Housing opportunities, crime & safety @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

November 13th, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

Story and photos by Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for White Center Now

Improving housing opportunities and increasing awareness of local crime issues were key topics last Thursday night at the November meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) at the North Highline Fire Station.

As mentioned in our preview of the meeting, special guests were Helen Howell and Dan Watson from King County Housing Authority and Major Jesse Anderson who leads Precinct 4 (southwest King County) from the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Howell and Watson provided an overview of the Creating Moves to Opportunity (CMTO) program, which is a joint “housing mobility” project between Seattle Housing Authority and King County Housing Authority. The program is offered to eligible families from the Housing Choice Voucher waitlist, and aims to support families struggling with poverty to help them move to “opportunity neighborhoods.” According the CMTO website:

Innovative research shows that where people live matters, especially for young children. Kids who grow up in opportunity neighborhoods are likely to earn more money as adults and are more likely to attend college as compared to their peers who live outside of opportunity neighborhoods.

Howell and Watson said $20 billion is spent annually in the United States on low-income housing vouchers, but 80% of voucher holders are housed in high poverty neighborhoods, which in King County are mostly concentrated toward the south.

CMTO aims to change that dynamic. It’s a multi-year randomized study (currently in its 2nd and final phase) designed to “develop and test which strategies most effectively support opportunity moves by families with young children using a Housing Choice Voucher”:

  • Baseline Phase: Jan 2017 – Mar 2018 (Planning, design, and pilot testing)
  • Phase I: Apr 2018 – Jun 2019 (Randomized test of bundled intervention strategies)
  • Phase II: Jul 2019 – Dec 2020 (Randomized test of isolated intervention strategies)

Howell said participants are supported by 3 key elements: customized search assistance, direct landlord engagement, and short-term financial assistance. The study has involved 499 families and 430 vouchers, 209 in them in the control group (which received vouchers) and 221 of them in the treatment group (which received vouchers in addition to resources to support moving into high-opportunity neighborhoods). Howell added that the results of the earlier phases have been very positive thus far, with 54% of participants in the treatment group opting to move into the opportunity neighborhood (compared to 14% from the control group), and said the current project phase will further examine the impact of individual components of the CMTO services (financial assistance, informational toolkit, and coaching/resources).

“We can’t afford to provide all but services we’d like to give,” Howell said, “but the results will tell us the best way to spend our resources.”

Helen Howell, King County Housing Authority

Howell said the project is an important next-step for public housing efforts in areas like White Center, with developments like Greenbridge and Seola Gardens, and the focus on families with young kids is particularly important. “We are doing our best to equip children with tools and opportunities they need to succeed in life,” Howell said.

Watson then talked about the “deconcentration of poverty” effort, noting that some of the highest poverty rates in King County had traditionally existed in White Center, largely because of WW2-era housing. “What we’ve now been doing for 20 years,” Watson said, “is to make every attempt to deconcentrate poverty and to encourage low-income households to not reside in high-poverty areas,” citing the extensive research showing that low-income families do better if they live in high-opportunity areas. He said a major goal of the Greenbridge vitalization was to rebuild WW2-era derelict housing and to reduce the concentration of lower-opportunity areas.

Dan Watson, King County Housing Authority

Watson said there is a much smaller percentage of low-income families living in Greenbridge now than the number that lived in older WC developments such as Park Lake, and that the number of low-income units in White Center is actually decreasing. He contrasted that with Bellevue, where “we’ve actually been growing our inventory of low-income housing.” He added that housing vouchers that are “tenant-based” are portable and can be used anywhere in the area, and after one year the recipient could even use them to move out of state. Some recipients opt to continue living where they are, but an increasing number do take the opportunity to move.

Q&A with attendees:

  • Q: Are these properties single-family homes? A: Generally no, these are rental units.
  • Q: How do you define high-opportunity neighborhoods?  A: Leading researchers like Raj Chetty generally use sources like IRS and census data, tracking how participants are doing from childhood through 30s, and sometimes proxy data is used, but generally it’s based on outcomes.  It can be hard to define, no doubt safety and quality of schools contribute to it. Chetty’s research was nationwide and we were lucky that King County was already working on offering choice to low-income families, as a result the impact has been considerable here (see a recent Vox article).
  • Q: What’s the difference between the control group and the treatment group? A: The control group had access to vouchers but didn’t have the same support and education regarding opportunity neighborhoods.
  • Q: What’s the status of Greenbridge and Seola Gardens?  A: Seola Gardens has been completely built and sold. Greenbridge in still in progress, the market will only absorb so many sales, 170 houses can go on vacant property but we still have houses there that aren’t sold yet.  The houses on the northwest corner have already sold.
  • Q: Comparing concentration of low-income housing between White Center and Bellevue doesn’t make sense because Bellevue is so much bigger. A: That’s true, but regardless the trend is that White Center has less low-income housing while Bellevue is gaining more and more. We’ve reduced the concentration in WC a great deal. Areas like Shoreline and Redmond are also growing as it relates to subsidized housing.  Follow-up Q:  The data I’ve seen shows that most of the low-income housing in Bellevue is actually for people who are in the workforce. A: Yes, in Bellevue most of it is “workforce housing” for those with lower income but they do have jobs.
  • Q: Are there options for how the vouchers are assigned? A: Yes, we can “project-base” the vouchers.  Some of them are “hard unit” vouchers that are fixed to the unit, such as some of the Greenbridge units which are apartments that are permanently subsidized with very low rents.  The average household size of those using vouchers is 2.5 people.
  • Q: What is “shelter burden” as it relates to low-income housing? A: It’s the percentage of your income that you spend on housing, we look at the percentage of households paying more than 30% and 50%. Based on that metric, there is a higher percentage of low-income households with 30% and 50% shelter burden in areas like Bellevue than there are in White Center.
  • Q: What about the Wind Rose site at Greenbridge (northeast corner)? A: Fur us, what we’re talking about is the big building near 4th and Roxbury, next to the Connor Homes development. Watson said they have no immediate plans for it, just conceptual ideas, the areas once had an auto repair shop and a convenience store that were demolished. Generally speaking, senior housing or assisted living is most likely, a building of that density wouldn’t make sense otherwise, it could hold accommodate approximately 80 1-bedroom units but only 15-30 larger units for families.  Follow-up Q: Would the usage be limited to housing or could it be a live-work development with retail? There’s not much in that area for shops and food. A: Again, no formal plans exist, the area could be anything, we could potentially sell it for development but options are likely a bit limited, there isn’t a lot of parking. Follow-up question: When will the homes at Wind Rose be completed, and what about other projects?  A: Wind Rose will likely be built and sold within the next 12 months. There are also townhomes down toward the bog, and the developments between 4th-6th won’t go on market until later.
  • Q: What are the criteria for a family to take advantage of the housing vouchers, and what’s their value? A: To get a voucher, you have to be added to a very lengthy waiting list, the last time we opened it up for new applications we had 20,000 applications for 2,500 available vouchers.  It’s challenging because we have so many shelter-burdened families, rents have gone up but wages have gone up so little. Regarding voucher value, it changes and is relative, if the voucher is a fixed dollar amount then people will go where rent is cheaper, but our approach is to adjust the value so that it’s worth more if you want to live in high-opportunity area, we recognize that this means we have to pay more but the research certainly tells us it’s worth it.
  • Q: Does your program have funding to sustain and grow? A: Growth is challenging. A lot of our work has been federally funded but that amount isn’t increasing, but some state and local resources are increasing, we have to be creative, we can’t really “grow” but we can redirect funds and use them wisely.  Trying to focus on families with children. Follow-up Q: White Center also has projects like Unity Village (WCN coverage here), and other private projects like Southside by Vintage, there are more than just those worked on by the housing authority. A: We’re finding that there’s such an overwhelming need for housing that it gets built in places that we normally don’t expect it to go. This prompted a discussion about gentrification in areas like the Central District where demographics have really changed. Watson said approximately 65% of very low-income households now live entirely outside of the city, they’re priced out, and there’s a lot of concern about people leaving White Center and King County.
  • Q: How many low-income homes are on the tax rolls? A: Almost half of the land that was off tax rolls is coming back on, and eventually all of the homes will be back on tax rolls.  Those homes are selling for $500k-$700k, while homes in Seola Gardens started at $300k and the Conner Homes are $600K or more. According to project data, by 2026 there will be 481 new taxable homes built out at Seola Gardens and Greenbridge combined, worth $200 million and generating $2.78 million in annual tax revenue.
  • Q: What about the maintenance of Greenbridge and Seola Gardens such as streets and roads? Originally the federal government provided that money. A: We have contracts with the federal government, but now the streets are public and should be maintained by county, although we maintain landscapes and even some of the hardscapes because the county doesn’t have a lot of resources. There is also a homeowner’s association, so private owners put money in the pot that helps with maintenances.  The buildings themselves are largely maintained through rents (not just subsidies). Follow-up comment from an attendee: While walking around Greenbridge it seems like there’s a line between where the street maintenance ends and the homeowners’ maintenance ends, which means there are stretches that never get maintained and need replanting every year.
  • Q: Does the housing authority get to control building designs? For the most part, the designs have been very good. A: We have a say in the lot sizes, design guidelines, covenants and rules and regulations.   We agree that the designs have been good, with the help of the community.
  • Q: What about the problematic intersection at 4th Ave and Olson? It’s dangerous.  A: That’s the city of Seattle, we have designed it up to a point, Seattle DOT has plan to fix that intersection, hopefully they’ll take out some cement. It’s a problem and the city knows it, we actually talked to the city today and asked that it be moved up to be a higher-priority project.
  • Q: How long can a family receiving vouchers continue to receive them? Is there a time limit? A: There’s no timeline, we don’t see a point in enforcing a limit but we hope that people will successfully transition from receiving a voucher to buying a home.  The problem is that costs are going up and people with vouchers have a hard time making that leap. We’ve had discussions about enforcing a time limit but haven’t gone for that, we feel there’s something wrong with potentially cutting people off after we get them properly housed.
  • Q: Do subsidized properties get privatized?  A: We generally anticipate owning the properties forever, there have been some criticisms nationally in instances where subsidized properties are privatized, but Watson said “that won’t happen here as long as we’re around.”
  • Q: It seems like entities involved with housing support should also be fighting for a livable wage, since that’s a huge part of the problem. Maybe we need to get a lobbyist? I heard it costs an average of $202K to live in Seattle now. A: Yes, we certainly try to support those efforts where we can, but it’s important to note that in some cases the individual getting our support has a disability and isn’t eligible to work. Follow-up Q:  I know someone who has been on subsidies for 20 years. Do you maintain a job board or send job opportunities to those who are receiving housing benefits and could be eligible to work? A: Yes, we have a resident services department with programs for education and finding jobs. We often say that people have a better opportunity to find work if their housing situation is stable and can take classes, etc.

Next, Major Jesse Anderson talked about criminal activity and trends in the area:

  • There was an incident on Halloween night in which 4 juveniles stole a car, drove into Burien and were “shooting at cars and people with a pellet gun.” Officers followed up on it that night but couldn’t find anybody who wanted to press charges at the time. After the event hit the news, then one victim came forward. There is now one individual who may be charged, but Anderson said “it’s not a particularly solid case because there were 4 people in the car.” Anderson added that his office has seen an increase in incidents (one had happened that same day) in which victims don’t want to press charges, which could be for a variety of reasons — fear of retaliation, not wanting to ruin anyone’s life, etc. “It doesn’t help us out if we as a community aren’t willing to go to court,” Anderson said, “but we need to have a victim for property crimes; someone willing to testify.”

