Fighting displacement in North Highline: Recommendations go public soon

April 1st, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news No Comments »

Announced today by King County:

Skyway-West Hill & North Highline Anti-Displacement Draft Recommendations Report-Back

Please join the Department of Community and Human Services and the Department of Local Services for an interactive community meeting on Saturday, April 10th from 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM to review and discuss the draft anti-displacement recommendations that will be presented to the King County Council later this year.

Registration is required and is now open at: eventbrite.com/e/anti-displacement-draft-recommendations-report-back-registration-145351188317. This meeting will help shape the county’s policy direction and investments in affordable housing in Skyway-West Hill. To learn more, check out: publicinput.com/anti-displacement You can find further information on the project at this website.

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VIDEO: County Executive Dow Constantine showcases jobs-program proposal in White Center visit

March 30th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news No Comments »

Back in fall 2019, King County Executive Dow Constantine visited White Center (WCN coverage here) to talk about the newly launched King County Conservation Corps. Today, he returned to join them on patrol, and to talk about a broader job-creation program that’s part of his $600 million pandemic-relief budget addition.

The new proposal would create hundreds of jobs, expanding the KCCC and involving other county departments and divisions such as Roads and Parks; county Local Services director John Taylor joined him at this morning’s event. The KCCC, by the way, is a partnership with Uplift Northwest, previously known as the Millionair Club, and started as a six-month pilot project but is still going strong. The jobs program would cost an estimated $40 million of the $600 million pandemic-relief proposal, which is now in the hands of the County Council.

Other parts of the budget proposal:
*Continued Public Health Response/Vaccinations & COVID operations: $253 million

*Community Supports-rental assistance, childcare, behavioral health: $199 million

*Economic Recovery: $92 million

The full document is linked at the end of last week’s announcement.

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THURSDAY: Here’s why you want to be part of North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s April meeting

March 30th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, North Highline UAC, White Center news No Comments »

The month begins with North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s always-informative April meeting. Here’s the announcement:

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

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When? Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 7 pm

How? Join Zoom Meeting: kingcounty.zoom.us/j/98750682577

Meeting ID: 987 5068 2577
Passcode (case sensitive): NHUAC2021
Unable to join via Zoom? Please Call 253 215 8782
Meeting ID: 987 5068 2577 Passcode: 956569157

As North Highline continues to have one of the highest COVID-19 positivity rates in the county, the virus continues to evolve. Last month’s NHUAC meeting was packed with information, but it was a month ago. What has changed? What should we know about the “Three V’s” – virus, variants, and vaccines? To answer these questions and more, we will be joined by Becky Reitzes, Educator Consultant with Public Health of Seattle & King County. Becky has been working on the COVID Community Mitigation Response since the beginning of the pandemic. Please bring your questions and join the discussion!

The shortage of adequate funding for capital projects, services and programs is an ongoing challenge in North Highline. As our local government, one of King County’s primary responsibilities is budgeting – deciding where and how our tax dollars are spent.

King County is taking a different approach to budgeting than it has used in the past. It is called Participatory Budgeting (PB). PB was first used in 1989 as an anti-poverty measure in Brazil where it successfully helped reduce child mortality by almost 30%. According to Participatory Budgeting Project’s website, “Participatory budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget. It gives people real power over real money.” Imagine what North Highline can be if people with personal knowledge of our community make decisions about how tax dollars are spent in our community. Sounds like a perfect fit for a NHUAC meeting, doesn’t it? Now imagine that you or a neighbor was one of those decision-makers. Join us as John Taylor, Director of the Department of Local Services, explains how King County will approach this chance to expand democracy and opportunity in North Highline and how you could become part of the Community Investment Committee.

Our Storefront Deputy, Bill Kennamer, will join us once again to share what he and his fellow deputies have been working on in North Highline.

Knowledge is power.
Learn, share, and help make North Highline a better and healthier place.
April 1, 2021 at 7 pm – Tell a Neighbor!

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County Executive visiting White Center tomorrow

March 29th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news No Comments »

If you’re in the vicinity of 15th and 100th tomorrow at midmorning, you might see a county delegation headed by County Executive Dow Constantine, talking with media before meeting up with the King County Conservation Corps. As the advance notice points out, the Corps “offers dignified employment opportunities to people experiencing homelessness and poverty while cleaning and removing graffiti from urban unincorporated areas.” While visiting, Constantine is expected to talk about hoping to expand the Corps as part of a job-creation program in his $600 million proposed emergency budget.

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King County Community Investment Committee – want to be part of it?

March 26th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news No Comments »

Just in from King County Local Services:

King County is recruiting community members to serve on a new Community Investment Committee.

This committee will help King County spend…

-$10 million on capital projects in Skyway-West Hill, North Highline, East Renton, Fairwood, and East Federal Way. These capital funds can be used for anything that needs to be built or replaced, such as buildings, sidewalks, bike lanes, landscaping, signs, and play structures.

