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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WEDNESDAY: Public hearing on King County budget proposal

October 20th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on WEDNESDAY: Public hearing on King County budget proposal

Got something to say about the proposed King County budget for next year? Wednesday night is your chance to say it. 6-8 pm online, there’ll be a public hearing. This page has information on how to participate.

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County government’s annual check-in, plus Hub project preview: What happened @ 2020 North Highline Town Hall

October 18th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center Community Development Association, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Usually, the county’s annual Town Hall for unincorporated North Highline fills the community room at Seola Gardens with people.

This pandemic year, that’s still out of the question, so instead, county department heads, managers, and other reps – plus one “partner” agency rep with new info about a future major project – filled a screen Thursday night. Otherwise – the format was much the same, minus pre- and post-presentations mingling.

Department of Local Services director John Taylor emceed. County Councilmember Joe McDermott joined “from my basement office in West Seattle.”

First up: Councilmember McDermott noted that after seven months (original WCN report here), the controversial county-owned quarantine/isolation site in Top Hat had yet to host anyone, but the county’s continuing to keep it ready and available. What about the site’s future? He thinks it can serve “an important role” in the area but insists “the county doesn’t have a plan” – he cited ideas he says he’s heard, from housing to open space. He promises that the county will work with the community in deciding the site’s future.

McDermott also spoke about the budget, on which the County Council is working right now. A highlight: $1.8 million in marijuana-tax revenue is planned to be diverted to Local Services, $450,000 of it for participatory budgeting, the rest for “an urban unincorporated King County investment pool.” And he noted the county has had “four supplemental budgets” to deal with COVID response.

He fielded a question about the scooter-sharing program launched two months ago, noting it’s a 1-year pilot project. The program, with scooters from two companies, started in mid-August. Any extension would be up to the County Council. “I’m optimistic about the experiment and hearing from White Center about their experiences.”

McDermott also was asked about the status of the proposed fireworks ban. “The legislation I introduced to ban them in unincorporated King County would mirror most cities … a year ago on 4th of July, we had a tragic death of a North Highline resident because of fireworks,” and that’s why he worked on a ban. It’s been delayed by everyone working remotely – he hopes to get the ban enacted before year’s end, he said, but since it can’t go into effect until a year after passage (that’s a state mandate), even if he does, the ban wouldn’t cover next 4th of July.

Another question: What about a space for the LGBTQ+ community in White Center? McDermott said that’s a great addition to the community needs list and also something that could be discussed in the context of the Sub-Area Plan. (Explained later in the meeting, here’s what the needs list is about:)

The North Highline Subarea Plan is expected to go to the council late next year and be adopted in 2022, McDermott said.

Elections director Julie Wise made the next presentation, saying they’re challenging voters to break 90 percent turnout – you should get your ballot no later than Monday. She said they’re confident the ballots will get to everyone within the 5-day post-mailing window. Ballot drop boxes are open – 73 of them around the coumty, each weighing half a ton – the local drop box is outside White Center Library. “We will have staff emptying those drop boxes every single day.” Before your ballot arrives, get ready by reading the voter pamphlet (all the candidate and measure info is online too). If you’re going to return your ballot via a drop box, please do it BEFORE Election Day, Wise implored. Any questions? You can call 206-296-VOTE. “Vote early, vote early, vote early,” she implored.

Next: Assessor John Wilson explained ways people can reach his office:

He said they’ve received 9,000 applications for tax exemptions this year and they have a backlog – if you are waiting and need a deferral for the second-half property tax payment, to January 31st, apply by next Monday (October 19th).

Regarding property values, COVID has not had a significant effect on residential values; they’re still watching to see how the West Seattle Bridge closure will affect area values. Values have gone down a bit in “near-in” areas like downtown, West Seattle, White Center, 1 to 5 percent, as a “market correction” more than anything.

Eligibility for the senior tax reduction has been expanded:

Now – a very different picture from residential – the Assessor’s Office wants to hear about impacts on commercial property:

Then, on to law enforcement. From the King County Sheriff’s Office Southwest Precinct, Major Jeffrey Flohr presented. He went through several topics, some of which he discussed at the previous week’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting (WCN coverage here), plus some general crime prevention/reduction notes:

he gave some light on what happened at 17th and 107th earlier in the day – see our separate report here. He had high praise for White Center Deputy Bill Kennamer, calling him a “rock star” and saying he’s safe from budget cuts. He said two deputies are usually working in the WC area, but they also back up the Skyway area, and vice versa, so a big problem in either area can have up to four deputies on it. Peter Truong continues working as a community deputy.

