Press Release: Legal Fight Begins Over Mayor Murray’s Park Land Giveaway

(A press release we issued on May 7, 2017. For more information and context, please see our legal page: Legal Action to Protect Volunteer Park.)

Legal Fight Begins Over Mayor Murray’s Park Land Giveaway

Seattle – Protect Volunteer Park (PVP), a pro-public park community group, today began what may become a major legal fight and campaign issue over Mayor Ed Murray’s decisions to improperly give away Seattle public parkland.

PVP sent a substantive legal letter (PDF) to the Mayor and Seattle Parks and Recreation protesting the Mayor’s parkland giveaway at Seattle’s Volunteer Park and demanding the City follow city law by holding a public hearing to determine whether the expansion truly is necessary and whether reasonable and practical alternatives exist.

“Volunteer Park is a priceless gem of the Seattle Park System, an invaluable resource for park users, Seattleites, and the residents of Capitol Hill,” said David Bricklin, PVP’s legal counsel and environmental law expert. “The public deserves an open hearing on the issue as Initiative 42 requires.”

“Our City’s parkland can’t be sold, transferred or changed from park use without a public hearing,” said John Colwell, PVP’s spokesperson.

The decision of the Mayor and Seattle Parks and Recreation to expand the Seattle Art Museum’s Asian Art Museum project at Volunteer Park will take valuable public landscape parkland for a new 13,600 square foot, 50-foot high building expansion.  What began as a simple renovation project has now become a large expansion and land-grab by the SAM and the Mayor in one of our City’s most beloved public parks, in clear violation of Initiative 42.

“Mayor Murray, Parks Superintendent Jesus Aguirre and the Seattle Art Museum have negotiated a backroom deal to build a bigger museum in Volunteer Park,” Colwell said.  “The public has largely been left out of that deal.”

Art Museum leadership claims I-42 constraints don’t apply to their project. The Mayor and Parks Department concur, thereby avoiding a public hearing and a compulsory exploration of alternatives.

“Voters declared 20 years ago that a public park is just that: a “park,” not a “museum” or a “building,” said Colwell. “They codified that with I-42, which says repurposing parkland demands a public hearing. The Mayor and Parks need to follow the law.”

Initiative 42 (Seattle Or. 118477, Section 1) reads as follows:

“All lands and facilities held now or in the future by The City of Seattle for park and recreation purposes, whether designated as park, park boulevard, or open space, shall be preserved for such use; and no such land or facility shall be sold, transferred, or changed from park use to another usage, unless the City shall first hold a public hearing regarding the necessity of such a transaction and then enact an ordinance finding that the transaction is necessary because there is no reasonable practical alternative . . . .”

David Bricklin’s Letter to the Mayor and Parks Superintendent (PDF)