Constantine to provide a report with his own input by Nov. 15, while the county council begins discussing the legislation in committee.
Other King County Councilmembers have proposed taking other actions regarding the park. That includes a proposal from Councilmember Reagan Dunn to not only have the county assume control over City Hall Park, but also condemn it as a public safety hazard. Dunn has since further called for the neighboring courthouse to limit access to everyone but employees and those with “necessary business.”
Councilmember Kathy Lambert also requested that Executive Constantine “declare deteriorating safety conditions around the King County Courthouse an emergency,” while proposing several new measures to allow “security staff to adequately protect themselves, employees, and the public.”