(WSB photo of Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, from February 2012)
City Council President Sally Clark and Councilmember Nick Licata were among the guests at this month’s North Delridge Neighborhood Council meeting – the holiday edition, held at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center instead of the usual Delridge Library – and Youngstown’s new manager was on the agenda too.
CITY’S ZONING PROPOSALS FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The councilmembers’ official reason for visiting was that they’ve been making the rounds of community groups citywide to discuss the city’s proposed zoning rules for medical-marijuana businesses. (We videotaped Clark’s first West Seattle presentation on the topic at the Southwest District Council earlier this fall – see it here.) While they don’t think they can keep people from growing it in their homes, they do think they should prohibit it in single-family neighborhoods or other “pure residential” zones. And there are some technical points, as Clark outlined. Councilmember Licata picked it up with some big-picture observations, such as the nation’s changing terminology – “cannabis instead of marijuana.” He used the former. “The landscape is changing so radically … the federal government is giving largely a blind eye toward medical cannabis,” he said. He touched on other big-picture topics such as “the huge amount of tax revenue” that stands to be generated by marijuana, as well as trade associations that have been formed by “business people … they’re not potheads.” He also said it’s believed there are about 120 dispensaries in the city right now, and “there’s conflict right now” between the medical-marijuana supporters and the recreational-marijuana supporters.”
Clark reminded everyone that implementing 502 is now a year-long process with the state in the driver’s seat, though “cities will be way interested” – and she believes that both medical-marijuana dispensaries and recreational-marijuana stores will remain. She also said that since she chairs the council’s Economic Resiliency and Regional Relations Committee, she finds it “fascinating” that the law requires the recreational marijuana to be grown in this state.
They were asked about implementation points such as public marijuana smoking (which is “an infraction,” the councilmembers noted) and people who are growing it – will there be more action to shut down illegal grow operations, with legal growing in the works? Licata said he thought there was still enforcement under way. Other stories ensued of grow operations past and present, and Nicata acknowledged “the criminal element is still there.” He added, “Even though (the law says personal possession is the city’s ‘lowest priority’), they are still going after major producers.”
“We’re in a longtime gray area with these dual markets in play at the same time,” Clark summarized.
“You say ‘the criminal element is there’,” Mat McBride said, “but the reality is, the criminal element is HERE” – referring to situations that seem way beyond what the law intended.
Clark said she would be happy to follow up on individual cases that neighbors say police did not pursue – but she warned that if one was a 45-plant situation involving someone with a medical-marijuana card, police might indeed have decided to take a pass.
COUNCILMEMBERS THANKED: Patrick Baer presented a big card to Clark and Licata, signed by his neighborhood, and thanked them for the recent work in the 5400 block of 26th SW – including sidewalks and bioswales. He also invited the rest of the neighborhood to show up and check it out.
NEW YOUNGSTOWN DIRECTOR: As of November 1st, David Bestock is in charge. First he gave a mini-briefing of what happens at the center – from an alternative public high school (Southwest Interagency Academy), a Waldorf school, theater/movement rental spaces, ArtsCorps, Nature Consortium, The Service Board, the West Seattle Tool Library, and the offices of Delridge Neighborhood Development Association “which has been through a lot of changes over the years,” including management challenges and the need for a financial turnaround.
DNDA now has a much smaller staff, but “we’re still running the organization here in the black,” Bestock said, and he’s hoping to “re-integrate” some of the programs that had fallen away during more-troubled times. He said that some of the current rentals are not necessarily in the vein of “cultural arts center” but he hopes to lead Youngstown back in that direction. “It’s a rebuilding time for the DNDA board,” said Bestock, noting that for the organization in general, the “mismanagers are gone.” But he made it clear he is not accountable for other DNDA buildings/projects – “I am very much focused on this building.”
Responding to a question, Bestock said the DNDA board in a “rebuilding” mode – with 7 people now, up from 4, which was down from 12. He said he has met recently with some past DNDA leaders, such as ex-executive director Paul Fischburg and former Youngstown leader Randy Engstrom. “It’s an interesting time … but I’m optimistic,” he said. “Things were mismanaged and things have to happen differently, and the financial turnaround brought a lot of the mismanagement to light. … The turnaround is under way, and I think it’s in a good spot.”
DESC UPDATE: Tanya Baer, who’s been closely following DESC’s Delridge Supportive Housing project – now under construction – and attending all the advisory-council meetings, reminded everyone that it’s continuing to meet and will do so again sometime in January, adding that she is concerned about communication challenges involving DESC, the advisory committee, and the community. That led to the topic of a recent community meeting with the general contractor, scheduled in the middle of the afternoon and announced via a flyer that at least one neighbor found on his driveway the night before the meeting. NDNC member Dorsol Plants attended that meeting and said the contractor acknowledged it made a mistake by having it without sufficient notice. Tanya Baer is asking the NDNC to write a formal letter of concern, since part of its funding was predicated on communication with the community.
UPCOMING EVENTS: A winter-solstice parade was announced for the evening of December 21st – and as we got ready to publish this report, we received details – see them in the Winter Solstice section of the WSB Holiday Guide.
North Delridge Neighborhood Council meets the second Monday of the month, 6:30 pm – and publishes information on a variety of ongoing topics and issues inbetween meetings too – see their website here.