The King County Youth Services Center is falling apart and smells funny. Also, it’s ugly, and much of the land it currently occupies seems ripe for development.
However, even though voters turned down a 2010 ballot measure that would have funded a replacement with a sales tax increase, the county appears ready to give it another shot with a new $200 million property tax levy.
Four members of the King County Council, including Republican Kathy Lambert along with three Democrats, proposed a nine-year, $200 million property tax levy to replace the decrepit county Youth Services Center at 12th Ave. and E. Spruce St. in the Central District. If it’s approved by the full council, the measure would go on the August 7 ballot.
Advocates of replacing the facility argue that the center, which houses the county’s juvenile court and detention center, has been decrepit and overcrowded for years, with sewer, air, and heat systems failing on a regular basis and courtrooms so small they force family members—who, in many cases, are on opposite sides of family disputes—to crowd together along with courtroom staff.
Back in 2010, plans for the site included a mixture of new developments, new (and redesigned) park space and a new Youth Services Center. The jail, which stretches along Spruce from 12th to 14th, would remain. Some plans even involved reconnecting Terrace St between 14th and 12th Avenues.
However, after the sales tax failed at the ballot box, the city and county announced a plan to try to replace the aging facility without the need for additional public money. The mayor at one time suggested the center could move somewhere else entirely, and the county could use the money from selling the land to fund a new facility. It even appeared possible to move the center to Beacon Hill’s iconic (and mostly vacant) Pac Med building. However, all those plans fell flat, and the county announced that their efforts to find a cost-neutral solution had failed.