How would Seattle annexation affect the North Highline Fire District?

May 18th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 5 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

While it’s still a year and a half until the earliest date that residents of unincorporated North Highline would vote on Seattle annexation, a deadline is near:

The North Highline Fire District Board of Commissioners has two weeks to write up its position on the proposed annexation for the King County Boundary Review Board, whose public hearing starts two weeks after that.

But first, the board wants to make sure it has all the information it needs to take a stand. Some of it came during an extensive Q&A during the board’s Monday night meeting, with Seattle city and King County reps in attendance, but the board also is awaiting written answers to some key questions. By meeting’s end, the Seattle reps promised to speed it up, though NHFD lawyer Brian Snure observed that it would have been better if this information had all been in months earlier.

No way to go back in time. So here’s what did happen Monday night.

Guests for the discussion, which took up most of the public portion of the meeting (which ended with a closed-door session), were Seattle’s longtime annexation point person Kenny Pittman, Seattle Fire Department Assistant Chief of Operations Jay Hagen, and Karen Freeman from the King County Executive’s Office.

Existing Seattle Fire stations are well positioned to cover the NH area, Chief Hagen said, meeting the 4-minute response standard. “We try to get a fire engine to the emergency alarm location within 4 minutes, 90 percent of the time.” So if NH Engine 18 is busy, what does that do to response times? It would go up to 5 minutes, 10 seconds, but that’s still better than the service SE Seattle gets, he said. “In all four corners of the city, the coverage would be better here than other areas of Seattle.”

Commissioner Liz Giba asked what response time meant. “First we have to process the call – CPT is time from when the phone rings at public-safety answering point, they process the call, look for a geocoded address on the map, match to computer on fire apparatus, and send alarm to the station. When bell rings at station, we end answering time and start turnout time – until the wheels roll over threshold of station door. Then we have response time, the actual driving time to the incident. … We would ask them to gear up quicker for an aid (medical) response than for a structure fire response – an extra 20 seconds or so, about 80 seconds.”

That’s engine response, he explained. For ladder-truck response – West Seattle has only one, Ladder 11 at Station 32 in The Junction. But that’s about equidistant for what NH would get right now. “In a perfect world we’d like to rearrange things and have a ladder truck closer. … Those are the longer apparatus and the (ones) we use in Seattle are tillered, with asteering wheel on the back set of wheels … they do search and rescue, forcible entry, ventilation … they’re dedicated to certain functions on the fire ground. In Seattle we have about a 3 to 1 ratio, engines to ladders. If annexation occurs, the engine here would be the 34th engine in Seattle, and we have 11 ladder trucks spread around the city.”

SFD has a 4-platoon system, 4 groups of firefighters who relieve each other sequentially, while NH has a three-platoon system. sends two battalion chiefs to structure fires for command and control – “they’re the ones you might see with radios giving orders, or they might join firefighters inside the structure.” Then there’s Deputy 1 who has command over the entire city. All companies are staffed with four personnel at all times.

Medic unit coverage: Seattle has BLS (basic life support) – the EMT level of care, closest to the alarm location and they can get there and decide whether ALS (advanced life support) is needed or can they handle it on their own? “They pave the way to success by doing things (to prepare for) the ALS unit.” All Seattle firefighters are EMTs. The paramedics in King County, meantime, “all come from the same school … all highly regarded.” Last year, he said, they had a 62.5% cardiac-arrest survival rate. They get international visitors – one from the UK, for example, said that where he was from, they had a 12 percent survival rate. SFD is the “rolling classroom for Medic One.” He says they already provide a good level of service for ALS. But – Medic 4, he noted, is moving to downtown Burien this summer, close to NH. Seattle’s Medic 32 is at Station 37 (West Seattle’s southernmost station) during the rebuild of Station 32. “The honest truth is, when we go back to our normal condition, the medic unit is not as close as the (one) that serves this area – we’d have to do some work to make that an improvement.” They don’t have plans “developed” yet.

In response to Giba’s question, Hagen noted that the new Station 32 in the West Seattle Junction will be finished in about a year. He also noted that this area is “rich in need” – 1,000 ALS alarm in the past year. If you carved the same acreage from, say, West Seattle’s Admiral District, he said, that only generated 209 alarms in the past year.

Hagen said he thinks “there’s a great company here … at face value, not a lot would change. What’s notable to me is the depth and breadth of services that the city of Seattle could bring to bear … larger organization, more follow-on services, I think that would be noteworthy.” Comissioner Julie Hiatt asked about follow-on examples. “Technical rescue services, like trench rescue,” Hagen began. (A unit is positioned in SODO, 4th and Horton.)

North Highline (and Burien) Chief Mike Marrs said those services are provided through Zone 3 responses, any station out of King County. It would come out of on-duty firefighters as opposed to specialty crew members who are always on.

What if the specialists are busy? Giba asked. If it’s going to be more than 2 hours before they are, they have callbacks to bring personnel in. “Every Seattle firefighter is trained to the awareness of (assessing) operational level,” he said, how to call for additional resources, for example. They also could call for mutual aid if need be, Hagen said – Seattle is zone 5, South/West suburbs are zone 3.

Hiatt asked for an example. So Hagen spelled out a trench-rescue scenario, a “low priority, high impact, high risk type of emergency” that might happen every six weeks or so. If one is already in progress and a second one is called, the first-arriving firefighters know what to do – to stabilize the situation, waiting for more advanced resources to arrive. “Chances are we might do more than one of those things at once, reinstate our backup team AND call for mutual aid.”

