Admiral meeting: Maybe play area, maybe “beautification”

August 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm | In California Place Park, Neighborhoods, West Seattle news, West Seattle parks | 14 Comments

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:

playground.jpg

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):

ferryhillcorridor.jpg

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).

14 Comments

  1. I am wondering wehy the streets are never cleaned in Seattle? New to the area and live near Aliki beach. There is so much trash just left on the sidewalks and streets and seems to be no city cleaning? I have never lived in a city before that lacked that any reason?

    Comment by CleanUp — 1:15 pm August 21, 2008 #

  2. There are many children (and adults) in the neighborhood – and several daycares/preschools – seems like a great opportunity to provide all the folks who live here with an extra outdoor space with currently underutilized space/land. I’m out all the time and I have rarely seen anyone on either space, mostly folks waiting for the bus on the CA ave spot. As to noise concerns, if we’re talking about kid-use, that’s mostly daytime or early evening and most working people will be out for the day. Developed parks generally raise property values. Until I learned of this project I assumed the CA ave site was owned by the church – I’m sure many others have this idea as well. Its good to know its already a park, but why not improve it to make it more people friendly?

    Comment by AK — 1:46 pm August 21, 2008 #

  3. I would suggest that people that oppose this conversion visit Ercolini Park. I live about a block away from the park. I am quite happy that this was added to my neighborhood. As a result of the park, I see more families with small children walking through my neighborhood. With all the recent posts about houses being cased, having people walking around the neighborhood is a very good thing. Plus, I think that the park increases my property values because it has become a more attractive neighborhood for families with children.

    Comment by cranky cyclist — 1:50 pm August 21, 2008 #

  4. Why does it have be “BE” anything?

    Why can’t it be left as is? Grass and trees are good as they are, and sometimes kids should be encouraged in their play creativity to find a lovely patch of grass sufficient for playtime.

    Green spaces don’t always have to “BE” something…

    Comment by JimmyG — 2:54 pm August 21, 2008 #

  5. I am just blown away that someone would be so opposed to an improvement project for this park. To me, this proposal seems like a great way to enable people to utilize this (under-utilized) park. I agree with cranky cyclist and invite opponents of this project to visit Ercolini. If you visit this true neighborhood park and do not come away with a warm feeling, you are just insisting on being a curmudgeon.

    Comment by Kelly — 2:55 pm August 21, 2008 #

  6. FYI…the ‘sex offender’ information the person brought to the meeting was dated ’2004′…

    Comment by GB — 5:52 pm August 21, 2008 #

  7. My husband and I live within 1/2 block of both parks and we like the idea of beautifying the Ferry/Hill triangle as a quiet gathering space. A neighborhood pea-patch, perhaps, or maybe a little landscaping with benches. The park on California is already quite nice and requires no improvement in our opinion, it has a nice lawn and beautiful mature trees.

    One thing that isn’t mentioned here is that this is the main route for the fire station one block away, and the fire trucks come through very swiftly with no sirens until they hit the main arterial – which we very much appreciate. If these are turned in to play areas, will they need to be fenced to protect children at play? It seems that these would be better used for quiet gatherings than play areas.

    Overall, it seems that people in this neighborhood do have their own yards for the most part. Wouldn’t our tax dollars be better spent on other more pressing neighborhood concerns like helping the food bank or school lunch programs for example?

    Comment by KSJ — 6:12 pm August 21, 2008 #

  8. That is a false tradeoff – if the money from the Parks budget isn’t spent here it will be spent on other spaces.

    Green spaces shouldn’t “be” ugly & uninviting….

    Comment by Chip — 6:28 pm August 21, 2008 #

  9. I also live near Ercolini park and I don’t know if I will have enough space to say all the good things the park has done for our community. It is a meeting place, as I am sure this space will become. We have met so many people in our neighborhood that we never knew lived just 1 block away. I am not very familiar with the spaces we are commenting on but just having green space (which I am all for) does not bring kids to play, obviously that is currently the case with the lack of use for this space. Our public spaces are for public use.

    To the folks spearheading this park, I would recommend going door to door to get support and encourage people to come to meetings about the park.

    What a wonderful feeling of community to know your neighbors.

    Comment by wbn — 7:37 pm August 21, 2008 #

  10. Great coverage once again, WSB! Thanks for keeping everyone in the loop and representing all sides fairly. It sounds to me like the (few?) vocal opponents are reacting in a knee-jerk fashion without listening to the fact that the park organizers want to avoid plastic play equipment and beautify the open spaces for all users, not just kids. I’m just disappointed to hear the squirrel protection rationale wasn’t voiced last night, because I think that’s a real concern. Puh-lease.

    Comment by JKW — 9:16 pm August 21, 2008 #

  11. Thanks for the comments, recommendations, ideas and concerns from everyone in our community – both on this blog and in our meetings! We are actively recording and compiling all the feedback from our neighbors. I encourage neighbors who take the time to post on this blog to also take the time to support and provide your input in person at our meetings 1st & 3rd Wednesdays at the West Seattle Library. If you are interested in participating or volunteering, please contact us through the FANNA Yahoo Group. Thanks!

    Comment by Matthew Slye — 10:01 pm August 21, 2008 #

  12. I am familiar with the two park opponents described in this blog. They have both been at our house (across the street from both locations) – one complaining about the neighborhood children and their possible effect on property values (this while our kids are playing in the yard), and the other is chronically worried about sex offenders. They need to get a life, IMHO.

    Comment by Mike Lynch — 11:42 pm August 23, 2008 #

  13. If you would like to see this park remain as it is. Come to the Park on Sat. Sept 13th from 3-6pm. There will be a small contingency there accepting signatures on our petition for NO CHANGES TO THE PARK. Help save this green space.

    Comment by Jan — 7:48 pm September 11, 2008 #

  14. the eagle, the coyotes, the possums, raccoons and the crows love this natural greenspace as well as the people who come to the park to layout on the plush green grass! why not enhance an existing playspace of Hiawatha? its already set up to being a kidspace. the park is fine the way it is, leave it alone!

    Comment by gek — 6:32 am September 12, 2008 #

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