North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Shelter, encampment, memories…

December 2nd, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

This month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting included discussions of two separate and very different plans to house people experiencing homelessness. Here are last night’s highlights:

SHELTER UPDATE: As reported here Wednesday, the King County shelter plan for the ex-Public Health building at 8th SW/SW 108th has changed, after weeks of work with a community task force. Mark Ellerbrook from King County and Marty Hartman from Mary’s Place came to talk about the new “family shelter” plan.

“We’ve got some steps to go through first,” Ellerbrook said, especially regarding revising the permit application “as quickly as we can … so we can make any chances in the building that we need to make.” He addressed a topic that we asked him about yesterday; “our need for shelter for single adults has not gone down,” but, “if you look at the Highline School District specifically, at least 74 homeless students – living in cars or in a tent under a bridge, and trying to go to school, make a go of it … from about 36 families.” That number is dynamic and changes, he noted. He reiterated that they plan a “large community meeting” in January.

Hartman showed a video about her organization and said its dream has been that no child would have to sleep unsheltered, but they’re not there yet, and hoping to partner in this community “to bring those children inside.”

She said they serve families in a variety of configurations, even at some of their shelters, families with pets. They have 400 beds across King County in nighttime shelters, as well as day centers, in downtown and Aurora/130th (their “family center,” open to all of their shelter guests every day). The families are “in community,” sitting around tables together, in Kids Club together, “supporting each other,” she said. She said they partner with dozens of nonprofits to offer help, assistance, resources. “Our goal is that you will not spend all day looking for 10 diapers,” for example. “Most importantly, we are able to help intervene in the trauma that is going on now – it can take six months for families to get beds in shelter, and that is unacceptable to us.” They have counselors, they ensure kids are enrolled in school, and they try to alleviate crises. “There’s nothing too horrible, too yucky, too bad that’s happened to you that we can’t talk about. … The goal is, we’re going to move you in and out of Mary’s Place as soon as possible.” But they will first be checking on financial stability, for example. A third of the people they serve are refugees and immigrants, who don’t get assistance for as long as possible. They have employers who come in and even hire on site. They do background checks, sex-offender checks, screen out for Class A felonies, etc. She says they’re all about healing and help. “This is solvable. 650 families. The beds that would be available at this shelter would be life-saving.” She said all but 10 percent of their current funding is privately provided. She said they are always looking for “that next building” to use until somebody redevelops it. And she spoke about the importance of intervening with children and families.

One attendee who had been an outspoken critic of the original shelter plan, Joseph Benavides, voiced some continuing concerns including the intersection by 8th/108th not being sufficiently configured. “I love the plan, I love everything about it” otherwise, he said. Ellerbrook said they are talking with King County Roads about safety issues there.

Hartman reiterated that they have just come into the process and expect to be assisting about 25 people for starters.

And they are continuing to work on practicalities such as laundry and hygiene, just getting some folks inside this winter, and then continuing to work on the building. Mary’s Place staff will be there 24/7 and will have a round-the-clock on-call number. “We’re not perfect neighbors all the time … sometimes an aid car will pull up … six children were admitted to the hospital this week with respiratory problems … this week a lady’s water broke right in the lobby.”

But: “In every neighborhood we’ve been in, we’ve made the neighborhood better,” she declared. “Our parents are so big on keeping things safe for their kids … there’s nothing like a momma bear.” If there is something bothering neighbors, Mary’s Place wants to know, she said, adding that their curfew is 8:30 pm, lights out by 9, every day.

Ellenbrook said there will be a three-way agreement “between the county, Mary’s Place, and the community.” A community-work-group meeting “the week of the 15th” will work on it further. There also, Ellerbrook added, will be quarterly community meetings to talk about how things are going, what’s needed, and more.

“It’s really been a remarkable process,”said NHUAC vice president Barbara Dobkin, considering, as she pointed out, “nobody’s yelling here tonight” – in comparison to the emotions that ran high during the community meeting September 15th. “This is just a wonderful compromise that will work.” Benavides added. “The wholesomeness of this whole approach is what this community is all about.”

“I think they really listened,” NHUAC president Liz Giba said about the county reps who were at last month’s meeting (WCN coverage here), including department director Adrienne Quinn.

The discussion concluded with applause.

SEATTLE’S MYERS WAY ENCAMPMENT PLAN: This was discussed at two points in the meeting. Early on, during the community-announcements section, Gunner Scott of the Highland Park Action Committee community council spoke about the Seattle city announcement earlier in the day of a sanctioned encampment at the city-owned Myers Way Parcels (here’s the story on our partner site West Seattle Blog).

Scott said, “It’s probably a done deal but what we can do – working together- is probably, negotiate terms.” He said that City Councilmember Lisa Herbold has been invited to HPAC’s next meeting in January to talk about this as well as other things. He said that the city told him that Camp Second Chance – which has been at the site, without authorization, since summer – would likely be asked to stay as a self-managed encampment, possibly with some “religious organizations” that they’ve been working with. President Giba said that Seattle’s director of homelessness George Scarola told her that they believe about 20 people are living at CSC right now; the city’s plan for the site could more than double that. Later in the meeting, she said that she had spoken to him to ensure that NH would be included in discussions with community leaders. And she said he told her the city would be reaching out to some of the people living unsheltered along Myers Way, but not in the camp, to see if they would join it.

CRIME UPDATES: King County Sheriff’s Office storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer said “Car thefts are really high,” but almost everything else is down. “It’s unusual that you’d have this cluster of this many auto thefts – they’re usually taken as transportation. … Burglaries are really down a lot,” he added.

The local KCSO storefront is now in its new HQ at Steve Cox Memorial Park, announced months ago.

REMEMBERING DEPUTY COX: Giba noted that today (the day after the meeting) is the 10th anniversary of Deputy Cox’s murder on December 2, 2006. “He was a deputy, he was a leader, he was a good friend … he drew people in and tried to get you involved … he decided early on that I needed some mentoring, and he spent some hours trying to accomplish that.” He was also president of NHUAC at the time. She said she tried to get him to take that day off so he could go speak to the Seattle City Council, to tell them to “leave us alone” …but he said he had to work, and told them “you guys can handle it.” She observed, “I feel like that was the message he left to the whole community – ‘you guys can handle it’ – I feel like that’s what we have done.” One example, she said, was the way the shelter had worked out. “He loved kids, he was a new dad, I feel somewhere he is smiling.”

Others’ memories:

“He was an excellent human being.”
“He was a kind of person who just does things. He loved the community.”
“There are some really strong people lost in this community over the years … it’s really up to all of us to continue his legacy. .. We’re a community, we have to stick together, it’s only together that we can work on these issues … if we’re together, we’re powerful.”

The King County Sheriff’s Office will pay tribute to Deputy Cox and 15 others who died in the line of duty in the department’s history at a plaque dedication downtown this morning. WCN will be there.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Pat Price announced a survey that the King County Library System is conducting (we will add the link when we get it) … Bob Price announced a fundraising dinner Friday (December 9th) 5:30 pm at the White Center Eagles for Jubilee Days….Giba announced Rudy Garza‘s art exhibit tonight (Friday), 5-7 pm, at Dubsea Coffee in Greenbridge … Mark Johnston said King County is due out with its first “marijuana report” on potential retail-store sites soon….White Center Kiwanis and New Start Key Club will have the annual baked-potato dinner January 12th at the school, $15 for one ticket, $25 for two, $30 for a family. …

NHUAC BOARD RESIGNATIONS: Elizabeth Devine says work demands will require her to leave the NHUAC board. Also, since the last meeting, Dominic Barrera has resigned. So the board is looking for prospective new members – contact info is on the NHUAC website.

