Seattle MLB All-Star Game ‘Clean-up’ not without controversy

Jun 6, 2023, 4:32 PM

seattle mariners clean up...

On 3rd Avenue South and South Holgate Street in the shadow of T-Mobile Park where the Seattle Mariners play baseball, homeless people are living in RVs and tents along a two block stretch in Seattle, Washington Friday July 22, 2022. (Melina Mara/Getty Images)

(Melina Mara/Getty Images)

With the MLB All-Star Game coming to Seattle next month, Together Washington is hosting a Community Clean-Up on June 23 at T-Mobile Park.

The group will work with Seattle Metro Chamber and the Seattle Mariners.

This is the third time Seattle is hosting the MLB All-Star Game and the first time in 22 years. The previous games were in 1979 at the Kingdome and 2001 at what was then known as Safeco Field.

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“We are proud to announce an opportunity for community members across our region to roll up their sleeves and help get Seattle ready for the national stage,” the Seattle Mariners wrote in a prepared statement. “The organizations have come together to host a Community Clean-up dedicated to the restoration of key areas within the city, inviting all community members to join in this impactful event.”

Participants are expected to gather around 9 a.m. at the ballpark to clean up areas including Pioneer Square, SODO, and the Chinatown/International District. The SODO and CID Business Improvement Areas, The Alliance for Pioneer Square, the Downtown Seattle Association, and the Midtown Improvement District are just some of the organizations that will be involved with the cleanup alongside devoted fans and local residents.

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Not everyone is thrilled about the decision to pivot to volunteers, including the host of the unDivided podcast Brandi Kruse.

“Seattle is so bad, they’re asking for volunteers to clean up the downtown area before the All-Star Game. Think about that for a second, it’s so bad that it’s the Mariners who are asking for help,” AM 770 KTTH host Jason Rantz said on The Jason Rantz Show. “You would expect the city to do this and there’s no doubt they’re doing some work. All of a sudden, you’ll start to see some pop-up retail shops in Pioneer Square. A week and a half ago, it had a bunch of boards on it. You couldn’t even see into it, it was boarded up and completely abandoned. All of a sudden, some cool trendy new shops, which will be open for ESPN or whoever is hosting the game, will be on some B-roll.”

Multiple homeless encampments have been swept throughout the region in the months prior to the MLB’s festivities, including, most recently, a camp near Burien’s city hall that was causing much frustration among residents, city leaders, business owners, and the homeless residing in the camp themselves.

The camp has since been relocated nearby for a third time, as the now-empty lot is being converted into a dog park through the local non-profit Burien C.A.R.E.S.

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“The City of Burien doesn’t have the financial resources to be able to provide a permanent shelter or the substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment services that many of the people need. And so we are looking to King County to be able to receive some of that help.” Linda Akey, a candidate for the Burien City Council, said. “I’m not necessarily blaming the city or even King County, but we need to find solutions for people to have substance abuse mental health treatment services.”

The City of Seattle has used volunteers in clean-up endeavors before, including approximately 3,000 volunteers coming out for Mayor Bruce Harrell’s second annual Day of Service earlier this year. Harrell’s volunteer day focused on the removal of graffiti, collecting trash, and planting gardens among other activities in the downtown area.

King County Homeless Authority’s other battles

The King County Regional Homeless Authority is facing its own challenges currently, as the first CEO in the Authority’s history, Marc Dones, decided to step down last month.

KC Homeless Authority has salaries released after Dones departs

“As a queer Black person, I have watched many members of my community burn out trying to hold too much for too many and I have watched them become unable to contribute the full breadth of their talent or vision to the work,” Dones wrote in their resignation letter. “I have watched them become bitter and destructive and what I know is that I don’t want that for myself.”

The King County Regional Homeless Authority, under Deputy CEO Helen Howell — who is stepping in as interim CEO for the immediate future — is working to operate its five-year plan on a $253 million budget for 2023, a far cry from the $12 billion budget the department asked for under Dones’ leadership.

“The City of Seattle and King County punted to a Regional Homeless Authority because they didn’t have the courage to make the tough decisions,” King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn told KIRO 7.

Past transgressions in former host cities

Denver was the host city for the All-Star Game in 2021, and city officials faced scrutiny from advocates accusing them of accelerating the clearing of homeless encampments near Coors Field, according to the Associated Press. The city conducted encampment sweeps for 17 weeks in a row leading up to the event, more sweeps than the city ever logged before in that period of time.

The relocation sites for those living in the swept-up encampments were located more than a mile away.

City clean-up processes aren’t specific to Denver, as Los Angeles faced similar backlash when elected officials launched high-profile encampment shutdowns in 2022, including one encampment located near SoFi Stadium, where Super Bowl LVI took place. The strategy of the sweeps, according to critics, prioritized the city’s aesthetics and neighbors’ complaints. Social advocacy groups even claimed Los Angeles broke up tented communities and scattered the homeless people living there into more dangerous living conditions, according to The Guardian.

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