-$1.3 million for services or programs in Skyway-West Hill and North Highline. This funding can be used for almost anything, such as after-school programs, job training, building maintenance, food, art supplies, and investments in play structures and sidewalks.

\The Community Investment Committee will design and carry out a budgeting process. The process will be centered on racial equity, will build on community strengths, and will address priorities that the community has identified. The committee will make sure that communities have control over what the money is spent on, so the projects that are funded will address real community challenges and have the most benefit.

King County approved funding for this project in its current two-year (2021-2022) budget, and will spend the funds as directed by the communities.

For more information and to apply: kingcounty.gov/depts/local-services/programs/urban-choices.aspx

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Fireworks ban for unincorporated King County is one step closer to finalization, after committee approval

March 18th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, Safety, White Center news 3 Comments »

As planned, the King County Council‘s Committee of the Whole took up the proposed unincorporated-area fireworks ban on Wednesday. With an amendment, it passed 5-4. The amendment by Councilmember Girmay Zahilay (read it here) has three key points:

-The first year this is in effect (2022), violators would be warned rather than fined

-Once fines do take effect, they would be $250, not $1,000

-A study would be required to see what it would take to get immediate, unarmed, non-police response to reports of violations

The fireworks ban, sponsored by our area’s Councilmember Joe McDermott, now goes to the full council for a final vote.

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King County Council to consider renter-rights proposal for unincorporated areas

March 16th, 2021 Tracy Posted in housing, King County, White Center news Comments Off on King County Council to consider renter-rights proposal for unincorporated areas

Announced today:

A transformative tenant protections package has been officially introduced by two King County Councilmembers. The measure, headlined by capped move-in fees and new ‘just cause’ eviction criteria, was officially put forward today by Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Girmay Zahilay.

While King County residents look ahead to a brighter, post-pandemic future, many will continue to live in fear of losing their housing – or struggling to get housing at all.

The proposal, referred to the Community, Health and Housing Services Committee on Tuesday, aims to add a series of protections for both month-to-month and longer-term lease tenants.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout have exacerbated our already difficult housing crisis — putting large numbers of renters on the brink of eviction,” Kohl-Welles said. “For many of our neighbors, it’s a thin line between having a roof overhead and spending the night in a shelter or in a tent on one of our sidewalks. And for many, it’s having to decide to pay for rent or pay for needed medical care. We know that housing is essential to stability for King County residents. By enhancing protections for renters, we can work on the front end to prevent even more people from entering homelessness.”

Key among the protections included is the establishment of “just causes” that must be satisfied before a landlord can terminate a month-to-month tenancy, begin eviction proceedings, or fail to renew a fixed-term tenancy. State law doesn’t currently include just cause provisions for most tenancies, and while a bill is moving through the state legislature to add requirements to the books, that proposal falls well short of the King County proposal.

“After decades of gentrification and a full year of COVID-19 hyper-charging regional housing instability, people are struggling to stay housed. We have to come together and give tenants the housing security needed to survive this crisis,” Zahilay said. “Evictions, especially those inflicted without specific cause or reasonable notice, will exacerbate our homelessness crisis, crime, and public health issues. The legislation introduced today by Councilmember Kohl-Welles and I will be a difference maker for those already struggling.”

In addition to adding the just cause requirement – a significant factor in avoiding a wave of individuals and families losing their housing once temporary protections triggered by the COVID -19 pandemic end – the proposal would add a series of protections for tenants in unincorporated King County, including:

Cap move-in, security and other fees and deposits and allow incremental payment
Require landlords to give up to 4 months’ notice for significant rent increases
Prohibit rent hikes in unsafe or unlivable housing
Allow tenants to adjust rent due date if they live on fixed income
Add protections against eviction over late rent
Prohibit landlords from requesting Social Security number for pre-rental screening
Landlords who violate any of the new protections would be liable for damages in court.

“King County’s homelessness crisis is already one of the worst in the nation. We know that most people who are evicted end up homeless, many of them sleeping unsheltered,” said Katie Wilson, general secretary of the Transit Riders Union. “This ordinance is a common-sense measure that will help to protect tenants from arbitrary evictions when the moratoriums are lifted, so that many more people don’t fall into homelessness.”

In 2019, while unincorporated King County saw more no-cause evictions than any other jurisdiction in King County, according to data shared by Edmund Witter, senior managing attorney with the King County Bar Association. While only 6.8% of all evictions were filed in unincorporated King County, that part of the county made up 20% of all no-cause evictions countywide.

An estimated 22% of households in unincorporated King County are renters, which means about 25,000 households would be impacted by the proposal.

As part of the new legislation, the Executive would set up a central phone number for tenants to report suspected violations and would have to create an outreach plan to educate residents about the new protections. A one-pager with more details is attached.

The legislation would take effect 90 days after full council approval.