SUBSTANCE-ABUSE SURVEY: Former NHUAC board member Elizabeth Gordon brought a survey that’s ready for more community members’ participation. She’s representing a coalition that got a grant they’ll be working on next year, focusing on preventing substance abuse among middle-schoolers. She also had warm words for the community youth who had spoken in favor of a family homeless shelter replacing the county’s original idea for the Public Health building. The grant with which she and the coalition is working is from revenue generated by marijuana businesses in the area. We’ve featured the survey before – go here for the links if you haven’t answered it yet.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets on the first Thursday of most months, 7 pm, at North Highline Fire District HQ – watch northhighlineuac.org for updates between meetings.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets Thursday: Agenda includes shelter update, tribute to Deputy Steve Cox, more

November 28th, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 4 Comments »

From North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Liz Giba, agenda highlights for this Thursday’s meeting (7 pm at North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 SW 112th):

Please join North Highline’s volunteer community council at our December 1st meeting.

NHUAC aims to add opportunity to our community’s equation:

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard

Our past influences our present. Together they will impact our future. The death of King County Deputy Steve Cox on December 2, 2006 was a tremendous loss. At the time of his death, Steve was NHUAC’s president. Although he’s been gone for nearly 10 years, NHUAC strives to apply the lessons of Steve’s leadership, life, and legacy for a safer, healthier, and positive future for North Highline.

The King County Sheriff’s Office continues to partner with us toward our goals. Bill Kennamer, our White Center Storefront Deputy, will provide us, once again, with news and statistics from KCSO.

Betsy Howe, of Citizens Opposed to Onsite Septic System Management Washington, will tell us about COOM WA’s success in tabling King County’s “Turd Tax” on septic systems and its ongoing efforts.

King County’s plan to put a low-barrier homeless shelter for 70 adults in the old Public Health Building will be updated by a representative of King County’s Department of Community and Human Services.

Like homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse are regional problems that hit close to home. Last month, students from Cascade Middle School’s Prevention Team shared their concerns about the location of King County’s proposed low-barrier homeless shelter in a residential area, next door to a park, and near three schools. This month, Coalition for Drug Free Youth will provide us the opportunity to participate in a survey about our perceptions of drug and alcohol use and abuse among our youth.

We’ll close with a time to share memories and thoughts about community hero Steve Cox.

See you Thursday, December 1st at 7 PM – Bring a Friend!

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VIDEO: White Center shelter plan might change, Steve Cox Memorial Park’s field will change, & more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

November 3rd, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

(WCN photos and video)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Another intense meeting for the White Center area’s community council, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council:

ADRIENNE QUINN: The director of King County’s Community and Human Services department, ultimately accountable for the proposal to set up a shelter in the former Public Health building at 8th and 108th, faced a full house. She said she wanted to talk about the original proposal and “where we are now” with it.

She said there are “a lot of misunderstandings about who people who are who are homeless…. The #1 reason for people under 25 are that they are gay, lesbian, transgender, thrown out of their homes … the #2 reason (for people under 25 to be homeless) is that they have been in foster care and have been thrown out of their homes … For women and families, the primary reason people become homeless is domestic violence, fleeing dangerous situations, their credit has been ruined, it’s difficult for them to get an apartment. … For adult men, right now, 31% are veterans over the age of 55 … another reason is untreated mental (illness). … 1 in 4 people (in general) have an untreated mental disorder … if you are homeless, you don’t have a place to carry your medication, you may not have a doctor, but if we are able to bring people inside, we can stabilize them … There’s a lot of discussion about crime and homelessness. People who are homeless are much more likely to be victims of crime than to (commit crime).”

She mentioned the 100 unsheltered people found in the White Center area during the most-recent One Night Count.”We have heard for many years, do something about the people who are homeless … So King County has been looking all over the county, looking for any available resource … to bring people inside … to help them get back on track. We identified the WC Public Health Clinic, several other buildings around the county, one in Kenmore, one in Bellevue … we began to explore that this spring …” She went on to describe why the building in WC seemed suitable, “to bring a shelter to WC to help people who are here right now, to work on case management, to try to stabilize them, to help people move through shelter in 30 days.” She said studies from around the country have shown that can be successful. And she pointed out that “many people who are homeless actually work” and need someplace to leave their belongings.

“We are continuing in exploration mode,” Quinn said, saying (this section of her speech is in the video clip above) that they are exploring the possibility of the shelter starting with a small population, being offered to families – if there are enough homeless families in this area – instead of the previously planned singles/couples, and being open 24/7 so that there would not be a daily discharge of people onto the street. She also said the small group that met two weeks ago for a discussion of this would meet again one week from tonight.

Opening Q/A, NHUAC president Liz Giba said that the concentration of poverty in White Center remains a concern. Quinn said that they are trying to help homeless people in WC to alleviate that.

Next, an attendee who lives in the area accused Quinn of lying and putting a “spin” on things. He claimed the plan has been in place since last November; she said that wasn’t true. He said they have a public-records request in for information, and that an online petition has collected 1,000 signatures, and that there’s crowdfunding to bankroll the records request. “You picked the wrong location …we’re going to get to the bottom of this.” He talked about problems happening in the park and near the clinic right now; Quinn said that getting people indoors would be the remedy for that.

NHUAC vice president Barbara Dobkin said she is concerned that more homeless people are turning up in White Center because they are being “pushed out of Seattle.” She cited situations such as the West Seattle Junction bus-shelter closure plan.

In other questions, she tried to clarify the “no-barrier” concept – not necessarily that people are going to be allowed in to shoot up, but that “if they have a little alcohol on their breath, we’re not going to turn them away.” She also said this would not be like the “navigation center” that Seattle is considering.

Another attendee brought up some contradictions in what Quinn was saying here and what they heard at the September 15th meeting. She noted that the shouting at that meeting was unsettling to some of the people at that meeting. (One thing that emerged – they’re looking at “portable showers” for the building, which otherwise was described as not being set up for shelter stayers to be able to take showers.)

One attendee said she had heard about what was recommended for helping ease Seattle’s homelessness problem; Quinn said that the county and city had declared an emergency to try to get the federal and state governments to help.

Another attendee challenged the contention that White Center had 100 people unsheltered during the One-Night Count, saying law enforcers had told them they had seen far fewer. Quinn tried to draw a distinction between people who are visibly homeless and those living in vehicles. She was asked why the people on the street aren’t getting help now; she said that outreach is being done.

Asked about shelters in residential areas, near schools, Quinn pointed to Our Lady of Guadalupe in West Seattle, which hosts a shelter. Small population, though, she acknowledged on followup.

Many of the questions and concerns voiced had to do with discrepancies between numbers cited in previous communications/meetings and what was being said here. Seattle displacement was cited, and at one point, Quinn said, “That’s a city of Seattle issue.” But she acknowledged the county is having issues too – she said she had heard from people in mobile-home parks who were getting forced out, too. Quinn added that her department is working with the King County Housing Authority, giving them a line of credit to “preserve at least 2,000 units” of affordable housing. They’ve bought four apartment buildings, she said.

She was also pressed on a variety of points about the county’s shelter operations. How many buildings? More than 70. How many people? About 2,000.

NHUAC board member Christine Waldman said a list of possible alternative locations was provided to the county and “there’s got to be someplace else that this can go.” Quinn said they are “looking at facilities that are safe to be inside right now … some are so rundown as to not be safe.”

NHUAC board member Elizabeth Gordon said the shelter plan needs to be viewed through an equity/justice lens for this community; Quinn had mentioned that they were using a more-regional assessment for that kind of information. Giba reinforced the point a few minutes later, and also addressed it to King County Council chair Joe McDermott, who was in attendance but did not speak.

Quinn was asked who is involved in the “core group” that will meet again next week – “15 or so people,” including three from NHUAC, “to really talk about, get into more detail about a lot of these issues people are talking about” in relation to this, including safety. She said that the work group’s eventual goal is to “come back to a larger community meeting” (as promised in the September public meeting), before year’s end.

One of the last comments to her was, “Don’t force us to read between the lines. Be radically transparent with us.”

CASCADE MIDDLE SCHOOL PREVENTION TEAM: Before Quinn spoke, three students and their adviser (from a team of about 20 students) spoke to the meeting, saying they have been doing cleanup work in Dick Thurnau Memorial Park and are concerned about the possible shelter being near the park and their school.

