Don’t privatize Seattle’s favorite community center

Seattle parks officials say the city should consider partnering with a private nonprofit organization to pay for and manage the Green Lake Community Center. Neighbors think otherwise.

A neighborhood revolt is bubbling up in North Seattle where irate Green Lake-area residents are threatening to collect signatures to dissolve the city’s new metropolitan parks district.

Residents are justifiably angry the city has failed — for years — to repair the popular Green Lake Community Center and adjoining Evans Pool.

It doesn’t make sense, given the center’s use from Ping-Pong to pottery to preschool classes, that Seattle’s busiest park has such a dingy, worn out community center. It has been left to rot like some forlorn icon of past civic glories.

An outside stairway entrance to the Green Lake Community Center. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Buckets are needed to catch the rain leaking through the roof. The battered gym floor is water damaged. The boilers are from a different era, as is the pool’s critical ventilation system. Absent are basic Americans with Disabilities Act improvements.

Instead of apologizing for neglecting it, the Parks Department is oh-so-gently shifting the conversation. Officials say it might make sense to partner with a nonprofit that would pay for and manage a new pool and rec center.

In other words, privatize Green Lake Community Center.

Parks Superintendent Jesús Aguirre chafes at the word “privatization.”

“It’s a partnership,” he insists, just like many others the city has entered into over the years, including Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium.

Call it what you want, but there’s something not quite right about handing over a prized asset to a private operator that will charge you new user fees to pay off its financing debt for decades. And this is not just about Green Lake. No, Green Lake could become a test case for what could happen to other community…

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