Maj. Flohr also mentioned that online reporting is back (for non-emergencies) and is available in more than 10 languages.

The camera test program will be “out of this precinct” and it’ll likely start in November/December, as he detailed at the NHUAC meeting.

A question answered by Major Flohr: Noise from modified vehicles – said the attendee, “it’s not a victimless crime … my family and others pay the price for the decision not to address this crime.” The attendee wonders what’s being done about it. Maj. Flohr said deputies are encouraged to go after that kind of violation when they see, or hear about it.

Another question: What funding will replace the marijuana-tax money that’s being moved? Nothing – but, he said, it won’t affect the patroling availability in WC. Councilmember McDermott said the pandemic recession is causing cuts in various county departments but this isn’t an additional cut – service levels will be maintained.

Also: What do you do when you think you hear gunshots? Call 911. That will help them triangulate where it might have happened. DON’T call the non-emergency line – that won’t.

Aaron Garcia of the White Center Community Development Association provided an update too, mostly focused on “The Hub,” the project long in the works at 8th/108th, where the White Center Food Bank and Mary’s Place shelter are now. (Here’s his full slide deck.) Of the agency overall, Garcia explained, “We wear many hats .. I like to explain the CDA as four buckets of support … family development …economic development … community building … youth leadership development (like) White Center to White House …” Since the pandemic began, they’ve distributed more than half a million dollars to community members. He showed a rendering of the project at 8th/108th:

He said a Native architect is leading the project. Garcia also showed the principles guiding the project, dubbed the White Center Hub, and its environmental context:

“We have to be sure we’re being good environmental stewards of the land,” he said, ensuring that they preserve trees on the site, for example, and ‘actually centering everything around that Madrone tree in the middle,” with a recognition of the “seven generations” Indigenous concept. “We’re trying to … ensure this will be one of the first Net Zero affordable-housing projects.” Another preview:

WCCDA, Southwest Youth and Family Services, the YES Foundation, Be:Seattle will all be partnering at “The Hub.”

Back to county staff:

Susie Levy provided a COVID-19 response update. Nearest testing sites: Tukwila and West Seattle (Southwest Athletic Complex). Rates are rising across the county, 92 of 100,000 recently, almost four times the rate they’re hoping for, and the North Highline rate is about 200 per 100.000. She discussed the racial inequities of how COVID-19 affects areas. “We’re committed to implementing a racially equitable response to this crisis.” Levy also touted the King County health services available in the area.

Next, Dwight Dively provided a budget primer, since the County Council is in the thick of budget review right now.

One key point – outside assistance for COVID relief currently ends at year’s end, and if more doesn’t come through, that’s going to put an end to many things. While the pandemic has meant a decline in demand for some things like transit, there’s been increased demand for other things, like health services. He also spotlighted the anti-racism focus of the budget. If you have budget input, get it to Councilmember McDermott!

First question after Dively’s presentation: What’s up with the West Seattle Bridge and its impacts on White Center? McDermott fielded that. He mentioned that the City of Seattle’s been focusing its mitigation efforts on its own area but he’d be glad to surface concerns – get him details.

Second: White Center needs more sidewalks.How can walking be made safer? Dively said that’s the kind of thing that the money earmarked for “capital investment in the unincorporated area” could be used for. McDermott mentioned various transportation-funding challenges.

So “why is the county intent on increasing density in North Highline” if it can’t cover the needs? Taylor said the county’s Growth Management Act didn’t contemplate urban unincorporated areas and ways to equitably share tax revenue to cover their needs. Taylor also noted that a new roads director has just been hired and one of her attributes is a “deep knowledge” of funding, as they work on ways to get needs covered.

Roads Division: Lydia Reynolds-Jones mentioned the 8th/102nd roundabout, road signs helping people understand how to use it:

She also had some stats – WC has 3 percent of the unincorporated area’s total road mileage.

They’re also working on an ADA plan for the entire county. There’ll be a public comment period for the draft plan starting in December. And she showed a list of projects under way now, plus some miscellaneous stats:

Attendee question: Are sandbags available? Yes, Renton’s the closest site – more info here.

From the permitting division, Jim Chen explained everything can be done online.

Department of Community and Human ServicesMark Ellerbrook – the county’s second largest department “by budget” – had more to say about the quarantine/isolation facilities – if you need to isolate or quarantine and can’t safely do it at home, call!