The students read statements they had written, and their adviser showed petitions that they had circulated, saying they collected more than 120 signatures. We recorded them on video – see and hear for yourself above. (During Adrienne Quinn’s time at the front of the room, NHUAC board member Elizabeth Gordon got Quinn to commit to following up on the students’ request for someone from the county to come speak with them.)

STEVE COX MEMORIAL PARK FIELD RENOVATION PROJECT: King County Parks reps Frana Milan and Tri Ong talked about this, saying it’s “just getting rolling” – improvements to “the fields outside of the stadium” – Fields 2 and 3, “currently underutilized.” They’re intended for youth baseball, but “frequently not even usable for the amount of use scheduled there, because of drainage problems.” Milan said there’s a higher demand, not just for traditional sports but also Ultimate Frisbee and lacrosse. She said 75 people were surveyed over the summer, and 40 percent of them use the fields in question for pickup sports. What would make it a great park? they asked. As a result of the replies, they’re trying to design the fields to serve local use, diversify possible uses, expand playable hours, and enhance public safety. Milan showed a rough design:

And she showed Walt Hundley Playfield in West Seattle as an example of “what we’re thinking about.” Synthetic turf is being considered, as are lining for multiple sports, a natural-surface walking path, new backstops, lighting around the perimeter, and access to the restrooms that face the stadium, so they could be accessed from the side of the field. Of those, survey respondents supported restroom access, lighting, and a walking path most strongly. With design under way, it should reach 90 percent in a year, then be built in spring/summer of 2018, concluded by fall of that year. The King County Parks budget already has $1.7 million allotted for this and is hoping for $1.6 million more in the current budget. Attendee questions asked mostly about funding and possible other sources for it. Separate from this project, the stadium is getting a new roof soon, said Ong, and parking-lot repaving is expected to happen next spring, along with ADA-compliant curb ramps.

One point of interest that emerged while attendees were asking questions: Jubilee Days would not be able to use Steve Cox for fireworks shows once these changes are made.

RESIGNATION: Gordon said she is no longer working in the unincorporated area so she needs to resign from the NHUAC board, and urged anyone interested in “positive community engagement” to get involved. President Giba led a round of applause, saying that Gordon has “been awesome.”

COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS: NHUAC board member Pat Price announced plans for a Festivus celebration on Friday, Dec. 9, at White Center Eagles, dinner/auction, and the White Center Library Guild‘s book sale/holiday sale 11 am-4 pm Friday and Saturday (November 4-5) at the library … The White Center Kiwanis will have a meet-and-greet November 30th at Proletariat Pizza, 6:30 pm – “free pizza, and come see what we’re about” … The Kiwanis’s candy-bar sale, $2.50 for See’s bars, continues … Mark Johnston talked about the marijuana laws and said one licensee in the Top Hat area is looking to move to Federal Way.

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

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Parks in the spotlight @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting Thursday

October 30th, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, Parks, White Center news Comments Off on Parks in the spotlight @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting Thursday

From the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, here’s what’s ahead for the November meeting this Thursday:

November 3, 2016 at 7 pm
North Highline Fire Station at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center

(Parking and Entrance are in the Back of the Station)

Please join North Highline’s volunteer community council at our November 3rd meeting.

NHUAC aims to add opportunity to our community’s equation: The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard.

Neighborhood parks will be front and center in this month’s meeting. Our White Center Storefront Deputy, Bill Kennamer, will provide updates on the storefront’s move to Steve Cox Memorial Park, crime stats, and other news from the King County Sheriff’s Office.

More news about Steve Cox Memorial Park will be brought to us by Frana Milan and Tri Ong of King County Parks. Frana and Tri will share plans to improve the park and ask for input on how the project can best meet community needs and address concerns related to the athletic field improvements.

Adrienne Quinn, Director of King County’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), will update us on King County’s plan to put a low-barrier homeless shelter for 70 adults in the old Public Health Building (next to the Food Bank and Dick Thurnau Memorial Park).

Our special guests will be members of Cascade Middle School’s Prevention Team. The Prevention Team is passionate about preventing drug and alcohol use among youth in our community, supports causes that promote positive community norms, and participates in a variety of community service events. The Prevention Team’s projects have included cleaning up Dick Thurnau Memorial Park. NHUAC is pleased to provide a forum where these inspiring students’ voices can be heard in North Highline. Help us welcome them this Thursday at 7 pm!

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

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

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shelter, school bond, more on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council agenda for Thursday

October 1st, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Shelter, school bond, more on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council agenda for Thursday

It was last month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting where news first emerged of the shelter proposed for 70 people at the ex-King County Public Health building in White Center, and it’ll be on the agenda for this month’s meeting, per the announcement just received from NHUAC:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When: Thursday, October 6th, 2016 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)

Please join NHUAC, North Highline’s volunteer community council, at our October 6th meeting. The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) aims to add opportunity to our community’s equation: 
The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard.

This month’s agenda will be a full one. John Taylor of DNRP’s Water & Land Division will inform us about the County’s Surface Water Management fee increase. Former Burien City Council Member Rose Clark will be sharing information about Highline School District’s upcoming school bond.

Last month, NHUAC shared the news that King County would be holding a mid-September meeting about King County’s plan to put a homeless shelter for 70 adults in the White Center residential area. The County is proposing to put a low-barrier shelter in the building used by King County Public Health before it moved to Greenbridge. The County owns the building, which is next door to the White Center Food Bank and Dick Thurnau Memorial Park. Since neither the North Highline Fire District nor the King County Sheriff’s Office participated in King County’s meeting, both NHFD and KCSO will be part of our October NHUAC meeting.

So mark your calendar for Thursday, October 6th at 7 pm and join NHUAC in taking this opportunity to learn and share about issues affecting our community and lives!

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VIDEO: September’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

September 6th, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 8 Comments »

In our video, you’ll find this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting from Thursday, September 1st, led by president Liz Giba. Pull the cursor ahead to just past two minutes in, to get past the roll call and to the start of discussion.

Before the first scheduled guest, there were community announcements, followed by Giba’s announcement of a meeting scheduled at 6:30 pm Thursday, September 15th, about a “temporary homeless shelter” proposed for the old Public Health building next to the White Center Food Bank.

The proposal, according to the announcement that was read, is to provide emergency overnight shelter for 70 people experiencing homelessness in the White Center area. The Salvation Army would operate the shelter from 5 pm to 8 am; evening and morning meals would be provided, and the people in the shelter would be offered assistance in finding permanent housing and other services.

As we have reported previously, the building is proposed for future redevelopment as a mixed-use building with space for nonprofits and low-income housing.

Concerns expressed at the meeting included questions about where the shelter users would be going during the day, and whether White Center truly had 70 people experiencing homelessness and unable to find shelter.

The September 15th meeting is set for the Bethaday Community Learning Space at Dick Thurnau Memorial Park. We are working to find out more about the proposal and the meeting, since it doesn’t appear an announcement was sent to media.

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: At 19 minutes into our video, the first scheduled guest was brought up, Christine Jensen, invited to talk about the process of updating the King County Comprehensive Plan for the first time since 2012. Proposed changes have been under review since March, she said; just last week, Councilmember Rob Dembowski proposed a “striking amendment” with changes and additions suggested for what King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed. She said some of the key proposed changes involve toughening policies related to equity and climate change. And she highlighted a change related to the Community Service Areas – such as North Highline – that could enable a return to “sub-area planning.” North Highline would be scheduled to start a “sub-area planning process” next year, which would include “significant outreach with the community.”

How would potential Seattle annexation – which might even come to a vote next year – affect that? asked NHUAC board member Elizabeth Gordon. Jensen replied that it would go forward either way – “it would probably just have a different focus if annexation gets approved.”

If projects on the drawing board now turned out to be dissonant with equity changes in the Comp Plan once it’s passed – likely by year’s end – would they be stopped? Jensen said she couldn’t speak to that.

