Three Libraries to Cut Restroom Hours, Protesters Halt Removal of Garden at Jimi Hendrix Park

The Northwest African American Museum and Jimi Hendrix Park on Thursday. Photo by Paul Kiefer

1. Restrooms at three Seattle Public Library branches—Ballard, Capitol Hill, and the Central Library—that have will be open to the public fewer hours beginning July 21, a loss of access that will largely impact people experiencing homelessness in those neighborhoods. Most library branches have reopened on a limited basis, in many cases just two or three days a week.

In response to widespread restroom closures during the pandemic, the city’s library system opened restrooms at five branches from 10am to 6pm seven days a week last April; the goal, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan, was to provide “additional vital hygiene resources to people living unsheltered.” Now, restrooms will only be available when the libraries themselves are open; currently, all three libraries are open limited hours, meaning that restrooms will be closed at times when they used to be available.

The parks department confirmed that police do routinely accompany them to encampment removals “any time there are safety concerns during their work.”

The impact will be the greatest at the Capitol Hill branch, where people will no longer have access to restrooms on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday mornings from 10 to noon. In Ballard and at the central library downtown, restrooms will now be closed on Sundays and Mondays. 

Library spokeswoman Laura Gentry said daily access to library restrooms “was always meant to be a temporary standalone service until we could provide more restroom access through reopening libraries. Now that city and state COVID-19 restrictions are being dropped, more restroom options have become available to the public, and many more Seattle libraries are reopened, we believe it’s important to focus Library staffing efforts on reopening the last of our closed neighborhood libraries and supporting pre-pandemic service levels and hours.”

To library users who haven’t been able to go to their local branches in more than a year, accessing local libraries even two days a week will be an improvement. But to people living unsheltered who rely on regular restroom access at the three branches where hours are shrinking, the existence of open restrooms in other neighborhoods is surely a cold comfort.

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2. Signs that appeared around Jimi Hendrix Park near the Northwest African American Museum announcing that the city planned to come in and remove any belongings that remained on site yesterday morning had nothing to do with the longstanding protest encampment in front of the museum, a Seattle Parks Department spokeswoman said Thursday. Protesters showed up at the museum and blocked the entrance after word went around on social media about a potential sweep.

Instead, Parks showed up Thursday morning to dismantle a garden shed and remove a garden planted by Black Star Farmers, a group of land activists who established their first garden in Cal Anderson Park during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.

According to a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, “The shed was not constructed safely and is impeding the start of a park improvement project.” The spokeswoman said the “community who erected the garden and shed were notified and verbally agreed to remove the structure and the plants.”

It’s unclear whether the farmers would agree with this assertion; we sent a message to the founder of Black Star Farmers, Marcus Henderson, last night and will update this post with his perspective if we hear back. As of Thursday, the group was encouraging supporters on social media to come to the park and protect the garden. The parks spokeswoman said parks staff “left the site because of safety concerns.”

There was no sign of police at the park on Thursday. But the parks department confirmed that police do routinely accompany them to encampment removals “any time there are safety concerns during their work.”  Parks staff who remove encampments “regularly experience threats of physical violence, have seen individuals brandish weapons, experience verbal harassment from protestors, have had both protestors and others physically impede their ability to do their work, and on occasional have been physically assaulted,” the spokeswoman said.

Unlike the days of the Navigation Team, when a special team of officers participated directly in encampment sweeps, the cops just “stand by” and wait to see if they’re needed, the Parks spokeswoman said.

7 thoughts on “Three Libraries to Cut Restroom Hours, Protesters Halt Removal of Garden at Jimi Hendrix Park”

  1. So what is your alternative? You speak about “not having the right” and “shouldn’t be allowed”, but offer no solutions? Are you going full Dickens and saying “Then let them die, and decrease the surplus population!”?

    Lots of people don’t pay to use parks. The disabled, renters, those from out of town. Are you suggesting user fees, stickers, passes and permits to use Seattle Parks? Proof you live within the city limits? “Where are your papers?”

    Nobody wants the homeless to live on the parks or in the streets. Including the homeless. But they have no alternative. They need shelter and food. The Right to Life is the first right listed in the Declaration of Independence.

    So the question is: “How do we provide services, shelters, and food to the homeless while helping them get on their feet so that they do not have to build structures and gardens in our parks?”. Because that’s the only way things will change. The sweeps don’t help anything as they cost the city literally tens of millions of dollars a year (15 million in Durkan’s first year as mayor alone), destroy what little property the homeless have, and just move them to a different location. We need shelter space, and 0% AMI housing. The tired canards of the homeless being outsiders flocking into the city, drug addicts, and mentally ill have all been long disproven. So mental/addiction services aren’t going to be effective solutions either.

    And the tents don’t impede access to the parks. You can walk around and beside them. They’re not littered with needles, despite what some may tell you. I’ve actually walked through several. I have friends and family living on the streets. I can tell you exactly what type of people they are, and they are not half as wretched, filthy, or despicable as they’re made out to be.

  2. In the park at Ballard Commons, a large area of which has been taken over by homeless campers, there is a Portland LOO, portapotty and handwashing station. All of these have been vandalized and dirtied up multiple times, and the vandalism wasn’t done by taxpayers who pay for the park. The homeless need to use the services provided and take care of the services provided for them. They shouldn’t be able to take over the Public Library bathrooms for their personal needs.

  3. Don’t you know how this works? The public no longer owns Jimi Hendrix Park. It is now owned by the Black Star Farmers so stay the hell out. People who think like you caused the problem, so the people who think like you can suffer for it. By the way, providing advanced notice of sweeps is what idiots do. What kind of idiot provides advanced tactical notice to the enemies of the people? The result is inevitable. You just proved it. Your dysfunction is so entertaining. Please continue. Seattle…Had enough yet? Steve Willie

    1. The homeless and BLM protesters aren’t enemies of the people. They are the people. Now the SPD, they are enemies of the people.

      1. The homeless don’t pay to maintain the park – housed taxpayers do. Therefore, the homeless don’t have a right to build structures and gardens in the park that taxpayers are not allowed to use. They shouldn’t be allowed to live in tents in the park, impeding access to all taxpayers.

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