Pittman then spoke. He said the average tax bill would go down in NH if annexed. Seattle “really does have a low tax rate because we have a huge assessed value and state law limits how much (they can charge). … Residents in this area are affected by special-purpose districts, and NHFD is a special-purpose district. If annexed … the only thing that would exist for Highline is if they passed a bond that would stay with property owners until paid off.”

“How about financing for the fire services?” Pittman’s reply: The city budgets overall for everything.

He mentioned the state sales tax that would be partly funneled to Seattle – $7.75 million a year for a 6-year period, while the previous version was $5 million for 10 years – without costing anyone anything more.

His spreadsheet showed that annual taxes on an average NH property would go down about $200 a year – dropping from $3,239 to $3,011.

Asked about the recently passed Move Seattle transportation levy, Pittman replied incorrectly that it wasn’t a property tax – but it is (“The $930 million levy will be paid for through a property tax that will cost the median Seattle household (valued at $450,000) about $275 per year, for nine years.”)

He was asked about school districts. This area would remain in the Highline Public Schools system unless something happened to change that in the future. The school districts would have to go to the Educational Service District to ake a change – “there are no plans to do that, and no discussions to my knowledge (about that).”

Back to fire-related matters. He mentioned that firefighters would retain their seniority and benefits – “the two unions would have some discussion among themselves” about who goes where,” and the Fire Departments also would have some details to work out, if there were any layoffs. But again, they’d need more firefighters than they have now. What about administrative staff? “We’re looking into that,” said Pittman.

What about rank? asked Giba. Pittman said that people would be evaluated on an individual basis to see if they met the qualifications for the Seattle version of the title they hold in NH. Hagen elaborated, “I called the president of Local 27 this morning, Kenny Stewart, to say we’d be having some of these discussions – he’s in pretty close communication with NH leadership, some of this stuff hasn’t been worked out yet.” They’d look at resumes, training, etc. Hiatt wondered if there are set criteria for evaluation. Local 27 VP Jeff Miller was in the room and said “That all gets worked out in union negotiations … as a union we wouldn’t be doing any evaluating but we’d be advocating for people to keep their seniority,” etc.

“It’s a pretty well-documented body of knowledge,” Hagen added.

Hiatt asked him for elaboration on administrative staff.

“They’re not necessarily at the fire stations – we have them at the training facility, Harborview, headquarters – I’m going to guess we have in the 50s, admin employees who are in Local 17.” Hagen said he couldn’t commit to what the situation would be under annexation – there’s one administrative staffer at the NHFD HQ – “I think we’d find a place for that person to go.”

What changes would people see in this building?

Pittman didn’t think many, but acknowledged that the building is used a lot for community meetings, so that would be worked out. The vehicles would be the biggest change.

No plans for station relocation? asked commissioner Dominic Barrera.

“Not at this time,” said Pittman. If there was a need to relocate the building, he added, it would probably be a little further north and east, “but there are no plans for that, let me be real clear.”

The real question, he said, is whether the plans would continue for a station in the potentially to-be-annexed area, “and there are no plans to have no station here” – he pointed out that this station would help service parts of West Seattle too.

“Is there any way you can give us an assurance there will always be a station in area Y?” asked Hiatt.

“An iron-clad guarantee? … It wouldn’t make sense to not have one in this area,” said Hagen.

“But it doesn’t make sense to not have one in Arbor Heights,” Hiatt pressed (an area annexed to Seattle in xxx). “… We wouldn’t want to be Arbor Heights.”

What about mutual-aid agreements if north Burien suddenly was without the NH fire station? Seattle already has several, said Hagen.

Do you feel a responsibility to north Burien? pressed Hiatt, saying it would leave “a hole.”

The Boundary Review Board would look at “doing no harm,” replied Pittman. He also said he had been “having conversations with Chief (Mike) Marrs … we take it very seriously.”

Hagen mentioned Seattle’s remodeling of fire stations – 30 of 33 done – “we would be making (upgrades) to this station,” including a decontamination area. “We’ve made a commitment to storing our protetive ensemble in a cimte-clintrolled system … with airflow through … the gear degrades a lot more quickly if we don’t take care of it. So we’ve made a commitment to appropriate gear storage facilities.” He said they also are committed to seat belts, strapping things down in cabs, cancer and heart attack. They also have put a functional gym system in every fire station, for health and wellness. They have facilities to capture the “diesel soot” as engines come in and out. “And on sleeping arrangements, we have gone to 1 person per room.”

Mutual aid is not automatic right now for Seattle, Hagen acknowledged, but it could be.

That surfaced concerns about North Burien losing coverage if the remaining portion of North Highline became part of Seattle. So – How would Burien get pre-approved for (automatic) Seattle mutual aid? Hagen said the county’s 50 fire chiefs meet regularly, and Seattle’s new Chief Harold Scoggins “is very comfortable operating in that environment … I see it as a trend we’re moving toward in this county.”

“Wouldn’t being the closest to Arbor Heights put an additional strain on this station?” asked Barbara Dobkin of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

Hagen pointed out that “if we remove the political boundary,” then Engine 26 (South Park) and Engine 11 (Highland Park) would take part of what’s currently the North Highline area, so this station wouldn’t necessarily be serving everything it does AND more.

Pittman then picked up the timeline. The Boundary Review Board takes this up in June. Either a November 2017 or November 2018 election could follow. The former would result in annexation taking effect in January 2019, after a “full-blown budget process with the City Council.” Or, if a 2018 vote, then it would take effect in January 2020. “So there’s time to work out these issues.”

“So shouldn’t people have answers to these questions before they vote?” asked Giba.

