FOLLOWUP: State has the authority to call for an emergency fireworks ban, but doesn’t think it’s needed

June 26th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Safety, White Center news 2 Comments »

Following up on our Wednesday report about a petition drive in which community advocates from here and West Hill asked for an emergency ban on fireworks: County leaders told us they don’t have the authority to do anything immediate, but that the state does. We finally got a chance today to inquire with the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Deputy Fire Marshal Lysandra Davis replied, saying that only the governor has that authority, but that calling for one isn’t warranted right now. Here’s the entire reply:

Our office has received numerous inquiries on this matter, and we value and appreciate each and every one.

Because Washington is a Home Rule State, legislative authority to limit or prohibit the sale, purchase, possession, and/or use of consumer fireworks is only granted to city, municipal, and county governments. However, any ordinance adopted by a county or city has an effective date no sooner than one year after its adoption, per RCW 70.77.250 (4). Because State Fireworks Law does not provide the SFMO or any other local jurisdiction/agency the authority to temporarily ban
fireworks, even on an emergency basis, it is unlawful to do so.

The only person with the authority to issue a temporary ban on fireworks sales/usage is Governor Jay Inslee. This would be done through a State of Emergency Proclamation which normally prohibits activities that the Governor reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property or public peace. In the past, when emergency proclamations have been issued during heavy wildland fires (usually occurring mid-July to August), fireworks usage and sales were already prohibited by State Fireworks Law.

The current burn ban that is in effect only applies to state forests, state parks and forestlands under Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fire protection, including Department of Fish and Wildlife lands; it does not include cities, municipalities and/or counties. This ban prohibits outdoor burning and fireworks and incendiary devices (which are never legal on DNR-protected forestlands).

While these drought conditions we are facing may be unprecedented, there is not a current statewide fire emergency that would warrant the Governor to declare a State ban on fireworks.

What I can assure you of is that the State Fire Marshal’s Office is committed to promoting fire safety and injury prevention year round with our Celebrate Safely and Legally campaign — emphasizing “personal responsibility,” especially during these extremely dry weather conditions.

So it looks like fireworks will be on sale, as planned, in unincorporated King County starting this Sunday, where the law allows their use 9 am-midnight on July 4th.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Petition drive launched to ban fireworks in unincorporated King County this year

June 24th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Safety, White Center news 3 Comments »

(A version of this is also published on our partner site West Seattle Blog)

Community leaders from the unincorporated areas of North Highline and West Hill have just launched a petition drive asking county leaders for an emergency fireworks ban because of drought conditions and exceptionally dry weather/vegetation – the petition is on this page. The petition is addressed to the County Executive and County Fire Marshal. Right now, fireworks sales in the unincorporated area are scheduled to start at noon on Sunday.

But is that even possible? After publishing this on our partner site West Seattle Blog a little earlier, we spoke with Jim Chan in the King County Permitting and Environmental Review department, which oversees the Fire Marshal’s Office. He says the same thing that WSB commenter Karen reported being told by the County Executive’s Office – that the county has no authority for an emergency ban; any ban couldn’t take effect for a year. Chan says a few Washington counties’ laws enable such a ban – Douglas and San Juan Counties, he mentioned – but for King County, that sort of authority has just never come up. We asked if the state would have authority, then, to take an action that could enable an immediate emergency local ban, and he said yes. So we’ll be checking next with the state Fire Marshal’s Office. Meantime, we were forwarded a news release that the county Fire Marshal’s Office had been planning to issue, saying only this:

King County fire agencies are urging citizens to attend one of the many professional public fireworks displays during the Fourth of July weekend. Prolonged dry weather and below average spring rainfall have cured grass and vegetation growth, creating high fire danger nearly six weeks earlier than normal. Last year in King County fire agencies responded to nearly 200 fire calls with 82 of them related to fireworks, as reported in the 2014 Washington State Fire Marshal report.

While it is not advisable to light fireworks, follow the three B’s – Be Prepared, Be Safe, and Be Responsible. Retail fireworks go on sale June 28 through July 4 and in those communities that allow fireworks, discharge is limited to July 4 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. only.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Stage 1 burn ban ordered for unincorporated King County as of Monday

June 19th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Safety, White Center news 1 Comment »

Just announced:

Due to unseasonably dry conditions, little expected rainfall in the near future, and a low snowpack, the King County Fire Marshal is issuing a fire safety burn ban in unincorporated areas of the county effective June 22.

Sky lanterns are not allowed under the burn ban.

This is a Phase 1 burn ban and applies to all outdoor burning except for small recreational fires in established fire pits at approved campgrounds or on private property with the owner’s permission. Recreational fires must:

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

*Grow no larger than three feet in diameter

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

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

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Highline Public Schools plans to ‘paddle’ school-bus-stop violators with bus-borne cameras, hefty fines

April 13th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Highline School District, Safety, White Center news Comments Off on Highline Public Schools plans to ‘paddle’ school-bus-stop violators with bus-borne cameras, hefty fines

(Highline Public Schools photo)
If you ignore the “paddle” that warns you to stop when a school bus is loading/unloading – your chances of getting caught and fined have just increased dramatically. Highline Public Schools‘ news release explains why:

Highline Public Schools announced today that in its ongoing efforts to protect the safety of its students, it is the first school district in King County to implement a school bus stop paddle camera enforcement program.

