Shelter concerns, Highline school bond, 50% stormwater-fee increase @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

October 6th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, North Highline UAC, White Center news 5 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Topline from tonight’s meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, which drew about 40 people, more than double the usual turnout, and ran for three hours:

WHITE CENTER SHELTER? Three weeks after the tumultuous meeting (WCN coverage here) about the shelter proposed for the former King County Public Health Center at 8th SW and SW 108th, the topic was in the spotlight again at tonight’s NHUAC meeting.

Burien/Normandy Park FD fire marshal Ray Pettigrew was asked to speak about concerns raised by the county’s proposal to change “what is basically an office building and turn it into a residential structure.” Concerns, he said, would be the plan for “occupancy classification” – it would need fire alarms with automatic detection, for example. “You would have to put a different kind of sprinkler head in there that takes care of the fire quicker, so occupants have a chance to get out,” for example, Pettigrew said. Whatever you think of the proposal, the department must look at the safety of the 70 people the building would house, some of whom might have “some degree of impairment,” and firefighters’ safety would have to be taken into account too.

Exit paths should be no more than 75 feet, but he said plans for the building didn’t seem to have addressed that yet. There would likely be a need for fire suppression in the building’s kitchen, too. Carbon-monoxide detectors are needed as well as smoke detectors. He also mentioned “panic hardware” and the potential draw on resources, “a facility that might add one or two calls a day … you’re looking at impacts to the area, and how are they going to be mitigated?” In response to a question, he said there has been communication with the county Fire Marshal’s Office. “But,” pressed an attendee, “can they occupy it without all (of this mitigation)?” Yes, King County could do that, because they “own the permitting process.” Pettigrew made it clear that he doesn’t have the jurisdiction; Chris Ricketts, King County fire marshal, does.

Then a nearly surprise guest – King County Sheriff John Urquhart. He said he only found out about it a couple weeks ago, and while he probably has no say over the decision, “it’s probably going to add to our call load,” and if they have to add resources, they will. “Sounds to me like this train is coming down the track, but if anybody is going to stop it, it’s going to be this group here.”

What can citizens do if things go really bad? asked an attendee, bringing up the now-notorious Interbay sports-field camping. “You know why that’s happening? Because it’s the city of Seattle,” he said, bringing up pending legislation in the city that would reportedly allow camping on a lot of public property.

“But we don’t operate out here like that. If someone is camping on private property, we will get them out of there. If it’s public property – and they are trespassing – we will get them out.” He said, “I have compassion for the homeless, but they can’t be parking in front of somebody else’s house, for more than 24 hours.” If they want to park longer than that, “send them north of Roxbury,” he said, to laughter.

Attendees brought up safety concerns for kids walking to schools. But Urquhart pointed out that King County has had “tent cities for a long time, and crime didn’t go up” – because, he said, the encampments were self-governing and had rules. “We have devolved so far from there … it is a terrible situation,” Urquhart said.

He had called it a “political decision,” and NHUAC board member Elizabeth Gordon said, “You mean the executive’s office?” “And his people,” Urquhart replied. “…but that’s not a value judgment, that’s just the way it is. Dow and (Seattle Mayor) Ed Murray have said there’s a homeless emergency in this region, and they’re right, there is an emergency. … They have an empty building, and they want to put 70 people into it.”

If it goes through, and you see problems, one attendee said, “call 911 – call police – every time.” Urquhart said he agreed with that solution. “Super-important to call 911,” not just so they have a record of it, but so they can do something about it.

That segued into a reminder that while White Center might have the minimum-level two deputies on duty at any time, if need be, they can get backup from other areas of the King County Sheriff’s Office-served areas nearby.

Also – White Center resident Joseph Benavides (sp?) talked toward the start of the meeting about continuing community opposition to the shelter proposal, mentioning an online petition and crowdfunding for a lawyer.

NHUAC president Liz Giba said she had asked King County leadership to come to White Center for a meeting on the proposal, but had not received a reply.

Later in the meeting, she said they’re hoping to get guests to talk about it at next month’s NHUAC meeting, including elected officials such as King County Councilmember Joe McDermott.

CRIME UPDATE: Storefront deputy Bill Kennamer talked about this afternoon’s robbery – “four dudes with four guns,” but the store operator, Lawless Clothing, won’t cooperate. “We’re doing our best to shut them down,” he said, alleging that the business has an unlawful sideline. He mentioned that while the helicopter was in the area, it picked up a LoJack (stolen vehicle) signal, and while KCSO does not have LoJack in its cars, Seattle Police came over and helped them find the vehicle near the Evergreen campus.

Kennamer said the sheriff has made it clear, no fixed encampments in the unincorporated urban areas – White Center and Skyway – and, he said, they don’t have any. Overall, Kennamer said he would be surprised if this area has more than two dozen “regulars” experiencing homelessness, contrary to the county’s contention that there are at least 100.

He also confirmed that the KCSO storefront has moved to the new location announced earlier this year, the former White Center Chamber of Commerce building at Steve Cox Memorial Park.

For crime stats/trends, he showed the newest month-by-month charts on “case reports taken,” with some modest increases.

Have campers on Myers Way had an effect on crime rates? Kennamer was asked. He said he’s not seeing that.

The deputy also had positive words for the WC Chevron site’s redevelopment for Starbucks and Popeye’s; he said the car wash at 16th and 104th now is part of the trespass program so that should take care of loitering; Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ should be open by mid-November; across the street, the former Hang Around (among other things) is going to be a beer place. The new Uncle Ike’s marijuana store between 14th and 15th “has had an immediate positive effect on the area … (the proprietor) wants to get soccer moms comfortable enough to come and buy weed (there).”

HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOND: With one month to go until the $233 million bond‘s fate is decided in the November election, former Burien Councilmember Rose Clark – co-chair of a 40-member citizen committee that worked on the proposal – spoke tonight to NHUAC. She said the committee “spent a huge amount of time” working on assessing district challenges, problems, and requirements. “Remember, a bond is only for buildings,” she pointed out – not textbooks, staff, etc.

She talked about the committee’s tour of HPS schools and finding one building “so old, so fragile, I swear if you take the ivy off the back of it, that building is going to fall down.” She admitted she voted against the last bond for reasons including her belief that Highline HS couldn’t be in worse shape than, for example, Evergreen … but seeing it, she said, swayed her. (The bond measure does include money to start designing new campuses for Tyee and Evergreen, she said; spending $10 million on design in this bond cycle will save $23 million in the next one.) Des Moines Elementary also seems in danger of crumbling “on the heads of the kids” at any moment, Clark said. The statewide class-size mandate for K-3 means more room is needed, in addition to existing needs, she said. Newer schools will get security retrofits – from door-locking to security cameras – and the district would get an emergency-operations center, Clark noted.

For a levy overview – see this page, which has a breakout of which schools would get what if the bond passes. And the district has three open house/tour events planned next week, including one at the Evergreen campus – see the dates/times/locations here. Based on current assessed valuation, this bond measure would cost you 79 cents for every thousand dollars of assessed value of your property.

At meeting’s end, NHUAC board members voted 6-1 to endorse a “yes” vote on the bond measure.

