Seattle City Clerk Monica Martinez Simmons administered the oath of office, after which 36th District Rep. Gael Tarleton affixed Lewis' councilmember lapel pin.
Seattle City Clerk Monica Martinez Simmons administered the oath of office, after which 36th District Rep. Gael Tarleton affixed Lewis' councilmember lapel pin.

District 7 Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis came to his New Year’s Eve swearing-in ceremony with good news for Uptown gardeners.

During transition meetings in November and December, the new councilmember said he’d negotiated an agreement with Mayor Jenny Durkan and Deputy Mayor Mike Fong to keep the UpGarden P-Patch in place.

Gardeners learned in late October that the P-Patch atop the Mercer Street Garage was slated for removal in fall 2020 to restore the roof for parking and accommodate visitors to the new Seattle Center arena.

Lewis pledged to fight that decision, speaking to UpGardeners at their last meeting in November. A number of them joined him at the UpGarden for the Dec. 31 swearing-in ceremony.

The 1962 World’s Fair rejuvenated Seattle’s cultural identity. It gave us the Space Needle, the monorail, the KeyArena, and yes, this parking garage,” Lewis said. “In the spirit of the creativity of that fair, our neighbors reclaimed a portion of this garage as community open space, establishing the UpGarden.”

The UpGarden started in 2012 as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the World’s Fair in Seattle and under a memorandum of agreement between Seattle Center and the Department of Neighborhoods, which manages the P-Patch program. The MOA anticipated the garage eventually being replaced with redevelopment, at which point the P-Patch would need to be moved, but the agreement left open the right to take back the rooftop space for any reason.

While Lewis used his incoming council position to push for the UpGarden’s preservation, he said the gardeners who campaigned and petitioned to save the P-Patch did the heavy lifting.

This garden has grown not just produce, but community, literally from the grassroots,” Lewis said. “One hundred and fifty gardeners work 93 plots, sending over 1,000 pounds of produce a year to local food banks, and host public celebrations of the equinox, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. The Center School, my alma mater, teaches AP biology in their own dedicated garden here. In October, children paint pumpkins for Halloween.”

A news release from the mayor’s office states the extension of the existing memorandum will ensure the P-Patch remains as long as the Mercer Garage exists. The parking structure was already undergoing a seismic retrofit when gardeners received news of their impending eviction.

"Our community P-Patches are some of Seattle’s most treasured resources for building community and connection,” Durkan said in the news release. “We will continue to preserve and maintain critical green space in our City so all our residents, regardless of neighborhood or income level are able to garden and grow healthy food.”

According to the city’s agreement with ArenaCo. LLC, “Mercer Garage will be maintained as a parking facility until light rail is designed and planned for Seattle Center,” according to the news release. A Seattle Center light rail station isn’t expected to open until the Ballard extension is completed in 2035. The existing MOA also states the city wouldn't demolish the garage earlier than Jan. 1, 2035 or when a light rail station opens within a half-mile of Seattle Center.

As long as I am a member of the Seattle City Council, I will fight for our public green spaces,” said Lewis, who divulged he’d gone over the terms of the new P-Patch lease with Fong the day before.

UpGarden lead coordinator Robert Grubbs said he did not get a heads-up about the decision. He learned the news during the Dec. 31 ceremony.

He told no one,” Grubbs said. “It was a total surprise. We are just over the moon.”

UpGardener Norm Roberts said he’s looking forward to doing some heavy mulching in the near future. He’s been gardening at the P-Patch for the past five years.

I thought it was the best thing I’ve heard in a long time,” Roberts said.

Lewis said he’ll be focusing on fulfilling campaign promises once he officially starts on the council next week, which includes finding a way to fund a 1:1 replacement of the Magnolia Bridge and renovating the Queen Anne and Magnolia community centers. He said he will also be focusing on how the city addresses homelessness under a newly formed regional authority.

That’s going to be something that’s going to be a big focus of mine,” Lewis said, “to make sure that it’s not just Seattle contributing resources, but use that regional framework to bring in other partners and really have a truly regional response.”

The new councilmember said it’s also important to have a quick and nimble staff that can respond to district issues, such as UpGarden, when they arise.