Yes, and that’s what they’re working on now, said Hagen and Pittman. Two to three weeks away.

“We have to take a position and develop a brief on annexation and whether we support it by May 27th,” before the Boundary Review Board meeting, said the NHFD board’s lawyer. Without all the answers, it would be difficult for them to support it. So, the lawyer said, why do you have to have a Boundary Review Board hearing this soon for a November 2017 annexation vote?

Because they already asked for a one-year extension,and the main issue – the tax credit – has been addressed, Pittman said.

Anything you’d like to add? Giba asked Freeman.

No, she replied, but she’d answer questions.

First question – is King County financially assisting any government over these annexed areas? No, she said. Part of why we’re supporting annexations is because we (are low on money).

What about finding North Burien a place to build a fire station? Freeman recapped some past discussions including “an agreement that sunsetted in 2012” – the year by which the county had envisioned all the annexations would be complete. “We’re well past that date and we’re not done.” Three “islands” are claimed by Renton, there’s one outside Federal Way, there’s this one, and “63 smaller islands” elsewhere in the county.

“So you’re not going to find a parcel for North Burien (fire station) if the annexation goes through?” Hiatt asked.

“That’s correct,” said Freeman.

What would happen to the community if annexation was voted in, before it took effect? Dobkin asked.

We’d continue to serve it as best we can, said Freeman, adding that the county is looking at a “significant budget shortfall” in the next biennium. And “service continues to degrade.”

Pittman pointed out that it would only be a year between the vote and annexation taking effect.

Hiatt wondered if medic mutual aid could be available out of Burien, expressing concern that there’s just one unit in WS and it’s a ways away. “There’s a couple options” said Hagen – “one would be to make an arrangement with Medic 4 to provide that service in this area, the existing medic unit in West Seattle could be relocated further south …” Currently, they don’t call for mutual aid until everyone’s tied up, but that could change, Hagen said. “…I can tell you your concern is heard.” But, “There’s really no good reason we don’t have automatic aid right now … we can give easier than we can get … most of the time.”

Pat Price from NHUAC asked about timetable for the Duwamish annexation and how that’s affecting NHFD. “We’re still working through the interlocal agreement with King County … still looking at (possibly) putting it on November ballot this year, and it would take effect in 2018.”

Chief Hagen committed to getting answers to the e-mailed questions as soon as possible – even if partial, Hiatt stressed and he agreed to that.

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SEATTLE ANNEXATION? Next discussion: North Highline Fire District Board on May 16th

May 6th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on SEATTLE ANNEXATION? Next discussion: North Highline Fire District Board on May 16th

Quick followup to the announcement at last night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting (WCN coverage here) that the King County Boundary Review Board has scheduled its public hearing on possible Seattle annexation:

As mentioned in our story, the BRB public hearings are set for 7 pm June 13-14 at the Technology Access Foundation’s Bethaday Community Space.

We followed up this morning with Seattle city government’s point person on the proposed annexation, Kenny Pittman. He said the city is still waiting for its formal notification of what’s on the BRB website, so it hasn’t made an official announcement of the hearings yet. He also said the city has yet to set up the webpage it promised at the March Dubsea Coffee community meeting, with information about the proposal and process. We asked if any further community conversations are scheduled; not yet, he said, but he did mention that he will be at the North Highline Fire District board’s meeting on May 16th (7 pm, NHFD HQ, 1243 SW 112th) at the board’s invitation, and will be bringing along a Seattle Fire assistant chief.

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VIDEO: Seattle Channel looks at the annexation debate

March 28th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on VIDEO: Seattle Channel looks at the annexation debate

In our coverage of the March 17th annexation conversation at Dubsea Coffee, we mentioned a Seattle Channel crew was present. Here’s the result of their work: An episode of “City Inside/Out devoted to the annexation debate, hosted by Brian Callanan. The SC website lists the guests:

Bobby Beeman, President, White Center Chamber
Justin Cline, Owner, Full Tilt Ice Cream
Barbara Dobkin, President, North Highline Unincorporated Area Council
Joe Fitzgibbon, State Rep. (D-34th)
Sibelle Nguyen, Owner, Dubsea Coffee
Kenny Pittman, City of Seattle
Virginia San Pedro, White Center Better Life Nutrition
Sili Savusa, Executive Director, White Center Community Development Association
Kathy Snyder, White Center Resident

Its next cable airing, if you have the Seattle Channel, is 10 pm tonight.

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Annexation ‘conversation’ begins with standing-room-only event @ Dubsea Coffee

March 17th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 9 Comments »

(Also published on partner site West Seattle Blog)

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Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
White Center Now/West Seattle Blog co-publishers

Just because White Center (and vicinity) voters said no to Burien doesn’t mean they’re ready to say yes to Seattle.

That was abundantly clear during tonight’s standing-room-only annexation “conversation” at Dubsea Coffee in Greenbridge, barely a block south of the city-county line.

Some in attendance loudly voiced skepticism and outright distrust of the city’s motives and even suitability.

Others asked simple questions about what changes annexation would bring.

The city’s longtime point person on annexation, Kenny Pittman, led the discussion, saying he wanted to offer “basic information” and answer questions, and promising more meetings and “outreach.”

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He’s been working on the annexation issue for 12 1/2 years, he told the crowd of 50+, which included White Center community advocates and entrepreneurs.

He recapped why it’s on the front burner now – as first reported on our partner site White Center Now, Governor Inslee has signed a Legislature-passed bill that will divert millions of sales-tax dollars to Seattle to cover the costs of taking on the added residents and acreage.

