By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Just under 24 hours from now — at 10:30 Saturday morning — three potential designs for possible changes at California Place Park in North Admiral will be made public.
The group that obtained a $15,000 city grant to pay for those designs to be created, Friends and Neighbors of North Admiral (FANNA), says the format of tomorrow morning’s workshop will be similar to the last one — a presentation by landscape architect Karen Kiest, followed by small-group discussions at tables around the room.
The design workshops under way now follow a series of public meetings in various formats and under various auspices, dating all the way back to the first word of potential changes, presented at the Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting last June.
FANNA created a website several months ago to make its case. Opponents of park changes do not have an organized online presence, but have mounted a major in-person campaign in the neighborhood, including a seven-page handout.
In comments after our report on the first design workshop in February, Lance wrote:
I was given the packet for the “no change to park” and they make some very valid arguments. Also some of the facts in it seem legit. I’d like to see some actual evidence that this information is false. Seems like there’s a bunch of people so polarized to either side as to not see whats real or not. I’ve already shown my opinion from a cost standpoint but if these “facts” are true, how can this park project even be moving forward? If I were a city parks representative I’d want to investigate both sides and see what really went on. To make a genuine opinion I’d like to know what’s real and what’s made up. Real info folks not just something you heard or whatnot.
We hadn’t seen the “packet” and said so. Lance in turn offered to scan and e-mail it, which he did. It has not appeared anywhere online that we know of. Here’s a screengrab of the cover:
You can see the 7-page document here, as provided to us by Lance.
Not long after he provided it to us, park-change opponent Jan Bailey provided us with printed copies of supplementary documents, even before we asked for them – she gave them to us at the last ANA meeting.
So, looking at all those, here’s a breakdown, with information from our past coverage, online research, and/or responses from FANNA, received from Matthew Slye. We will say in advance, if there is a point you think we missed, that interests you, please leave a comment and we will follow up.
Some sections of the documents are statements of their author’s opinions, so there’s really no “breakdown” we could provide. But wherever we did see something that could be looked into, we have noted it with “What we found.”
The first page following the “NO CHANGE TO PARK” cover is a letter, no name visible on the scan, from someone identifying her/himself as a six-year member of the Lafayette (Elementary School) Playground Committee and 14-year North Admiral member, with two children, living one block from California Place Park.
They write: “I support NO CHANGE TO CALIFORNIA PLACE PARK for many reasons.” Here’s the breakdown on the reasons cited:
First reason from the letter: “California Place Park is on a busy street. Is this a safe place to encourage small children to play?”
What we found: No question California Avenue SW is a busy street. The city’s traffic-flow map does not break down the difference between traffic flow on California north of Admiral and south of Admiral, where the daily volume is listed as 14,300 vehicles.
Second reason from the letter: “Do we really need this change? There are several play areas within 3 blocks of the California Place Park location. West Seattle also has the greatest play place of all, Alki Beach. (My kids 8 and 11 years old, still love to play there.)”
What we found: If there are play areas within three blocks, they are not public. The nearest park is Hamilton Viewpoint, 0.4 miles (five blocks), according to Google Maps. Lafayette Elementary is listed as 0.3 miles by Google Maps, three blocks on the map to Admiral, and another half-block to the school (the public play area is at the end of the fourth block). Hiawatha’s play area is roughly kitty-corner from the south end of Lafayette, so that’s 4 blocks. The sandy stretch of Alki is about a mile away, depending on which way you go.
Third reason from the letter: “Will this serve the community? As a member of Lafayette’s Playground committee, I understand how much money these projects cost, and I feel the money would better serve the community if it were used for street lights, curbs with proper drainage and sidewalks. There are blocks that need more light and many basements flood every year because the water from Ferry Ave SW (one block from the proposed site) has no place to go but down driveways and into basements. Is there a better way to serve the community?”
What we found: Right now, the only money budgeted for this project is the $15,000 Neighborhood Matching Fund grant FANNA applied for and received. That’s from a pot of money budgeted by the city each year for projects sought by citizen groups. (The NMF is explained here; this grant was made under its Small and Simple Fund, explained here.) Some NMF money has gone to sidewalk projects over the years. But someone has to propose and apply for the project. Lights and drainage are Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities responsibilities. As for where money to implement any park changes would come from — nothing is budgeted — the city has made its budgeting decisions for this year. There is a chance money from the voter-approved parks levy (passed last November) could be sought for projects like this; that money is an added tax approved by voters specifically for park projects.
