Seattle’s City Hall Park remains closed, blocked off after the removal in August of a sprawling encampment that took over the green space for more than a year and threatened public safety. The city and King County should be commended for partnering through the JustCARE program to help the park’s residents and move them to interim housing.

That cooperation must continue as the park is reclaimed for public use.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Jenny Durkan continue to discuss the possibility of Seattle turning the city-run park, located south of the King County Courthouse, over to the county. That would be a smart move for both.

Even before the encampment, the park and the surrounding Pioneer Square area saw increasing incidents of harassment and assault faced by county employees, court visitors and local workers. That was also before remote work limited foot traffic and an exodus of Seattle police officers left the agency even less likely to dedicate the staffing needed to patrol the park.

The county already had funded sheriff’s deputies to watch over the area, but they were limited in what they could do, said King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. She and Councilmember Reagan Dunn are spearheading the push for the county to acquire the park.

“This is the center where people come to access justice, and that should be open, and it should be safe,” she said. “I think it’s the time to take control of this park and transform it into something that we can all be proud of.”


In June Dunn called to condemn the park as prelude to a county takeover, action that likely would have led to legal wrangling. Despite that initial saber rattling, Dunn and other officials suggest the city and the county could reach an amicable deal through a simple land swap.

The county is also committed to taking “a holistic approach” to the area’s problems, said County Council Chair Claudia Balducci, addressing not only public safety issues but also any future encampments and their underlying causes.

Mayor Durkan supports the county’s efforts, a spokesman said, and an agreement may be reached shortly. Good. The sooner the better as pandemic restrictions lift and more and more people return to the courthouse and surrounding area.

City Hall Park became a symbol of the city’s ineffective response to homelessness. With Seattle and King County working together to improve public safety and the lives of the city’s homeless, it can also serve as a harbinger of a brighter future downtown.