@ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Sheriff’s Office storefront move, annexation hearing, possible project, ‘The Crew’ demystified …
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
Topics large and small – including one topic that literally weighed tons! – were on the agenda tonight at the May meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.
SHERIFF’S STOREFRONT MOVING: Major Jerrell Wills confirmed that the King County Sheriff’s Office White Center storefront will indeed move from 16th SW to Steve Cox Memorial Park. (This was first discussed at the November 2015 NHUAC meeting.) “Part of the objective (is) to get a facility that is accessible to everyone … and, more than adequate. With the cottage (at the park), we have that.” He said they also believe the relationship with the park “will be a benefit to the community.” It also will save some money for the county, no longer leasing private property, Major Wills said. He promised it won’t mean a decrease in foot patrols in the business area – not that those happen often anyway, he acknowledged, as the local deputies are very busy. “The presence in the downtown corridor shouldn’t change.” They hope to move in late July/early August. Some concerns about the storefront move were voiced – “this isn’t our best solution,” lamented one attendee – but it appears to be a done deal.
Wills was asked if there was any budgetary possibility of removing the storefront deputy, and he said right now “there’s no discussion” of that happening. Community member Gill Loring offered complimentary words about Deputy Bill Kennamer, the latest to hold that position. Wills noted that Kennamer worked hard to get that position and “we’re really fortunate” to have him as well as former storefront deputy Jeff Hancock, who is now focused on Greenbridge, in their roles.
CRIME REPORTS: Deputy Ford from the King County Sheriff’s Office filled in with the briefing. 75 “Part 1” crimes in the past month, down from the same time last year, but “Part 2” crimes are up – 86 assaults, stolen property, fraud, vandalism, drugs, fights, trespassing, vandalism. “They kind of fluctuate up and down.” In specific categories, car thefts are way down – 19 in April last year, 7 in April this year. Residential burglaries, meantime, have gone up in both forced and nonforced categories. He said much of this is tied to drug abuse – “any time you have (that), you’re going to have continued property crimes – they have to get the money from somewhere.”
He said crime prevention is paramount – to fight auto theft, for example, lock your vehicles, increase lighting, don’t leave your keys in your car. He told the tale of the night that someone stole a car with a child sleeping inside, “and thank goodness we were able to get the child back safely” – but he noted how many law enforcement resources it took to find the child and the car, when “all (the car’s owner) would have had to do was take her key.” Also – don’t leave things out at night – “the ability to recover stolen property is not good.”
Various issues brought up while he had the floor included “transient RVs.” The deputy suggested, “That will be a never-ending battle. … As you see those, continue to call, because the more calls for service we get … the easier it is” (to do something). “If we have legitimate calls for service, ‘we have a suspicious vehicle .. the vehicle doesn’t move’ … I would really encourage additional phone calls.” SW 112th was mentioned as a trouble spot, as well as Myers Way S. just over the city-county line.
(Deputy Ford had mentioned being a relatively recent arrival from Utah; later in the meeting, Major Wills explained that he was part of a “lateral” program that was bringing “amazing” law-enforcement officers to the KCSO – Ford, for example, had been a sergeant in Utah.)
BOUNDARY REVIEW BOARD TO CONSIDER SEATTLE ANNEXATION: Toward the start of the meeting, it was mentioned that the dates are set for the King County Boundary Review Board to consider the proposed Seattle annexation of White Center and the rest of remaining unincorporated North Highline. The public hearing is set for two nights, 7 pm June 13 and 14, at the Technology Access Foundation‘s Bethaday Community Space at Dick Thurnau Memorial Park (605 SW 108th) – here’s the official notice. The online file for the proposed annexation is here.
NEW MIXED-USE BUILDING WITH AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND COMMUNITY AGENCIES: We first reported this here on April 24th. Tonight, Steve Daschle from Southwest Youth and Family Services was invited to tell NHUAC more about it. He first presented a primer about his agency – you can get the same toplines in our West Seattle Blog report about the recent Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting at which he mentioned the project. He had told the DNDC that his agency’s clients are moving further and further south into the county, and they have no choice but to move their services with them. Their support for students and families, he says, have had exceptional success.