Fourth reason: “ENVIRONMENT – The more green spaces we keep in the city the better.”
What we found: The proposed designs for park changes won’t be shown till the Saturday morning meeting, so that’s when attendees will see whether there is any proposal to change the site from greenspace status (and we will publish images of the proposed designs here on WSB shortly afterward). The most recent post on the FANNA website says in part:
Our original application to the Department of Neighborhoods uses the word “playground”, however in all subsequent meetings, documents and conversations we have been very clear to describe the project as a natural playscape with the goal of enhancing the green space and incorporating natural elements to entice children of all ages. … The ideas expressed by many of the residents of the Admiral neighborhood show there is a strong desire to create a natural and green space that welcomes and accommodates a cross section of its residents and yes, that does include children. California Place Park as it exists now is merely an extension of the yard for the church it sits next to – at least that’s what most residents we spoke with believed about the area before we applied for our grant.”
The next page of the “NO CHANGE TO PARK” 7-page scanned document is a photocopy of a TIME Magazine article dated December 8, 2008, by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, titled “Slender in the Grass.”
What we found: There are no notations on the photocopy about its purpose for inclusion. Here’s the article so you can read it yourself.
The next page is headed “To West Seattle Herald Op-Ed” but is a printed document, not a newspaper clipping. If it ran in the newspaper, a link is not coming up online, but you can read it in its entirety in the uploaded document here. It’s signed by Dennis Ross, a longtime Admiral neighborhood activist who also has been actively opposing potential California Place Park changes. Its subhead is “How many wrongs does it take to make a right?” and lists 3 “wrongs.”
His first “wrong” lists Parks Department and City slogans and says, “despite these claims of building cohesiveness, the California Place Park project and process has divided our community.”
What we found: As reported here and elsewhere (here’s our coverage archive, newest to oldest), certainly there have been contentious, tense meetings regarding this proposal. Admiral community members will have to judge otherwise what they believe to be the project/process’ effects.
Second: “Errors in application process,” which Ross lists as:
a) Erroneous claims of sufficient community outreach – most neighbors of the park project were unaware of any proposal
What we found: The notification issue has come up before and it’s hard to get this one beyond a he said/he said. So here is FANNA’s response from Matthew Slye, who acknowledges that the group did not visit the multifamily buildings that are next to the park site:
We have records of presenting the idea to the Admiral Neighborhood Association in early June 2008, posting our flyers around the neighborhood, at local businesses, and at the community centers (Hiawatha & Alki) (pre-public meeting series) June-August 2008, your press coverage on the WSB, and then posting a sign (in partnership with Parks) at the park location with flyers at the sign. Typically, our signs/flyers do not stay up for long. Even as early as July, our signs came down after only a couple of days. Upon learning from the parks department of a concerned neighbor, we attempted to reach out to her via email. Ann sent an e-mail directly to Jan Bailey on July 31, 2008 … Our group did not go door to door to multifamily complexes or apartment buildings adjacent to the park for security and access reasons. We had several condo owners attend our early pre-grant series of meetings and asked them to spread the word with their neighbors in their buildings. We do have record of going door to door at single family residences back in May 2008, July 2008, and again in January 2009.
The park, if you’re not familiar with the site, is surrounded by multifamily buildings. A 12-unit apartment building is across SW Hill to the south; a 6-unit building borders its northwestern edge, adjacent to Admiral Church. As for the timeline, the first mention in local media was here on WSB on June 8, 2008, in a brief preview for the next night’s Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting, after seeing it mentioned on the agenda. ANA’s monthly meetings are open to the public; we cover most of them and ran a followup item a few days later, mentioning Manuela Slye‘s presentation to the group.
Regarding: Ross’s point b, “unfounded references of community support”: He writes, “Friends and Neighbors of North Admiral used the Admiral Congregational United Church of Christ as a reference on their application form for matching funds, stating that they had the full support of the church. In fact, the Church was always neutral on the subject.”
What we found: That is addressed in the next page of the NO CHANGE TO PARK document, which is a printout of e-mail from Admiral Church congregation president Lee Kramer, dated September 18, 2008, saying “I have been informed by a member of our congregation that an application form from the group that is supporting changes to a park next to our church at the corner of California SW and SW Hill in West Seattle contains some misinformation. Our congregation is not supporting either side in this controversy, for the simple fact that we have members on both sides of the issue. Please remove any language from either support documentation or opposing documentation that would indicate otherwise.”
