Laurelhurst Community Club
Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood
February 1, 2007
Miriam Muller and
Laurelhurst Neighbors concerned about the Playfield
RE: Continuing Disturbances at the Laurelhurst Playfield
Dear Miriam and Other Neighbors,
Thank you for your message yesterday regarding the fire pit at the Playfield. LCC takes great pride in its responsiveness to neighbors. Each year we address hundreds of calls and concerns from neighbors at monthly meetings and we do our best to help resolve the problem, answer questions, direct the neighbor(s) to the appropriate department or official who can resolve the issue, or take other appropriate follow up action. LCC always appreciates when neighbors take the time to attend the monthly trustee meetings. We were glad that you and your neighbors attended the January 8th meeting to express your concerns about the fire pit at the Playfield.
As you will recall from the January 8th meeting, the Board of Trustees supported the recommendation of the neighbors to remove the fire pit. At the meeting Royal Alley-Barnes presented her plan to have the fire pit removed within a few days and replaced with a portable unit. LCC suggested that the community center advisory group have an opportunity to weigh in on this decision. As mentioned at the meeting, it was anticipated that the handful of neighbors who serve on that group could be polled regarding the issue and plans for the fire pit removal could move forward.
It is unfortunate that none of the community center advisory members were able to attend the January 8th meeting to hear the discussion, although they were invited. The flyer you distributed to neighbors was provided to the community center coordinator to forward to members of that group prior to our meeting. The group received the five pages of “calls and concerns’ regarding disturbances at the Playfield that was distributed at the January 8th LCC meeting prior to their meeting on January 18th. As it turns out, that group does not support removal of the fire pit at the current time and they have asked for a formal public process to decide the fate of the fire pit. Draft notes of their January 18th meeting state:
“Discussion centered around the lack of public input, the uniqueness of the urban fire pit, the risk of uncontained fire at the Park, storage of a portable fire pit, and the decades-long history and tradition of the fire pit versus the illegal activity that has apparently increased in association with the temporary lack of access for police officers and the convenience of the fire pit for law breakers.”
The advisory council minutes do not reflect a discussion of the history of the fire pit and its current usage. LCC checked with the Laurelhurst historian who had no recollection of the fire pit installation. LCC’s past crime prevention representative indicated that the fire pit had been installed decades ago by the Girl Scouts and has been a constant source of problems, even prior to renovation of the community center. A current Troop leader has stated that the fire pit is not currently used by the Girl Scouts. Perhaps history of the fire pit and current usage can be addressed at the advisory council’s upcoming meeting, along with permitting issues and the impact of fires on global warming?
You asked about the provisions in the Seattle Municipal Code that govern the Parks Department and the reason for the second community meeting. We’ll respond to your questions, below, but first would like to point out LCC’s response to the concerns that you raised at the January 8th meeting.
LCC’s response to continuing concerns at the Playfield. As a result of continuing calls and concerns LCC has received about illegal activities at the Playfield and surrounding streets and the concerns expressed at the January 8th meeting, LCC developed a 15-point plan that is outlined in the January 23rd letter we wrote to North Precinct Officers, the SPD Crime Prevention Coordinator, Parks Department staff and the principal of Laurelhurst Elementary School. That plan calls for LCC to:
An article for the next edition of Laurelhurst News is in the works and the article will encourage neighbors to be diligent in crime reporting using the Playfield address. LCC has coordinated with the community center advisory council. LCC has approved and is in the process of getting “Drug-Free Zone” signage installed. LCC’s webmaster has already taken steps to add additional crime prevention information on LCC’s website (www.laurelhurstcc.com). We have already implemented many of the other items.
LCC especially appreciates your efforts in keeping neighbors informed about activity at the Playfield and your work in cooperation with the North Precinct. As a result of the problems at the Playfield, we hope you and your neighbors will participate in the Block Watch program.