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FIREWORKS BAN: County Council consideration next week

March 12th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 3 Comments »

As we reported last week, the County Council’s Committee of the Whole delayed its consideration of the bill to ban fireworks in unincorporated areas. Next Wednesday, it’s on the agenda, 9:30 am. As the preview from council staff notes: “If approved, it would still have to go before full council and then would have a one-year waiting period before it could take effect. It would not ban properly permitted fireworks displays or impact fireworks on tribal trust lands.” Read the bill here. If you want to comment, before or during the meeting, the agenda explains how.

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Answer a survey, get money!

March 9th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on Answer a survey, get money!

From King County:

From our conversations to-date, we understand that stopping flooding and pollution, and increasing food security and access to parks and green space, are priorities in the White Center / North Highline area.

We want community members to drive what projects should look like, where they should be located, and the needs they see in their neighborhoods.

As a next step, we’re hoping to get additional feedback from the White Center / North Highline community via a quick 10-15 minute survey. Everybody who completes the survey will receive a $15 flat rate visa gift card as a thank you for their participation.

We’d love to get your help in two ways:

Take the survey! The survey is translated in the following languages:
English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/H7CSQL7
Somali: Sahanka Deegaanka – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JSY3YWQ
Vietnamese: Bản Khảo Sát Cộng Đồng – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/B2RMZPN
Khmer: ការស្ទង់មតិសហគមន៍ – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/B2T3YSQ
Spanish: Encuesta de la comunidad – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BWLG9K5

Share this survey with your friends, contacts, and neighbors in White Center.

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COUNTY COUNCIL: Committee consideration of fireworks-ban bill postponed

March 4th, 2021 Tracy Posted in Government, King County, White Center news Comments Off on COUNTY COUNCIL: Committee consideration of fireworks-ban bill postponed

The proposal to ban fireworks in unincorporated King County hasn’t made it out of a King County Council committee yet. The council’s Committee of the Whole was supposed to hear it yesterday, but ran out of time because of other long-running items and a need for members to move on to another meeting. This area’s Councilmember Joe McDermott promised it will be on the agenda for the committee’s next meeting (March 17th). He said the delay wasn’t significant since even if it was passed soon, its timetable means it couldn’t take effect before next year. The ban was originally up for consideration early last year – but then the pandemic hit, and it was shelved for months.

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Answered the North Highline Community Needs List survey yet?

February 24th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 2 Comments »

Reminder – the Community Needs List for North Highline is still a work in progress, and you still have the chance to help shape it, King County reminds you:

Last year, King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council told the Department of Local Services to collaborate with those who live and work in unincorporated areas to create community needs lists. These are lists of projects for King County to complete in support of each community’s vision.

The first step in creating a community needs list is to gather requests from people who live and work in that community via an online survey at publicinput.com/UKCcommunityneedslist.

King County Local Services — the local government in unincorporated areas — aims to get as many people as possible in those areas to share their ideas by completing the survey for the community where they live or work:

These surveys will guide what will eventually become community needs lists, which will help the county prioritize projects and will inform the development of the county’s budget. Local Services will coordinate with other King County and partner agencies to develop actionable programs, services, or improvements that the county can deliver.

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King County Councilmembers’ Town Hall on March 3rd

February 23rd, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, Online, White Center news Comments Off on King County Councilmembers’ Town Hall on March 3rd

Next week, you can join four County Councilmembers, including our area’s rep Joe McDermott, for a Virtual Town Hall. From his announcement:

To say that this has been a busy start to the year is an understatement, so to keep you up to speed on important work we’re doing at the County Council this year I’m teaming up with a few of my colleagues for a virtual town hall on Wednesday, March 3rd – and I hope you’ll join us! … While we’ll be laying out our 2021 work at the beginning, the majority of the town hall will be dedicated to making sure we also understand your priorities for the County and region – this is an exciting chance for your voice to be heard by several members of the council at one (hopefully convenient) time.

That time is 6 pm March 3rd. For viewing/call-in info, go here.

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King County Council considering fireworks ban for unincorporated areas

February 20th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, Safety, White Center news 3 Comments »

(File photo, fireworks stand in White Center)

The long-in-the-works fireworks ban for unincorporated King County is back before the County Council. It was on its way to consideration one year ago – and then the pandemic hit, and shelved it. Now our area’s County Councilmember Joe McDermott has introduced a ban proposal, and it was discussed in the council’s Committee of the Whole last Wednesday. You can read the proposal here; you can watch the discussion in the meeting video here. McDermott said the July 2019 fire that killed a 70-year-old man in North Highline is a major motivation for him to get the ban passed; he noted at Wednesday’s meeting that 25 jurisdictions around unincorporated King County already ban fireworks. (That includes all the cities touching on unincorporated North Highline.) The bill would still allow permits to be granted for public fireworks displays. No action was taken at the meeting; the proposal will be up for action at the next committee meeting, and then a month’s notice is required before it can be brought up for a vote of the full County Council. You can email council@kingcounty.gov if you want to comment on the proposal.