The cameras, which have been installed on five buses initially, are designed to capture motorists who are putting children at risk by ignoring flashing school bus stop arms as buses load and unload school kids. The enforcement program will launch at the beginning of May, and motorists caught on camera ignoring the stop arms will face a $394 fine starting in early June – before then motorists who are caught on camera ignoring the stop arms will receive a warning.

Highline Chief Operations Officer Scott Logan was joined this morning by King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove and Highline school bus driver Loren Young at a press conference at North Hill Elementary School in Des Moines to announce the new public safety program.

“At Highline Public Schools, we take our duty to ensure the safety of our schoolchildren very seriously. Every day in our district, careless or irresponsible motorists ignore school bus stop arms, putting children boarding or exiting our school buses at risk,” Logan said. “That is why we are so happy to announce the start of our school bus stop arm camera enforcement program, the first of its kind in King County. By catching motorists who are ignoring the requirement to stop when the stop paddles are blinking, we believe we can reduce the number of these incidents and better protect the children in our care.”

King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, the prime sponsor of legislation at the King County Council to enable Highline to move forward, also praised the effort.

“Every year, children getting on or off school buses are killed by careless and irresponsible drivers who ignore school bus stop signs,” Upthegrove said. “That’s why when I was in the legislature I supported the bill to allow enforcement cameras on school buses and it is why I sponsored legislation at the King County Council to establish this program. We need to stop these drivers who are putting our kids at risk.”

Highline school bus drivers, who routinely see motorists ignoring their school bus stop arms and putting the kids in their care at risk, also expressed their support for the newly launched effort.

“I have been a school bus driver in the Highline School District for 30 years. Every week on my route, I see drivers who fail to stop as kids get on or off my bus. In those situations, my first priority is to keep my kids from being hurt, so I rarely am able to get the license plates of these irresponsible drivers. But with the stop paddles cameras in place on my bus, I know we will finally be able to catch the bad actors who are ignoring my school bus stop paddle,” said Highline school bus driver Loren Young.

While the announcement happened in Des Moines, the buses to use the cameras will be on routes in other communities, including White Center, the district tells us.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Changes ahead for SW Roxbury

April 8th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Safety, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off on Changes ahead for SW Roxbury

The Seattle Department of Transportation‘s final plan for SW Roxbury – for which it has curb-to-curb responsibility – went public last night at a meeting in West Seattle. Here’s the presentation:

SDOT's SW Roxbury plan

The biggest changes are rechannelization – one lane each way plus a center turn lane – west of 17th, a speed-limit drop to 30 mph from 15th SW east, and 300 feet of sidewalk where none exists, east of 30th SW. Read details of the meeting on our partner site West Seattle Blog.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

SAFETY: Road resurfacing in the works for SW 107th west of White Center

April 6th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Safety, Transportation, White Center news 3 Comments »

West of White Center, SW 107th east of 26th SW is in for special treatment – the only North Highline-area road on the list referenced in this King County announcement:

More than two dozen of King County’s busiest roads will get a surface treatment that provides tires with better grip and reduces the likelihood of skidding, thanks to a $3.2 million federal grant.

The surface treatment and additional guardrails will be installed on roads that King County’s Department of Transportation identified as high-crash locations outside of cities – in Highline/North Shorewood, on Vashon Island, outside Woodinville, in the Snoqualmie Valley, south of Issaquah, near North Bend, north of Covington, and between Auburn and Black Diamond.

“Drivers throughout unincorporated King County will be safer thanks to additional guardrails and an innovative solution to slippery roads,” said Executive Dow Constantine. “By focusing federal funds on the busiest roads with the most accidents, we will make the most of this investment in our region’s safety.”

So-called high-friction surface treatments bond aggregate materials to the top layer of a roadway, channeling away water and providing tires with more grip to reduce the likelihood of skidding and loss of control. The county has identified 24 locations for this treatment and four locations for guardrail and other improvements based largely on crash history and average daily traffic. Sites throughout unincorporated King County were chosen where the risks of running off the road are greatest.

“My district includes hundreds of miles of winding rural roadways where curves or hills create greater risks for skidding off the road,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “These new roadway treatments help tires grip the road in dangerous areas. I am encouraged to hear that other transportation departments are also saying that this is an economical way to measurably improve safety.”

“Those that rely on the King County road system will be happy to know that with the help of federal funding we’re going to deliver targeted safety improvements to make our roads safer,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “We’re looking forward to having these improvements on Kent-Kangley Road, south of Issaquah, near Shadow Lake and near May Valley road.”

The county’s Road Services Division is scheduled to install the high friction surface treatments and guardrail in 2016. The agency has had to reduce service for roads and bridges in the unincorporated areas of the county significantly as revenues declined during the recession, and as a result, there is a growing backlog of county road needs. Recent strategic planning deemed safety as the most important consideration for allocating precious road dollars. With this federal safety grant, driving will be safer at these 28 locations.

