California Place Park: Sign on the way; “buffer plantings” proposed

One year ago – on June 11, 2008 – local preschool operator Manuela Slye stood before the Admiral Neighborhood Association‘s monthly meeting and talked about a “dream” of a playground at little California Place Park, adjacent to Admiral Church. In that park today, she cuddled her six-week-old son while talking with us during the celebration organized by the group she co-founded, Friends and Neighbors of North Admiral, marking the end of the design process for which they procured a $15,000 city Neighborhood Matching Fund grant.

Moments before we spoke with Slye, we talked with FANNA’s Ann Limbaugh, after she announced to celebration attendees that there’s only one certain change in the park’s near future: An official sign, marking it as a park. “That’s something we wanted all along,” Slye told us, “something to let people know this is a park.” According to Limbaugh, the group then hopes to secure volunteer time and donations — “less than $2,000” — for one element of this design crafted by landscape architect Karen Kiest as her contract, funded by the city grant, ended:

Limbaugh says the design element that FANNA hopes to pursue involves “buffer plantings” in the parking strips along the sidewalk that borders the park’s east and north sides; the lack of a buffer between the park space and busy California Avenue SW was one concern that repeatedly surfaced during months of meetings about the park. But they’re not needed, according to the “No Change to Park” group:

Standing next to the easels displaying the park design proposals at the celebration, holding her often-seen “No Change to Park” sign, Jan Bailey told us she is opposed to those plantings because of the potential expense. She and ally Dennis Ross, a longtime community activist in the Admiral area — also displaying a “No Change to Park” sign — continue to advocate for the park to remain unchanged. As for whether FANNA might pursue any more components of Kiest’s design – which would require a new round of fundraising and grant-seeking – Limbaugh said they want to “take a break” so nothing is planned. No Parks Department rep was in sight at today’s event (not that one was expected, as it was a community gathering and not an official meeting), so we will be checking with them on Monday regarding their official view of the park’s status, and the timetable for the sign installation.

To catch up on the backstory regarding this park, you can read newest-to-oldest in our California Place Park coverage archive here.

17 Replies to "California Place Park: Sign on the way; "buffer plantings" proposed"

  • JJ June 21, 2009 (7:57 am)

    Oh no–bluffer plantings! A bench! How terrible.

    The proposed changes would make the grassy areas so much nicer, especially the smaller one that is just overgrown.

    The “No change” people represent everything that is wrong with West Seattle, as well as fulfilling every bad stereotype about grouchy old people who complain about any progress whatsoever. Instead of standing around complaining about what other people are doing, how about you do something positive yourself?

    So insulting that they showed up at this celebration.

  • homesweethome June 21, 2009 (1:10 pm)

    If Ms Bailey and Mr Ross are concerned about the cost, then I suggest they don’t donate to the effort to raise the funds for the plantings.

  • Alvis June 21, 2009 (3:57 pm)

    I don’t necessarily agree with his no-change stance on California Place Park, but “grouchy old” Dennis Ross has accomplished more for the Admiral neighborhood than any other private citizen in the last ten or fifteen years. Among other projects, his volunteerism was responsible for getting the buckled sidewalks replaced at Lafayette Elementary School and around Hiawatha Park. He also deserves primary credit for initiating the pathway lighting additions at Hiawatha, getting the mid-block public walkway designed into the assisted living development across from the Admiral Theater, securing a re-route of the water taxi shuttle that had previously bypassed the whole of the Admiral neighborhood, and for replacing the termite-infested totem pole at Admiral Way Viewpoint. (Actually, he applied to the city for a repair or insect-free exact replica of the previous totem pole, but the city would only permit an all new pole with an authentic tribal design, thus no variety of colors.)

    Apart from their admirable support for various upgrades to California Place Park, what notable improvements to the Admiral neighborhood do JJ and homesweethome deserve credit for?

  • wseye June 21, 2009 (7:06 pm)

    I will second that comment on Dennis Ross, he has contributed more to his community than anybody I know. It is a very unfortunate thing that the community has now become politically bifurcated. From what I have seen, this bifurcation is primarily because of new leadership in Admiral, which is socially clumsy, at best. Perhaps it is time for even newer leadership to heal the community back to where it was just a few years ago.

  • jd June 21, 2009 (7:40 pm)

    There are reasonable people out there who just happen to like the park the way it is. Is that so terrible? You got what you wanted, so just let go and quit calling anyone who disagrees with you names. Those insults about “grouchy old peoploe” are really getting tiresome. You have stereotyped the No Change people without any knowledge whatsoever of what any of them have done and are doing to better the community. They are what’s “wrong” with West Seattle? Try looking in the mirror.