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King County Council considering requiring hazard pay for grocery workers in unincorporated areas

February 12th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 2 Comments »

Seattle’s done it. Burien’s done it. Now King County might require hazard pay for grocery workers too. Here’s the announcement:

More than a year after the first death in the U.S. was reported in King County, grocery workers continue to risk their lives to serve people who need their groceries, often at wages near or just above minimum wage while grocery store operators have reaped windfall profits.

Members of the King County Council are now working to address that risk with legislation introduced Thursday that would require a $4 per hour hazard pay for employees at large grocery stores in unincorporated King County.

“For the last year I have visited with, and thanked the checkers, stockers, butchers and deli workers at the grocery stores I shop. I have seen and heard their fatigue, and also their courage and dedication to their customers,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who drafted the legislation. “These extraordinary times call for governments like King County to respond with extraordinary help. I am proud to stand with these frontline workers and ensure that the risks they and their families are taking, and the dedication they are showing, is reflected in our laws, and in their paychecks. Four dollars an hour is a small price to pay to ensure the continued service they are providing to our communities.”

The legislation, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Girmay Zahilay and Dave Upthegrove, would require the pay until the COVID-19 emergency declared by Executive Dow Constantine ends.

“At a time when local governments are struggling to fund basic services, large grocery sites are making record profits while their low-wage employees face the hazards of working during a pandemic,” Upthegrove said. “This temporary bump in pay can alleviate the financial injustice experienced by frontline essential workers who risk their lives—and their families’ lives—without the dignity of a fair wage to support them.”

The cities of Seattle and Burien have recently approved and implemented similar measures, and other local governments have taken similar steps to ensure frontline grocery workers are paid for the risk they undertake in their daily work.

“The pandemic economy has worsened inequities for workers and communities,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “While small businesses and governments are stretched thin providing basic and essential services, many large grocery chains are seeing record profits. And while that’s good for them, it’s fair that they share with the frontline workers who show up every day to help keep our communities fed and our economy moving.”

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White Center Food Bank search, King County plans, more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s first 2021 meeting

February 7th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, White Center Food Bank, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The White Center Food Bank‘s search for a new home and King County reps’ update on local services headlined Thursday night’s online meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

WHITE CENTER FOOD BANK: Associate executive director Carmen Smith was the guest. While she discussed WCFB’s search for a new home – since its current site is going to be redeveloped for affordable housing and other nonprofits’ headquarters – she offered some background and other updates first. WCFB is dedicated to ensuring that food is a right, not a privilege. WCFB has been around almost half a century.

COVID 19 has forced WCFB to switch to an outdoor grocery sort of model, Farmers’ Market-style.

Clients can visit the WCFB up to three times a month – here’s how their usage increased last year

“The community really showed up for us (last year),” Smith said.

Relocation has been at least four years in the making – even if they had chosen to be part of the redevelopment, they surveyed clients and found that the current location is “really hard to get to.” They were missing “a large pocket of northeast WC.”

They’ve been looking for a new home for “almost two years now and not having a lot of luck.” A property on 13th SW near Steve Cox Memorial Park looked good but someone else is buying it. They’ve looked at a wide range of possibilities and “nothing is the right fit.” They’ve got a few more to review, such as the former Bank of America building, finally on the market. Here’s what they’re looking for:

They really want to stay in WC but could move outside if it comes to that. Their deadline for getting out of the current location “might be within the next year” depending on how the permits for the redevelopment goes. “It’s super-scary,” Smith acknowledged.

Is the county helping? NHUAC’s Liz Giba asked. County Councilmember Joe McDermott said yes.

What about the never-used Top Hat quarantine site? “It looks kind of small,” Smith observed. McDermott said that could be a possibility – that site’s future is supposed to be decided with community consultation.

KING COUNTY: Councilmember McDermott was asked to offer some highlights of what’s going on. He started with the county’s COVID-19 response. He hit some recent highlights such as King County (and six others comprising two “regions”) moving to reopening phase 2 as of this past Monday. Vaccinations were the main topic of his e-newsletter last week (see it here).

He said it’s important for people to know they’re not alone in having trouble making appointments.

Though the county has never had to activate the aforementioned Top Hat quarantine site, it continues to maintain the site to be ready if needed, ‘for the duration of the pandemic.” He also acknowledged the ongoing interest in a Housing/Opportunity analysis for North Highline. There’s a similar type of review, for housing only, that’s been done and will be presented in a County Council committee; McDermott promised to let NHUAC know about hearings and meetings.

Next, KC Local Services director John Taylor presented updates. “We’ve been out a lot,” distributing masks and hand sanitizer, especially in unincorporated areas with a large low-income population:

Local Services also has been “working on getting local businesses to survive this pandemic”:

Community Needs List development is also big.

Money for participatory budgeting will come from sources including marijuana taxes.

