Historical commission hits pause on razing Everett’s Clark Park gazebo

Mar 27, 2024, 1:09 PM | Updated: 1:50 pm

Image: Everett Parks & Facilities is seeking permission from the Everett Historical Commission to d...

Everett Parks & Facilities is seeking permission from the Everett Historical Commission to demolish the 1921 gazebo at Clark Park. (Image courtesy of Everett Parks & Facilities)

(Image courtesy of Everett Parks & Facilities)

At its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night, the Everett Historical Commission once again weighed a request from the City of Everett for permission to demolish the historic gazebo at Clark Park.

The commission was first asked permission in February but instead delayed a vote and requested more information about the city’s plans for the site and about alternatives to the demolition of the gazebo.

Everett residents iced out of demolition plans: ‘Don’t blame the gazebo’

Everett Parks & Facilities seeks to demolish the 1921 gazebo as part of a project to build an off-leash dog area at Clark Park. In presentations at the February meeting and again last night, city officials said they want to get rid of the structure because they say the fact it offers a covered area means it attracts crime and other unwanted behaviors.

Clark Park is the city’s oldest park and dates to the 1890s. It’s located in North Everett, not far from Everett High School, and is officially part of an area known as the Bayside neighborhood.

Bayside residents have mixed emotions on Everett gazebo

In public comments Tuesday, some Bayside residents agreed with the city about the gazebo’s role as a crime magnet, while other neighbors expressed their belief that the gazebo is worth preserving as one of the most historic buildings in Everett.

Past meeting: Everett official dodges key question about gazebo-saving compromise

“Getting rid of the gazebo won’t solve the homelessness issue, it won’t do that,” Henry Cotter of the Bayside Neighborhood Association said. “It’ll solve the gazebo issue. We’ve tried and tried and tried to activate the park, we will continue to try. It’s not a done deal for us. But we support the removal of the gazebo out of love for the park, if that sounds strange.”

“You are the Historical Commission, so you deal with what’s historical in Everett,” said Jack O’Donnell. “For example, a gazebo that’s been in place for 103 years is historical, a dog park is not historical. The gazebo’s the most character-defining feature in our oldest park, it was designed by Benjamin Turnbull, an Everett architect.”

As the commissioners began their discussion, Commissioner Jean Satti said preserving the gazebo is especially imperative precisely because it’s a public facility, owned and maintained by the City of Everett.

“Right now, we’re strengthening our comprehensive plan and the (Everett) Planning Department’s doing a huge effort to strengthen having us key property owners responsible for their historic buildings,” Commissioner Satti said. “And I think this sends a bad message to them if we, as a city, can’t maintain and preserve an historic, essential part of the city’s history.”

Bob Leonard is the director of Everett Parks & Facilities. He made it clear why he wants to tear down the gazebo, even if the messages coming out of Everett City Hall have been a little mixed over the past several weeks.

“We’re not looking to remove the gazebo because of the dog park, or because of the condition it’s in,” Leonard said, contradicting what Everett spokesperson Simone Tarver had said in a written statement provided to KIRO Newsradio in February.

In that written statement, Tarver wrote that removing the gazebo would allow Everett to “expand the area of the planned dog park” and that demolishing it was, in part, because “we’ve reached a point where it needs many costly repairs.”

“It is an attractive nuisance,” Bob Leonard continued on Tuesday, and then conceded, “It’s not going to solve all the problems if it goes away.”

At the February meeting, commissioners had asked for specific information from parks & facilities about alternative dog park designs that would not require the demolition of the gazebo.

This information was not forthcoming on Tuesday night, which multiple commissioners noted during the discussion.

“I guess just want to ask the question of (the) parks department,” Commissioner Madison Miller said, taking part online. “Is it possible to incorporate (the gazebo in the dog park) at all? Because I see from last month’s meeting minutes that it was posed at the last meeting, and the question was asked, but nothing came to this meeting with alternative designs.”

“So is it an issue of not being an option, or is it a cost prohibitive?” Miller continued. “I’d just like to know a little bit more about what has already been discussed.”

Commissioner Christine Svihus, also participating online, spoke next and was skeptical about blaming the gazebo for crime and other negative behavior at Clark Park.

“I understand the principles of attractive nuisance,” Commissioner Svihus said. “But I don’t really understand how a park that is located very close to (social) services will become safer by removing the structure if there are already lots of crimes happening here.”

“I used to work for the King County Prosecuting Attorney, and I watched many structures get removed in Pioneer Square,” Svihus continued. “That did not help, it did not reduce crime, and it did not make the park safer or more accessible.”

“I’m not really sure exactly how this improves public safety,” Svihus said. “If that’s the main reason for removing it.”

What the commissioners appeared to be attempting to craft in February and again in their discussions with city officials last night, was a compromise that would not stand in the way of the dog park, which appears to have universal support from city officials and residents — and that would also address crime issues, but not require demolition of the gazebo.

Background: Will Everett mayor accept compromise to save Clark Park gazebo?

Commission chair seeks middle ground for gazebo, dog park

When Commission Chair Patrick Hall was seeking middle ground in February, he said to Everett Parks & Facilities, essentially, if tearing down the gazebo is not a “silver bullet” that gets rid of all the crime, then let’s build the dog park, keep the gazebo where it is for now, and see if all that new activity generated by the dog park means crime is reduced, so then the gazebo won’t have to be torn down.

However, director Bob Leonard made it clear that Everett Parks & Facilities wasn’t interested in the middle ground.

I just don’t feel that we are supportive of that model happening,” Leonard said when asked about the failure of the city to produce the requested designs incorporating the gazebo into the dog park. “So I don’t know that we want to present something that is not going to be supported by the city or the staff.”

“So I’m just trying to be transparent about that,” he continued.

After some debate, commissioners decided Tuesday night that rather than formally vote on the city’s request for a “Certificate of Appropriateness” — a document typically used when a property owner seeks to make changes to a property on the city’s historic register — members of the commission voted instead to seek the formal opinion of the Everett City Attorney as to whether or not a “waiver” would be a more appropriate document for the city to seek, given that demolition is involved.

“For one thing, again, as I said last time, what our city code requires is, in the case of a demolition, they require a waiver,” Commissioner Theresa Gemmer said. “Not a Certificate of Appropriateness.”

All of these questions swirling around the Clark Park gazebo — procedural, substantive and otherwise — are sure to come up again when the Everett Historical Commission next meets on Tuesday, April 23.

Meanwhile, Henry Cotter of the Bayside Neighborhood Association said his group will continue to produce special events to help activate Clark Park.

“We have an event this weekend, this Saturday,” Cotter told the Everett Historic Commission during the public comment period. “Bugs & Blooms, this Saturday, (March 30), 11 to 2.”

‘If you can come out, please do,” Cotter said.

You can hear Feliks Banel every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien. Read more from Feliks here, follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks.

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Historical commission hits pause on razing Everett’s Clark Park gazebo