Mayor Ed Murray announced today that the city will “update” its plans to construct a new, $149 million police precinct in north Seattle. Black lives activists have been fanning public pressure against the project all summer, arguing that funding for the unprecedentedly expensive precinct would be better used to build affordable housing.
Those activists just won. For now.
In a press release, Murray and his council allies on the precinct project—Tim Burgess, Debora Juarez, and M. Lorena González—announced that “the City will review the proposed new North Precinct facility, citing concerns around equity, cost and community needs. The City will…conduct a Racial Equity Toolkit review of the proposed precinct, and review…project cost.”
Murray summarized his current stance on the project: “I remain committed to replacing the aging precinct in North Seattle and am prepared to consider multiple design options, if it is determined that is the best path for the community.”
Letter I've sent to @SeattleCouncil about decision to re-open @SeattlePD N. Precinct project to additional review pic.twitter.com/N9fnCrpHwc
— Ed Murray (@MayorEdMurray) September 16, 2016
The precinct’s council supporters each emphasized that they still believe the existing north Seattle precinct, which is about 30 years old, needs to be replaced. Still: “I greatly appreciate the opportunity to slow this down and do it right,” said Juarez. “We listened,” said Burgess. Based on community feedback and cost concerns, “we want to take another look at the component parts of the building and even redesign some of them in an effort to lower the cost.” González said that for the same reasons, she’s reached the “conclusion that the only responsible next step is to return to the drawing board.”
Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien, the precinct’s strongest critics on the council, responded via press releases to the news by thanking the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlockTheBunker activists whose “sustained and intense public opposition and protests” Sawant credits for “forc[ing the mayor and council] to retreat from their previous insistence on building the most expensive precinct in the country.”
Here are more council reactions via Twitter:
.@CMMikeOBrien on North Precinct: "This is a clear example of how community organizing can move mountains"
— Seattle City Council (@SeattleCouncil) September 16, 2016
Regarding today's announcement to revisit the North Precinct: "$149M is far too large a sum for one building" – https://t.co/n8dHqBmASy
— Rob Johnson (@CMRobJohnson) September 16, 2016
This post has been edited to clarify that Sawant and O’Brien’s reactions were via press release.