Taylor also noted that Local Services’s major divisions have kept running throughout the pandemic – Road Services has been busy:

Permitting also has been going “full speed ahead,” Taylor said:

Then, Q&A: How will community members participating in the participatory budgeting be identified? asked NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin. “We don’t know yet,” said Taylor, but noted that racial equity will factor into it. McDermott said they’re “making sure we have a broad input to decide how to spend these funds.”

What’s being evaluated for mass-vaccination sites? McDermott was asked. He noted that Kent and Renton were chosen because of the transmission rates in those areas. County sites are meant to be stopgaps but if you have a health-care provider, that’s your first stop.

When will the fireworks-ban bill be on a committee agenda? he was asked. It has been re-introduced, and on February 17th at 9:30 am, it’ll go before the Committee of the Whole, he said.

Other discussion included the concentration of low-income housing in White Center, and potential zoning changes compounding existing “substandard development.” Taylor countered that now is the time to speak up about what you want to see in zoning. “To be sure, there’s a tradeoff between more density and quality of life in a community … but there’s also a sweet spot.”

Giba thanked the county for allotting masks and hand sanitizer to the North Highline Fire District and said NHFD will have a distribution event in March.

McDermott wrapped up by reflecting on the effects of the pandemic beyond health and economy … even something as seemingly simple as the fact this meeting had to be held online. “I hope we will build back better.”

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Maj. Jeffrey Flohr spoke about an emphasis patrol held around the turn of the year, adding an extra car to Skyway/White Center – making three cars at that time instead of the usual two – for a few hours a night. That happened in a time of rising violence, drug problems, and traffic trouble.

Firearms crimes and “narcotic distribution crimes” have been a focus. Most of the latter have been people coming in from other communities to sell drugs and guns “to our residents” …. “people in crisis” that were being “preyed on.” He showed the results of just one night:

One suspect known to deputies had a lot of drugs on him “and we were really excited to get him off the streets. Maj. Flohr qlso showed fake Oxy pills that are actually made from fentanyl and are endangering people.

A traffic stop netted this gun and drugs.

Fury the drug-detection dog helped:

Dogs like Fury are NOT trained to detect marijuana, Maj. Flohr said … just illegal drugs. The table Fury is sitting on included drugs seized in White Center and elsewhere – worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fake credit cards and tools to make them, too, plus thousands of dollars in cash; six people were arrested, and one child was taken into protective custody. “None of these people were from our area,” Maj. Flohr stressed, saying none were addicts, either – just involved in “business” with “poison.” In response to a question, he said the suspects are still in jail.

Here’s what KCSO is focusing on:

They are working on “wraparound services,” he said.

Whatever happened to Block Watches? asked an attendee. “We’re trying to get this going again,” said Maj. Flohr, as the result of many community comments.

Another question: What’s being done to address the root cause of all this? Best Starts for Kids is one thing, Taylor mentioned. also: Deputies are getting trained in LEAD, which has long been in the works for White Center, Flohr said.

Storefront Deputy Bill Kennamer‘s update was next. He said traffic complaints on 106th and 107th have been on his radar – literally – he spends time there clocking cars but is not detecting many speeders.

Commercial burglaries in the unincorporated South Park area and Beverly Park have been a problem – 9600 block of 4th Ave. S., “a very dark industrial neighborhood” – he’s met with businesses and discussed crime-prevention advice. Last month saw 8 commercial burglaries – “up a lot” – and 2 residential burglaries.

The 9800 block 18th SW problem house is believed to be linked to a trash problem that the county has cleaned up;

Kennamer is working on a case against the house.

Another recurring problem: RVs and abandoned cars. He tries to get RV dwellers into housing but “100 percent of the time it’s been unsuccessful,” he says. LEAD outreach services will be a game-changer, he believes. “There should be more counselors and advocates out in the area. Right now there are none.” Towing or impounding an RV is a last resort, said Maj. Flohr.

One last point – “a lady who is breaking windows in White Center” has behavioral issues and “we have nowhere to take her.” She broke windows on 16th SW with a hammer, he elaborated.

NEXT MEETING: 7 pm March 4th; watch for the link.

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THURSDAY: White Center Food Bank’s future, King County Local Services, more, @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

February 1st, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, White Center Food Bank, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: White Center Food Bank’s future, King County Local Services, more, @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

Big lineup this Thursday at the online meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – here’s the preview:

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

Where: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting
When: Thursday, February 4, 2021 at 7 pm
How: Join Zoom Meeting: https://kingcounty.zoom.us/j/98750682577

Meeting ID: 987 5068 2577
Passcode (all caps}: NHUAC2021

Unable to join via Zoom? Please Call: 1 253 215 8782
Meeting ID: 987 5068 2577
Passcode: 956569157

Happy Groundhog Day to North Highline, movie buffs and Bill Murray fans! 2020 is over and 2021 offers new opportunities to support a healthy community that does not back away from our struggles. At our last meeting with Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Sen. Joe Nguyen, we heard that the White Center Food Bank (WCFB) may soon be displaced from its home near Dick Thurnau Memorial Park. WCFB’s Associate Executive Director Carmen Smith will join our first meeting of 2021 to update us on this essential community organization.