Early on, he said annexation isn’t going to happen overnight:

If the city seeks and gets Boundary Review Board permission and the county sends it to voters in what remains of unincorporated North Highline, the earliest vote would be November 2017, and a “yes” vote then would lead to annexation taking effect in early 2019. Or, the timeline could be a year behind that, Pittman said.

Arriving late due to a transportation snarl, Karen Freeman from King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s staff underscored what the county’s message has long been – that the area must be annexed, because the county is not equipped, nor intended to, provide urban services.

Some wondered why White Center couldn’t become its own city. That was studied, said Freeman, but there just wasn’t a big-enough population/tax base for that to work.

That answer did not go over well with everyone.

But the informal presentation, and Q/A, ran to the basics, too. Such as – who would provide services, if county residents became city residents? The North Highline Fire District currently serves the area; its fire station on SW 112th would become a Seattle Fire Department station, said Pittman, and services would be provided as needed from north of Roxbury as well (West Seattle has five fire stations; South Park has one).

The Seattle Police Department would add officers, Pittman said, mentioning the number 40, at one point. Several outspoken attendees clearly believed they would be needed, repeatedly mentioning concern over Seattle’s crime rate, and the fact that some Seattleites are augmenting police with private security. Safety isn’t just a matter of police, Pittman countered, saying watchful neighbors are vital too, even where he lives (which, he volunteered, is in the Thurston County city of Lacey).

For schools, the area would remain with Highline Public Schools, until and unless HPS and Seattle Public Schools sought and reached some sort of agreement, which would then require approval by the Puget Sound Educational Service District. That sort of agreement is not currently being sought, it was stressed: “At this time, we are not looking at that at all.”

Pittman suggested that North Highline would get extra educational services as a result of annexation anyway, because of what the city has added on, including the Families and Education Levy, and the new Seattle Preschool Program.

He also declared that property tax would be lower after annexation, and acknowledged that would sound impossible, given the current complaint that people in Seattle are passing tax levies nonstop. The reduction, Pittman suggested, would be because residents would no longer be paying special levies for basic services such as roads, fire, and libraries.

That last point is one of contention, because King County Library System’s brand-new White Center Library is opening soon, a library for which WC community advocates and library supporters fought long and hard, built years behind schedule. The city and county are talking now about its fate, but at the very least, KCLS might continue managing it for a while after annexation.

Other questions – What would the transition for businesses be like? The question came from Proletariat Pizza proprietor Mike Albaeck:

prolepizza

The city has a business tax, Pittman acknowledged, though it’s not charged to those making below $100,000 a year. A business license is required. And while some might be concerned about Seattle’s so-called $15/hour minimum wage, it’s not up to that level for anyone yet, and small businesses currently are paying $12/hour, said Pittman.

He added that it’s not just a matter of paying and getting nothing in return, the city offers economic development. And that’s when a skeptical attendee spoke up passionately, saying White Center isn’t just “the unincorporated area,” it’s a small town, one of the last “blue-collar neighborhoods,” with a lot of pride. “I don’t want to see a Starbucks on every corner,” she declared, accusing the city of “ignoring us … forever.”

She was countered by longtime White Center resident and former Chamber of Commerce leader Mark Ufkes, who said he’s been talking with Pittman for the dozen or so years that Seattle annexation has been an on-and-off possibility.

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But, he warned, if Pittman was going to be the only Seattle rep evangelizing annexation, “(it) will be voted down.”

More skepticism followed. The first questioner declared she considered the Seattle City Council to be “weird.” (The council would have to sign off on sending annexation to North Highline voters.)

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Questions about zoning veered into concerns that developers would “run amok” as they are perceived to have done in Seattle, and would densify the area. What would happen to zoning? Pittman was asked. Freeman suggested that was a bright spot, as Seattle has a community-planning department, which the county does not have, though it did just hire a planner to work on Vashon Island issues.

Pittman added that the planning would involve adjacent neighborhoods as well, such as Highland Park and Roxhill, as had been requested by the nearest West Seattle community council, Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights CC (here’s our coverage of the recent meeting at which that was discussed; Pittman had spoken there about the annexation process’s status).

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Members of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, the potential annexation area’s lone community council, were there tonight, and asked pointed questions too.

(corrected) Another attendee wondered if Seattle would increase the amount of low-income housing in White Center. Pittman said the area is not and would not be a “dumping ground.”

How would annexation affect transit? an attendee asked. The county is responsible for it, but the city has been paying extra to buy additional service, Pittman mentioned, funded by the Seattle Transportation Benefit District‘s sales tax and car-tab tax.

What about parks and the birds they draw? Pittman replied that they would be transferred to the city.

Seattle would not take over all utilities, though – the areas served by sewer and water districts would keep that service (some of the potential annexation area has water service from Seattle Public Utilities, and that would continue).

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A mix of information and consternation continued until the meeting closed at 6:30 pm as promised; Pittman thanked everyone for taking time “on a beautiful day” to show up and speak up.

WHAT’S NEXT: No schedule yet for the promised additional meetings. Pittman said the city will have a website and other ways of obtaining information. You can also watch the Boundary Review Board’s site for meeting agendas – proposed Seattle annexation would have to show up there, and go through board hearings and decisions, long before getting to voters.

P.S. A Seattle Channel crew recorded the meeting; we’re checking with SC to find out about plans for broadcast/webcast.

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FOLLOWUP: Governor signs annexation tax-credit bill

March 11th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on FOLLOWUP: Governor signs annexation tax-credit bill

Governor Inslee has signed SB 5864 into law. That’s the bill that would divert millions of dollars in state sales-tax money to the City of Seattle to cover the costs of annexing unincorporated North Highline (see its history here). We first reported the bill’s passage last week. Seattle’s annexation point person Kenny Pittman had told a West Seattle community council last month that it was progressing through the Legislature and that its finalization had to happen before the city would consider proceeding with the proposed annexation.

