By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
Another information-packed monthly meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council. You really had to be there to get it all, but here are what hit us as the highlights;
KCSO UPDATE: Deputy Julian Chivington said the numbers in local districts are about the same as before: 361 reports written for January, 348 for February. Residential and commercial burglaries are both down, he said. And he shared a “success story” he heard from a Block Watch captain, with neighbors noticing “suspicious people ringing the bell, trying the door” at a Top Hat-area house, and it turned out they were indeed trying to break in; two people were arrested and booked into jail, and one was armed, he said.
Graffiti vandalism is a big issue, he said, and it’s difficult to track down business owners for permission to paint it over; a lot of it happens near roofs, and that is an extra complication. So they are drafting a “blanket letter” to get one-time approval from business owners to tackle graffiti when it happens – so there’s no delay when the weather is conducive. He drew laughter by talking about how plainclothes personnel caught a vandal whose work was in progress, suggesting he pose for a photo; he obliged, and was arrested, said the deputy. Asked about gang graffiti, he said he had been looking into it, and found that there are two gang groups that are “in a little bit of a skirmish right now … claiming their territory right now,” mostly north of the city limits, in West Seattle.
NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin asked about the former Papa’s Pub on 16th in downtown White Center, which had been in the process of remodeling for a new business, but now is boarded up, with the boards having been tagged. That hadn’t been on Chivington’s radar lately, but a few doors down, he said, the apartments above the former Club Evo on 16th are involved in an eviction process; the owner is going to remodel the apartments and “try to find decent tenants,” he said.
And he mentioned something we had heard at the Highland Park Action Committee meeting last week – that there’s a proposal to get the LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program going in White Center. … Regarding ongoing 15th/Roxbury problems, he mentioned contacting the Metro Street Crimes division about Route 120 and its stop in front of the DSHS; he said they had been riding undercover for a while. He also said business owners have been sending him photos of drug sales in progress, and that investigators will start building some cases.
The deputy said he participated in the One Night Count, between Myers Way and 509; nobody was in the bog area, he said, with Southwest King County numbers totaling 209 people found sleeping outside that night, more than 3,000 in all in the county. He also mentioned the ongoing drug problems in local alleys, with meth constituting much of the problem, but heroin also involved.
SPEAKING OF WHITE CENTER BOG – DISC GOLF COURSE?: Ken Gresset from Department of Natural Resources and Parks said they have cleared about 80 percent of what they can do in the bog vicinity, and that calls for drug use, illegal camping, and other problems are reported to be down. “We won’t know until the end of the year but it’s possible that this has taken 800 calls away from the Sheriff’s Department … at 150 dollars each … (which means) it’s a very worthwhile project.”
So now – what about a permanent use for the site?
Gresset said he was looking for community input on activities “to keep the illegal activity down,” and specifically the possibility of a disc golf course there – 18 holes unless wetland restrictions keep it to 9. Issues might be parking, lighting. “Look at the activity we’re driving out – gunshots, screams – and then we (might get) complaints about parking. I would rather have complaints about parking.” He said he’ll be applying for a grant in the spring. Erosion is a challenge, it was acknowledged. But overall, they’re currently seeking community support for the disc-golf idea.
UPDATE FROM COUNCILMEMBER MCDERMOTT: White Center and vicinity’s King County Councilmember Joe McDermott was at the meeting to update NHUAC on a variety of things. He introduced a new member of his staff, Lan Nguyen. He offered an update on several things such as proposed regulation of medical marijuana, a bill that was heard earlier that day; the Board of Health, which he’s on, has voiced its concerns, particularly, he said, involving the “access and appeal to kids” of edible marijuana – a statewide policy to fold medical marijuana into the regulated I-502 markets would be the best solution, he said. Even if the bill is approved, he said, it wouldn’t take effect until July of next year, which is not fast enough for “the increase we’re seeing in poisonings” involving children and edible marijuana, so he is pursuing other ways of addressing that, possibly unilateral action by the Board of Health. Nguyen said the bill he mentioned is 5052.
He spoke about the concerns regarding Environmental Health fees going up and affecting community events such as farmers’ markets and pancake breakfasts. Those fees will not go up this year after all. “I can’t guarantee you those fees won’t ever go up,” he warned, because of “a budget hole,” but he said they want to make sure fees don’t harm such community events.
NHUAC’s Elizabeth Gordon asked about a recreational marijuana store that’s apparently coming to White Center; McDermott suggested a protest to the Liquor Control Board, but Gordon said she was under the impression that if the location met the basic criteria, it would be approved without regard for any community concerns. Dobkin said one is also in the works for the Top Hat area. NHUAC’s Elizabeth Devine said it was a shame that a vulnerable community seemed to be getting targeted with businesses like these.
The discussion continued into other aspects of marijuana marketing and how they’re affecting businesses – smoking outside “medical marijuana” enterprises in White Center, for example – as well as the “black market” and what’s happening to it.
Asked about the annexation situation, McDermott recapped that the city of Seattle “put its foot in the door” before the end of 2014, stating that if pursued, it would be put to a public vote, but saying there are no “inside discussions” that he’s aware of.
Dobkin brought up construction continuing but roads continuing to crumble and infrastructure not supporting it. McDermott pointed out that property taxes are being paid and that does “increase the tax base,” paying into the roads fund, while acknowledging that it isn’t necessarily enough to pay for what needs to be done, and reiterating that the county doesn’t have the money to provide urban-area services.
CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Al Tijerina made one of his periodic visits, saying he hasn’t been able to visit WC as much because he has only a third of the staff he used to have – 5 now, 15 not so long ago. He asked if any specific nuisance properties were of concern; one near 12th and 109th was mentioned by NHUAC’s Christine Waldman. “No one’s filed a complaint,” noted Tijerina. “We’re always complaint-driven; we can’t file complaints on our own.” Several other properties were brought up. Deputy Chivington said he had recently heard from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office asking about problem houses that might be in need of help.
Tijerina said, “There’s nothing worse than the problems I have with abandoned houses that are vacant” – abatement of those problems could take two, three, even four years because of funding, he said.
Here’s how to report a problem for code enforcement:
*Call the hotline – 206-296-6680 – tell county staff the address and problem and staff will open a case. Also – you can file online via the county website (here’s where to go). Photos can be sent in to be added to the case, too.
NEW LIBRARY: With the groundbreaking set for 3 pm March 19th, as reported here last week, president Dobkin voiced ongoing concerns about its future, given that the prospect of Seattle annexation is back in play, looking for a commitment that even if that does happen, this will remain a library. NHUAC’s Liz Giba noted that the library bond originally was a 10-year bond with libraries to be built within that timeline. Traffic concerns also were voiced, related to the calculations used for how many trips would be made to the new library compared to the current one.
SPEAKING OF ANNEXATION: Gordon talked about various issues of interest in Olympia including an extension of the sales-tax credit related to annexation; she said she told legislators for this area that it’s vital that local residents are at the table if there’s any sort of negotiations related to annexation, especially involving facilities such as libraries and schools.
EVENT REMINDERS: Gordon also mentioned the White Center Eagles pancake-breakfast fundraiser for Evergreen Athletics this Saturday, and an upcoming PALS boxing tournament.
OFFICER CHANGE: Christine Waldman asked to step down from the treasurer role, which Pat Price will take over.
NEXT MEETING: NHUAC usually meets on first Thursdays, 7 pm, at the North Highline Fire District HQ. Watch for updates at northhighlineuac.org. April’s meeting will include a closer look at the marijuana issue.