Though billed as “The State of Delridge” – as in, eastern West Seattle – City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s appearance at Wednesday night’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting was wide-ranging. (Our video, above, includes her speech and the Q/A afterward.)
The meeting began with a quick introduction from HPAC chair Gunner Scott and the groups that co-sponsored the event:
*The South Delridge Community Group, “organically formed in response to the many changes in our neighborhood.” SDCG usually meets on third Sundays and will resume that schedule in February.
*Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, in its fourth year, meeting now on second Tuesdays. This Saturday, WWRHAH is sponsoring the Delridge Bus Stop Triangle workshop, which is happening at the …
Highland Park Improvement Club. Besides being the site of the Triangle workshop, HPIC also on Saturday has a RainWise event happening, with a tree giveaway.
North Delridge Neighborhood Council was represented too.
Herbold first talked about the council’s passage of the new city budget and what’s in it for West Seattle and South Park (as she had recapped in her 2016 review). She also talked about the $29 million housing-money bond that she had told us was the biggest achievement of her first year. Another citywide program she mentioned – the “legacy business” program. And she mentioned the mayor’s recent decision not to fund the bicycle-share program, something she had previously been in the council minority in opposing.
Safe Routes to School projects in this area might include Highland Park and Sanislo Elementaries. Also re: safety, the council “took a number of actions to fund new police officers” during the year, she noted.
Herbold also recapped the priorities of the council committee she chairs, Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, & Arts.
“Putting together a new renters’ commission” will be among them, as is a “strategic business plan” for Seattle Public Utilities. That will guide decisions made about rates, she said, “so I really encourage you to get involved in that.” They will also be talking about what to fund with the $29 million in bond funding for housing. She’s also focusing on mitigation of potential displacement from the HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability-related redevelopment. “And we’re going to have a lot to contend with” regarding civil rights this year.
In local-specific matters, she promised to follow the Bus Triangle plan (with Saturday’s workshop coming up), the draft Delridge Neighborhood Action Plan, “dogging the process” and its priorities including economic-development strategies, park investments, the food-desert issue – in which the Delridge Grocery Cooperative will play a role – and more, as well as the corridor’s transportation future, about which she will “be meeting with SDOT soon.”
The Neighborhood Park and Street Fund‘s “participatory budgeting process” will be new (here’s our detailed preview published on Thursday) and will include new ways of proposing ideas as well as helping decide how the money will be spent.
The Highland Park Way/Holden roundabout did not get federal funding, Herbold revealed, though SDOT had sought it; they will apply again and will also seek state funding. “The city agrees this is an important process.” $200,000 could advance the design, and Herbold said she had spoken with SDOT director Scott Kubly about that earlier in the day.
As for the Dumar substation rezoning proposal, an Environmental Impact analysis will be done as part of HALA-MHA, Herbold said.
She said that she had inquiring about the chase that led to a deadly crash in the Highland Park area last April – three hours after an armed carjacking – and whether it fit department policy. “SPD’s position is that the written policy is a general framework,” she said. “They said that they would consider adding more specific considerations to the policy itself. … I think we want some accountability on the policy side,” and SPD will be looking at that, she said. Training also will involve “circumstances such as those presented here” as they develop SPD training curriculum. And she said technology could play into situations like this too – a tracker that could be placed on a vehicle in some situations, something SPD hadn’t looked at it in several years, but “they’re going to take another look.”
Also in 2017, she said, as the council works on the HALA MHA rezoning proposals – one of “65 different recommendations” that comprise HALA, she reiterated. “We know the proposals for MHA focus both in urban villages and in commercial and multifamily areas.” She described most upzoning as “relatively small” – 10 or 15 feet. Regarding concerns that the city is moving too fast, she reiterated the point she has been making lately, “it’s still relatively early in the process.” The draft Environmental Impact Statement is due in mid-March and will trigger another round of commenting, she noted, while the final MHA proposal isn’t expect to go to the council before year’s end.
She said she’ll be participating in the One Night Count this week, counting people sleeping unsheltered, 2-6 am. She said it “really influences my passion on not just issues involving homelessness but what I feel are true public-safety threats … to people sleeping on our streets unsheltered. … I think the real priority for the city needs to be getting people inside, particularly children.”
As for current issues, also related to homelessness, she mentioned the Myers Way encampment as part of the orders sent by the mayor last week and passed by the council. “I’ve heard a lot about illegal dumping by the site, people sleeping in the greenbelt … people want to make sure there’s some accountability at the city, making sure we’re communicating with the city, addressing the impacts as they come up …” The mayor’s orders did not incorporate the “normal process” related to city policies, so she’s asking for some changes such as an “encampment operations plan” and site access to toilets and potable water as well as trash removal.”These changes were accepted and I’m going to doggedly monitor how it goes, going forward.” She promised also to push for monitoring of water quality at Hamm Creek and on wetlands at Myers Way Parcels. And she discussed the changes in civil-rights monitors’ involvement in encampment sweeps. She said she had asked for them to maintain that role, pending the upcoming protocol revisions (in place of the controversial ones scrapped last year), which she said will go public “very soon.”