Because North Highline is an unincorporated area (not part of a city), King County serves as both our regional (county) and local (municipal) governments. Many of the decisions that will form our future are being made by King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council and implemented by King County’s Department of Local Services. King County government is a common denominator for the people of North Highline. Its impact includes: COVID-19 to public health to economic and ethnic justice to segregation and discrimination to displacement, fair housing and opportunity to schools, parks and open spaces to density and permitting to roads and infrastructure, police, and public safety to fireworks and cannabis shops to taxes and the budget….

That is why NHUAC is pleased that we will also be joined by King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and John Taylor, Director of the Department of Local Services.

The King County Sheriff’s Office is another essential part of our community. This month we will be joined by Major Jeffrey Flohr and Deputy Bill Kennamer.

Knowledge is power.
Learn, share, and help make North Highline a better place.
Thursday, February 4, 2021 at 7 pm – Tell a Neighbor!

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You’re invited to talk about anti-displacement recommendations for North Highline

January 20th, 2021 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on You’re invited to talk about anti-displacement recommendations for North Highline

As part of charting North Highline’s future, strategies are being developed to fight displacement. You’re invited to talk about it on January 30th. From King County’s David Goodman:

I would like to invite you to the upcoming Anti-Displacement Recommendations Discussion on January 30, 2021 from 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM, where community members will work together to develop recommendations for preventing displacement and increasing affordable housing in Skyway-West Hill and North Highline (White Center).

We will go over the strategies being considered and review the community feedback heard in the 2020 anti-displacement workshop series, but most of this meeting will be devoted developing recommendations and generating additional ideas for the County to consider.

Registration is now open!

All Skyway-West Hill and North Highline community members are invited to join this important conversation, even if you have not attended the prior anti-displacement workshops. Since this is a working meeting with limited time, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the strategies being discussed before January 30. Here are a couple easy ways to do that:

Check out our Anti-Displacement Strategy Toolkit – this toolkit contains the slides from each workshop session and helpful written explanations of each strategy. We will also be adding case studies to the toolkit in early January.

Watch the recorded Anti-Displacement Workshop Sessions. Each session is over 1.5 hours so it’s a bit of a commitment, but something you could listen to and watch while doing dishes or other activities.
Please register by January 26. To register go to: eventbrite.com/e/anti-displacement-recommendations-discussion-registration-132876367793

This meeting will be held over Zoom, with meeting access information emailed to registered attendees. For any questions, please feel free to email Yasmeen Perez at yaperez@kingcounty.gov.

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REMINDER: North Highline Community Needs Survey open until year’s end

December 16th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on REMINDER: North Highline Community Needs Survey open until year’s end

Have you answered the survey yet? David Goodman wants to ensure you are heard before time runs out:

I am writing to encourage you to share your priorities for your neighborhood on the North Highline Community Needs List survey by the end of 2020. Beginning in early 2021, our department will begin reviewing these priorities with other departments to prepare for further consultation with community members in the spring.

The list of ideas is now over 150 items long! Some of the priorities that have been most frequently identified so far include:

Sidewalks, street lighting, and street trees
Traffic calming measures in residential neighborhoods
Create pocket parks and community-centric amenities like a pea patch or community garden
Improvements at White Center Heights Park
Crisis response for those needing mental health or substance-abuse services
Early intervention, prevention for kids and youth
Clean up abandoned or vacant buildings
Prioritize working on gang, drug issues and long standing nuisance houses/repeat offenders

On this survey, you’ll be able to see all of the community-generated ideas for the Community Needs List and identify which ones are a priority for you. You can also add new ideas if your priorities are not reflected already.

There will be plenty of opportunity to provide feedback and continue this conversation in 2021, but the next few weeks are the best time to make sure your idea receives consideration from King County.

This survey and all other materials are also available in Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese, and Khmer.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council talks Legislature, stormwater @ December meeting

December 8th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council talks Legislature, stormwater @ December meeting

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Previews were the order of the night when the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council met online last Thursday.

Two of our area’s 34th District state legislators previewed the next session, and a King County rep previewed

LEGISLATORS’ PREVIEWS: State Sen. Joe Nguyen and State House Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon were the first guests, to talk about the legislative session ahead. Sen. Nguyen – just elected to a leadership post – opened with a recap of the busy time between sessions. He said he works a lot on transportation and technology (his professional background is in the latter). “Helping youths be successful” is another focus, “on the human-services side.” Leading up to the session, “progressive revenue” has been a major focus for him, with so many needs. He talked about growing up in Park Lake Homes – now Seola Gardens – and how the kinds of programs that helped his family then need support and investment now. Climate and sentencing reform are also priorities.

