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“Southeast Seattle Needs Outdoor Pickleball Courts Now: The Saga” – EPISODE 10

Why Is SPR Choosing to Treat Southeast Seattle Differently From the Rest of the City?

On July 15, the Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) Department’s Deputy Superintendent Christopher Williams wrote that (1) it is SPR’s policy to add pickleball lines only to the tennis courts that historically get low usage by tennis players and (2) that adding pickleball court lines to the tennis courts located next to the Jefferson and Rainier Community Centers would constitute a “change of use to parks or park facilities” which would require an opaque and cumbersome review process.

On August 1, Seattle Metro Pickleball Association President Frank Chiappone sent the Association’s reply. Read it here.

Next: Episode 11: Please Write

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Why Is SPR Choosing to Treat Southeast Seattle Differently From the Rest of the City?

On July 15, the Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) Department’s Deputy Superintendent Christopher Williams wrote that (1) it is SPR’s policy to add pickleball lines only to the tennis courts that historically get low usage by tennis players and (2) that adding pickleball court lines to the tennis courts located next to the Jefferson and Rainier Community Centers would constitute a “change of use to parks or park facilities” which would require an opaque and cumbersome review process.

Today, Seattle Metro Pickleball Association President Frank Chiappone sent the following reply.

From: Frank Chiappone
Sent: Sunday, August 1, 2021 4:33 PM
To: Williams, Christopher ; NATHAN KING
Cc: PKS_Info <PKS_Info@seattle.gov>; Sheffer, Andy; SMPA.Board.Of.Directors
Subject: RE: Recreational Equity SE Seattle [pickleball]

Dear Deputy Superintendent Williams,

Thank you for seeking input from the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association (SMPA) regarding the Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) department’s plan to finally add pickleball court lines to some of the outdoor tennis courts in Southeast Seattle (south of Capitol Hill and East of I-5). 

SMPA is delighted to hear that after adding lines for over 40 outdoor pickleball courts on existing tennis courts in 10 different locations outside of Southeast Seattle, SPR is now getting close to start painting its first pickleball court lines on some of Southeast Seattle’s outdoor tennis courts.

SMPA fully supports SPR’s policy to make significant changes to facility programming only with broad public engagement and support. 

Given that:

  • SPR has already added pickleball lines on tennis courts near existing community centers that host pickleball player communities, such as Delridge, High Point, Miller, Bitter Lake, South Park and Green Lake;
  • SPR has already scheduled the work to add pickleball lines on tennis courts near the Magnolia Community Center which also hosts an active pickleball player community;
  • SPR has recommended in its Pickleball Pilot Study Report that pickleball lines be added on tennis courts near the Meadowbrook Community Center which hosts pickleball players;
  • SPR has recommended in its Pickleball Pilot Study Report that pickleball lines be added on tennis courts near Southeast Seattle’s Rainier Community Center which hosts the largest and most diverse pickleball player community in the entire city;
  • The Pickleball Pilot Study Report has been approved by the Superintendent;
  • SPR’s Strategic Plan states that SPR will “get the most out of our current parks and facilities by converting single-use spaces into multi-functional spaces in order to serve more people within our system, including converting tennis courts into multi-sport courts, …”;
  • SPR’s Strategic Plan has been reviewed and approved by the Board of Park Commissioners, the City Council’s Public Assets and Native Communities Committee, and probably the Seattle Council;
  • Southeast Seattle’s Rainier, Jefferson and Van Asselt Community Centers host large, vibrant, and diverse pickleball player communities

SPR’s recently announced plan of adding pickleball court lines on Southeast Seattle tennis courts that are located nowhere near the community centers hosting the local pickleball communities is departing from the de facto policy of locating most pickleball court lines near the community centers that host pickleball players. We must question why SPR is choosing to treat Southeast Seattle differently from the rest of the city.  

You say that “the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners needs to weigh in on any change of use to parks or park facilities”. We would like to point out that SPR has already painted pickleball court lines on over 20 tennis courts, and is planning to paint lines on at least 14 more, without seeking Board of Park Commissioners approval.