If you need rent assistance, here’s the program for you:

And he noted the two Anti-Displacement Workshops coming up for North Highline and Skyway-West Hill, October 17th (this Saturday) and November 7th – find out about them here.

Question for him – besides a workshop, what strategies are they pursuing to fight displacement? Discussing strategies like Community Land Trusts and inclusionary zoning – where a project has to include a certain amount of affordable housing 0 are strategies that’ll be discussed at the workshop, he replied.

He also was asked during the meeting: What about the fair-housing assessment? It’s not ready yet, he said.

Then came an emergency preparedness presentation by Michelle Chatterton. She recommended hazardready.org, signing up for Alert King County as well as flood alerts. To sign up for Alert KC, text ALERTKC to 99411:

DNRP deputy director Mo McBroom reviewed environmental efforts.

She also talked about Parks projects – the 5-acre site we featured earlier this year; improvements for the White Center Natural Area (a pathway) and at Steve Cox Memorial Park, basketball-court improvements plus isntallation of two Portland Loos, Plus, she said there’ll be a “Spooky Town Hall” event at Steve Cox on October 24th. And she had some resource links:

Taylor concluded with a fervent wish that the Town Hall will be back to an in-person event next year.

P.S. See all the county slides from the meeting here.

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THURSDAY: King County Town Hall for North Highline (updated!)

October 12th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 4 Comments »

12:30 AM: It was announced so long ago, you might have forgotten about it – but it’s almost here – the next King County Town Hall for White Center and the rest of North Highline. It’s planned for this Thursday, October 15th, 7 pm, online. You can connect via Zoom or dial in via 253-215-8782. Meeting ID: 965 1297 0751. (If you want an idea of what the meeting will be like, here’s the slide deck from the one held for Fairwood last month.)

ADDED 10:34 AM: We’re told the county is working on NEW connection information, so we’ve crossed out the link above, and will add the new link/info when we get it.

ADDED TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Here’s the viewing/listening info:

Users can join via Zoom at https://kingcounty.zoom.us/j/95932613768 (case-sensitive passcode is VOTE2020!).

They can also join via phone by calling 253-215-8782 and providing the meeting ID number: 959 3261 3768 (passcode 900924959).

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North Highline anti-displacement workshops announced

October 1st, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline anti-displacement workshops announced

Announced today by King County:

In addition to the North Highline Subarea Plan and Community Needs List, this year the King County Department of Local Services is working with the Department of Community and Human Services on the Anti-Displacement Strategies Report. The purpose of this Report is to study concrete actions that King County can take to develop and retain affordable housing in both Skyway-West Hill and North Highline.

Over the next few months King County will host three virtual workshops to share knowledge about the different anti-displacement strategies being explored in the Report and to provide an opportunity for community members to share their experiences and opinions on these topics:

Workshop 1 (Saturday, October 17th, 10 am-12:30 pm): Strategies to Increase Affordable Homeownership

Strategies to be discussed include community land trusts, rent-to-own and down payment assistance programs, and property tax exemption opportunities.

Workshop 2 (Saturday, November 7th, 10 am-12:30 pm): Strategies to Mitigate Displacement when Development Happens

Strategies to be discussed include community preference and right to return policies, community benefit agreements, relocation assistance, and local and inclusionary employment prioritization.

Workshop 3 (Saturday, December 5th, 10 am-12:30 pm): Strategies for Preservation and Creation of Affordable Housing

Strategies to be discussed include inclusionary zoning, manufactured housing community preservation, “no net loss,” and redevelopment assistance programs.

All workshops will be held on Zoom. Registration is free and simultaneous translation will be available in Spanish, Somali, and Vietnamese.

Please register for one or all of the workshops here for English, Spanish, Somali, or Vietnamese.

For more information please visit the project website at www.publicinput.com/anti-displacement.

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County budget preview includes White Center proposals

September 16th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 1 Comment »

King County Executive Dow Constantine presents his next proposed budget on Tuesday, and his office released a preview today. This preview was focused on criminal-legal system reform as well as anti-racism work; it includes two mentions of White Center:

• Invest $750,000 to co-create and implement alternative to policing in urban unincorporated King County

The Executive Office will partner with the King County Sheriff’s Office and community members to co-create and implement a new community-driven safety model in urban unincorporated areas such as White Center, Skyway and East Renton. This may involve hiring behavioral health professionals to partner with Sheriff’s Office Deputies and divert cases from criminal courts and jails. The goal is to design the program in 2021 and implement no later than 2022.