Next step in the process of reviewing the plan was a King County Council committee meeting set for earlier today (Tuesday, September 6th) and one of the last steps will be a public hearing tentatively set for November 28th, Jensen said. Find out more – including how to comment, in the meantime – on this page of the county website.

ANNEXATION: A spirited discussion with board members and attendees followed the Comp Plan agenda item. The board discussed coming up with “minimum requirements” for Seattle to meet, even before it would consider whether to support potential annexation.

(By the way, we checked with Seattle’s point person on the issue, Kenny Pittman, recently. One point: No one filed an appeal of the King County Boundary Review Board‘s approval of potential Seattle annexation by the deadline in mid-August; another, Pittman told us there is no date set yet for potential next steps by Seattle’s mayor and council to consider sending annexation to North Highline voters.)

TOP HAT PROJECT: A fair amount of discussion was also devoted to the plan for a multi-family-housing development on the old Bernie and Boys market site in Top Hat (11225 1st Avenue South). Giba noted that the project had recently gone before the Washington State Housing Finance Commission for funding. On its website, we found notice of a July 28th public hearing, describing the project, Vintage at Southside, as “a 298-unit multifamily housing facility … (with a) percentage of the total units … set aside for persons or households with low incomes.” Its estimated cost: $71 million. Minutes of the public hearing say no one from the public testified but the commission heard from Vintage Housing president Ryan Patterson, who said the project will include “an onsite business center, bicycle storage, and a playground.” Further elaborating on the low-income aspect of the project, he is quoted as saying that 100 percent of the development will be “at 60 percent of the area median income and will set aside 20 percent of the units for households with disabilities and will include 18 live/work units and set aside 20 percent of the units for large households.” A document on the King County website (which has a different address, 11241 1st Ave. S.) says four buildings are planned.

The company’s closest complex appears to be Vintage at Burien, described online as a seniors-only community, 55+.

NO CRIME REPORT: The King County Sheriff’s Office was unable to send a representative. It was mentioned that the newest date for their storefront move to Steve Cox Memorial Park is October 1st.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets first Thursdays, 7 pm, at the North Highline FD HQ; watch northhighlineuac.org for updates between meetings.

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THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meetings resume so you can ‘reconnect’

August 29th, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 3 Comments »

Summer’s ending and community-meeting season is restarting. First up: The community council for White Center and vicinity invites you to its first post-summer meeting, 7 pm Thursday (September 1st). From the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council:

Mark your calendars and plan on joining NHUAC, North Highline’s volunteer community council, at the September 1st meeting. Through its “All Are Welcome!” community meetings, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) aims to add opportunity to our community’s equation:

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

The “Comp Plan” is King County’s vision for where and how growth should be located in unincorporated areas, including North Highline. The plan includes policies relating to land use, economic development, housing, parks, other services, facilities, and transportation.

This month’s meeting is an important one if you want to know what King County is planning for North Highline. We will be joined by Christine Jensen. Christine is a land use and regional planning policy analyst for the King County Council. She is the lead staff for the Council’s review of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan.

Christine will provide information and updates on the Council’s review of the Executive’s proposed 2016 Comprehensive Plan. Her presentation will include a summary of key policy issues that the Council is evaluating, an update on the review and adoption schedule, and provide opportunities for comments.

If you have felt a little out of touch over the last 2 months, this is your opportunity to reconnect with the community. Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer will be back as usual. We are Deputy Bill’s first and main responsibility with the Sheriff’s Office. In addition to updating us on what has been happening in North Highline, he is sure to be listening to comments and concerns made by our community members, and offering his perspective about how we can work together to make North Highline a safer and healthier place.

This will be our first community meeting after our summer break so please take this opportunity to reconnect, learn and share what is happening in North Highline. Hope to see you on September 1st at 7 pm!

NHUAC meets at the North Highline Fire Station,1243 SW 112th Street in White Center; parking and entrance are in the back of the building.

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

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

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preview Thursday’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

May 31st, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Preview Thursday’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

You’re invited to the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s last meeting before summer hiatus:

When: Thursday, June 2 @ 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station (1243 SW 112th Street – parking and entrance in the back of the station)

Please join NHUAC, North Highline’s volunteer community council, at our June 2nd meeting. Through its “All Are Welcome!” community meetings, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) aims to add opportunity to our community’s equation:

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

This month, we will be joined by Executive Director of the King County Library System, Gary Wasdin. This will be his second visit with us and the timing couldn’t be better. White Center’s beautiful, new library is finally a reality! If you haven’t visited yet, do yourself a favor and visit this great community resource on the 1400 block of SW 107th Street (behind Mt. View Elementary). If you go before our meeting, you can share your thoughts about the WC Library and its place in the North Highline community with Mr. Wasdin.

You may have seen a television broadcast or some online discussions about challenges associated with homelessness facing the Top Hat neighborhood of North Highline. We recently met some involved Top Hat residents at a meeting about the Myers Way Parcels. It was the perfect opportunity to invite them to Thursday night’s meeting to help educate us about the Top Hat neighborhood and share experiences and ideas.

Back this month, from the King County Sheriff’s Office, will be our own Storefront Deputy, Bill Kennamer. In addition to bringing us update on crime stats, Deputy Bill is sure to be listening to the Top Hat discussion and offering his unique perspective.

Please note that NHUAC will not be holding meetings in July and August – regular monthly meetings will resume in September.

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

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

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

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

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

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@ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Sheriff’s Office storefront move, annexation hearing, possible project, ‘The Crew’ demystified …

May 5th, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Topics large and small – including one topic that literally weighed tons! – were on the agenda tonight at the May meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

The highlights:

SHERIFF’S STOREFRONT MOVING: Major Jerrell Wills confirmed that the King County Sheriff’s Office White Center storefront will indeed move from 16th SW to Steve Cox Memorial Park. (This was first discussed at the November 2015 NHUAC meeting.) “Part of the objective (is) to get a facility that is accessible to everyone … and, more than adequate. With the cottage (at the park), we have that.” He said they also believe the relationship with the park “will be a benefit to the community.” It also will save some money for the county, no longer leasing private property, Major Wills said. He promised it won’t mean a decrease in foot patrols in the business area – not that those happen often anyway, he acknowledged, as the local deputies are very busy. “The presence in the downtown corridor shouldn’t change.” They hope to move in late July/early August. Some concerns about the storefront move were voiced – “this isn’t our best solution,” lamented one attendee – but it appears to be a done deal.

Wills was asked if there was any budgetary possibility of removing the storefront deputy, and he said right now “there’s no discussion” of that happening. Community member Gill Loring offered complimentary words about Deputy Bill Kennamer, the latest to hold that position. Wills noted that Kennamer worked hard to get that position and “we’re really fortunate” to have him as well as former storefront deputy Jeff Hancock, who is now focused on Greenbridge, in their roles.

CRIME REPORTS: Deputy Ford from the King County Sheriff’s Office filled in with the briefing. 75 “Part 1” crimes in the past month, down from the same time last year, but “Part 2” crimes are up – 86 assaults, stolen property, fraud, vandalism, drugs, fights, trespassing, vandalism. “They kind of fluctuate up and down.” In specific categories, car thefts are way down – 19 in April last year, 7 in April this year. Residential burglaries, meantime, have gone up in both forced and nonforced categories. He said much of this is tied to drug abuse – “any time you have (that), you’re going to have continued property crimes – they have to get the money from somewhere.”

He said crime prevention is paramount – to fight auto theft, for example, lock your vehicles, increase lighting, don’t leave your keys in your car. He told the tale of the night that someone stole a car with a child sleeping inside, “and thank goodness we were able to get the child back safely” – but he noted how many law enforcement resources it took to find the child and the car, when “all (the car’s owner) would have had to do was take her key.” Also – don’t leave things out at night – “the ability to recover stolen property is not good.”

