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.