STORMWATER SERVICES PROGRAM: King County’s Trisha Davis spoke about the program and a proposed 50 percent fee increase. “Most of the development in the county was built without any stormwater controls,” she explained, unlike new development – such as the new White Center Library, which she said was built “with extensive stormwater controls.” Stormwater takes pollution off roads and sends it into waterways, where it can kill healthy salmon “within hours.” The stormwater-management fee pays for the program, $171.50 per single-family parcel; “commercial properties pay based on the amount of impervious surface they have.” The current fee brings in $24 million/year. But the county wants to address “more challenges” than it can do with that revenue, Davis said, including roadway drainage and retrofitting “areas without stormwater controls.” Roadway infrastructure that’s in danger of failing in the next decade alone would cost up to half a billion dollars to fix. Looking over the next century, the price tag could go up to $830 million. To start bringing in more money, she said, King County Executive Dow Constantine is proposing a 50 percent increase in the fee, to $258 per residential parcel. The fee increase would affect about 80,000 property owners in the unincorporated area, according to Davis.

Would there be projects in the White Center area? Davis was asked. While she didn’t have a specific list, she said yes. In response to a question, she said that most property owners don’t know that they are aware for managing their own stormwater.

In Q&A, a variety of drainage/stormwater-related concerns arose, involving sites including the White Center Neighborhood Pond. While there are trash concerns, and some loitering problems, a King County Sheriff’s Office rep acknowledged, “it’s nothing like what it was” before camps in the area were removed.

MISCELLANEOUS ANNOUNCEMENTS: A library celebration is coming up on October 29th …White Center Kiwanis is selling candy bars, Godiva for $3, See’s for $2.50, to support local youth. An increase of community support has made them able to offer more support for local scholarships as well as uniforms for Mount View Elementary School. No specific locations/times for sales – “wherever we are.”

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets most months on the first Thursday, 7 pm. Watch for updates and agendas. As the board points out, they need people to get involved and stay involved.

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White Center shelter: What the county’s saying, post-meeting

September 19th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 5 Comments »

As noted here over the weekend, King County has posted an FAQ on their webpage about the proposed White Center shelter at the former Public Health clinic on 8th SW at SW 108th. They’ve also added their minutes of last Thursday night’s meeting – read the 9-plus pages of notes here. (Our comprehensive coverage, including video of the entire meeting, is here.)

We had asked some followup questions, and the answers largely came back as the same verbiage in the FAQ.

We asked: How soon will a date be set for the second meeting?

Reply, almost exactly the same as the “what are the next steps?” FAQ reply: “King County will work on suggestions and input given by community members including the possibility of alternate locations and/or reshaping the shelter program. Once this work has been completed, King County will discuss these options with community members.”

We asked: Will the project be put on hold in the meantime as requested, or is it going forward with permit application and whatever work is under way?

The second part was not answered (so we’ll be asking again) – the permit filing is a particularly relevant point, as, before the meeting, the county had told us that they expected to submit the filing right after the meeting. To “will the project be put on hold?” the reply was: We are taking a step back to consider the input we received from the community.

Noting that multiple attendees at Thursday’s meeting had said this had been under discussion for “a year,” without that being refuted by anyone from the county or Salvation Army, we asked if that timeline were true. The reply was almost word-for-word what’s in the FAQ as the reply to “How long has King County been planning to site a shelter in White Center?” – Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a homeless state of emergency last November. Following that declaration, King County began an exploration of county buildings and properties to see if any might be feasible for use as housing or shelter. At the same time, we also looked at our data to determine geographic areas of need. Upon our initial review, the nearly vacant White Center Public Health building entered consideration. The first planning connected to the White Center site began in May with a physical assessment of the site followed by working with partners to develop the service program. Upon completion of this phase, King County sent out the public meeting notice in late August with the meeting being held on Sept. 15.

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VIDEO: ‘We won’t let it happen!’ shout furious opponents of King County’s White Center shelter plan

September 15th, 2016 Tracy Posted in housing, King County, White Center news 31 Comments »

(Added early Friday: Unedited WCN video of meeting, in its entirety)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

King County promises a second community meeting about its uncloaked-at-the-last-minute plan to open a 70-bed shelter in White Center.


That followed a tense and intense standing-room-only meeting with more than 100 people, many furious and frightened, saying the shelter proposed for the former Public Health building at 8th and 108th is too close to schools, too close to homes, simply the wrong location.

Some declared they will do whatever it takes to stop it, and were talking about protests and crowdfunding for legal action.

Here’s how the 2 1/2-hour meeting – an hour longer than originally planned – unfolded in TAF’s Bethaday Community Learning Space, close to the location where the county says it wants to open the shelter by November 1st.

The meeting was moderated by Michael Ramos of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, who opened it reiterating that the most-recent One Night Count found 10,000 people unsheltered in King County. It is a “there but for the grace of God go I” situation, he stressed. He said he is part of the All Home coalition that works on the homelessness crisis. “With supportive services, this can be a place of hope and healing for the community.” He promised comments and questions/answers will be “audio-recorded” with an FAQ posted on King County’s website.

The county “is determined to hear” what those in attendance have to say, Ramos promised while trying to set ground rules for the discussion. One man said that he felt it was somewhat disrespectful for the meeting organizers to even have to suggest such rules might be needed.

Next to speak, Mark Ellerbrook, the King County official, to whom we spoke for the preview story we published on Tuesday. “The need in this community is very real,” he declared. Ellerbrook reiterated that Southwest King County has the largest number of people living outdoors outside Seattle – at least 100 estimated to be in White Center, sleeping in doorways, parks, other places. Calls to 211 numbered more than 1,300 for the three zip codes that cover the greater White Center area. “There is no shelter” in this area, he again declared, aside from small shelters for women in West Seattle and Burien. The county looks at where it needs services, and this area qualifies, he said. So, they started looking at where they could provide services, “and move (people) into housing.”

As he had told WCN in our interview, the shelter will operate 5 pm to 8 am. Ellerbrook handed the microphone to Maj. Smith and Scott Morehouse from the Salvation Army.

Smith said he has “been doing this a long time” – involved with shelter, addictions, and is Director of Social Services in the Seattle area. “Our flagship programs have become our shelter operations.” Up to 230 beds at three locations comprise the programs right now, he said, and Morehouse is the manager; he said he’s a “member of the White Center community.”

After their short intros, the microphone was handed to Steve Daschle of Southwest Youth and Family Services, a West Seattle-headquartered nonprofit. As he had told the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council months ago, his organization and others are looking at a potential development at the site of this emergency shelter and the neighboring White Center Food Bank. “We have a vision .. of a community service center that could serve White Center and Southwest King County,” working with the WCFB and White Center Community Development Association. In addition to that, they are talking with Capitol Hill Housing to provide “several units of housing” on that site, but he said it’s still early – at least two, three, four years before the building could be built, “a brand new, beautiful resource for the community.”

First person to ask a question was Bobby Beeman of Sky’s Barber Shop and the White Center Chamber of Commerce, asking why White Center businesses hadn’t been notified until just a few days ago.

He said that WC residents seem to believe that businesspeople are “pushing homeless people” from the business district, into residential areas. “I happen to know that the 300 or 400 people you talk about in White Center, if you go out and had conversation with the people you seem to want to help and ask them what they needed, you’ll find that they prefer to be on the fringe, that they don’t want (what) you are going to offer them.” He also brought up what King County’s Ellerbrook had said, that they operate regionally so people don’t have to be from White Center to use a WC shelter, and so on.

