ANNEXATION? Boundary Review Board’s final vote on potential Seattle annexation of North Highline

July 14th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 5 Comments »

7:15 PM: We’re in Newcastle, at Bellevue Fire Station #9, where King County’s Boundary Review Board is in its regular meeting – exactly one month after the conclusion of its two-day hearing on Seattle’s proposal to annex White Center and most of the rest of what’s left of unincorporated North Highline. (Our coverage of that hearing: Night one here, night two here.)

Tonight, the board is scheduled to take its final vote on whether to approve the proposal. This meeting doesn’t include any further public testimony; no one is here but us and two City of Seattle representatives. Their approval is still just another step in a long process; we’ll get into that once they take their action.

7:19 PM: Board members had no further comments, questions, or discussion of the proposed approval before voting to approve it, with one “no” vote (Laura Kiselius) and one abstention. The board’s executive Lenora Blauman says this now means the motion will be filed tomorrow and that will open a 30-day appeal period. There is one point of discussion after the vote – a member says there were some important concerns raised at the hearing, and she hopes that they can be pointed out in the cover letter to the motion, to ensure the city of Seattle is officially aware of those concerns. It was subsequently noted that two Seattle reps are here, and the board member said that’s why she pointed it out. Without further discussion, that concluded the item and they’ve moved on to unrelated business.

7:26 PM: Here’s where the process goes from here – after the appeal period, if the decision stands, it’s then up to the city to pursue the annexation. (We talked with Blauman after the meeting; she says appeals would be filed through King County Superior Court.)

City of Seattle staffer Kenny Pittman had told us that “community engagement” with North Highline residents would ensue. The city had said it hadn’t decided whether to seek a 2017 vote or 2018 vote by residents of the potential annexation area. But before a vote, the City Council would have to approve sending the proposal to voters. It’s notable that the Seattle City Council has many new members since the last time annexation came up for discussion.

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ANNEXATION: Boundary Review Board’s final vote Thursday, and what would follow

July 11th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on ANNEXATION: Boundary Review Board’s final vote Thursday, and what would follow

When the King County Boundary Review Board‘s two-day hearing wrapped up last month, the BRB had one more step to take for its final decision on potential Seattle annexation of most of what’s left of unincorporated North Highline – a final vote at its next official meeting. That’s now just three days away, 7 pm Thursday (July 14th) at Bellevue Fire Station #9 in Newcastle; here’s the agenda.

If the BRB does give its final approval to the proposed annexation, that’s not the final step, but it’s a big one. The Seattle City Council still would have to approve sending the plan to NH voters, and they would have to give their approval. And between BRB and SCC action, the city promised, months of engagement would ensue. So, looking ahead to Thursday’s meeting, we asked City of Seattle annexation liaison Kenny Pittman what would happen next: “If the Board finalizes their tentative approval, there is a 30-day appeal period to allow impacted parties to appeal the Board’s decision. That will end August 15, 2016. After the 30-day appeal period, the City will start on its community engagement work and continue to brief City Council committee (Education, Equity & Governance) on next steps.”

Thursday’s meeting is open to the public. WCN was the only news organization to cover last month’s two-day hearing in White Center; our reports are here and here (including unedited video of the proceedings).

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VIDEO & AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: Boundary Review Board ends 2-night annexation hearing with preliminary approval

June 14th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 2 Comments »

(WCN photo)

7:06 PM: We’re back at the Bethaday Community Learning Space in Dick Thurnau Memorial Park, at the start of the second night of the King County Boundary Review Board‘s hearing on Seattle’s proposal to annex most of what remains of unincorporated North Highline. Our coverage of Night 1, including video and as-it-happened reporting, is here. We’re doing it again tonight. This will start with public comment, and if that concludes before 9 pm or so, the board will publicly deliberate the annexation (following up to 10 minutes of rebuttal by the city of Seattle); if this runs long, one more night is set aside, this Thursday. Maybe about 30 people here tonight, about half of last night’s attendance.

(Added Wednesday morning: Unedited video of the hearing’s first half; second half is inline below, with our summarizing of that part of the meeting)

7:14 PM: The special assistant attorney general assigned to the board, Robert Kaufman, is continuing to explain the rules, including possible appeals after a decision. And now he’s again conducting an en-masse swearing-in for those who plan to speak tonight. Board executive Lenora Blauman says about 15 people are signed up to speak so far – individuals get up to 3 minutes, group representatives up to 10. Mike Mullen, who says he represents an area condo association, is first. He starts with a question, wondering about Seattle’s timetable for providing services to the community if annexation happens. “Will we have a representative with the city who will take charge of this program and offer it to us and let us know how to access the services available?” such as the Office of Economic Development and Seattle Police – he acknowledges that the Sheriff’s Office is short-handed, but wonders if SPD is staffed well enough to be an improvement. “I would like to know more details, more specifics; there seem to be a lot of smoke and mirrors going on.”

7:20 PM: Barbara Dobkin is the second to speak. While as she says, she’s long been involved with the community, including on the board of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, she makes it clear she is speaking as a resident. She takes note of last night’s mention that notices had gone out to residents before Burien’s version of this annexation hearing years ago; those notices were sent by the city of Burien, she points out, but Seattle sent out no such notices before this. She talks about the challenges the community faces; “how can Seattle and King County even begin to justify the annexation … when they have people living under I-5, camped out on sidewalks in Lake City and Ballard, and along Myers Way … the city is clearly facing a crisis and yet they want us to believe they can come and improve our lives.” She also says she wants to put on the record that NHUAC endorses a letter from Liz Giba (its president) opposing the annexation.

7:23 PM: Elizabeth Gordon is next. She is reading a letter she says is from Gary Wasdin of the King County Library System. It says residents would continue to pay off bonds for local libraries through 2024 but would not continue paying the library levy. The two KCLS branches have operating costs of about $1.5 million, she reads from the document. It outlines the possibilities for the two libraries that Wasdin had mentioned at the most recent meeting of NHUAC (of whose board Gordon is a member). An agreement would have to be negotiated. Next, she is reading comments from the White Center Chamber of Commerce, for which she serves as secretary. She says it would like to see the library be operated by King County, and that the Chamber supports the “concerns raised by Liz Giba. … Our big concern is whether we would be paying the same or more for less services,” and the Chamber also is concerned about changing to Seattle laws including the minimum wage. They’re also concerned about trust and follow-through. They would like to see Seattle put forth some efforts toward this area as a good-faith measure, but haven’t yet. She mentions some traffic changes the city made in the Delridge Triangle area just to the north of White Center but did not inform and engage others in the area. “It would be one thing if as part of this proposal someone from the county and the city would sit down and listen (but) with all due respect to (city and county reps Kenny Pittman and Karen Freeman) we don’t see them often enough” to establish a relationship or discuss needs. She raises one more issue: Licensing of marijuana businesses in the area. She discloses that she is administrator of White Center’s first recreational-marijuana store, but notes that West Seattle’s first-such store, right across Roxbury from White Center, is engaging in “marketing strategies” that seem detrimental to the community.

She moves on to mentioning the Myers Way encampment, which “is on the Seattle site, but the petty crimes that take place are on the North Highline side, and as far as we know right now, there is no coordination between the law enforcement (agencies) there, and it’s difficult because of the policy directives that Seattle Police have received.” She wraps up by mentioning the local poverty rate and says assurances are needed that policies and programs will keep that rate from going higher. And she says the community wants to be engaged, wants to know, “wants to be asked to be at the table.”