Next step: Activating the city’s on-hold application to the King County Boundary Review Board. We’ll be checking this morning on the timeline for that.

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Seattle annexation? 2 new developments: Tax credit passes House; gathering set at Dubsea

March 2nd, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 15 Comments »

Two developments regarding the possibility of Seattle annexing what’s left of unincorporated North Highline:

TAX CREDIT PASSES: The bill that would provide funding for the costs of annexation, by diverting some state sales tax to an annexing city, passed the State House on Tuesday, 64-33 (with both representatives from this district, Rep. Eileen Cody and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, voting yes). It had already passed the Senate – where it was sponsored by the 34th District Senator Sharon Nelson – so the final step is for it to be signed into law.

‘IF’ GATHERING ON MARCH 17TH: We don’t know where this has been officially announced, but we just happened onto it via social media – the City of Seattle’s annexation point person Kenny Pittman is hosting a conversation at Dubsea Coffee in Greenbridge at 5:30 pm on March 17th, “If White Center Were to Become a Seattle Neighborhood.” Here’s the Facebook event page, which says a county representative will be there too – e-mail Pittman at kenny.pittman@seattle.gov with questions. He had told a West Seattle community council earlier this year that the prospect of moving ahead with annexation was on hold pending the passage of the aforementioned tax-credit bill, but that if all factors aligned, the issue could be sent to North Highline voters as soon as next year.

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Annexation revelations at meeting in West Seattle

February 2nd, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 4 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Tonight’s meeting of the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council focused on future planning for not only the southernmost part of the area the group covers, but also White Center, since the group – WWRHAH for short – thinks the two areas should be looked at as potentially one, given the possibility of annexation.

During the meeting, new information about that possibility came to light. Kenny Pittman, long a City of Seattle point person on annexation, said it looks like the State Legislature is going to pass a new tax-credit incentive for annexation – higher than the previous one; he said it’s made it out of the Senate and is expected to win passage in the House.

If that is finalized – and if the Seattle City Council votes to pursue annexation – he expected it could go to a vote in North Highline as soon as November 2017. But the council isn’t necessarily a lock; underscoring that, the new West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember, Lisa Herbold, was in the audience. Her position toward annexation during the campaign was less than enthusiastic.

In the meantime, the proposal has been introduced to the King County Boundary Review Board but won’t be moved forward in the process until and unless the tax credit is finalized, Pittman said.

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin, at the WWRHAH meeting as was NHUAC board member Pat Price, told Pittman he needed to come to this community with an update, since even the tax-credit status was news to them.

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Will White Center become part of Seattle? Annexation is Topic A at this year’s WC Summit

December 5th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center Community Development Association, White Center news 2 Comments »

Will White Center become part of Seattle? The potential process is only in the earliest of stages, but it’s the main topic of this year’s White Center Summit, convened by the WC Community Development Association and continuing until 3 pm at Cascade Middle School.

One year ago, the Seattle City Council put itself on record as taking the initial steps toward potential annexation, mostly as a procedural move that had to be made to keep the city’s options open, especially for a tax credit that would be vital to funding annexation. The city had reps at today’s event, including AJ Cari from the Office of Economic Development:

He was talking about the kind of services that would potentially be available for White Center businesses if the area became part of Seattle. But there are many steps before that would come close to even potential reality. The discussion continues at the White Center Summit for another hour and a half.

SIDE NOTE: In the first-ever election for a West Seattle/South Park-specific City Council member, which is just now finalizing a recount, annexation was one of the points of difference between the candidates. Lisa Herbold, expected to be officially announced as the winner on Monday, is not the unabashed supporter that opponent Shannon Braddock had been. Herbold will be one of four new members on the nine-member council as of the first of the year. One of the other three, Lorena González, is a West Seattle resident who won one of the council’s two at-large seats.

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Talk annexation and more at this year’s White Center Summit on December 5

November 24th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center Community Development Association, White Center news Comments Off on Talk annexation and more at this year’s White Center Summit on December 5

Saturday, December 5th, from 8:30 am-2 pm, you’re invited to the White Center Summit, presented by the WC Community Development Association at Cascade Middle School (11212 10th SW). This year, a special focus will be on possible annexation of the area; no full-fledged proposal is pending right now, but that could change at any time, since the city of Seattle took initial steps a year ago. Here’s the summit announcement:

Each year the White Center CDA hosts a community summit to bring neighbors together to talk about the state of their community and plan for White Center’s future – on Dec. 5, the annual summit will highlight the topic of annexation, and the impact of becoming part of the City of Seattle. If White Center residents vote “yes” to annexation, how will public services, education, housing, health, taxes, economic development, and the built environment be impacted? The event will feature speakers from both the City of Seattle and King County weighing in on their perspectives. Currently, White Center is a part of unincorporated King County, meaning it is without city governance and relies solely on the support of the county. In the 2015 White Center Community Survey, 78% of respondents said they either don’t know about annexation, or have heard of the issue but do not understand it.

Residents will have opportunities to ask questions about annexation and then break-out into smaller groups for more in-depth discussion. Youth are highly encouraged to attend as there will also be two youth breakout sessions.