Ellerbrook said yes, that’s true, and said that outreach workers try to build relationships with people to bring them in and help with their issues and while it might not click the first time, it eventually does.

Beeman pressed him on the point of the county suggesting that the business community supported this. Ellerbrook said that they had heard “in various meetings” and then said, “I apologize for” not reaching out directly to businesspeople, and he reiterated that they had distributed notices within 500 feet of the planned shelter.

Next person to speak says the intersection “with four schools” is one of the busiest, most dangerous in the area, and he’s concerned that those schools all will be starting around the time that the shelter sends people out for the day. He said that “We’re not going to stand for this to come into this place, if we have to place a human barrier in front of it.” He vowed to inundate the county with e-mails “because we’re not going to have this.” He also said planning for the facility allegedly began a year ago and there wouldn’t even be a meeting tonight if WCCDA’s Sili Savusa hadn’t told the county they had better talk to the community.”

Next, two people who said that transients go by their house and throw trash into their yard, and that a fire was started.

“Send them to Bellevue, send them to Kirkland!” he and his wife shouted, with supportive shouts coming from the audience.

Next, a woman from the Coalition on Homelessness said the problem is that there are people who have nowhere to go. This facility will offer evening and morning meals, which will allow people more time “to work on their jobs.” Many people sleeping outside do work, she said. “I want to call attention to the fact that the people living outside are human beings like the rest of us, we are all people. They are (also) residents of this community.”

“No, no, no,” yell some in the audience.

The advocate said it’s important that people realize drug and alcohol problems are not limited to unsheltered people. “We are talking about people who might have lived in your community before and lost their homes because they lost their jobs.”

“Do you live in White Center?” someone hollered from the audience.

Next person to speak identified herself as an Arrowhead Gardens resident. She said, “We have two encampments next door and we are comfortable with those encampments … When you talk about drugs, you will note that the people who are living there have a sign that says ‘no drugs allowed'” – she appears to be speaking about Camp Second Chance – and she goes on to say it’s important “that you don’t lump all people who are homeless as (if they are) a monstrosity.” She closes by reading a few lines of poetry.

Next speaker is a woman who identifies herself as a mom, and says this is “kind of unexpected.” She voices concern about children walking to school. She wonders why this location and not one that is more out of the way. Ellerbrook answers the question and says that the layout of the building works well for the various types of people they hope to serve, and reiterates that it’s a “temporary use of a county facility that’s vacant at the moment.”

Then a woman who says she is a White Center “building owner” and married to a business owner says she “cleans my parking lot almost every day,” scrubbing away excrement, picking up needles, bottles, cleaning out graffiti. She says she’s concerned that there’s no limit on nights that people can stay. “What incentive are we giving them … it sounds like enabling … I don’t mean to lump this population with going to get loaded, shoot up, stumble into the shelter … this should be a give-and-take and it sounds like take, take, take.” She thinks people using the shelter should have to show proof they are looking for work and trying to better their circumstances. “What are they going to change?”

Ellerbrook: “If we provide a shelter with barriers – they don’t come indoors. If it’s a low-barrier shelter, we get people to come in, and get them to address” their circumstances and challenges “and move into housing.”

Morehouse from the Salvation Army said that adding part-time case management increased “housing outcomes” at their downtown shelter by seven percent. “You said seven percent?” someone shouted, and someone else laughed.

Maj. Smith said that sheltering originally was about just keeping people from freezing to death on the street. “When you start to provide extended services … they will respond … they do respond. Not everybody responds, but those who do, we’ve seen them increase their ability to stabilize and access other services, and it’s a deterrent to the other things that the community faces … without that. … Intervention of this type leads to a decrease” in the problems. Smith mentions that the Salvation Army already has a nearby location (in South Delridge) where they can “engage” with the people who will be in this shelter.

What does “moving into housing” mean? someone asked. It might be “supportive housing,” Ellerbrook said. It might be “rapid rehousing.” But “we know that those folks who enter into housing stay in it for the long term.”

“Who pays for it?” someone asked loudly.

“So that doesn’t mean those people got on their feet,” said the person who asked the question.

A community member said she had been homeless and supports good programs, but she is concerned that this isn’t the best model, that people will just go out in the daytime and hang around in parks. “I don’t think we have the resources to provide public safety … I also have concerns about a faith-based model being used to support homeless people,” and she suggested other types of programs might help better with recovery.

Maj. Smith said that “being a faith-based organization is a lot different than providing faith-based services” – the programs are not faith-based, he said.

The next person mentioned Camp Second Chance (which is just inside the gate to the City of Seattle-owned Myers Way Parcels). “I asked them what they thought their solution would be … and it was that they can’t afford housing in Seattle. I said, ‘at least you’re not doing drugs here,’ and I got this deer in the headlights look, so I’m not so sure.” She went on to say that she has known methadone-using addicts and has had drug-using squatters on her property, and that the situation on Myers Way “has exploded this summer.” She said that opioid problems seem to be the root of the problem, and said that programs such as methadone and implants are keeping people addicted. She thought some different types of programs should be used.

Next speaker declared, “Communication is terrible, especially from King County, so since the county is going to do what it wants to do, regardless of the protest … what is it exactly that is going to happen to us in six weeks, so we know what to go to Joe McDermott and complain about?”

“We are going through the permitting process for ‘change of use’,” Ellerbrook said. “There are also improvements being made to the building – the fire panel, the facility generally, so it can be managed as a shelter. … This is the first that DCHS has heard (about the intersection concerns),” so they will go to the Roads Department about that. The concerns voiced tonight, he reiterated, will be posted on the county website.

Next, a woman who said she had been in human services for 10 years, “I am not unfamiliar, I have been in One Night Count, I have been out on the streets counting … I, as are (many others) here, am a homeowner, in Seola Gardens. We are a mixed-income community. Before the houses were built, we encountered some of the homeless (people) who would come take advantage of a safe haven that is there … we found many individuals who were opioid users, asleep on the vacant lots.” She said she was concerned about the central intake area, and who will be handling the data so that there are no longer people unable to access services. “How else is the county going to help with MIDD” – mental, instable, drug dependency.

Ellerbrook said that’s a levy that’s up for renewal right now, being considered by the County Council right now “that will be able to directly assist in this area.” Who are the other nonprofits that will be working with the shelter users? the woman asked again. Ellerbrook mentioned Sound Mental Health, as he had in our conversation earlier this week. Also: “One of the key interventions we will be using is ‘rapid rehousing’, to get people into housing quickly, for less cost than historically. … If we can get people into housing, they are successful in (staying housed).”

Besides Salvation Army and Sound Mental Health, he said “coordinated entry” would be done, including an initial assessment. “So if somebody presents at the shelter, they would get an assessment at the shelter … and they would be able to get a referral for housing, and that is managed by the county.”

The next speaker said, “I am excited for this … I think this is a good opportunity … I think (I am hearing) a lot of concern from the audience that we are not informed, that happens a lot in White Center… but … the numbers that we heard in the beginning, that there are 300 people in Southwest King County, unsheltered … the need is already here … we need to provide people a way to make better choices … I know that when I am rested and fed a little bit, I am able to think about things like my job …” He asked people to see people who might have the chance to make a transition.