We are concerned with SPR’s most recent focus on allowing pickleball only on tennis courts that see little usage by tennis players, without considering why some tennis courts see more usage than others.  High usage correlates with court features such as:

  • the current state of the court surface
  • the proximity of available parking lots which is even more important for pickleball players than tennis players since pickleball players often need to bring their own net,
  • water fountain availability,
  • restroom availability,
  • perceived safety,
  • light availability for evening play,
  • etc.

By allowing pickleball players only on the courts least used by tennis players, you are effectively restricting pickleball players to the least desirable courts and reserving the most desirable courts for tennis players. This is discrimination. We welcome any opportunity to speak directly to the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners, Seattle Parks and Recreation, City Council or any other civic leader that can help us immediately address and correct these concerns.  

Consequently, given the precedent set with other pickleball court lining projects already finished, currently scheduled, or recommended by SPR in other parts of the city, we request that SPR add pickleball court lines to the tennis courts at Rainier Playfield as recommended in SPR’s Pickleball Pilot Study Report and at one of the two of the following locations:

  • Jefferson Park
  • Rainier Beach Playfield

Sincerely,

Frank Chiappone
SMPA President

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Semipermanent nets at Bitter Lake

Four semipermanent nets were installed July 30th at the Bitter Lake courts.  These Douglas nets were purchased by SMPA via private donations.  The photo shows SMPA Board members and other volunteers who assembled the nets.  

In addition to the regulars who play in small groups there, a number of larger scheduled pickleball events are taking place at Bitter Lake. Seattle Parks and Recreation has two events under the Rec’N the Streets umbrella. Wednesdays at 10:30-12:30 is a beginner class with an hour of instruction followed by an hour of play. Fridays from 1:30-3:00 is open play.  The Bitter Lake courts are also frequented by round robins and other lessons from Smash Pickleball. The semipermanent nets will greatly enhance Bitter Lake’s pickleball community.

Sarah Webb, SMPA Board of Directors

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“Southeast Seattle Needs Outdoor Pickleball Courts Now: The Saga” – EPISODE 9

It is incumbent upon SPR to articulate why it is policy to preserve the interests of one recreational community over another

RECAP

Nathan King expressed to Mayor Durkan his displeasure with the way the Seattle Parks department is treating Southeast Seattle pickleball players. The Parks Department replied that even though they already have or are about to line tennis courts for pickleball near many community centers that host pickleball programs, when it comes to Southeast Seattle community centers they cannot do the same.

Here is Nathan King’s latest reply, dated July 20.

THE LETTER

To Christopher Williams, Deputy Superintendent
Cc. SMPA, Andy Sheffer Planning and Development Division Director

Greetings Christopher,

Thank you for this reply. I understand why SPR prefers to work with community groups and their representatives and I would guess most members of the pickleball community would prefer this as well. However, your response highlights many of the very reasons why I, and many others, have lost faith in this arrangement. I ask you consider the following:

  1. It is unreasonable to ask the public to funnel feedback through community organizations such as the SMPA when SPR has not in good faith included this organization fully and transparently in all phases of decision making related to equitable use of city courts. I demand the SMPA receives equal representation to that which the tennis community receives via the Amy Yee Tennis Center and its representatives. Otherwise, asking the public to not provide direct feedback to SPR is for the convenience of SPR only.
  2. You mentioned the 16 new courts planned for Southeast Seattle. The fact that you mention this as a gesture of SPR good faith effort to respond to community feedback is tone-deaf and emblematic of many of the issues being raised. A petition with almost 800 signatures addressed why the courts selected for dual-lines in Southeast Seattle are unacceptable and inequitable. By trumpeting this effort on your part reflects either that you, and/or SPR in general are ignorant to this vociferous public feedback, or have simply chosen to ignore it. Pickleball players are asking for quality, not just quantity.
  3. SPR fear of displacing tennis players is just unfair. It is incumbent upon SPR to articulate why it is policy to preserve the interests of one recreational community over another. Currently, tennis players have access to hundreds of tennis courts all around the city. These include the best faculties described as having lights, restrooms, parking newer surfaces, high court capacity, etc. Many of these courts are designated as “tennis only” courts by policy, or de facto owing to lack of pickleball court lines. The SPR plan to designate some courts for dual-lines is in itself inequitable since even these courts are lined in a manner that under utilizes the potential court capacity for pickleball, and uses diminished line color – again for the benefit of tennis. As a result of your desire to prevent “displacement” of tennis players, you have hundreds of displaced pickleball players every weekend crowding the few courts that exist while tennis courts sit empty.
  4. Equity. SPR policy believes it is okay to designate courts for pickleball that are being under utilized by tennis players. In fact, the pilot study even suggests that underutilization of courts be determined by “high instances of graffiti and vandalism.“ Once again, please articulate how you believe this is equitable? Why do you think these courts are underutilized by tennis players? Fair sharing of court facilities means EITHER dual-lining ALL courts in the city starting with the MOST desirable, OR equitably designating courts for either dedicated tennis or pickleball. The reason, I believe this is an equity issue is that USTA tennis, despite efforts to the contrary, has historically been a sport predominantly enjoyed by the most affluent and privileged segments of our city. This is apparent in the continued power and influence this recreational community has within SPR as there is no other way to explain why such a clear bias exists.
  5. Finally, you mentioned a community feedback process by the end of the summer. I will offer my input to my SMPA representatives to not participate in any further meetings with SPR until these core inequities are addressed. I will also advocate to my fellow pickleball community members to not participate in any public feedback sessions with SPR, as this would only be used to legitimize the practice of SPR to ignore public feedback and continue the practice of non-transparent and inequitable decisions making. Instead, I will advocate for legal action opportunities.

As a resident of Southeast Seattle, and individual member of the community, I ask that you address these concerns as a starting point to any plans moving forward.

Thank you.

Nathan King

To be continued…

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“Southeast Seattle Needs Outdoor Pickleball Courts Now: The Saga” – EPISODE 8

Since the mayor asked, the Parks department’s Deputy Superintendent steps in

Recap: A few days ago, Nathan King expressed to Mayor Durkan his displeasure with the way the Seattle Parks department is treating Southeast Seattle pickleball players.  

July 15, 2021

Nathan, hello.

The Mayor’s Office asked us to respond on their behalf to your July 10 email.

We regret being unable to meet your and other pickleball players’ expectations at this time, despite the fact that we are already adding 16 new pickleball courts in southeast Seattle in 2021-2022.

Seattle Parks and Recreation’s policy is to make any change to facility programming only with broad public engagement and support. In particular, we take care not to make changes that displace other facility users—in this instance, tennis players. In our effort to address the surging interest in pickleball, we have added pickleball lines to the tennis courts that historically get lower use by tennis players.

Because the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners needs to weigh in on any change of use to parks or park facilities, we suggest a public process whereby the pickleball community could bring its concerns and perspective for Park Board consideration. The process would look like this::

  • SPR staff present need/issue to Park Board.
  • SPR staff develops outreach plan to engage the public and solicit public comment.
  • Park Board considers and assesses public comment, and makes their recommendation to the Superintendent.
  • SPR staff develop plan in light of public comment, Park Board’s recommendations, and Superintendent’s final decision.

We can aim to make an initial presentation to the Park Board before the end of this summer.

I am herewith copying Frank Chiappone, SMPA president, at f****@***.com, to keep him and SMPA apprised. Because SPR works with community groups and their representatives, rather than individuals, it will be crucial that we have clearly delineated representatives with whom to work. Andy Sheffer (andy.sheffer@seattle.gov), the Planning and Development Division Director, will be overseeing that process.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Christopher Williams
Deputy Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation 

Isn’t it amazing how Seattle Parks has already lined, is about to line, or has recommended to add pickleball lines to tennis courts next to the Bitter Lake, Delridge, Green Lake, High Point, Meadowbrook, Magnolia Miller, and South Park community centers, but when it comes to Southeast Seattle community centers, the Deputy Superintendent says it can’t be done without a long and opaque process? 

