Tonight’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting: An uncertain future, while business proceeds in the present

Here’s the roundup from tonight’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting (held as always at North Highline Fire District HQ):

UNINCORPORATED AREA COUNCILS’ FUTURE: Will county budget cuts and a study of combining UACs into one countywide body mean the end of NHUAC? This was addressed, somewhat, by Lauren Smith, who is the liaison for unincorporated areas from KC Executive Dow Constantine‘s office – her bottom line, too soon to tell what the cuts (first reported here 2 weeks ago) are going to lead to, or even what they were intended to lead to. She said “there is some money left in the budget” even after the cuts to funding for the councils. She says their office was “surprised” by the action, which was initiated by the County Council as a change to Constantine’s budget proposal, and “concerned,” and that they have a “sense of urgency” about a plan of action “moving forward” despite all the “uncertainty.” She says her team is in an “information-gathering phase to find out exactly what is in the budget” – which isn’t as easy a job as you’d think, she explains. They’ll also be trying to find out what council concerns led to the cuts. (She points out that newly elected KC Councilmember Joe McDermott, who’s here, was not on the council when they decided on those cuts.) “We cannot design a future for the UACs without working in partnership with you,” she said. “The value you give to this community is beyond measure.” She says KCE Constantine agrees that having a “local gathering point” like the UACs is vital. But: “What does the future look like? I don’t know. … There is nothing higher than this on my priority list.” She offered to answer questions but as council member Barbara Dobkin observed, “We don’t know what to ask, because you don’t know what to tell us.” Council member Ron Johnson suggested they’d keep meeting even without funding; he’s been a member since 1996, noting it’s an unpaid role. Smith said that’s what she’d heard from other UACs so far – that they would carry on whether they had funding or not. After she spoke, Johnson offered remarks of appreciation for the unincorporated-area liaison they’d been working with – since funding for his job has been cut.

COUNCILMEMBER McDERMOTT: After a break that followed Smith’s appearance (during which McDermott mingled with some of the NHUAC meeting-attendee regulars), he took the podium to address the NHUAC for the first time in his new role – “eight days!” he noted – and he also talked about his familiarity with UACs’ work, and said that they fill such different roles for their communities, and consolidating them “into one voice” did not seem to be an idea that makes sense, so he said he’s spoken to Executive Constantine about that.

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Capt. J.J. Hodgson said that the area had 18 residential burglaries over the past month, “down slightly” … commercial burglaries at 9, “slightly up” … 13 auto thefts, 1 robbery, 14 assaults, all down … 6 vehicle prowls, a new stat so no comparison this time (though he notes it “tends to be a very underreported crime,” and urges that anyone who is a victim of any crime be encouraged to “at least make a phone call to report it,” because that helps KCSO know where to allot its resources). … Regarding ongoing Club Evo concerns, a temporary injunction is in place, he says, to keep it closed until they seek a business license. If they did seek a license – which they haven’t done so far, he says – then there would be a court hearing. Council member Douglas Harrell noted that Evo had shown “defiance” in the face of enforcement action before, but the captain noted that was regarding administrative action from agencies, not a court order like this. … The captain was asked about budget-cut effects; he mentioned the number of cuts far outstrips the number of actual layoffs they are currently facing (18) because of currently open positions. One big effect – the property-crime investigation unit has been “severely cut back,” he noted, and patrol deputies will be asked to do a lot of that followup. Council member Patrick Mosley asked about the storefront; “The storefront will still be there … CSO (Vary) Jackson will still be manning the facility … but as of right now, we do not have a deputy to put there,” Capt. Hodgson said, while adding it’s “a high priority to get someone back in there” if the money were available. … When crime concerns were being discussed, council member Heidi Johnson noted the online-crime-reporting form that’s now available on the KCSO site – and Capt. Hodgson said it’s so new, he isn’t even sure it’s been announced yet. (Find that form here.) … One attendee asked about an incident on 4th SW near Greenbridge this morning, and the captain hadn’t heard about it, but invited the attendee to e-mail him so he can look into it.