After him, a man who said, “This is an enhanced shelter, which means no screening of occupants, people could show up drunk, stoned, they’ll be admitted – what about the people in there who are trying to get ahead?” And:”This is not about family homeless situations, this is about people who may not want to get help … it’s not for people under 18; existing felons or drug users can take advantage of this … it’s a regional (problem). These people can come from anywhere. … This is a main thoroughfare, it’s already been pointed out this is a dangerous intersection, I don’t want people squatting under my trees, parking their van in front of my house … this hurts the neighborhood, makes it more prone to crime, drugs, it’s not well thought out, you guys are shoving it down our throats. … This is not the right solution.”

Someone shouted from the back, “why not families?”

Ellerbrook replied that couples will be allowed in this shelter, unlike many. He didn’t answer why children would not be allowed.

Next: “We’re not necessarily opposed … we’re pissed off beyond belief that we’re just now getting to talk about it … we’re being told it’s opening November 1st without getting a chance to have a say. We’re not saying that homeless people are the worst of the worst, but 60 percent of them have alcohol, drug problems .. We want to get them help but we’re not being given the chance. Did you talk to the parents of (nearby schools)?”

No! shout many in the audience.

She says she has a daughter at Mount View Elementary and is worried that once the shelter users are sent out for the day, they’ll hang out in the area. The shelter operators will not know if any of them are sex offenders or have criminal backgrounds. “You have no respect for this community,” she shouts.

There’s no response to the statement, and many shout, “NO RESPONSE? ANSWER THE QUESTION!”

Ellerbrook says they reached out to the schools. Then a woman runs up to the front of the room and says she hasn’t been able to sleep for nights since hearing about the shelter plan, and that she talked to Highline Public Schools‘ security chief and that he told her he knew nothing about it.

The woman continues to shout that the children would be walking the same path as the people using the shelter.

One man in the back of the room shouted, “THERE WILL BE NO SHELTER!”

Another woman shouting from the side of the room demanded to know more about when there was alleged outreach to the schools.

Ellerbrook said he talked to a principal last week.

“LAST WEEK?” people shouted.

“You need to talk to the parents!” some shout.

“We will not let it happen! It will not let it happen!” people shouted.

Someone else shouted “GoFundMe page for an attorney!”

Answering a question from a few minutes earlier, Ellerbrook said that funding was planned for the shelter through 2017, and then part of it would be from state funds and “some of the other local dollars we use to provide shelter through the county.”

Next person to speak told those at the meeting that they “have done a pretty poor job” of getting information to the community. “That being said, these people who need the support and the services who are going to be offered at this place are already part of our community, they are already here, and I think there’s a great amount of evidence that these services are successful.” He wanted the Salvation Army to explain what kind of success they’ve said.

Morehouse said, “The people you come into contact with who access shelter and walk away as a success story, I wish we could tell you the numbers are huge … but we know that’s not really possible. What we are committed to is intervention, what we are committed to is trying to find resources for people, trying to help (them) on this almost impossible journey … If we don’t, who will?”

Next attendee said he has had to put up a fence on his property to keep transients away. He had trouble reaching someone in King County to listen to him. “I think you guys are confusing what the problem is.”

“The problem is that we have too many people here already,” someone said.

A woman said, “When you have children in this area, it’s location, location, location … when we call the cops every single night because there are people out back, couples out back, having sex, swearing, leaving needles, condoms, we can’t even have our grandchildren play at our home, when we can no longer use a park because all these people are going to be released out into the community … God bless the homeless, I wish I could give a home to everyone of them, but it’s this location, why could you not have chosen somewhere else? The complaint is location, we might as well be the third frickin’ runway here, we were not given any warning. … you can’t have a discussion for a year and then suddenly” bring it forward.

Pat Price from the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council said they received no official notification – it was brought up at their last meeting only because a NHUAC member lived close enough to get the notice about this. (And we should note, the only reason we heard about this is because we routinely cover NHUAC meetings, and are the only media organization that does that – we then had to work through the county to get the notice.) She asked if King County uses “its own Equity Impact Tool” or if it commissioned a housing analysis or opportunity mapping while planning this project. And Price wondered about the meeting notice’s mention that the community could suggest alternate sites.

“This is the worst site!” shouted someone in the back of the room.

Ellerbrook said they heard a suggestion for the DSHS building in downtown White Center, so they investigated it, but: “That’s been fully leased out to Sea Mar,” he said. A man in the back of the room said the county wasn’t aware of that previously.

The next person to speak said she felt “there should be a shelter somewhere in White Center – but, in a residential area, where there are homes north, east, south, west – children walk to school, my child, and it’s not as safe as it was when I used to walk to school – I’m glad this community is here today. These questions haven’t been answered to our community. Our community is suffering from this and we need to talk again. Homelessness in White Center is real … November is only two months away .. this community doesn’t really need a shelter in the residential area.”

Another woman says she found out about the meeting from a neighbor who works with the school district. “You should have had meetings when you started planning a year ago.” She said she had suggested previously that unused school buildings be used. If school district people had been notified back at the start of the planning process, they could have offered those suggestions.

Ellerbrook said they would take that suggestion under advisement as well as possibly changing the discharge hours at the shelter. Then people started shouting, that’s not the problem, it’s the location. Ellerbrook said, “Are there ways that we can mitigate the concerns?”

“No!” shouted many in the crowd.

Ellerbrook reiterated that people who will be served by the shelter are “in the community” now. “We will be doing outreach to those specific locations, to people who are already in your community, who are causing some of the issues (that people at the meeting have brought up).”

The next speaker identified herself as 26 years old and said homelessness has been an issue since before she was born, so, “What is the rush? … If these resources haven’t been available before this, then why are we rushing something that clearly the community is not on board with? This is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed in this neighborhood – I have a heart for members of this community (including those who are homeless) and this could be an amazing thing if it had been addressed correctly.”

Ellerbrook addressed that question by saying that they wanted to open it before the worst weather hit, “when we open emergency shelters throughout the county.”

Barbara Dobkin of NHUAC pointed out that this was not brought up at the most recent Community Service Area meeting. “We are presently a community of poverty … We have progressively been getting poorer and this is by design. This isn’t by accident, this is by design. … Why is it that White Center is a catch-all for things that nobody else wants?”

Ellerbrook says again that this will serve people who are already in the community, and that many of them are likely to be members of underserved, underrepresented groups.

A man saying he just moved into Seola Gardens says he is worried about policing, and that “Seattle is making their problems our problems.” He wonders what kind of protection people can expect.

“Self-policing!” says a man in the back. “Arm yourselves!”

“People don’t want to be homeless,” Ellerbrook said in his next reply.

“Baloney!” someone hollered.

Ellerbrook said that if people know they have a spot in the shelter the next night, they won’t be queueing up outside it. “What do you do when it’s full?” an attendee shouted.

Next person said he was frustrated to hear of the 7 percent success rate. He said he got a flyer and ran around his neighborhood telling his neighbors about it, and that they hadn’t heard. He lives near Mount View Elementary and said that he called police a few years back about a prostitution problem. He said that the shelter will bring the neighborhood down. That led to someone else complaining about car prowling problems. “You can’t take care of the people who are here now.”

