The leaders of Seattle and King County have agreed to a land swap that would transfer City Hall Park, which has in recent years been home to large homeless encampments and seen acts of violence, to county control.
Under the proposed agreement, between Mayor Jenny Durkan and County Executive Dow Constantine, the county would take control of the half-acre park and the city would receive 13 parcels of land, totaling about 1.4 acres, mostly small parcels next to existing city parks.
The agreement still requires the approval of both the Seattle City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council.
Tensions around City Hall Park began to flare again this summer. A fatal stabbing in June spurred an effort by County Councilmember Reagan Dunn to condemn the park as a public safety hazard. Later, County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles proposed legislation to turn the park over to the county.
In August, Seattle cleared a large homeless encampment at the park after 33 judges wrote to the city’s parks superintendent asking for it to be shut down.
The county courthouse is next to the park and the courthouse entrance closest to the park has repeatedly closed due to safety issues.
Public safety issues around the downtown courthouse, the seat of county government, have festered for years, but have been exacerbated during the pandemic, as downtown office workers largely stayed home and encampments in the area proliferated.
In August, several King County judges told the County Council that public safety and crime issues in the area were causing potential jurors to decline to serve, making it more difficult to fill juries.
“City Hall Park will allow King County to map out a vision for a complete downtown Civic Campus, including exploring reopening the historic courthouse entrance and engaging the surrounding neighborhoods, while keeping the land for public use,” Constantine said in a statement.
In return for City Hall Park, Seattle will receive county properties highlighted by a 0.4-acre lot next to the South Park Bridge and Cesar Chavez Park.
“For years, we have partnered to revitalize the area around South Park Plaza, and with this new property, we can further our commitments in the Duwamish Valley action plan and expand the community-led vision for the area,” Durkan said in a statement.