• Invest in community engagement

The 2021-2022 Proposed Budget makes investments to change the County’s approach to working with community to support co-creation and the long-term success of community-based organizations. This includes creating a participatory budgeting effort to determine how to invest $10 million in new capital projects in the urban unincorporated areas of Skyway, White Center, Fairwood, East Federal Way, and East Renton.

While not singling out WC by name, here’s a mention of unincorporated areas:

• Divest $4.6 million of marijuana tax revenue

Executive Constantine’s proposed budget shifts $4.6 million of marijuana excise tax revenue from law enforcement to community-based programs. This represents all the money received by King County from retail marijuana sales. $2.8 million would be devoted to a program to help individuals vacate convictions of marijuana-related offenses that are no longer illegal, and settle unpaid court fines, fees, and restitution that could lead to incarceration. Black communities have historically been disproportionately harmed by our nation’s “war on drugs,” and this begins to undo some of that harm. $1.35 million would be shifted to the Department of Local Services for programs co-created with residents in the unincorporated area, including youth marijuana prevention and employment programs. The remaining $450,000 would be used to create and support a community-centered advisory body that would determine how to spend marijuana taxes in future years.

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More scooters on the way to White Center and vicinity

September 4th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off on More scooters on the way to White Center and vicinity

(WCN photo, last month)

Three weeks into the North Highline e-scooter pilot, an expansion has just been announced by King County:

Momentum to bring shared electric scooters across King County is building, as a second major company has announced their e-scooters will be hitting the streets of North Highline, including White Center, on Labor Day.

Spin, a San Francisco-based industry leader, says they will roll out some of their fleet to the North Highline area just south of Seattle this Monday. Spin will join Lime as the two companies participating in a one-year pilot program created through legislation led by King County Councilmember Joe McDermott.

“This program is part of an effort to give residents a micro-mobility option that’s safe and socially distant, as well as a first-mile/last-mile option to connect with transit,” said McDermott. “Spin joining this effort will play a major role in further connecting the White Center community.”

Spin will deploy up to 50 scooters to popular transit stops across White Center on Monday (click here for a map of the service area), with pricing set at $1 to unlock and $0.25 a minute to ride. Users with limited incomes may be able to access scooters at discounted rates by applying for the Spin Access program. The program also grants access to those without smartphones, mobile location services, or credit cards.

The scooters are available from 8 am to 8 pm daily and riders can find the nearest available scooter on the Spin app and then activate it with the QR code on the scooter’s handlebar with the app. Riders are required to wear a helmet and should wear a mask anytime they might come within six feet of others. The scooters will be sanitized and maintained by Spin employees.

“We’re thrilled to partner with King County as a scooter provider for the next year. Spin is committed to working with county staff and local community stakeholders to ensure that Spin scooters increase transportation options, while reducing congestion and pollution,” said Kyle Rowe, Global Head of Government Partnerships at Spin.

The company says factors including the closure of the West Seattle Bridge have impacted the commutes of many White Center residents, making public transit an important option for some. As an incentive to commuters, Spin is offering users who park near specific bus stops when they end their ride $1 off their next ride – check Spin’s app for these select locations.

The White Center scooter pilot program runs through August 2021 and could be extended or made permanent at that time. Visit kingcounty.gov/scooters for more information about the program.

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King County gives more small businesses a chance to apply for grants

August 21st, 2020 Tracy Posted in Businesses, King County, White Center news Comments Off on King County gives more small businesses a chance to apply for grants

If your small business wasn’t eligible for a county grant before, maybe it is now. Here’s the update:

Small businesses will get another opportunity to apply for a King County Small Business Assistance Grant starting (today). Businesses will have two weeks to apply. These grants are for businesses that have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and are located in unincorporated parts of King County (outside of cities). The updated requirements mean more businesses are potentially eligible for grant money than during the first round.

The new deadline to apply is Friday, Sept. 4. Visit kingcounty.gov/LocalBusinessHelp for more information.

The King County Council approved $4 million in supplemental funding for grants, technical support, and translation and interpretation assistance to help small businesses in unincorporated King County recover from the impacts of COVID-19 closures. During the first round of grant applications in July, King County Local Services—which is managing the program—received more than 400 applications from small businesses in unincorporated King County.

Local Services is working to award funds to successful applicants from the first round, but there are still grant funds remaining. To help as many businesses in need as possible, the agency is opening a second two-week application window on Friday with revised eligibility requirements. Local Services will work closely with the King County Council to get the approvals necessary for grant awards in early September for Round 2.