Various issues brought up while he had the floor included “transient RVs.” The deputy suggested, “That will be a never-ending battle. … As you see those, continue to call, because the more calls for service we get … the easier it is” (to do something). “If we have legitimate calls for service, ‘we have a suspicious vehicle .. the vehicle doesn’t move’ … I would really encourage additional phone calls.” SW 112th was mentioned as a trouble spot, as well as Myers Way S. just over the city-county line.

(Deputy Ford had mentioned being a relatively recent arrival from Utah; later in the meeting, Major Wills explained that he was part of a “lateral” program that was bringing “amazing” law-enforcement officers to the KCSO – Ford, for example, had been a sergeant in Utah.)

BOUNDARY REVIEW BOARD TO CONSIDER SEATTLE ANNEXATION: Toward the start of the meeting, it was mentioned that the dates are set for the King County Boundary Review Board to consider the proposed Seattle annexation of White Center and the rest of remaining unincorporated North Highline. The public hearing is set for two nights, 7 pm June 13 and 14, at the Technology Access Foundation‘s Bethaday Community Space at Dick Thurnau Memorial Park (605 SW 108th) – here’s the official notice. The online file for the proposed annexation is here.

NEW MIXED-USE BUILDING WITH AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND COMMUNITY AGENCIES: We first reported this here on April 24th. Tonight, Steve Daschle from Southwest Youth and Family Services was invited to tell NHUAC more about it. He first presented a primer about his agency – you can get the same toplines in our West Seattle Blog report about the recent Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting at which he mentioned the project. He had told the DNDC that his agency’s clients are moving further and further south into the county, and they have no choice but to move their services with them. Their support for students and families, he says, have had exceptional success.

He then talked about the Communities of Opportunity initiative, a partnership between Seattle Foundation and King County, and how agencies have been trying to identify a “high-level challenge” faced by White Center and what can be done about it. The resultant discussion focused on bringing a wide set of services together in one place in WC, Daschle said, creating a “synergy of support.” That led them to focus on the former County Public Health building at 8th/108th, and they are now in a “very early (stage)” of discussing co-locating the White Center Food Bank, Southwest Youth and Family Service, the White Center Community Development Association, and some meeting space, plus “some housing on top,” at that site. They’re talking with Capitol Hill Housing, which was responsible for the Unity Place project, Daschle said, promising a “significant public engagement” stage ahead – “if it appears feasible for us to go forward – we haven’t even done a feasibility study” to find out if they could launch a capital campaign to raise money to build something.

The project is currently owned by King County Parks, he noted.

Rick Jump of the White Center Food Bank, housed on the site, pointed out that the building the county Public Health Department used to use was built in 1961, and that the county has long been seeking tenants, but has been unsuccessful because of the building’s condition.

Asked about equity and social-justice issues, and whether this would increase the number of economically challenged people in White Center, Daschle talked about what his agency has seen in the years it’s been located in Delridge, and that this project would be more for serving people who are already in the area. NHUAC board members challenged that and voiced concerns, such as employment prospects for economically challenged youth, and whether this would affect the “economic diversity” of the area, which already has “a high concentration of poverty.” An attendee suggested that, after hearing Daschle mention the displacement of people in West Seattle by gentrification, that indicates the project would be better built “where they’re being displaced,” not in WC.

Daschle agreed that a community conversation is needed – very many elements of the potential project are not defined, such as how many units it might have. (Asked how his agency was funded, he said 65 percent public, 10 percent United Way, and then various other grants and other types of funding.)

OFFICER ELECTIONS: Liz Giba is the new NHUAC president – as of the next meeting, following a unanimous vote tonight. Barbara Dobkin served as president for five years and was elected to serve as vice president. Elizabeth Gordon was elected as secretary.

ABOUT ‘THE CREW’: Julie Maas, assistant division director of the Community Corrections Division of King County, explained that the division offers “a variety of alternatives to jail,” and the work crew that is often seen on community-cleanup detail “is one of them.” The crew “has a very strong presence in White Center,” she said. They take out crews every day of misdemeanor defendants from District Court – all misdemeanor “sentenced cases (who) come to our program and go out on crews every day all over the county.” Other cities pay the division “to come into their cities and do work for them,” and the revenue “helps pay for the program,” she said, while some is subsidized by the county, including the work in unincorporated communities such as White Center and Skyway. They do landscaping, trails, clean up parks, and more. They’ve directed more resources in the past year to WC and Skyway and less to downtown Seattle, she noted. They do more-frequent “quick sweeps.”

She was joined by Seth Oakes, a recent arrival in the area who does the crew assignments. Daily, their participation ranges from 27 to 60 – “depending on how many people we get on any day of the week, (affects) how big a crew is (and) how much we’re able to accomplish in one day.” Accomplishments in White Center:

10,280 pounds of illegally dumped garbage in January
13,480 pounds removed in February
9,000 pounds in March
4,500 pounds in April

That’s 57 trailer loads of items such as discarded furniture. Smaller tasks are handled too, including emptying trash cans and picking up trash along the street. The lower numbers did not necessarily represent less trash but instead fewer crew members and less time spent in WC.

Maas said they’re trying to “get a better handle” on the problem in the area so they can take it to the County Council and figure it what can and will be done – including code enforcement, not just having crews pick up trash.

She also said that education and outreach seems to be in order, as the continuous pickups might “enable” more dumping. “Really getting business owners and homeowners educated about the laws” might reduce the problem, Maas suggested.

A discussion ensued about what’s required of businesses in unincorporated North Highline – do they have to have trash service?

MARIJUANA MORATORIUM: Giba reported on the county council’s recent move, while saying it’s not clear yet which potential establishments are far enough in the process to not be affected. “It’s a start,” observed Dobkin.

WHITE CENTER LIBRARY: 9:30 am May 21st is the ribboncutting that starts the library’s grand opening – “a gem of a building,” proclaimed regional manager Angie Benedetti from the King County Library System, with elements “stunning and unique to this community.” She said that KCLS’s director and Highline Public Schools‘ superintendent will be among the speakers.

KING COUNTY COMMUNITY SERVICE AREA INFORMATIONAL MEETING: This annual meeting is 7-9 pm Tuesday, May 24th, at Seola Gardens‘ Providence Building – more information here.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council usually meets on first Thursdays, 7 pm, at NH Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th) – watch northhighlineuac.org between meetings.

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North Highline UAC’s May meeting: About ‘The Crew’; more on potential housing development

May 2nd, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline UAC’s May meeting: About ‘The Crew’; more on potential housing development

This Thursday night, you’re invited to the monthly meeting of this area’s community council, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, 7 pm Thursday (May 5) at the North Highline Fire District’s HQ at 1243 SW 112th (parking/entrance at back of the station). From NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin:

Plan on joining NHUAC for the monthly community meeting when we will be hosting:

Julie Mass and Seth Oakes from the King County Community Corrections Division: Julie and Seth oversee the “Crew,” the folks with the yellow vests who you may have spotted in and around the White Center Business District, picking up trash, both big and small, painting out graffiti, etc. These folks make a huge difference in our community – find out ways that you too can help keep White Center looking its best.

Steve Daschle, Executive Director of West Seattle-based Southwest Youth and Family Services, was invited to provide information on the preliminary plans to build tax-exempt housing at the site of the former Public Health Department on 8th Ave SW at 108th Street. This is an opportunity for residents to weigh in on what type of housing is best suited for our community.

As always, our White Center Storefront Deputy, Bill Kennamer, will be on hand to provide updates on crime stats and general community safety concerns.

For more information and the agenda please see the NHUAC website: www.northhighlineuac.org or contact: bdobkin@northhighlineuac.org

We first reported on the aforementioned housing proposal last week.

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Septic systems, education equity on the agenda @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

April 4th, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

This Thursday night (April 7th) at 7 pm, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council invites you to be part of its monthly meeting at NH Fire District HQ in White Center. Here’s the announcement:

Plan on joining us for this important and informative community meeting when we will be hosting:

Robin Hill, On-Site Septic System Program Manager with Seattle and King County Public Health.

Ms. Hill will provide information regarding issues related to septic systems in our community and beyond – as well as changes and charges that will impact all homeowners who are septic systems throughout King County in both the cities and unincorporated areas.

