Neighbors and Soccer fans pack the Beacon Hill Library for Jefferson Park meeting

by Frederica Merrell

(Editor’s note: Frederica Merrell reports from last night’s well-attended Jefferson Park expansion meeting.)

Wow! I counted over 115 people in that room (don’t tell the Fire Department). Tonight people filled the chairs, stood all around walls, and spilled into the hall of the Beacon Library meeting room to talk about construction at Jefferson Park. As some of us said afterward, “geez, I guess we need a new library too!” (just kidding)

Parks Department had a lot of good info, including three options (A, B, C) for bundles of projects at Jefferson. I really hope they put it all up on their website soon so people can see the options. Parks wants people to fill out a form of low, medium, high, priorities for about ten recommendations. I don’t know whether this can be done online or not. (There’s nothing on the Parks site about this, at least not yet. — Ed.) They also will just take input from your perspective about whatever you are interested in. (See list of projects below and/or email Parks Department Project Manager Kim Baldwin).

Of those 115 people, I estimate 6 were city staff and 4 were city consultants. The highest Parks staffer was Kevin Stoops, who is the Superintendent’s right-hand man. Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher told me he couldn’t come, regrettably because it was his turn to host the local VW Van Club meeting (Cool!). Back to the demographics, about 18 or so folks were advocates for soccer fields, at least some of whom were from the Beacon Hill community. Another 15 or so, all Beaconites, were from the Jefferson Park Alliance (including me). The majority of locals had no group affiliations. The public question and speaking time was short for that many people, only about 40 minutes. I think most people walked out partially informed.

On the synthetic soccer field issue, Kevin Stoops addressed the issue of why there is no synth turf at Jefferson. Basically it comes down to lights. For several reasons that weigh heavily, lights have been axed from the picture at Jefferson: cost, environmental impact (views), technical difficulty of sinking poles into reservoirs, and limited electric utility may all be part of the picture on that decision. Without lights, no synth turf. Soccer fans are an enthusiastic bunch, though perhaps a bit deaf, and they keep coming back to argue about it. I just wish we didn’t spend so much time talking about something that is already decided and adopted into law. The Parks Board already decided this issue and the City Council passed view protection legislation two months ago at Jefferson. There will never be light poles over the reservoirs. The views are just too magnificent for that.

Other questions/areas of discussion: planning for the orchard/farm p-patch on 15th Ave. S., why we have asphalt paths instead of concrete (money), getting Beacon Mountain Playground built in Phase I so they don’t come back and tear the area up later, refurbishing Jefferson field, adding picnic grounds, siting a second basketball court, and maintenance costs.

Overall, it was a great meeting and I left with tears in my eyes realizing it is finally going to get built and we are so lucky!

Questions? Post!

Click to see the list of projects

Parks wants to know what you think is important or not:

  • Parking expansion at Community Center
  • A second Basketball court
  • Plaza and water feature
  • Walking promenade extension to Asa Mercer
  • Complete pedestrian lighting
  • Picnic shelters
  • Jefferson playfield
  • Open Hort facility parking area to public (Dakota Street parking)
  • Develop the terrace (15th Avenue west side of park: orchard, farm, p-patch, urban agriculture project)
  • Perimeter paths with trees (streetscape)
  • Beacon Mountain play area Phase I
  • Beacon Mountain play area full build

What are these exactly? Some of these are well developed, like the Beacon Mountain, and others are just ideas without clear definition. We have to keep working the plans on each to bring projects to fruition. Read about the Beacon Mountain Playground and see the design here — this is a community generated project.

Send your input to Parks Department Project Manager Kim Baldwin:

Come to the North Beacon Hill Planning meeting on May 30th at El Centro for more big ideas!

Thank you very much for the report, Freddie!

20 thoughts on “Neighbors and Soccer fans pack the Beacon Hill Library for Jefferson Park meeting”

  1. That’s great there was such a big turnout! What’s the latest timetable for completing phase one?

  2. So, when you say there are going to be “no lights,” does that mean no lights whatsoever? Or just no large, stadium style lights used to illuminate the soccer and other sports fields.

    If there are going to be no lights at all, that’s a bit of a shame since they would definitely help increase park safety during the winter months when it gets dark earlier.

    Either way, I’m still very excited about the park! And, thanks for the report, Frederica!

  3. Thanks for the excellent update!

    Tyler — I’m 99.99% certain that she just means no soccer lights. A playing field requires much brighter, taller floodlights than the lights needed to illuminate walking areas. The top of Jefferson Park, which commands some of the best views in the entire Puget Sound region, is simply the wrong place for a nighttime soccer field. It’s likely the soccer proponents have never been there and don’t fully understand our point. (The reservoirs have been fenced off for years, obviously — it’s not been a view-admiration destination for a while.)

