Tension last night as the Admiral residents proposing a “play area” for the California Place mini-park faced vocal opponents who live nearby. Project organizers, meantime, stress that it’s extremely early in the process, while revealing a new possibility has emerged — “beautification” beyond the park. More on that, and last night’s meeting, just ahead:
More than two dozen people filled the meeting room on the West Seattle (Admiral) Library branch’s lower level last night, certainly double the attendance of the introductory meeting we covered on July 24.
Organizers including Admiral residents Manuela and Matthew Slye reiterated that the concept is very early in the process (we first told you about it in June, when she talked to the Admiral Neighborhood Association, whose president Mark Wainwright sat in on last night’s meeting).
If you are just now catching up on this story — in short, organizers were looking for a place to put some kind of play area in North Admiral; the closest ones are the playgrounds at Hiawatha Community Center and Lafayette Elementary, almost half a mile away. They first eyed the empty triangle of land at Ferry/Hill, south of Admiral Congregational Church, but were told by SDOT that it wasn’t available, so they moved on to focus on the nearby mini-park at California/Hill known as California Place:
While they are “still focusing on California Place,” as Matthew Slye puts it, some other possibilities emerged after a site visit with City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, a West Seattle resident who chairs the council’s Parks Committee and attended the July 24 meeting. “He has this idea about opening up dialogue about the Ferry Avenue corridor, encouraging SDOT to look at improving the street between Hill and Walker, from the fire station to the church,” given its lack of curbs and the starkly empty triangle of land (here’s a shot we took after the meeting, at dusk last night, looking south from the church vicinity):
That idea drew some interest from neighbors, but first, several who came to express opposition to a possible play area wanted to make their points.
One woman was very concerned about crime and safety, saying she had printouts of information showing sex offenders live in an apartment house only a block away. “Not only that,” she added, “there are gangs up and down that street … and there are tramps sleeping under the church at night … The place you are looking at is a dangerous site!” (We used the Washington State Sex Offender Information Center search engine to check on the claim of nearby sex offenders, using the street address for the adjacent church, and that database showed only one Level 2 or 3 sex offender living within a mile of the site – someone in the 2100 block of 46th SW.) She also said she had been threatened in the area.
“From our perspective,” interjected co-organizer Ann Cantwell, “all the more reason to make the place nicer,” in hopes that more park use by neighbors will chase away any dubious characters.
Another neighbor’s concerns focused on noise: “I love the (California Place) space as it is now. If this goes in, I will move,” she declared, adding that park improvements might lower property values: “The average assessed value of homes around the area is more than half a million dollars, and the average sale more than $700,000. To have that noise impact within view of those homes, you say you’re trying to be good neighbors … a good neighbor would not affect friends that way.” (The property-value data is harder to check, but if you are interested in looking at home listings and sale prices around any existing parks, Zillow is one of many good search engines.)
She also said she feels it’s a conflict of interest “potentially benefiting one business,” referring to Manuela Slye’s Cometa Playschool, a home-based preschool in the area. The Slyes refuted that notion, saying they’re working toward a project “that will benefit the entire community.” And she voiced additional concerns including potentially damaging old trees’ root systems, and covering over green areas with “all this plastic stuff,” at which point it was noted that the most recent concept suggested for a possible play area does not include play equipment, plastic or otherwise, but rather “natural features,” possibly involving rocks and water. (This was described in our coverage last month, and briefly recapped last night.) Several people also expressed fears that park improvements would worsen the area’s parking crunch; one attendee suggested something on this small of a scale is not likely to attract people from outside walking distance.
Another exchange between supporters and opponents involved the idea of improving the mini-park area as a neighborhood gathering place. “Don’t you have your own yards?” someone asked. Another attendee retorted, “Is anyone here familiar with the new urbanism? New developments with yards that are community spaces, group play spaces … (This idea) really mirrors the movement.”
Whatever it becomes, said a woman standing at the back of the room cradling a very new baby, “I’m in full support of this, and anything that can be done to beautify the area, whether it ends up as beautification or a play element.”
And again, Cantwell and the Slyes stress that it’s very early in the process, and the suggestion of “improving the entire corridor” is “a new thing” — but since they’ve reached out for neighborhood participation at the start (dating back to that first presentation at the ANA meeting in June – that group meets regularly and everyone in the Admiral area is invited), that means more voices helping shaping what might happen here.
WHAT’S NEXT: Project organizers hope to hear soon from the city regarding their potential eligibility for matching funds to start design work. Meantime, anyone interested in the project is invited to attend ongoing meetings, the first and third Wednesday of each month at 7 pm — the next meeting might be at Admiral Church instead of the West Seattle Library; if it changes, we’ll add that in the WSB Events calendar, and you also are invited to sign up for the project’s official mailing list (go here to sign up for the list, called FANNA West Seattle).
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