The proposed West Seattle sites for a new city jail came up at tonight’s meeting of the Southwest District Council — representatives from neighborhood groups and other major organizations around the area of West Seattle that the city calls the “Southwest District” (map of all “districts” here) — but it didn’t attract as much discussion as the issue of money for parks. We’ll publish the jail update later; first, tonight’s park $ talk, plus your next chance to have a say on the future of West Seattle (and the rest of the city) parks:
Much of the park discussion centered around the appearance at tonight’s SWDC meeting of West Seattle-residing City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the council’s Parks Committee.
One of the hottest topics right now is whether this fall’s ballot will include a new parks levy, since the Pro Parks Levy is expiring. As we’ve previously reported, the mayor isn’t in favor of sending one to voters this fall; a majority of city councilmembers are, and they recently unveiled a public-opinion poll that shows two-thirds of the citizens want to see one.
A key part of the current process toward sorting all this out is the appointment of a Parks and Green Spaces Levy Citizens’ Advisory Committee. We told you about its creation back on April 21; its membership includes three West Seattleites — Sharonn Meeks, Pete Spalding, and Bruce Bentley. This group is supposed to come up with a report by the end of next month. (Spalding has told WSB that it’s vital for West Seattle residents to have a strong say in this stage of the process, and even though none of the group’s three upcoming meetings are in West Seattle, it would be worth your while to attend one: locations, dates, times are listed here.)
But as city leaders move toward deciding whether to ask citizens to keep chipping in for more parks, they have to deal with the fact that some existing parks are still in an uncertain financial situation. Take, for example, Junction Plaza Park, the rectangle of land on the northwest corner of Alaska/42nd. At tonight’s SWDC meeting, council member Dave Montoure, president of the West Seattle Junction Association, noted that hundreds of thousands of dollars are still needed to turn that parcel into a real park. He said that after going to the public for money just to facilitate the purchase, it’s hard to go back again and say “we need more money.”
In response, Rasmussen acknowledged that the Parks Department may not always clearly explain the process that’s necessary for this type of park, which was purchased with the help of money from the expiring Pro Parks Levy, as were other sites around West Seattle (see location list here), such as Ercolini Park west of The Junction, where volunteers spent time weekend before last installing play equipment — they went through an exhaustive process of raising money and gathering volunteer-time commitments so they could get city matching funds to help transform park land into a real park. Rasmussen also singled out the Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza Project as a situation where the citizens involved in planning and fundraising the project might not have been clear on how the city process would unfold (right now that project is in the midst of design changes, starting with recommendations by the city Design Commission — as reported here — and expected to return before that group for another review).
Also in attendance tonight was Carol Everson, Parks Department finance director; later in the meeting, after Rasmussen’s appearance, she noted that millions of dollars still exist for so-called “orphan parks” and she will look into whether Junction Plaza Park might qualify for some of that.
Parks money, of course, does not involve only land for formal parks – there’s greenbelt and open space too, as meeting-goers were reminded when Rasmussen brought up something he mentioned at another recent West Seattle meeting — the Manning/Spokane/Admiral city parcel. It’s owned by the city Transportation Department, and Rasmussen would like to see it transferred to Parks as greenbelt, but he says the mayor wants it to be sold.
Next report from tonight’s Southwest District Council meeting will focus on other items of discussion including those proposed jail sites. The council’s meetings are open to the public and held the first Wednesday of every month.