King County could take control of troubled City Hall Park

SEATTLE — King County could take control of the troubled City Hall Park in Seattle, which is currently owned by the city.

The park is located next to the King County Courthouse.

King County councilmembers such as Reagan Dunn and Jeanne Kohl-Welles said they would be happy to invest time and resources in a long-term solution.

On Wednesday, all nine councilmembers are considering a controversial motion to do just that.

A month ago, a sprawling encampment in the park was closed. The nonprofit Just Care was contracted to relocate the 65 people who were living there.

Leading up to the shutdown, assaults, gunfire and a fatal stabbing happened in the area.

The conflict came to a head when a woman working inside the courthouse was attacked by a man in a bathroom. The suspect was not linked to the park.

Protests broke out about crime in the area, and judges expressed to county leaders that something had to change, as people no longer felt safe coming to the courthouse.

“We’ve talked to Seattle Police about their ability to patrol the area, and they’ve been quite candid with us. They are down in ranks, and unless someone is in threat of life or limb, they’re probably not showing up. And that, of course, leaves employees, jurors, litigants and the like really exposed,” King County Chief Criminal Judge Sean P. O’Donnell said.

If the motion is passed by the county council, King County Executive Dow Constantine would begin an assessment that would require sifting through crime statistics, mapping nearby homeless shelters and talking with people in the community. He’d also have to come up with potential future uses for the space.

Constantine would have until Jan. 15, 2022, to complete and file the report.

As of noon Wednesday, the motion had not yet been passed or rejected.