The event will include the following:

*Presentation of the results of the White Center CDA’s community survey and a “data snapshot” including the state of housing, health, and education, and information about White Center’s demographics

*Keynote speakers from the City and County, and opportunity for live-polling feedback and Q&A

*Break-out groups for neighbors to discuss the issues facing White Center in more depth

*For youth, the choice to attend one of two breakouts: “Visual Storytelling – Stories of Immigrants & Refugees” facilitated by Erika Berg or “Anti-junk Food Campaign & White Center’s Food Landscape” facilitated by youth from FEEST

Throughout the event there will be a resource fair with organizations that residents can connect to. These organizations include the local White Center Food Bank, Seattle Art Museum, Airport Jobs, Highline Public Schools, and more. Breakfast and lunch, child care, and interpretation for Vietnamese, Somali, Spanish, and Khmer will all be provided. There will also be local entertainment throughout the day, such as a DJ and photo booth.

Please register for this event via this link: tinyurl.com/WCSUMMIT2015

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VIDEO: What was said at this morning’s brief ‘briefing’ on possible Seattle annexation of White Center/North Highline

June 3rd, 2015 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on VIDEO: What was said at this morning’s brief ‘briefing’ on possible Seattle annexation of White Center/North Highline

The briefing at this morning’s meeting of the Seattle City Council Education and Governance Committee was indeed brief; when the video is available via Seattle Channel‘s website, we’ll post it here so you can see for yourself. (ADDED EARLY THURSDAY: Here it is.)

The topline is that Seattle will go ahead and file the next round of paperwork with the Boundary Review Board by Friday, to continue to preserve its options for getting the state sales tax credit, but it was reiterated multiple times that this is just procedural so far and that there are many more points along the way where they would be able to say “no, we’re not proceeding.” While the filing will trigger a six-month period with the BRB, it was also said by city staffer Kenny Pittman – long the point person on this process – that extensions would be possible and almost certainly sought. And it was reiterated multiple times that the city would not annex without a vote of the people in the North Highline area. One more note: They’re still hoping that, during this Legislative special session in Olympia, the tax credit will be beefed up, to $8 million a year for a finite period, rather than the currently on-the-books $5 million.

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North Highline annexation? Seattle City Council committee to discuss Wednesday, with Friday deadline for filing ‘intention’ notice

June 1st, 2015 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 1 Comment »

Just received the Seattle City Council Education and Governance Committee agenda for this Wednesday (June 3rd), 9:30 am, and it includes a discussion on two potential annexation areas for the city – one of which is the remaining unincorporated North Highline area. This is a briefing item, not a vote; the NH-related portion of the staff memo says:

In December 2014, the Council passed Res. 31559 calling for the annexation of the larger and more populated North Highline Annexation Area. At that time, the Council made clear its intent that this resolution was a placeholder to preserve the ability to take advantage of an expiring state sales tax incentive that could come with annexation. The incentive redirects to the City $5 million a year in sales tax revenues for 10 years, but there have been attempts by the City and the County to improve this incentive from the State Legislature. A legislative proposal was floated to change the incentive to $8 million a year for 6 years, but nothing has been adopted at this time. The City’s efforts in this regard are ongoing.

This Council has not yet taken a policy position on the merits of annexation of North
Highline. In order to preserve the option of utilizing the existing sales tax credit, Res. 31559 calls for the filing of a Notice of Intention to Annex with the BRB within 180 days of passage of the resolution. June 5 is the last day to file this notice, which essentially continues and solidifies the placeholder set by the Council last December.

If the BRB completes its review and determines that the City may proceed, the Council would need to make a policy decision about whether or not to send an annexation vote to the residents of North Highline. Presumably, such a decision would come after an extensive public outreach process and more detailed discussions regarding financial and operational considerations.

The committee meets in the City Council chambers in downtown Seattle at 600 Fourth Avenue. If you can’t be there in person, the meeting will be webcast live at seattlechannel.org.

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Video: Seattle Council approves ‘placeholder’ resolution regarding White Center (and vicinity) annexation

December 15th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on Video: Seattle Council approves ‘placeholder’ resolution regarding White Center (and vicinity) annexation

(ADDED: Full Seattle Channel video of this afternoon’s meeting)

2:04 PM: Just before its morning meeting wrapped up today, Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess described the annexation resolution to be discussed this afternoon as a “placeholder” – to keep the state’s tax-credit support from expiring – not necessarily a declaration that they intend to carry it through. The afternoon meeting has just begun; it is starting with council discussion of other matters and then public comment – you can watch live online here.

2:13 PM: First up in the public-comment period is Amanda Kay Helmick from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council (who also is running for Seattle City Council, though she is speaking in her role as WWRHAH chair rather than as a candidate). She is talking about her work on an updated neighborhood plan for the area and why annexation would make sense so that the planning does not address, for example, one side of Roxbury and not the other. The speaker after her, who said he lives in Burien, opposed annexation, saying Seattle can’t be trusted.

2:31 PM: Lost our connection to the stream but the last speaker was Barbara Dobkin, president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, which has historically supported annexation by Burien – you’ll recall that Seattle stepped aside to allow Burien to have an annexation election in 2012, but a majority of those who voted rejected the proposal, and after some leadership changes, Burien has so far declined to resume pursuing it. (We’ll be adding video of the hearing as soon as Seattle Channel turns it around.)

2:39 PM: The resolution is up now. Councilmember Burgess again describes it as a “placeholder” and talks about many issues that would have to be resolved before Seattle would wholeheartedly approve it – including financial help via a better state tax credit. He also notes that it’s not clear there’s majority support in the potential annexation area for joining Seattle. “There are multiple offramps on this road going forward,” he elaborates. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, the only West Seattle resident on the council, says he supports “keeping the option open.” Councilmember Kshama Sawant says she thinks it’s reasonable for the city and county to ask the state to cover the extra cost of services if the area was annexed, but she says, ultimately the area consists of “human beings” with needs they deserve to have filled.

