Toplines from last night’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting:
POLICE UPDATE: Highland Park has had one more residential burglary than at this time last year, said Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith. Commercial burglaries are the same, larceny (theft) is down slightly. The biggest news: Car prowls are down 57 percent – 18 to date this year compared to 42 to date last year. Auto theft, though, has doubled – 11 compared to 6 at this time last year. Total property crime, down a third. Six “shots fired” calls in Highland Park and vicinity so far this year – “tangible evidence” is required for the classification, property damage and/or casings found. Four of the six calls in HP were in the very early morning on Sundays; there’s no pattern in terms of where they’re happening, nor any clear suspect/vehicle descriptions.
Asked about homelessness and related issues, Lt. Smith mentioned a house where a squatter had set up generators that’s “about to be addressed,” and said they now have trespass agreements with owners of more than 40 properties, meaning police have authority to clear out trespassers rather than having to get incident-by-incident authorization from property owners.
Also, the new SPD “navigation team” will be directed to two areas, likely the unauthorized encampment along Spokane Street under the east end of the West Seattle Bridge and part of the Myers Way greenbelt. Local police recently helped a family of five who is without a home because the parents are having trouble finding work.
He also mentioned some of the resources detailed at the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council one night earlier – the new bike squad, and the “0-9 car.”
And in discussion, asked about the revolving door for certain types of repeat offenders, Lt. Smith says there’s dawning awareness among lawmakers that maybe car prowling, for example, should be a felony, rather than a misdemeanor.
NEIGHBORHOOD PARK & STREET FUND MORPHS INTO ‘YOUR VOICE, YOUR CHOICE’: Jenny Frankl from the Department of Neighborhoods was at HPAC to talk about this new “participatory budgeting” process for proposing and deciding on projects that used to be funded by what was known as the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund. It’s $2 million – same as last year – allocated across the seven City Council districts. We have reported on this before – here and here. More than 500 ideas have come in citywide, 100+ of them from West Seattle, as the “idea collection” phase continues through February 26. (Go here to see what’s been suggested citywide so far.)
What’s new: Once the “idea collection” phase closes, the next step is to review ideas, and public participation is urged, with four meetings set in West Seattle to look at local ideas – March 9th, 13th, 21st, 30th – “it’s designed so you could come to one, or more than one,” Frankl explained. (You can find the specifics via the calendar on the city website – look for the meetings whose title starts with D1.)
Is this a format that will be used for years to come? an attendee asked. “We’re very much figuring this out as we go,” said Frankl, urging both participation and patience.
HPAC chair Gunner Scott voiced concern that the change in the process – to City Council districts (of which West Seattle is part of one) instead of neighborhood districts (of which West Seattle has two, roughly divided between east and west) – will have a less equitable result, without memory and relationships involved.
“I think this is going to be less about who got what last year, who got what two years ago, and more looking at, how far behind is (a neighborhood),” Frankl suggested, while again reiterating that this is a work in progress.
“So, $285,000 for all of West Seattle, if you’re going to use that lens – will you be looking at, say, we’re going to put more into Highland Park because Alki Beach has had more improvements, for example?” Scott – whose career involves dealing with grants – pressed.
“That’s going to be part of it,” Frankl replied.
“Does the voting process go to all of West Seattle, or just those participating, or …?” asked Kim Barnes.
Frankl replied that it would be mostly online voting – some paper ballots too, but not made available via postal mail. Barnes voiced concern that the voting process would be an equity issue. Others pointed out that Highland Park has no central gathering place where tabling could be done for voting.
As concerns continued swirling, Frankl repeated that “we’re going to learn a lot through this process – we’re working through a lot of kinks,” and added that rather than logistics of voting, she’s most concerned about what’s going to get onto the ballots.
Scott also asked if there will be a public report on how this went, compared to previous years. Yes, there will be, but she doesn’t know when – likely July/August after voting is done and projects “have moved forward,” Frankl said.
Pointed observation from one attendee: “They got rid of the district council system saying only privileged people could come to meetings, and now you’re saying that coming to meetings is the best way to advance your project?”
Another gently pointed out that Frankl didn’t make that decision and shouldn’t be grilled about it.
Shortly thereafter, she was asked about the Community Involvement Commission, also part of what the city is implementing after cutting ties with neighborhood-district councils. She isn’t working directly with that program, she noted, but tried to field some general questions. Read more about the CIC here, and if you’re interested, apply ASAP.
P.S. (added early Friday) If you’d like to add suggestions for parks/streets, here’s the link.
HPAC GRANT: The organization got a $7,000 grant that’s being used for expenses including rental fees for meeting location Highland Park Improvement Club and upgrading the wireless internet system at HPIC so meetings can be streamed, and other ideas are being sought. (Some suggested at the meeting included having a big party, having a community cleanup, designing and making new “Welcome to Highland Park” signs.) Watch for an online survey.
HPAC LEADERSHIP: The meeting also included board elections. Scott and current co-vice-chair Michele Witzki ran as a team to serve as co-chairs. Priorities, they said before the vote, would include seeking resources to help mitigate the hosting of another encampment, plus pushing to fix Highland Park Way’s safety issues, including pedestrian infrastructure. Craig Rankin, current co-vice-chair, ran for vice chair, and noted that one of his most intense interests is parks. No one was nominated (self- or otherwise) to serve as secretary. Michelle Glassley, current treasurer, was nominated to serve again; she confessed it hasn’t been a very busy job because (HPAC doesn’t collect dues) there hasn’t been activity in the account. The aforementioned grant will change that, Scott noted. All who ran were elected without opposition.
COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS: Barnes said a second meeting is set for the South Delridge Bus Triangle redesign project (here’s our coverage of the first one), and that the lights there will be replaced … She also announced the March 1st Westwood-Highland Park Urban Village HALA-rezoning followup meeting that we previewed here earlier in the day.
Highland Park Action Committee meets on fourth Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, at Highland Park Improvement Club (12th SW & SW Holden). Between meetings, watch hpacinfo.wordpress.com for updates and calls to action.