Jesse Anderson, King County Sheriff’s Office

  • There’s been progress at 98th and 13th SW which was a well-known drug house. The property has been “red tagged” and the water shut off, with orders to vacate, and if not honored then officers can go back and make arrests for trespassing. It’s possible that the person who has control of property could fight it, but if they go back they could be arrested. Anderson said he gave directions to the sergeant overseeing it that we could take people to jail and we won’t allow illegal activities to happen in that area — it wasn’t just drugs, it was also car theft and juvelines assaulting people. At another nearby address not far west of that location, similar illegal activity has decreased and someone has been arrested due to a probation violation.
  • There was a robbery at 110th and 1st at the grocery store involving juveniles, at least some of whom were also involved in other incidents, and three of them were booked into juvenile detention.
  • Anderson said his office is currently working on a collision reduction program, looking in unincorporated areas for distracted drivers (like texting and driving). Similarly to how we’ve identified “top crime areas,” we also have “top collision areas” including Roxbury between 96th-98th and between 4th-17th, Skyway and Boulevard Park.
  • We work with Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which will be discussed further in the NHUAC group’s next meeting in December. We getting started with the program and have made progress, once we get policy and training figured out we’ll take the next step. It’s an ideal program to deal with people committing low level offenses with no criminal history, we can refer them to mental health services if they agree to follow through. It’s a tool and a resource, Seattle and Burien have been doing it for quite some time.

Q&A with attendees and Anderson:

  • Attendees mentioned or asked about a few other incidents, including a robbery at Bartell Drugs last week in which someone jumped over the counter, as well as an incident at Proletariat Pizza in which a worker was taking out the garbage and was accosted by someone on a bike with a gun, and an incident of vandalism in which a house was burned.
  • Q: It seems like there have been more issues lately with meth instead of heroin, and it’s hard to watch people melting down. I recently drove an 8-mile loop (near 104th and 120th by Ambaum) and saw all kinds of issues (like chop houses) and it seems like a lot of residents (particularly the elderly) don’t know what’s going on. There are challenging areas such as around Fred Meyer, it really has changed for the worse, there are some good things but I see problems especially by lakes and waterways.  A: We’re trying to make progress in areas where we can make a difference such as dealing with derelict motor homes and trailers and cars, trying to clean up as much as we can under the law, and working with code enforcement.  Follow-up comment/question: If we simply react and don’t offer meaningful help, then what are we really accomplishing? A: Efforts like LEAD will help, but if people are convicted felons then they’re not eligible for LEAD but we can always make social referrals. An attendee mentioned Ricky’s Law (which went into effect in April 2018 regarding involuntary treatment) and Anderson said if officers can show that someone is a danger to themselves or others then they can offer voluntary acceptance but we can also do involuntary intervention.
  • Q: The last time you came and talked at this meeting, you said that your office was doing a sweep, what can you tell us about that? A: It was very successful, we made 7-8 arrests and stopped one person who we know was heavily involved with drug sales, we could impound and search cars, got some guns off street. Was a great example of departments combining resources. Follow-up Q: Of those 7-8 arrests you made, how many are still behind bars? A: I’m not sure, but would guess most or all of them are out. The attendee said “that has to be frustrating for you,” and Anderson responded that juvenile detention centers have restrictive criteria, and adults booked into jail are frequently released due to capacity issues. I do feel good about my job, I know that we’re doing our part and we’re one end of criminal justice system and we work with the prosecutors and courts. Violent offenders are kept behind bars.
  • Q: What about the recent South Park homicide near Donovan and 8th  A: Not familiar with it, was in Seattle jurisdiction.
  • Q: Have there been any issues with marijuana stores?  A: No major problems recently. We did take care of an illegal one off 16th, but our undercover folks aren’t aware of any others at this time. A couple of attendees asked about traffic around one of the pot shops being an issue.
  • Q: Do you expect you can increase the numbers of deputies as part of the new budget coming out, with more population in our area?  A: To be honest, in unincorporated King County we have more officers than other areas do, I used to work in the northeast precinct which had a huge area to cover but different issues.  In White Center we have 2 district cars 24hrs a day, a storefront deputy, a housing deputy, and dedicated CSO and other resources available. We can also get resources from Burien and Boulevard Park.  The county doesn’t have much funding but we do what we can. We have a gang unit and want to build on it. And you have to remember that you’re only seeing uniformed officers, that doesn’t include plainclothes officers. Attendees agreed that deputies are almost always available to help, with a good response time.
  • Q: Are there conflicting goals between the prosecutor’s office (trying to put people in jail) and programs like LEAD (try to keep people out of jail)? A: No, the primary goal is to solve the problem, which sometimes means jail but sometimes means using the tools we have to make referrals.
  • Q: I attended a recent southwest precinct meeting about how to avoid getting scammed, with a presentation from the attorney general’s office, and they may be invited to a future NHUAC meeting. A: In 2007 we unfortunately had to do away with the fraud unit. On occasion we cover cases of fraud against the elderly, but we generally don’t have capacity to do that. The same commenter also talked about ways in which she’s interacted with neighbors about barriers to reporting crime, and how people are confused about who to call (she noted that she can relate, living 700ft from one border and 400ft from other).

Other announcements and comments:

  • Willow Fulton from the Camp Second Chance Community Advisory Committee reminded attendees about their upcoming community meeting (as we previewed here) on Thursday, November 21st to review options for the camp, which recently had its permit extended until March 2020. Fulton encouraged attendees to take a tour of the facility if interested, to visit and get involved.  She also mentioned their regular committee meetings the first Sunday of each month. A few attendees discussed the positive differences near the camp since the area had been cleaned up.
  • NHUAC secretary Pat Price mentioned the White Center Library Guild’s annual fundraiser from 10 am-3 pm on Saturday November 16th at the library, to raise funds for teens and children.
  • White Center Kiwanis is doing their annual fundraiser, selling nuts for $20 per can with all proceeds going to help kids in White Center.
  • Jerry Pionk from King County Local Services encouraged residents to send questions, comments, and concerns to asklocalservices@kingcounty.gov, and to connect on social media with the group.

The next NHUAC meeting will be December 5th with a presentation from the Seattle-King County LEAD program (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), and likely a representative from prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s office.

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THURSDAY: Here’s what you’ll hear about with the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

November 3rd, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news No Comments »

From safety to housing policy, another wide-ranging discussion is ahead at this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and Entrance are in the Back of the Station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Good news — the Seahawks are NOT playing this Thursday and you are cordially invited to NHUAC’s November 7th community meeting. If you were watching the Hawks on October 3rd, you missed an informative meeting. We learned about the Micro-Housing Demonstration Project planned for White Center and North Highline’s Subarea Planning. KCSO rounded out the evening with King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer. Topics included an arrest in the murder of a 16-year-old girl in 1991, fentanyl, gangs, staffing, and current crime stats. White Center Now has the story at:

whitecenternow.com/2019/10/09/housing-zoning-crime-safety-more-north-highline-unincorporated-area-council/

Although Sheriff Mitzi won’t be back for a while, KCSO is not letting us down. Major Jesse Anderson will join us for the second time since taking command of Precinct 4.

According to a recent City Lab article, “Research has shown this tremendous disparity in the likelihood of living out the American dream across space,” says Christopher Palmer, assistant professor of finance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “There’s tremendous differences in where you grow up that help determine the likelihood that you will have a higher standard of living than your parents did when you grow up.”

“In American cities that have become ever-more segregated by race and wealth, good schools, green spaces, lower crime, and public amenities tends to cluster in exclusive and mostly white bastions of privilege. That exclusivity has serious impacts, especially on the lives of children: Exposure to better neighborhoods (as opposed to exposure to poverty) makes a world of difference in a child’s future earnings and education level.” Palmer adds, “It just begs the question: What can be done? Isn’t there something we can do?”

NHUAC is pleased to welcome Helen Howell, King County Housing Authority’s (KCHA) Senior Director of Policy, Research & Social Impact Initiatives, and Executive Director and Chief Development Officer, Dan Watson, to our November 7th community meeting. Join us and learn what KCHA is doing to make that difference and improve lives!

Knowledge Is Power. Learn, Share and Help Make Our Community A Better Place.

Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 7 pm

Bring a Friend!

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Housing, zoning, crime, safety, more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

October 9th, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 5 Comments »

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht

Story and photos by Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for White Center Now

Issues related to housing, zoning, crime, and safety took center stage Thursday night at the October meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) at the North Highline Fire Station, featuring a visit from King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht (who last appeared at NHUAC just over a year ago).

There was a good crowd at the meeting despite its overlap with the Seahawks game — in fact, while Johanknecht was speaking, a chorus of fireworks could be heard from around the neighborhood after the Seahawks’ victory, prompting chuckles and comments like “aren’t fireworks illegal?” from around the room.

Toplines from the meeting are below, including links to two surveys (one that closes October 13) for the public to share feedback:

NORTH HIGHLINE SUBAREA PLAN (website here): First on the agenda was David Goodman (pictured below), subarea planner from King County Department of Local Services, to give an update on the one-year North Highline Subarea planning process that began in July. Goodman said the planning is part of an effort to initiate new subarea plans across the county for various service areas such as North Highline. Plans include detailed assessments of the area’s land use, demographics, population and development. Goodman said the existing plans are very dated and haven’t changed in 25 years, and even those most recent changes from 1994 were limited to areas west of Highway 509 (east of 509, the plans are even older).

Goodman walked attendees though the area’s zoning map (digital version here) and explained that most of the area’s land (56.7%) was designated as “R-6-Residential” which means up to 6 dwelling units per acre. He noted that as part of the planning process, residents can “help decide what we want the community to look like in the future.”

NHUAC President Liz Giba and others in attendance asked about the White Center Community HUB project being planned at the former Public Health Center site at 8th Avenue SW & SW 108th Street (which could break ground in 2022 if things go according to plan), as well as the upcoming 2021 expansion of the RapidRide H Line (which will replace the extremely busy Metro Route 120). Goodman, along with other officials in attendance, answered audience questions about those initiatives and confirmed their importance as part of the overall vision and planning for the area.

Goodman said the planning process runs through next May and that his team plans to be back at NHUAC at least once more during that timeframe. In the meantime, he encouraged attendees to visit the project website and fill out their survey (click the “Take Our Survey” button) to share feedback. (Note: We had posted about this survey a couple of weeks ago as well.)

An audience member asked about ADU (accessory dwelling units) or “mother-in-law” dwellings. Goodman and other officials in attendance said that these are units which are 1000 square feet or smaller, not officially part of property it’s adjacent to, and without its own address. ADUs must be registered with the county.

WHITE CENTER MICROHOUSING DEMONSTRATION PROJECT: Next up was Mark Ellerbrook (pictured below), division director for King County Housing & Community Development, to give an update on plans for a WC-based Alternative Housing Demonstration Project (website here) that is currently in “public comment” period until October 13. Ellerbrook encouraged neighbors to give their feedback on the project by visiting its website.

