Recap: 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.
On August 3rd, the Southeast Pickleball players called for pickleball players to express their opposition (1) to SPR’s newest policy of allowing pickleball only on the worst tennis courts, and (2) to SPR’s policy of adding pickleball court lines to tennis courts adjacent to community centers that host pickleball communities everywhere EXCEPT in Southeast Seattle. Below is their call to action.
As you know we have petitioned the Seattle Parks department asking (among other things) that they paint pickleball court lines on the outdoor tennis courts adjacent to the Jefferson and Rainier Community Centers.
After much hesitation , Seattle Parks’ Deputy Superintendent Christopher Williams is now saying that they want to paint pickleball court lines only on Southeast Seattle’s least desirable tennis courts and that adding pickleball lines on the Jefferson and Rainier courts would constitute a change in facility programming that would necessitate a long and complicated review process . Even though Seattle Parks already has already or is about to line tennis courts for pickleball near many community centers that host pickleball programs (Bitter Lake, Delridge, Green Lake, High Point/Walt Hundley, Meadowbrook, Miller, Magnolia, South Park) , when it comes to Southeast Seattle community centers, they refuse to do the same.
If you need some inspiration here is Nathan King’s reply to Christopher Williams’ email
To Christopher Williams,
Cc. SMPA, Andy Sheffer Planning and Development Division Director
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.
Here is the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association’s reply:
Sent: Sunday, August 1, 2021 4:33 PM
To: Williams, Christopher < Christopher.Williams@seattle.gov >; NATHAN KING
Cc: PKS_Info < PKS_Info@seattle.gov >; Sheffer, Andy < Andy.Sheffer@seattle.gov >;
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.
- 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,
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
Do you still need more inspiration? How about this?
Dear Christopher Williams,
The graphs above show the inequities of Pickleball courts in the Seattle area especially for Southeast. I also would like to say that both Jefferson Park and Rainier Park in the Southeast are public parks not private parks for tennis only.
I want to know why Southeast pickleball players are not given equal treatment as tennis players for use of tennis courts? Why are the tennis courts designated “for tennis players only”? Tennis players have the best courts to play on, i.e. Jefferson Park and Rainier Park in Southeast Seattle.
Seattle Parks plan to allow pickleball players to play only on courts that tennis players would not consider using because they are old rundown courts, i.e. Beacon Hill Park and Dearborn Park with grass growing up onto the tennis courts, no bathroom facility available no parking and unsafe.
How can pickleball players be displacing tennis players? Southeast Seattle pickleball players don’t even have decent courts to play on.
Pickleball lines could very easily be painted onto the existing courts at Jefferson Park and Rainier Park to utilize the potential court capacity for pickleball.
Why can’t tennis players share the courts with pickleball players?
I agree with Nathan King that SPR must address these issues to make things between tennis and pickleball sooner than later!
Dear Superintendent Williams,
The Seattle Parks Department has already or is already planning to add pickleball court lines to the outdoor tennis courts adjacent to most of the community centers that host sizeable communities of pickleball players, except for the two that are located in Southeast Seattle: the Jefferson and Rainier community centers. It is totally unacceptable for the Parks Department to treat the Southeast Seattle residents differently than residents in other parts of the city.
I also strongly object to your current plan of adding pickleball court lines only on the least desirable outdoor tennis courts in Southeast Seattle.
The Jefferson and Rainier community centers host one of the largest and most diverse pickleball player communities in the city. Please allow them to use the outdoor tennis courts adjacent to these two community centers.
P.S.: Saturday August 21 from noon to 4pm, some of the Seattle Park District Oversight Committee members and some of the Board of Park Commissioners will be at Rainier Playfield looking to interact with the public to find out what the Parks Department should continue doing, start doing and stop doing. Mark your calendars. More to follow.