To be eligible for a grant in Round 2, businesses must meet the following criteria:

Thirty or fewer employees (up from 15 in Round 1)
Annual gross revenue of up to $3 million (up from $1.5 million)
Must have been in business since August 1, 2019 (down from 3 years)
Must have specific costs related to COVID-19 that have not been covered or reimbursed through any other grant funding or program (Round 1 prohibited applicants that had received any federal assistance)

To view the complete list of eligibility requirements, apply for assistance, or learn more, visit https://kingcounty.gov/LocalBusinessHelp.

Businesses that applied for a grant in Round 1 and did not qualify, but who would be eligible under the Round 2 criteria, do not need to reapply. Their applications have been automatically submitted for consideration in Round 2.

Business coaching and technical assistance are still available

Businesses in unincorporated King County can also get business coaching and technical assistance from a U.S. Treasury-certified community development financial institution under this program. Technical assistance coaches can help with…

Information about the latest (federal, state, and local) funding and loan resources
Utility bill assistance
Filling out grant or funding application forms
Coaching to help the business survive the impacts of COVID-19 closures
Other advice and assistance

To use these services, call 206-331-3275 (Relay 711) and leave a voice mail with your contact information and question, or fill out the Technical Assistance/Coaching Request Form at https://kingcounty.gov/LocalBusinessHelp. A technical services coach will call you back within two business days. If you need an interpreter, please also name the language you prefer when you leave your message. The technical assistance coach will have an interpreter on the line when they call you back.

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FOLLOWUP: White Center’s first scooters have arrived

August 17th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off on FOLLOWUP: White Center’s first scooters have arrived

That’s Marcos from Lime, delivering White Center’s first scooters about an hour ago in the heart of the White Center business district. As we first reported Friday night, this marks the start of the long-in-the-works “pilot program” for North Highline.

Lime tells WCN they’re delivering “up to 50” of these dockless e-scooters today. Cost: $1 to unlock and $0.36 a minute, and there’s a lower price available for people already enrolled in low-income programs. For more info about how the scooter-share pilot program works, go here.

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FYI: Online ‘Town Hall’ for North Highline this fall

August 15th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 2 Comments »

King County Local Services has sent early word of town halls coming up, including one for White Center/North Hghline:

This year’s unincorporated King County community meetings will take place online via Zoom. Participants will hear from elected and appointed King County leaders, as well as department staffers, about how their local government is delivering services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As with just about everything in 2020, King County Local Services had to think creatively about how to deliver these popular, usually in-person events while COVID-19 limits public gatherings. Last summer, hundreds of residents turned out to hear directly from King County leaders and officials, explore government services, and more at these events in their communities.

Residents said they preferred that Local Services hold the town halls in the fall, so this year’s meetings will take place—online via Zoom—in September and October.

The series will kick off on Tuesday, Sept. 8 with a meeting for unincorporated area residents and businesses in the East Federal Way area. Local Services will hold another event each week, moving through the unincorporated areas until the final event on Oct. 26 for the Snoqualmie Valley/NE King County area. Below is the full schedule:

Sept. 8: East Federal Way
Sept. 14: Four Creeks/Tiger Mountain
Sept. 16: Greater Maple Valley/Cedar River
Sept. 21: Fairwood
Sept. 23: SE King County
Oct. 1: Bear Creek/Sammamish
Oct. 6: Skyway
Oct. 15: North Highline (White Center)
Oct. 22: Vashon-Maury Island
Oct. 26: Snoqualmie Valley/NE King County

Each event will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Local Services will provide a Zoom link that users can use to join each meeting as it gets closer to the day of the event.

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FOLLOWUP: Scooter pilot program finally launches Monday in White Center and vicinity

August 14th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, Transportation, White Center news 4 Comments »

(Photo courtesy Lime)

This has long been in the works – and late today, County Councilmember Joe McDermott‘s office announced it’s about to start:

King County residents and visitors just south of Seattle will on Monday have a new local travel option.

Lime is launching a fleet of electric scooters to the North Highline area, which includes White Center, providing a new affordable, safe and sustainable transportation option.

The one-year pilot program, created through legislation led by King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, will give residents a micromobility option that’s safe and socially distant, as well as a first-mile/last-mile option to connect with transit.