  • JJ June 21, 2009 (10:29 pm)

    I don’t know either Ms. Bailey or Mr. Ross, am not a member of FANNA, nor did I have any real interest in improving the park. But watching this process has shown me that they and their group have well earned the “grouchy” label. What else do you call:

    – Shouting down/booing the architect making a presentation at a public meeting?

    – Spreading rumors and implying that this or would become some sort of gigantic playground/jungle jim?

    – Showing up at the FANNA celebration to solicit signatures?

    And what are the big changes they’re fighting so hard against? A bench. Buffer plantings. A path. Basically taking a rarely-used patch of grass and a smaller, never-used patch of weeds and sprucing them up.

    Their signs don’t say “It’s too expensive” or “It’s a bad design”—they just say “No change to park.” Totally negative. And the actions above are rude, deceptive, and just lame, for lack of a better word. Don’t try to turn it back on the people who recognize your behavior and call it out for what it really is.

  • Dis June 21, 2009 (11:03 pm)

    JJ, totally agree. Yes, Mr. Ross has done things for the community in the past, but he has lost the respect of many by his behaviour in this case. And by the way, no one person has any more or less of a voice. Just because someone has a history does not give him greater authority in public projects. Just because someone else is a newcomer to community projects does not give him a lesser voice. No reason to challenge people, Alvis, there’s no winning that battle. The city is always in search of new voices. The more people who become involved the better, and there are NO prerequisites. I am so happy to see people actually using that piece of land! Other than the naysayers who would like to imagine it’s part of their own private front yard.

  • homesweethome June 22, 2009 (7:27 am)

    Its good to see that controversy continues on this tiny park. Thanks Alvis for assuming my position on this project and that I do nothing for my neighborhood – I merely stated that those that oppose the expense should not donate. But your assumptions and those of several others here – are indeed what is wrong in our neighborhood. Mr. Ross indeed has great accomplishments, as do many others in this neighborhood whether they are for or against improving a park with new plants. In that the No Change folks again showed up on Saturday to protest any new plants being added to the park – leaves me wondering again what the real root of the protest is. Clearly, no change folks just don’t want anyone using this park – I hope that now everyone in the area knows this is a park (not church property or someone’s lawn) and that it becomes heavily used by all sorts of people and functions.

  • jd June 22, 2009 (8:27 am)

    Why is it that the first comments on this blog are about those grouchy old people instead of the design or how nice a celebration it was. Ironically, instead they are about how negative the other side is. This group has been called everything from NIMBYs and fascists, and even called racists who don’t want people from “other neighborhoods” coming to their little park, as if anyone would drive to this tiny park without bathroom faacilities.
    -People get frustrated when they’re not heard, but I didn’t see much politeness on either side at those meetings.
    -I believe that the very first plan had some playground equipment but that was dropped early on.
    -The other side was invited to this celebration, and if they want to gather signatures, that is their right. To insinuate that they should keep away from this celebration and unveiling of the plan is about as divisive as you can get.

    This whole thing could have been avoided if the neighborhood had been informed and had been involved in the original planning. I live less than two blocks away and knew nothing about it. It would have been easy to leave flyers at doors. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. But calling people names and throwing rocks at each other is no way to win people to your side.

    My personal preference is to scrap this whole thing for a year or two and come back to it when tempers have cooled and both sides can talk. This is the kind of thing that should draw a neighborhood together and instead it has driven people apart.

  • Lp June 22, 2009 (10:03 pm)

    Also tiresome is the “nobody told me” argument. There were mulitiple meetings. Announcements were made about these meetings on this site and were posted at the park itself. So you weren’t asked first. Who cares? I wasn’t asked first either, but showed up to a meeting and tried to listen and understand. We can’t change the fact that some initially felt left out of the conversation. Can those same people recognize that eventually some effort was made to give them a voice? And that when some stopped chanting “no change” that they actually liked the idea of a bench or a sign? Are you really going to stand in the way of changes that you might actually agree with just because no one came knocking on your door?

    PS: I saw Jan Bailey doing a little swaying to the music on Saturday.

  • Ann Limbaugh June 22, 2009 (11:52 pm)

    I had a wonderful time at the park on Saturday and thank everyone who came out to enjoy a beautiful day with their neighbors. It was exactly the kind of experience I’d like to see more of in this park – people talking, laughing, kids playing and dancing. I saw some old friends and met some new ones. To set the record straight:

    The entire community was invited to the celebration. No one was excluded from participating in the events held in the park on Saturday.