1st question was about the encampment, which, the speaker noted, does not have an operator yet, as reiterated at a meeting this past Monday. So without one, how will issues be addressed? A group with residents – sheltered and unsheltered – would be helpful, in a “roundtable approach that the city would monitor,” said Herbold. She also said the mayor is leading the process, so she sees her role as “to push.”
2nd question, a man who lives near Westcrest Park and says he sees “smog” when he looks out, wondering who to complain to. “Puget Sound Clean Air Agency” was Herbold’s recommendation. He might have been speaking about steam from a factory.
3rd question was from Amanda Kay Helmick of WWRHAH. She said they haven’t seen much followup from last summer’s Find It Fix It Walk and some of what they hoped to get fixed, including pedestrian safety by Westwood Village – “they’ve put a flashing beacon at Kenyon and 35th but they haven’t put one by Westwood Village. … We feel like we’re in a holding pattern right now.”
4th question – What are the city’s plans for the burned-out building at the Lam-Bow Apartments, after the fire four months ago? “I’ll find out,” said Herbold.
5th question – the park bathroom that was hit by arson in Riverview last June. “What’s going to happen to it?” Herbold said she thought she had some city commitments on that, but the community member said nothing had changed. They also voiced support for incremental progress on the roundabout – whatever it takes – and Herbold said she is all about figuring out whatever it takes to keep things moving.
6th question was also about Find It Fix It issues and whether a central person could be the point person on them, instead of getting “passed around constantly” from department to department. “Think of me,” said Herbold.
7th question was about traffic diverting onto side streets, coming off 9th SW, posing a safety risk as children go to and from school, hoping it wouldn’t take “a disaster” to get some speed enforcement. Lt. Ron Smith said that traffic officers are getting tugged all over the city, including collision investigations.
8th question was from Michael Taylor-Judd of the North Delridge Neighborhood Council. He brought up the Delridge Action Plan and city “multilingual” outreach, but it still is the “North Delridge” update, though “there’s some interest from folks in broadening that.” Yet, he pointed out, other city departments seem to be moving away from working with geographic neighborhoods. Herbold said OPCD “insists that its removal of the word ‘neighborhood’ from ‘neighborhood plan’ is not to say that they will not do geographic planning, but they felt the use of the word ‘neighborhood’ was not inclusive enough.” Herbold said she would be working with city departments to advocate for, well, neighborhood planning.
9th question went back to the Find It Fix It issues, such as road repair, which has “fallen by the wayside.” The city is suing Puget Sound Energy for its failure to do repairs to help with some road problems, Herbold noted, and she hasn’t checked on that lately.
10th question was from Delridge Neighborhoods District Council chair Mat McBride, about the city’s choices for encampment siting. “When we site an encampment, two things are going on – we’re increasing the burden on the community, and (making its residents partners).” There are no additional funds going to communities to help with that burden. Delridge has been an “exemplary partner,” he declared – and Herbold agreed – so he suggested that a source of funding for the city to direct to infrastructure in an encampment-hosting community. “We have a long list of things” that could benefit, McBride said. This drew the first major applause of the evening. Herbold said that while it might not be what he was talking about, she got funding added for more Seattle Public Utilities trash pickup at both sanctioned and unsanctioned camping sites, to address the “public health issue” caused by trash. She said she’ll talk to council colleagues with encampments in their district to see about “some sort of innovative solution” to problems including deficient bus service. At this point, she mentioned that Route 131 is going to get more service starting this fall.
HPAC chair Scott took “moderator’s privilege” for the last question. He mentioned the long letter that was sent to homelessness director George Scarola, and time spent “driving him around.” …”As this will be our third go-round with sanctioned, or quasi-sanctioned, encampments, we think we deserve neighborhood protocols. We are a stressed neighborhood already.” Herbold committed to working with HPAC and nearby neighborhoods on specific protocols.
Scott’s second question was about Highland Park Way/Holden, “going on 70 years requesting that something be done with that intersection” – actually, 75, it was pointed out. “Who do we need to put pressure on besides you?” asked Scott. “I’m ready to put up signs saying ‘Tired of being in traffic? Call …’ but who do we call?” She suggested pressure on fellow councilmembers.
(Herbold’s next in-district office hours are at Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle, 2 pm-7 pm today – Friday, January 27th.)
OTHER HPAC BUSINESS: Elections are coming up. Steering Committee members are needed, “but so are active members,” Scott said. (E-mail if you’re interested in being on the steering committee. You can nominate yourself now or at the February meeting.) It was suggested that the bylaws being revised, as they haven’t been in many years; that might be taken on after steering-committee members are elected. An outreach campaign is forthcoming, Scott said, possibly including postal mail as well as stepping up online presence. One visitor said she wondered if there were subcommittees in which people could get involved with specific issues.
HPAC meets fourth Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, at HPIC. Watch hpacinfo.wordpress.com for updates between meetings.