“From the Greenbridge YWCA over to Moonshot Café and up to Salvadorean Bakery, there are a lot of essential trips throughout White Center and North Highline,” McDermott said. “I’m excited that electric scooters can be a part of connecting our community – from businesses, community centers, parks and transit. This pilot project will allow King County to learn how best to facilitate safe, reliable, affordable and accessible mobility options for everyone, and I look forward to throwing on my mask and a helmet and participating in the coming year.”

Lime will launch dozens of scooters in the area Monday (click here for a map of the service area), with pricing at $1 to unlock and $0.36 a minute to ride. Anyone already enrolled in a city, state or federal low-income program can access the scooters for $0.50 unlock and $0.07 a minute once they successfully apply for the Lime Access program. Low-income users who prefer to pay with cash can add balances to their accounts at select local 7/11 or CVS locations via PayNearMe.

Riders can access a Lime scooter by activating the QR code on the scooter’s handlebar with the Lime app. Riders can check their Lime app to see where the nearest scooter is. Riders are required to wear a helmet and should wear a mask anytime they might come in contact with others.

“White Center is one of the smallest markets Lime has ever launched, but it is also one of our most culturally rich,” said Jonathan Hopkins, Lime’s Director of Strategic Development for the Pacific Northwest and Canada. “There’s no more convenient way than riding a Lime to discover some of our region’s greatest diversity in food, shops, and even roller skating. Whether grabbing a taco or Korean fried chicken, or just trying to catch the bus, we hope to play our part in building a more connected community.”

Scooter riding also helps to support local businesses now in need as we reemerge from COVID. Lime rider surveys consistently find that more than 42% of scooter riders start or end their trips at local businesses. In some cities, as high as 77% of riders said they’ve visited local businesses and attractions more frequently due to Lime and an overwhelming 97% of riders have used scooters to visit a local business. Non-drivers are also found to spend more money at local businesses, according to a study from Portland, OR. Lime riders are also sustainable commuters; 48% of Lime riders globally use scooters regularly to connect to transit. Lime is excited about the potential to help restart local economies impacted by COVID by improving residents’ mobility and easing access.

The pilot program runs through August 2021 and could be extended or made permanent at that time. Visit kingcounty.gov/scooters for more information about the program.

The original plan was for the program to launch around the first of the year – but even pre-pandemic, as we reported in January, there were some delays.

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NORTH HIGHLINE SUB-AREA PLAN: Restart, and more

August 5th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, White Center news 2 Comments »

From David Goodman at King County:

I am writing to provide you with an update on the North Highline Subarea Plan. When I last checked in back in March, we postponed the release of a Public Review Draft of the Subarea Plan to allow the community to focus on responding to COVID-19.

Since then, the King County Council completed their 2020 update to the Comprehensive Plan. Included in that update were changes to the subarea planning program that affect the North Highline Subarea Plan. These include:

An expansion of the scope of the Subarea Plan from land use only to all topics of interest to the community; and

A directive to create a Community Needs List, a community-identified list of service, program, and capital improvement projects that support the community’s vision established in the Subarea Plan.
Planning for the North Highline Subarea Plan and Community Needs List will begin this month and run through December of 2021. The work we completed between July 2019 and March 2020 will be incorporated into this effort.

To learn more about this new scope of work and provide input and direction, please visit our new project website and mark your calendar for August 18 from 7 to 8:30 PM for a community call to officially kick off this new planning effort. More information about the call is available on the website and on the attached flier.

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County executive visits White Center Heights Park to celebrate tree-planting milestone

July 30th, 2020 Tracy Posted in Environment, King County, White Center news 2 Comments »

(King County photo)

King County Executive Dow Constantine visited White Center Heights Park this morning to celebrate a milestone in the county’s tree-planting initiative. Here’s the announcement:

A partnership created by King County has surpassed the goal of planting one million trees throughout the region nearly a year ahead of schedule, achieving a milestone set by Executive Dow Constantine in the 2015 Strategic Climate Action Plan.

Executive Constantine and partners celebrated the 1 Million Trees initiative at King County’s White Center Heights Park, where they planted the ceremonial first tree in 2016.

Constantine today thanked the partners, volunteers, and employees who surpassed the goal to plant one million trees throughout the region nearly a year ahead of schedule, achieving a major milestone for the county’s Strategic Climate Action Plan.

Executive Constantine in August will send the King County Council his proposal for the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan, which will include a 3 Million Trees initiative that will maintain the accelerated pace for tree planting, protect forests and natural areas before they are lost forever, and prepare native forests for the impacts of climate change.