We are also pleased to be hosting Sarah Dahl – concerned mother, Highline School District taxpayer, advocate for students and a member of One Evergreen – who will be presenting information regarding the grassroots efforts to insure that the young people of North Highline are treated equitably and receive the educational opportunities they deserve (more information can be found at evergreensuccess.org/small-schools/#segregation).

Our White Center Storefront Deputy, Bill Kennamer, will be on hand to provide updates on crime stats and general community safety concerns.

Please see our website for the agenda: www.northhighlineuac.org

The fire station is at 1243 SW 112th.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: What’s planned for March meeting

February 29th, 2016 Tracy Posted in housing, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: What’s planned for March meeting

This Thursday, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council invites you to its March meeting. From NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting
When: Thursday, March 3rd @ 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station (1243 SW 112th Street – parking and entrance is in the back)

Please join NHUAC for an informative community meeting as we learn about an important way to help brighten North Highline’s future. The meeting will begin with videos about the Fair Housing Act and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2015 rule, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. We hope you will join us Thursday night as we begin this educational journey toward community empowerment.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Board meeting this month

February 1st, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Board meeting this month

The first Thursday of the month brings a board meeting for the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council this month, rather than a full-scale community meeting. Announced by president Barbara Dobkin:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council will not be holding a regular monthly meeting on Thursday, 2/4. We will instead be holding a board meeting at White Center Pizza at 6:30 – the public is invited. We will resume our regular monthly meetings on Thursday, March 3. Please check the NHUAC website for details: northhighlineuac.org
WC Pizza and Spaghetti House is at 10231 16th SW.

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How many stores is too many – or too few? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council convenes forum on marijuana

January 11th, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 16 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

“This is a conversation about marijuana and what it means about the health and future of our community,” is the statement with which North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin began NHUAC’s January meeting.

The heart of that conversation last Thursday night was, how many marijuana stores in an area are too many – and is there any way to limit how many wind up in North Highline? Three licensed recreational stores already are open – two in Top Hat and one in White Center – with more seeking licenses; late in the meeting, it was pointed out, though, that last year’s crackdown on dispensaries already had dramatically reduced the overall number of places where marijuana could be obtained.

The meeting happened in a forum format, with the four panelists at the front of the room, rather than as a NHUAC meeting. They included North Highline’s two State House representatives, days before their return to Olympia for the new legislative session – Rep. Eileen Cody and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. Also, King County Sheriff’s Office’s area precinct commander, Major Jerrell Wills, was a late addition to the panel. First to speak was Laura Hitchcock from the King County Executive’s Office and Department of Public Health. An “interdisciplinary look at marijuana policy” is part of what she works on, she explained, working with a variety of agencies and departments.

She said they work on “balanced goals, given that our electorate did support legalization,” including “eliminating the black market” and “public safety” as well as “keep(ing) marijuana away from kids (because) it’s bad for the developing brain.” Also: “Closing the medical-marijuana loophole.” She discussed research while acknowledging there isn’t a lot of research on the effects of siting marijuana businesses since legalization is relatively recent. The county received a grant to look at local ordinances – “what kind of things were local governments and local communities wanting to regulate … mostly regarding the siting of marijuana businesses.” Regarding siting, the research found that “mixed-use zones” and “commercial zones” were the most likely to allow stores; the size of the store was the most common aspect to be regulated. Only one jurisdiction required a marijuana-business license.

The research is online and will be updated, Hitchcock said. “Partly because of this research, we were included in a new study that just started January 1st, a National Institutes of Health study to look at the impact of those ordinances – implementation of the policies, how they relate to retailer density, and … product, price, potency (in the retail market).” Plus: “We’re going to look at whether ay types of policies mitigate potential negative effects” such as youth use and impaired driving, among other outcomes. It’s a three-year study.

She added that King County and Seattle Children’s Hospital just found out they got a grant for $500,000 for 18 months for a countywide youth marijuana-prevention-education program. They’ll work with organizations that work with the groups that are at highest risks. Its specific goals: “We’ll do an assessment and planning in the first few months and as we implement the project we’ll look at prevention of marijuana use by ages 12-20 … supporting the development of reducing initiation strategies … environmental and system change strategies,” such as zoning. The program also will be trying to increase participation by stakeholders such as schools and service providers. There’ll be a youth advisory board for the entire county. “As King County has been working on this issue, we’ve heard from the community, especially in this area, about concerns of (siting) and youth impacts.” So they’re looking at changes the state made in 2015, and also at experiences Seattle is having, and the goal is to have some recommendations for the King County Council by the end of the first quarter of this year.

King County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Jerrell Wills opened by saying Sheriff John Urquhart opposes the granting of any further marijuana business licenses in this area.

The input the county has with the state is similar to that of liquor licenses, he said. The sheriff believes “you have your fair share,” Maj. Wills said.

Next to speak, State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon.

He worked on legislation this past year regarding financial effects, including the tax levied at three steps of the marijuana production/selling process. They were looking at levying the tax “at one step of the process,” especially because Oregon was just coming online and they didn’t want Washington taxes to be “vastly higher” than Oregon. There was a sales drop in Washington when Oregon started selling, he said, though they don’t know how much of that was because Oregon pot smokers had been coming into Washington until it was legal in their state.

“One of the things that was interesting about this issue – we weren’t just the first state to legalize marijuana, but the first state to have a legal, regulated market in marijuana,” beyond decriminalization, Fitzgibbon said. “We had to do a lot of guesswork about what was going to be the right way to set up a system.” Colorado was going through it at the same time and one advantage they had, he said, was a regulated medical-marijuana system, unlike our state’s “gray area.”

So taxes were consolidated and lowered somewhat, and now shared with local governments, as a result of last year’s changes, he said, figuring out “what’s the right split … do you give some of the money to a jurisdiction like Federal Way that has banned marijuana from being sold in their borders … how much do you give local governments and what can they use it for. … Even now we’re still flying blind on how much money is going to come in from 502.” The money is “lower than a lot of the estimates were.” And he says the state is somewhat hampered by the fact the feds won’t allow research on its impacts. “So we’re going a lot off of anecdotes, people’s gut instincts on how much pot people are smoking, how much is in the black market, how much is in the legal market …” So “we ended up providing not as much money as local governments wanted,” which leads to communities like this one wondering if the county will “rope off the money coming from stores in WC and keep that money for use in WC? That’s a legitimate question … to figure out.” And that, he said, is also a reasonable question for Seattle to figure out regarding an area with a concentration of marijuana businesses.

Rep. Eileen Cody said that “from the medical side it’s been interesting.”

She said that so many things have changed over the years of medical marijuana ‘because we believed it had benefit for people.’ Then, “things kind of got out of hand … and we did try to pass a bill that would have been similar to what we’re doing now, medical marijuana would have been grown, and tested …” She recapped the travails of trying to regulate medical marijuana, and then-Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s veto of parts of the bill. “Probably would have been better if she’d vetoed the whole bill,” Rep. Cody said, because the parts she didn’t led to growth in the number of dispensaries “which got totally out of hand.”

“It’s an interesting issue when you get into a marijuana fight – it’s not partisan,” Cody said, with some supporters and opponents in both parties, “you can’t tell where someone’s going to be at by whether there’s a D or R by their name. And already … there’s a lot of money involved,” with many more marijuana lobbyists. “Thats only going to grow, kind of like big tobacco. … In this past year we did get legislation passed to be sure that the dispensaries … the recreational marijuana is tested much more than the medical marijuana was,” and they’ve been trying to work on that.

Overall, she said, “there were some hard feelings on the marijuana legislation,” even people telling her she was a discredit to her profession (nursing). She says the medical-marijuana community is still concerned that there won’t be enough and that recreational stores won’t carry what they need – lower THC, higher cannabinoid, opposite of what recreational users want. They can’t force stores to carry it, she said, but they will need a special license if they want to. “We’re trying to get it so there’ll be more training, some kind of certification for people who are more knowledgeable about the medical side of things … but as Joe mentioned, there’s no research (that’s been allowed).”

