SEATTLE — City Hall Park in Seattle’s Pioneer Square was clear of tents Friday morning following a week-long relocation process for the more than 70 people living there in an encampment.
The camp had become the subject of controversy in recent months when safety concerns were raised for employees at the nearby King County Superior Courthouse, especially after a man allegedly attempted to rape a woman in one of the restrooms.
The camp’s removal was praised by officials at the courthouse, and King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who at one point proposed condemning the park due to the camp, called the county’s efforts “real progress.”
“This is a significant step toward improving safety for all, maintaining essential access to our justice system, and ensuring the Court is able to fulfill our constitutional mandates,” said Acting Presiding Judge Patrick Oishi.
The relocation of those living at the park was a joint effort between Seattle’s HOPE team and JustCARE. The individuals at the camp mostly took places at hotels and tiny homes set up specifically to serve the homeless as well as shelters, according to the county.
By Friday afternoon, the park was fenced and closed to the public while Seattle Parks and Recreation crews moved to begin scheduled repairs and restorations, which are expected to take two to three months to finish.
The swift action to clear the park followed a rally last Friday by courthouse employees who called on city and county leaders to make the area and their workplace safer.
Dunn said in a statement, “I am grateful to every courthouse employee and visitor who fought to make their experiences and fears heard, and I am glad that the city of Seattle and King County have responded in a tangible way to provide a safer atmosphere for all. Only time will tell if the city will honor its agreement to keep our Courthouse safe.”
King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles said she wants to transfer ownership of the park to King County because of its close proximity to its buildings.
KING 5 asked her if that's even possible.
"That is under discussion. I know there are some people who would like to just take over the land kind of like an eminent domain. And some would like to condemn the property. I'm thinking the best way to do this would be to approach it thoughtfully, with analysis, with working with the city to see what could be done, that would be a win win situation for all," said Kohl-Welles.
The councilmember also wants the county executive to consider developing affordable housing on the site.