The funds are provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation and administered by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

We obtained the information about SW 107th by checking with King County Transportation Department spokesperson Jeff Switzer.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

UPDATE: Woman in critical condition after being hit by suspected drunk driver in White Center

April 2nd, 2015 Tracy Posted in Safety, White Center news 4 Comments »

(UPDATE FRIDAY AFTERNOON: KCSO says the victim is still alive, in critical condition)

6:39 PM: Thanks for the tips via Twitter. We’re on our way to find out more about the crash that has closed 16th SW north of 107th. According to a tweet from KING TV, a pedestrian was hit and seriously hurt. Avoid the area TFN.

7:08 PM: Sgt. BJ Myers of the King County Sheriff’s Office confirms that a pedestrian was hit and is reported to have been seriously hurt; the driver is in custody for suspected DUI. Sgt. Myers says investigators are likely to be on scene for a few more hours. Driving by on the way to the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, we noted the closure appears to be from 106th northward now.

7:24 PM: According to Sgt. Myers, the victim is a 50-year-old woman in serious condition. The driver is a 55-year-old woman. And the road’s expected to be closed until about 8:30. Meanwhile, our photographer has just sent photos from the investigation scene, which we’re adding above.

8:57 PM: Just drove through the area – 16th is open again.

8:33 AM: KCSO announced this morning that the victim died at the hospital. The driver is now booked for investigation of vehicular assault.

12:16 PM: KCSO now says they had erroneous information. The victim is STILL ALIVE but in critical condition.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

White Center traffic alert: Crash at 16th/112th

January 13th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Safety, White Center news Comments Off on White Center traffic alert: Crash at 16th/112th

Thanks to the tipster who texted us this photo of a crash scene about half an hour ago at 16th SW and SW 112th. No info yet on circumstances or injuries, but take note in case you’re headed that way sometime soon.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Followup: Crews making cleanup progress at ‘The Bog’

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

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

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

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

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

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Personnel shortage hits King County Sheriff’s Office hard, precinct commander tells North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

September 7th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Crime, King County Sheriff's Office, Safety, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Tough to have a meeting during a big game – but the issues before the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council couldn’t wait, and its Thursday night meeting went on as scheduled, despite the Seahawks’ concurrent home opener (ending, just before the meeting ended, with fireworks exploded by fans somewhere, audibly, nearby).

The marquee guest was King County Sheriff’s Office precinct commander Major Jerrell Wills (photo above), speaking about changes in KCSO, including scheduling changes, and the storefront-deputy situation (as previously reported, Deputy BJ Myers has been promoted to a new role and is no longer in the storefront; West Hill, to the east, has lost its storefront deputy too).

Maj. Wills said two candidates initially had sought the North Highline position, and neither worked out; he posted the job again (along with West Hill) and had no applicants, so he reposted, and “still doesn’t have any interested applicants” though the second posting was about to expire.

He says, “I’m not inclined to just pick someone” – a community liaison is a position to which he doesn’t favor drafting an appointee, he says, so he plans to discuss it again with Sheriff John Urquhart – he will not repost it, but hopes the sheriff will be “open to some of my operational ideas.” But, he says, White Center does still have “what most communities don’t have” – a community service officer (Peter Truong).

Major Wills stressed repeatedly that the “storefront deputy” is not the only KCSO position that can respond to concerns. Asked about current staffing, 6 deputies are on in the area per shift – 2 on Vashon, 2 in White Center/North Highline, 2 in Skyway. That would be more, Maj. Wills said, except for the fact his precinct alone has eight vacancies – the personnel situation is not a budget problem, but a personnel shortage problem, he insisted, adding that retirements are hitting the KCSO hard; many are getting to 30 years of service. (He mentioned that he’s been serving for 26 years.)

“We’re fighting an uphill battle,” he said about the problem, “so now we’re in a situation we’re calling redeployment.” For example, detectives who might be in specialized areas are being “redeployed to supplant our lack of staffing just to keep us at six (in the precinct) each shift.” That’s been happening since July and the union has agreed to let them keep doing it through January – “just so we can get to minimum every day.” And yet the retirements and other departures keep coming, he said.

“If not for the (staffing shortage), would we have more deputies assigned to the community?” asked NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin. Yes, there would be more per shift, Maj. Wills said. “What would that number be?” he was asked, but he didn’t have the specific number. “Per shift you might have two to three additional people.”

The attrition/recruiting problems are not unique to KCSO, Maj. Wills said. He also pointed out that the process of going through the academy causes a fair number of dropouts. They want to fill the positions, he insisted, “it’s just a challenge.”

Council member Elizabeth Gordon then asked Maj. Wills about homelessness/graffiti problems in certain areas, and he said he didn’t know about those specific problems, but did have an update on the pond/bog area. “That’s been a source of homeless encampments for some time,” he said, for the entirety of the two years he’s been here. Now signage is posted “all over” to warn campers that clearing is coming – “signage everywhere to notify, you can’t be in here, this is not a campground. … That’s the first part, education,” he said. Next part is cleaning – “King County code enforcement has been actively partnering with us to clean up the hedges, etc.” The cleanup was expected to start the following day and “they’re going to cut a road” so deputies can drive into the area, he added.

