Community Post

New building for county juvenile courts headed to ballot

King County’s $140 million dollar plan to rebuild the Youth Services Center has made it another step closer, with the King County Council moving to place the issue on the fall ballot. Voters will get the final say whether to increase the county’s sales tax by 0.1% to fund a new building to house juvenile and family courts and associated offices.

The existing facility at 12th & Alder has been repeatedly described as “falling apart” by various county officials, and has a $20 million backlog in basic maintenance. 

Plans for the new construction would build a new court facility along 12th Avenue north of Alder, where there’s currently only a surface parking lot. A large, controversial parking garage would be placed east of that, leaving the northern third of the 6-block property for private development and open space.

Councilmember Julia Patterson was quoted in a county press release as saying “The proposal we adopted today improves upon the ballot measure passed last week, because it not only ensures we can maintain our award-winning criminal justice system, it also provides a permanent fix for our crumbling juvenile court facility.” 

Last month, county officials cited a tax increase as the “fiscally responsible plan” because it will eliminate the need for the issuance of bonds and their associated interest costs.

Stay tuned for the next public meeting where King County will present their revised designs.

0 thoughts on “New building for county juvenile courts headed to ballot

  1. Scott, thanks for staying on top of this. It is hard to know when to engage with the County if they won’t even have the money to do this project. It is good to see it moving forward, the building was severely damaged in the Hanukkah eve flooding in 2006…stay tuned for when the next community meeting will be. 12th ave stewardship is all over this issue.

  2. I am pleased that the Voters will have an opportunity to vote on the proposed funding requirements, and have appreciated past reporting on project plans/options through our outstanding CD News reporters ( Thanks Scott! ). One item that I am worried about, is related to the last few years increased density allowed within the CD, without adequately addressing possible need for increased road width, or even possible need for center turn lanes. In the case of this necessary rebuild and site density change, I worry about the added conjestion on side and feeder streets. As it is, I regularly travel this area’s side streets on the East side of this facility, and frequently find the road blocked or packed with commuters.

    Does anyone know if these density and side street impact issues have been adequately addressed?

  3. Linda: To my knowledge none of this will be addressed before the preferred project is selected (or maybe the final two or three) and then the County will have to do an impact study, which usually involves a traffic report. I would actually argue that in this case, though, the Alder parking is pretty self-contained because of their vast surface parking lot that is free. I usually consider the congestion and neighborhood parking issues to be more related to the other institutions, such as the hospitals and SU students and staff. Many in the neighborhood have been asking for better transit on 12th for years, which would also help reduce the impact of cars in the neighborhood. Hopefully, even though the streetcar will go on Broadway, this will be close enough to have an impact on reducing congestion as well when it comes online in a couple of years.

    One other thing I want to mention is that this project, although by the County, will have to go before the City Council at some point, most likely for a zoning change (right now it is a nonconforming use to the current zoning). I would really encourage you, and others in 12th Ave urban village and Sq Park neighborhood, to testify about your concerns about the impact of this project, so that we can influence how neighborhood friendly it will be. This is 9 acres in the middle of an urban village!

  4. I would like our award winning criminal justice system to keep kids who murder helpless old people longer than 75 weeks in jail while they are supposedly paying their debt to society. The YSC is a joke; as is the entire criminal justice system in Seattle when it comes to juvenile crimes and violent youth. Minors here have cornered the market in burglary, armed robbery, car theft, human trafficking, drugs, illegal firearms etc. Although this tax increase is small in proportion to all the other taxes we are already paying- I could likely afford it if I hadn’t replaced my car window, lawn equipment, cell phone and the other items stolen by “kids” while living in the YSC area.

  5. Looks fine me.

    What’s the problem, are the pillows not soft enough for the little thugs? maybe keeping the place a dump will deter them from being criminals?

  6. The 90’s era detention facility will remain as-is. The new building will accomodate courts and offices for staff, prosecutors, etc

  7. Where can we find out when to show up at City Council on that zoning change review? This facility needs replacement desperately but the current designs for the master plan suck really bad and need to have a leash put on.

  8. I’ll happily agree to fund the project if they promise to build something that is friendly to the neighborhood and maintains the current park space.

    Of the three schemes that were recently presented to the public, the architects were shockingly and admittedly biased toward a plan that destroys the current green space on 14th and E. Remington Court. While this endangered space is technically a King County-owned art installation called “Spirit of our Youth” by acclaimed sculptor Martin Oliver, locals call this space “Whale Fin Park.”

    The neighborhood is increasing its density rapidly, and open green space is a rarity. Whale Fin Park faces 24 private residences on it’s two street-adjacent sides, and is frequently used by the larger neighborhood population for basketball, baseball, croquet, picnics, and as a place for dogs to play. It is a beautiful open space with gorgeous old trees, a stately sculpture and an open lawn.

    Option B destroys Whale Fin Park and replaces it with a tightly landscaped open space inside of the facility that would open to 13th Avenue, but would be surrounded by court buildings and the dreaded parking garage on all other sides. There are some nice parts of the design, so it is easy to understand why it would be appealing to the court system staff, but the plans were drawn in a way that is out of context to the neighborhood.

    What the plans don’t show is how the unbroken, unfriendly walls of the current facility have made 14th Avenue an unfriendly a drag strip for speeding cars, and how dark, unwatched corners of the neighborhood can turn into crime magnets. Should Whale Fin Park be destroyed, neighbors would face loss of home value, loss of light enormous buildings (the architects said they are seeking height variances) and neighborhood as a whole would lose an important open space.

    If anything, the increased density around Whale Fin Park should be an indicator to the decision makers on the YSC that creating a friendly face towards the neighborhood will create a healthier, more vibrant community. I’d like to see a plan that puts green space on the northern and eastern borders, with dense businesses on the western (12th ave) side. Even if Whale Fin Park needed to be made shallower in this effort, the greater neighborhood benefit would be tremendous.

    I really hope that the planners will consider all of this. Thanks for reading!

    See the proposed schemes here:
    More on artist Martin Oliver:

  9. The rezone won’t be for a while, and both the 12th Ave Stewardship Committee and the Sq Park Comm Council will be having the planners out to talk about this project many times before it gets to zoning. So, you will most certainly hear about all of these opportunities to share your thoughts with the planners here, please come and participate….

  10. King County just built itself a nice, new building across from the jail to house prosecutors, a brand new parking garage for the county staff to park in at discounted rates (Goat Hill garage), remodeled the booking area and other areas of the jail, while Seattle Muni Court got the flashy, brand new Seattle Justice Center and the city govt. got the brand new City Hall and the gorgeous, Muni Tower. We do NOT have the money to do ALL new buildings for court staff ALL at once! And I say this as a court staff member who worked in the crumbling Dexter Horton Bldg. until it finally was hit by the quake, worked in the Public Safety bldg. at a time when inmates would spit at we civilians in the elevators as we all used the same ones, and as someone who currently works in the dirty, stink part of the jail! I AM one of these court workers and I’m telling you, we can’t afford AND DO NOT NEED new offices and courtrooms at Juvie! There are plenty of other spots to go around, and the two nasty courtrooms seem to suffice just fine for in-custody matters for adults at the jail. In-custody matters for juvies do not need to be heard in brand spanking new courtrooms when we’ve just spent ZILLIONS on the new spaces I’ve listed above! Crikey!