New storefront deputy, cleaning up White Center Bog, saving Myers Parcels, all discussed @ September’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
NEW STOREFRONT DEPUTY: Deputy William Kennamer, who’s been with the King County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years, introduced himself, saying he is “pretty pleased to be here,” having “just got the job” and saying, “I worked hard to get the job.” He’s been most recently with King County Transit Police. He says he is hoping “to be here a while,” not having aspirations such as the ones that have taken a few of his predecessors out of the job before long. “I’m pretty easy to get along with, I have a pretty good sense of humor – if you ask me a question, I’ll tell you if I don’t know, and I’ll get back to you with the answer … If you ask me my personal opinion, I’ll tell you, and it might be different from department policy, but I work off department policy and state law.” He also said he’s fast to answer e-mail, and the phone “if I’m working” – 206-510-7342, email@example.com – his “core hours” are 10 am-6 pm Mondays-Fridays, but with a “four-hour flex” so that he can change his shift if needed for something such as attending this meeting. He added that he’s a SWAT Team member and that means he’ll be out on training three Wednesdays a month. He’s only been on the Storefront Deputy job since Tuesday so he had no observations to share yet, aside from “White Center’s way better than it was 17 1/2 years ago” – which is when he started, patroling here, as part of KCSO.
He was asked about crime stats. His sectors, he said, include White Center, Top Hat, and the unincorporated area of South Park, K1 and K7; he’s not accountable for Greenbridge, which is K11, handled by its own deputy, and promised to bring stats for those areas to future meetings. He had some – 15 residential burglaries in August of last year, 7 in August of this year, for example; the violent-crime index (robberies and assaults) were 14 in August of last year, 5 in August of this year. Major crimes, Part 1, numbered 96 last August, 80 this year; Part 2 numbered 116 last August, 95 this August. Ten auto thefts in August (no comparison number), he added; 16 fourth-degree assaults, 3 aggravated assaults, 4 commercial burglaries, 6 vehicle recoveries – “none of them were stolen from this area,” but they were abandoned here.
One more note – his position as a transit deputy “will not be replaced any time soon.” Board members wondered how that would affect area bus stops. He said he spent most of his time in White Center and Burien patroling for things such as people drinking at stops, so there likely will be more of that in the wake of his move. Recruiting is tough, he noted, when asked – fewer people apply to even take the test.
WHITE CENTER BOG: Two King County reps, John Taylor and Ken Gresset, came back with an update, following up on a promise to launch a community-outreach process about improving the situation there. Taylor was asked to give some background: “It’s a stormwater facility and future Housing Authority development site … there are two stormwater-detention ponds .. that are managing all the stormwater that’s coming from up on the slope.” When it was developed, it was planted as a wetland with buffers around the edges, but the plantings have grown, created screening, areas where people can “camp out and hide and conceal themselves,” overgrown areas that attract a lot of campers during the summer. Gresset noted that about $137,000 has been spent on three major cleanups in the past few years. It’s bounded by Roxbury, 100th, 12th/13th. “When I went out it was basically anarchy there, (lots of) camps, screams in the middle of the day … basically what we did was we went into remove the brush and increase the visibility on the site, built an access road for deputies to use to access the site.” He said lighting provided by the Parks Department has helped and might be expanded. Some cutting’s been done, but more needs to be done, Gresset said. The area had in the past generated hundreds of calls to King County Sheriff’s Office per year, and Gresset said that’s way down this year, but people still have been camping there this summer.
“We’ll keep cutting brush and cleaning it,” Taylor said, and promised they’ll be cleaning out the junk and garbage before winter. But he said the conversation needs to go further – what more could be done to keep people from coming back? Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or activities, or … ? Ideas floated so far, he elaborated, included building a perimeter trail, maybe even a fitness trail; perhaps a small soccer field in a flat area on the site; a disc golf course that had been mentioned before, though, might not work out, because the area is wetland so much of the time and is bisected by a path that might be incompatible. “If we had an idea, how would we go about trying to make it happen?” asked an attendee. While the stormwater department is spending a lot of money, maybe a partnership with parks and community members would be helpful, the county duo suggested. At that point, a neighbor of the site got up and offered some more backstory, including an offer to trim some of the trees “so we can have vision through the whole area” – she said she’d like to see it kept natural, but “this summer was the worst, it’s just been horrible” in terms of overgrowth.