The White Center project is one of two proposed sites in the area (the other is in Vashon Island) aimed at providing affordable housing options.  Per their website, “the county started by asking: ‘What innovative housing types could create more affordable housing, but aren’t allowed under existing regulations?'” Ellerbrook said the projects aim to tackle two key issues:

  1. Housing crisis and availability of places to live. “Our estimate is that in the next 21 years we will need 240,000 additional units of affordable housing to meet demand and growth,” Ellerbrook said, adding that the median cost in King County is $1800/mo, and in order for citizens to be successful “we need housing of all types; what people want is evolving. A single-family home with a yard isn’t necessarily what everyone wants.”
  2. Displacement and gentrification. Ellerbrook said he’s heard repeatedly from the White Center Chamber of Commerce and local businesses who say that they have employees who work in White Center and would love to live here but can’t afford it —  rental costs in WC are $2200/mo and have increased a lot in last few years, Ellerbrook said.

Ellerbrook said the proposed developer for the WC project is Seattle-based Neimen Taber, which has developed similar projects like The Roost, and the proposed location would be somewhere in the urban center at 102nd/16th. If approved, the decision regarding where to develop the property would happen in mid-2020. Ellerbrook stressed that “this is not a subsidized housing project; it’s looking for a way to create lower cost housing in a way that doesn’t need to be subsidized.” Ellerbrook said the goal is to have the target cost be $650-$1000/mo for residents. “For someone making minimum wage, $650 would be one-third of their income,” he said.

Questions from the audience:

  • “Will residents of this property pay taxes?” Ellerbrook said yes, absolutely. Follow-up question: would residents pay impact fees (one-time fees connected to school-building costs)? Ellerbrook wasn’t sure, but said it may be unlikely that families with children would live there, based on trends seen in the similar Roost development.
  • “What about parking?”  Ellerbrook said that’s being discussed; for a development like this, is parking required for every unit? There are many transit options available in the proposed development area.
  • “Is there actually land available in the proposed area?” Ellerbrook said the developer would be looking for available property there. It would require a 5000-6000 square-foot lot (smaller than a block).
  • “How does this relate to the signs I’ve seen over by Greenbridge about a new high-rise?” Ellerbrook and other officials in attendance said that those would be managed by King County Housing Authority (a different entity) similar to low-incoming housing options at Seola Gardens and Greenbridge. NHUAC president Liz Giba said that a representative from KCHA would be be attending NHUAC’s next meeting.
  • “Don’t we want diversity in the types of housing we have, which means we want higher-priced homes as well, not just lower-priced?” Another attendee noted that people in Central District were priced out and have been moving to WC where affordable housing is — is that a desirable trend? Ellerbrook and others noted that housing prices in WC have more than doubled in 5 years ($200K to $440K), and that Seattle has been a national leader in striking that balance, with property tax levies to fund affordable housing going back 30 years. Follow-up comment: It seems that residents are keeping their single-family homes and seeing them go up significantly in price, but then as “megaprojects” for low income is completed, the balance is thrown off and “we’re going downhill; a healthy community needs all types of housing.” Ellerbrook again stressed that this latest WC project is for market rate housing (not subsidized housing).
  • “We keep hearing that this project is for our community, but for other recent projects we asked if we can prioritize them for local residents, but were told we can’t.” Ellerbrook: We can’t legally restrict any housing unit for a particular neighborhood, because of fair housing.  What we can (and will) do is “affirmative marketing” to work with local business owners to market this new building to people who live in the community.

COMMENTS FROM THE SHERIFF: Next on the agenda was a special guest, King C0unty Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. “Sheriff Mitzi” has been with KCSO since 1985, served as commander of Precinct 4 and was the first woman to lead the county’s SWAT team, and was elected sheriff in 2017.

Johanknecht began with some big news that made national headlines: an arrest made as part of a 27-year-old cold case (King5 story). Back in 1991, 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough was found dead at Federal Way High School, but her murderer was never found. Johanknecht said years of hard work (using exhaustive forensics and DNA evidence) led to last week’s arrest of a suspect. She said that she has a goal of creating a dedicated “cold case unit” (the county doesn’t currently have one; investigators dedicate time when they can) to help with the approximately 300 cold cases that the county has.

On a less positive note, Johanknecht made note of the recent wave of fentanyl-related deaths, primarily from counterfeit prescriptions. She said her office is doing what it can with regard to outreach and education, but the concern is real. “If you’re ordering something on the internet and it doesn’t come from a pharmacy, it’s risky,” she said. Johanknecht encouraged community members to watch for troubling changes in life patterns for friends, family and acquaintances, and offer peer support whenever possible.  An attendee noted that in the past, drug-related issues associated with people living in the wooded area near Myers Way had largely involved meth, but in recent years the trend had been more about opioids.

A question from president Liz Giba: How do you ask for more cops, to serve a larger population that needs it? (She referenced a housing development at Top Hat, and said when they applied for permits they expected 620 residents, but as it turns out there are 800 residents.) Johanknecht said this is definitely a priority, citing a staffing study her office is working on that shows what policing in King County (which has a wide range from rural to urban) should look like, to help inform staffing and budgets. She said that she was asked to make budget cuts when she first took office, but she pushed back on that and actually added resources (such as gang and violent crime violent crime specialists, many working in the south end). She said she is slowly building the department to meet capacity, and hopes the staffing study helps with that. Johanknecht cited strong support from several King County Councilmembers, and looks forward to continue working closely with them.

“Our job is to team up and talk to the people who build budgets and legislate them,” Johanknecht said, “and we’re happy to have your support in that process.” She said 60% of her budget is “revenue-backed,” so the support they’re typically looking for is only about 40%.  Question from the audience: When you do reports about staffing, do you look at the number of officers you have compared to the population in the area they serve? Answer from Johanknecht: That’s easy to do in a city, with blocks that tend to have high population density, but much harder in more remote areas of the county (near Snoqualmie Pass, or in rural areas with 2-lane roads). She cited successes her department has had with using data from computer-aided dispatch that is entered into private vendor databases, and are able to use that data along with “anecdotal stuff” to help with the budget and resourcing processes.

A particularly serious set of questions from the audience: What about the impact of drug cartels and drugs coming into our area from “gang members who may be illegal immigrants,” “why don’t you enforce the laws,” and “why did you take down ICE-related links from your websites?” (KIRO story here)  The questioner also mentioned a family friend who was “murdered by an illegal immigrant.” Johanknecht offered sincere condolences, but explained that King County does have an ordinance that prohibits officers from asking about immigration status, and “I have rules that I have to follow.” However, she noted that “we arrest people all the time” who commit crimes and “we usually don’t need that immigration information” to make those cases. With regard to the links that her office removed from their websites, Johanknecht explained that those were associated with the LinX national database, and that she made the decision to temporarily remove LinX access because after a series of issues that occurred she was concerned that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) personnel could use information in the database to deport undocumented immigrants, which she said was a clear violation of county ordinances. However, she noted that the system access was restored just four days later, not because of publish backlash but because an active investigation needed to happen to ensure that the info-sharing was being done properly. She also noted that in addition to individuals who were critical of her decision to take down there links, there were also individuals who were “waiting to come after me for keeping the links up,” and people “paying both sides of the aisle,” but stressed that “those were decisions we had to make.”

Other audience members commented about cars in the area that are stolen and “dumped:” If cars get stolen in unincorporated King County, rather than in a city like Burien, the criminals know that the jurisdictions are different and they just dump cars in other areas to avoid getting caught or drawing attention to themselves. Johanknecht said that her department “knows about the common places,” where stolen cars tend to be abandoned, and said that state and national databases definitely exist to help officers determine if particular vehicles have been stolen.

Another question: What are the best ways to find out about crimes in the area, and report them? Johanknecht mentioned crimereports.com as a good resource but said the system has been offline while a data-migration process happens, but she will notify the public as soon as that process is done.  For reporting crimes, she said that as a former communication center commander, she always tells people to “call 911 and report it, even if it’s just a shady-looking guy on the street” and the dispatchers will do their job. She said every 911 call generates a tracking number, then as it moves through the process there may be other numbers involved (like case numbers), but at any rate the number of calls helps her department with metrics and data and resourcing, so people shouldn’t hesitate to call. Another audience member expressed skepticism that criminals actually face consequences, asking the sheriff “how long does someone’s rap sheet have to be before you arrest them?” Johanknecht said the question was “largely rhetorical” but stressed that “I tell my people to go after bad guys and take them to jail,” although she acknowledged that only 10% of cases nationwide tend to actually go to trial, but her department will do what it can to help. She added that she recently went to Washington D.C. to meet with officials about their CAD-X system for computer-aided dispatch, and she has asked a WA state delegation to support adopting such a system to alleviate concerns about who to call and when. She also reminded attendees that 911 callers can report anonymously, or can report it by name but say that they don’t want to be contacted.

WHITE CENTER CRIME INFO: To conclude the meeting, White Center Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer (pictured below) provided a quick update on crime statistics and cases in the area. He said that year-over-year, violent crimes are down but property crimes are up. He noted that they just shut down an illegal marijuana shop near Hung Long Asian Market, prompting audience members to ask about how law enforcement can more actively crack down on places like this. Kennamer said it can be difficult, noting cases like the August raid of Todd’s Trading Post in White Center, and said that prior to that raid “we just couldn’t get in there.”

An audience member mentioned that a pedestrian had been struck by a vehicle on 108th, and Kennamer acknowledged that the person was “hit hard” in that case. On the subject of calling law enforcement for help with reporting a crime, Kennamer suggested being aware of where you are — if you know that you’re in unincorporated King County when you call, say “I need the county sheriff’s department,” but if you’re in Seattle then say “I need the Seattle police department,” but the important thing is to just call and not worry about it. Regarding graffiti in the area, Kennamer noted that there’s no ordinance against it, but that many residents have taken it upon themselves to clean it up. Regarding trouble spots in the area, Kennamer said the building on 110th/1st “with crappy trailers sitting around” was recently sold, and will become a “manufacturing plant for circuit boards on one floor, and an African restaurant on the other.” He also noted that a prior problem area with old abandoned cars at 108th/1st has been greatly improved. An audience member asked if law officers can help with issues involving boxes near houses that are in disrepair, and Kennamer said that “if it’s on the right-of-way, we can deal with it.”

Jerry Pionk from King County Local Services (along with colleague and community liaison Bong Sto. Domingo) put in a plug encouraging residents to contact asklocalservices@kingcounty.gov with questions or concerns, and to connect with the organization on social media.

NHUAC meets first Thursdays most months; watch nhuac.org for updates.

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THURSDAY: Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and more @ October’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

September 29th, 2019 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, White Center news 3 Comments »

(WCN photo from September 2018)

Got a crime/safety concern? Bring it to the Sheriff herself on Thursday (October 3rd) at the next meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council. Just announced:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, October 3, 2019 at 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and Entrance are in the Back of the Station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Were you at last month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting? If so, you know that our community is struggling. Fear, anger, and frustration are felt by many. Deputy Bill Kennamer and Major Jesse Anderson of the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) spent much of the meeting listening to concerns and responding with information about what is being done by KCSO to try to deal with chronic issues found in our community.

This month, we will be joined by the woman who puts Sheriff in KCSO. It’s been a little over a year since Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht last joined us. Sheriff Mitzi has been with KCSO since 1985. Her history with KCSO includes being the first woman to command KCSO’s SWAT team and serving as the Commander of Precinct 4. She was elected in 2017. This will be a good opportunity to learn about her plans, challenges and goals. Do you have questions and thoughts you’d like to share with Sheriff Johanknecht? This is your chance!

The Comprehensive Plan is King County’s long-range policy for land use, regulations and regional services such as housing, transit, parks, trails and open space. After nearly two decades, King County has initiated a new subarea planning program for each of the county’s local service areas, including North Highline. This planning includes an assessment of the area’s land use goals, population changes, new development, and other demographic and socioeconomic indicators.

