Park exclusion: ‘I really think it’s working’

A group of concerned citizens gathered at the Ballard Library last night for a follow-up meeting about crime in the three central Ballard Parks.

Two months ago, Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher created the exclusion zone for Ballard Commons, Bergen Place Park and Marvin’s Garden. And last night he announced, “I really think it’s working.” Seattle Police Sgt. Dianne Newsom said they’ve issued 13 park exclusions in Ballard, 4 currently in effect. Officers have given 36 “drinking in the park” citations, including a record 5 citations to a single individual. Sgt. Newsom said undercover officers have been unsuccessful in their efforts to buy drugs in the parks because dealers have been careful only to sell to customers they know.

Dan Iverson with the Parks Department said that they’ve approved a vendor permit for a hot dog stand at Bergen Place, and Thaiku may open a take-out window on Marvin’s Garden and add some tables for people to eat. And they’re still working on bringing free WiFi to the central parks, hopefully by next spring. “It would be very cutting edge and very exciting for Ballard,” he says.

One family that lives near Gilman Playground (just south of Market St. between 9th and 11th Ave.) told the group that they’ve noticed an increase in homeless people camping there in the last few months. “It’s been really bad,” they said, raising the concern that the exclusion zones in Central Ballard are pushing the homeless to nearby parks. Superintendent Tim Gallagher welcomed the feedback. “We have to hear from the public. That’s an important ingredient,” he said. The next parks safety meeting will be next April.

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

53 thoughts to “Park exclusion: ‘I really think it’s working’”

  1. I hope Mr Gallagher is willing to continue the dialog and not just wait until April. There was one very aggressive panhandler at Bergen Place who doesn't seem to be there the last 2 weeks. Maybe this is working?

  2. It's definitely having an effect. It's also creating issues for some of the neighboring parks. The laws that exist should still be enforced, we have to make certain that we are informing the police and the parks department of issues as they come up.
    Knowing which individuals that have been trespassed would help a lot, right now I don't know how we could find that out, to report if they return.

  3. As I noted over on Fremont Universe's forum, there is a new and more aggressive set of homeless that I've been seeing in Fremont. I haven't asked, but I'm thinking that they may have been pushed there from Ballard.

  4. Whoever brought up Gilman Playground…thank you for attending the meeting and bringing this up! I pass through that park nearly every day with my dog. And while the homeless there so far seem harmless, I worry that it's just a matter of time that more are drawn to the park that aren't so nice.

    I see the parks dept maintenance crew there regularly and they seem to ignore the people who clearly live at the park, camping under the trees and in the dugouts.

    In addition to these folks there are also a lot of cars with live-ins and cars filled with junk that are often parked on along the park border.

    I have been trying to temper my concerns with the fact that these folks have to be somewhere and as long as they aren't harming anything, I should turn the other cheek. But it is a good to know that I am not the only one who has noticed the situation and has concerns.

  5. That's the problem with exclusion zones being the only method used. Not that I don't love that plan, things do seem a little better here, but are we just pushing them into neighboring neighborhoods?

  6. Actually, no, we musn't. What makes our nighborhood so special that we get to make our problem someone else's. And yeah, they were pushed from downtown, but that doesn't make it right.

    Luckily I don't think for one minute that bloggers here represent the heart of Ballard. Shame on you and your selfishness.

  7. Agree on that (sorry, Chopper). It's the equivalent of sweeping dust bunnies under the rug. You can't see them anymore but….
    Guess what? They're still there!

  8. Girlnextdoor, Obviously you are not the one picking up the needles or watching the drug dealers selling to kids. If you are for that, then you are in the minority. This is not about chasing homeless people out of the area. It is about stopping the drug deals and drinking and stopping them for selling drugs to and buying alcohol for teens. These people are not all homeless. The general mentally ill homeless are not a problem but it is a few newer groups that have come in and taken over.

  9. Selfish, like letting them take over property that WE own, sorry, but you may attack me all you want, it won't change what is absolutely wrong with the entitlement mentality of those individuals.
    If you want to sweep them into your yard, into your neighborhood park, start spilling addresses. They'll be there before the end of the day.