Board member Mary Lynne Evans asks a question about a sewer district that Gordon had mentioned along the way had concerns; that was the Southwest Suburban Sewer District, it’s clarified. “Did the White Center Chamber ever take a vote on annexation?” was the next question. Gordon’s reply: “Our members have mixed views …” but would either oppose it or request a delay until questions can be answered.

7:36 PM: Angelina Benedetti is the next person called; she says she was to read Wasdin’s statement on behalf of KCLS, but since Gordon done that, she’ll step aside. Board member Ronald Little asks for more on the statement that residents would continue to pay off the bonds and Benedetti says that goes back to the 2004 vote for that program, which is what generated the money to build the newly opened White Center Library. Next question is about the reciprocal agreement between Seattle and King County’s library systems, and that is affirmed.

Amanda Kay Helmick is called next. She is a West Seattle resident. She clarifies that she is speaking as a private resident, though she is involved with a community group in WS. “White Center is not a separate place for people in West Seattle, or Seattle. It’s connected. Roxbury has no boundary – it’s just a street.” She brings up the Westwood-Highland Park Urban Village plan in Seattle. The area is “just on the other side of (the city-county line),” she says, adding that while the city has not invested in the area, the process has been “reignited,” and the annexation of White Center is “a catalyst,” and that they want to join together in planning the future. “I really hope this board encourages that for Seattle and for King County to move forward. We are not separate, we are together … I want that to be the theme moving forward … it’s not us and them.”

Board member Ronald Little asks how the district-elected City Council is working for the area. (Helmick, though she doesn’t mention it, was a candidate for City Council.) She offers the caveat that she has more contact with government reps than most because of her advocacy, but so far, she has seen responsiveness from Councilmember Lisa Herbold and her staff.

Board member Stephen Toy asks Helmick for more information about the boundaries of the “urban village” that she mentioned. (We’ll add a link later to the documentation that shows that.) Helmick points out that the boundary goes right up to the city-county line.

Board member Paul MacCready asks if there is inclusiveness in the area from both sides of the line; Helmick says that in her efforts, she has worked to be inclusive. “Again, I think we’re all in this together, so from a community standpoint, I can say yes, but from an (organizational) standpoint,” she can’t say.

7:45 PM: Loretta Brittinham is at the microphone. If the area is annexed, she asks, what happens once the Legislature-approved diverted sales tax revenue runs out? She also wonders about the number of police that would be assigned to the area. “We don’t have a lot of property tax in the area,” she mentions, pointing out low-income housing that doesn’t generate that revenue. “A lot of people don’t go downtown (to Seattle) to shop any more because they don’t feel safe,” she adds, and then brings up some Seattle City Council decisions such as the bike-share buyout, and voices a lack of confidence in decisions the City Council has made. She also brings up schools, RVs, Hamm Creek pollution from encampments, and says she would like to see the utility districts remain independent.

7:49 PM: Bob Price says, “My main concern is safety.” He says he worked for years as a crossing guard, but never got support from the police department for a “race track” situation in the area because they were “shorthanded.” He brings up a “large crime problem in the Delridge area and South Park area” and says people have been “turned in” but nothing was done about it. He then brings up the South Park resident who was shot at the Boulevard Park 7-11 after attacking people with a hatchet. Next, he voices concern about zoning densifying and leading to overcrowded schools. His request is for annexation to be delayed “until something is done” about the issues he raised.

7:52 PM: Liz Giba speaks next. “I’ve lived in White Center since 1974.” While she is a North Highline Fire District commissioner, she is not speaking for that board, she says: “I am speaking as a concerned citizen. … As you review Seattle’s notice of intention, I think you have found, there is no plan … Seattle told you they would have a new comp plan by the end of last year. No comp plan yet, no housing plan yet, still hasn’t been heard by the City Council, so they don’t really know what they want to do with us. What they have told you is outdated information. They’re telling us that the soonest they will annex is 2019, but all the numbers in the notice are for 2014 or prior – that makes it at least 5 years out of date. It’s not accurate.” She brings up the new library, and says the city did not reach out to KCLS, or else “could have had this all wrapped up.” She mentions Kenny Pittman’s White Center visit in March, and says he said “don’t worry about zoning,” but that Seattle annexation would densify this area greatly. She wonders what being part of an “urban village” would mean for poverty. “I feel like our best interests are not being considered here. … I feel it’s a violation of ethics and morals and the Fair Housing Act.” Giba also mentions that she followed up with Jenn Ramirez Robson about comments made last night on behalf of the King County Housing Authority, and feels that low-income housing and poverty in this area were underestimated. “King County should be ashamed for its failure to this community, and I don’t feel Seattle is ready.”

7:58 PM: Tiffany Mowatt is next, saying she is a 20-year resident, and is here “in support of Seattle’s annexation of White Center, because there are many programs (the city could bring) that could help the community here.” That would include more services for families with young children, and she lists several, including health and education programs. “For school-age kids, we could potentially have more after-school services and parks program … currently county services are extremely limited, and as a result, supports for academic, social, and emotional needs … go unmet.” Local businesses cannot be competitive without more support, she adds, including “small refugee/immigrant businesses.” She mentions White Center Community Development Association executive director Sili Savusa, who was present last night but couldn’t be here tonight. She says, “We deserve annexation to Seattle.” On a followup question, she clarifies that she is associated with WCCDA.

8:01 PM: Meryl speaks next, saying she was initially in favor of annexation but “what I’ve seen on Myers Way makes me change that view because I haven’t seen any good-faith effort by the city of Seattle to” fix the problems there, including, she lists, open drug use, prostitution, garbage, and “protection by the Seattle Police Department of these folks, a lot of whom are not good folks,” while citizens who “try to clean it up … are getting harassed.” She says a neighbor of hers had to put in an electric fence because animals and garden vegetables were being stolen and people were relieving themselves in yards. If the community is to consider annexation, the city should first clean up that area and “build some trust,” she says. She then mentions the city’s rules for landlords, which she says require a fee and make eviction difficult.

Board member Evans asks for clarification of Meryl’s statement that the city “placed” the RVs there. She mentions a Community Police Team officer responsible for that.

8:05 PM: Next person is Paul McLaughlin, who says he feels he should have been notified by mail but was not. He found out about the meeting from a neighbor. “I’m a disabled vet, I don’t use a computer. I don’t feel I’ve been represented properly or been notified. I like our community. I feel we should stay the way we are. We’re a very poor area. If Seattle takes over this area, it’s going to chase away the seniors.” He says he owns five rental properties that are affordable housing but feels annexation would change that. “If you’re going to get rid of our affordable housing, then we have problems.” He thinks notices sent by mail “would (have) fill(ed) this room.” He concludes, “Please pay attention to the local people.”

8:07 PM: Mark Ufkes is next. He says he speaks for the White Center Homeowners’ Association, which feels that if the area has to be annexed, Seattle is better than Burien. He speaks of his son Hank, who went to the Evergreen campus for high school and enjoyed being part of an ethnically diverse student body. He talks about his wife Lois Schipper (who testified last night) being involved for years in schools. Another of his sons, Patrick, volunteered at the White Center Food Bank. And he says his family owns “a couple of rentals.” He then brings up Dick Thurnau, namesake of the park where the hearing is happening. He and Thurnau advocated for the park for years, he said, and also mentioned having spent years on the Unincorporated Area Council, but said he had issues with the group’s claim to be elected representatives of the community “because only 20 or 30 people voted.” He goes on to mention his time leading the White Center Chamber and working to diversify its board, and then collaborating with the WCCDA, also creating a website that he says he doesn’t know if the Chamber manages any more. The Chamber also placed welcome signs around the area. “We took this all on ourselves because King County doesn’t have the resources to (tackle) these problems.” He goes on to mention other initiatives including ones dealing with alcoholism and homelessness, and says that people complaining about various problems on the Seattle side of the line shouldn’t infer those problems don’t exist in the unincorporated area because they do.