Once it’s been cleaned up, “then we’re going to go in and identify the people who are in there illegally and serve them with written notice that ‘you, John Doe, are no longer able to come back here … you’ve been warned’.” Then Community Service Officer Truong will help with figuring out some possible services/referrals for the people who are there: “We can’t arrest our way out of this,” declared Maj. Wills, so they hope to find housing/services for campers rather than just hauling them off to jail.

Major Wills also brought up the recent White Center bicycle-corral meeting and said while he’s not voicing a position on the proposed parking configuration, he found it helpful to be at that meeting – held in the KCSO storefront – to hear community concerns such as fears about safety (and lack of it) in the alleys. He said he plans to do some foot patrol in the alleys – “not to make arrests (but to) survey some of the issues I’m hearing about, the homeless, alcohol- and drug-addicted people who are impacting residents of North Highline.”

Another attendee wondered about whether anything can be done to attract a business or traffic to the vacant grocery store at 1st/112th in Top Hat, because, she says, it’s become a magnet for trouble. Dobkin said she’s been in touch with the owner, a Bellevue resident, who told Dobkin she is getting ready to sell the site, which is why there was tank abatement recently.

All in all, Maj. Wills said that they’re just trying to do “something” about a variety of problems. But, the people now camping at the bog “are not going to just vanish,” he said, then quipping, “It would be great if they would just go to the north side of Roxbury.”

Asked about recurring graffiti problems, he said covering it up as fast as possible is vital, or else it might just attract more.

A Metro Transit Police deputy (that agency is part of the King County Sheriff’s Office), Bill Kennamer, spoke up after Maj. Wills departed. He said he is assigned to the general West Seattle/White Center/vicinity area. The trouble spots he has addressed include 15th/Roxbury – “we’ve pushed them away, and now we all know where they are, they’re in the valley. … I try to tackle transit-related community problems.” He said he had “come to an agreement” with people who had sat in bus stops drinking their beer. He said, “The bus system is better now than it was before.”

Asked if the Westwood Village transit concentration had made anything worse, he said he had a “problem-solving project” open for that area, visited it “dozens and dozens of times,” and “closed it” because “the problems there are not Metro problems, they are park problems.”

There was a question about new graffiti vandalism on the former restaurant property on 16th/Ambaum, and about vandalism painted on some of the commercial buildings in downtown White Center. In general, it was reminded, they need to get owners’ permission to clean up graffiti and other such problems on private property.

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who was in attendance, was asked if his office might have meetings, a regular meet-and-greet, or a regular presence in downtown White Center. He said it might not be efficient or ideal for his office to continuously be the filter for county issues, when county government has other agencies and reps who can work with the community directly. But, McDermott added, he was there because it’s helpful to hear about community concerns.

Council member Gordon, who had brought up the issue, said that made sense but she asked because the community seems “fractured” and CM McDermott could be a “unifying force.”

Overall, president Dobkin explained, “We have a lot of issues here, and people feel like we’re being abandoned,” due to various factors, including the ongoing unincorporated status. “I mean, there are people sleeping in my alley. … People think everything is great in White Center, but it’s not.”

WANT TO BE ON THE NHUAC BOARD? If you live and/or work in the area, you’re invited to be part of it. Contact Dobkin through the NHUAC website.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: First thing on the agenda at the meeting:

*Council member Gordon had just come from a community-development forum in SeaTac and said those involved would be happy to have input from North Highline, such as “What are the issues that we’re facing and what are some of the barriers or challenges in getting them addressed?” For example, she said, “… there’s a lack of connection between the county and what goes on in this area … in particular, homelessness, things that go on in the business district.” A survey is online; find it here. President Dobkin said that Valerie Kendall, from the group overseeing the forums, would be at NHUAC next month, and that the survey is open for people to voice needs such as sidewalks.

Gordon also addressed the bike-corral concerns in downtown White Center, mentioning that possible alternatives are being looked at so that “another proposal” could be put out. She said community members’ opinions are being sought as well. Dobkin said that since it seems to be controversial and divisive, regarding the corral possibly replacing two motorized-vehicle-parking spaces, she thinks NHUAC shouldn’t take a position. Council member Pat Price said she found it hard to believe 20 people would come to downtown White Center riding bicycles. Dobkin and an attendee who didn’t identify himself pointed out that some of those who participated at the meeting and expressed support for the bike corral weren’t from White Center but instead were from West Seattle.

*Gordon also mentioned the Roxbury SW road safety project that is in the works (led by the Seattle Department of Transportation) and pointed people to the proposals that had been discussed at recent meetings. Dobkin said she had been to the first of the two meetings and was concerned that much of the work seemed to be happening on the west end; Gordon pointed to some of the proposals for the east end.

*Council member Price mentioned the White Center Food Bank‘s gala is coming up next month.

From the community, Gill Loring brought up four homeless camps in the “bog” (Neighborhood Pond) area, and said that another clearing operation is apparently planned in the area. He is particularly concerned that camp residents’ waste is going into the water. He added that there’s word of someone sleeping in an alley near his house, and urged people to report to 911 if that sort of thing is found (and, he added, make sure the dispatcher is clear you’re talking about the county, not the city).

*Final announcement – Gordon said has information about local high-school sports and their need for community support.