Rep. Fitzgibbon hopes to continue as the chair of the Energy and Environment Committee (House leadership decisions will be made next week). There are many environmental issues, he noted, from addressing air/water pollution to improving recycling and composting. He now lives close to White Center, he added, in south Highland Park, not far north of the city-limit line. He hopes to pursue the fireworks-law changes again this year, to help facilitate a ban in unincorporated King County (provided the County Council passes one). He also talked about land use and ensuring that affordable housing is more equitably distributed.

NHUAC’s Liz Giba talked about what she had found regarding a sizable amount of affordable housing being built in White Center and Fitzgibbon agreed that more had to be done to avoid that sort of concentration. “We have to find a balance,” said Nguyen, while again noting that affordable housing served his family years ago. Giba talked about the need for an Opportunity Analysis, with White Center having been ranked as a “low-opportunity neighborhood” with rampant health challenges. NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin added that there’s a cycle – they’ve been told affordable housing is built there because the costs are lower, but that leads to increased community needs that can’t be addressed.

Dobkin also pointed out that unincorporated North Highline is plagued by rural-style rules, or lack of them, such as no required trash pickup, no revenue for road repairs, no tree protection. Fitzgibbon agreed that the Growth Management Act doesn’t account for how unincorporated urban areas like White Center and Skyway can be appropriately addressed. He also agreed that it’s most appropriate for development to go where there’s infrastructure to support it. Ultimately, North Highline needs to be incorporated into “one of your neighbors,” he said. Dobkin pointed out that it’s not likely to happen for a long time, but in the meantime the area is served by as little as two deputies at a time. “There’s a lot of connecting problems … I wish there were an easy answer,” Rep. Fitzgibbon said.

At that point, King County Local Services Director John Taylor chimed in. “I will say this, there are some good things going on for unincorporated King County,” largely because of his department’s creation, he said – among them, the Subarea Plan development, which is “now a community plan,” not just a land-use plan as originally envisioned. That’ll include a Community Needs List, which is the place for the kind of needs Dobkin detailed. That’s not necessarily a guarantee such services will be funded, but it starts to set up some accountability, he said. The recently passed budget includes a $10 million capital fund for unincorporated King County, as well as the $1.8 million (or so) marijuana taxes that’ll be reallotted. “We’re a lot better off today than we were two years ago,” Taylor declared, adding that pre-COVID, they were close to sending a road levy to voters … but that will be revisited. He said the tree protection issue might be easily solvable; the trash issue, not so easy to address. (He revealed he worked as a trash pickup person for 5 years.)

In Q&A, Sen. Nguyen said he’s been working on the “state bank” bill, which he sees as a “fantastic opportunity …I’d rather keep those dollars in the community instead of sending them out.” Next Q: Any chance of state help for White Center impacts from the West Seattle Bridge closure? Sen. Nguyen said a transportation package is a priority but the state doesn’t have jurisdiction for traffic mitigation. He added that the area’s US Rep. Pramila Jayapal is working on bridge funding too.

An attendee asked about absentee landlords; the state doesn’t have jurisdiction there, but local code compliance might help.
Next question: Whatever happened to the microhousing “demonstration project”? No further details – even Taylor hadn’t heard anything recently.

One attendee asked about the White Center Food Bank‘s need to find a new space because of the affordable-housing project taking ovrer its site. Sen. Nguyen said he’s been talking to them to figure out how to help.

What about the Top Hat site that’s never been used for COVID quarantine – a rumor suggested it might be a supervised injection site. Giba said County Councilmember Joe McDermott had assured them the site’s fate had not been settled and would not be without community input.

GREEN STORMWATER INFRASTRUCTURE: Jessica Engel from the county explained the concept. She showed an example – Hillside Church in Kent donating use of an underutilized parking lot that was converted into 44 garden beds, plus cisterns, composting systems, and bioswales.

It’s growing a lot of food and not even done yet, Engel said. She said they’d like to hear from the White Center community about what kind of project might work, what kind of incentives might be needed, etc. This is Phase 2 of preparatory outreach, she added, citing lots of enthusiasm so far:

They have funding for 2021 and 2022 to “implement what the community wants to see.” Now they’re looking for more suggestions about who they should talk to.

In Q&A, Engel was asked about runoff standards for new development. It’s pretty stringent – with a manual – she replied, so what they’re trying to get under control is what existing development. produces. What about cleaning up Hickman Lake? Engel said some community conversation would be needed – “do people want it to be restored? recreational opportunity? ecological function?” The program, by the way, is funded by a fee that property owners pay plus grant funding.

A new White Center resident asked about the overall goal of the program: Reduce flooding and reduce polluted runoff getting into local waterways.

CRIME: Deputy Bill Kennamer said that for October, major crimes are up (largely fueled by auto theft), less-serious crimes are down, though he suspects the latter might just be fewer victims filing reports.