Next, he mentions the library, and an effort by the Boy Scouts to remove trash from encampments on the site where the library eventually was built, then pointing out the site to KCLS. “But some people in this room fought aggressively” against that. He alleges that the people who “complained tonight the most about Seattle” are those who most supported annexation by Burien (rejected by voters in 2012) and elaborates on that point. Then, to another issue brought up last night, he brings up the fire department, and its rating of local districts as well as Seattle. “Here’s what they told me on the phone – that NHFD’s classification is a 4 – Seattle’s classification is a 2, the highest you can get” – he says he’ll submit documents supporting/explaining that. “Seattle has one of the best fire departments in the state,” he declares. He says it increased its commitment to excellence in the wake of the Pang warehouse arson 20+ years ago. “What I want to say is that Seattle will always have more resources” in terms of public safety, he adds. And he says that before the move of Medic 4 to Burien, the unit responded here from SeaTac, almost 15 minutes. “The fire districts have done a good job for us, but some of their issues are about Burien, not about Seattle, and they’re always going to complain about Seattle, and it’s not fair.”

8:18 PM: Carol, a Myers Way resident, says she’s representing the Top Hat Action Team, which is “dealing with the homeless crisis and the RV encampments,” and has turned in exhibits to show what she’s talking about. She asks for a postponement until “we know what we’re signing up for … it’s not what we want.” She says other speakers have covered many points about which she too is concerned, including the library, but wants to see changes and “new data” before any vote would happen.

8:23 PM: Pat Murakami, president of the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council, says she is speaking as a private citizen and wants to say that Seattle has “a long history of broken promises” in relation to annexation. In Columbia City, for example, there are no sidewalks; in North Seattle, too. “I’m very concerned about Seattle’s promise to you, to the White Center community, of (a certain number of) police officers” – the South Precinct, she says, is dramatically understaffed. Even the added police that Seattle’s mayor is pursuing will not be enough, and “we can’t afford to dilute our resources.” She says promises were made about economic development along the light rail line on Martin Luther King Junior Way but nothing has happened and businesses have been lost. “If Seattle can’t develop an area like that … what are they going to do for this community?”

Public testimony is now closed, and Seattle has the opportunity for rebuttal. A break will be taken first.

(Added Wednesday morning: Second half of our unedited video of the entire meeting)

8:34 PM: After the break, Karen Freeman of the King County Executive’s Office is asked to come up and answer some questions that were asked last night. Among other things, the questions were about services that Seattle provides but King County does not; she says there are many. She also says there is a joint planning effort on the drawing board related to this. The intention is for that to be done in 2017, she says, while noting that “we have one full-time employee who does this type of work for all of King County, while the city has 40 staff members (approximately) who (do that work).” She again mentions the county’s projected “$50 million shortfall.” Board members are asking about the negotiations over a possible fire-station site in Puget Sound Park years ago; it was located, she said, in the northern part of the previous Burien annexation of part of North Highline. “The leadership at the time in the city of Burien was not excited about the proposal and objected, so the fire district dropped out of the negotiations.”

Now, Seattle’s special counsel James Haney, who was the first to speak last night, gets the chance for up to 10 minutes of rebuttal. He says he is accompanied by Pittman and by Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins as well as assistant chief Jay Hagen (Pittman and Hagen also were here last night).

Haney answers a few questions including confirming that sales-tax money diverted to Seattle specifically to compensate for the costs of annexation are required to be spent only in the annexation area.

He asks Chief Scoggins to address a few points, including saying that it is up to a community to set the levels of fire service. “I came here tonight for a couple reasons – I want you to know that if this annexation does take place, we want the annexed area to receive all the same service other areas (of the city) receive.” He mentions last night’s questions about Advanced Life Support services, and notes that Seattle is a national center of innovation “in that level of care.” So, “what does it look like tomorrow if the annexation does take place – our goal is to try to get ALS services on scene within 8 minutes.” He said the city didn’t get to 90 percentile of that in 2015, but almost – 89 times out of 100, up from 87 the year before. “We would look at the system as a whole and place our resources the places they need to be” to achieve that goal. He also says that Basic Life Support units already carry defibrillators and other high levels of service. He then mentions the concerns about North Burien and possible “automatic aid” – that is supposed to include reciprocal aid. He notes that the North Highline station “runs a lot of calls” in North Burien, so that might require a “contractual discussion” if services were not being received in exchange. He said it would be important to be “open and transparent” about what Seattle could provide, compared to what the area is getting now.

Board member Little asks if Seattle has any other arrangements with “an equal sharing of assets.” Chief Scoggins says yes, but none are formal, though they want to achieve that. One is to the north of the city, one to the east. “One of the benefits if this annexation takes place -the number of resources for a structure fire or vehicle accident, we have 33 stations” – as an example, he mentions a fire in North Seattle yesterday that led to two alarms, and discusses how resources were moved around the city while so many were at that fire.

Board member Kisielius asks about the ALS issue. “That’s one of the things we would need to spend a little more time digging into the resources.” He says an ALS unit costs $1.5 million, an engine and four people more than $2 million. “What you heard about that response time is based on our medic unit being at Station 32, where it is today … but if we are adding almost 18,000 new residents to the community, with … 1,800 responses annually … we have to look at all those things and pencil out what we are looking at, and I can come back to you with that once I have a clearer understanding of that.”

Another board member says, “It sounds to me like that includes capital improvements (required), not just operational changes, which is what we were led to believe in the presentation.” Chief Scoggins says not necessarily, but if the conversation is that Seattle will provide coverage for North Burien, they need to dig into some documents “and engage in that agreement” and possibly make some modifications to it.

8:58 PM: Now Haney resumes the rebuttal. He says he provided a couple of exhibits with more information responding to the questions about level of fire service and standards, as well as 2015 statistics. “As the chief said, the city is currently meeting those standards, making the 8-minute response time in ALS 89 percent of the time (and aiming for) 90 percent.” Regarding the 2009 land-for-a-fire-station issue, “King County does not just have land lying around … in 2009 it made a good-faith effort … (and that) was rejected.”

Summarizing, he says Seattle is the only jurisdiction that could annex this area, but if the currently available tax revenue goes away, “Seattle would have to go away.” Again, he says, they’re asking the board to give residents the chance to vote. He acknowledges people’s concerns, and says “those are certainly things people can vote their minds on,” while asking the board “to give them that chance.” He adds that there were “similar issues (with fire services) in the Burien annexation” but “did not allow those issues to prevent the annexation” instead acknowledging that Burien and the county would have to work together and establish interlocal agreements. “We certainly want to sit down with the fire districts and … resolve these issues … we would ask that you please allow this annexation to go forward for a public vote.”

Board member Jay Hamlin asks whether water/sewer district could remain unassumed “indefinitely.” Theoretically, yes, Haney replies. But “it’s generally the city’s policy to provide water and sewer services within its boundaries” eventually, though he doesn’t foresee that happening within at least six years, as had been said last night.