  4. Freddie,
    Thank you for your restraint in characterizing the soccer “fans”. Deaf is a little different than hoping for an 11th hour turn of events. The numbers were more like 9 from JPA (who were willing to raise their hands), and 24 from the soccer “fan” base. I personally recognized all but two as Beacon Hill parents, coaches, players, administrators and soccer “fans”.

    We, the “fans” would probably not make such a stink if we felt like Parks and Rec. was evaluating the range of desires with a modicum of objectivity. True or not, it’s my undertsanding that Supervisor Gallagher has never had an open ear to the soccer “fans”.

    as well, the timimg of the view protection action, and I’m curious,hmmmm, who was behind that?

    I’m quite sure that there is not a single soccer advocate who is opposed to the Beacon Mountain. How could we, it’s beautiful, it’s monumental , it’s kid oriented. We have three children and yes, we’re excited as hell for the park to open. But I just wish that the JPA had dedicated itself to getting what it wanted, instead of working so hard to prevent a very wide constituency from getting what they wanted. It comes across as a propietary, exclusive, ownership mentality.

    Maybe with the fresh taste of the “victory” (as was referred to), in their mouths, the JPA can drop the character assasination of a group of people who worked for and were ultimately dissapointed by a process that was a little less than democratic.

    Here’s to a wonderful park that we’ll all enjoy!!

  5. Dave – thank you for a well written response and for putting voice to how I was also feeling about the whole mission/goals of JPA and that last night it was actually suggested that people had been brought in from outside of Beacon Hill to offer soccer support. All anyone needs to do is come down to Maplewood Park on a Wednesday evening in August to see how many families on Beacon Hill are involved in Beacon Hill Youth Soccer, it really is an amazing sight.

    I think it is unfortunate that the city will not put in a synthetic turf field without lights. Soccer is not a fair weather sport and we all know what our grass does in the rainy months. I think I would have liked to at least seen that concession from the city as I new lights would never be approved. Although I’m still not sold on leaving unobstructed views in a city – when I want a view I go outside the city or I accept that living in a city is going to have urban things in those views. Think of our views from Rizal Park or 12th AVe. S. Bridge – wouldn’t they be so much more spectacular without two sports stadiums? But hey, I live in a city and it is the trade off for proximity to those things I love about living in a city.

    Despite my disappointment in not having a turf field, I too am happy that the playground will be moving forward as I hope it can be a destination for my children to explore on their own with friends as they are rapidly growing out of the “Mom, can you take us to the playground?” age. I will also accept the grassed soccer meadows and live with the mud that will still come into my house and continue to forgo bleach on the socks – I really need to learn to buy darker colors.

    But I also hope we can move forward from this and work to set aside the “it’s my/our way or no way” attitudes that seemed to pop up frequently in this process over the last however many years it’s been. People decry gentrification on the hill, but when the desire for a usable soccer field is lambasted you are pushing away a large portion of our diverse population. We can all share the sandbox, can’t we?

  6. Why are lights a requirement to have an artificial turf soccer field? Is it just that they want to be sure that the field will get a ton of use, even in the evenings, before spending the money?

  7. “Interesting, as well, the timimg of the view protection action, and I’m curious, hmmmm, who was behind that?”

    Can I take some credit for that, please? I’m the one who called the meeting with former councilmember Peter Steinbrueck to bring it to his attention (Freddie Merrill wasn’t there), and he’s the one who eventually brought it before the council.

    As for the timing, well, I met Peter about it three or so years ago? And it passed when he was still in office, so it’s been a while.

    But that wasn’t specifically about soccer lights (though those would significantly mar the incredible panoramic view all day long and then absolutely kill the gorgeous sunset view). It was about view protection in general. I spent hours and hours and hours in 2007 working to prevent T-Mobile from throwing up a tower in the park as well.

    As for the meeting last night, I’d like to belatedly raise my hand and my daughter’s hand as two people supporting the JPA. I was stopping at home on my way to the meeting with her last night when I noticed that she felt warm, and then I found her temperature to be 104.4. So I would have spent my birthday evening last night supporting the plan that we’ve worked so hard on, were it not for the unexpected call to Children’s Hospital. (She’s feverish but OK, poor thing!)

  8. “I will also accept the grassed soccer meadows and live with the mud that will still come into my house and continue to forgo bleach on the socks – I really need to learn to buy darker colors.”

    I’m not sure you wouldn’t also be dealing with a similar mess with artificial turf. This is a complaint I’ve heard from players about the rubber pellets:

    “Gets caught up in pants, underwear, socks, shoes, etc. And you will be sweeping it up in your laundry room or vacumning up from you carpet for a week or two after the season is done….” (

    And, if you wanted to follow the New Jersey health department’s recommendations for those who use any type of artificial turf, in order to limit your family’s lead exposure:

    –Encourage individuals who use the field to perform aggressive hand/body washing after
    playing on the field;

    –Clothes that were worn on the field should be taken off inside out and washed separately.