KING COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY MEETING: This is related to the council’s recent discussions about whether some of the developments are keeping the promise of bringing in “market-rate” housing as well as low-income housing, toward the issue of addressing economic diversity in White Center as well as ethnic diversity. Council member Dobkin reported on a recent meeting with Housing Authority leadership – saying there’s a triangle of land the county took over on 4th that doesn’t have a definite plan right now. She said an attempt to get exact numbers on units currently in Greenbridge didn’t yield much information – the reply was “fuzzy.” But she was assured that the land in Greenbridge “set aside for market-rate homes will remain (that way)” though there are “no plans” right now to build it. Are there subsidies for the currently empty storefronts? she asked – and was told that until market-rate housing is built, they’re not expected to fill that space – so “it’s a Catch-22.” Council member Pat Price talked about the inconsistent building pattern at Seola Gardens (the former Park Lake II) and “there’s a house over here … then one over there …” She said their next meeting is in February, and that she had straightened out the KCHA on the issue of why meeting notices weren’t getting sent to the NHUAC.

BURIEN UPDATE: Jenn Ramirez-Robson filled in for city manager Mike Martin. First up: What’s up with the trees with “big white X’s on Ambaum”? 112th to 156th, they’re doing sidewalk work, and looking at spots where trees have pushed up the sidewalks and even damaged the streets and storm-drain system. She says those trees will be “replaced … in the spring … with more suitable trees.” The ones that are being taken out are called “London Plain.” Meantime, she says that on 128th, storm-drain pipes are being replaced, with work under way right now between 1st and 4th, and “they’ll just keep moving east.” It’s all preparation for the “overlay program” next spring and summer – street pavement. “Our city is going to look vastly different and much improved by this time next year,” she said; look for a “ramp(ed) up communication” regarding road projects, including that one. … She also said that Burien was “caught off guard” by the budget action involving Unincorporated Area Councils, especially since they consider NHUAC “an invaluable partner to the work we do.” She also made sure everyone had heard the news that Jerry Robison – who has served as lawyer for the NHUAC and moderated its recent campaign forum – is about to be appointed to an opening on the Burien City Council. (That drew applause.)

BIKE RACK IN DOWNTOWN WHITE CENTER: The council voted to send a letter supporting Proletariat Pizza‘s campaign to get a business-district bike rack.

STEVE COX MEMORIAL @ PARK: “A few lines underground” were the latest semi-holdup, according to a committee report by council member Heidi Johnson. Those lines will have to be moved a bit before the memorial can be installed, she reported. Council president Christine Waldman then read a letter that came in late in the day from a county staffer suggesting those lines might not be such a problem after all. NHUAC then voted to extend the contract with the memorial’s artist, which otherwise, Ron Johnson pointed out, would expire in the middle of this month.

WORK SESSION: Part of tonight’s meeting involved council members laying out their priorities. The full list will have to await the meeting minutes; categories that were discussed included Public Safety and Code Enforcement, Public Housing and Human Services/Public Health, Arts and Parks, Governance/Growth Management/Zoning, Natural Resources/Transportation/Pedestrian Safety/Metro/Public Outreach. The latter is a particular point of concern for NHUAC – wanting to make sure more people know about them and their role advocating for the community and discussing issues. (They’ve printed up pads of post-it notes with the logo and website, for starters, and are working on other materials.)

BUDGET: Since right now, the county budget includes no funding for the council or its expenses, members discussed what expenses for next year they could prepay with the reserves they have now – since no one can even tell them yet whether that reserve would carry over regardless of the budget cuts. They voted to pay some of the basics like insurance and White Center Jubilee Days tabling. County staff promised to procure information within a week on the carryover issue; if they need to make decisions before year’s end, they will have a special meeting on December 16th.

PUBLIC COMMENTS: Dick Thurnau from Friends of Hicks Lake pointed out that two years have elapsed since recommendations were made for how to spend $25,000 the county had allotted for lake improvements – an aerating and beautifying fountain, a parks caretaker, a “safe walking path around the lake” – but “nothing has been done or resolved.” He said he’d sent King County Parks division director Kevin Brown e-mail asking about the status – and after 3 weeks, no response, leaving him to wonder what to do to get attention for “this seemingly forgotten facility” (Executive’s Office rep Smith said later that she would make sure Brown responded to Thurnau’s note) … Gill Loring voiced concern about the UAC budgets (as discussed earlier in this story) and about board appointees vowing to serve their full terms.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: White Center Summit this Saturday at White Center Heights Elementary (more information on the White Center Community Development Association website), and NHUAC will have a table there … Also Saturday, the WC Library Guild’s holiday bazaar at the WC Library … And this is on Saturday too: The WC Jubilee Days fundraiser (“Festivus,” as mentioned here earlier this week) … The following Thursday, Dec. 9, the WC-South Delridge Community Safety Coalition meets at the WC DSHS office. … The North Highline Fire District has a holiday-donation food drive under way; pickup spots are listed on the NHUAC website. … Council member Price said that the NHFD board has agreed, finally, to have some evening meetings – the first one will be at 6 pm January 18th – after long scheduling its meetings in the morning.