Board member Little asks about the city’s plan to engage this community if the board votes to proceed with the annexation process, given the lack of trust voiced, and lack of notice pointed out. He suggests Pittman answer that, “since that’s his job.” Pittman takes the microphone: “One of the things we’re planning to do if the board moves forward … we’ve already had conversations with our Department of Neighborhoods … we will have an extensive engagement process, using multiple languages … an 8-to-10-month process, to sit down to meet with every resident, every resident group, an extensive outreach using the languages of the community and also engaging with leaders of the community to have those meetings.”

Haney elaborated on that mentioning Department of Neighborhoods director Kathy Nyland’s statement committing a “liaison” to the area. Also, regarding the Comprehensive Plan – Seattle 2035 – “is currently making its way through the process,” lengthened because its environmental-impact statement “has been appealed.” It “does provide for an engagement process that gets people involved and talks about the types of things that happen in urban villages,” as well as discussing zoning. “There’s going to be lots of public engagement.”

Board member James Polhaus wonders how this area would be represented in the City Council District system. “It would be in District 1, the West Seattle area,” says Pittman, adding that there’s a plan to review the district boundaries and population again in 2020-2022, so District 1 would be a little larger for a while. In response to another question, he also promises that the city would be talking with KCLS about the options it suggests be considered for operating the White Center and Greenbridge libraries. Haney says the city already has had “amicable” discussions with the county and “believes the issues can be resolved.”

Board member MacCready brings up the Myers Way homeless encampments and asks about Seattle’s policy. Uneasy laughter ripples around the room. Haney says he can’t fully address that, though he is well aware of Myers Way as he drives past it daily, as a West Seattle resident. Board member Toy wonders when the “lion’s share” of discussions related to the various issues, would it be before going to a vote, or afterward? Haney says he would think before rather than after, “because it would make the vote, obviously, more informed.” He mentions again a June 29th meeting coming up to talk with North Highline Fire District.

Pittman picks up the issue, saying it’s Seattle’s policy to “have it all worked out” regarding such issues before moving forward with a vote, likely even before the City Council would provide with putting this to voters. He says again that if there’s a November 2017 vote, annexation would take effect in 2019; if November 2018, it would be 2020. “The reason for the 13-month gap is that because this area is so large, we would want to go through a formal budgeting process” first.

Board member Kisielius comes back again to fire-service issues: “Does the city or will the city have the resources to assure that the 8-minute level of ALS will be met if this area is annexed?” Chief Scoggins returns to the microphone. “If we don’t have the resources, I will let you know we don’t have the resources. If we do, I will also let you know that. …” He reiterates that he needs to find out what this area’s level of service is today, but 8-minute is the citywide standard. So, follows up Kisielius, how does that relate to the decision we need to make? Haney: “Seattle has a world-class ALS system currently, and Seattle is not going to annex this area if it cannot provide that service and provide those resources. So I think you have to look at it as … once the board makes this decision, there’s the decision the City Council has to make to place it on the ballot … then, once the election takes place,the City Council would have to (affirm the annexation and go forward). The city wouldn’t be presenting the annexation to you if it didn’t feel there was a way to provide those resources … the city is … Chief Scoggins would tell you, the city is not going to want to jeopardize the service to its existing residents by diluting its current service.”

Kisielius says that’s a good reminder that there are additional steps even before the annexation would go to a vote of the people. So, she asks Chief Scoggins, you would not recommend that the annexation go to a vote if you didn’t feel you could provide that service? He says the city has 7 medic units, and a medical services officer. “Today if your medic unit left this area, I’m not sure where another medic unit is and where it would come from … but (if this was in the city today) we would be moving our resources around” and there would be backup available. “We also have five aid cars behind it – they’re not medics, but our aid cars run EMS calls all day long – that’s another high level of care we have in the system.”

9:20 PM: The rebuttal and followup questions are over. The board will discuss what to do next. There are three options: Continue the hearing for more oral/written testimony; close the hearing to oral testimony but leave it open to written testimony with a deadline for submittal; close the hearing and begin to deliberate “review of the factors and objectives to reach a decision, and we can make a decision on the time frame.” A motion is made and seconded for option three. Blauman says “once the hearing is closed, you don’t have to deliberate tonight, but you have to come to a decision … within 40 days of closing the hearing.” She also points out this room is set aside for Thursday, and deliberations could take place then, but don’t have to. Board member Kisielius says she’s in favor of deliberating at least 20 minutes until the booking of the room for tonight is over (9:45). Unanimous vote to close the hearing to oral and written testimony – and before deliberating, board member Evans says she has concerns. She says that if the annexation does not take place, the sales-tax money passed by the legislature this year is lost. But she “has about four issues” of concern – the fire-services issue for one, and the lack of a “definitive statement on what it would take” to reach desired service levels. She says she also feels there are “holes” in the library, sewer, and water concerns that have been brought up. “I just don’t feel comfortable saying go ahead with this annexation” without more information. She also is concerned about the member of the public who was upset that he was not notified about the hearing. That’s not usually up to the board to do, she says, but she says it’s up to the community, to get their fellow community members involved in the discussions before it goes to a vote, and she feels the city is sincere in its promise to have an engagement process.

Next, board member MacCready says he feels the water and sewer issues are a moot point – before anything could change, they’d have to come back to the board, and they could discuss fees at that time. Board member Hamlin says he feels that the library issue is not a sticking point because it seems discussions are taking place and “that’s at least close to being wrapped up – felt like to me that was being addressed appropriately.”

Board member Claudia Hirschey says she feels there’s enough time to talk more about fire services, and she also says that there’s a sense of urgency about this annexation, and the city will have to have those answers before it talks to the community. “The benefits of greatly enhanced police service, the sales tax subsidy for this area with the sunset, greatly outweighs the risk that we feel about the undefined operating agreements” especially fire.

Board member Sylvia Bushnell says she also thinks there’s time for some of the issues to be worked out, specifically mentioning the library matters.

Board member Polhamus says he believes this comes down to two issues – “getting details of the fire service worked out” and “concerns about the zoning” – noting that Seattle says it’s looking at what’s “closest to the county zoning,” while acknowledging concerns about increased density vis-a-vis Seattle zoning. He agrees that the library agreement “is an easily solved issue.”

Board member Hamlin says it looks like the city has matching zoning for many types, except perhaps 18 units per acre vs. 26 units per acre. “It looked actually pretty equivalent, and the city did a nice job showing that equivalency.”

MacCready said he agreed with that assessment. “They always don’t match exactly … I do think the main issue with zoning is the increase in density in the single-family zones.”

Kisielius says she feels the city will “have its work cut out for them” in communicating service availability to this area, in outreach and beyond. She says it was clear to her that at least in the services-provision regard, annexation “would be very beneficial for this area.”

Hirschey moves to direct staff to prepare a resolution in favor of annexation. Multiple members speak up to second it. She says it is a “natural” annexation, follows existing boundaries “and leaves no unincorporated islands,” and that the area “itself is a logical service area .. that after annexation would be served by the city of Seattle. … We gloss over the street system because it’s not a natural utility but Seattle is in a much better position” to manage it. She continues listing the criteria that she feels support this.

9:44 PM: Discussion time for the motion. Hamlin suggests perhaps a letter could be drafted to express the board’s concerns to the city. Not conditions, he clarifies, but concerns. The hearing and resolution report would do that, Blauman points out. Polhamus clarifies that this would not be a final decision, just a direction for staff to prepare a motion. Blauman says yes, and that the official vote would be at its July meeting.

The motion passes 8-1, with Kisielius as the lone no vote. So this is not a final approval, but it’s a big step toward one. (We recorded this entire night on video as we did last night, and will add it, again in two pieces separated by the 8:25 pm break, as we get it processed in the hours ahead.)

