King County Council to forge ahead on bid to acquire troubled City Hall Park

Oct 20, 2021, 9:44 AM

City Hall Park Seattle...

A homeless encampment in Seattle's City Hall Park. (Photo: Jason Rantz/KTTH)

(Photo: Jason Rantz/KTTH)

King County Council approved legislation on Tuesday to explore options to acquire Seattle’s City Hall Park.

King County Council advances plan to ‘explore options’ for acquiring City Hall Park

The bill was approved by a 7-2 vote, and was sponsored by County Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Reagan Dunn. In practice, it will have King County Executive Dow Constantine put together a report on possibilities for the county to acquire the park so it can handle its own security, rather than the Seattle Police Department.

It also asks for a plan to relocate any current or future homeless individuals who set up camp in the park, and involves an assessment that requires sifting through crime statistics, mapping nearby homeless shelters, and talking with people in the community. That would include laying out “options for the county” to acquire and assume control over the park, as well as exploring “possible future county uses” for the area.

The park neighbors the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle, and has frequently been the site of homeless encampments, as well as a number of violent incidents. Some people — including courthouse workers — have said they no longer feel safe going to the courthouse.

Speaking in support of the bill following its passage, Councilmember Kohl-Welles called the move a “step forward in fulfilling our responsibility to ensure that local government is accessible to all residents of King County.”

Lawmaker calls for Seattle to give county control of City Hall Park following closure

“Through having Executive Constantine explore future uses for the park, I am optimistic that the King County civic campus, including the park, will be more accessible, welcoming, and safe for Courthouse employees, jurors, and others seeking access to justice and county services,” she said in a news release.

Not everyone on the council stood behind the measure, though, including Councilmembers Girmay Zahilay and Joe McDermott, the latter of whom had previously expressed concerns over “a narrative about homelessness I find dehumanizing.”

KIRO Radio reporter Hanna Scott contributed to this story

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