  10. do you think that drug deals will stop just because they can't hang out in 3 of ballard's parks?

    treating symptoms doesn't cure a disease.

  11. And 'someone else', like our Mayor, made it our problem by pushing these folks on us. Why aren't you screaming of the patent unfairness of that?

  12. Yes to both actually. I still don't think it's right to push “our” problem to an adjacent neighborhood. Just as I don't think it's right that others neighborhoods “chased” them to us.

  13. I passed some homeless folks sleeping in the park by my house on the way to the bus stop this morning. I don't own the park. If they were in my backyard or front porch I might ask them what gives. As it was, I let them sleep.

    You might want to keep your own sense of entitlement in check if you think you have more of a right to a city park then a homeless person.

  14. Why do people think the homeless have been pushed out of downtown? I've worked downtown for years and there's been no decrease in the homeless there, nor have I ever heard of any effort to get them out of downtown.

    I wonder if the increase is due to either: increased services in Ballard (not sure if this is the case or not), or less of a police presence than downtown (remember, downtown and Belltown have the private security patrols too) and so they're able to get away with more in the neighborhoods.

  15. Oh, that's rich. Expecting our parks to be safe and free of illegal activity is 'sense of entitlement'.
    The sense of apathy is appalling.

  16. i eat lunch at Gilman Playfield most days and yes, there are often as many as 10 homeless there. Sometimes they are there less in the summer when there are a lot of kids (when the wading pool is filled, but it has not been this summer.) also there is usually a group at the Pea Patch gardens on 14th (just South of Safeway) in the mornings. I think they sleep there. and there are a few who have vehicles parked in that area.

  17. Being homeless is not illegal. It's not apathetic to walk by sleeping people. If they were selling drugs or shooting up I would make a call.

  18. You are most likely right; services, less cops, almost no foot/bike patrols, combined with various neighborhoods attempting to remove the homeless from their part of the city. Move on, but to where..?

    Feels like whack-a-mole. Sad we don't have a society than can address this problem; we end up with unwanted people, problems, and worried citizens wondering if they are safe.

    Where would we put these people if we had a choice?

    There's a few categories of homeless, and probably different solutions would work with different groups.

    The more criminal/predatory types are the chronic problem folks, followed by the mentally ill, and then there are many more categories beyond that, all the way to a down-and-out family living in their car, looking for employment and housing.

    With a broad spectrum of problems, ideally a broad range of solutions would be available. Yet again, sad we do not have this.

    The couple that harasses folks all the time (“can I ask you a question?”) need to be dealt with very differently than the mentally ill lady living by OfficeMax.

    I wish we had better solutions.

  19. Camping in a park is. Drinking in a park is. Leaving debris in a park is.
    Let it continue, and you won't be using the park.
    The dealers love the cover of the homeless, it makes it that much more difficult to spot them.

  20. I have to say that I do feel that I have more of a right to a city park than a homeless person. I am a home owner and pay taxes – some of which go towards the maintenance of that park.

    It is each one of us tax payers who make the parks possible. And if the parks become over run by people who are doing illegal activity or even making that park their home and undesirable for us to use, we have a right to speak up.

  21. Hmmm, is drinking in a city park illegal? Cuz maybe someone should tell the Underdog Kickball League to leave their PBR at home…or at least share with the neighbors!

  22. Why, yes, yes I do. I agree with ZephyrV2 below; we, the taxpayers pay for the parks and the upkeep.If you don' t think that the homeless sleeping/drinking/fighting/buying drugs/doing drugs/panhandling/being verbally abusive does not drive out families from the parks, then you are very naive.

    The Friends of Bergen Park who maintain that park routinely pick up needles, and wash down human vomit, urine, and feces. Does this encourage people to use the park?

