By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
Hot topics from crime to planning filled tonight’s meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council:
WHITE CENTER CRIME STATS: Storefront Deputy Julian Chivington was at the meeting to present a briefing. He primarily focused on sector K-1, though K-11 and K-7 are also part of the area. He showed hot spots for car thefts and car prowls; Part 1 crimes (homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, rape, burglary, larceny, vehicle theft, arson) are going down, 83 incidents in April, down from 88 in the same month last year and a peak at 106 last July. He said new hires are beefing up the staffing – more incidences of 3 deputies in White Center or even 4, compared to it often being 2 until now. Part II crimes – almost everything else – are down even more significantly 85 in the past month, from a peak of 135 during one month over the winter. Violent crime has dropped dramatically, according to a 3 1/2-year chart he showed. Burglaries and attempts are down from 14 in March to 11 in April.
Deputy Chivington said he talked to the burglary/larceny detective today who “had a whole bunch of success stories” – 5 in custody in the last three weeks for vehicle theft, for example, including “a prolific vehicle thief/car prowler that hit both Seattle and us … he’s looking at some pretty good jail time.” He took a residential-burglary report and collected fingerprints – they’re waiting on the results – and “the neighbors had cameras pointed at the house … detectives went to (the suspect’s) house” and the suspect confessed, Deputy Chivington said. Looking through the reports, he said mail thefts are down; a lot of previous victims “have put up locked boxes for mail” or pitched in for locking mailbox clusters, and that seems to have helped.
The bus stop fight at 102nd on April 26th involved a stabbing, Deputy Chivington said, but the victim was not being cooperative with investigators.
Miscellaneous cases – One that involved the SWAT team recently happened because a stolen vehicle had been stripped and turned up at the “Gypsy Joker clubhouse” at 5th/116th, Deputy Chivington said … the deputy says he’s working on various “problem houses” in connection with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
ASSESSOR’S OFFICE UPDATE: Phillip Sit from the office of King County Assessor Lloyd Hara presented an update, starting with a reminder of the different tech tools you can use online to find out more about your property’s value, taxes, etc. One called LocalScape – recently launched – will show a variety of numbers you might be interested in – appraised values, number of properties, changes in appraised values by residential area, local sales – you can click on a pin to find out more about a specific property, when it was sold, for how much, etc. It also offers demographic data (including areas you can select, not just premapped areas).
“We visit your property every six years, so if something changes, we might not be aware of it,” he reminded everyone.
King County is the “second-fastest-growing urban county in the country right now,” said Sit. That includes 1,500 people moving here from California every month right now, he said. The county’s values has increased 13.9% since last year. 85 of 86 residential areas increased in value for their 2014 valuation, but only 20 of those areas, all on the eastside, “have increased beyond their 2008 valuation.”
The valuation card you get from their audience will show up starting later this May, and the number is set on January 1st. They survey a variety of things in the area – including teardowns and sales – to calculate the value. In an area with many teardowns, most of your assessed value might be on the land, not the house.
The big question: “Does higher assessed value necessarily mean higher property taxes?” Answer: “It depends – factors include assessed value of your property, total taxable property value in your community, budgets adopted by your local governments, voter-approved measures. In Seattle, for example, the amount of property tax per $1,000 of assessed value went down a dollar because of new construction.
P.S. Watch for an Assessor’s Office town hall in the North Highline area this summer.
OFFICE OF PERFORMANCE, STRATEGY AND BUDGET: Karen Wolf from this office, which is part of the County Executive’s department, came to talk about the Comprehensive Plan update – a process that’s starting now, to culminate with finalization next year. She says County Councilmember Joe McDermott has asked for a “sub-area plan” in this area to see if major changes to be made. That’s a “neighborhood plan, a deeper look at a community,” Wolf elaborated when asked by NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin what exactly that meant.
She was asked whether the county is looking at zoning that would require housing for multiple income levels – like Greenbridge and Seola Gardens, for example. Talk to your councilmember, she suggested.
Overall, they’re hoping to plan for a more walkable community, saying the past zoning was “a barrier to having retail businesses come in and create sidewalks so you could walk there.”
What about tax breaks to encourage more businesses, especially tech firms with many jobs, to locate perhaps on underutilized sites like Top Hat’s former Bernie and Boys market site? wondered NHUAC’s Elizabeth Gordon. She also asked what good it does to address economic/social inequity if you can’t really have any effect on what kind of development winds up going where? Wolf acknowledged that’s a conundrum, and went on to mention a New York Times story about commute times being a predictor of getting out of poverty. “So what can we do as planners to help improve that situation? That’s something we’re going to look at.” She said they’re looking not just at the “bad things present in a community” but also “the good things that are lacking. … We’re going to be learning a lot of this with you, as the process goes along.”
She learned a lot just hearing from NHUAC board members and meeting attendees, including the fact that White Center has only one grocery store. It was observed that Wolf shouldn’t have been surprised by what she’s hearing – as she clearly was – and it was pointed out by an attendee that NHUAC “has been de-funded,” which means the county isn’t getting as well-rounded of a view. “How many different groups do you listen to?” she was asked.
NHUAC’s Liz Giba suggested that “too many groups in North Highline don’t have open meetings” (which NHUAC does). Wolf said the next step is to “work with the community to come up with a vision,” and then to “work with professionals to (pursue it).”
Concerns were also voiced that North Highline needs more “economic diversity.”
Wolf tried to reassure concerns that, as NHUAC’s Elizabeth Gordon put it, “the plan (itself) is a silo,” by saying planners would be meeting with people involved in a wide range of components that go into the plan, including housing, safety, and transportation.
Timeline? Right now, Wolf’s department is “developing the scope of work,” which will be followed by developing a draft plan by next winter, and the County Council adopting the updated Comprehensive Plan about a year from now.
BOARD MEMBERS’ ANNOUNCEMENTS included a May 31st health fair “open to the community” announced by Elizabeth Gordon, at Breath of Life Church on 26th SW, 1 pm-5 pm; she also announced a June 26th fun-run fundraiser for the Evergreen campus. … Liz Giba mentioned TAF‘s summer camps – register ASAP! – info here … Barbara Dobkin mentioned a “potential marijuana grow operation” at 1109 1st Avenue S., right across from an I-502 recreational marijuana store, and that a comment period for a conditional-use permit is coming up; she has information about it, for anyone who wants to comment, for/against/otherwise – you can contact her to find out more.
COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS: White Center Kiwanis is announcing its pancake breakfast coming up in July during Jubilee Days – “if you buy tickets early, you save $2 at the door” … White Center Library Guild is having plant sales on Fridays and Saturdays, noon-2 pm at the library, throughout the month of May, both vegetable and flower plants.
NHUAC meets on first Thursdays, 7 pm, at the North Highline Fire District‘s HQ. A Liquor Control Board rep is expected at June’s meeting, to talk about cannabis.