He said the recent West Seattle Marijuana Store heist was a “takeover robbery,” armed, forcing the manager to open the safe, and also making off with several hundred dollars in merchandise. He plans to talk with cannabis-shop operators about “a better safety plan.”

He also said they’re looking for the suspect in the 14th SW SWAT domestic-violence situation.

Maj. Jeff Flohr followed to talk about firearms crimes. A special team has confiscated 118 guns from felons in the past couple years. “That’s a real impact,” he said. Also: “LEAD is still coming to White Center.” And he said there’s ongoing discussion about policing reform and supplementary service. Yes, “the cops DO want this” – homelessness and crisis responses, and more. “We’re very open to criticism, we’re very open to change,” he insisted. He would like to have a third car in the area, though. White Center only has about half the officers per capita that Seattle does, though, he added. The budget’s done, staffing’s not changing, special emphasis teams remain.

Giba noted that the previoud day was the 14th anniversary of Deputy Steve Cox‘s murder.

NEXT MEETING: January 7th, 7 pm, online.

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Newest plan for Subarea Plan @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s November meeting

November 10th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The reinvention/relaunch of King County planning for this area headlined the November meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

NORTH HIGHLINE SUBAREA PLAN UPDATE: David Goodman from the King County Department of Local Services made a repeat appearance. For context, he shared a demographic snapshot of North Highline compared to King County as a whole, and a few trends:

“The relative affordability of White Center has decreased quite a bit,” Goodman observed. He also showed a snapshot of recent developments – “not a tidal wave of development, but some pretty significant” additions.

And he explained Opportunity Zones, which cover two census tracts in the area:

There’s no requirement to disclose when a project is being funded as part of this program, Goodman noted.

Updating the Subarea Plan process, he said its scope has been expanded beyond its original land-use focus:

The work already done on the land-use plan will be incorporated into “this new structure,” Goodman promised. The Community Needs List that’ll be built will help shape what goes into the next county budget, he added. Here’s the type of topics they hope to hear about:

In the nine months of outreach done before the planning process was “paused” in March, here’s some of what Goodman said they heard a lot about;

“The book is still open on all these things,” he stressed. Here’s the timeline over the next year and a half:

They already have some ideas for the Community Needs List:

NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin asked for more information about the Opportunity Zone – whether construction that happens in it results in tax-exempt properties. Short answer, no, said Goodman. NHUAC’s Liz Giba suggested that the countywide permit process needs to be “tightened up.” Impact fees should be reconsidered to help consistently fund sidewalks and schools, for example. She also wanted to see an “opportunity analysis” and more green space – additional pocket parks “in places where there are decrepit buildings right now,” for starters.

Traffic calming is badly needed, too, said Dobkin, with speeding problems on east-west arterials.

King County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Kennamer said mandatory trash pickup should be considered – it’s optional in the unincorporated area but not in cities, he noted.

Goodman also said they’ve heard a lot of interest in smaller commercial spaces – “It’s a little tricky to find a way to make that happen, but it’s one thing we’re thinking about a lot.” They’re trying to “think of some creative ways to incentivize” this, realizing that landlords might be more inherently comfortable with large established tenants. Giba noted that small businesses are more popular than large corporate ones, and recalled large buildings’ commercial pasts, such as the DSHS building on 15th having been a grocery store. She also wondered if anything’s being done about the West Seattle Bridge detour traffic’s effects on White Center; Goodman said he has a regular call with Seattle city planners and is talking with them about some engagement in White Center. Deputy Kennamer says this is affecting streets all the way down to 116th. He also noted he’s getting a radar gun soon and plans to “run traffic” on 26th, 28th, 106th, 107th, and 112th.

His regular update was next up at the meeting:

DEPUTY KENNAMER: He said he can’t book people into jail right now for trespassing or theft, He also noted that staffing remains low and not likely to change. He said everyone arrested in the shooting behind the Smoke Shop pleaded guilty recently. He mentioned that people keep breaking into the house next to the burned-down Yarington’s Funeral Home site, where there was a fire recently.

A discussion of graffiti vandalism broke out from there; Kennamer said the murals have been the most-effective tool used against it, but also observed that there is not a big problem with gang graffiti locally, just tagging.

Regarding property crimes, Kennamer said auto theft’s up, residential burglaries are down.

CREDIT UNION STRATEGIC PLANNING: The meeting began with a presentation about grant opportunities through the Community Development Financial Institution Fund.

Speaker Rick Thomas said they’re working with Express Credit Union to help people in the area with financial opportunities, through a grant program.

He said the program could even lead to an ATM or part-time presence in the community for Express, which has had a program going in Othello and hopes to replicate that success in White Center.

COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS: White Center Kiwanis is selling nuts as they do every year – text Scott at 206-465-8432 if you’re interested.

NEXT MEETING: The next first Thursday is December 2nd – watch here and nhuac.org for updates.

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