    For some of us, the parks ARE our backyards. The huge influx of condos and apartments in Ballard means that those people don't have to luxury of a backyard to have a barbeque, a picnic, sit and read a book in the sun, or play with their dog anywhere except the parks. So, if you found homeless people drinking, doing drugs, fighting, and peeing and defecating in YOUR backyard, you might think twice about a laissez-faire policy of ignoring the problem.

  23. do people really use parks less because there are homeless folks there?

    I don't think I'm a very naive person, yet I regularly take my family to whatever park with complete disregard from whatever homeless are there. they don't drive me out of anywhere. if anything, my false sense of entitlement might encourage me to give them some dirty looks.

  24. gnd, I think the idea is that if every neighborhood makes the criminal subset unwelcome, they may find the easiest thing to do is just to get an honest job.

  25. Hell yeah people stay out of the parks when they're overrun by bums*. You want to sit in Bergen Park and eat lunch downwind of someone who's been sh**ing themselves for a week? Want to play catch in the middle of a bumfight? Read the paper without being panhandled and harassed?

    *Though most bums are homeless, not all homeless are bums. There is a difference and we're talking about the bums here.

  26. It's not just Gilman Play yard that has too many campers surrounding it, they line up all the way down 11th, and then the streets south of Leary all the way to the ship canal.

    As far as an increase in numbers in Ballard from downtown, wasn't the catalyst the banning of malt liquors etc. in downtown? I think it's worth looking at doing the same thing here.

    The drug dealing will – or already has – create a distribution syndicate that will have money and reason to fight for their turf. The park where my kids play is probably the worst place to see this play out.

  27. ABSOLUTELY we use Gilman Playground a lot less because of the current “occupants”. When I even turned my head in the general direction of the 10+ people drinking, sleeping, fighting, and doing god-knows-what-else, I was hollered at and berated for not “minding my own business”… Meanwhile, my kid is playing on a playstructure while two bums (yep, I'm not going to be PC here) were getting it on in a sleeping bag on the back fence. Meanwhile, back at the fence along the tennis courts, one bum left with two teenagers who asked him to buy them alcohol… We called the police, and they said they had already been called a few times that day for the same issues. Tell me why I should just feel comfortable turning my head and pretending they're not there?? That was our last day at Gilman Playground, even though it's the closest one to our home. We've been walking to St. Alphonsus and using their playstructures, a private area the bums haven't taken over.

  28. I sit and sip coffee in Bergen Park all the time. I don't let anybody else infringe on my enjoyment. The easy way to not sit downwind of somehone sh**ing themselves for a week? SIT UPWIND! we have the tools to take care of ourselves, some just ignore them and complain instead.

  29. Bums, homeless, whatever.
    The parks are not their private toilet, bedroom, lounging area or whatever.
    They need to be moved out and shipped out of town or thrown in jail.
    SPD needs to get serious; but in this liberal town good luck with that.
    Parks are for the benefit of taxpayers, not freeloaders.
    Children should have fun playing in a safe environment as should grownups without having to worry about human waste here and needles there.
    SPD needs to crack a few skulls and our parks will be clean again.
    Before you know it the bums will be on busses out of town.

  30. Can I stop by and poop in your kitchen? Maybe leave a couple used syringes in between the sheets of your bed? Spike your kid's food with some drugs?
    Of course these are all insane things to do, but where do we draw the line with antisocial behavior? It's a slippery slope when we start ceding parks and acceptable behavior.

    The obvious retort is to ask if we should live in an iron fisted police state, to which I should say don't be ridiculous since we have laws and rules that are accepted by the majority of the citizens to ensure each others safety and well being. Where things have fallen apart here in Seattle is that the police are either unwilling or unable to enforce these laws and so we have to deal with this BS.

  31. “They need to be moved out and shipped out of town”

    Please give me further details on this plan of yours. Do they get loaded up in a van and dropped at the city limits? Do you have a specific place in mind?

  32. I get the hyperbole, and I'm not saying that I'm in love with everything that goes on in our parks, but I will also not stay away just because there are undesirable activities there.