Watch for word of the next meeting.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Making Roxbury safer: What’s being proposed, including a ‘road diet’

August 1st, 2014 Tracy Posted in Safety, Transportation, White Center news 6 Comments »

Though the city/county line runs down the middle of Roxbury for most of its length, Seattle is accountable for taking care of what’s between the north and south curbs. So it’s leading the way on the SW Roxbury safety project, for which North Highline Unincorporated Area Council and neighboring Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council led the campaign. The Seattle Department of Transportation unveiled its proposals on Thursday night, at the first of two meetings (the second of which is in White Center on Monday). Here’s a sneak peek via the slide deck:

The biggest part of the proposal is from downtown White Center westward – proposing “rechannelization,” or what’s also more conversationally known as a “road diet,” for the segment between 17th and 35th, converting it to one lane each way, with a center turn lane, and five-foot-wide buffers (shoulders) on each side. For full details on what’s being proposed – but far from finalized – on the full stretch, see our report on West Seattle Blog. Bring questions/concerns/ideas/etc. to the Monday meeting (August 4th), 6 pm at the Greenbridge Y, 9720 8th SW.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Dates set for SW Roxbury safety-plan meetings

July 21st, 2014 Tracy Posted in Safety, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off on Dates set for SW Roxbury safety-plan meetings

Two meetings are set for the Seattle Department of Transportation to go public with how Roxbury might be made safer – dating back to the joint call a year ago by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council and the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council. SDOT has announced two meetings at which it plans to show “several different engineering options to improve safety for all modes.” The first one is on the West Seattle side, Thursday, July 31st, 6 pm at Southwest Branch Library. Second one is on the White Center side, Monday, August 4th, 6 pm at the Greenbridge YWCA.The project’s official page is here; check out the maps linked from the left side, including this one showing speeds, volumes, and intersections with the most crashes.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Traffic-alert update: Tree on eastbound Roxbury now cleared

June 27th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Safety, Traffic, White Center news Comments Off on Traffic-alert update: Tree on eastbound Roxbury now cleared

1 PM: Also published on partner site West Seattle Blog: Thanks to Krista for the tip (with photo) about a tree down across eastbound Roxbury at 10th SW. As you can see in the photo she shared, King County Sheriff’s Office is on the scene. We are en route to see if cleanup is under way yet.

6:25 PM: It wasn’t cleared as of three hours ago, but when we went back to check a few minutes ago, it was off to the side, and traffic was back to normal.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Second meeting about SW Roxbury safety: Tonight in West Seattle

February 26th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Safety, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off on Second meeting about SW Roxbury safety: Tonight in West Seattle

The first meeting was in White Center, and now the second big meeting about the in-the-works safety project for SW Roxbury is happening on the West Seattle side of the street – tonight, 6 pm, at Roxhill Elementary School. More details here, including the Seattle Department of Transportation‘s recap on what happened during the Greenbridge meeting earlier this month.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Early-morning crash at Roxbury/Olson

February 16th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Safety, White Center news Comments Off on Early-morning crash at Roxbury/Olson

The Olson/1st Ave. hill to/from Highway 509 at the east end of SW Roxbury is open again after an hour-plus shutdown following a one-car crash.

(First two photos courtesy Jason)
According to monitored radio communications, three people were taken to the hospital.

The red Lexus went off the road, and rescuers had to cut its top off. The crash was reported at about 6 am and they finished pulling the car out around 7:30.

(Photo by WCN’s Patrick Sand)
This crash comes less than a week after SDOT officially launched the SW Roxbury safety project with a meeting at Greenbridge. We don’t know the victims’ conditions.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Making SW Roxbury safer: Come talk about it tonight in Greenbridge

February 13th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Safety, Traffic, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off on Making SW Roxbury safer: Come talk about it tonight in Greenbridge

A project to make SW Roxbury safer is finally becoming reality, after White Center and West Seattle community leaders, including the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council and (just over the city-limit line, Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council), joined forces to campaign for it. Seattle Department of Transportation is coming to Greenbridge tonight for the first of two meetings, and you’re invited to come speak out – help shape the project! 6:30 pm at Jim Wiley Community Center, 9800 8th SW.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Crime updates and sex offender info @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s public-safety forum

October 7th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, North Highline UAC, Safety 3 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Another information-packed public-safety forum was presented by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council last Thursday night at the NH Fire District HQ:

AREA CRIME UPDATE: Deputies BJ Myers and Mary Syson led the briefing. She works 2-10 pm and is usually one of two deputies in the area on swing shift, she said – “Write to your King County Councilmembers, we need more officers!” How many officers would be optimal? At least three at any given time, she said. There are always two on, though, any shift, around the clock. When she comes on shift, there are usually calls holding.

(Staffing concerns arose again when a transit deputy spoke saying that at times only six officers from that department are staffing the entire area served by Metro.)

Deputy Myers spoke of recent arrests involving burglary suspects on both sides of the city/county line – many charges filed, many more – detectives are bringing in victims to identify property and get it back to them. “It’s been great, we don’t always get to see the property returned to the people,” he said.