King County’s David Goodman and Mark Ellerbrook will share some of the plans King County has been working on for our community, including our Subarea Plan and a micro-housing project. This will be an opportunity to ask questions and make comments about the long-term, far-reaching plans, which are sure to mold our environment and future.

Once again. White Center Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer will update us with news and crime statistics from KCSO.

Then , the floor will be open for announcements.

Knowledge is power. Learn, share and help make our community a better place!

Thursday, October 3, 2019 at 7 pm

Bring a Friend!

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Standing-room-only for public-safety-focused North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

September 10th, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news 4 Comments »

Toplines from the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s September meeting last Thursday, as covered by WCN co-publisher Patrick Sand:

Big crowd – standing room only. About a third were there to talk about suspected drug houses; most of the rest were there because of the deadly 4th of July fire on 10th Avenue S. blamed on people setting off fireworks. including people who knew the victim, 70-year-old Roland Kennedy.

The night was all about public safety, in equal parts law enforcement and fire. Deputy Bill Kennamer started by saying violent crime in White Center was down 20% in August compared to a year earlier. He said that property crime remains constant, and that’s when the questions about the suspected drug houses started. He told the group that he and the other deputies who work the area are aware of all the locations mentioned. His main point is that the sheriff doesn’t always have the power to get people removed from a problem house. The example he gave is a house which was owned by a woman who left no will. He said that a bank will take over the house early next year, but between now and then there’s not much that can be done.

Questioners kept bringing up lack of response after calling 911. County Councilmember Joe McDermott said they should get involved in the meetings regarding the next 20-year master plan.

McDermott also talked about fireworks, showing fireworks debris a woman brought him after picking it up out of her front yard after the 4th last year. He and Chief Mike Marrs talked about what can and cannot be sold right now, what a partial ban would include, and what a total ban might mean.

But, they stressed. any measure by any city or county to ban fireworks cannot – by state law- go into effect until 12 months after the ban is approved. So if there was a ban passed right now, it wouldn’t take effect until after one more 4th of July.

McDermott and Marrs came down on the side of a total ban. While it might not stop fireworks from coming in from other jurisdictions, they said that it would greatly decrease fireworks use.

McDermott also said that he heard more complaints about fireworks this year from WC and Vashon than any other year he’d been in office.

Also at the meeting, 34th District State House Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon spoke. We recorded video:

They also talked about the fireworks-ban law, among other things.

One more crime note – Deputy Kennamer had to leave the meeting to be part of an emphasis patrol going on that night that stretched from 16th in downtown WC down Ambaum. Over a dozen deputies were called into the area to check for warrant violations and firearms. By the end of the meeting, KCSO said, 10 arrests had been made and 2 handguns were confiscated.

NHUAC meets first Thursdays most months, 7 pm at NH Fire District HQ. Watch nhuac.org for updates.

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What you’ll see and hear as North Highline Unincorporated Area Council reconvenes Thursday

September 1st, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on What you’ll see and hear as North Highline Unincorporated Area Council reconvenes Thursday

Summer hiatus is over and the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council is back in session Thursday:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, September 5, 2019 at 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and Entrance are in the Back of the Station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard

Summer is almost over and NHUAC is back! All are welcome to join the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s monthly community meetings in NHFD’s White Center Fire Station (1243 SW 112th Street). on the first Thursday of most months.

September’s meeting will offer an opportunity to learn and share information about what has been happening over the summer as well as current and future events that will affect our community.

Major Jesse Anderson will make his first visit to NHUAC since taking over command of Precinct 4. Major Anderson replaced Major Bryan Howard who moved downtown as Chief of Patrol Operations. Major Anderson has a history in our community. He and Major Howard worked together in White Center 28 years ago. Do you have questions and thoughts you’d like to share with Major Anderson and Store Front Deputy Bill Kennamer? This is your chance!

You probably heard that North Highline resident Roland Kennedy and two of his family’s dogs died in a fireworks related tragedy on July 4th. Chief Mike Marrs will join us to discuss how this situation, which also left 13 people without homes can be avoided in the future.

State Representatives Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon will also join us to share their thoughts, hear concerns and offer their insights about how the legislature can help our community.

Knowledge Is Power. Learn, Share and Help Make Our Community A Better Place.

Thursday, September 5, 2019 at 7 pm

Bring a Friend!

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From politics to shelter to food to crime to the roundabout @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

June 10th, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 5 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Lots of news at Thursday night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, last one before NHUAC goes on summer semi-hiatus.

Headlines included:
-Think White Center’s recent increase in violent crime is gang-related? King County Sheriff’s Office says no.
-White Center Food Bank needs a new home.
-Sen.Joe Nguyen implores you to speak up

But first:

MARY’S PLACE UPDATE: Executive director Marty Hartman and White Center site director Kecia Pannell presented the latest – three years after “we started a conversation,” as Hartman put it. They began with a video: “It’s up to our community to say, ‘Stop this crisis’,” Hartman said toward the end of the video, which featured families helped by MP. “You invited us into your community,” Hartman said afterward, saying the WC shelter had helped “hundreds of families.”

She presented stats including one saying that to afford the average two-bedroom apartment in King County, your income has to be almost $27/hour – “most families don’t have that kind of income.” MP handles the King County Community Family Shelter Intake Line, which took 3,915 calls last year alone. “We were able to shelter 41 percent of those families … but we know we can do more … to get to ‘no child sleeps outside’.” Of the families they serve, 94 percent are from Washington state, 83 percent from Seattle or King County. Seventy percent have at least one family member who’s working – and still, they are homeless. The good news: Most families who become homeless experience that only once in their lifetime.

White Center was MP’s second 24/7 shelter; now it has four. It just opened another night center. Almost all are in buildings slated for demolition – “the ultimate in recycling,” Hartman smiled. They also serve single women via their day center, and they have seen a 44 percent increase in seniors among them – “there is a silver tsunami coming,” Hartman said.

Right now, MP has 600 beds, triple what they had four years ago. They also have special programs: Popsicle Place, for homeless families with children have chronic health problems. “Every parent wants to sacrifice for their child’s miracle” – and that may mean a job loss, a home loss. Thirteen rooms for 13 families, increasing to 45 when they move into an Amazon building early next year. (The current 13-family space is at the MP site in Burien, which MP owns, housing 200 families in all; “a couple bought [the four-acre Burien site] for us and we’re paying them back.”) Baby’s Best Start is for pregnant women and new moms; there’s a wing for it at the WC shelter. Also, the Kids’ Club is at all their sites – they work with schools to be sure kids get transportation, care, etc.

Most families are with MP “for about 85 days now,” said Hartman. They work on housing as soon as a family arrives, talking about what barriers might exist and how to remove them. MP works “with landlords and property owners to build relationships and identify available housing options for our families. … Our families are resilient and responsible,” declared Hartman. They also have “diversion” to help some families avoid shelter altogether, moving them directly into housing rom tens or cars – 286 families last year, more than double 2017, the first year they did that.

White Center specific stats:

Panell took over the briefing, first with words of gratitude. Last year, 126 families were served, including 179 children. 29 people got jobs, with the help of an on-site employment specialist; 47 families were moved to “more-stable living situations.” (Asked where they’re finding housing, Hartman said generally to the south – Federal Way and beyond, most often, she said.)

How can you help? Landlords and connections are what they need most now, as well as “your voice …keep talking,” Hartman implored. Volunteer help is big too. From yard work to reading to kids, they can use the help; teach arts and crafts, music, sewing, etc. They also have the Make-A-Home program to furnish homes for families who are moving into housing with very few belongings.

Another tidbit: The food-recovery program, with food donated by Starbucks and Amazon, has helped them bring daily food costs down from $18/person to less than $4.

WHITE CENTER FOOD BANK: Executive director Marélle Habenicht said the WCFB has had a big year, including the conversion to a grocery-store-type model and appointment system. Running more efficiently has enabled them to allow families to come three times a month instead of twice, and their distribution hours have doubled.

They have also worked on a more-dignified way for people to be served.

Their “Grow to Give” garden expanded last year, too. That’s helped them better serve more families with fresh foods. It’s 1200-square-feet now, with a newly installed aquaponics system. This has helped them expand what they grow – they just got four dragonfruit cactuses, for example.

In 2018:

18,491 times families shopped
1458 babies
23,448 adults
17,000+ seniors (who have a special distribution day on Thursdays; they also have a mobile distribution system for residence facilities)
76 percent of the people they serve “identify as a community of color” – a similar percentage of the staff is the same, and they have staff speaking five languages, which helps with intake

857,000 pounds of food distribution
5200 healthy-food certificates that people can take to local markets where they can find culturally appropriate foods

They grew 13,000 pounds of “ulturally relevant and requested foods” last year – items that are often expensive to buy. They rescued 175,000 pounds of food last year that otherwise was landfill-bound. “We’ve made a really big push in the last couple of years to recover food,” Habenicht explained.

She said “volunteers are critical to what we do” – more than 400 people helped out last year. “We couldn’t do what we do without them,” she said.

They’ve been working with One Million Tampons to cover menstrual needs, including partnerships with schools.

About the Hub Project redevelopment: The WCFB will not be part of it after all, because they couldn’t run a big capital campaign for it as well as their own capital campaigns. So “we need a new home,” about three to five years from now. They learned from talking to people that the WCFB needs a more-central location in WC anyway. “We do a lot more than (offer) food … being closer to downtown White Center gives us more opportunities.” They need 6,000 square feet of a building and about half an acre outdoors for garden and parking. “That is what we are hoping for.” They also hope it will be a green building – a company recently offered them solar panels, which will have to wait until they move toa new HQ.

But: “Our ultimate goal is to not be needed … to shut our doors.” So they hope to own their future location, to be self-sustaining, and “so we can give it back.”

A Greenbridge resident brought up something Habenicht mentioned briefly – a problem with the roundabout – she said that she was told the 8th/108th bus route was removed and that “the roundabout is illegal” but another one is going to be built at 8th/102nd. The topic resurfaced multiple times during the meeeting.

SEN. JOE NGUYEN: Having heard about the bus/roundabout snafu, Nguyen leaped to the front and said he had just texted County Councilmember Joe McDermott to say, “What the f*** is going on?” Not specifically his jurisdiction but “it uses state money,” so why not.

He also mentioned his WC roots, with a shoutout to “my librarian from Cascade Middle School” being in the room.

As for the Legislature:

“It was a fantastic year for folks who are more progressive,” Sen. Nguyen said. He said it’s not a case of politics being good or bad – while 400+ bills got passed, more than usual, that’s still only about 10 percent of what was introduced. $47 million for the 34th District, “largely for this area,” including the finishing of 4th Avenue, he said. $2 million to finish the Burien Mary’s Place, too. “You really have to fight for everything …if you have legislators who don’t participate, who don’t show up, you get screwed.” He said it’s why he was “more aggressive than … well, everybody.” He said he doesn’t care if he gets re-elected, he just wants people to be involved.

Education was a big issue for him, he said. Access to education is a big thing, mentioning the Washington Promise scholarship covering tuition for students from families making less than $50,000 a year. He said they lowered the real-estate excise tax for 80 percent of people – “if your property is worth less than $1.2 million.” That tax affects you when your house sells, it was clarified. Asked later about the school-funding situation, Nguyen mentioned passage of the school-levy lift.

Transportation was another big issue for him.