Parks Public Involvement Policy: You asked about state and local laws that set forth the public process regarding removal of the fire pit. What we are aware is the Parks and Recreation Department’s formal public involvement policy. The policy applies to proposals to 1) acquire property, 2) initiate funded capital projects or 3) make changes to a park or facility. When it comes to the third component of the policy, the purpose statement in the policy says that it applies if the changes to the park will, in the judgment of the Parks Superintendent, substantially modify the property’s use or appearance. Once the public involvement policy is triggered, there are requirements for notifying the community through signage and in some cases a public meeting. It is unclear whether the policy applies to the situation of removing and/or replacing the fire pit. The policy is available at www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/public_involvement_policy.
Should the public involvement policy apply in the fire pit situation and a public meeting is held, notice is required to residents within a 300-foot radius of the park boundaries, community groups, user groups, Parks staff and others. It would seem that the hundred flyers you distributed in the vicinity of the Playfield, the email correspondence with your neighbors and those involved in crime prevention, LCC notice to community center advisory committee members and others would have met this requirement.
Regardless of whether the public involvement policy applies, it doesn’t mean that any citizen doesn’t have the right to ask for additional public process. In the case of a master use permit application through the Department of Planning and Development, the City must allow a public hearing if 50 citizens sign a petition. The Parks Department has no such restriction. Whether a public meeting is held is up to the Parks Superintendent. Or, any other group of neighbors, a community group such as LCC, or the community center advisory council may hold a public meeting.
In its role in advising the Parks Department, the community center advisory council may choose to hold a public meeting. There are no guidelines should the group choose to hold a public meeting. The Seattle Municipal Code does authorize the Parks Superintendent to provide information and assistance as necessary and appropriate to community center advisory councils. These advisory councils are a part of the Associated Recreation Council (ARC), an independent nonprofit group recognized by the Parks Department in the Seattle Municipal Code, SMC 18.04.010. Information about the ARC and its advisory councils is available at www.seattle.gov/Parks/Arc.
Why a second meeting? The community center advisory council has requested a public process and allotted time at its February 15th meeting to discuss the fire pit issue. Even if the meeting is not a formal requirement under the Public Involvement Policy, we hope you and your neighbors will attend to share your views once again. As you are aware, LCC publicized the meeting in its recent email message to neighbors.
There are many unanswered questions from the January 8th meeting. What are the options? Will completion of the community center renovation make it less likely that illegal activities at the Playfield continue? Should a phased-in approach to removal of the fire pit be considered, such as starting with removing the seating wall? What about moving the entire fire pit to a more public location? What would a portable fire pit look like? How much would it cost? Are funds available for an alternative fire pit?
Park Board involvement. In an email exchange that you forwarded, it was suggested by Parks staff that the Board of Park Commissioners address the fire pit issue. It is a surprise that this has been suggested as the Park Board generally deals with capital projects, city budget issues and broad public policy issues, such as the impact of SR 520 expansion of the Arboretum, the proposed citywide skatepark plan, Magnuson Park development, etc. The Park Board advises the Mayor, the City Council and the Parks Superintendent on parks matters and does hold public hearings at its meetings. As noted in the message you forwarded, this would extend the process regarding the fire pit by several months. Generally, the Parks Superintendent forwards matters for the Park Board to consider, but there is nothing in the Code that prevents citizens from requesting a review of park-related matters.
Thank you again for your message. LCC looks forward to working with you and your neighbors to resolve the Playfield issues.
Maggie Weissman Brian McMullen
Crime Prevention Co-Chair Crime Prevention Co-Chair
5222 Ivanhoe Place NE 3872 43rd Avenue NE
Seattle, Washington 98105 Seattle, Washington 98105
Liz Ogden, Vice President Jeannie Hale, President
5005 48th Avenue NE 3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105 Seattle, Washington 98105
206-517-5862 206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631
cc: Sergeant Paul Pendergrass, T.J. Officer Havenar, Diane Horswill, Seattle Police Department Crime Prevention; Royal Alley-Barnes, Maureen O’Neill and Ken Bounds, Seattle Parks and Recreation Department; Kathy Jolly, Laurelhurst Elementary School; Susan Rucker, LCC Webmaster; Larry Campbell, Seattle Parks and Recreation Department Security; Dena Schuler, Laurelhurst Community Center Coordinator, Members of the Community Center Advisory Council; Leslie Wright, LCC Newsletter Editor