VIDEO: Updates and answers from King County reps at annual North Highline ‘Town Hall’ in White Center

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

At last year’s King County “town hall” for North Highline, attendees heard about the then-impending Department of Local Services launch.

This year – the new department’s director John Taylor emceed the event, held last Thursday night at Seola Gardens.

We recorded it all – in two videos, first the presentation, then the Q&A:


King County Councilmember Joe McDermott‘s opening remarks highlighted:

*Council’s $315 million investment in children
*”Regional entity” to be created for responding to homelessness crisis – he believes it needs a more regional response
*Disappointed in Senior Centers being left out in levy funding – Vashon, West Seattle (as reported on our partner site WSB), SeaTac, Burien – from levy; he’s talking about it with executive branch
*Banning fireworks, as he discussed at this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting – mentions deadly fire last 4th of July
*Transportation – electric scooters pilot project (to be considered by a council committee this week) is “a real opportunity”

Next to speak, Elections Director Julie Wise
*Believes 85 percent of eligible voters are registered
*Reminds you that you’ll get ballot three weeks before election
*Lots of elections next year – presidential primary in March, regular primary in August, general in November
*”I believe my job is to remove barriers” and enthuses about postage-paid mail ballots plus 68 dropboxes

Then Rich Watson from Assessor’s Office
*Starting in 2020 new threshold for seniors’ property tax exemption – ceiling raised from $40K to $58K (65% of county median income). Intent of program “to keep seniors in their homes”
*Property values are flat – 5% or less
*Taxpayer Transparency Tool – also will show you how a ballot initiative will affect your property values

King County Sheriff’s Office Major Jesse Anderson followed
*He’s been precinct commander for 1 1/2 months
*The K1 sector had 1872 calls in the most recently tallid quarter
*Part 1 crimes – more violent + burglaries – 75 to 100 a month this year, up a bit from last year
*Auto Theft spiked in spring but then dropped
*VUCSA (drugs) – made quite a few arrests in summer
*Gang-related fairly flat
*Robberies flat
*Commercial burglaries up in August, detectives working hard on that
*5 to 15 residential burglaries a month

Then back to Taylor, who quickly noted that Local Services puts out quarterly reports. Also, it has field-office days at the KCSO office in White Center – 10 am-3 pm Thursdays. Taylor said it’s “important to be out talking to people.”

He also noted that the second community forum on the Sub-Area Plan is set for 6-8 pm September 23rd at Seola Gardens.

Next, Robert Burns from DNRP
*They want to add green space in White Center and throughout the fall will work with community members regarding where that should be and how it’s used.

Josh Baldi with Water and Surface Water Management
*They inspect facilities like stormwater ponds, businesses (140 or so per quarter), public outreach/education …they’ve long been monitoring Hicklin Lake and are seeing grants to help with that.

Katie Terry, acting Parks director, talks about the just-passed levy
*improvements at Dick Thurnau Park
*Growing/connecting open space – researching “a couple of” White Center properties
*Improving mobility through local trails – like, extend Green River Trail to meet up with Duwamish River trail
*More accessible – like fixing drainage at Steve Cox Park

Jim Chen, permitting
*2,400+ permits in first half of year
* – expand online options – up to 52% of permits are handled online – once single-family permits are online, probably up to 70 percent
*Code Enforcement is one of their services
*Planning – June of 2020 is when they plam to deliver North Highline Subarea Plan
*This will set the stage for what can be built over the next 10-15 years

Road Services director
*1500 miles of road, 182 bridges, about 200 line staff who maintain that area
*They don’t see all the details so they need your help reporting it (here’s how)
*Very busy in WC – investing $400,000 in sidewalks, also improved striping, signs

Terry White from Metro
*He grew up in this area
*”Everybody deserves to move” – we don’t want to be like LA where you can’t move

Mark Ellerbrook of Housing, Homelessness, and Community Development
*White Center is an example of how city/county need to work together – positive feedback for Mary’s Place shelter
*WC Hub project (8th/108th), future vision for that site – “has a fair ways to go” – office, services, housing all in one spot – WCCDA, SWYFS, CHH – Probably a year away from applying for funding, another year for permit, so construction probably 3 years away
*Looking at microhousing demonstration project – what would it look like – in WC – ordinance due to council in December

From there, it was Q&A time. Some of the highlights (watch the video for everything):

Q: What about the floating islands in Hicklin Lake?
Baldi: They are legendary, were successful, felt good about the project.

Q: Why site microhousing in WC?
Ellerbrook: Lots of interest around it – what the county is doing is setting up zoning that would allow it to occur; a private developer would develop it. A 50-unit project is proposed (he stresses again they’re pushing for comments – council will consider demonstration ordinance). One rural project is proposed (Vashon), one urban (WC).

Comment: 4th SW is one lane feeding into Olson/Myers, everyone gets stuck behind someone turning left
Roads: It’s a KCHA project but come talk to us so we can get it investigated,

Q: What’s the 8th/102nd construction near WC Heights Elementary?
Roads: Sidewalks at each corner by the roundabout but no continued sidewalk on 8th. They tried for a grant, haven’t been successful yet.

Comment: The report earlier in the week on kids needing more play time seems counter to the White Center Hub taking away greenspace.

Comment: Trash pickup in WC has gotten better. Taylor says he used to work in solid waste, so that’s a big issue for him.

There was more discussion of the proposed microhousing.

Q: What is county doing to support Duwamish Tribe and get them recognition?

McDermott: We don’t have a formal relationship but he’s been doing land recognition at the County Council – regarding the Longhouse safety concerns, he’s written letters in support of grants, and wrote recently to the mayor,

Q: How does Elections verify names?
Wise: They keep a file of signatures. Even hers has been challenged. They challenge about 2% every election.

A comment led to some discussion about tax-exempt property. It was pointed out that only about 3% of the area’s parcels fall into that category.

Councilmember McDermott closed out the meeting by mentioning a few more things in progress – an anti-displacement measure, a Renters Commission, and more. The Town Hall was summed up as a “fantastic conversation.”

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4 Responses to “VIDEO: Updates and answers from King County reps at annual North Highline ‘Town Hall’ in White Center”

  1. WCN, who pointed out that “about 3% of the area’s parcels” are tax-exempt? Thanks.

  2. I believe that was Aaron Garcia of WCCDA. But I was near the front so I’m speaking from sound of voice – Patrick was recording from the side so our video may show for sure.

  3. Tabitha Estrada Says:

    How can we find out about these meetings? The roads from 4th feeding into olson/myeres need to be reverted back as it does create traffic and angry drivers.
    Also back away from my fireworks please. Its my favorite holiday because we can light things on fire. Shouldn’t be punished for someone elses negligence. How about we promote fire safety instead???

  4. We published two advance notices of this.