The BRB’s July meeting is at 7 pm July 14th, Bellevue Fire Station #9, 12412 SE Newcastle Way.

9:04 AM WEDNESDAY: We’ve now added our video of the full meeting, again in two parts – first half at the top, second half at the point in the story where we note the five-minute break.

-Tracy Record, WCN editor

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VIDEO & AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: 1st night of Boundary Review Board hearing on Seattle’s proposal to annex White Center and most of what else is left of unincorporated North Highline

June 13th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news 3 Comments »

(WCN photo)

7:02 PM: We’re at the Technology Access Foundation’s Bethaday Community Learning Space with dozens of people here to talk and hear about the city of Seattle’s proposal to annex most of what’s left of unincorporated North Highline. We’ll be updating live as it goes. It’s standing room only so far (they’re trying to get more chairs), and is starting with an explanation of what the King County Boundary Review Board is and does.

(Added 12:39 am: First half of our unedited video of the first night of the hearing)

“This hearing is very much a public process,” begins Lenora Blauman, executive secretary for the board (which is missing two of its members – one excused, one recused). She also adds, in case anyone is wondering about notification, that notices were in news publications “including local blogs and newspapers” and that while they are only required to put up 10 posters, “we in fact put up 39.” She says the proposed annexation area has a population of about 17,500, and describes its boundaries (we’ll add the map later). She recaps that the annexation election would be no sooner than 2017 and could be held in 2018, as Seattle already has said.

7:15 PM: The board’s lawyer is going over some of the procedures, and saying “we want to conduct ourselves as much as possible as if we are in a courtroom” (though it’s “a quasi-judicial proceeding”). The testimony will start with the parties who have the most at stake – reps for city and county government. He explains that once everyone has testified – up to three nights, tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday, are set aside for that – and the city of Seattle “gets the last word” with a rebuttal, the board will then deliberate, and that is open to the public to sit in on. An en-masse swearing-in of potential witnesses followed, and the secretary announced interpreters are available for Spanish and Vietnamese speakers.

7:20 PM: James Haney from Ogden Murphy Wallace, ‘special counsel’ for Seattle, is the first witness, making the city’s presentation. With him, he says, are Kenny Pittman – annexation point person on the mayor’s staff – and assistant Seattle Fire Department chief Jay Hagen. He says “this is the second phase of the city’s two-phase approach to annexation of all the remaining unincorporated area between Seattle and Burien” – first phase was the Duwamish Triangle, “which is awaiting an election scheduled to take place this fall.” He says the city wants “a unified government” for the area. He calls the area at issue here – “Area Y” – “intensely urban.”

He declares that this area “will benefit” from annexation to Seattle and says the city’s brief lays that out in detail, including: “This will unite several neighborhoods divided from each other by separate boundaries,” such as Delridge and White Center, Glendale and South Park, Roxbury Heights and the South Delridge Triangle. Also: “This area … deserves urban services that Seattle is uniquely positioned to provide.” And, those services “will improve,” services such as police, which Haney says will be provided at levels higher than currently provided by the King County Sheriff’s Office, not just patrol but also specialty services such as Bomb Squad and SWAT, Anti-Crime Team, and more.

Also, he says, grants will be available through the Department of Neighborhoods; planning services through the city; preschool and other social services through the Department of Early Learning; no-cost business consulting and loan programs through the Office of Economic Development; library services through the Seattle Public Library, “which includes continuing access to the King County Library System.” And he says he wants to stress, “Utility services will remain the same” – not including assumption of the utility districts, which would require separate votes. “Not only is assumption not proposed this evening, but, at least in the case of the sewer districts, highly unlikely in the next six years,” because of revenue issues. “Fire service will be the same, and will improve,” with the city operating North Highline Fire Station 18, “staffed 24/7 with an engine company consisting of 4 fire professionals, one more than (now),” and “three stations (in Seattle)” providing service – 37 in Sunrise Heights, 11 in Highland Park, 26 in South Park, with response times “a minute to a minute and a half longer” than from NH Station 18. SFD also has hazmat, technical rescue, and a dive response time “that will all be available for service in this area.”

He says he wants to address the objections filed by the North Highline FD. He acknowledges concerns about the distance from current ALS – advanced life support – 14 minutes from Medic 32, “unacceptable.” He says Seattle will be looking at ways to address that – possibly making Station 18 a “paramedic engine company,” or moving Medic 32 further south. “The Seattle Fire Department can and will solve this issue so that residents of North Highline will receive ALS services in a timely manner … Seattle is not going to annex an area and provide services that are much less than (other areas of the city).” He says they’re also looking at an “automatic aid agreement” but says the city hasn’t needed one in the past.

Other objections from the NHFD, which we will hear about when they speak later, include the timing of the annexation related to the Duwamish Triangle annexation, and service to North Burien; he says a meeting is set for June 29th.

“Seattle is the only city that can bring unified government (and urban services) to (Area Y),” Haney reiterates. “Other cities are not able to bring services to this area. If this area is to be part of a city … Seattle is where it will have to go, since Seattle is the only one with North Highline in its potential annexation area at this time.” Burien, he notes, tried to annex the area, but “voters overwhelmingly rejected that annexation and Burien has now taken this area out of its potential annexation area. … North Highline needs urban services,” and the only way to get them, he says, is to be part of a city. He concludes, “Tonight, the request of you is to allow the people to vote. We are not asking you to decide if North Highline should become part of the city of Seattle – the people will decide that.”

Board member Claudia Hirschey asks about Seattle’s ALS response standards. Assistant Chief Hagen comes up to answer. The city has almost 20,000 ALS calls a year, transporting 11 percent of those patients via city medic unit. The 2015 response time – from time assigned to arriving at scene – was 6:08, he said, including call processing. From “en route” to on scene, 4:58. He said even their “slowest” medic unit is busier than King County’s busiest medic unit, and that enables SFD to “saturate” the skills – paramedics have “high repetition and low skill degradation.”

So how would the response time problem be solved before annexation? Hirschey asked on followup. Haney said there’s not necessarily a specific time frame, with the vote no closer than a year-plus: “We’ve got some time to solve this.” Responding to another board member, he agrees that the BRB does have to take fire-service levels into account. Pressed again on possible solutions, he lists one not mentioned earlier, possibly contracting with a south King County service provider. “The city is very confident that (it) will be able to provide service at the level that Seattle is currently able to provide (elsewhere).”

Board member Paul McCready asks about the other possible jurisdictions. Assistant Chief Hagen talks about the county’s “zones,” some of which have automatic-aid agreements with other jurisdictions. He says Seattle is “a little bit behind the curve” in pursuing such agreements, but intends to catch up.

Board member Laura Kisielius asks about current response times for ALS to NH. Haney doesn’t know but will try to get the information.

Next question is about police dispatch times from the Southwest Precinct in West Seattle. Haney says right now there will be at least 6 officers on any shift for the area, while right now KCSO has three at the most on a shift. “There’s going to be a lot more police officers out there.” He also mentions the Community Police Team resource “going around all the time checking on things.”

7:57 PM: Asked about utility rates, Haney says they should stay the same, except for a “franchise fee.” Among other things, he says that it “would be suicidal for the city” to try to take over the sewer services because that would affect the tax share the city is going to get for the first several years of the annexation, if it happens. What about cable TV? He mentions a “franchise fee” for that too but says the feds limit what that can be.