September 18 was almost a month after FANNA got word its city grant application had been approved (August 22 WSB report here). For FANNA, this is Matthew Slye’s explanation of the situation with Admiral Church:
From the very beginning (May 2008) our group approached the Admiral UCC Pastor, Terry Teigen. His initial reaction was very positive and encouraging. After our initial conversation, Terry referred us over to the church moderator Lee Kramer, since Terry was leaving the congregation soon. We wrote a letter to Lee Kramer which was followed up by another conversation between Manuela and Lee. Lee was very supportive of the idea to have a community conversation, and in fact he attended one of our early outreach meetings (in August 2008) at the West Seattle Library. We included commentary about our interactions with the church leaders in our Department of Neighborhoods Small and Simple Neighborhood matching fund grant application, expressing our interpretation of their “support.” We respect Lee’s later decision to keep his UCC congregation “neutral” in respect to “supporting” us since they have congregants supporting and opposing our idea of park improvements, just as he apparently expressed in his e-mail to City officials in September. Later in September, we wrote a letter to Lee Kramer to explain our comments from our grant application in the hope of clarifying the basis for our “understanding” of their position for support of our efforts.
Hopping back to page 5, this one is a one-page letter from Bailey and Ross, addressed to city councilmembers Sally Clark and Tom Rasmussen, Department of Neighborhoods director Stella Chao, DON’s Neighborhood Services coordinator for the Southwest district Stan Lock, and Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher. It alludes to several attachments, most of which were in the supplementary documents Jan Bailey provided us with, as mentioned earlier. Here are verbatim transcriptions of the letter’s four paragraphs, each followed by what we found:
The “NO CHANGE TO THE PARK” campaign was born out of community need. Upon reading in the West Seattle Blog about Manuela Slye’s dream of a playground in North Admiral. Her formation of the FANNA group and application for Matching Funds for California Place Park. See Attach #1. I went into the neighborhood to ask them if they knew anything about this. NONE DID!! I took my 1st signature on the back of an envelope. Thus the 371 signatures for “NO CHANGE TO THE PARK” see Attach. #2.
What we found: As noted above, ours was the first news organization to report on this; no one else had a reporter at the ANA meeting where Slye’s first presentation was made, and we just happened to be there because we routinely cover as many neighborhood council meetings around West Seattle as we possibly can. “Attach #1,” a photocopy of which Bailey provided, was a printed copy of our June 25 report (see it here). “Attach #2,” which was not provided (nor requested), would have been the petition signatures, which Bailey told us at last month’s design workshop now number more than 640.
Second paragraph from the letter:
After much research it was found that A) Manuela Slye has a preschool in her home (See Attach #3) less than 1 block from the California Place Park. Her home business is a conflict of interest. B) Of the 13 pledges to the Matching Funds 5 come from the Slye Family. Manuela pledging twice. See attach #4. Viveros is Manuela maiden name. Thus Iris Viveros pledge is family. see attach #5. C) FANNA stated in their Matching Funds that they had the full support of the Admiral Congregational United Church of Christ. See Attach #6. This was not the case and only after FANNA was awarded the $15,000 was this error brought to the attention of the church and city officials. see attach #7.
What we found: Point A: Manuela Slye identified herself at the June 22 ANA meeting as operator of Cometa Playschool, according to our story. We had run a short item three months earlier about its establishment (WSB March 25 report). Attachment #3 is a photocopy of a page from the state “License Query System” website, with Cometa Playschool LLC’s license number, address, and “governing people,” under which Manuela Slye’s name appears. The address on the page is, according to Google Maps, approximately one and a half blocks from the park’s northwestern edge. The address is not on the Cometa Playschool website, and Matthew Slye explains, “Our playschool location is home based. There are WA State regulations restricting the publication of an address for home-based businesses, which is why we refrain from publishing our address.”
As for whether this represents a “conflict of interest,” the Neighborhood Matching Fund guidelines published on the city website do not stipulate provisions for a “conflict of interest.” They do mention businesses several times as prospective participants in the NMF process, including this part of the criteria on which applications are evaluated: “Promotes interaction and builds community between different groups, such as renters, business owners, seniors, or different ethnic or racial groups.” The guidelines say that awards will not be made to “individual businesses.”