Brainstorming ensued. Bottom line, Taylor said, none of the departments with a stake in this have big budgets to do something, so it has to be a creative solution. NHUAC board member Elizabeth Devine pointed out that the questionable activity isn’t necessarily the fault of homeless people camping in areas like this but often of those who prey on them. “When there’s an underground bunker, though – that’s pretty chilling,” Taylor observed, referring to what was discovered during an earlier cleanup.
Nearby resident Gill Hodges urged people to “just use it … we’ve had fewer problems (in the area) because people are just using it. Walk through it.” The county reps said a volunteer cleanup is planned in the not-too-distant future.
MYERS WAY GREENSPACE: Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty noted that she’s “new to the political process” – she’s a gardener by trade, and has run the nonprofit for about 20 years. A few years ago she and some others started TreePAC, another nonprofit. “One of our first jobs was to try and save some City Light surplus substations.” She showed a slide deck with photos of the 38-acre Myers Way greenspace, a long-ago gravel pit, currently owned by the City of Seattle, “currently in the disposition process,” which she says means they believe it would be best sold off for commercial development. (We wrote about this in February on our partner site West Seattle Blog.) It includes wooded areas and wetlands, as well as Hamm Creek, she said, showing some photos, including even an unofficial concrete pond and stairs someone built. “It was originally 50 acres Nintendo bought to build an office park, then sold to the city for a training center” – which was built on part of that land. Then, she told the story of John Beal and his interest in the Duwamish River, starting with his cleanup of Hamm Creek. “What feeds Hamm Creek is the Myers Parcels (area),” she said. At one point, she said, the site was to be sold to Lowe’s – not for a store, but for offices, etc. – and the deal fell through, so the city has it back in the “disposition process.”
Seattle Parks doesn’t want it, she said, while declaring that she believes the city should keep it. Ideally, as a “natural park” – with a visitors center, rangers on site, fenced and gated, with guided nature walks and areas for free play – “Myers Park.” It would also be good for the seniors who live in housing nearby, she suggested. At the very least, it could be greenbanked – saved for the future, when the money would exist for it to be bought, improved, maintained. “Once the land is gone, you’ll never get it back – this is the largest unbuilt piece of property for miles and miles around, and if we don’t save it, it won’t be there in the future.”
What can supporters do to help? Sign a petition at TreePAC.org, she suggested. Also e-mail Seattle City Council members to ask that surplus land not be sold for development, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-684-8566. And, she said, tell your neighbors and friends.
She was asked what the status of its ownership is, within the city. She believes the city is paying off an “interdepartmental loan.”
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES: Two are still open, an attendee noted, wondering why, since the time when it was suggested they should close – by King County Sheriff’s Office and King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office – has long passed. After several scheduled agenda items, the topic came up again, and NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin pointed out that there are two licensed recreational-marijuana stores already in the unincorporated areas, and a proposal for a processing/growing facility, and said there’s concern that those stores will proliferate. (One attendee said three licenses are already granted in the unincorporated area; looks like the third is at 10825 Myers Way S. in Top Hat [map], not far from the Nimbin shop, under the name “West Seattle Cannabis Company.”) Dobkin proposed asking county leaders to put some restrictions on how many stores could be in the area. “Why would we put all the pot stores in a community with a vulnerable population? … It doesn’t speak to equity and social justice.” An attendee said a short time later that it’s too bad White Center can’t make its own rules. “I wish White Center could be its own city, but it doesn’t have the tax base,” noted Dobkin. “More marijuana stores!” quipped someone in the audience.
NEW BOARD MEMBER: NHUAC’s board approved a new member at the start of the meeting, Dominic Barbera.
RENAMING LAKEWOOD PARK IN HONOR OF DICK THURNAU: Board member Liz Giba said the County Council is advancing this. (Here’s our most-recent report, from mid-August.)
ANNOUNCEMENTS: Giba announced that Rich Miller of Poor Boys’ Auto Repair, “a longtime lover of White Center,” had died of a stroke last month. “He was a friend to me and a friend to White Center.” … Giba also announced that October 17th is the date for the White Center Food Bank‘s fundraising dinner; tickets are on sale, at a reduced rate until October 1st. … The White Center Library Guild is collecting petition signatures to have a room at the new library – under construction on SW 107th – named after longtime library advocate Rachael Levine. … Application period will start the day after Labor Day for the county’s Community Service Area grants, according to county rep Alan Painter.
NHUAC usually meets 7 pm first Thursdays at the North Highline Fire District HQ – watch northhighlineuac.org for updates on the next meeting; Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg is scheduled to be at the November meeting …
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