But he said the first thing he noticed in Olympia was “rampant mediocrity.” He noted that it’s a part-time Legislature. And he found himself the legislative tech expert because he works at Microsoft. He shared an anecdote about someone trying to pass a bill that technically “didn’t make any sense, and if I wasn’t there” to say something, it might have passed.

He was brisk and funny and at times of course deadly serious, saying he opposes youth detention and the King County youth-detention center that’s being built. He also mentioned the law he passed clearing marijuana convictions for those who were convicted as adults.

Sen. Nguyen said he’d met with the governor earlier in the day and fixing the justice system was one topic.

He also mentioned $900 million in support for endangered orcas. He said he believes there are ways to boost the orca population without killing sea lions/seals.

He reiterated, “I can’t tell you how important it is to advocate.” Be loud. Speak up. It’s what he says he’s doing.

If you can’t go to Olympia in person, someone asked, what’s the best way to engage?

Email and call, said Sen. Nguyen. He also noted that remote testimony is allowed in the Senate, too. He said he’s doing everything he can, and also expressed his disgust at some – even some who call themselves Democrats – but “don’t do any work.”

Another question had to do with the inequitable distribution of marijuana tax money and stores. Nguyen invited followup conversation with the person who asked.

His election success came up – “we doubled the number of people of color” in the Senate – “how may is that?” “eight” – as did a wide variety of topics, from tax reform to arbitration to family-leave requirements.

Housing and homelessness will be his focus next year – noting that keeping people housed is “three times cheaper” than getting them out of homelessness once it happens.

NHUAC president Liz Giba brought up the correlation between poor health and environmental justice. She said they’ve been trying to get a study done.

CRIME UPDATE: “We had a significant increase in violent crime last month,” said Deputy Bill Kennamer, who is now the community crime-prevention deputy (title change from “storefront deputy,”he said).

Is it gang related? Kennamer said he’d asked.

A detective and detective-sergeant positions have just been advertised for the Gang Unit, but right now, it remains a unit of one, he noted.

“None of the recent WC shootings are gang related or gang motivated,” is what Det. Joe Gagliardi told him, Kennamer said. Certainly “gang-like,” he acknowledged.

No updates on the shooting outside Saar’s Super Saver,but it remains

Burglaries are the same, auto thefts are down significantly.

Crime analyst: 16th/108th arrests of people with guns

10th, 98th/16th another arrest for unlawful gun possession

(Yes, they are “local” suspects – Delridge to Burien – “a lot of them don’t live here but this is the middle”)

He mentioned a couple problem properties – “one on 13th and one on 17th” – are on his radar, and something is going to be done with the latter, a former business property that was bought by what Kennamer described as a property-flipper who’s just seen it for the first time and is working to get it cleaned up so he can bring in a new tenant.

Other points of discussion included noise enforcement. “It’s archaic, the noise ordinance,” lamented Dep. Kennamer.

What about parking? There is no street camping in White Center, Dep. Kennamer declared, while warning “I’m not solving the problem, I’m just moving the problem.” He said he’s “ruthless” about parking enforcement. But, he said, the enforcement is usually related to people “making a mess” – if they don’t, he doesn’t know they’re there.

Back to the roundabout: “We are working with Metro to find a fix,” said a Local Services rep. Metro buses are legally allowed to go over them, but “the passengers are kind of tossed around every time they do that.” But Kennamer noted that the roundabout has achieved the traffic calming long sought

asklocalservices@kingcounty.gov if you have a problem or question.

P.S. We were in touch with Local Services and Metro the day after the meeting to ask about the roundabout situation. The Road Services Division simply acknowledged the situation:

King County Road Services Division is aware that the roundabout at 8th Avenue SW and SW 108th Street – which was recently installed to mitigate a high-collision location – presents challenges for Metro buses. We are working collaboratively with Metro to identify as quickly as possible a solution that serves the community and all users of the intersection in a safe manner.

Metro said the situation’s in its third month:

Route 128 southbound was rerouted in March, serving different stops after we learned our 40-foot-long buses couldn’t safely navigate the left turn through the roundabout. Northbound route 128 trips can navigate a right turn and they remain unchanged on their original pathway. Details of the new stops served were communicated with riders.

NEXT MEETING: In September. But look for NHUAC at the Jubilee Days Street Fair in July.\

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THURSDAY: Sen. Joe Nguyen, White Center Food Bank, Mary’s Place @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

June 3rd, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 3 Comments »

What are you doing Thursday night? You’re invited to take a little time to soak in a lot of community information and involvement:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 7 pm
Where North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and Entrance are in the Back of the Station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Will you be part of NHUAC’s final community meeting before the summer hiatus? If so, you will learn about North Highline’s government, neighborhoods and meet some neighbors.

(WCN photo, December 2018)

The portion of North Highline west of State Route 509 is in Washington’s 34th Legislative District. NHUAC looks forward to hearing from Sen. Joe Nguyen at our June 6th meeting. Sen. Nguyen was last with us prior to his election to the 34th District’s seat in the state senate. That discussion ranged from cannabis to housing. We’ve asked Sen. Nguyen to share his thoughts about his first session, his next session, and how things are going in North Highline. There will be an opportunity to make comments and ask questions.

(WCN photo, March 2017)

This month’s meeting will also give us an opportunity to hear from two neighbors and important local organizations, the White Center Food Bank and Mary’s Place.

In the two years it has been in White Center, Mary’s Place has rewarded our support by living up to its promises. One of those promises was to keep the people of North Highline informed. Mary’s Place Executive Director Marty Hartman and Kecia Pannell, Site Director at White Center’s Family Center, will join NHUAC.

Did you know that, not far from SeaTac Airport, there was once billboard that read:

“Will the last person leaving SEATTLE –
Turn Out the Lights”?

It was the 1970s. The loss of nearly 70,000 Boeing jobs, during the “Boeing Bust,” ultimately resulted in regional unemployment of 17%. People were struggling. The White Center Food Bank (WCFB) stepped up to help and became an unofficial part of the North Highline community. Over the decades, the WCFB has continued to be an important community member. Come hear the latest news from White Center Food Bank!

Knowledge Is Power
Learn, share and help make North Highline a better place.
June 6th – bring a neighbor

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Marijuana and more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

May 9th, 2019 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, White Center news 6 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

A long-hot topic was discussed relatively calmly at this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, held May 2nd at NH Fire District HQ.

MARIJUANA: Jim Chan and Warren Clauss from the county came to talk about the new report (which you can see here or embedded below).

New sub-area planner Jay Hill was in the audience as were planner David Goodman and external-relations manager David Dow – a White Center resident – from the Department of Local Services. The staffer who put together the report now works for the county council, which Chan said declined the request for his attendance.

To date, the council hasn’t taken any action on the report, Chan said. The report said that no further zone areas need to be added for marijuana activity. But it acknowledged the inequitable distribution of marijuana businesses and recommended a cap. The subarea plan for West Hill recommends an even lower cap – two. Existing businesses would be grandfathered, though.

However, NHUAC president Liz Giba wondered, isn’t it unlikely that any of the existing stores – six in unincorpoated NH -are going to close? Clauss acknowledged, that’s true, their sales are all doing well. He thinks more favorable conditions elsewhere might ultimately pull them away. Chan said the Legislature likely didn’t expect that some communities would ban marijuana, and that has led to some of the inequitable distribution. But wouldn’t limiting sales in this area add to the marginalization of disadvantaged communities who had been disproportionately prosecuted pre-legalization? asked Aaron Garcia from the White Center Community Development Association. Good question, said Chan. Garcia also wondered about marijuana businesses seeking to expand the types of merchandise they offer. There are strict limits, he was told.

The report addressed a variety of types of data, but some of the sample sizes were too small to “make accurate conclusions,” Clauss noted.

As for where the tax dollars go, there is an inequity but it’s a state issue, the county reps noted – the county only gets back $2 million. That is split fairly evenly between public health and public safety. Giba wondered if some of the money could be funneled back to “keeping things clean” – the streets, for example.

The marijuana businesses aren’t any more of a crime magnet than other types of businesses, KCSO Deputy Bill Kennamer noted when the talk turned to that issue. The report looks at those stats, added Clauss.

Would grandfathering allow for example one family member to pass to another? Chan didn’t know, but another rep present didn’t think so.

So the bottom line is that to change things would require putting pressure on state legislators? Yes, was the reply. But in terms of the county, watch for announcements of sub-area-plan meetings.

Want to see the report? If you can’t download it, you can request it from asklocalservices@kingcounty.gov

SIDE NOTE: Before the county reps left, an attendee brought up a loud party along 17th SW last weekend. Deputy Kennamer said noise complaints are becoming more common and he’s still figuring out how to address it.

CRIME UPDATE: The deputy had his own spotlight shortly thereafter. In crime trends – burglaries are down, auto thefts are up. “We’re getting a lot of cars stolen that are then used in crimes of violence.” One-third of the 100 Part I crimes – auto thefts. All the violent crimes have been solved quickly.

Do we know why the burglar who was shot and killed by a White Center resident chose that house? Kennamer said, no, but it’s worth noting that there’s a “problem house” on the other side of the street. They’re still not 100 percent certain about whether someone else was involved; that’s pending blood analysis.

Regarding marijuana businesses, as discussed earlier in the meeting, “none are any worse” – Nimbin’s had a few drive-through burglaries, Star had a shooting, but otherwise he said they were no more of a draw for crime than liquor stores.

A few other notes: One of the recent gunfire incidents in downtown WC had 45 rounds fired.

Got a nuisance house? Work with code enforcement.

One attendee pointed out that the businesses on the west side of 17th near 98th had suffered burglaries and theft. It might not have been reported to KCSO yet; Deputy Kennamer was asked to stop by and check on them.

Asked about emphasis patrols, he mentioned WC and Burien are having ongoing Thursday-Friday-Saturday overtime-funded patrols along the 16th/Ambaum corridor.

Despite the trouble spots, WC is far better than it was, say, 20 years ago, Kennamer reiterated.

WATER DISTRICT MERGER: Water District 45 is merging into WD 20 as a result of the recent election, commissioner Russ Pritchard reminded everyone. This means lower bills for District 45’s former customers. Involved are 10,415 service connections and 1,500 hydrants serving about 45,000 residents, he said. The old District 45 HQ will be sold; an appraiser just came out. So it’s not vacant pre-sale, the Highline Bears baseball team is temporarily headquartered there.

14th/120th has a “secret” underground reservoir, holding about 8 million gallons, he also noted, and now it’s part of District 20, which is headquartered at 1st S. and 126th.

HIGHLINE BEARS: GM Justin Moser spoke to NHUAC, opening by recalling baseball’s heyday in the community, and saying they want to bring “entertainment and fun” to the community. Ticket prices are no higher than $8. Opening night is June 1st, 7 pm, and County Councilmember Joe McDermott will throw out the first pitch. The team has 27 home games and will even have a “Christmas in July” night in which the players will wear ugly sweaters and throw out a first snowball instead of a first pitch. Their players, who come from college baseball, will be giving back to local communities via street cleanups and other volunteer activities.

COALITION FOR DRUG-FREE YOUTH: Rudy Garza spoke about the event coming up tonight (May 9th) – here’s the official invitation. Speakers will include Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta and State Senator Joe Nguyen.

