The good, bad and ugly of City Hall Park

A plan to overhaul City Hall Park is welcome news. By implementing it, Seattle can transform one of its ugliest downtown spaces into a jewel.

The $3.6 million price tag for improving the 1.3-acre park on the south side of the King County Courthouse is a good beginning. City and park officials have to follow through with enforcement. City Hall Park, like many of Seattle's downtown parks, is a friendly area for drug dealers and drunks to the exclusion of families, workers and tourists. The Seattle City Council and Mayor Greg Nickels want people to live and work downtown. They want pretty buildings and even talk of a school. None of that will happen until the drunks and homeless who claim downtown's parks are held to the same standards as every other park user.

Nickels took a positive step earlier this year to clean up the parks by creating the Downtown Parks Renaissance Task Force. The task force has suggested using uniformed security guards called "Park Rangers" to enforce park rules.

If City Hall Park is improved, these Rangers should be a constant presence in what is now one of the city's most notoriously ill-mannered parks.

The city will have a chance to prove it can enforce park rules starting next week. Occidental Square is set to reopen Sept. 7. The Pioneer Square park has long been the domain of aggressive panhandlers and the inebriated. The city spent $2.3 million from the Pro Parks Levy to clean the park and added interesting touches such as chess tables and bocce courts.

The City Hall Park proposal, which does not have a funding plan yet, would pair nicely with a potential project by the county. King County is considering spending $7.8 million to move the entrance of the courthouse to the south side of the building, which would face City Hall Park. It would be a shame if Seattle let one if its great open spaces rot on the doorstep of the courthouse.

The City Hall Park plan is wonderful but meaningless if the city does not understand that it takes more than money to change the culture of its parks.