Board member Ronald Little says, isn’t it the ultimate goal of the city to annex the water and sewer districts, and just postponing that now? Haney says, well, ultimately, yes, but that’s a separate process – which again, he said, would be at least six years down the road. Technical discussion of the process, including a potential public referendum on any such assumption, ensues.

8:06 PM: Seattle’s lawyer is done, and King County’s Karen Freeman – who has represented the County Executive’s office at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meetings – is now speaking. “This entire project was envisioned to close in 2012 and we are way beyond that date and I think everyone in the room feels that,” she says, noting that she’s been working on North Highline annexation since 2007, and that NH was the only “urban island” claimed by multiple jurisdictions as part of their potential annexation areas – something that is now prohibited. She recaps the complicated history of how that all has unfolded. “The status quo current levels of service provided by the county are … not sustainable, and this is a key issue,” Freeman declares. “The mix of county funding sources is limited (so) county funding can’t support urban-level services that communities like North Highline desperately need. Cities (can).” She also notes that the Legislature-approved tax funding that will be available to Seattle if this annexation goes through is not available to anyone else – basically, it’s this, or nothing. She also talks about how King County’s roads are deteriorating and they can’t keep up with it, and how the county can’t compare with law-enforcement staffing or human-services provision, either.

She rebuts one point about documents including a previous Memorandum of Understanding, saying it expired in 2012, and are not “without a sunset date” as apparently someone is contending. She says the county doesn’t have money to offer – facing a $50 million budget deficit – but “Seattle’s proposal realizes (an) important vision for North Highline” and the county supports allowing it to be put to a vote of the people.

Board member McCready asks if they can get a list of the services “the county cannot provide.” Freeman says yes.

Another board member: What will happen to King County housing projects in this area after annexation? Freeman says KC Housing Authority is a separate entity, and “their projects will continue to move forward.”

Next question is about a fire-station land issue from a few years ago. Freeman reiterates that they expected all “large urban islands” to be resolved by 2012 (five remain now) so, thinking they’d be done by then, they’d have some budgetary leverage to move an annexation forward. “But we did not complete all of our annexations and the agreement expired and here we are.”

8:19 PM: The board is taking a break, to reconvene at 8:25.

(Added 7:15 am Tuesday: Second half of our unedited video of the hearing’s first night)

8:28 PM: Brian Snure, lawyer for the NH Fire District, says it’s against the annexation until SFD has an operating plan, and that it’s submitted a written statement laying out the objections.

As he notes, if the annexation is approved, NHFD will cease to exist. “There’s no guarantee that Seattle has the political will or ability to provide its Fire Department with the services (needed to serve this area),” for one, particularly the Advanced Life Support issue mentioned earlier. Also of concern, the loss of services for North Burien.

He says that while the city filed this notice more than a year ago, the city did not reach out to NHFD with a plan until just last month. The city did come out to meet with the board (as covered here) and answered some questions from the NHFD board – but “trust us, we’ll take care of the operational issues when the time is right” seems to be the response. “They’ve had plenty of time to plan this annexation, they should be coming forward with specific (plans) – absent such (plans and agreements), we think the annexation needs to be denied. … Maybe they need another year. Maybe they need to come back with an actual plan.”

Snure then says that Seattle is “not a reliable automatic-aid partner in providing services.” And he says the annexation “will not provide a logical service area.” Instead, he says, “it will destroy one.”

Questions include a stat that Snure mentioned – a 6-minute ALS response time. South King County Medic Unit 4 is the unit that responds now, from downtown Burien, was the clarification – courtesy of SFD assistant chief Hagen.

8:41 PM: Joseph Quinn, lawyer for King County Fire District 2, now takes the podium. He is the last scheduled to testify before public comments. “The Boundary Review Board has to attain the preservation of logical service areas,” he began, “and I don’t think we can say some services are merely operational. ALS … is a life-or-death service. … You want in the case of a heart attack the fastest service you can get.” Seattle needs to “have a plan” for that. How can the board make a decision without that information? he asks. “I think we need answers.” Also, “right now, (North Highline) Station 18 is our primary response station for North Burien,” he notes, as was worked out in “five-party talks” before previous proposed annexation talks. This is where the aforementioned “land for a station” comes up. He says that even if the agreement technically expired, “we still need a station” in that area. He says things would be different if Seattle said it would have an automatic-aid agreement, serving from Station 18. He says his district would “suffer” the way things sound now, without a “logical service area. .. We (would be) left with no northern-area station.” He has also noted that right now, Burien and North Highline share not just a fire chief but also other officers, “across the line.” He summarizes that they need more than promises … they need a plan.

Could the memorandum of understanding that expired in 2012 have been extended? Did anyone try to do that? No, says Quinn – “annexation just kind of languished.” Next, they discuss the status of Station 19, which was transferred as part of the 2010 annexation of the southern half of North Highline by Burien. And then in response to another question, Quinn says that since it was obvious in 2008 “what the impact would be on North Burien,” it should have been recognized that would still be an issue now. “That’s been known for years.”

8:57 PM: Public testimony will start now, and tonight’s hearing will go to about 9:30, it’s been announced. So they’ll try to get to people who won’t be able to come back tomorrow.

First is Lois Schipper, who points out that while White Center is an ethnically diverse community, the room here is predominantly white. In response, the poster-placing is pointed out again. Schipper says reaching out to various communities personally would be ideal; the board secretary says they tried but got no response. She speaks about the fire services first – and says there was a fire at her house and Seattle was who responded. “From where I sit in that area, I would rather be part of Seattle and have all their resources available rather than (having to rely on) an aid agreement.” Regarding schools, she says she’s glad the school district boundaries wouldn’t change, but is glad about the Seattle Families and Education Levy and how it would provide afterschool services. She adds that she feels there hasn’t been enough education about what happens if the area is not annexed; she then voices her support for becoming part of Seattle.

Next, Martha Toffei, who says she’s a retired library worker and brings up the new $8 million King County library in White Center. She asks “what’s going to happen to the White Center library? Right now it’s in limbo.” (See our coverage of this month’s North Highline UAC meeting for more discussion on that point.) She says she is also concerned about policing, since Seattle has fewer officers than it would prefer.

Third called to the podium is Lana Anthony, who speaks briefly: “I believe Seattle has a lot to offer and I believe we should be allowed to vote.”

Fourth, Dennis Eaton, who says he has questions and concerns: “White Center will be one of the poorest areas of Seattle … what is the city planning to do with the tax money it will get (if it annexes) this area – will it be used for improvements and services in this area, or go into the general fund to be used for something else?” He also is worried about the new WC Library’s future. And he wonders about zoning – he’s currently in a six-per-acre single-family zone, and is concerned about backyard cottages being allowed if Seattle zoning is used instead.

9:11 PM: Fifth to speak is former Burien deputy mayor Rose Clark, who says she’s speaking about schools. She says the cities who currently are part of Highline Public Schools work well together, and she thinks that adding Seattle to the mix could raise some problems that should be discussed sooner rather than later. “There is concern that the higher density of Seattle … would impact the whole Highline School District,” with overcrowded schools that would lead to boundary changes throughout the district, and could require land to be bought to buy new schools. She wants to see the annexation process slowed to allow Seattle Public Schools and Highline Public Schools to talk about possible school transfers, or for Seattle zoning to consider being more like the zoning in the Highline district areas right now.

