More than 30 people came to tonight’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting – a “full house and a full agenda,” as co-chair Carolyn Stauffer put it, starting with the encampment that is technically within HPAC’s coverage area, on a site once proposed for the potential city jail that HPAC fought ferociously three years ago. The 2-part Nickelsville discussion bookended the meeting:
NICKELSVILLE, PART 1: As the meeting began, four people from the encampment, including staffer Scott Morrow, presented an update to HPAC. They recapped its history and its rules, and its quirks – “we have one pet coordinator, which happens to be me,” said Mike Stahl, the longtime WSB Forums member who moved there shortly after Nickelsville returned to West Seattle in May. They hope to have a permanent encampment of about 350 people, they said, and discussed their “small, simple, sturdy structures,” built as possible. They hope to have kitchen, laundry, and office services on site – and they say they’ve been told the City Council will vote in March on whether they can stay permanently (the land is owned by SDOT).
If they get that permission/recognition, they hope to hook up to city water and sewer services. But once there is “enough affordable housing for the homeless” in Seattle, they will close the camp, they said. Where does their money come from? they were asked. “Public and private donations.” What do you use for transportation? “Bus, walking, bicycling.” (They have an entrance on the northern side now, and a bus stop is steps away, we noticed while driving past there the other day.)
NICKELSVILLE, PART 2: At the end of the meeting, long after the Nickelsville visitors left, HPAC’s co-chairs offered a chance for the group to discuss their thoughts on the camp’s ongoing presence. HPAC had been supportive in the past, Carolyn noted, but had recently received some e-mails from community members expressing concerns, and had also recently learned about the camp’s hope of being there “permanently” – so, as a “megaphone” for the community, they thought HPAC should offer a forum for opinions. One attendee said he has lived about a mile away for a long time and has noticed some things – someone he found “lying on his lawn”; when police responded to the call, he said, they warned of a “huge homeless population” nearby. They also saw someone going through trash cans, he said, and voiced concerns about property values if the encampment expands.
Answering some of those concerns was former HPAC chair Dorsol Plants, who said there are studies that show permanent encampments have not depressed property values in other cities, and also noted that the West Duwamish Greenbelt has its own transient population that has increased recently and would continue on even if Nickelsville left West Seattle. One attendee said, “I find it funny we were not in favor of a jail – where people are tightly controlled – but we are in favor of this self-governed encampment,” and noted many of the arguments made against the jail could have been made against the camp. She suggested, “We need to be more educated,” to hear directly from law enforcement and others. Another attendee wanted to hear from the city, regarding data and regulations, and their intentions regarding the site. Yet another wondered why the city was just allowing the encampment to stay there for free, when a nearby piece of land owned by the Port of Seattle had been offered for rent for $10,000/month. Many agreed it’s troubling that there’s been no opportunity for official public comment on the encampment’s continuing stay there. The co-chairs were going to look into asking the city to send someone to a future meeting to discuss the situation.
WESTCREST PARK: The park’s native-plant stewards Jill and Brenda came to ask the neighborhood for support “to help restore Westcrest. … Seattle’s parks are dying of old age,” and of invasive plants smothering the trees. English ivy is a well-known invasive; they also listed Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife, English laurel, Himalayan blackberry. But they discussed the good plants too, saying they’ve just received a donation of more than 100 native plants, with 200 more expected early next year: “So we’re going to creative a native, diverse habitat.” They said they are hoping to plant more madrones, too, and that their restoration efforts are focusing on the area “in front of the (south) parking lot.” They say they hope to form a group of people who will keep revisiting the park and expanding the restoration efforts. They’re getting support from Seattle Parks, they said, and circulated a sign-up sheet. Westcrest Park also will be a major site for efforts during Green Seattle Day, coming up November 5th (you can sign up to help by going here).
ALSO AT WESTCREST … POTENTIAL P-PATCH/COMMUNITY GARDEN: The group heard a pitch for a community garden at the Westcrest Park expansion – not just a place to grow food, but also a place to congregate, a place to educate, and more. Funding will be sought starting next winter. A sign-up sheet for involvement in this was circulated as well.
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY GRANT: Rachael Wright, who has organized walk-to-school activities in HP, secured a $25,000 grant that was matched by the city with $50,000 more to do something regarding pedestrian safety. What exactly will be done? She said there is a workshop coming up November 20-21 that will result in creation of a plan, and that participants are being sought now. She is also setting up a survey link to help bring about some community consensus. One requirement is that it be within the Highland Park Elementary “walk zone” – no more than one mile from the school, in any direction. She says a traffic-safety instructor is coming to lead the event. She also cautioned that it’ll be tricky to figure out what they can get – because some improvements in turn require others. But what she needs now more than anything is people to attend that upcoming workshop.
COYOTE WOES: A resident named Gene mentioned several recent coyote sightings and lost cats. “Does anybody know who comes and eradicates coyotes before they get rid of the entire cat population?” he asked. “No one,” came the reply. Well, maybe they do, someone else said, pointing to a case in Magnolia last year in which authorities trapped and killed one. “It’s in our neighbor’s yard in the middle of the day eating Asian pears,” Gene said, as discussion turned to whether humans and coyotes are getting too close to each other. Co-chair Carolyn suggested that she might be able to get a guest to come speak to a future meeting. “We want to get something done (about the coyotes) before it’s more than cats,” Gene suggested.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Cindi Barker from West Seattle Be Prepared was a guest. The discussion turned in a direction beyond the usual – toward the value of knowing your neighbors, knowing their needs, so that in times of trouble you can band together and have a bank of knowledge. Cindi also said a new “captain” is needed in the Highland Park area. She mentioned this Saturday’s drill – for anybody who wants to see what the captain’s responsibilities are – at several sites around West Seattle, including Fauntleroy and Alki.
HAPPENINGS AT HIGHLAND PARK IMPROVEMENT CLUB: The site of tonight’s meeting, Highland Park Improvement Club, continues to be a neighborhood hub of activities, everyone was reminded, with food trucks on Saturdays, and more movie nights coming up. Keep an eye on hpic1919.org for full details.
Highland Park Action Committee usually meets the fourth Wednesday of the month, 7 pm after a 6:30 pm potluck, at HPIC (12th/Holden).