He then went on to show the September crime map. Nothing too much out of the ordinary, he said; crimes are coming down from a July peak, “pretty typical this time of the year as the weather gets cold, kids go back to school, fewer people out and about.”

Motor-vehicle thefts had something of a spike in July and August.

Theft trend that might surprise you: If you have an outdoor outlet in a publicly accessible place – you might consider finding a way to not have it accessible, because more and more such outlets are being used – to charge phones among other things – amounting to power theft that suddenly turns up on the victims’ bills.

“Have you seen a change (in crime, etc.) since Nickelsville moved out (of Highland Park)?” Deputy Myers was asked. His answer: “No.”

On the prevention front, advice from Deputy Syson: Home security is vital. Outdoor lighting, in particular – “criminals don’t like to be lit up.” Also, she echoed “follow your intuition – call us. Get a plate. Vehicle license plates are great – we can maybe figure out where they live. If you guys don’t call us, we don’t know there’s an issue going on in your neighborhood.”

SEX OFFENDERS: Detective Michael Luchau from the King County Sheriff’s Office Registered Sex Offender Unit – a subset of the Special Assault Unit – gave the featured presentation, which he said was basically what he presents to neighborhoods after Level 3 offenders move in – or used to; because of low attendance, they don’t always have meetings – they might just circulate the notice.

14 people are in the unit, including 9 detectives, and he’s one of them. He also went back to the offender-registration law’s roots – the 1988 Diane Ballasiotes case and the case of Helen Harlow‘s son, leading to the Community Protection Act. The national requirement dates back to 1996, following the kidnapping and killing of Megan Kanka in New Jersey two years earlier.

He also went through background of how long offenders are required to be registered – anywhere from 10 years to lifetime (the latter is mandatory for a Class A felony, which includes first- or second-degree rape and/or first-degree child molesting). Level one offenders are not required to register – unless they are “noncompliant” and that level usually means “no violent history, usually know their victims.” They are rated with various “tools” including police reports, court files, criminal history, pre-sentencing psychological reports.

What happens while they are in jail/prison can affect their classification too – Det. Luchau gave an example of someone “continuing to act out their deviancy.”

Notification about a homeless offender generally “depends on the risk level.”

*Almost 4000 sex offenders in King County right now, he said, and almost half are level 1 – the lowest risk level, while 323 are classified level 3, the highest.

There are 333 in this precinct, which also includes Burien, Vashon, and Skyway. 53 of them are in North Highline, 32 level 1, ten level 3.

20,315 sex offenders are in the state in all, and of them, the detective said, about 708 are in violation of the registration laws, and nobody knows where they are. But if they have registered and are following the rules, there are no other rules/guidelines they have to follow, at least one attendee was surprised to hear. But Det. Luchau stressed – you don’t need to be afraid of (most of) them, just be aware.

Being aware is vital – children are sexually assaulted in much higher numbers than you might expect, such as, one of every three girls has been assaulted by age 16. He also talked briefly about trusting instincts – don’t hesitate to report a suspicious person, maybe someone who seems to be at the park watching kids; be clear about your concerns so that police can at least check on them. Also – be sure you know a lot about anyone who would be caring for your child without supervision, and know a lot about the situation at a house your child is going to visit. “If you don’t feel comfortable with the situation, don’t send them (there)!” said the detective.

Are there halfway houses? asked NHUAC council member Liz Giba, noting that notifications seemed to include the same addresses for multiple offenders. “There are some group homes,” acknowledged the detective. And, he said, there are some group homes that try to pretend they’re not – sometimes by claiming to be “clean and sober” houses.

To find out more about sex offenders in your area, has the listings of level 2 and level 3 everywhere in the county – look for the link on the left sidebar. The lookup tool also enables you to sign up for e-mail alerts if a “published offender registers in your area.” It’ll give you more information on the offender’s background.

For the entire state, you can go to – all registered sex offenders in the state, level two and three.

There’s also the National Sex Offender Public Website.

Don’t ever assume you know how a sex offender looks – they come in all sizes, shapes, etc., he said.

“Why aren’t these people locked up for good?” Some are locked up tfn.

But he also warned that people should use the knowledge responsibly – the notification act could be canceled if it leads to many incidences of harassment, vigilantism, etc. – and authorities do not want to lose it as a tool.

So what happens when an offender gets out of prison/jail? Nobody’s holding that offender’s hand, as Luchau put it. And, as an audience question pointed out, failure to register may just be a misdemeanor. But in other cases, it could be a Class B felony, sending the offender back to prison for longer than their original sentence.

What if you look someone up – is there any chance they might still be on the map even if they are no longer in that neighborhood? Maybe, said the detective, so you’ll want to try alternate lookups to check on that person’s status, as many public records as you can find.

WHAT’S NEXT: According to NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin, the next public-safety forum probably won’t be until March, but they will continue monthly NHUAC meetings on first Thursdays.

Two community announcements:

WHITE CENTER KIWANIS: They’re selling See’s Candy bars for $2/bar, with more than $1 funding their service projects.