The next speaker said she had lived in her car for six months, with a baby, “it was not a pleasant experience,” and she had help getting out of it, but had to live up to certain “parameters.” And she was concerned about not knowing who will be in the area. “Think of the children,” she said, “really.”

“I’ve heard a lot about this being temporary – is it temporary until it becomes permanent?” asked the next questioner. She also worried about people coming to the shelter after being “swept” from crime-ridden encampments like Seattle’s “Jungle.”

Ellerbrook reiterated that the time frame would be likely up to three years. And he again said, this is for people who are in the community now. That drew more shouting about the “regional” explanation that had been offered earlier. Regarding the seven percent “success rate,” he said they know that is low, and that’s why they are moving to the “enhanced shelter” plan, which they feel will have a much higher success rate.

Asked if this has been announced, he said, “We have not mentioned this to any homeless people.”

At this point, 8:37 pm, two hours into the meeting, Ramos said there were 25 more people signed up to speak.

The next one said he hadn’t received a notice about the meeting but was wondering if the county would consider screening, or changing the plan to a women’s shelter.

“One of the things we know is that we screen too many people out of shelter,” Ellerbrook reiterated. “Low-barrier shelters” get more people indoors and connected to services.

“The ones who can’t make it elsewhere?” shouted someone.

Next speaker asked again, why won’t this shelter be open to families?

Ellerbrook said that “co-mingled facilities” with singles, couples, and families don’t work, “because of the low-barrier nature of the shelter …”

“Because it’s not safe!” people shouted. “Just say it!”

Ellerbrook said, “What I know from our shelter operators is that they don’t operate shelters that are (co-mingled).”

So why is it safe for the shelter to be near schools? others demanded to know.

The next speaker went up and started shouting in Ellerbrook’s face from inches away.

Then another asked the question posed above – so if they’re not safe under your roof, why are they safe near schools and homes?

Ellerbrook replied, “when we have the shelter open … these folks are going to be indoors, receiving the case-management services they need. … We very clearly heard the concern about children walking down the street.”

At that point, there was another shout about raising money for a lawyer. Another person said, “I think what you people are doing is criminal, and was not done properly … I don’t really have any questions … I don’t really like the answers, they’re not really answers.” He mentioned the disc golf course at Dick Thurnau Memorial Park. “It’s taken about 30 years to get rid of homelessness and everybody’s concerns … and you’re inviting this back without (asking anyone) … I found out through neighbors. The location is terrible, around schools, in a park – 300 feet from the building – that’s where they’re going to go. It’s criminal what you guys are doing.”

Next attendee: “I don’t have kids, but it’s about the location. The way you have communicated is atrocious.” She says she enjoys running through the park without worrying … and “we know there’s a homeless problem, and I would love to work with you on a solution, but it can’t be at that location.”

A man who spoke before took the spot of a neighbor and declared again that they will crowdfund for a lawyer and “put an injunction on this. We have to stop it.” He said that as a parent he will be “sleeping with a gun on my chest.”

Former White Center Chamber of Commerce president Mark Ufkes says there’s been an overnight provider in WC “that’s has some success taking people off the street” and that he and his children took people to the shelter to get them off the street. He said he was heartened to hear that many people agree there is a problem with homelessness, and he is glad to hear that White Center is now going to do its part. “We have a lot of people in White Center who need help right now.”

The next speaker echoed that people experiencing homelessness need help.

Ellerbrook said he would be interested in a followup meeting about addressing the problem of homelessness in the community. “There are ways that (the plan) can be modified to address the concerns.”

“We’re willing to be part of the solution – give us the chance!” a woman said.

“I hear you loud and clear – you don’t want it here,” Ellerbrook said, proposing that a second meeting be held to work through concerns.

Get the word out more widely, people said. “Expand the notification!” someone said. “Tell the schools!” someone else said. “Put a stop to it (in the meantime)!” yet another person said.

Ramos then took the microphone and reiterated that they will have another meeting and get the word out.

The next speaker was a young woman who said that she is a Cascade Middle School student and she is not afraid of homeless people but she is afraid of what she has heard, that she might get hurt. “What you’re doing is wrong,” she told the meeting organizers.

Then, Sili Savusa of the White Center Community Development Association, speaking about the community’s strength, and that it “knows how to get stuff done.”

She said she heard about this and it “caught me off guard, and I thought, ‘the community needs to be part of the conversation’, but what I don’t want to see is another community like White Center to be marginalized and have a decision made without them in the room either.” She calls for a citizens’ committee to be created, and to include people experiencing homelessness. “We need to get the right people in the room to talk about this.” And, she says, she is asking that the county put a hold on the plan, “take a step back, look at it, on behalf of the homeless folks who need services all over the community.”

Ellerbrook says he will “take (Savusa) up on (the committee idea).”

We recorded the entire two and a half hour meeting on video and will add that video when it is ready, in the early morning.

7:18 AM FRIDAY: That video has now been added, atop this story.

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FOLLOWUP: Why King County wants to open a White Center shelter for people experiencing homelessness, how it will work, and who it’s for

September 13th, 2016 Tracy Posted in housing, King County, White Center news 36 Comments »

(WCN/WSB photo)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

At least 100 people are sleeping outside in White Center on any given night, it’s estimated.

But there’s no official shelter anywhere nearby.

King County hopes to change that before winter, by converting the former Public Health building at 8th SW/SW 108th into a shelter for 70 people.

We first reported this after finding out about it while covering the September 1st North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, where president Liz Giba mentioned an upcoming community meeting to discuss it. We subsequently obtained and published notice of the meeting, which is set for this Thursday night (September 15th).

When we contacted the King County division in charge of the project, Housing and Community Development, we were offered the chance to talk with its manager Mark Ellerbrook about the project.

Here’s what we learned in a conversation with him on Monday:

Ellerbrook reiterated that County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declared homelessness to be “an emergency” as of last November. The annual countywide One Night Count two months later found more than 300 people sleeping outside in Southwest King County alone, the “highest number of unsheltered homeless people outside Seattle,” according to Ellerbrook, with at least 100 of them estimated to be in White Center. The three zip codes that include parts of White Center, meantime, had 1,300 calls last year for homelessness-related assistance.

That indicates a high “level of need,” Ellerbrook observed, not that the county needed the numbers to be aware, since they’ve long been hearing at community meetings about people camping and/or sleeping in doorways and along streets.

But the White Center area has had no shelter to address the need – nothing between an 8-person shelter for women at a West Seattle church and a 9-person shelter for women in Burien. “A pretty high level of need, with almost no shelter services.”

So as the county assessed its resources, with the mission of deploying them toward helping with the homelessness emergency, this building came up. It also was transferred between county departments, making it more easily available for this new use.

It will operate as an “enhanced shelter,” Ellerbrook said, noting that this type of shelter was recommended by some of the reports released last week focusing on the regional crisis, one that operates without some of the restrictions that “are often barriers to people seeking shelter.”

He confirmed that the Salvation Army will operate the shelter, as part of an existing contract with the county, offering case management and other services. We asked about the cost, and he said that hadn’t been finalized yet. (We will check back.) The SA already operates some shelters in county buildings, according to Ellerbrook, and does “a really good job of managing a challenging population”; in addition, it already is involved in the area, with a facility in South Delridge.

The shelter will accept single adults and couples, 18 and over – no children.