LIBRARY UPDATE: KCLS’s Angie Benedetti said, “There’s nothing I like better than opening a meeeting with good news.” That news – Boulevard Park Library is reopening May 18th, with a 9:30 am ribbon-cutting ceremony. She shared the branch’s history going back more than three quarters of a century, when it was one room with a little over 500 books. She said it retains its classic architectural charms but has new rooms and a piece of art by Barbara Earl Thomas, glass walls telling the story “The Secret Reader.” Benedetti also shared some recent anecdotes including a “Box Drive-In” a week ago in which 100 little kids made cars out of boxes and got to watch a movie. NHUAC president Giba recalled that there was a time when the community was in danger of losing the library.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Wendell Davis noted that the White Center Warriors wrestling team, which meets at Chief Sealth IHS, has a world champion – 17-year-old Dustin Camacho. ….On May 24th, New Start High School Key Club wll have a car wash at the school, and at a TBA date in June, the Evergreen High School Key Club will have one too, said Aaron Garcia … 6/15, an Art Walk will coincide with the first-ever White Center Pride event.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets 7 pm first Thursdays most months at the NH Fire District HQ.

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THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council looks at marijuana, and more

April 29th, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council looks at marijuana, and more

A new month is almost here and so is the announcement of what’s on the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council agenda this Thursday:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and Entrance are in the Back of the Station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Last month, Doug Baxter-Jenkins of CHI Franciscan/Highline Hospital shared important and disturbing information about the state of North Highline’s health. The data begs the question: Why?

This month’s NHUAC meeting will focus on where we’ve been and how we got here since the legalization of marijuana. In a 2013 neighborhood meeting, King County publicly presented its proposal to limit marijuana businesses in North Highline. However, that proposal never became reality. By July of 2016, there were 15 legal marijuana stores in unincorporated King County; 13 of them were in either North Highline or Skyway.

On July 25, 2016, the King County Council passed Ordinance 18326 which, according to King Council Members Joe McDermott and Larry Gossett, “would further concentrate retail marijuana stores in low-income and working-class neighborhoods and, more often than not, minority neighborhoods.” The King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (now Permitting) was tasked with preparing a report on the marijuana industry in unincorporated King County. After 2-1/2 years, the King County Marijuana Report is complete and filed with the council. To learn about and discuss the Marijuana Report, we will be joined by Jim Chan, Director of King County’s Permitting Division, Warren Clauss, Permitting’s expert on marijuana, and John Taylor, Director of King County’s Local Services Department. To read the King County Marijuana Report before our discussion, you can find it here.

Angelina Benedetti of the King County Library System, Commissioner Russ Pritchard of Water District 20, and our own Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer will also join us to share important happenings in North Highline. Then… the floor will be yours!

Knowledge is power.

Learn, share and help make North Highline a better place.

May 2, 2019 at 7 pm – Bring a Neighbor!

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From April’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting: What you need to know about local health

April 21st, 2019 Tracy Posted in Health, North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

We weren’t able to cover this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting but NHUAC has shared with us, so we can share with you, a slide deck with some important but troubling information:

(You can also see it here in PDF.) You can read more about the CHNA process at the CHI Franciscan website.

P.S. NHUAC has a new website – same address – where there’s a link to video of part of April’s meeting. The next meeting will be first Thursday in May – May 2nd – 7 pm at North Highline Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th).

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COMMUNITY: Healthy agenda for this week’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

March 31st, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

Be there! Here’s what the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council will be hearing and talking about on Thursday:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, April 4, 2019 at 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and Entrance are in the Back of the Station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

April’s meeting will focus on better health, both physical and emotional, in North Highline.

Health care professionals often tell us what we should be doing to live long, productive lives. The table will be turned at this month’s NHUAC meeting. Highline Medical Center wants to hear from us! Doug Baxter-Jenkins, CHI Franciscan’s Community Integration Program Manager, will present data from the latest Community Health Needs Assessment. We will have a chance to ask questions, provide comments, and suggest ideas for action to build a healthier community together. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to tell Highline Medical Center where it should focus its community health work over the next three years.

Seattle and King County are in crisis. The reasons include the trauma and effects of addiction, untreated mental health issues, and homelessness. The last month has been especially difficult in North Highline. Our first responders bear the heavy weight of dealing with the fallout. Lisa Daugaard and Kris Nyrop of the Public Defender Association will join NHUAC to discuss the LEAD® program, which King County plans to begin in North Highline. LEAD® stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. It will give KCSO a new option when dealing with low-level offenders. Officers will be able to direct low-level offenders to case-management and services such as drug treatment and housing – instead of prosecution and jail. Join us to learn more about how LEAD® may help make North Highline safer and healthier for everyone.

White Center Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer will provide an update on what has been keeping KCSO busy in North Highline over the last month.

Then… the floor will be yours!

Knowledge is power.

Learn, share and help make North Highline a better place.

April 4, 2019 at 7 pm – Bring a Neighbor!

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From open space to Local Services, and more, @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council:

March 8th, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Thursday night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting was the first of the year, since January’s regular night was too close to the New Year’s holiday and February’s was snowed out.

Here are the highlights:

MORE PARKS AND GREENSPACE? Dave Kimmett from the King County Land Conservation Initiative returned for a followup on his November appearance, which was more generalized regarding the KCLCI. He was invited back to talk about White Center specifics. “I’m out there trying to buy new park lands” is how he explained his role. It’s a “fairly new and major initiative coming out of King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s office.” KCLCI has six focus areas, including “neighborhood green and open space.” He noted that half a million people living in King County don’t have “ready access” to parks/open spaces. So they’re looking at the areas – particularly urban communities like White Center and Skyway – that need more green space. Part of this relates to work that’s being done by the King County Open Space Equity Cabinet “of 21 community leaders.” (See the membership here.) They’re coming out with a report soon. In the meantime, as Kimmett’s short slide deck concluded: “Tonight is the first of many steps to engage residents (in the) community to help us create more greenspace in White Center.” He said the County Council has adopted new code to increase the amount of bond money that can be tapped into to buy land. “This is the first year we’re implementing all this.”

Asked by NHUAC president Liz Giba whether he had an idea how much land was under consideration for purchase in North Highline, Kimmett said no. “We don’t know – we have to spend time to identify where are the right places to invest money,” the “right opportunit(ies).”

The map he brought showed vacant – per the tax rolls – sites, though attendees quickly pointed out that many of the sites shown on the map were under development or had plans on file.

Kimmett said he hoped one of the next steps might be to assemble a group and/or have a separate standalone meeting to look at these sites and hear community suggestions. They could come up with a list of priorities for purchases, over time.

And then he revealed one might already be in the works: The revelation followed a site suggestion from Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer, who pointed out a parcel on 8th Ave. S. that’s a “problem-solving” site of his. Kimmett said he’d actually been contacted by the site’s owners about possibly selling it as potential park land – five forested acres – instead of planning a potential apartment building; they had heard about his presentation last fall.

Subsequent conversation included a suggestion that the county look at the multijurisdictional land along Myers Way. Kimmett also mentioned some land adjacent to King County Parks parcels that is attractive because “we always like to add to what we already have.”

Giba also asked about a site that’s already county-owned – at 8th SW/SW 108th, where the White Center Food Bank and the temporary Mary’s Place shelter are located. While there’s been longrunning talk about building a new complex including affordable housing at the site, Giba thought the site could incorporate open space and maybe a longer-term home for the facilities there now. Kimmett mentioned a 14-acre Skyway site that has been eyed for more than a decade but has site challenges (including a sizable wetland) and hasn’t found a developer, so it’s under consideration now as parkland (the site is known as Brooks Village), so he said he’d look into this site’s status. But, Kimmett cautioned, the initiative’s success isn’t just about buying up a lot of land – it has to be strategic and programmable.

No timeline for all this, yet.

LOCAL SERVICES DIRECTOR: John Taylor made his first appearance since taking over the new department that’s tasked with delivering services to the unincorporated areas.

He noted that it’s not really a “new department” so much as a reorganization – Transportation was broken up, for example, and Road Services is part of this new department since its responsibilities are entirely focused on unincorporated areas. Creating the department involved only one new hire – they’re adding an economic-development program manager for the unincorporated area.

The Permitting Division is also part of it – with improvements planned including “more staff time to respond to customers” and “streamlining requirements for already-built-construction permits” – as are Community Service Areas (of which North Highline is one) and Service Partnership Agreements.

“We’re also responsible for knitting together the stove pipes,” Taylor noted. He is hoping to help inform the unincorporated areas on what the other departments are achieving, to. Communication and outreach are a big part of it as well.

Along with the economic-development hire, the department is also interviewing for “two new subarea planners,” and that will facilitate North Highline planning next year as well as the Skyway-area planning that’s under way now.

Road Services funding is still low, Taylor said, as he showed a slide regarding the department’s snow and ice priorities, with 28 trucks with plows withs anders, 8 graders, 6 anti-ice trucks, 9 backhoes, 7 front loaders, 5 dump trucks, “to cover an area the size of Rhode Island.” They also can deploy County Parks and Solid Waste equipment and personnel – 10 dump trucks with trailers, a grader, backhoe, and over a dozen smaller construction trucks, with 10-15 personnel of those departments driving the trucks. “Leveraging assets from other departments” was something made possible by the reorganization that created Local Services. Taylor noted that the department moved “500 tons of salt in one night” to keep ahead of the February snows – almost half what it keeps on hand each year. He also showed slides detailing the massive response that the snowfall required.

He noted that on some non-priority routes that they couldn’t get to immediately, they had to use heavy construction equipment to dig out of snow. But overall, doing all they could do meant it was not the “huge disaster” it could have been. Ideally, though, he said, they could have used 60 trucks rather than 28 – so they’re going to look into outfitting trash trucks with plows for potential future use. They’re also going to look at plow mounts for other departments’ trucks “in case this happens again.” And “we’re going to look at a funding solution for the county’s road problem” – he says the roads are used by people and jurisdictions that don’t contribute any money toward them.

Asked what’s being done about poor road quality in White Center, Taylor said some sort of resurfacing is being planned – he says that County Executive Constantine basically said they’re not going to wait for annexation any more, they’re “going to get done what we need to get done.”

If you’re concerned about development and zoning, that’s a topic for the upcoming sub-area planning, Taylor said in response to a concern voiced by NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin. But, he warned, the tradeoff could be more delays for building permits, which is a problem even now – “we’re getting beat up” for six-week delays, he noted.

P.S. Taylor’s department is running an online survey right now – go to Sli.do and enter #localservices as your event code.

DEPUTY KENNAMER’S UPDATE: He began by saying, “We have been experiencing a push of homeless (people) into the area … since Seattle’s squeezing the balloon.” He said the Myers Way east-side area that was swept has stayed swept. The 509 cloverleaf areas – “huge” camps – were swept, with WSDOT help, and people who were there were offered shelter, but he got no takers, he said. “I don’t know how to fix that,” he lamented.

Otherwise – low-level crimes are “significantly down” in the area, but “our more-violent crimes are up.” Most of the recent high-profile crimes have been solved, he said.

Deputy Kennamer was asked about a transient drug user “behind the Pizza Time” and says he can’t arrest the person “because prosecutors won’t file .. the political climate has to change” for cases like that to be pursued.

He also said that while the area is densifying, particularly with redevelopment in the Greenbridge area, the number of deputies assigned to it has not. “Two cops are working … right now” in the area, he noted. “The guys tonight are running ragged.”

“That’s unacceptable,” said an attendee.

Kennamer said that citizen advocacy is the only way to change that. “Without pressure, it’s not going to change.” A discussion of the county-budget-cycle timing ensued.