He then talked about the Communities of Opportunity initiative, a partnership between Seattle Foundation and King County, and how agencies have been trying to identify a “high-level challenge” faced by White Center and what can be done about it. The resultant discussion focused on bringing a wide set of services together in one place in WC, Daschle said, creating a “synergy of support.” That led them to focus on the former County Public Health building at 8th/108th, and they are now in a “very early (stage)” of discussing co-locating the White Center Food Bank, Southwest Youth and Family Service, the White Center Community Development Association, and some meeting space, plus “some housing on top,” at that site. They’re talking with Capitol Hill Housing, which was responsible for the Unity Place project, Daschle said, promising a “significant public engagement” stage ahead – “if it appears feasible for us to go forward – we haven’t even done a feasibility study” to find out if they could launch a capital campaign to raise money to build something.
The project is currently owned by King County Parks, he noted.
Rick Jump of the White Center Food Bank, housed on the site, pointed out that the building the county Public Health Department used to use was built in 1961, and that the county has long been seeking tenants, but has been unsuccessful because of the building’s condition.
Asked about equity and social-justice issues, and whether this would increase the number of economically challenged people in White Center, Daschle talked about what his agency has seen in the years it’s been located in Delridge, and that this project would be more for serving people who are already in the area. NHUAC board members challenged that and voiced concerns, such as employment prospects for economically challenged youth, and whether this would affect the “economic diversity” of the area, which already has “a high concentration of poverty.” An attendee suggested that, after hearing Daschle mention the displacement of people in West Seattle by gentrification, that indicates the project would be better built “where they’re being displaced,” not in WC.
Daschle agreed that a community conversation is needed – very many elements of the potential project are not defined, such as how many units it might have. (Asked how his agency was funded, he said 65 percent public, 10 percent United Way, and then various other grants and other types of funding.)
OFFICER ELECTIONS: Liz Giba is the new NHUAC president – as of the next meeting, following a unanimous vote tonight. Barbara Dobkin served as president for five years and was elected to serve as vice president. Elizabeth Gordon was elected as secretary.
ABOUT ‘THE CREW’: Julie Maas, assistant division director of the Community Corrections Division of King County, explained that the division offers “a variety of alternatives to jail,” and the work crew that is often seen on community-cleanup detail “is one of them.” The crew “has a very strong presence in White Center,” she said. They take out crews every day of misdemeanor defendants from District Court – all misdemeanor “sentenced cases (who) come to our program and go out on crews every day all over the county.” Other cities pay the division “to come into their cities and do work for them,” and the revenue “helps pay for the program,” she said, while some is subsidized by the county, including the work in unincorporated communities such as White Center and Skyway. They do landscaping, trails, clean up parks, and more. They’ve directed more resources in the past year to WC and Skyway and less to downtown Seattle, she noted. They do more-frequent “quick sweeps.”
She was joined by Seth Oakes, a recent arrival in the area who does the crew assignments. Daily, their participation ranges from 27 to 60 – “depending on how many people we get on any day of the week, (affects) how big a crew is (and) how much we’re able to accomplish in one day.” Accomplishments in White Center:
10,280 pounds of illegally dumped garbage in January
13,480 pounds removed in February
9,000 pounds in March
4,500 pounds in April
That’s 57 trailer loads of items such as discarded furniture. Smaller tasks are handled too, including emptying trash cans and picking up trash along the street. The lower numbers did not necessarily represent less trash but instead fewer crew members and less time spent in WC.
Maas said they’re trying to “get a better handle” on the problem in the area so they can take it to the County Council and figure it what can and will be done – including code enforcement, not just having crews pick up trash.
She also said that education and outreach seems to be in order, as the continuous pickups might “enable” more dumping. “Really getting business owners and homeowners educated about the laws” might reduce the problem, Maas suggested.
A discussion ensued about what’s required of businesses in unincorporated North Highline – do they have to have trash service?
MARIJUANA MORATORIUM: Giba reported on the county council’s recent move, while saying it’s not clear yet which potential establishments are far enough in the process to not be affected. “It’s a start,” observed Dobkin.
WHITE CENTER LIBRARY: 9:30 am May 21st is the ribboncutting that starts the library’s grand opening – “a gem of a building,” proclaimed regional manager Angie Benedetti from the King County Library System, with elements “stunning and unique to this community.” She said that KCLS’s director and Highline Public Schools‘ superintendent will be among the speakers.
KING COUNTY COMMUNITY SERVICE AREA INFORMATIONAL MEETING: This annual meeting is 7-9 pm Tuesday, May 24th, at Seola Gardens‘ Providence Building – more information here.
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