COALITION FOR DRUG FREE YOUTH: NHUAC councilmember Elizabeth Gordon says the coalition is circulating a survey on alcohol/drug use, and provided copies; they’re accepting filled-out surveys at her family business, Uncle Mike’s Superlicious Barbecue. The survey will be linked on the NHUAC website.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Next NHUAC public-safety forum one week from tonight: Learn about registered sex offenders

September 26th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, North Highline UAC, Safety, White Center news Comments Off on Next NHUAC public-safety forum one week from tonight: Learn about registered sex offenders

One week from tonight – the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council hopes to see you at its next public-safety forum:

Save the Date

Thursday, Oct 3
North Highline Fire Station
1243 112th Street, SW
(entrance in the back)

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council is pleased to be hosting a Public Safety Forum

Want to know more about the King County Sex Offender Registry and Community Notification Program? Then plan on joining us for an informative presentation and discussion with Detective Michael Luchau of the King County Sheriff’s Department Sex Offender Unit.

Share your concerns regarding community safety with White Center Storefront Deputy, BJ Myers and Deputy William Kennamer of Metro Transit Police.

All are welcome!



AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Two weeks till Night Out: Block party planned in downtown White Center

July 24th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Safety, White Center news 1 Comment »

Night Out – THE night to be out with neighbors and friends, celebrating community, in the name of safety – is just two weeks away, Tuesday, August 6th. A big block party has been announced for downtown White Center on Night Out – right in the heart of the business district. Here’s the Facebook invite, which mentions, so far:

-$2 food walk with some of White Center’s most delicious eats
-free bike education classes & emergency preparedness planning for your family at White Center Community Development Association
-beer garden at Big Al Brewing
-live music

And Center Studio will have a free class outside, proprietor Lonjina Verdugo tells us. Stand by for more details on all this.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

From cannabis to crimefighting: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s public-safety forum

February 8th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, Safety, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

From fighting graffiti vandalism to forming block watches to learning where legal marijuana stands, about 40 people got a more-than-full serving of public-safety information last night at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s quarterly forum.

Here’s how it went:


Tim Thompson from the Washington Liquor Control Board started off by warning he didn’t have much information about marijuana, referring to the I-502 rule-drafting process now under way (including public forums, with an updated schedule). You can get all the latest in this section of the WALCB website.

No specific current liquor cases were discussed. (If you need to contact Thompson to report a problem, 206-439-3739 or

Asked how privatization is going, he mentioned there are about 1,000 retailers now and still growing, at least over the next two years – “after that, we’re not sure where that’s going to go,” regarding the current restriction to spaces 10,000 square feet or more (unless it was a grandfathered ex-liquor store).

He mentioned that the trend of liquor thefts was on the wane; if you find any bottle locking mechanism disposed of – it can be tracked by matching it to the store from which it came, so contact the LCB (or other law enforcement).


What’s it like on the front lines, as a sanctioned recreational-marijuana industry forms, while the medical-marijuana industry forges forward?

Chris Cody of Herban Legends in downtown White Center said, “Up till now, it’s been very Wild West-y … I’ve done my best to be as conscientious as possible,” and he’s even been part of a coalition working on “cannabis standards and ethics,” which he says they are trying to convert into legislation in Olympia for a “more formalized system.”

He foresees that the medical-marijuana industry might go away completely as part of all this – and says that will be a shame because “if you think liquor is taxed now – ” he envisions even higher marijuana taxes.

“A lot of the places that are open now, (probably) won’t be open in a year.”

One attendee asked about testing standards at shops, saying she needs it for insomnia – she quit smoking marijuana 40 years ago “because it put me to sleep” and now that’s exactly the effect she’s looking for. She suggested that recreational users might appreciate analysis of the different strains’ contents and strength, too.

Asked where his supplies come from, Cody discussed the “collective gardens” with which they deal, and how he checks on what they use while growing.

In a wide-ranging Q/A, he was asked if major pharmaceutical companies are likely to jump into the marijuana business. He didn’t think so, unless it was reclassified at the federal level (where, despite legalization in our state and elsewhere, it remains illegal).

Overall, Cody believes, “This is going to be a boon for Washington – whether you like it or not – it’s going to bring people here from all over the world.”

Invariably, before the discussion ended, somebody asked if Cody had samples. Giggling ensued. NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin moved the agenda along.


Burien police Sgt. Henry McLauchlan, a 35-year veteran with the King County Sheriff’s Office, first marveled that he never expected to find himself following up a discussion about legal marijuana shops. He had praise for Cody trying to rationally and responsibly work through the issues.

Then – to the “broken windows theory” – the domino effect if one bit of vandalism or disrepair is left unattended to.

While examples of tagging were being shown, someone called out a certain prolific vandal’s name. “Gonna get that j*****s one of these days,” Sgt. McLauchlan laughed. He also mentioned that Facebook is a tagging-fighting tool – since the vandals “love to brag,” and the investigators know how to find what they post.

But the front-line defense is up to property/business owners:

“The only response you can have is to get it painted out as fast as possible,” he exhorted attendees. He also explained that taggers are showing off, but gang-graffiti vandals are marking their territory.

Veering off the track for a moment, he discussed the concept of responsibility – saying that gun control doesn’t seem to him a matter of how many guns you have, as long as you’re responsible and nobody else can “get their hands on them.”

Burien, for example, has an ordinance requiring people to clean up graffiti.

