By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
Here’s what happened at tonight’s monthly meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, held online:
CRIME STATS/TRENDS: Community Deputy Bill Kennamer spoke of some “pretty ugly crime trends.” Robberies totaled 40 this time last year, 72 so far this year – “an 80 percent increase – definitely a problem.” Weapons violations are up 65 percent. “Simple assaults” (lower level of injury) are up 40 percent – from 162 to 229. Drug offenses are up 110 percent – “we are seeing less and less hypodermic needle action, but an absolute ton of fentanyl smoking going on.” He believe that’s the reason for an increase in overdoses. If you have family or friends who use drugs, get Narcan just in case. “It works. … it keeps people alive.” He said there’s “some good news on the drug front” – a special-emphasis team in the precinct did a raid yesterday that got $5.5 million in drugs off the street. He couldn’t say where but the raid was executed by “precinct-level detectives.” Deputy Kennamer said today’s garage fire was in a garage used as a residence by the adult son of the adjacent homeowner. The resident went to the hospital with smoke inhalation (that’s an update from our earlier coverage). Asked about staffing, Deputy Kennamer said what’s happening now is “a staffing crisis.” They have the openings and the funding, both Kennamer and King County Councilmember Joe McDermott agreed, they just don’t have the people applying and training to fill them.
COUNCILMEMBER McDERMOTT: He’s budget chair this year. The first vote on the proposed “striking amendment” – which will go public tomorrow, with councilmembers’ proposed changes to King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s budget proposal – is planned one week from today. First, per the previous discussion, he wanted to emphasize that King County “has NOT defunded the police.” The alternative programs it has supported/will supported are in addition to law enforcement, not instead of. “We’re doing innovative things, responding to some issues (for alternative public safety),” but not proposing cuts in law enforcement. The proposed two-year budget was almost %16 billion, he said. That includes revenues collected for a specific purpose that must be spent for a specific purpose. Property tax revenue is limited to a 1 percent increase year by year, but “even in a good year” expenses go up more than one percent, so there’s what they call “a structural gap.”
His budget priorities in general include: public safety, law-enforcement oversight, rider experience in transit, firearm safety, promoting helmet use, supporting the White Center Food Bank as it moves to its new location, affordable-housing investments, more money for participatory budgeting, Narcan availability, and more. Public comment can be given in-person or online at next Thursday’s budget meeting; the budget then goes to the full council on November 15th.
In Q&A, clarification was requested on the 1 percent cap. It’s the maximum percentage by which county revenue can go up – so just because your valuation goes up X percent doesn’t mean what you owe will go up that much – it’s a cap on what the county can collect. Why does the county rely so heavily on property taxes? McDermott explained that property and sales taxes are the main sources approved by the Legislature – even cities have more options for raising revenue. Subsequent discussion involved how much revenue was and wasn’t being spent on/in North Highline – there’s no specific breakdown by geography within the county budget, said McDermott. He also reminded everyone that while the county collects property taxes, it’s just the treasurer – only a fraction of what you pay actually goes to King County.
On other topics: Councilmember McDermott had an update on the Subarea Plan; legislation won committee approval in July, and a full-council public hearing will be at 1 pm November 22nd – online or in-person – and you can comment via email too: CouncilCompPlan@kingcounty.gov. He talked about some refinements that are being proposed. NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin asked about inclusionary zoning and whether it was really right for North Highline – something Seattle’s been doing for several years – and McDermott said it should lead to a greater variety of housing availability. NHUAC’s Liz Giba voiced concern that the Subarea Plan documentation had only recently appeared online but had been otherwise in existence for months. She read some criticism attributed to the White Center Community Development Association saying the process had been inadequate. Giba suggested any decisionmaking be delayed, and more outreach be done. Dobkin also alleged that the WCCDA itself didn’t reach out to all parts of the community. Permitting division head Jim Chan jumped in to say that inclusionary zoning is meant to be anti-displacement, not to lower taxes for some so others pay more. If all housing that was built was market-rate, people will be displaced. Also, he said, the Comprehensive Plan will have an Environmental Impact, and that will cover the Subarea Plan as well. Giba asked the question, is there no chance the Subarea Plan might lead to more tax-exempt housing in North Highline? McDermott said no, he couldn’t say that.
MICROHOUSING DEMONSTRATION: David Neiman Architects won an RFP process for this and plans to submit a permit application within a few weeks; a pre-application meeting already has been held. They’re asking the county how flexible it will be on a variety of standards. They need to justify anything that would deviate from code, Chan says they were told. One deviation they’ll propose: No parking for the units, Chan said. Dobkin voiced concern about more tree loss contributing to warmer temperatures. McDermott reiterated that they authorized one project to be built in a certain area – just one. He also said he’s proposing an update to the Urban Unincorporated Tree Code, as an offshoot of concerns voiced earlier this year about tree removal on lots where homes are being built. The site under consideration is 16th/102nd, Giba noted – 1619 SW 102nd, per the county website.
HOOKAH LOUNGE: A permit application to remedy a violation was submitted last week and will be reviewed, Chan said. Is the building safe? asked Giba. An enforcement person has, Chan said, and he affirmed that all safety concerns were investigated and nothing of note was found.
FORMER TARADISE CAFE: They did a walkthrough with an inspector two weeks ago, Chan said. “They still have some work they need to do with Labor and Industries – electrical – and Health,” he said, adding that the inspector advised them that more permits may be required “if they expand any further,” and electrical work/fire safety issues were discussed.
WHY NO IN-PERSON MEETINGS YET? Dobkin said they just can’t find a space, though they hope to have some sort of gathering in December somewhere.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: White Center Kiwanis is selling nuts again this year – if interested, call Scott at 206-465-9432.