Two final witnesses – first, Pat LeMoine, who says he lives on Myers Way in the unincorporated area and is concerned about what’s happening with people experiencing homeless who live on the city side of the line along Myers. He says: “Myers Way has become Seattle’s human dumping ground. Seattle should be focused on discouraging this kind of behavior” and should encourage people there to accept help. He thinks that it’s an example of how North Highline will be treated by Seattle “if we get annexed.” He thinks the city would have the “same leniency for Myers Way” in front of homes “like Ballard.” He also says he didn’t even know about this meeting until last Thursday – last such meeting, there was a mailing to homes. “If you know a woman is being abused by her boyfriend, would you allow her to marry her abuser? … Burien did not respect our community, it appears Seattle will not either. This is really a big issue.”

Next, a woman who says she is against Seattle annexation “as of now.”

After her, Brian Hastings, who brings up the Evergreen Pool (a facility King County closed and a nonprofit reopened). “We provide an important service – my nonprofit’s been running (the pool) for the past six years, and (in that time) we’ve taught 10,000 of our kids how to swim.” He talks about he’s been fundraising and “need(s) more financial support …” This area doesn’t have it, he says. “There’s nothing left. And I’m one small entity.” A board member says, “So are you for or against annexation?” Hastings said, “I thought I made that clear … I’m for.”

Chestine Edgar is next. “I was present at the last annexation hearing (regarding) this area … Any area that is taken by an entity is to be provided services at the level it currently has, or greater.” She said the board could make a ruling and allow the operational details to be worked out later and contends that’s what happened last time. She says Seattle is the only area that could provide the services needed, so she urges the board to approve the annexation.

Next is a King County Housing Authority rep, Jen Ramirez Robson. She notes that KCHA operates Seola Gardens and Greenbridge in the White Center area. “Between our mixed-income communities and voucher program, we house 10 percent of the population in White Center. … Having the city provide an urban level of services is very important to us.” KCHA also houses 10 percent of the Highline Schools student population, she says, and looks forward to the Seattle “Preschool for All” program. They would continue operating their sites, she says, if annexed. In response to a question, she says KCHA has no plans for new public housing in this area, though there is space in Greenbridge for more “market-rate housing.”

9:36 PM UPDATE: The hearing’s over for tonight; public testimony resumes tomorrow, 7 pm, same place. We recorded all of tonight’s meeting on video and will upload it soon as we’re back at HQ, adding it, in two pieces (on both sides of the 8:25 pm break), when it’s ready.

7:15 AM TUESDAY: Both video clips are now added inline above.

-Tracy Record, WCN editor

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MONDAY: King County Boundary Review Board annexation hearing begins

June 12th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, White Center news Comments Off on MONDAY: King County Boundary Review Board annexation hearing begins

Monday night brings the next major step in the process that will determine whether White Center and vicinity become part of Seattle: The King County Boundary Review Board opens its public hearing on Seattle’s proposed annexation. It’s scheduled for two nights – Monday and Tuesday – and, if extra time is needed, Thursday. It’s at the Technology Access Foundation‘s Bethaday Community Learning Space in Dick Thurnau Memorial Park, 605 SW 108th Street. Here’s the agenda for Monday night:

I. WITNESS SIGN IN – 6:30 PM

It is from this list that witnesses will be called to testify.

II. CALL TO ORDER – 7:00 PM
Stephen Toy, Public Hearing Chair

III. ROLL CALL
Evangeline Anderson, Laura Kisielius, Sylvia Bushnell, Ronald Little, Mary Lynne Evans, Paul MacCready, Jay Hamlin, James Polhamus, Claudia Hirshey

RECUSED – Miguel Beltran

City of Seattle North Highline Area “Y” Annexation

IV. FILE NO. 2367 – CITY OF SEATTLE NORTH HIGHLINE AREA “Y” ANNEXATION

6:30 PM Introduction of Exhibits

7:00 PM Introductory Comments on Hearing Procedures and Swearing in of Witnesses

7:15 PM Presentation by City of Seattle (20 minutes)

7:35 PM Presentation by King County (15 minutes)

7:50 PM Presentation by North Highline Fire District (10 Minutes)

8:00 PM Presentation by King County Fire District #2 (10 minutes)

8:10 PM Other Government Jurisdictions (10 Minutes)

8:20 PM General Testimony: Groups are limited to 10 minutes and individuals to 3 minutes

8:50 PM Rebuttal: City of Seattle (10 minutes)

V. FILE NO. 2367 – City of Seattle North Highline Area “Y” Annexation – Board deliberation and direction to the staff on Resolution and Hearing Decision

VI. ADJOURNMENT

The hearing is open to the public, and you’re welcome to speak as long as you sign up in advance, as noted above.

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Myers frustrations, libraries’ future, more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

June 2nd, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline UAC, White Center Library, White Center news 8 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The most intense discussion at tonight’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting was a side trip off the agenda and outside the county – the Myers Way campers, with and without vehicles, on City of Seattle-owned land right over the boundary.

But first, from the agenda – WC’s new library – and its role in the annexation debate:

NEW LIBRARY, AND ITS FUTURE IF SEATTLE ANNEXATION HAPPENS: New NHUAC president Liz Giba pronounced the new White Center Library “awesome.” KCLS executive director Gary Wasdin took centerstage right after that, declaring it a “wonderful space.” It’s now been almost two weeks since the dedication/ribboncutting (WCN coverage here). He quoted Rachael Levine of the White Center Library Guild – present at the NHUAC meeting too – who had said at the ceremony, “if you want to support the library, use it.” He said, “Every single step of the White Center Library has been driven by community.”

He acknowledged that “top of everybody’s minds” is the issue of annexation and what happens if White Center is annexed by Seattle. “Nothing has really happened” since last time he talked about it, he began. For one, he reminded everyone that KCLS also has a library in Greenbridge. “Should annexation (happen), a decision has to be made about the future of those (two) libraries … and whether they are King County libraries or Seattle Public libraries … To be perfectly fair, that’s not my decision to make.” It’s the community’s decision, he said. “We will support whatever decision is made and will make it work and will fight to make sure you have libraries. … As a reminder, there are basically two options … assuming annexation is approved and happens: Option 1, that SPL takes over operation of the libraries,” which he said would require “some kind of written agreement with the city of Seattle” including a commitment that they would remain libraries. Or “Option 2, Seattle contracts with King County Libraries” to operate them. “Why would you do that? Actually, there are pros and cons to both sides.” That includes the fact that library patrons would continue to be both city and unincorporated-area residents. “We have an agreement with SPL that (people can) interchangeably use both systems.”

As for finances – with the caveat that it’s his opinion – “I think it makes more sense for Seattle to contract with us. … Let’s say annexation takes place, you all stop paying the King County Library operating tax. … Seattle could opt to pay us for the lost tax revenue, to continue to operate the two libraries. The reason that’s a benefit to the city of Seattle is that the cost of operating them is far more than the tax revenue that is generated.” He says that likely wouldn’t and couldn’t be an indefinite agreement, “but it’s the option that we’ve floated … we’ve shared it with Kenny (Pittman, Seattle’s point person on annexation).” He again said the community ultimately needs to make the decision. And he suggested that those interest in this should share it “with anybody who will listen to you” – and that includes the Boundary Review Board, which has a two-day hearing on Seattle’s annexation proposal coming up in two weeks in White Center (he said KCLS will have two staff members at the hearing), June 13, 14 and possibly 16. “You have a little leverage here because they [Seattle] need a positive vote. … Libraries are different … You all paid for this library” – via levy – “so you should have a say in … what you think the future of that library should be.”