“In King County, we don’t just set ambitious goals to confront climate change – we create strong partnerships and mobilize volunteers to surpass them ahead of schedule,” said Executive Constantine. “We will build on this successful model to promote healthy, resilient forests for cleaner air and water, healthier habitat, and more tree cover in underserved communities.”

King County and more than 100 partners – cities, Tribes, nonprofits, youth organizations, schools, and businesses – have so far planted 1,122,535 trees in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

King County Parks’ Volunteer Program organized events throughout the region with more than 31,000 volunteers contributing to the initiative and helping restore parks. The county will offer more volunteer opportunities once it is permitted under Safe Start Washington.

The original goal – established in the 2015 Strategic Climate Action Plan – was for King County to plant a half million trees with partners planting the remaining 500,000 trees by the end of 2020. King County and partners planted the one millionth tree in February, 11 months ahead of schedule.

The successful partnership created a strong foundation that will help advance the 30 Year Forest Plan, a shared vision developed by King County and partners to guide forest management to achieve multiple benefits in the coming decades.

Cleaner water and air, healthier habitat, more shade, less flooding

The initiative has produced immediate and lasting benefits, including cleaner air and water, reduced flood risks, cooler salmon-bearing streams, more tree canopy in neighborhoods, and healthier forests and public greenspaces.

The roots of healthy trees stabilize slopes and prevent erosion while forests and natural land absorb rainfall, reducing the flow into streams and preventing floods. Pacific Northwest forests are among the best in the world at storing carbon because native tress have long, productive lifespans.

Successful tree planting initiatives require more than simply putting a large number of trees in soil. That is why King County and its partners also take action to ensure that the newly planted trees have the water, mulch, and space they need to mature.

Here’s the story from that first planting in 2016.

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ELECTION 2020: Appointed sheriff? And 6 other questions to decide in November

July 24th, 2020 Tracy Posted in Election, King County, King County Sheriff's Office, White Center news 1 Comment »

Should the King County Sheriff go back to being appointed rather than elected? That’s one of the proposed charter amendments going to voters this November, as announced:

With the approval of three more measures on Tuesday, the King County will now send seven county charter amendments to the November ballot for a public vote to approve or reject them. The Charter Review Commission recommended 11 amendments in its final report last year, though it wasn’t expected that all the amendments would be considered by voters in the same year.

The following amendments will now appear on the November ballot:

=Specify that inquests should be performed for deaths in the county’s jails and provide the family of the deceased with legal representation during the inquest process.
=Include subpoena power for the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight to aid in its investigations.
-Make the King County Sheriff an appointed rather than elected position.
-Remove the Charter impediment to the sale of county-owned property below market value for affordable housing purposes, in accordance with recent amendments to state law.
-Update the Charter to change references to “citizen” to “resident” or “public” depending on the circumstances. This change would address several references in the Charter to the concept of citizenship being necessary to access certain aspects of county government.
-Prohibit discrimination in county employment and contracting based on someone’s status as a family caregiver, military status, or status as a veteran who was honorably discharged or discharged solely as a result of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I am pleased to give the voters the opportunity to decide on these amendments to the way our county is governed,” said Council Chair Claudia Balducci.

The seventh amendment set for a vote in the fall was not a recommendation of the Charter Review Commission, but instead was a council-proposed amendment. This amendment would allow the Council to establish the duties of the Sheriff’s Office. Those duties are currently set by the charter.

The sheriff was appointed until voters decided in 1996 to change that.

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PHOTOS: See unincorporated North Highline’s new park-to-be!

July 9th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, Parks, White Center news 1 Comment »

(WCN photos)

Five forested acres for less than $360,000. “A screaming deal,” as King County Executive Dow Constantine observed while touring unincorporated North Highline’s newest park-to-be this past Monday. We were along for the tour, as was a small county delegation including County Councilmember Joe McDermott.

The park plan for 10203 9th Avenue S., officially announced today, has been in the works a while. The acquisition was completed in January. Going back further, to last year, this is the site King County’s Dave Kimmett was talking about during a guest appearance before the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council. Its previous owners, who Kimmett said are in China, could have developed it as residential property, but decided to sell instead. It would admittedly have been tough to develop – for many of the reasons that make it perfect as open space, like a ravine for what the county says is an “unnamed creek”:

The county already has cleared some invasives and trucked out tons of dumped material, but there’s more work to do, and it’ll be next year before this is ready to debut as a park.

If you’re having trouble placing the site, here’s a map.