By the way, Seattle Parks’ very own Pickleball Pilot Study Report recommends that the tennis courts by the Rainier Community Center be lined for pickleball. That’s right: One of the two locations where the petition you signed asked for pickleball lines had been pre-approved! But that was then and this is now.

And Seattle Parks’ very own brand spanking new Strategic Plan says they will “get the most out of our current parks and facilities by converting single-use spaces into multi-functional spaces in order to serve more people within our system, including converting tennis courts into multi-sport courts, […], and updating parks to meet changing community needs.” Did they mean to say “including converting the worst tennis courts into multi-sport courts“?

To be continued…

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“Southeast Seattle Needs Outdoor Pickleball Courts Now: The Saga” – EPISODE 7

Greetings Mayor Durkan

From: Nathan King
Sent: July 10, 2021
To: 
Mayor Durkan, Tammy Morales, Superintendent Jesus Aguirre and Oliver Bazinet
Subject: Recreational Equity SE Seattle

Greetings Mayor Durkan,

I’m writing to express my deep disappointment in the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department led by Superintendent Aguirre and to make you aware of the department’s failure to provide equitable access to park facilities to the residents of Southeast Seattle.

More than 700 residents have signed a petition to open up park facilities at Jefferson Park and Rainier Playfield in Southeast Seattle for pickleball – a sport which provides health and recreation to a wide and diverse cross section of community members. This petition included a request to meet with Superintendent Aguirre.

Unfortunately, Superintendent Aguirre has ignored both this request to meet, as well as the voices of hundreds of Southeast Seattle residents pleading for recreational access. It is unfortunate that a department supposedly committed to making equity a policy focus, would act in manner such to the contrary.

Because the needs of so many residents of Southeast Seattle are seemingly not a priority for Superintendent Aguirre, I’m asking your help to encourage him to address this part of the city so often overlooked and underserved. Please direct Superintendent Aguirre to meet with the Southeast Seattle representatives requesting equitable access to park facilities.

Thank You.

Nathan King
Southeast Seattle Resident
Link to petition: https://www.change.org/p/southeast-seattle-needs-outdoor-pickleball-courts-now

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Who Knew Seattle Parks Had (Pickleball) Standards? Not You! Not Us!

In the last few weeks, many of you reached out to Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) asking them to create 8 or 10 pickleball courts instead of 6 at Green Lake, and also asking them to paint pickleball court lines in a color that we can actually see.  If you are lucky, you might even have received a reply that said:

We [SPR] established [pickleball court layout] standards for these and future projects, based on what we saw that was successful in the pilot program. At the time we established the standards, SPR staff were holding biweekly meetings with Seattle Metro Pickleball Association (SMPA) board members, and at those meetings the SMPA board members raised various concerns about the standards.

This reply implies that SPR consulted with SMPA during biweekly meetings with SMPA representatives about establishing pickleball court layout designs and other relevant standards. That did not occur. SMPA was never informed that SPR was developing court layout standards, was never presented proposed layout standards and was never invited to provide feedback regarding the so-called standards that we never saw notwithstanding repeatedly expressing concerns to SPR reps. Although these subjects were raised by SMPA representatives during the biweekly meetings several times in the form of requests to SPR to inform us of what was being considered, SMPA offers to provide the City layout and construction information and offers to work with the City to develop designs that would mutually address the concerns/needs of the PB community and SPR, the offers were ignored. 

Similarly, SMPA attempted to work with the City on the draft of the Pickleball Pilot Study Report and was stiff armed. This report was stalled for months beyond the promised release date reportedly for “political reasons” in order to facilitate massaging by the Superintendent and other ranking SPR personnel. In the end, the Report said what SPR wanted. No opportunity for review or public comment was given.