Overall, “things have calmed down a bit … and the medical side has accepted that this is how things are going to move forward.” On the medical side, it’s been a “very interesting trip,” Rep. Cody said, even as they tried to have it treated as a drug – with the request for the feds to treat it as “Schedule 2,” allowing doctors to prescribe it. “It’s a very hard thing for medical professionals, but if it helps, they want people to be able to get it.” She lauded King County for closing down some of the dispensaries – 15 out of 18, according to the latest stats – and she hopes that Seattle will get some closed down too.

Hitchcock added, regarding recently passed legislation, that local governments got the ability to reduce buffer zones to as little as 250 feet. “I think there will be a lot of activity around that.”

Fitzgibbon said it’ll take years to know what the effects are in criminal justice and other areas. “We know local government has faced expense in just implementing the law … coming up with policies … (especially) starting from scratch with rules on how to site a farm, a processing plant, a retail store.” He said that Mexican cartels have “seen their revenue crash” as legalization and decriminalization spread across the country, but so far there’s no evidence of changes in crime as a result.

Audience Q & A included a question from a resident in unincorporated Skyway concerned about “the implementation of actual retail stores … the small areas of Skyway and White Center, a population of only about 35,000, have all the retail stores licensed so far – 7, and two more in the process -” for unincorporated King County, which he said would be akin to 200 for the city of Seattle. He said he’s concerned that trend will continue.

Karen Freeman from the county executive’s office, sitting in the audience, said, “Part of the issue is that the county used to have 12 very large unincorporated areas, and seven of them have been annexed in recent years. So the urban unincorporated area of KC has shrunk significantly – five now, all south of Seattle – and so those are the (only) areas where people in KC can apply to site. … So you end up with this concentration.” The Skyway resident said the state policy “doesn’t look at that at all.” King County’s Hitchcock said the state has no authority and responsibility to determine if there’s an overconcentration. “Is it equitable, just, fair?” asked the Skyway resident. “If not, should it be changed immediately?” Hitchcock said the changing of buffer rules might lead to more areas where they are allowable.

Another attendee said that she wonders if the county and state are left open to a lawsuit for disproportionate effects on communities of color among others.

Fitzgibbon noted that the concentration of dispensaries has dropped, but with 502, yes, you probably will see more stores in White Center on a per-capita basis than in Snoqualmie, for example, “because people are more spread out there.” He said it’s too soon to say if the concentration of 502 stores will lead to undesirable effects – including public safety – because they’re regulated, unlike the dispensaries. “I know it’s going to be better than it was during the bad days of the dispensaries.”

Hitchcock said they’re interested in hearing from residents on “what should be the dispersion model” if communities are disproportionately affected, starting with what those effects area. “That’s a conversation that the county interbranch team is starting to have,” including a look at zoning effects.

“What about the licenses in the process at this point?” – would they be grandfathered? “Yes,” Hitchcock said. Another county rep in the room said that they’re working to come up with land-use reps this quarter.

NHUAC board member Elizabeth Gordon, who is affiliated with what’s currently White Center’s only 502 store, talked about the realities of licensing, including having a location where the landlord will allow it. She noted that WC has “a lot of vacant stores,” and business owners who hold out “until the property taxes are due,” for example. She mentioned the SODO openings because owners who get licenses “have to be open somewhere.” And she suggested the commercial property owners in the unincorporated areas are “not at the table,” and are being affected by vacancies because there’s no sustainble-economic planning.

The attendee concerned about the social/economic-justice effects noted that where negative effects are concentrated, the positive effects are diffused.

Another attendee asked about what KCSO Maj. Wills is seeing regarding crime – he pointed out the crimes that have happened at the NiMBiN store in Top Hat, for example (without naming it). “Obviously the cash is a concern for WC and Skyway,” Wills began. He also said some of these businesses don’t necessarily embrace the KCSO presence. He also recalled seeing the “lines” of customers at dispensaries that are now closed – “what they were doing on their way in and on their way out wasn’t positive, I (was) hearing from our deputies.” Overall, he said, they still have big concerns, and see this as “a big challenge for our community and the Sheriff’s Office.”

NHUAC president Dobkin pointed out that a processing facility opening in the Top Hat area is in the same building as a “collective,” and it’s close to residential, “mostly low-income apartments.”

A rep from the county permitting department said that the owner of the processing facility has come to the county but hasn’t been in active contact since spring. “They have submitted the application but have not followed through, but I’m not sure that it’s going to open any time soon.” Dobkin said she was concerned because she’s seen “active work” on the building. Use up to 2,000 square feet doesn’t require a permit, she said, or for retail, up to 5,000 square feet; with a permit, it could go up to 30,000 square feet, and that would require community input.

Dobkin noted that people are notified within a certain radius and that nearby residents in some areas might not necessarily respond. She didn’t hear about it until it was too late. The permitting rep said applicants are required to put up a 4 x 8 sign, including a phone number – “you can always call us to ask what the sign is about.”

NHUAC board member Liz Giba observed that “there are a lot more questions than there are answers. We don’t know what this is all going to mean, eventually. I really resent the (sentiment) from King County that we can be used as a guinea pig to gather data from. I think this neighborhood needs to be supported, not used. So I’m wondering where in the conversation is the county regarding at least putting a moratorium in place for Skyway and King County, given that we’ve got more than our fair share of stores. … Are you looking at or recommending a moratorium until we can see how all this is going to play out?”

The permitting rep said, “We want to talk with the community, we want to hear from the community about what your concerns are … we want to hear that from you guys.” She mentioned businesses using multiple addresses for license applications because they then will figure out where they will locate if and when they get a license – so the number of applicants is actually fewer than it appears.

“But we’ve seen the results,” said the Skyway resident. “All the stores are in White Center and Skyway.” (So far there actually is one White Center store, two in Top Hat.) He said he’s not seeing King County’s comments; the county permitting rep says, “We say yes from a permitting point of view” – picked up another rep, “if the application is in an area zoned for this use.” But, the Skyway rep said, you’re asked if you approve of the applicant.

“So do we need a new law?” Giba asked.

“You need new zoning in King County,” Rep. Cody said.

A county rep said, “They’re not required to take our feedback into consideration when making a decision.” She used as an example liquor-license applications that were approved even when the county said that it wasn’t appropriate zoning.

There are now 22 stores to be allotted in unincorporated King County and “the smallest cities,” said the Skyway rep.

Rep. Cody said consumers/patients are voicing concerns about their access, and it’s important to take into account the fact dispensaries have been closed.

“As a nurse, how many points of access would you think are necessary for 18,000 people?” asked the Skyway resident.

“We have no idea,” said Rep. Cody, noting again that there used to be a multitude of dispensaries. Seattle, for example, had more than 200 of them, and the LCB was looking at how many could be sited. “Now 42,” added the Skyway resident.

After some contentious back and forth, a county rep pointed out that “a lot of people voted for (I-502)” so the county’s job is to figure out how to get feedback and how to balance differing opinions and interests. “We want to hear more from you about what you want, what you don’t want, what you like.”

“But this conversation isn’t happening elsewhere in unincorporated King County,” pointed out the Skyway resident.

One White Center resident who said he supports 502 says he just wants it to be a “safe place” where “young families can come down … I want them to feel safe in bringing the kids downtown … I just don’t know how it’s going to be regulated. … Where does this leave us in the meantime? In the next year, are we going to have more stores in downtown White Center, and how is it going to be regulated?”

Hitchcock said the county could change zoning and limits but the question would be regarding the licenses that are in process. Cody said that she and Fitzgibbon can feed back to the Liquor and Cannabis Board that there are concerns about disproportionality.

The executive is expected to send the county council a proposal soon, said Alan Painter, yet another King County rep who was sitting in the audience. So, he exhorted, work with the county now. “The concerns of the White Center community have been heard, the concerns of the Skyway cmmunity have been heard there are some differences of opnion over that, it’s going to be sorted out over the next three months.”