(WCN photo from February 22nd)

Asked about the gunfire near 16th/98th two weeks ago, he said it was “between two groups.” Not a random situation? pressed the attendee. “The location might have been random,” said Kennamer.

One attendee asked about the recent 509 shootings and thought there should be more publicity about those.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Dobkin brought up the Camp Second Chance situation – as we’ve reported on West Seattle Blog, the Highland Park Action Committee is opposing extending its stay on the Myers Way Parcels … The White Center Kiwanis‘s recent fundraising dinner was a success … A donation drive for hygiene kits for people living unsheltered is happening at Cascade Middle School … And then, an announcement that drew gasps of delight:

(WCN photo from June 2018)

HONK! Fest West is coming back to White Center on June 1st, closing 16th on a smaller footprint, Roxbury to 98th. The rep who announced that was invited to return to NHUAC in May with a briefing … A King County Parks rep said youth programs are on track to smash records, plus the White Center Repair Event is coming up this Saturday:

She also said that Steve Cox Memorial Park Fields 2 and 3 are expected to open within the next few weeks; Field 1 is lagging a bit, in need of post-snow turf repairs.

UPCOMING MEETINGS: A LEAD program rep and CHI Franciscan rep are expected to be next month’s guests; Taylor and Permitting reps are being invited for May. … NHUAC meets first Thursdays most months, 7 pm, at the North Highline Fire District‘s headquarters.

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THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s first meeting of 2019

March 2nd, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s first meeting of 2019

The snow got in the way last month. This month’s a go. Just announced by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, the plan for Thursday night’s meeting:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, March 7, 2019 at 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and Entrance are in the Back of the Station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

It’s time to have a community meeting. The weather forecast seems to be typical for this time of year so we’re going to get back on schedule. The first NHUAC meeting of 2019 will give us the opportunity to learn how King County intends to increase its outreach to and improve life in North Highline.

Our ability to access parks and green spaces and the quality of our natural environment have strong effects on physical and mental health and the quality of our lives. As he promised in November, David Kimmett of King County Parks will join us to share current information about the Open Space Program and gather community input about the green spaces in North Highline that need protection before they are lost to development.

We will also be joined by John Taylor, the director of King County’s newest department, Local Services. The goal of Local Services is to “develop new and better ways to serve” the people of unincorporated King County. What motivated the change? What’s been done so far? Good decision-making requires good information. What data is Local Services using to assess the needs in North Highline and compare them with the rest of the county? What does the data show? Where can our North Highline community access the information? From garbage to round-abouts and building codes, these are only some of the questions and issues that come to mind. Bring yours to this important discussion about life in North Highline.

NHUAC is always happy to see White Center Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer, who will update us once again about police activity in our community.

Then … the floor will be yours!

Knowledge is power.

Learn, share and help make North Highline a better place.

March 7, 2019 at 7 pm – Bring a Neighbor!

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THURSDAY: February’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting canceled

February 5th, 2019 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: February’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting canceled

Before we even got a chance to publish the agenda for February’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, it was canceled due to weather concerns expressed by previously scheduled guests – so scratch it off you calendar for Thursday, and pencil in the first Thursday of next month, March 7th.

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VIDEO: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council talks with trio of elected officials, and more

December 7th, 2018 Tracy Posted in King County, North Highline UAC, Politics, White Center news 4 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Issues old and new were in the spotlight as December’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting put a trio of longtime local elected officials in the hot seat(s).

But first – NHUAC got a primer on a vote coming up in February.

WATER DISTRICT MERGER VOTE: Loretta Brittingham was here to talk about the merger that will go up for voter approval February 12th. Though she is a commissioner for Water District 45, which is proposed – in a February 12th vote – to merge with Water District 20, she made it clear she was there with an FYI, not an official presentation. We recorded what she had to say:

As you’ll hear in the discussion, this has been primarily publicized via water-bill inserts and public notices. There’s a bit more information on the District 45 website; here’s a map of the district’s coverage area.

ELECTED OFFICIALS: 34th District State Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon opened this segment of the meeting. President Liz Giba asked them first to share a bit of personal background. Fitzgibbon is a West Seattle resident and former Burien resident, and he spoke first. Cody, also a West Seattle resident, followed. We recorded it all:

Cody announced she’s retiring from her work as a nurse on January 9th. The reps answered questions starting with reports that the Legislature might revisit the Growth Management Act. Fitzgibbon said a “very conservative Eastern Washington” legislator is behind one idea to roll back certain parts of it, while another is from an Eastside Democrat who wants to “require minimum density.” Giba also brought up the recently opened development in Top Hat (1st/112th) and conflicting numbers regarding its potential maximum occupancy. Discussion ensued regarding notification requirements and potential ramifications of a higher resident count, such as an increased number of students at nearby schools.

A question from the gallery: What about health insurance? Cody chairs the House Health Care Committee, and noted that affordability “continues to be a big issue” so they’re trying to develop “a public option,” especially to help people with non-poverty “but not Bill Gates” income levels who don’t get tax credits. She also mentioned behavioral-health-care access and Western State’s difficulties. They’re working to find facilities around the state that can help handle some of the patient load. Cody mentioned substance abuse, too – “the opioid crisis is where we’re losing the most lives,” prescription recipients as well as heroin users, but, she said, meth is on the rise again, too.

That segued into a discussion of what your tax dollars are going for. Fitzgibbon noted that property tax bills will go down next year.

County Council Chair Joe McDermott arrived a little over an hour into the meeting. He’s finishing his third year as chair, eight years on the council, after 10 years in the Legislature. He too is a West Seattle resident.

NHUAC board member Barbara Dobkin asked about development regulation, or more like, the lack of it, especially multiple adjacent “small” redevelopments that together would have faced more scrutiny. McDermott, in his reply, noted that neighborhood planning will be happening in North Highline next year. Specifically – the county permitting department will be accountable for a Sub-Area Plan. And he reminded everyone that the new Department of Local Services is about to get going, as a “one-stop resource” to help people “better interact with the county.” That department will include “an economic development staffer that we have not had before” and McDermott says he will encourage that person to make White Center their first stop. McDermott also noted that the Local Services director nominee is up for confirmation shortly. “There are challenges in bringing urban-level services (here) but if we are your local government, we need to do a better job” in meeting those challenges, he said. Will the area’s unincorporated status change? McDermott said he’s not aware of any active conversations. That topic came up a second time, with an attendee asking if the county can get the conversation going (again). McDermott promised to at least ask; he also noted that he’ll be seeing Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for a breakfast discussion about the county’s legislative agenda next week.

Other topics included marijuana and the North Highline concentration of stores. McDermott urged attendees to make this concern “very clear in the Sub-Area planning process” that’s coming up. Later, he was asked whether the North Highline planning process will dovetail with the city’s Highland Park-area process; McDermott said he’ll make sure they do, though he hadn’t previously heard of the latter. Tax reform came up too, with Fitzgibbon mentioning that passing a capital-gains tax is a priority for the coming session. “Do you really think (that) has a chance?” asked Giba. Fitzgibbon and Cody said yes.

Before their appearance wrapped up, they were asked what else will be going on. Fitzgibbon mentioned the Metro Route 120-to-RapidRide conversion planning; Cody mentioned several other health-care-related topics. McDermott mentioned that five gun-safety proposals he first brought up last summer have now all been passed: “That has been significant for me and included some significant accomplishments in the budget” to make them reality. He also brought up Evergreen Pool and some new county funding for it to help cover its ongoing operation-funding deficit, plus he had kudos for the nonprofit that’s managed to keep it open for almost a decade, after the county gave up operating it.

State Sen.-elect Joe Nguyen had also RSVP’d for the meeting, Giba said, but did not show up.

Also speaking at Thursday night’s meeting:

WHITE CENTER KIWANIS: Scott Davis began with a primer on Kiwanis – more than a century old – and what it does, including raising money for children’s health. In White Center, the club started as a spinoff from the Kiwanis Club of West Seattle in 2001. The club meets twice a month, first and third Wednesdays. “We’d love to have more members so we can do more things.” They sponsor Key Clubs to help local high school students (at Evergreen and New Start) develop their leadership skills – Key stands for “Kiwanis Educating Youth.” The Baked Potato and Taco Dinner is coming up on January 24th, 6:30 pm at New Start HS (ticket prices TBA); their fundraisers also include a midsummer Pancake Breakfast that coincides with Jubilee Days, and an annual nut sale that’s under way now. They support local charities including the White Center Food Bank and WestSide Baby. They also support local youth cleaning up local parks, and advocacy for drug- and alcohol-free youth campaigns.

REMEMBERING DEPUTY STEVE COX: President Giba took a moment at the start of the meeting to remember Deputy Steve Cox, who was a NHUAC president as well as law enforcer. As noted in our coverage of the tribute at last weekend’s Christmas tree lighting, he was killed in the line of duty 12 years ago.

NEXT NHUAC MEETING: They’re skipping January since it’s so close to New Year’s Day – next meeting February 7, 2019, 7 pm at NH Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th)

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Senator-elect Joe Nguyen, Reps. Eileen Cody & Joe Fitzgibbon, Councilmember Joe McDermott @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council on Thursday

December 3rd, 2018 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Senator-elect Joe Nguyen, Reps. Eileen Cody & Joe Fitzgibbon, Councilmember Joe McDermott @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council on Thursday

On Sunday, 34th District State Senator-elect Joe Nguyen was at White Center’s Diamond Hall for a post-election (full story here). Thursday night, he’ll be back in WC as one of four local elected officials invited to the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s December meeting. Here’s the announcement:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and entrance are in the back of the station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Please join NHUAC at our last meeting of 2018. We’ll be welcoming State Representatives Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and State Senator-elect Joe Nguyen. This is a rare opportunity to engage with those who make many of our laws and regulations. What is going on in our county and state governments? What is going right? What needs to change? What do our elected representatives plan to work on in 2019 and why? What do they need to know about us?

Another elected official, member of the White Center community, and a regular at NHUAC meetings, Commissioner Loretta Brittingham, will educate us about an upcoming February vote on the future of Water District #45.

Scott Davis, another NHUAC regular and strong community supporter, will share information about the White Center Kiwanis, its upcoming Baked Potato Dinner, and give us the opportunity to purchase their eagerly anticipated holiday nuts for $20 a tin.

Deputy Bill Kennamer will be on vacation, but KCSO hasn’t forgotten us! Major Bryan Howard will be there to answer our questions.

Do you have something on your mind? Join us and share at NHUAC’s last meeting until February 2019!

See you Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 7 pm

Because Knowledge and Community Are Power!

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Land, water, highway @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

November 8th, 2018 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Land, water, highway @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

Toplines from November’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting:

LAND CONSERVATION INITIATIVE: Darren Greve and Dave Kimmett brought an update on King County’s Land Conservation Initiative.

The program has been in the works for about 2.5 years and this coming year their department will be working to define which areas can be considered for the longterm plan to find and acquire more land to use as parks, green spaces, and trails in King County. Priority will be given to low-income areas. Part of that plan will be to waive matching funds so that open spaces can be created in the lowest-income areas without having to clear a financial hurdle.

Part of what they’re trying to do will be included in extending the County parks levy. In the 2020s there might be an additional ballot measure strictly for acquiring property. Greve pointed out that the existing levy funding can only be used for upkeep and operation. An added ballot measure could be used to acquire land.