What we found regarding Point B: The photocopy of the “Match Pledge Form For: California Place Playground” that we have lists 12 people/entities, plus one line pointing to “various neighbors (see attachment)” – an attachment we do not have. Manuela Slye is indeed listed twice, once as an individual pledging 48 hours of “project planning and fundraising,” second time as “Cometa Playschool LLC c/o Manuela Slye” pledging $300 worth of art supplies. The other three family members on the pledge form are Matthew Slye, pledging 48 hours of project planning and fundraising; Teresa Slye Design, pledging 20 hours of project design and architecture consulting; and “Los Flacos – Mexican Folk Band c/o Iris Viveros” pledging a music and dance performance worth $300. Referring again to the Neighborhood Matching Fund guidelines (7-page document), there is no stipulation that pledgers cannot be related to those organizing the project. This is that section of those guidelines:
Following are requirements for eligible match.
•The amount and type of match must be appropriate to the needs of the project.
•At least 25% of the match must come from the neighborhood or identified community rather than from foundations, the County, School District, State, or other entities.
•All volunteer labor is valued at $15 per hour.
•Professional services are valued at the reasonable and customary retail value of the product or service, not to exceed $75 per hour.
•Volunteer time spent on fundraising, planning, design and organizing will be counted starting on the application due date. Ten hours of volunteer time may be credited for preparation of a Small and Simple Project Fund or Large Project Fund application.
Funds from other City of Seattle sources cannot be counted as match. City of Seattle Community
Development Block Grant (CDBG), Pro-Parks, and Cumulative Reserve Funds, as well as City
staff services, are included in this prohibition.
When we asked FANNA to respond to this point, Matthew Slye wrote, “Our extended family is large and very active in community work. A couple of them agreed to donate their time and expertise our California Place Park vision & exploration. It is important to note that all volunteers listed in our Small and Simple neighborhood matching fund application are just that, VOLUNTEERS. They are pledging their time for FREE. None of the volunteers are compensated monetarily by ANY grant funds.”
To Point C, regarding the church, that has already been addressed in this article.
Back to the text of the Bailey/Ross letter – this is the next (third) paragraph:
This group, FANNA was not forthcoming with this neighborhood. Even after I told Pam Kliment she said well “what is your address and we will let FANNA know so they can get the word out”. See Attach #8 FANNA never came to the building. Then there is the discrepancy as to whether the Parks Department supports the project or not. See Attach #9. There are also boundary issues with the park. Are all 10,500 sq. ft. useable? This is a small special interest group whose support is not widespread throughout this community. Did anyone check their references? ie the Church etc. How can the Admiral Neighborhood Association be FANNA’s Fiscal sponsor and still support the whole community when there is a split on this project? The Book written by the Admiral Neighborhood children. These are Manuela’s own children! Look at the book cover! See Attach #10.
What we found: Attachment #8 is e-mail dated August 12, 2008, between Bailey and Kliment, who works for the city Parks Department as a Neighborhood Matching Fund Liaison. The copy provided to us does not include Bailey’s original note but includes Kliment’s response:
The meetings that took place so far were meetings of neighbors, not official City meetings. They were simply meetings to talk about ideas for the space. I am sorry that the steering committee has not contacted you or your neighbors about their ideas and will pass on your request to them. It would be helpful to know roughly where you live, so they can double check their efforts to get the proverbial word out.
As we talked about on the phone, if their grant application is approved by the Department of Neighborhoods, there will be a series of meetings co-sponsored with Parks to talk about any site development.
Thanks for writing and keep in touch,
Atop that, Bailey’s reply dated 8/11/08:
Hi Pam, I live 1/4 blk from California Place Park in the Park Admiral Condos. We are around the block from the SDOT site but some of the upper level units look down on it. Jan
and Kliment’s acknowledgment “Thanks,” which is the end of the string dated 8/12/08.
This also was addressed earlier in this article, with Matthew Slye acknowledging that “Our group did not go door to door to multifamily complexes or apartment buildings adjacent to the park for security and access reasons.” He also said the group had sent Bailey e-mail on July 31, which would have been before her exchange with Kliment.
What we found, continued: Attachment #9 is in two parts: First is an excerpt from the “Application Review Comments” for the project, reviewed by Emma Moreno of the city. Under “What are the weaknesses of the organization/project?” Moreno, who is with the Department of Neighborhoods, wrote:
There is a chance that Parks Department does not support the project at this time due to the size and location of the park. The Park in California Avenue and SW Hill is between a green area and the parking lot that belongs to a Church and right next to a busy arterial. There is a bus stop in the park and the park can be easily confused by being part of the Church’s parking lot.