    Poop in my kitchen? you can try and I can assure you that I sure as hell won't run away and hide while you do try. Just as with my home i feel ownership of my local parks. I'd certainly love to see a solution to the problem, but my point above is that i sure as hell don't stay away. At the same time I'm not nursing the drunks and singing campfire songs with them either.

  33. “where do these people go?”

    It's not really an issue of where they go, but what they do when they get there. Drinking, fighting, aggressive panhandling, intimidation, pissing in the street, dealing drugs, that's the problem. If they didn't bother anyone, who would care?

  34. I'm glad that you're not giving up on the parks and nobody should, but unfortunately if I have a sandwich I'm going to look for a nice place to eat it, not a urine soaked bum toilet. I suppose I could hold my nose and fend off the “can I ask you a questions” and the “GARBLEFORKNIGHGHGKJSH!!!!!!” babbling nutcases while getting threatening looks from the dealers, but why should I have to?
    If the police and the parks dept would enforce the laws and rules we wouldn't be having these problems.

  35. Seriously you people who come on here and complain about homeless people need to get a life. If you can't handle it then move back to the suburbs.

  36. Seriously, you people that want to let the bums and thugs and druggies take over your neighborhood, go find a new one.
    Problem solved.

  37. Will that actually solve the problem?

    Not sure some of these ideas will address the lady (mentally ill) living on the curb by OfficeMax, or the other lady folks know of on Market Street who won't accept help. There's others like this around Ballard.

    Cracking the heads of crazy people probably doesn't help, moving elsewhere simply leaves the problem for others, and I can't fathom any single solution that would really take care of the issues.

    Criminals, the mentally ill, and decent folk who lost their jobs all need different things to help them (or deal with them).

    Yet again, I wish we had better solutions.

    Sucks for people to deal with crazy a**holes and predators, sucks for old folks down-and-out, sucks for the homeowners and neighborhoods. Sucks all around. And there are decent folk who end up homeless. There's no single category.

    Where can we find a set of solutions that really address all this? Maddening!

  38. That is correct; FreeBallard suggested that approach (possibly black humor).

    Was trying to address a few thoughts on the thread at once, but did not articulate who suggested what.

  39. Fair enough. I don't speak for FreeBallard.
    As far as what would solve the problem?
    Enforcement is the first step, imho.
    No other options that we could agree to would have any traction until that is occurring.
    After enforcement, we would have the ability to enact change, and options, but not before.

  40. Have you actually spent any time in a park or is this your imagined scenario. I understand the frustration and annoyance, but to hear stories told on this blog I'd imagine being assaulted and accosted every five feet while some drunk dude takes a crap on me and that just doesn't happen to me.

    Yes i encounter a few panhandlers and the occasional stinky folk, but I agree with stopthebuzz. no point in not using the parks or walking around ballard, just because of these people. Are people walking around with big signs that say “bother me now!” to get the kind of treatment I've seen described on this blog (not in this thread in particular, but in general.)

  41. I don't have to move “back to the suburbs.” My family has been here for over a 100 years, and we plan on staying. I see no reason why the residents of Ballard (old or new) have to turn over our neighborhood and our parks to vagrants, drug addicts and alcoholics. Where should they go? Well, where did they come from?

    I can remember quite vividly the first time I saw a homeless person in Ballard; it was May of 1989. We have always had our share (perhaps more than our share) of drunks and “bums” here, but these people had homes, many in SRO rooms on Ballard Avenue.

    Most people moved to Ballard because it was a nice, quiet, family-friendly neighborhood. I would bet that most people who bought homes here didn't think that they would have to run the gauntlet of the homeless, the drug addicts and alcoholics in every public space in Ballard when they moved here.

    I'm not a social worker and I don't have an answer, nor am I required to. What I do believe is that as a long term resident and taxpayer, I , as well as every other resident of Ballard is entitled to enjoy the parks in tranquility and safety, without having to deal with drunks, drug addicts, vagrants, and panhandlers.

    Tacoma has outlawed panhandling, and it has solved their problem. I've no idea where those people went (here, perhaps?) but that is not our issue. I'm sure that they will find another community to “enable” their lifestyle.

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