(New NHUAC officers, L-R, treasurer Ron Johnson, secretary Stephen Porter, president Barbara Dobkin, vice president Pat Price; photo by Patrick Sand for WCN)
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
From tonight’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting – new officers, an update on Burien’s thought process regarding potential annexation of the rest of unincorporated North Highline, and a tense discussion regarding a new proposed development:
NHUAC OFFICERS’ ELECTION: Barbara Dobkin was elected president, Pat Price was elected vice president, Ron Johnson (who was also nominated for both of those offices) was elected treasurer. Stephen Porter was elected secretary (two other prospective nominees declined to run).
ELECTION RECAP: Just before her election as president, Dobkin noted that incumbents won all the spots up for public election last month, and thanked “everybody who helped out at the elections,” which were held in a two-hour span the evening of May 19th.
ANNEXATION AND MORE, IN THE BURIEN BRIEFING: City manager Mike Martin says the council will discuss annexation at its June 20th meeting, describing it as a “general” discussion about potential direction, which he expects the council to settle on by August, to know “what it wants to do regarding annexation,” and he expects a potential vote in “less than a year.” That factors into the library controversy; Burien councilmember Rose Clark mentioned a meeting with Library Board members at City Hall, regarding concerns over the potential library consolidation. She said the Burien mayor and council have sent a letter “asking them to not make a decision until we have completed our discussions on the annexation. … Our position is: The libraries belong right in the local community where students and family have close access and can walk to them and use them as they have before.” Martin said he has no particular stake in what library site might be chosen, and urged NHUAC members “not to dig into one idea … until you see how everything is in play and manifests itself. …” He recounted the Puget Sound Park “debacle” and said he hadn’t been opposed to the idea of a library in the park, but rather to the idea that the community had not been consulted.
Also: Martin said that if the weather holds, the last round of paving on Ambaum – which will take about four days – is about to start, and the entire project (including striping) should be done by June 15th. More projects are in the works; “you’re going to see a lot of asphalt going down this summer,” he promised, with $6 million more worth in projects “out there,” after the Ambaum project, which is worth about $3 million … He also discussed the “visioning” project, which surfaced concerns about education and crime; the latter, he said, is not so much a problem as a perception problem, but he said there is indeed a problem with “how we educate our kids.” … Also at the NHUAC meeting, Burien Parks’ Debbie Zemke made a guest appearance to announce a new outdoor-concert series in North Burien – free, to be held on the grounds of Hilltop School (she said they would have liked to have it in a park but power and electricity issues couldn’t be worked out), 6:30 pm Wednesday nights, July 13th with Banda Vagos, July 20th with Global Heat, and July 27th with the Camano Cadillac Band.
DELRIDGE NEIGHBORHOODS DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION & PAPPAS VILLAGE: This organization is headquartered in West Seattle, but is involved with White Center projects, including the under-construction Strength of Place Village, and the proposed Pappas Village, which sparked a heated discussion. First – NDNA executive director Derek Birnie presented a primer to NHUAC, explaining that his is one of eight similar community-development organizations in the general Seattle area. Though most people know them for development, that’s not all they do, Birnie explained; they also have been active in health/fitness advocacy. Their development projects, he says, couple community facilities with affordable housing – with examples including the Delridge Library branch in the same building as Vivian McLean Place; he also told the story of how the historic Cooper School building was transformed into Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, after neighbors said the building needed to be brought back to life.
Regarding Strength of Place, he said they just had a walkthrough because it’s 50 percent done – the first families will move in in September, and it’ll be done in October. (DNDA partnered with Capitol Hill Housing to make the project happen, and the partnership helped “attract more resources,” he explained.) The next project, Pappas Village, at 14th/107th (a one-acre parcel), is envisioned as offering “housing units that are affordable and accessible to low- and moderate-income families in White Center,” he explained, with “a mix of unit sizes that provides housing opportunities for some larger families.” Their first thought is for 60 units. For its commercial space, Birnie said child care might be a possibility – they’re talking to some possible providers. One challenge is that the project slopes away from the street, and he’s not certain whether that might get in the way of some underground parking. They’re still seeking a development partner and financing, in hopes that the former will lead to the latter, and they’ve just gone public with a “request for proposals” – they’re asking for interest to be expressed by the end of July. If they don’t find a partner, they might have to figure out something else to do with the property – maybe even putting it up for sale – Birnie said.