The hours will be longer than many “overnight” shelters – opening at 5 pm, offering dinner and breakfast, and closing at 8 am, “so that folks will have more time indoors, with case management connecting in the evening and the morning.” Extra “transportation services” will be offered too, Ellerbrook said; while the location is close to three bus routes serving downtown, “the Salvation Army is going to work to provide van transportation services” so that shelter users can get to appointments, interviews, doctors, something “not typically offered.”

One question asked at this month’s NHUAC meeting – will the shelter be serving just people found to be unsheltered in this area? Ellerbrook says “all of our shelters operate regionally” – so that, for example, someone can show up at a shelter in Bellevue and say they’re from Seattle, and they will still be allowed in.

But, he added, “we’re going to actively do outreach with the Salvation Army and Sound Mental Health to the folks who are homeless in White Center, to make sure they are aware of the shelter, that they can bring their belongings and leave them (at the shelter) even when it’s closed during the day, that it’s OK for couples and pets.” The county already has outreach “in this community,” he said, including at the White Center Food Bank next to the planned shelter site, and at areas where people experiencing homelessness are known to be camping, such as along Myers Way.

Shelter users will not be screened for criminal backgrounds. “These are people who are in the community now – whether they are a felon, or someone just down on their luck, they’re camping in green spaces … our hope is to bring them into a known location like (this) so we can get them connected to services and housing and make them more of a known quantity to all the service providers.”

Also: Alcohol and drug use will not be allowed in the shelter, but if people are under the influence when they arrive, that will not keep them out. “What we find is that most folks who come in are quite tired,” Ellerbrook said.

There will be no limit on nights that people can stay in this shelter. “We often find people might come in for a short period of time, some for a long time … we really hope to move people through the system” and get them into housing, says Ellerbrook.

We asked if the building will be undergoing any major alterations to transform it into a shelter. No, said Ellerbrook, but after the community meeting, they will be applying for a permit that he says is required for “change of building use.” They hope to be able to open by November 1st, while realizing that’s a “tight timeline.”

The meeting notice also promises a discussion of the site’s future, potentially a mixed-use project with affordable housing and offices for service providers. Steve Daschle of West Seattle-based Southwest Youth and Family Services talked about this at last xx’s NHUAC meeting, and he and White Center Community Development Association executive director Sili Savusa will be at this Thursday’s meeting to discuss it.

In the meantime, Ellerbrook says the shelter could be in operation for three years.

Is the county looking at any additional potential shelter sites in White Center?

“We’re not planning anything beyond this right now,” Ellerbrook replied. “Our hope is that we will be able to get people connected and move them out” into real housing. “We hope we can move the needle on homelessness in this particular region.”

And if they can … “we might be able to re-evaluate the need for this facility.”

The community meeting on Thursday (September 15th) is at the Bethaday Community Learning Space in Dick Thurnau Memorial Park (635 SW 108th), 6:30 pm.

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STAGE 1 BURN BAN: Now in effect in unincorporated King County

August 19th, 2016 Tracy Posted in fire, King County, safety, White Center news Comments Off on STAGE 1 BURN BAN: Now in effect in unincorporated King County

Just announced by the county:

The King County Fire Marshal today issued a burn ban in unincorporated areas of the county to prevent wildfires during the hot, dry conditions. In addition, the National Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for this weekend.

This is a Stage 1 burn ban and applies to all outdoor burning except for small recreational fires in established fire pits at approved campgrounds or private property with the owner’s permission. Recreational fires can pose a hazard so please use extra caution and consideration this weekend.

Recreational fires must:

-Be built in a metal or concrete fire pit, such as those typically found in designated campgrounds; and not be used as debris disposal

-Grow no larger than three feet in diameter

-Be located in a clear spot free from any vegetation for at least 10 feet in a horizontal direction, including at least 25 feet away from any structure and allow 20-foot vertical clearance from overhanging branches

-Be attended at all times by an alert individual and equipment capable of extinguishing the fire.

For properties located within cities, contact your local jurisdiction for requirements. This ban remains in effect until further notice.

The King County Fire Marshal will post updates on the burn ban on the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review website.

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King County Council to take up marijuana regulations Monday

July 22nd, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 11 Comments »

Just out of the WCN inbox:

WHAT: The Metropolitan King County Council will hear public testimony and possibly act on legislation impacting zoning for the production, processing, and sale of legal marijuana in unincorporated King County.

WHERE: King County Courthouse, 10th floor, 516 Third Ave, Seattle 98104.

WHEN: Monday, July 25th, 1:30 p.m.

BACKGROUND: In 2013, the King County Council adopted initial zoning regulations governing the production, processing and sale of legalized marijuana in unincorporated King County. Since adoption of these initial zoning regulations, King County has received and processed numerous applications for marijuana-related land uses.

Some residents have expressed concerns regarding the existing regulations for marijuana production, processing and retailing. In order to review these concerns in rural areas, as well as consider an Executive proposal to regulate clustering of retail locations, the King County Council voted to pass a four-month moratorium on the acceptance of applications for or the establishment or location of new marijuana producers, processors and retailers on April 25, 2016.

After two special meetings of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee, Councilmembers are scheduled to discuss and possibly act on two ordinances, 2016-0236 and 2016-0254, that would amend current marijuana regulations in unincorporated King County.

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TONIGHT: King County ‘Town Hall/Open House’ for unincorporated North Highline

May 24th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on TONIGHT: King County ‘Town Hall/Open House’ for unincorporated North Highline

This annual event is happening tonight:

It’s a chance to hear about, and ask questions about, a wide variety of county services, programs, and issues.

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County Council committee to consider marijuana-zoning legislation starting tomorrow

May 17th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 12 Comments »

Following up on the surprise vote three weeks ago for a four-month moratorium on new marijuana businesses in unincorporated King County, the County Council starts its closer consideration tomorrow. The announcement:

Two special meetings of King County Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee to consider legislation impacting zoning for the production, processing and sale of legal marijuana in unincorporated King County.

WHO: The Metropolitan King County Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment committee (TrEE).

WHERE: King County Courthouse, 10th floor, 516 Third Ave, Seattle 98104.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 18th, 2016, 9:00 am and Thursday, June 16th, 2016, 9:00 am

BACKGROUND: In 2013, the King County Council adopted initial zoning regulations governing the production, processing and sale of legalized marijuana in unincorporated King County. Since adoption of these initial zoning regulations, King County has received and processed numerous applications for marijuana-related land uses.

Some residents have expressed concerns regarding the existing regulations for marijuana production, processing and retailing. In order to review these concerns in rural areas, as well as consider an Executive proposal to regulate clustering of retail locations, the King County Council voted to pass a four-month moratorium on the acceptance of applications for or the establishment or location of new marijuana producers, processors and retailers on April 25th, 2016.

Two ordinances have been introduced. They are Ordinance No. 2016-0236 and Ordinance No. 2016-0254. Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski, chair of the TrEE committee, says it’s his intention “to review the legislation at this first special meeting and move expeditiously to consider any amendments to the existing marijuana zoning codes, so that the Council can make any changes to the code that are appropriate, and lift the temporary moratorium on this legal industry as soon as possible.”