2:45 PM: Burgess clarifies that the annexation proposal would not change the school-district boundaries – this area, if Seattle annexed it, would remain part of Highline Public Schools. And shortly after that, the annexation resolution passed 8-0. Its text says that even if pursued avidly, an election wouldn’t be possible until 2016. We’ll keep close watch on the process as – if – it goes.

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Followup: Seattle Council considers annexation proposal Monday afternoon

December 13th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 6 Comments »

As first reported here a week ago, a proposal to annex White Center and vicinity has suddenly surfaced before the Seattle City Council. This Monday (December 15), they’ll vote on whether to take the first step toward calling for residents of the potential annexation area to vote on the idea. One big caveat, though: As pointed out in the council memo, the main reason this has jumped to the forefront is that Seattle leaders want to make sure the annexation tax credit doesn’t expire – since they plan to ask for even more incentive, because of how much it’ll cost the city to provide services to the area, among other costs. So the resolution that’ll be considered Monday says this is NOT a commitment that they’ll pursue the process to the end:

… the City and King County intend to request additional financial assistance from the state to bridge the financial gap between revenues and the spending needed to serve the North Highline Annexation Area. Although this resolution initiates an annexation election, the City will continue to evaluate the advisability of such annexation pending the state’s decision regarding increased financial assistance.

The council meeting starts at 2 pm in Seattle City Council chambers at City Hall downtown, and traditionally begins with a public-comment period.

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Seattle annexation of White Center? City Council bringing it up again

December 5th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 5 Comments »

Just spotted on the Seattle City Council’s Introduction/Referral Calendar – a proposal to ask White Center and the rest of unincorporated North Highline to vote on annexation. Documents accompanying the resolution say that it’s not likely the vote could be held before 2016, because of the Boundary Review Board process that would have to lead up to it. No date set yet for this to come before the council. Since posting the first short item on our partner site West Seattle Blog, we’ve learned that the discussion started in the council’s Education/Governance Committee two days ago, as detailed in this memo by a council staffer. It is time-sensitive – unless Seattle takes a step like this before the end of the year, the state tax credit that’s been in place several years as an annexation incentive will expire. More to come …

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Followup: Seattle City Council passes resolution to seek South Park annexation vote, continue North Highline ‘potential future annexation … discussions’

February 10th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on Followup: Seattle City Council passes resolution to seek South Park annexation vote, continue North Highline ‘potential future annexation … discussions’

Following up on our report last week – the Seattle City Council approved the resolution a committee had OK’d last week, seeking to annex two unincorporated areas in South Park, known as the “Sliver by the River” and the “Duwamish Triangle.” They’ll take it to the Boundary Review Board, seeking the go-ahead to put the proposal on a ballot for voter consideration in those areas. The resolution – which you can see here – also says “the City Council and Mayor intend to continue discussions with King County regarding the City’s potential future annexation by election of the North Highline Potential Annexation Area, known as Area Y…” That’s the only mention of Area Y in this resolution, which does not trigger any action regarding North Highline, as clarified in Seattle Council discussion last week. We’ll add video of today’s meeting when it’s available on the Seattle Channel website.

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Video: Annexation discussion at Seattle City Council committee

February 5th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on Video: Annexation discussion at Seattle City Council committee

That’s the video of today’s Seattle City Council Education and Governance Committee meeting. The annexation discussion didn’t come up until roughly the last half-hour, and there were some interesting revelations. Last year, it was explained, a variety of meetings led to the county trying to get Seattle to agree to annex all three potential annexation areas – the South Park “Sliver by the River” and Duwamish Triangle, plus North Highline’s Area Y. Seattle did not want to commit to Area Y because of the cost. The county finally agreed, the explanation continued, to let Seattle pursue the South Park areas, if it would commit to continued discussions about Area Y. So what’s happening now is that Seattle wants to hold an election in the two South Park areas. And it is committed to keep talking about Area Y, but nothing more (it was reiterated that if Seattle DID pursue Area Y annexation, it would be by vote of the people, not any other way). The resolution passed unanimously today in the committee now goes to the full council next Monday.

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Seattle City Council to pursue annexation vote for unincorporated areas of South Park; resolution briefly mentions North Highline

January 31st, 2014 Tracy Posted in Annexation, south park, White Center news 4 Comments »

11:09 AM: Of note for those continuing to wonder if Seattle will pursue White Center (and vicinity) annexation in the wake of the Burien rejection – we have just learned that a Seattle City Council committee is going to pursue an annexation vote for the two unincorporated sections of South Park, the “Sliver by the River” and “Duwamish Triangle.” Details are on our partner site The South Park News.

ADDED 11:18 AM: We didn’t catch it on first readthrough but the resolution DOES include a brief mention of North Highline’s “Area Y” – seventh paragraph:

WHEREAS, the City Council and Mayor intend to continue discussions with King County regarding the City’s potential future annexation by election of the North Highline Potential Annexation Area, known as Area Y…

That is mostly mentioned in support of why Seattle believes it should annex the Duwamish areas. But stay tuned!

