Recap & Update on Saving Green Lake Community Center

by Gayle Garman, FOGL President

On Friday morning, Nov. 12, the City Counci Budget Committee, voted on a proposed “limited space conversion” compromise for the Green Lake Community Center. By an 8-1 vote, they voted to convert one of the two upstairs classrooms (980 sq ft) at GLCC to offices for 7-9 special events scheduling staff. The proposal also adds 0.5 FTE staff compared to the Mayor’s original budget and added 75 additional “drop-in” hours to the 5 Community Centers that were being cut back to only 15 hours each in the Mayor’s budget: Ballard, Alki, Laurelhurst, Queen Anne and Green Lake. If distributed equally, Green Lake’s drop in hours will go from the current 62 hours/week to 30 hrs/wk beginning in Jan. 2011. This doubles the drop-in hours proposed in the Mayor’s 2011 budget.

Better Than First Plan

While it hurts to think that any portion of the Community Center will be turned into offices, this is much better than what confronted us on Sat morning, Oct. 16, when Tom Rasmussen came to the Green Lake Branch Library for a “listening session”. At that time the pre-school was closing at the end of Dec., and the upstairs tot play-space was closing on Nov. 4 so construction could begin to convert that space and the two upstairs classrooms to offices for 24-28 Department of Parks and Recreation and Associated Recreation Council Staff. The teen program at GL was ending, because the teen drop-in room on the first floor was going to be needed as a meeting/conference space for DPR staff. It still isn’t clear what will happen with that space.

Many people contributed to the progress that was made, but special thanks are due Tom Rasmussen, who immediately wrote the Mayor and Christopher Williams protesting the start of construction before the budget was final. Without his intervention, construction would be underway and the issue would be dead. Councilor Rasmussen was the lone dissenting vote on Nov 12, giving three reasons for not voting to support the compromise: He noted that the Department of Parks and Recreation had known for at least a year that they would need to find new office space for these employees, and there was empty space in other City-owned buildings, so there should have been time to find a better option; that if Seattle wants neighborhoods with families as residents the City needs to support the needs of families and especially children; and that if the Department leadership had consulted with the community and front-line employees, a better solution probably would have evolved.

The budget isn’t final until the vote by City Council on Nov 22, but it is very unlikely we can get a majority vote to put the offices elsewhere. However, the Mayor and Christopher Williams, Interim Superintendent of DPR might still find another solution. According to City Councilor Sally Bagshaw, they are working toward such a solution. Other City Councilors noted that they hoped that if part of GLCC were converted to offices, that it would only be temporary.

Thank you all for the flood of phone calls, emails, and letters. On Nov 11, I sent email thank yous to both Sally Bagshaw and Tom Rasmussen, on behalf of the Friends of Green Lake.