    Plastic playground equipment had never been proposed for the park. From the beginning, the ideas shared with the community were centered on “natural” playgrounds using elements from nature for play.

    The community was involved in the planning from the beginning. FANNA took an idea that had support within the community and through its grant application to DoN, proposed bringing MORE of the community together to participate in the planning. There was never any intent to hide or steamroller through these ideas.

    We have worked hard to bring as many people as possible into the discussions and to respect various opinions. I feel that Karen Kiest did a wonderful job of listening to a broad spectrum of feedback and created a beautiful design based on common ground. Adding a sign and implementing the ‘right of way’ element from this design feels like a simple, low cost first step that would indicate to the community that this is in fact a public park and allow more people to feel comfortable using the park for events like we saw on Saturday. Yes, this is change. I realize change is uncomfortable for many, but if a few plants in a small grass strip of a public park make a few families feel better about bringing their children to this area – why is this such a terrible thing?

    We’d like to organize a day on which we’d bring volunteers together to plant. We also need funds from the community to pay for these plants. If you like the idea and want to help, please send us an email pledging your time and/or some money at I think it’ll be a fun day!

  • jd June 23, 2009 (7:33 am)

    You might think it tiresome, but the fact is that when you are planning a project that affects the whole neighbood, it is simply good practice to get those affected involved from the beginning in order to avoid what we have seen here. I stress, “from the beginning.” No one likes to find out on a blog that their neighbors have been planning to change a park that they have come to love. I am one of those people who doesn’t mind a little change to that park, so don’t stereotype me. But I am tired of hearing those insults hurled at Jan Bailey and Dennis Ross, and the “grouchy old people,” and the comments directed at me for simply supporting their right to express themselves. If you want their support, show a little respect.

    Ann, thank you for the one positive comment that actually involves the park.

  • BAM June 23, 2009 (7:56 am)

    It was my understanding that the Parks Department would make the final decision on what could be done to the park. Maybe I have missed it, but I have not seen nor heard anything from them, only the FANNA folks. I would like to see a definitive statement from the Seattle Parks Department.

  • Forest June 23, 2009 (1:06 pm)

    No opinion here, but it is fair to wonder why neighborhood outreach meetings were held at Alki Community Center, an inexplicably far distance from any immediate neighbors of the affected park parcel, rather than being arranged at the much closer and convenient Hiawatha Community Center just down the street from the park parcel or in the meeting room of the Admiral church directly across the street from the parcel.

  • Ann Limbaugh June 25, 2009 (6:18 pm)

    Forest, An initial meeting sponsored by the Parks department was held in Hiawatha Community Center and the acoustics in the room made it VERY difficult to hear what was being presented and community comments. Attendance was over 100 people and we expected a similar number for the workshops. For these reasons we chose Alki Community Center. The first meeting was tight – which validated that church space would not have worked – and the second two were fine. Read the Blog coverage of the November meeting, you’ll see they reported the room issues.

  • homesweethome June 26, 2009 (8:05 am)

    So this morning I notice a “poem” if you can call it that posted on the light pole at California and Walker, directly beneath an orange posting stating “can you believe FANNA still wants to change the park?” So the poem – basically calls those in FANNA fools with the line “leave me alone you fools.” From reading the entire poem I see that this is meant to be from the perspective of the trees (though the trees clearly have not been following the facts of the proposed project on WSB). It is good to see that the grumpy people of the neighborhood are still up to their creative truths – and it saddens me yet again. And yet it confirms this is not the neighborhood I thought it was when I moved my family here. Indeed, there are clearly many grumpy people here perhaps old, perhaps young (who may or may not pay property taxes in this neighborhood). This neighborhood has/had many charms but clearly it has become too insular and provincial. Give it a rest grumps, realize that buffer plantings are a compromise. And btw – since the major “no change” campaign ended, umm, I’ve seen no usage of the park except for the event last weekend.

  • jd June 26, 2009 (2:22 pm)

    Hearing grouchy people complaining about other grouchy people is really getting old, and brings to mind the old saying of a pot calling the kettle black. If you think it is so insular and provincial here, you are free to move, perhaps to the suburbs. Personally, I have found this neighborhood to be friendly and open, so maybe your neighbors just don’t like you because you think they’re grumpy. Our neighborhood has gotten together for Lights Out, election night parties, visiting on the sidewalk, and all those other things neighbors do. And some, including children, don’t like the idea of changing the park, and they are not grumpy. They just like the park for what it is. And just exactly what kind of usage do you want? People walk their dogs, walk by it, walk through it and appreciate it for what it is, a piece of green with beautiful trees.

Sorry, comment time is over.