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Community Service Area event on May 24: The official announcement

May 13th, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on Community Service Area event on May 24: The official announcement

As mentioned at last week’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, the annual Community Service Area event for unincorporated NH is coming up later this month. Here’s the official announcement we just received:

King County Town Hall/Open House

King County Community Service Areas Program

North Highline/White Center

Residents of unincorporated King County are invited to meet with County officials to discuss issues affecting White Center and North Highline.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
7 to 9 PM

Seola Garden – Providence Bldg, 11215 5th Avenue SW

County Councilmember Joe McDermott
Rhonda Berry – Executive Office Chief of Operations
Sheriff John Urquhart

For more information contact Alan Painter, Program Manager, Community Services Area Program 206 477-4521 or

Interpreter services available upon request

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Mixed-use project under consideration for county-owned site at 8th/108th

April 24th, 2016 Tracy Posted in housing, King County, White Center news Comments Off on Mixed-use project under consideration for county-owned site at 8th/108th

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Discussions are under way about a possible development at the county-owned site at 8th SW/SW 108th that includes the White Center Food Bank and a former health clinic, according to the head of one of the agencies involved in those discussions.

Steve Daschle, executive director of West Seattle-based Southwest Youth and Family Services, mentioned this while speaking Wednesday night to the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, a monthly meeting we routinely cover for our partner site WSB. He said, “It’s still very conceptual right now, and we’ll be coming back for community support. … We’re hopeful we can pull together the resources to build some housing at that site.” He acknowledged there might be community concerns too, “but I think we’re going to have to try to overcome their concerns by suggesting that housing is never a bad thing.”

If you’ve only seen the 1961-built offices on the site, you might wonder if it’s big enough for a mixed-use project, but county records show it includes open space that Daschle describe as “trees behind (the building).” Before mentioning the project, he had been telling DNDC members – from community councils and other organizations in eastern West Seattle – that SWYFS has found itself providing services further and further south in King County, as the people it serves move that way.

We’ll be following up this week to see if we can find out more.

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Surplus Metro vanpool vehicles on the way to area nonprofits including TAF

March 21st, 2016 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 1 Comment »

Nonprofits including White Center-headquartered Technology Access Foundation are getting surplus Metro vanpool vehicles like that one; the photo accompanied this news release:

Metropolitan King County Council Chair Joe McDermott will be delivering retired Metro Transit Vanpool vans in Council District 8 to provide transportation assistance to for low-income, elderly or young people or people with disabilities.

The programs that will be receiving vans are:

South Park Senior Citizens
Technology Access Foundation
Neighborhood House

The vanpool program provides mobility for a diverse array of King County residents, supports the positive work of various local organizations, and relieves traffic congestion by reducing the need for single-occupancy vehicles. Interested organizations can contact the Councilmember representing their district for more information on applying for a vehicle.

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FOLLOWUP: Dick Thurnau Memorial Park approved by County Council as new name for Lakewood Park

October 12th, 2015 Tracy Posted in King County, Lakewood Park, White Center news Comments Off on FOLLOWUP: Dick Thurnau Memorial Park approved by County Council as new name for Lakewood Park

As mentioned here over the summer, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott has been championing the request to rename Lakewood Park in honor of the man who fought so hard for it and its little lake, Dick Thurnau. Today, he and his colleagues made it official:

Dick Thurnau was an activist, amateur historian and a recognizable face in the White Center community. He used his love of history to help in the restoration of the name of the lake near his home. Today, the Metropolitan King County Council gave its unanimous support to rename King County’s Lakewood Park to Dick Thurnau Memorial Park in recognition of his life of service to the White Center Community and this park in particular.

“The legacy that Dick left for White Center is in the vibrancy of this park, a welcoming and invaluable neighborhood resource,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott, the sponsor of the legislation. “I am glad to work with the community to honor Dick’s dedication to the community.”

In 1948, newlywed Dick Thurnau and wife Helen purchased their home in the White Center community, next to Lakewood Park. Even though Thurnau moved from the neighborhood to work for Mack Trucks, he kept his home near the Park.

When he retired from Mack Trucks, Thurnau returned to his home and became a strong advocate for the neighborhoods that make up White Center. He led efforts to reduce storm water runoff into Lake Hicks, the lake within Lakewood Park, and the restoration of the park, which had become the home of a disc golf course.

In his efforts to help keep Lake Hicks clean, Thurnau discovered that the lake was originally named after Leonard Hicklin, one of the early settlers of the area that is today White Center. Thurnau worked to have the Hicklin name restored and was rewarded for his effort in 2011 when he received a letter from the United States Board on Geographic Names stating that they had approved his proposal in renaming Lake Hicks to Lake Hicklin.

In recognition to his devotion to the White Center Community, a number of neighborhood groups recommended the renaming of the Lakewood Park in memory of Thurnau.

Mr. Thurnau died in May 2014 at age 89.

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New name for Lakewood Park: County Councilmember Joe McDermott sponsoring ordinance to rename it in honor of longtime advocate Dick Thurnau

August 17th, 2015 Tracy Posted in King County, Lakewood Park, People, White Center news 4 Comments »

(WCN photo of Dick Thurnau from 2008)
More than a year after the death of longtime community advocate Dick Thurnau, the King County Council will soon consider an ordinance renaming Lakewood Park in his honor. Councilmember Joe McDermott just sent a copy of the ordinance that he put together “with a number of White Center community groups … They see this as an opportunity to create a legacy for someone who worked so hard to improve a struggling aspect of the community into something that could be widely enjoyed by many.” Mr. Thurnau lived steps from the park and worked tirelessly to both tend it personally and advocate for it and its little lake, plagued by water-quality problems that have been lessened via remedies for which he fought. Councilmember McDermott says the park-name proposal “will likely go before the King County Council not long after our summer recess, which concluded this week.” We’ll keep an eye on the council calendar to watch for a meeting date and comment opportunities. Meantime, read the proposed ordinance here, or below:

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VIDEO: County’s cannabis crackdown – sheriff, prosecuting attorney tell medical-marijuana dispensaries they’re ‘illegal’

July 8th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Businesses, King County, King County Sheriff's Office, White Center news 8 Comments »

If you hit “play” on the :15 Instagram clip above, you’ll get an idea of how contentious this morning’s cannabis-crackdown announcement in downtown White Center was. While there was a full turnout of regional media, there also was a notable turnout of people from medical-marijuana establishments, furious about what’s happening.

Speaking outside the King County Sheriff’s Office downtown WC storefront were Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, Sheriff John Urquhart, and Russ Hauge from (what’s about to be renamed) the state Liquor and Cannabis Board. Satterberg wrapped it up with a message to the marijuana establishments: “You might not consider yourself illegal – we do.” A copy was provided of the letter circulated to them (starting at least two days ago, according to what sources told us). While the officials gave conflicting answers as to what kind of “timeline” they expected for stores to shut down, the letter stated flatly in the sixth paragraph, “You will need to cease operations now, even if you plan on applying in the future for a state license …” and when asked, there was one suggestion that if stores aren’t closed within a month, they would “get a visit.” (added) Here’s part of Satterberg’s opening statement:

A printed list also provided to the news media included six White Center/Top Hat establishments:

Herbal Market, 10422 16th SW
White Center Alternative Care, 9839 17th SW
Pacific Coast Natural Medicine, 9817 16th SW
WCC, 9809 16th SW
Northwest Cannabis Market, 9640 16th SW
Herban Legends, 9619 16th SW
WPMC, 11009 1st Ave. S.