NEW MEMBER: This is the last item on the agenda as of the time we’re publishing this story at 9:45 pm – the one candidate for an open position, former council member Liz Giba, answered questions, and then the council went into executive session, which means everybody else has to leave the room. Not knowing how long that would take, we left, and will amend this story when we get word of the results.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets the first Thursday of the month, 7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ.

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3 Responses to “Tonight’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting: An uncertain future, while business proceeds in the present”

  1. please post all of the results of these meetings! I would attend, but alas I’m on the other side of the country.

  2. Dow has to find the funds somewhere to keep subsidizing his toy boat that crosses the bay to downtown

    Why are all taxpayers funding the commute for a small group of people going from W. Seattle to the Downtown — & are too stupid to take a bus?

  3. Rhonda Rosenberg Says:

    I am writing in response to the entry in the 12/2/10 blog post regarding a recent meeting between NHUAC and the King County Housing Authority. I’d like take this opportunity to clarify several points of confusion in that posting.

    The blog entry indicates that the council is “fuzzy” about the number of housing units Greenbridge and Seola Gardens will bring to White Center. The Housing Authority presented to the NHUAC on Oct. 7, 2010 regarding the status of these projects. These were the numbers and an abbreviated version of the project information provided at that meeting.

    The Greenbridge project will provide 472 units of rental housing. All but 24 of these units are complete and currently occupied. The remaining units are under construction and will be complete by August 2011.

    Of the 472 rental housing units, 324 are rent subsidized, meaning that rents and utilities are set at 30 percent of the household’s income. Prior to the redevelopment, there were 569 rent subsidized units onsite. Subsidized units not replaced onsite have been replaced on a one-for-one basis by additional subsidized units in other communities, principally east of Lake Washington.

    The balance of the rental units (148) are affordable to families earning up to $46,260 annually for a family of three.

    The remainder of the land at Greenbridge is reserved for home ownership. There will be between 400 and 450 for-sale homes built. The exact number will depend on how the private developers who will finance, build, and sell the for-sale homes choose to configure the lots. Seven homes, being built by HomeSight, are currently under construction. The timing on construction of the rest of the for-sale homes will be contingent upon a turnaround in the region’s home sale activity.

    So the total number of units at Greenbridge, when fully built out, will be between 872 and 922.

    The commercial spaces at Greenbridge are not subsidized. All of Seattle/King County is experiencing a high level of retail vacancy. KCHA has engaged the brokerage company Gordon Commercial and is actively marketing the commercial spaces. As reported, we do not expect the retail spaced to be fully leased until the homeownership phase is more fully underway.

    Wind Rose
    KCHA has purchased the triangle of land adjacent to but not part of Greenbridge on 4th Avenue. The site can accommodate up to 80 units of housing. KCHA has not yet developed a plan for the redevelopment of this site and has invited the NHUAC to be an active participant in the planning process.

    Seola Gardens
    At Seola Gardens there will be three phases of rental housing construction. The first 25 rental units are currently under construction. A second phase will start this spring and a third phase in the spring of 2012. The timing of these phases is driven by the availability of funding. When rental construction is completed in the fall of 2013, Seola will be providing 177 units of rental housing. All 177 units will be rent subsidized, including 55 units reserved for elderly households in a senior project operated by the Providence Health & Services of Washington.

    An estimated 100 to 138 for-sale homes will be constructed at Seola Gardens, subject to the same considerations regarding lot size and configuration by private developers as Greenbridge. The total number of units, both rental and for-sale, at Seola will thus be between 277 and 315.

    The gaps between the housing sites currently under construction at Seola Gardens are placeholders for future for-sale homes. This is in response to the community desire to integrate the rental and for-sale homes. These gaps will fill out once the for-sale homes are built. Again, the timing of the construction on for-sale housing is dependent on the turnaround in the for-sale market.

    KCHA is dedicated to creating diverse communities, both economically and ethnically, and to ensuring their success — both from the perspective of its residents and from the larger White Center community. We welcome community feedback. Please e-mail us at if you wish to be placed on the mailing list for community advisory meetings.

    Rhonda R. Rosenberg
    Director of Communications
    King County Housing Authority