Q&A for them started with concerns about adequate community-wide input. Kimmett said he’s the boots-on-the-ground person and is willing to come back and talk to NHUAC about their immediate area. In the exchange, NHUAC president Liz Giba mentioned that she had suggested some land for such purposes and no one got back to her. The county reps apologized for that and Kimmett promised to return in February with a more detailed map and extended conversation about potential WC areas that could be considered.

HIGHWAY 99 TRANSITION: The Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s permanent closure is now just two months away – January 11th. WSDOT’s Laura Newborn gave a general presentation on the plan (see West Seattle Blog coverage of the original announcement, plus the recent update with details for a goodbye/hello celebration weekend February 2-3). If you want to join in the bike ride, fun run, and/or walk on The Viaduct, be sure to sign up for your choice(s) ASAP!

STORMWATER MANAGEMENT: The County Council’s still considering where this fee goes in the budget plan; Josh Baldi of the Water and Land Resources Division told NHUAC that the overall budget includes money to do visioning for the White Center area, which would mean identifying areas with runoff problems. Baldi said the money would go to unincorporated areas since the improvements that might have been needed earlier were put off until the various areas voted on annexation; the county realizes some investment is needed and will be back next year to identify areas.

CRIME: Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer said crimes overall are static or down. Car thefts made a huge drop in the past month. He speculated that a key arrest or two might account for that.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets first Thursdays, 7 pm, at North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 SW 112th.

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From the Viaduct to your taxes, topics to be tackled by the North Highland Unincorporated Area Council this Thursday

October 29th, 2018 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

Got questions about the Viaduct-to-tunnel transition coming up early next year? That’s one of multiple hot topics that the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council will tackle Thursday night. The announcement:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center
(Parking and Entrance are in the back of the Station)

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Still trying to decide whether Joe Nguyen or Shannon Braddock should be our next 34th District State Senator? Last month’s NHUAC Candidate Forum gave us the opportunity to observe the candidates and hear their opinions on a variety of issues. You can watch the video here, thanks to White Center Now! The discussion ranged from cannabis to housing, concentrated neighborhood poverty and our reduced life expectancy.

*According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, turning vacant lots of trash and weeds into green spaces improves the mental health of residents struggling with urban poverty. Considering this new report, NHUAC is pleased to welcome Darren Greve and Dave Kimmett. They will update us on King County’s Land Conservation Initiative. The 30-year plan is designed to protect 65,000 acres of green spaces before they are lost to development.

*Go north much? $2.2 billion and 3 years later than expected, the Alaskan Way Viaduct will close forever on January 11th. Highway 99 will be closed between Spokane Street and Belltown, so it can be aligned with new SR 99 tunnel, before it opens in February. Laura Newborn and Ashley Selvey of the Washington State Department of Transportation will join us to answer questions, offer suggestions and share resources to make the transition as easy as possible.

*Stormwater management and your property taxes will also be on our agenda. John Taylor of King County Parks and Natural Resources will fill us in on what we can expect.

*Once again, Deputy Bill Kennamer will update us with news and statistics from KCSO.

Then … the floor will be yours!

Knowledge is power. Learn, share and help make our community a better place.

Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 7 pm

Bring a Friend!

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VIDEO: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council hosts 34th District State Senate candidates’ forum

October 7th, 2018 Tracy Posted in Election, North Highline UAC, White Center news 4 Comments »

(White Center Now/West Seattle Blog video)

Voting for the general election starts in less than 2 weeks. The most hotly contested race on local ballots is for 34th District State Senator, with Joe Nguyen and Shannon Braddock emerging from an 11-candidate primary. The latest major appearance by both was at this past Thursday night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting; we recorded it on video and you can watch the unedited hour-and-a-half-long forum above. We’ve also noted key points in text below – not full transcriptions, just excerpted points, but perhaps of interest if you don’t have time to watch the video or go see one of their upcoming appearances (listed below):

INTRODUCTIONS: Each got 5 introductory minutes. Braddock was born in Texas but her family moved to Bellingham when she was a toddler and she was there through college; after living in some other places, she moved to West Seattle 19 years ago. She’s a mom of three, 11-year-old daughter, 14-year-old son, 19-year-old son.

In the context of mentioning the day her younger son came home talking about an active-shooter drill, she mentioned that she’s for Initiative 1639 and even if it doesn’t pass, she said she would sponsor bills to be sure “each part of it” move forward. She also recapped her work history for County Executive Dow Constantine and County Councilmember Joe McDermott.

Nguyen talked about growing up in White Center – born in what’s now Seola Gardens but was then Park Lake – the son of refugees from Vietnam. He said they struggled in those early years but the community gave to his family, including building a ramp for his dad after a crash left him a quadriplegic. His family lived in Burien for a while and now Nguyen lives in West Seattle, a dad of two kids, 1 and 3. He talked about his career in technology strategy and job-training resources.

First question: NHUAC president Liz Giba showed data about the public-health discrepancies in the area, and North Highline residents having a life expectancy as low as 76 years old, six years below the lowest life expectancy for someone in West Seattle and asked the candidates if they believed it was an accident.

Nguyen said no, it is reality, and he experienced it growing up. “Certain parts” of the area need more attention.

Braddock also said no, it’s not an accident, and talked about the county using an “equity lens” that she believes the state needs to use as well.

Nguyen said more community representation in the decisionmaking process is important, especially with regards to cultural competence.

Second question, from NHUAC vice president Barbara Dobkin, was about low-income housing and whether it’s OK that more is being built in North Highline because land is cheap.

Braddock said no but also spoke about the challenge of displacement and how her campaigning brought her to many doorsteps where people said they would have to move. She also said that affordable-housing needs should be considered community by community, rather than one size fits all.

Nguyen said that land’s value needs to be considered as more than a price, but also what that land means to the community. He also espoused a holistic look at affordable housing – are services available? And he mentioned the importance of tax reform as seniors and others deal with rising property taxes.

Dobkin followed up by asking their opinions about the siting of affordable housing. Nguyen said it should be “all over the place.” Braddock said she supports “inclusionary zoning” as well as the Block Project, which seeks to site tiny houses in people’s yards as a “community-inclusive way to provide housing for homeless” people.

Next question dealt with gang violence, and recent Burien murders related to it. Is it related to poverty and a lack of opportunities? Yes, said Braddock, and the community needs to work closely with young people to fix that. Giving youth the option to learn about trades can help. “We can’t let up – we start to do this work … and then we take our foot off the pedal and we think the problem is solved,” Braddock said. Nguyen mentioned recently being at a Burien City Council meeting and noted that more money was being invested in policing than in youths’ futures. “We need to make sure we’re putting the emphasis on prevention,” he said.

Then a frequent NHUAC discussion topic, the state-allowed concentration of marijuana stores in North Highline and the robberies that have happened at most of those stores. “Concentrating in one area is not appropriate,” Nguyen said. He suggested the problem was again a lack of representation and an absence of leaders “pushing back.” Braddock said that while marijuana is legal because of an initiative, it was “clumsily” implemented. Both agreed that the allocation of tax revenues needs to be revisited to focus on communities’ needs.

Next, homelessness and how to help unsheltered people. Braddock noted that the crisis “has been building for many, many years” and told an anecdote about someone sleeping in her carport a decade ago while visiting his mother at a nearby care center. She said she supports 24/7 shelters – “navigation center” type shelters – and looking at “more surplus lands” for affordable housing/shelters. She says WSDOT is exempt from surplus-land review and would like to see that change. She also mentioned funding generated by a state document-recording fee and “protecting” that; Nguyen noted that it’s not generating what it used to and said it should be brought back to its former level. He also suggested tax incentives/credits for property owners who need it to fix up their property – provided they keep a certain level of affordability for tenants.

If they were elected, what would they do the rest of the time (given that legislator is a part-time job)? Braddock said she couldn’t keep her current job as it’s too demanding so she’d have to get something else. Nguyen said he’d be able to keep his job because his employer Microsoft had a paid-time-off program that would cover his legislative time.

An attendee question next: Candidates talk about supporting small business but don’t follow through, so does either candidate have small-business experience and what would they do to support such businesses? Nguyen said his family had run a billiard hall in White Center at one point and he saw firsthand the taxes that small business have to deal with; he said he’d like to abolish B&O taxes for small- and medium-sized businesses. He also observed that other costs, including health care, can be onerous for small-business owners too. And he spoke of supporting a friend who was setting up a business and needed help with other important things such as setting up a website. Braddock said that her family had some small businesses including a restaurant that lasted about a year, and she saw “the energy and the work” that went into running businesses. She suggested that the 34th District could have for example a “small business advisory committee” surfacing issues to her.

Another attendee question involved the difficulty of families being able to afford participating in sports and other programs. Braddock voiced support for helping with that and ensuring that families know about grants that are available. Nguyen mentioned his past involvement as a youth served by the local Boys and Girls Club and said he agreed that more funding was needed for youth programs.

Next attendee question: The Public Works Trust Fund, loans from the state to local agencies for local projects, and concerns about those loans’ availability. Nguyen said he’s not familiar with it but promised that he would fight for local needs. Braddock talked about coalition-building to evangelize support for that sort of need.

And another: A relatively new North Highline resident talked about property-tax breaks for seniors and wanting the eligibility level to expand. Braddock said that was another example of why tax reform is so important. She also said greater awareness is needed for already-available tax breaks. Nguyen also said a more-equitable tax structure – including a capital-gains tax – is important.

Asked about campaign contributions, Braddock defended accepting $750 from Coca-Cola and said she is not supporting the anti-tax Initiative 1634 that soda companies are funding. She said she can’t afford to self-finance her campaign. Nguyen said he can’t either but doesn’t take “corporate PAC money.”

Another question was from an attendee who said that anecdotally she’s noticing more teenage pregnancy and wondered about public-health services’ availabilities. Both candidates agreed the situation should be examined.

Next person asked about rent control. Braddock said “traditional” rent control didn’t seem to have worked but she would support lifting the ban so that local governments could explore “opportunities for innovation” in keeping rents down. Nguyen said he’s “for rent control” and supports strengthening tenants’ rights.

An attendee asked about the Washington Hospitality Association and its opposition to the $15 minimum wage. Nguyen said he “took a meeting” with the organization but was not looking for their money or endorsement. Both said they support the $15 minimum wage.

Next: Their positions on North Highline annexation – when, who, how to get there? Nguyen said residents should decide ‘where they go and how that looks.’ He said he personally favors Seattle but acknowledges it could lead to faster gentrification and displacement. “My family still lives here and they’re going to have a hard time staying here if prices go up any (further).” Braddock also said it’s up to the community and the county needs to do the best it can with the services it provides. She also noted that Seattle is the only city potentially pursuing annexation right now.

Asked about veterans’ issues, both mentioned veterans in their families and said it’s vital to ensure veterans can get the care they need.

An attendee who said she had worked in sexual-violence prevention asked what the candidates would do in that area. Braddock mentioned her proposal for consent education becoming part of health education in schools. Nguyen said he agreed and also wanted to strengthen laws and procedures related to assaults.

WHAT’S NEXT: Upcoming forums announced for both candidates include:
-Tuesday (October 9), Admiral Neighborhood Association (6:30 pm, Sanctuary at Admiral, 42nd/Lander)
-October 17th, Delridge Neighborhoods District Council (7 pm, location TBA)
-October 18th, West Seattle Chamber of Commerce (6:30 pm, DAV Hall, 4857 Delridge Way SW)

VOTING: November 6th is Election Day – get your ballot into a drop box by 8 pm or get it to the US Postal Service (remember, stamps no longer needed!) in plenty of time to ensure it’s postmarked by that date.

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