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Unveiling the Outside Citywide Public Space Explorer: A New Online Tool to Promote Equity, Collaboration, and Environmental Justice

In an ever-evolving urban landscape, the need to reimagine public spaces has never been more critical. We’re thrilled to introduce the Outside Citywide Public Space Explorer, an exciting new resource born from over five years of collaborative efforts across many departments, agencies, and organizations. This tool aims to bring about several transformative changes in how we plan and improve our public space system:

1. Gaining a Better Understanding of Our Public Space System

Seattle’s public space network is a diverse tapestry of different assets, encompassing plazas, trails, P-Patch gardens, neighborhood greenways, parks, and more. It’s the lifeblood of our city, offering opportunities for exercise, relaxation, community-building, and cultural enrichment. However, despite having one of the country’s best public space networks overall, some neighborhoods have historically been better served than others.

Past policies resulted in public spaces being concentrated in affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods, while communities of color received fewer investments and suffered from higher concentrations of pollution-generating activities.

The Outside Citywide mapping tools address these disparities head-on by providing a comprehensive view of our public space system. Prior to this effort, the dozens of different departments and agencies that own and manage public spaces in Seattle all mapped and inventoried their assets separately.  The Outside Citywide program changed this by putting all these assets together on one map.   Looking at the system as a whole, we were then able to gain a much deeper understanding of where the system is working well and where it is falling short. This will allow us to channel future public space investments into the neighborhoods that need them the most.

2. Fostering Collaboration Across Departments and Organizations

Effective collaboration is at the core of this work. It’s not just a tool for individual departments or organizations; it’s a platform that encourages partnerships through a shared understanding of priorities. We hope this will promote synergy among government agencies, nonprofits, and partner organizations, and provide more opportunities to work together towards common goals, reduce duplication of efforts, and streamline decision-making processes.

3. Embedding Equity and Environmental Justice

As discussed above, the Outside Citywide Access Analysis will allow us to identify areas that are underserved by our current public space system, which is an important step towards addressing disparities and access gaps. However, in identifying priority geographies for new investments, the tool also factors in several other important considerations including race, health outcomes, poverty, and population density or “park pressure.”

This approach recognizes that while public spaces can benefit everyone, some communities have higher levels of need due to other factors. For example, people in dense apartment buildings often rely on public space to be able to spend time outdoors, which is less true for those with access to private yards. Low-income individuals may lack access to private gyms and thus rely heavily on public spaces for their fitness needs. Communities that suffer from poor health outcomes as a result of high levels of exposure to environmental pollution have a heightened need for trees and green spaces to mitigate these environmental health disparities.

Embedding these considerations into our priorities enables us to direct resources where they are needed most urgently, and reflects Seattle’s commitment to equity and environmental justice.

The Outside Citywide Public Space Explorer allows you to:

  1. Discover Seattle’s Public Space Landscape: Dive in and explore the wide assortment of places that make up Seattle’s public space system. Click on individual public spaces to learn more about them and what they have to offer.  Filter the map to see which assets different agencies and departments contribute to the system.
  2. Strategically Prioritize Investments: Search for a specific address or scroll around the city in the Priority Analysis map to explore which areas of the city are most in need of new investments.  Learn more about how these priorities were identified by switching to the different underlying analysis layers: Access, Race and Social Justice, and Park Pressure. 
  3. Pinpoint Amenity Gaps: Identify gaps in walksheds to various public space amenities, including natural areas, sports facilities, trails, and playgrounds. This information can be used to quickly get a sense for what types of new assets might be most needed in a certain neighborhood.
  4. Download and Use the Data: Click on the links to download the data and explore the finer details of our methodology. This transparency ensures full visibility into the processes that mold our approach.

The Outside Citywide Public Space Explorer is the product of extensive collaboration that embodies a One Seattle approach.   Our partnerships with other departments, agencies, and organizations have been invaluable in shaping this tool to meet the diverse needs of our communities.

As we roll out this new tool, we are excited about the positive impact it will have on our city. With a deeper understanding of our public spaces, improved opportunities for collaboration, and a commitment to equity and environmental justice, we’re taking a significant step forward in creating a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable future.

Explore for Yourself!

Ready to use the Outside Citywide Public Space Explorer? Dive into Seattle’s public spaces, learn about priorities, and discover different aspects of our network.