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Update: Seattle City Council not likely to consider Area Y’s future for months

February 19th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Annexation, Politics, White Center news Comments Off on Update: Seattle City Council not likely to consider Area Y’s future for months

(UPDATED: Video below is the archived clip from this morning’s meeting)

9:08 AM: Clicking “play” will bring you the live stream of the Seattle Channel, where the Seattle City Council’s weekly briefing meeting is under way. Toward the end of that scheduled two-hour meeting – around 10:40 am – the council will hear an update on potential annexation areas. It’s been focused on the South Park “sliver by the river” and Duwamish Triangle, but we’re told that Area Y will be discussed too. We’ll have toplines during the meeting, too. (If you have any trouble with the video window above, just follow the link in our first line to the Seattle Channel and watch the live stream on their site.)

11:07 AM: We’ll substitute the archived video of this morning’s discussion as soon as it’s available. Meantime, not much was said about North Highline/Area Y – except that Seattle leaders are not likely to take a closer look at it before late this year at the earliest. Here’s our as-it-happened notes on how the entire discussion of possible Seattle annexations went:

The discussion began at 10:43 am. Meg Moorehead from Council Central staff reminds councilmembers there are four possible annexation areas in all. She notes that Council directed them months ago to pursue the two South Park areas and not stand in the way of Burien’s then-attempt to annex Area Y. She reminds that there are four ways to annex: 1. Vote of the people in the annexation area, 2. Petition of property owners with at least 60 percent of property value, 3. Interlocal agreement.

SLIVER ON THE RIVER + DUWAMISH TRIANGLE = ‘SLIVER Q‘: First, she updates the “Sliver on the River” – it will officially be a Seattle potential annexation area as of March 4th when countywide planning policy is complete. Regarding the Duwamish Triangle, they had started discussions – when businesses there took note and submitted a petition for Tukwila to annex them. Since property owners submitted the petition representing at least 60 percent of the assessed value, that kept Seattle from taking further action at the time. Then, on February 14th, the Boundary Review Board officially said no to Tukwila (we had reported the preliminary decision here). Moorehead said the city had wanted to annex both South Park areas because while the sliver is a “revenue drain,” the Triangle is not. But everything is in limbo right now because there is a monthlong period for an appeal to be filed. If there is an appeal, it will take several months; if not, annexation could come back to the council, via interlocal agreement, before year’s end. And if that doesn’t work out, they could pursue a vote of the people. The population is relatively low, there, which is why that’s not being pursued first – about 110 registered voters, city staffers say. The soonest a vote could be pursued would be February 2014.

Regarding the interlocal agreement, Clark says it wouldn’t just be the entities discussing it in a back room so far – she vows there would be a lot of outreach and discussion with the business committee.

AREA ‘Y’: Moorehead mentions that studies have shown the cost of annexing Area Y would exceed the revenue brought in, and that’s why the Council had taken a pass in recent years, and let Burien take a shot at it. She notes the Burien rejection does not necessarily mean the area wants Seattle. She says staffers propose that they handle Sliver Q – the South Park areas – before deciding anything about Area Y, with a discussion to follow in late 2013 or early 2014. She mentions there is an incentive to deal with it in 2014 because of the sales-tax credit expiring at the start of 2015.

Moorehead also reminds councilmembers that a small area of about 10 homes near Lake Ridge Park in southeast Seattle is a potential annexation area too and should be dealt with before long. As for West Hill, though, which rejected Renton last November, that is NOT a potential annexation area for Seattle.

So the next step in all this depends on what happens with the possible appeal period for “Sliver Q.”

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Seattle City Council schedules ‘Annexations’ briefing next Tuesday

February 14th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline Fire District, south park, White Center news Comments Off on Seattle City Council schedules ‘Annexations’ briefing next Tuesday

4:44 PM: Does Seattle have renewed interest in the bulk of North Highline, now that voters have said no to Burien? We might get a hint next Tuesday, when the Seattle City Council’s morning briefing – usually scheduled for Mondays, but delayed because of Presidents Day – includes an agenda item titled “Annexations.” The only supporting documents accompanying the agenda right now are two maps of the unincorporated area – this one (which appears oriented toward discussing fire services) and this one – which don’t give a hint as to the prospective discussion’s direction. One of the presenters is Council President Sally Clark, with whom we checked when the Boundary Review Board rejected Tukwila’s proposed annexation of the so-called “Duwamish Triangle” area in southern South Park. Seattle had been interested in pursuing both that area and South Park’s “Sliver by the River,” but when we had checked with Clark, she said there wasn’t yet a plan for what the city planned to do next. Once we get a response to our questions, we’ll add it; in the meantime, the briefing is toward the end of the 9 am Seattle City Council briefing meeting next Tuesday at City Hall.

9 PM: We have heard from Council President Clark, who tells WCN/WSB:

… we scheduled this briefing to bring councilmembers up to speed on both:

1. Area Y (North Highline) after the rejection of Burien by voters in November.
2. Sliver Q – the catchy new name for the Duwamish Triangle and the Sliver by the River together.

We’ll cover what may happen now after the Area Y vote and after the Boundary Review Board’s rejection of Tukwila’s petition.

If you can’t make it to downtown Seattle for the briefing, it’ll be live on the Seattle Channel’s website – seattlechannel.org – as are all the City Council’s proceedings. No votes are taken during “briefing” meetings, but we’ll keep an eye on the agenda to see if any additional documents turn up by Tuesday.

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Another annexation rejected: Tukwila’s Duwamish Triangle bid

January 10th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Annexation, south park, White Center news 4 Comments »

The most recent round of bids to take unincorporated areas off King County’s hands have now gone 0-3: In last November’s election, White Center and vicinity said no to Burien and the West Hill area said no to Renton; tonight, King County’s Boundary Review Board said no to Tukwila’s proposed annexation of the Duwamish Triangle – aka North Highline Area Q – on the south side of South Park. More details on our partner site The South Park News.

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