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Lowman Beach Park Pickleball Court Update: Can you spare $447,217.20

After two years of work by the Seattle Sports Complex Foundation to maintain a tennis court in West Seattle’s Lowman Beach Park, and after three virtual Open Houses where you voted for including pickleball court lines on that tennis court, Seattle Parks and Recreation approved two options:

  1. Doing nothing (meaning no tennis or pickleball courts), OR
  2. Adding, for the modest sum of $447,217.20 (estimated):
    • swings,
    • two pickleball courts with no fence, no nets, no posts, bordered by a retaining wall on one side,
    • an accessible path,
    • planting with irrigation.

No Seattle Parks and Recreation funding is available to pursue Option #2.

If you have a spare $450,000 and are willing to spend it on 2 pickleball courts and a swing, feel free to contact pamela.kliment@seattle.gov

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Advise the Lake Forest Park City Council and Mayor on Parks and Recreation Issues

If you reside in Lake Forest Park and want to help promote the development of pickleball within the city, here is your chance.

The City seeks applicants for its Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which is responsible for advising the City Council and Mayor on parks and recreation issues, including park master planning, recreation program evaluation, and park comprehensive planning. All board member terms are three years and members are limited to two consecutive full-term appointments. Application are being accepted through July 6, 2021.

Start here.

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“Southeast Seattle Needs Outdoor Pickleball Courts Now: The Saga” – EPISODE 6

A Slap In the Face

JUN 17, 2021 — 

Here is Seattle Parks’ most recent answer to our requests.

Not surprisingly, this most recent reply still does not directly address any of our requests. Instead, it calls them suggestions.  And it proposes that some Park employee without the power to make any significant decision can coordinate with other staff to see if they can work something out. We know better.  

It does not address the fact that Seattle Parks chose the most undesirable tennis courts to make them available to pickleball players. 

It does not answer how Seattle Parks measured “high-demand” areas for pickleball in Southeast Seattle and managed to exclude Jefferson and Rainier from the results.

It suggests that we raise funds to donate more semi-permanent outdoor pickleball nets until Seattle Parks has enough nets for every painted pickleball court.

It mentions that Seattle Parks now has a “citywide pickleball planning committee”, but it fails to mention if this committee contains any representatives of the pickleball community. It certainly does not have any representative from the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association, or any of the Southeast Seattle pickleball players who sent this petition to the Superintendent. We suspect it is made exclusively of Parks employees, some of which work for the Amy Yee tennis center.

Finally, it mentions that Seattle Parks’ staff plan to meet with the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association (SMPA) board members at least quarterly. Is this supposed to be some sort of substitute for the meeting we, Southeast Seattle pickleball players, asked to have with the Superintendent?

As one of the recipients of this email said: “this is what a slap in the face feels like”.

You can read the full email from Seattle Parks below.

From: Dunlap, Laurie <Laurie.Dunlap@seattle.gov> On Behalf Of PKS_Info
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2021 3:42 PM
Subject: RE: Southeast Seattle Needs Outdoor Pickleball Courts Now

 

June 15, 2021

 

Miguel and other Southeast pickleball players, hello again. 

 

The court lining and refinishing described in our June 3 email is the extent of what Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) has capacity for at this time.

 

To explore possible options for the future, please contact Tim Pretare (tim.pretare@seattle.gov): Tim can coordinate with other staff to see if SPR can work toward any of your specific suggestions, and he can work with you to explore other options, such as your members raising funds to donate more semi-permanent nets until we have enough nets for every painted court.

 

Please be assured that the pickleball community continues to have SPR’s ear through the citywide pickleball planning committee.  SPR staff plan to meet with the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association (SMPA) board members at least quarterly.

 

Sincerely,

Laurie Dunlap

Superintendent’s Office, Seattle Parks and Recreation

Next: Episode 7: Greetings Mayor Durkan