Dobkin pointed out that they’ve been voicing their concerns over the past year and they don’t feel they’ve been heard.

Painter said he disagreed – “there were 18 dispensaries and now there are three” (following the summertime crackdown announcement).

“But now we’re talking about the stores,” she said, and noted that regarding dispensaries “it took until there were eight in our little community before there was a moratorium,” though they were illegal to start with. “We have been speaking up for a long time about this.”

NHUAC board member Giba asked Painter if the sheriff gets copies of the requests for information before the state grants licenses. “Is he listened to any more than you are?”

A county rep replied yes, it’s similar to liquor-license input.

Hitchcock said that state law says they only have to take into consideration criminal behavior, so it’s important that they hear about criminal behavior if it’s going on.

Maj. Wills says he does get liquor license renewal forms looking for info.

He was challenged by an attendee saying that state liquor control board reps at community-safety meetings in past years said they never got input from KCSO.

Subsequent discussion brought up whether anyone was trying to limit the number of stores. Hitchcock asked about the primary concern – diversity of businesses, youth use, crime, or … Dobkin said White Center is challenged on a variety of fronts and that’s the main concern, “is this helping the community in any way …. and yes, we do need better diversity of businesses .. we had a yoga studio in downtown White Center that couldn’t stay open longer than a year, we have two halal stores that shut down” even though the area has a large Muslim population, and she said its owners reported their customers didn’t feel safe coming downtown.

It was noted that the county is apparently getting almost a million dollars from marijuana tax this year. What if that money all stayed in WC? How would the community feel? asked an attendee.

Freeman from the county executive’s office said she thinks that number is inaccurate – too high. Challenged on that point, she promised to do research on the expected amount of money and what will be done with it.

Hitchcock at that point said that much of the studies she’s mentioned will focus in south King County. It was then suggested that the focus should be on changing the county’s zoning policies, which are what’s being enforced here. Dobkin said it was never clarified previously “who was in charge.” Hitchcock clarified that the county is accountable for zoning, not licensing.

Dobkin said they’ve been in close contact with local County Councilmember Joe McDermott, including a walking tour and many phone conversations, regarding concerns.

A lawsuit was brought up regarding Bellevue’s dispersion rule – “it’s being challenged to the state court of appeals,” said Hitchcock. It could be relevant here because of the precedent, she added in response to a question.

One attendee clarified that she is not saying that a vibrant business district couldn’t include marijuana businesses.

Another asked what the KCSO is seeing regarding marijuana uses among youth. Maj. Wills said, anecdotally, “we are seeing a steady rise with youth utilizing marijuana -how they’re getting it, I’m not going to suggest. … Without making a societal statement here, perhaps the acceptance of marijuana and other drugs is making it more appealing …”

Rep. Cody said the reports have been that more kids are “vaping” marijuana, though it’s not necessarily that they’ve gotten it from one of the 502 stores. “But the real problem we have is heroin – we have a heroin epidemic going on. I had a kid in my office last year, he is clean now, he was raised in Bellevue, and how he had gotten addicted was from opioids from a knee injury in high school, that a (doctor) let him have,” and then when his prescriptions expired, he started smoking heroin, then shooting up, then flunked out of school and finally got treatment.

In the end, no conclusions, but a spirited discussion.

NHUAC meets most months on the first Thursday, 7 pm, at the North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 SW 112th.

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What’s on the agenda at the first North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting of 2016

January 3rd, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 3 Comments »

Thursday, you’re invited to the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s first meeting of the year. Announced by NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin:

Join NHUAC for an Informative and Important Community Conversation:

When: Thursday, January 7, @ 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station (1243 SW 112th Street)

MARIJUANA: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE HEALTH AND FUTURE OF OUR COMMUNITY?

We will have a panel discussion with our guest speakers:

· 34th Legislative Representatives: Joe Fitzgibbon and Eileen Cody
· Laura Hitchcock, Project Manager: Office of King County Executive/Performance, Strategy, & Budget

What impact will the licensing of multiple marijuana stores have in North Highline? Is this consistent with King County’s Equity & Social Justice Initiative?

Plan on attending and share your opinions.

For more information see: northhighlineuac.org or email: bdobkin@northhighlineuac.org

North Highline currently has three licensed recreational-marijuana stores open, one in downtown White Center, two in Top Hat.

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Library update and more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

December 6th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Libraries, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Library update and more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

As the new White Center Library gets closer to completion, concerns continue for those who wonder what would happen to it if Seattle – which has its own library system – annexes the area.

That’s why the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council invited the King County Library System to send a guest to its December meeting, held at the NH Fire District headquarters last Thursday night.

They got answers straight from the top, library director Gary Wasdin.

First, he provided an update on construction – still on schedule, with the exterior almost complete (as you can see in our photo, taken the morning after the meeting), so the interior work will ramp up after the first of the year. While he cautioned that weather is still a factor, if there are no major storms, KCLS will have an announcement of an opening date sometime in February. Right now, it’s still looking like an April opening, but that will be dependent on factors including how long it will take to stock the library and put in furniture.

Next, the annexation-related concerns. While Seattle and King County had had an agreement that the libraries in North Highline would be turned over to the city if annexation happened, Wasdin said that agreement expires at the end of this month. So without a new agreement, annexation at any point after January 1st of next year would leave the libraries in King County’s hands. He said he’s talked to some of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s staff but no talks about a new agreement are under way, so at this point, the libraries will remain King County libraries.

Asked about the fate of the current White Center Library site, Wasdin said it’s on the market.

STORMWATER 101: King County budget analyst Tricia Davis presented what she described as “Stormwater 101,” an overview of how the county deals with stormwater/runoff. She included some discussion of the recent oil contamination in the White Center stormwater-retention pond north of Steve Cox Park; county stormwater employees work with businesses to find best practices for wastewater, too, and she said they have spoken with La Mexicana, which took responsibility for the edible-oil spill that fouled the pond and harmed birds, so they know how better to handle any future situations.

A new stormwater-management fee system is proposed for 2016-2017, said Davis, and they’re gathering information in early 2016 to send to the County Executive before fall 2016 budget hearings.

Asked about plans for further protection of Hicklin Lake, Davis didn’t have a timetable.

CRIME REPORT: Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer said everything is down except for 4th-degree assaults, which have doubled in the past year. These are the type of incidents, he explained, that involve pushing or shoving or fistfights, the lowest level of assault.

In other issues, he said the bog encampments are gone; the people who had been camping there were served trespassing notices.

REMEMBERING DEPUTY STEVE COX: NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin led a moment of silence in memory of Deputy Steve Cox; December 2nd – the day before the meeting – was exactly nine years since he was killed in the line of duty on December 2, 2006.

NHUAC meets first Thursdays, 7 pm, at the NHFD HQ, 1243 SW 112th. Check northhighlineuac.org for updates.

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THURSDAY: Library updates at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

November 28th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Libraries, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: Library updates at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

Here’s what’s coming up at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting next Thursday (December 3rd), from president Barbara Dobkin:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting (NHUAC)
Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 pm
North Highline Fire Station (1243 SW 112th Street)

Plan on joining NHUAC for the end-of-the-year meeting with our special guest, Gary Wasdin, Executive Director of the King County Library System. This is an opportunity to hear not only about the progress of the new WCL that is under construction on 107th and 14th Ave SW, but also what the future holds for the library (this new library will replace the current White Center Library that is on 16th Ave, and is being built with funds from the voter approved 2004 Library Bond Levy).

Tricia Davis, King County Budget Analyst, will also be on hand with a presentation on problems with polluted storm water run-off, what the King County Storm Water program does, and issues being considered as they develop the storm water fee for 2016-2017.

Our WC storefront deputy, Bill Kennamer, will provide the latest crime stats and discuss general community safety concerns.

Have you noticed more illegal dumping throughout our community? Find out how you can help and what assistance is available for this problem.

See you there.

Please see NHUAC website for the agenda: northhighlineuac.org
Questions – email: bdobkin@northhighlineuac.org

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