Some of the vandalized unincorporated-area properties photographed by NHUAC president Dobkin included the former Bernie and Boys, the former El Chalan/Wendy’s/Ezell on 16th, the old NAPA building, and some other sites in areas including Top Hat. “It just doesn’t bode well for a community,” Dobkin lamented. “And then people start (illegally dumping on the site) …” NHUAC councilmembers and volunteers have periodic paintouts, and also engage state Department of Corrections-provided crews are engaged by KCSO when possible.

What about property owners who are sent repeated letters about violations/concerns? County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who was on hand for the entire meeting, said it was complicated, once people wind up being summoned to court.

He was challenged by a community member who expressed frustration that “we’ve been putting up with this for years” (regarding the business properties) – at which point McDermott said he’s drafting a letter himself to contact the property owners (ostensibly the El Chalan site owners, listed as NB Partners LLC, which traces in county records to Mark and Tom Nickels).

Sgt. McLauchlan then recounted how he and his teams worked on shutting down muisance multi-family properties, and “It’s a nightmare.” He suggested, though, that publishing the names of the nuisance property owners might have some effect. How to go about that?

One attendee then said it was a shame that Burien annexation hadn’t passed, since that municipality has tougher laws than the county itself. Later, Sgt. McLauchlan went on to detail the difficulty of catching graffiti vandals in action. Is there another way for them to express their creativity? one person asked. One woman said she hopes to start a “White Center as an art zone.” campaign.

If you have graffiti problems – contact NHUAC for advice on how to handle it! (Lots of info on their site at


White Center Storefront-based Deputy BJ Myers took the spotlight next. He says there’s been a high level of auto thefts for many months and one detective is now taking the lead on most of the investigations. He’s been analyzing patterns, seeing themes, and working on ways to catch the auto thieves before they steal the cars. Myers said “small groups of thieves stealing many cars” is what they believe they are seeing the most.

By the way – one way to reduce auto thefts, he suggested, is: Don’t leave your car idling while it’s warming up; one investigator “is getting tired of reading those reports!” Myers said.

Mail theft also has been high in the past month – but “we’ve also caught and identified some mail thieves,” as has Seattle Police‘s Southwest Precinct, said Deputy Myers, “so hopefully those numbers will start moving down.” In areas where are non-locking mailboxes, they’ll find “piles of mail at the end of the street,” he said.

He also shared detectives’ requests to document serial numbers on expensive items – electronics, tools, etc. Could be as easy as taking a photo of your items. And be sure to keep that photo – or the info, otherwise documented – someplace you can find it no matter what happens! And he talked about suspects who can be one-person crime waves, like someone who stole a car, then went and stole a lawn mower, and had committed about five thefts before he was caught.

“How did you catch the mail thieves?” Deputy Myers was asked. Answer: Somebody called in a tip, seeing someone looking in a mailbox that wasn’t theirs. He said that’s almost always the way it goes.

He mentioned the recent serial robberies; the robber is pretty well covered up, so it’s tough, but they’re working on it, Deputy Myers said, noting that nobody has been hurt – yet – and the heists have tended to happen late in the evening. The detectives in the Major Crime Unit are working on it. “I think we’re going to catch this guy,” he said.


Burien Police Community Service Officer Nicki Maraulja brought longtime volunteers Patty and Pam to talk to the group about how Block Watches work; they are members of the Burien Citizens’ Patrol: “It starts small but has a big impact.”

They mentioned North Highline’s late Barb Peters as an example of somebody “so involved” in their local community, full of personal responsibility.

The size of a “block” for a Block Watch is not necessarily rigorously defined, the volunteers said. They talked about time-proven tacics of dealing with possible suspicious folks in the neighborhood – go up to them, talk to them, ask them how they’re doing. She also advocated setting up websites or groups for neighborhoods.

But first – be sure you have a block watch! Asked how many people in the room have one, close to half of the 40 or so raised their hands. The unincorporated area has about 25; Burien has more than 120.

One person suggested they might set a goal of doubling the number of block watches this year.

Informational booths at community events “are a great way to reach out to your neighbors,” too, the volunteers had.

If some neighbors don’t want to participate – don’t let that stop you, they urged. “Just do it.”

Officer Maraulja said, “It’s fun,” and the volunteers mentioned Night Out, getting together wth your neighbors, etc.

E-mailing her is the best way to organize a Block Watch.

“The more people you have watching out for each other, the better – don’t wait till something happens.”


Sgt. McLauchlan said the four most important words on the topic of public safety are:

AWARENESS – it’s simple, if you’re not awareness of your surroundings, you can’t help your neighbors, you can’t help yourself.

AVOIDANCE – Be the eyes and ears (though don’t get TOO involved, and don’t confront a criminal – “that’s why you have 911.”

KNOWLEDGE – that’s a Block Watch, a Crime Prevention meeting, “a lot o things’ – including personal responsibility. (and call 911 when you see something suspicious)

PREPARATION – work together – put together Block Watches – make this work for you – if you do, “it’s going to make this a lot nicer place to be.

Thursday, May 2nd, is the next forum, location TBA, with a guest lineup topped, says NHUAC president Dobkin, by Sheriff John Urquhart.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button