North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Working through the summer, and through uncertainty

(NHUAC’s booth at Jubilee Days two weekends ago)
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Summertime often brings a much-needed break for volunteer community councils. Their meeting calendar skips a month or two; council leaders might take a vacation without a neighborhood crisis summoning them back to action.

No rest for the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – despite the fact they’re working in a sort of limbo.

Two weekends ago, you might have seen NHUAC members volunteering at their White Center Jubilee Days booth. Its table was full of information about myriad community issues. That included crime prevention, an issue of special focus for the council – which has sponsored two public-safety forums (in February and in May) and has another one scheduled for September 13th, with not only crime updates, but also a forum featuring the King County Sheriff candidates, appointed incumbent Sheriff Steve Strachan, and recently retired longtime sergeant John Urquhart.

The council also has long worked on issues of community blight and beautification. At 16th and 100th, they worked for months to arrange for a planting area, but the actual planting wasn’t the end of the work – it was in ways only the start. The area is not irrigated, so it has to be wandered by hand – and that requires a major “bucket brigade” sort of effort:

The big barrels are filled at NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin‘s home every few days, loaded onto a pickup truck, and carried over to the site.

One recent evening, we stopped by as Dobkin, with help from NHUAC’s Christine Waldman (not pictured), watered and weeded the site.

They also patrol nearby areas for litter (which recently, Dobkin mentioned, included roadkill – a dead raccoon, left for somebody unspecified to handle). No grant money or donations for this – NHUAC members are doing it out of their own pockets, and on their own time, as community volunteers. NHUAC used to have a modest operational budget from the county, but that ended last year, as the county decided it would stop supporting the unincorporated-area councils, and move into a different sort of system, focusing on “community service areas.”

Though county material touting the “community service area” approach uses the language of “expand(ing) opportunities to seek input, listen, and respond to residents,” the new plan will offer only annual meetings for each “service area,” while councils such as NHUAC – one of six councils that the county had recognized – meet monthly. (We’ve covered NHUAC most months since WCN’s launch four years ago, as we have done with community councils/associations in West Seattle since launching our site there five-plus years ago; our WCN reports on NHUAC meetings and other activities are archived here, newest to oldest.)

North Highline will now be, in the county’s view, simply part of the “West King County Areas,” a collection of non-contiguous chunks of unincorporated land – see them on a county map here – pending approval of the boundaries proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

While that system was supposed to be implemented about the same time as the end of funding and support, there’s been a lag which has left NHUAC in more of a limbo than ever. This has all been trickling out for almost a year; last October, a county rep came to NHUAC’s meeting to discuss the concept, and as we reported, that didn’t go very well.

Since then, there have been related announcements here and there – in April, for example, the county announced a “point person” for the new Service Area program. A grant program (for some of the types of work NHUAC is currently doing, unfunded) is described online, with a deadline in September.

Then last month, the boundary proposal, which also seeks to further remove NHUAC and the remaining UACs from any sort of official advisory involvement in county matters. From the news release:

A companion ordinance also proposed today would amend several sections of the King County Code to change or remove references to the participation of unincorporated area councils on various County advisory bodies – to help ensure representation by unincorporated area residents without limiting it to specific organizations, and to expand the pool of residents who can engage in County volunteer opportunities.

The CSA program will enable the County to engage with community-based organizations and provide regular opportunities for those organizations – and all residents outside of those organizations – to meet with King County elected officials and senior management.

The point made at NHUAC’s discussion last October of the county “Service Area” change – with those making it including a Burien City Council member – is that until the area is annexed, which, pending this November’s election outcome, could be sometime next year – another interim change in the community-engagement process was confusing at best.

But this council isn’t stopping, county support or no county support. At the Jubilee Days booth, for example, they were discussing a new petition to get something done about what just might be the biggest eyesore in White Center, the overgrown, graffiti-vandalism-coated former restaurant on 16th north of 112th:

It’s been years since that property’s last incarnation as a Peruvian restaurant, preceded by a fried-chicken restaurant and a fast-food joint. The graffiti – long a NHUAC-tackled issue – and weeds have continued to grow. Will its owners, or the county, do anything about it? Nobody else has shown up to take it on, NHUAC members say, so they’re circulating a petition.

As for their own future, they’re just doing what they’ve been doing – volunteer community advocacy. Keep an eye on for information on upcoming meetings and ongoing issues. We’ll also be tracking the county service-areas proposal; the County Council is just now starting a two-week summer break, so nothing’s listed regarding any upcoming meetings at which it’ll be discussed.

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3 Responses to “North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Working through the summer, and through uncertainty”

  1. Isn’t that “Eyesore” property owned by the Nickels Brothers ? ie: Greg Nickels, etc

  2. Mark Nickels and Tom Nickels are the partners listed in state records for the owning LLC, NB Partners. Greg Nickels is not listed.

  3. Dick Thurnau and Marcia Wollam Says:

    Does our King County have any authority to start proceedingd for this former restaurant eyesore located on our main 16 Ave just north of SW112 street? The property is weed filled, the building Graffiti laden. The Nickel Bros. owners should be ashamed to leave this property in such terrible conditionu unattended for this length of time.
    If the NHUAC, WCCDA, and the Chamber would join forces and write a formal letter to the King County Council signed by these three local organizations it just might kindle a spark needed for resolution.