It’s definitely an urban oasis – airplane noise with Sea-Tac-bound jets right overhead, traffic noise with trucks rumbling along roads to the west, and a big apartment complex to the north. A half-mile of trails will be built through the park, which has only “social trails” now (and you can get a glimpse into the land’s north side from a walkway along the apartment complex’s south edge).

Restoration costs are expected to total around $30,000 for the next year or so of work. Meantime, more acquisitions are expected as part of the ongoing Land Conservation Initiative.

“Very exciting,” enthused Executive Constantine.

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ROAD-WORK ALERT: Roundabout painting next week

June 26th, 2020 Tracy Posted in King County, Traffic, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off on ROAD-WORK ALERT: Roundabout painting next week

Announced today by the county:

Beginning 7 a.m. Tuesday, June 30 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 2, parking will be temporarily removed to make room for Metro bus re-rerouting during roundabout painting work on SW 100th and SW 106th streets between 8th Avenue SW and 4th Avenue SW.

Parking will be temporarily removed in the following locations:

• North side of SW 100th Street between 4th Avenue SW and 8th Avenue SW

• Both sides (north and south) of SW 106th Street, 100-feet east of 4th Avenue SW and 100-feet west of 8th Avenue SW in White Center

This will allow King County Metro enough room to reroute buses while road maintenance crews paint the roundabout at the intersection of 8th Avenue SW and SW 102nd Street. Buses will remain rerouted for the full three days to allow time for the paint to cure. This work is weather dependent.

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More outdoor business? King County Council passes bill to pave the way

June 23rd, 2020 Tracy Posted in Coronavirus, King County, White Center news Comments Off on More outdoor business? King County Council passes bill to pave the way

Being outside is safer in these COVID-19 times, and that’s the inspiration for a bill passed today by the King County Council. Here’s the announcement:

Legislation passed Tuesday afternoon by the King County Council may lead to increased flexibility for restaurants, retail shops, and providers of certain personal services across unincorporated King County.

Passed unanimously, the measure requests the County Executive allow restaurants, retail services, and providers of certain personal services to use private parking areas, other private property and adjacent sidewalks, alleys or other right-of-ways for new or additional outdoor seating or retail use.

“As our economy begins to open up, it is important that we look for ways to help businesses across the county,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who sponsored the legislation. “Different communities have been affected by COVID-19 in different ways, and the legislation passed today creates more flexibility for businesses to provide outdoor dining, retail shopping, and other services as they try to recover from this pandemic while following public health guidance. I look forward to new opportunities to do business and enjoy expanded services all across the county, including in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley!”

The measure would only apply during the county’s movement through Phases 1-3 of Washington’s Safe Start Plan. It would sunset during Phase 4.

“Let’s seize our opportunity to support innovative business ideas,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, who co-sponsored the legislation. “As King County advances through the state’s Safe Start phases, we as a County should do all we can within these Public Health guidelines to support recovery in our communities. I envision great outdoor possibilities in White Center and on Vashon!”

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County’s help for small businesses: Sign up for coaching

June 11th, 2020 Tracy Posted in Businesses, Coronavirus, King County, White Center news Comments Off on County’s help for small businesses: Sign up for coaching

The announcement is from the King County Department of Local Services:

Business owners in unincorporated King County can call or sign up online to receive business assistance coaching. This service is provided under the $4 million Small Business Assistance Program, approved by the King County Council in May, to help businesses in the unincorporated areas recover from the impacts of COVID-19-related closures.

King County Local Services is contracting with two U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institutions, Business Impact NW and Ventures, to provide the technical assistance to small businesses in unincorporated King County that have been hurt by COVID-19 and related public health measures.

Over-the-phone coaching will be available to businesses directly, as well as to local chambers of commerce and other community business organizations that serve businesses in these areas.

If needed, language interpreters will work with coaches and business owners during the technical assistance sessions. To access services in a language other than English, businesses should leave a phone message including the name of the language they speak. They will receive a call back from a coach and interpreter within two business days.

If you own a business in unincorporated King County, technical assistance coaches can help you with:

Information about the latest (federal, state, and local) funding and loan resources
Assistance with utility bills
Filling out grant or funding application forms
Coaching to help your business survive the impacts of COVID-19 closures

To access this technical assistance, call 206-331-3275 and leave a message. A coach will call back within two business days.

To learn more about this program, visit www.kingcounty.gov/localbusinesshelp.

The Small Business Assistance Program will also include a grant program to help small businesses in unincorporated King County “keep the lights on.” That program is set to launch later this month.

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