Victory Garden Risks Defeat
Neighborhood P-Patch Dreams May Wither in Bad Economy
More than eight years after Seattle voters approved the original Pro Parks Levy in 2000, one park that received funding remains in doubt. On Capitol Hill, behind a Starbucks on Summit Avenue East, a 0.2-acre Diamond Parking lot still takes up the space where a park is supposed to be.
"It's one of the dangling projects," says Kelly Davidson, a project manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation and the third manager for the project.
Voter-approved funding provided $180,000 to convert the asphalt lot into a sloping lawn with a few trees. But neighbors at community meetings asked that half the space be used for 25 plots to grow food, a proposal that would cost the parks department an additional $150,000—money the department doesn't have. "Because of the slope, we have to create more terracing [and] walls, and labor becomes considerably more [expensive]," Davidson says. During a community meeting last August, the parks department told neighborhood residents they would have to raise the extra money.
"P-Patches are a public amenity for a section of the community that has no access to gardening space, especially on the west side of Capitol Hill, where almost everybody lives in apartments," says Jen Power, who chairs the Capitol Hill Community Council (CHCC)'s open space committee. The wait for a P-Patch space on Capitol Hill runs two years.
Living in a high-density, transit-oriented neighborhood like Capitol Hill is environmentally sound, Power points out. "But there are some trade-offs—one of them is a yard."
The CHCC is scrambling to apply for grants. But since last August, the group has raised only about $10,000—less than a tenth of its goal.
"For myself personally, it's been a difficult pitch," says Justin Carder, president of the CHCC. "People have a lot of economic concerns, and a park can easily fall by the wayside."
And time is running out. The parks department planned to begin construction by spring of this year. "As it sits on the shelf, the costs keep going up," says Davidson. "I don't have a [cutoff] date, specifically, but I think they will have to revisit it if they don't have the money and decide if we want to move forward with the basic design."
"If they put in just a lawn and some trees, I have a feeling it would become a dump really quick," says Power. Members of a P-Patch, on the other hand, "are going to be committed to this space, be present, and keep an eye on it."