Wasdin said he hasn’t seen anything regarding the cost of “the physical act of annexation” – he alluded to a past agreement, now expired, that at one point had KCLS planning to pay Seattle to take the libraries, but that was before the current WC libraries were built. Now, “it would just be a transfer … obviously with a lot of logistics …” and that could be complicated, including the fact that the state owns the land on which the new library was built, Wasdin said. He said it’s around $2 million a year to operate the two libraries in WC. Getting things in writing are important, he said, given that whatever commitment elected officials make, there’s no guarantee they’ll be in office forever.

Wasdin also pointed out that for example, KCLS operates a library in downtown Seattle, in the Convention Center – operating its 49 libraries is NOT a matter of district boundaries.

“This is the cheaper option for them,” Wasdin reiterated, in terms of the decision to be made if annexation happens – but he said he doesn’t believe most layers of Seattle government, such as the mayor and council, have even thought about it yet.

Asked about the debt on the buildings, Wasdin said that the bond payment, through 2024, would continue, as far as he knows. He said that’s another argument for KCLS continuing to operate it even if the area is annexed – they’d still be paying it off.

What about the old White Center Library building? It’s been sold to West Seattle Montessori School – the deal hasn’t quite closed yet, said Wasdin. “That’s a very special building, sentimentally,” he added.

As Wasdin’s section of the agenda wrapped up, NHUAC board member Elizabeth Devine said she was looking forward to the new library’s air conditioning with the sizzling weather expected this weekend.

CRIME BRIEFING: Storefront deputy Bill Kennamer was at the meeting with the newest information on local crime trends. Here are the three sheets he circulated:

Auto theft is way down – though they’ve recovered more cars than were stolen locally (“stolen somewhere else and brought here”), said Deputy Kennamer. Burglaries “have spiked significantly,” and he thinks both the heroin-use epidemic and increase in people experiencing homelessness are to blame. A resident in the Myers Way area says the latter “is getting ugly … if we don’t do something about this, it’s going to drag the community down.” Another attendee said, “The police can’t handle all this … and it’s not just here, it’s everywhere.”

Deputy Kennamer says he’s frustrated too – “the only thing I can do is hassle people as they come and go, I can’t tow cars, I can’t call code enforcement” because the Myers Way site is in Seattle city limits. He also talked about the pollution that seemed to be happening on the land on the east side of Myers because of unauthorized encampments. Asked how many people are there, he suggested hundreds, and thought at least 11 RVs are currently camped by the entrance to the Myers Parcels on the west side of the street.

(If you don’t read our partner site – here’s the latest proposal for what the city might be doing with the land.)

Much discussion ensued with concern about whether Seattle Police are doing anything about the problem, and some alleging that the Seattle City Council has taken action or made statements somehow hindering SPD from doing anything.

Elizabeth Gordon of the NHUAC board suggested that perhaps the community could use this situation as leverage related to the ongoing annexation discussions, “basically something that says, ‘this is what we want if you want us to vote for annexation – that doesn’t guarantee we’ll vote for annexation but it sure might help,” perhaps requesting a city-county task force “to address the situation on Myers Way jointly,” among other things.

One attendee noted that it’s “not just a law-enforcement situation” and mentioned a model in San Francisco for how people experiencing homelessness are being helped, “not the model we have (here) now.”

NHUAC vice president Barbara Dobkin said in her view it’s a “Seattle problem” that the city is not addressing. Board member Devine said she’s worked with people experiencing substance abuse and it’s important not to “lump all the homeless” together, but it is important to take a look at those who are “a menace to our community” and ensure they are not “immune from the consequences of their behavior … (don’t just) say ‘the homeless’ and think we are covering it all.” Her voice broke as she spoke of someone who wound up along Myers Way because he was down on his luck, and got mugged and robbed by “predators.”

Deputy Kennamer said at that point that earlier in his law-enforcement career, people experiencing homelessness broke into three categories – substance-addled people who had burned all their bridges, people with mental illness, people running from the law. Now, he said, he is seeing a younger group of people who decide to live this way “and steal everything they can steal … and the vast majority … are drug addicts – that’s the group we have to aggressively police. … I spend the bulk of my day dealing with them, chasing them from one park to another park … but I’m not handcuffed. The Sheriff’s Office is not handcuffed.”

While he says “there’s drug dealing going on,” he says the days of meth labs in RVs appears to be over – it all comes from elsewhere.

Discussion meandered back to why people are on the streets, and one attendee pointed out that many have wound up there because of domestic violence. Board member Devine pointed out that services are available for DV survivors – that they could call 211 to seek resources.

Keep calling police, Deputy Kennamer advised, as well as political pressure – “show up at the King County Council meeting – you have a voice.”

The talk then circled back to an attendee wondering if there could be a regional way to examine the problem. “We are talking about human beings living in a region, and we should be looking at a way to deal with it rather than just looking from one place to the next.”

Toward the end of the discussion, Kennamer pointed out that the shortage of law-enforcement resources leads to a shortage of ability to be proactive. And improvement isn’t on the horizon – he said a recent meeting included information that the department is almost $4 million short, which could mean no air and sea resources.

Meantime, Deputy Kennamer said September 1st is the target date for the White Center storefront to move from 16th SW to its new home at Steve Cox Memorial Park.

After he left the front of the room, NHUAC president Giba worried aloud that the Myers situation did not portend well for how Seattle would treat this area if annexed. But she expressed hope for working in collaboration with Highland Park and South Park – “they are our neighbors.” Meantime, though, she noted that King County government is the current government of this area and needs to be pressured to protect the area from being abused.

ANNEXATION CODA: Before meeting’s end, annexation came up again, with the aforementioned Boundary Review Board hearings looming. NHUAC president Giba said that what’s needed right now is information from Seattle – “be straight with us.”

COMMUNITY SERVICE AREA MEETING: President Giba gave a recap of the recent annual North Highline Community Service Area meeting at Seola Gardens; among other observations, she said it was disappointing that this area’s King County Councilmember, Joe McDermott, wasn’t there. “It was shocking that our councilmember wasn’t there,” said NHUAC board member Dominic Barrera. One top county official who was there, Sheriff John Urquhart, drew kudos for his presence and presentation.

COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS: Gill Loring announced the work party this Saturday, 9 am-1 pm, at North Shorewood Park (see our earlier announcement for details) … Another attendee announced June 9-10, 1-4 pm, car wash at New Start High School … The King County Council committee’s next hearing on proposed marijuana rules is coming up at 9 am June 16th, said Mark Johnston, who’s been a community watchdog on the issue, saying anyone with concerns about marijuana zoning in unincorporated King County should “speak up” – public comment will be part of that meeting … Another attendee noticed a sign up for a new affordable-housing project at 1st and 112th in Top Hat, almost 300 residential units and 38,000 square feet of commercial space. (We’re researching this right now and will have a separate followup.) … White Center Kiwanis‘s annual Jubilee Days pancake breakfast is coming up … Petitions for Initiative 1491, allowing a family member to petition the court to “suspend access to a firearm of a loved one who has become a danger to himself and/or others,” were brought to the meeting … A part-owner of the Highline Bears was on hand to make sure NHUAC knew about the team, with home games at Steve Cox Memorial Park the next three Friday nights, 7:05 pm.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets first Thursdays, 7 pm, but will be on hiatus now until September, when the county Comprehensive Plan will be on the agenda – watch northhighlineuac.org for updates. You’ll also see board members at the aforementioned Boundary Review Board hearing – again, here’s the notice for that hearing, set for two days and possibly a third.

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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.)

questions1

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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