    Personally, I’d rather deal with old-fashioned mud and grass stains and not mess with rubber pellets and separate laundry loads, but I’m kind of a health nut when it comes to kids and lead…

  9. “And, if you wanted to follow the New Jersey health department’s recommendations for those who use any type of artificial turf, in order to limit your family’s lead exposure”

    Regardless of your view of the process of redeveloping Jefferson Park or the suitability of having a turf field the above notion the the fields are inherently hazardous because of lead or other pollutants has been soundly rebuffed both nationally:

    and locally:

    Like any other outdoor activity you just have to make sure that hands are washed when you come inside, and at least for our kids generally the first stop they make after a practice or a game is the shower because they’ve been running around non-stop for the last 90 minutes. Body odor is the real enemy here.

    No question that the black pellets get in shoes in clothes but it’s not that big of a deal. Dump out the shoes before coming in the house. This is not a point that a community should entertain when weighing the merits of a synthetic turf field.

    Speaking individually and not for the wider soccer community I’m perfectly willing to let go of the synthetic/lighted field on the lid. I think we forget that there are newer facilities in south Seattle (Georgetown) and ones to come soon (Genesee) that will improve the situation for the active sports community. That will help but we will need to continue to be strong advocates for the athletic facilities supporting kids and adults alike.

  10. I was just saying that if you’re concerned about bringing normal mud into the house and getting sediment out of clothes, you may also be concerned about the debris from rubber pellets (and probably should be more so).

    And, again I’m conservative when it comes to children’s health, but I wouldn’t put full faith in those two studies you linked to.

    For the first one, well, I don’t trust anything that the CPSC published during the previous anti-regulation administration.

    And the second one wasn’t published by an independent commission, but rather a firm that “[manages] environmental liabilities … for a growing list of clients in the regulated community.” His other clients have included ARCO, the Ferro Corporation (a chemical manufacturer), Hecla Mining Company, Holnam Cement, Mobil, U.S. Steel… you get the idea. I’m sure the guy has never come across a toxic chemical or heavy metal that he didn’t like.

    Also, I didn’t mean to insinuate that Freddie Merrill hasn’t done a million times more for Beacon Hill than I ever have, or will. Because she certainly has. But if anyone wants to hate on someone for pushing the view protection legislation, I would please like a piece of that.

  11. Absolutely give whatever credence in those studies that you feel fit, however as working professional in the environmental chemistry industry for close to 20 years and at times working with the company cited above (Windward) I would not let your beliefs trump decisions that arrived at by people who are committed to the well being of their communities as well as the needs of their clients. We gain nothing by failing on the science and this is especially true for a consultant who lives and works in the area they are advising on. Conservatism on children’s health is fine for you-it’s a disservice to the public when other families see the risk for what is.

  12. As a local kid who grew up playing soccer on GRASS no matter what the season or weather, I’m glad to hear that there will still be soccer fields up there to play on. It’s a blast.

    And thank you JvA, for protecting that view. It’s one of my favorites.

  13. Hey JvA,

    The sky is blue. (I’m waiting for your 500 word dissertation on that.)


  14. I just wish there were thoroughgoing studies by researchers more independent than someone who “has provided technical support for litigation for numerous clients at sites including abandoned and active mine sites, petrochemical facilities, heavy industrial sites, and ports.” (

    I can’t help but be skeptical that researchers with such huge, huge money behind them would always put their communities before their clients. I’d rather see independent research, personally.

    I’m also skeptical about the local artificial turf proponents after recently after seeing this out-and-out lie from Parks Superintendant Timothy Gallagher in a 3/23/09 memo to members of the council:

    “Parks has installed products certified to be lead-free in our recent synthetic surface field projects. At Magnuson Park, the new fields are FieldTurf Tarkett products which are lead-free.”

    To give him the benefit of the doubt, I guess I have to assume that he misinterpreted a severely misleading press release from the manufacturer (“FieldTurf continues to lead
    industry with lead free turf” —

    But the press release says, “the company will lead an effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate lead and all other heavy metals in synthetic turf products.”

    They’re not currently lead-free, and there’s no timetable mentioned as to when they will be lead-free, and the company is under no compulsion to ever really make them lead-free. I saw no evidence to suggest that it was
    anything more than PR puffery.

    But the fact that he was so misinformed made all his other recommendations suspect in my eyes.

    Anyway, when I was looking stuff up, I didn’t find any thoroughgoing, trustworthy studies about health and environmental concerns from any independent agency. (I don’t take the Bush administration’s work seriously, sorry.) New Jersey and San Francisco have published interesting literature, and they’re allowing use of the fields, but they also both recommend further testing. I’d like to see what their further testing finds.

  15. JvA – I am always in awe of what you contribute in your postings and appreciate the effort you take in finding the references that you site. Please keep it up.

  16. Thanks, Shelly. I appreciate your insights as well.

    In my work as a copywriter I try to express ideas as succinctly as possible. Then when I take a day off, I tend to run on. 🙂

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