The second part of Attachment #9 is an excerpt from “Interdepartmental Review for Small and Simple Projects Fund,” also related to the application for the $15,000 city matching fund. This review was done by Kliment from Parks. Under “Project Feasibility,” and the question, “Does your department support this project?” the answer is “Yes.” The next section elaborates:
2. If your department does support this project, are there issues/areas of concern which have not been addressed by the applicant?
[Kliment reply] The goal of the project is to hire a landscape architect to work with the community and the parks department to develop a concept plan for renovation of the playfield. We are very happy to see this project application and support it completely. There are no play areas within one half-mile of the project.
As noted earlier in this article, Hiawatha and Lafayette are within half a mile.
The highest-level public comment on the Parks Department’s view of California Place Park, to date, came from Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher, who spoke at the November public meeting that preceded the design workshop series. We recorded video of what he told that crowd – here, as originally included in our story about that meeting, is the clip:
What we found, continued: Regarding Admiral Neighborhood Association being the “fiscal sponsor” for FANNA – it is not. Urban Sparks, which works with projects like this (and worked with the Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza Project), is its financial sponsor; ANA is not empowered to be a “fiscal sponsor” as it does not have 501(c)3 designation. ANA president Mark Wainwright says the group has not taken any formal position on the proposal for changes at the park. He and another ANA officer, Jim Del Ciello, are among those listed on the Match Pledge Form, as private individuals; Wainwright pledged 10 hours volunteer work as “project consultation and mentorship”; Del Ciello pledged 48 volunteer hours of “project planning, fundraising.”
What we found, continued: Attachment #10 starts with an excerpt from the grant application, with this highlighted: “See attachment #1: Cover of the book titled “The Important Book About Playgrounds,” written by children from the Admiral Neighborhood. The actual book is available upon request. The second part is a photocopy of the cover of that “book,” which is the one that Manuela Slye showed at her first Admiral Neighborhood Association appearance last June. It has the title as mentioned and says “by Audriana, Sabrina and Giovanni Slye.” Bailey also attached a printout of a Federal Way News obituary from February 2008 for Harry Slye, listing Matthew as a grandchild and Audriana, Sabrina, and Giovanni as grandchildren.
Matthew Slye answered our request for comment on this point: “Our children are residents of Admiral Neighborhood. Our NMF application does say the book is written by our children. In fact, one of the attachments to our application is the actual book cover – with the title and the authors listed – The Most Important Thing About Playgrounds by Audriana, Sabrina, and Giovanni Slye. The original complete book (not just the book cover) was borrowed by the Department of Neighborhoods back in September 2008. Emma Moreno now has it.”
Back to the text of the Bailey/Ross letter, it concludes, “I believe that the signature campaign will show that there is more support for NO CHANGE TO THE PARK. For whatever reason, be it, too close to a busy street, love for the old growth trees, need for open green space, not a good use of tax dollars. Whatever the reasons these people (Attach #2) must not be ignored.
As mentioned earlier, Attach. #2 was not included but would be copies of the “NO CHANGE TO PARK” petition signatures. Bailey told us at the February 3 design workshop that the number of signatures was up to 640 (that is included in our story about the event).
The last page of the document scanned and sent by Lance was this Seattle Times article about a playground project in NewHolly.
That’s the end of the NO CHANGE TO PARK document. Again, we published and examined it at a reader’s suggestion – here’s the link again; thanks to Lance for scanning it, thanks to Jan Bailey for offering the supplementary documents, and thanks to Matthew Slye for responding on behalf of FANNA.
Bottom line right now – Tomorrow morning, 10:30 am-noon at Alki Community Center, the design proposals will go public, and those in attendance will be the first to comment on them. We will publish our report later in the day and will include electronic copies of the designs if available, photos of them if not. The date is already set for the third design workshop – Thursday 4/16, 7 pm, also at Alki Community Center. As for what happens after that: The Parks Department has ultimate authority on what is done with the property, since it’s an official city park. There would have to be a formal proposal for any change to be made, and funding would have to come from somewhere, as the NMF grant obtained by FANNA covers only the $15,000 design cost. Until and unless a design is chosen and pursued, it’s impossible to say how much money it would cost. We’ll continue following this story, of course, and as we wrote up near the top, if there is a point you feel has been missed here, please let us know and we will look into that too.