Seattle residents question proposed police North Precinct ‘bunker,’ $160M price tag

An artists rendering of the proposed Seattle Police Department North Precinct. Illustration courtesy the City of Seattle.)
An artists rendering of the proposed Seattle Police Department North Precinct. (Illustration courtesy the City of Seattle.)

A review of the Seattle Police Department’s proposed new North Precinct brought residents to City Hall, objecting to the police department’s $160 million price tag and its concrete construction.

Omar Abdulalim, a longtime youth sports coach, questioned how the city could find $160 million to spend on a proposed Seattle Police Department North Precinct, when the city has many other needs.

That money could be used for youth programs that I’ve been involved with down for more than 20 years down in Rainier Valley,” Abdulalim said.

He said youth sports are being priced out of public sports fields, and the city has been struggling with how to help its homeless residents.

“Spend $20 million on the police station, spend the rest on where it’s needed the most,” Abdulalim said.

Abdulalim was one of about a dozen residents who spoke to the city council’s committee for Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans, which got an update on the proposed precinct on Wednesday morning.

A few Seattle residents from the north end spoke in favor of the project, saying neighbors had given input in several community meetings, and that Bitter Lake and Haller Lake neighborhoods would benefit from the new public spaces proposed for the building.

However, Dean Spade, a law professor at Seattle University, echoed many of the attendees by criticizing the expansion in policing.

It doesn’t keep us safe. What will keep people safe — their well-being — is, of course, housing, child care, mental health care, drug treatment…. The people of Seattle need them. You know that,” Spade said. “There is no reason to spend an additional penny on police or imprisonment in our region.”

The proposal would relocate Seattle’s North Precinct to the corner of Aurora Avenue and North 130th Street. The building would be around 105,000 square feet and include concrete construction, an indoor practice range, a parking garage, public meeting room space and a plaza and indoor entrance area that designed for neighborhood use. The building is also being designed for future growth in the north end.

While some of the concerned citizens characterized the building as a bomb-proof bunker, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole told the committee the precinct won’t be like the police stations surrounded with barricades and barbed wire that she saw when she was doing work in Northern Ireland.

We’re not building a fortress to divide the police from the community, we are building a building that is an essential public building that will withstand an earthquake,” she said.

O’Toole also said the proposed indoor firing range would allow the police department to have the facilities to comply with training on de-escalation and use of force which was part of the city’s 2012 settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The federal government that year found the Seattle Police Department had a pattern of using excessive force, which violated the Constitution.

About $139 million for the $160 million project has not been funded, according to city staff. A planned public safety ballot measure will no longer go before voters, but the city may fund the project through a combination of real estate excise taxes and the proposed sale of the downtown parking garage at Pacific Place.

Construction could start in 2017 or 2018, and the building is expected to be complete by 2019.

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