After the letter was circulated earlier this week, Herban Legends had this sign on its door:

The county officials referred to the newly opened Bud Nation, a state-licensed recreational-marijuana store in downtown White Center, as an example of what they support, and what they feel is threatened by the unlicensed establishments. They also made it clear that the state was there “in support” of what was their initiative. They pointed out they are doing this under civil measures, not criminal, but also reiterated that they are serious.

The medical-marijuana advocates, meantime, continued to protest that they are offering medicine and that they believe this is just a ploy by the state because of competition – what they make MMJ available for is lower than the state-set prices.

More to come…

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Talk with your County Councilmember, Sheriff, more at tonight’s CSA Open House

April 23rd, 2015 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on Talk with your County Councilmember, Sheriff, more at tonight’s CSA Open House

Tonight’s the night – bring your concerns and questions to this year’s Community Service Area open house for White Center/North Highline, 7 pm tonight at Seola Gardens:

As the flyer says, those expected to be there to talk with you include County Councilmember Joe McDermott and County Sheriff John Urquhart. Read more about the CSA program here.

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New noise rules for unincorporated King County

March 16th, 2015 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 1 Comment »

Sent by County Councilmember Kathy Lambert today:

Council adopts updated noise guidelines for Unincorporated King County
Simplifying and clarifying

The Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously adopted a modernized and simplified set of noise guidelines for residents living in the unincorporated communities of King County. The revised regulations cover a wide number of issues, ranging from options in addition to decibel levels to who will be the contact people for faster response.

“There were 1603 noise complaints in 2013. I hope the clarity of the new law and enforcement as well as the mediation process will help to make the noise concerns greatly reduced,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, the sponsor of the legislation.

Lambert further remarked, “In crafting this legislation, we were very cognizant of the fact that noise is a deeply personal issue to people, and that we needed to balance noise protection with the need for legitimate noise from business and industry.”

King County has a policy of minimizing exposure of residents “to the physiological and psychological dangers of excessive noise and to protect, promote and preserve the public health, safety and welfare.” For many years, the county has found the current noise code difficult to enforce due to resource constraints and unclear code provisions from 1977.

The legislation adopted today is an effort to expand, simplify and clarify these codes to make them more effective and enforceable. The legislation is a collaborative product that has been over a year in the making, with key input from agencies directly affected such as the Sheriff and Public Health who currently share responsibility for enforcing the noise ordinance, the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review which handles construction permits, the County Prosecutor’s Office and the Dispute Resolution Center as well as input from individual residents, many business groups such as the construction industry, and many community groups.

The legislation shifts the enforcement focus for neighborhood noise from only technical decibel measurements to revised public disturbance provisions which are clarified and defined to include “any sound that unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace, comfort or repose of a person or persons.” Examples in existing code are retained that illustrate types of noise that constitute public disturbances. This is an approach that has been successfully used by other law enforcement jurisdictions, including some that are served by the King County Sheriff’s Office. Construction noise enforcement is also greatly simplified, relying on strict hour limits.

Under the new noise code, it is clarified and coordinated so if you are experiencing loud and raucous neighborhood noise, you would call the Sheriff. The Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) will be primarily responsible for enforcing construction noise limits. The county hopes that the first step people will take is to talk to each other; the new legislation encourages mediation.

This ordinance has already gone through SEPA review. With the Council’s adoption of the ordinance, the next step will be be to obtain required approval from the state Department of Ecology before the provisions would go into effect. Standards are also deemed approved if the Department of Ecology fails to act within 90 days. If all of the processes receive the necessary approvals, the new regulations would likely go into effect this summer.

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Followup: Crews making cleanup progress at ‘The Bog’

January 11th, 2015 Tracy Posted in King County, safety 3 Comments »

(White Center Now photographs by Patrick Sand)
King County crews are continuing to clear overgrowth, and more, by “the bog,” a site that has been something of a dangerous hiding place in recent years. This information is from Ken Gresset, who briefed the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council in November:

Much progress has been made at “The Bog.” The patrol road is in and leads 200 feet to a spot where the rest of the site can be inspected by spotlight. We will be back on the site on Monday and Tuesday to clear out remaining brush.

The site is well protected against erosion with 130 bales of straw spread on the disturbed earth and logs staked at the base of the slope to intercept any silt that would wash down from the hillside.

We stopped by at midday Friday for our photos – county crews were only allowing visitors on the site during their lunch break, so they wouldn’t run the risk of winding up in the path of heavy equipment. One crew member told us they had continued to find syringes and needles from drug users known to frequent the area. (See what they’ve encountered before, in these photos we published days after the November briefing.)

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Followup: ‘Bunker’ entry and other scenes from bog-area encampments

November 17th, 2014 Tracy Posted in King County, Parks Comments Off on Followup: ‘Bunker’ entry and other scenes from bog-area encampments

As reported here last week, this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting included some graphic descriptions of what county workers have found, and cleaned up, at illegal encampment sites in White Center’s “bog” area. We followed up with senior engineer Ken Gresset, who spoke at the NHUAC meeting, to ask if he had photos illustrating what he had described, and he did. Above, the entrance to the one-person underground “bunker” they found. Next, two more general photos from campsites:

Gresset explained at the NHUAC meeting that safety concerns require King County Sheriff’s Office assistance for most work in these areas – not because of the campers, but because of criminals who tend to hide in the same areas:

He also mentioned addicts’ use of these areas and the discovery of piles of used hypodermic needles and syringes. No photos available of those, though.

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Video: King County Executive Dow Constantine gives ‘State of the County’ speech at White Center Heights Elementary

February 10th, 2014 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 5 Comments »

1:05 PM: Just added the top photo (that’s Councilmember Larry Phillips at left), courtesy of the KCE staff – and here’s the full-speech text.

ORIGINAL REPORT, 11:34 AM: Here’s the State of the County speech as it unfolded via Twitter over the past hour and a half. If you don’t see the tweets and photos initially, you might have to refresh your screen once or twice:

This afternoon, the King County Council is back in its HQ at the County Courthouse downtown, for the regular 1:30 pm meeting, which includes votes on whether to send the Transportation Benefit District measure – license-tab fee/sales-tax increase for buses and roads – to the ballot, as well as the Metro cuts that might kick in starting in June if funding isn’t found via a ballot measure or the Legislature.

ADDED 3:06 PM: Video of the SOTC speech, provided by King County TV:

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King County Executive to present ‘State of The County’ speech in White Center

February 6th, 2014 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on King County Executive to present ‘State of The County’ speech in White Center

Just announced by King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s office:

For the first time ever, a King County Executive will deliver the State of the County address in one of the county’s unincorporated areas.

At White Center Heights Elementary School, Executive Dow Constantine will frame the policy agenda for his second term, including plans for confronting two of the generational challenges of our time.

Bookmark the State of the County website for infographics on the day of the address. Soon after the event, video, audio, the speech text, and policy papers will be posted.

The Twitter hashtag for the event is #KCSOTC.

This special meeting of the Metropolitan King County Council will take place on:

Monday, February 10
10:00 a.m.
White Center Heights Elementary School
10015 6th Ave. SW
(Street Parking is limited)

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