NHUAC’s ongoing concerns about too much low-income housing in the greater White Center area resurfaced here. Councilmember Jessica Stoneback asked if there would be a mix of housing for people with not-so-low income levels, and said that while she lives nearby, she hasn’t heard anything about the project; Birnie said they had been partnered for outreach with the White Center Community Development Association, and that he will check on what’s being done. Councilmember Liz Giba added that she is also concerned about the concentration of poverty in the area, and wondered if Birnie were “aware of the numbers” and how much the concentration of poverty “hurts this community.” He said he is, and acknowledged that Greenbridge‘s promised mix of homes for sale with the rentals hasn’t materialized. He said DNDA recently spoke with the Washington Housing Finance Commission and asked them for more flexibility regarding “what gets developed on this property” – though they originally had had to commit to “affordable housing” only. Councilmember Ron Johnson expressed similar concerns. New president Dobkin called it “disheartening” that there hadn’t been much outreach and said she hadn’t even heard about this proposal until recently. “No one is opposed to affordable housing,” Dobkin said, but the housing base in the community desperately needs diversification – the concentration of low-income housing has harmed the tax base, she said.
The property owners, Gus and Mary Anne Pappas, were there. She countered the NHUAC members’ comments with, “We think this project is going to be great”; an associate of hers who worked on the deal said that a project like this seemed to be an improvement over the two houses that currently are on the acre-plus parcel, and noted that the Pappas’s are longtime White Center residents, whose name will be on the project. Council and audience members said they had never heard that before. Birnie stepped in and acknowledged, “A ball has clearly been dropped” regarding communication of this project. Then he reiterated that his organization is open to changes in how the property might be developed, and that needed to be kept in mind given “the intensity of feelings.”
One such feeling that surfaced after Birnie was asked who chose the site for the project, and replied that the White Center Community Development Association was involved: “Who made the (WCCDA) a spokesperson for the community?” asked former NHUAC president Greg Duff, whose home is now in North Burien (and he’s running for City Council). Birnie said he couldn’t speak for them.
KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Sgt. Rodney Chinnick, who runs the KCSO gang unit – “which is busy these days,” he noted – “pinch-hit” with the latest stats. Residential burglaries and assaults ‘are both going in the wrong direction,” he said. There had been some arrests recently, but he noted the younger suspects didn’t stay behind bars so long “because of the turnstile system of justice” for juveniles. He speculated that the higher assault rate might be tied to summertime behavior and alcohol ingestion, and warned that this weekend will tell the story, since good weather is forecast. … He was asked by councilmember Douglas Harrell how funding is going for the Gang Unit; Chinnick said that some of it is dependent on grants, and they’re still awaiting word on renewal of at least one key grant. … Questions were asked regarding how to deal with a problem involving alcohol abuse near a local grocery store; if there’s a problem, it was reiterated, call 911 – don’t think too hard about whether to call, just know that the dispatchers have a prioritization system (and if you suspect there’s a problem with an establishment, whether store or bar, report it to the State Liquor Control Board). Councilmember Christine Waldman also noted you can make reports online. Also regarding alcohol and related violations, Sgt. Chinnick said the closure of Club Evo had dramatically reduced the number of calls to that address; noting that the injunction that closed the club became permanent in mid-May, he also pointed out that the ownership hasn’t changed and could choose to open a new business.
POTENTIAL CHANGES IN ZONING: A representative from King County DDES says a planned project in White Center has brought a proposal for changes in “special district overlay” conditions applying to development in the area. One change would involve setbacks from an alley, prompted by a development proposal that would have to be set back further than any of the existing buildings because of current codes, so an exception is being considered. Another exemption for the proposal would involve landscaping. NHUAC members asked for more specifics; the project is proposed for a stretch of 16th between 106th and 107th, potentially with a ground-floor church and apartments over it. That was the major item of discussion, though he also brought along documents with a sheaf of other tweaks, not project-specific, proposed to codes. He says the County Council is expected to take action in fall.
WILL THERE BE MONEY FOR NHUAC AFTER THIS MONTH? The county liaison who was on hand said it’s not known yet – but the County Council is expected to discuss the Unincorporated Area Councils issue at an upcoming meeting.
PUBLIC COMMENT: One person spoke, Gill Loring, who announced that the White Center Bartell Drugs store will soon have its drug-take-back bin up and running, per the White Center-South Delridge Community Safety Coalition … He also noted that Zippy’s Giant Burgers is open in White Center (as we’ve been reporting) – he says he had one for the first time and “they’re really good.”
ANNOUNCEMENTS: The North Highline Fire District will be accepting applications for volunteer firefighters soon; applications will be on the website sometime early next week. … The White Center Recycling Event is happening at Evergreen High School 9 am-3 pm this Saturday … The White Center Library Guild’s big fundraiser sale is June 18 … The next King County Library Board meeting is on June 28th, and president Dobkin reminded all of what’s at stake (here’s our coverage from the last meeting).
FIREWORKS FOR JUBILEE DAYS: Wednesday, July 13th, councilmember Giba said, is when the pre-Jubilee Days fireworks display is scheduled. Friday, July 15th, a retro-rollerskating event at Southgate Roller Rink is scheduled; Saturday, July 16th, has the parade and a car show, and Sunday, July 17th, will be the second/final day of the festival.
The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets the first Thursday of the month, 7 pm, at North Highline Fire District HQ.