(Southwestern side of Roxhill Bog – WSB photo from March 2014)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It’s been three years since the then-fledgling Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council put out a call for help with the issues threatening Roxhill Bog, historic headwaters for Longfellow Creek. The bog had been a community concern for years before that, and underwent some restoration, but needs help beyond what community stewardship and work parties can offer. That was one of the topics brought up at WWRHAH’s meeting last night when City Councilmember Lisa Herbold – in her second year in office – sat down for a conversation, the centerpiece of a meeting that touched on other topics too:
COUNCILMEMBER HERBOLD: The conversation ranged across an array of issues. One was the longrunning attempt to get assistance with Roxhill Bog’s water issues. WWRHAH co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick pointed out that other natural areas in West Seattle, such as the 23rd SW wetland that the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association is now stewarding, have gotten attention that she would like to see replicated here. “The resource is there – I just don’t know how to access it.”
Helmick said that Department of Neighborhoods grants – an oft-suggested panacea for many ultralocal concerns – don’t seem to be what’s needed for what’s essentially an engineering problem that the city needs to fix and that she believes shouldn’t be put on citizens’ shoulders, especially not those of a tiny volunteer neighborhood group.
Rory Denovan explained that it’s a “headwater wetland” and so work to fix it would also benefit people downstream along Longfellow Creek. Denovan said that trying to work with Seattle Parks (since the bog is part of Roxhill Park) has not worked out – it’s taken a very long time just to get responses to questions.
Other problems caused by the lack of water, Helmick said, include “huge cracks in the peat … 10,000 years of the peat is not going to come back. If we don’t do something now … now’s the time. We’ve done a lot of preliminary work, the work of knowing where the water’s going, what’s happening, and why.” But now they need help getting something done about it. Helmick has even presented the problem to Mayor Murray, “and nothing at all from him about it.”
“For a project like this,” Herbold replied, “I get that you don’t have the capacity to do the whole thing … but it feels like, if you could break the project up into pieces, and get some funding to do a small piece of it, that’s a way I think of getting the city more invested in the subsequent steps.”
Helmick asked if there’s any way that Herbold’s staff could at least help connect her with the right people to talk with at the city. “There’s got to be other money” outside the Department of Neighborhoods grants. “I just need to know who to talk to to get the ball rolling.”
The floor was opened to questions.
A South Delridge resident brought up recent crime problems – including two incidents covered here, the February 8th SWAT-team-involved arrest and February 24th gunfire. In the latter incident, she said, her car was hit by a bullet. “And oh my God, I was sleeping right behind that.” The next day, she said, she visited Councilmember Herbold during her office hours. She said she felt like she was being taken seriously and was put in touch with police leadership, including a conversation with precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis, and she “felt reassured.”
So what’s the plan of action? Helmick asked. Herbold replied that police “visibility” would be important, and the resident said she’d seen that. Longer term, she said, the question would be, if this is indeed focused on one particular house, what’s going on there. She also asked the resident if police had talked with her about getting involved with crime-prevention groups; Capt. Davis had mentioned a variety of groups, she said, as well as the possibility of an SPD “living-room conversation” meeting.
Another attendee brought up two problem houses – including the one on 16th SW that burned again recently (here’s our followup). He wants to get the city to require the owners to demolish both buildings on the site, not just the one in which the most-recent fire was centered.
Another one, he said, apparently has drug-manufacturing going on. So he wondered if there was any effort to give the city stronger tools to deal with places like this. Councilmember Herbold mentioned the same thing that was part of our followup – that the City Council will soon be considering changes in the rules about “vacant” buildings. “That sounds great,” said the attendee, “but can we go further and hold the owners accountable?”
Herbold said one idea she’s had is a “vacant building fee … levied on the owners of these buildings … (that could) be used to support the program” in which the city is supposed to be monitoring properties like these.
Having a problem? The more e-mails she gets about something, the more urgent it seems, CM Herbold said.
You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other highlights from the meeting:
YOUR VOICE, YOUR VOICE: As we noted earlier in the day, the idea phase for these street-/park-project grants is now over and the review phase is about to start. Helmick mentioned some of those in the area that are among the 211 West Seattle ideas. Again, you can be part of the review team deciding which ones go up for a vote in June – here’s how, starting with a West Seattle meeting tonight (Thursday).
ROXBURY SIDEWALKS: Helmick recapped the plan for this project expected to start in May – we reported on this recently.
ROAD IMPROVEMENTS: Helmick said they’re working with the city to try to get the Roxbury repaving, currently set for 2019, moved up … An attendee said there’s talk of new trouble with the repaired road surface on 26th SW south of Westwood Village. Councilmember Herbold said she hadn’t heard anything new on this, except that the city has filed a claim with Puget Sound Energy alleging they have some accountability for replacing the road panels. SDOT, meantime, she said, is going to move forward with replacing the panels and hope to identify specific ones to replace this summer.
HALA REZONING FOR WESTWOOD-HIGHLAND PARK URBAN VILLAGE: Kim Barnes recapped the workshop she led last week (our short summary is part of this story).
CRIME UPDATES: Southwest Precinct Lt. Ron Smith gave updates toward the start of the meeting. He said that in this area, the overall crime rate is about the same so far this year as the same time last year. Residential burglaries are down by 58%, but commercial burglaries are up – 3 so far this year, compared to 1 last year. (One involved someone throwing a rock through a business window and stealing items that were on display.) Thefts are up, and so are arrests, as Westwood Village has increased both its shoplift and trespass enforcement, Lt. Smith said. Car prowls are down by a third – 38 by this time last year, 25 this year – “we’ve been making some great arrests, and it’s the same people …” Auto theft, meantime, is up – 12 last year by this time, 16 so far this year. Property crime overall is down 5 percent. And that includes some license-plate thefts – check your plates in case it’s happened to yours!
He also mentioned that some of the SW Precinct’s officers, from the Community Police Team and Anti-Crime Team, were part of the big operation earlier in the day to sweep the “Field” encampment near the stadium zone (which is outside SW Precinct borders). And he said that the SW Precinct had managed to keep its main CPT Officer who deals with homelessness-related issues, Officer Todd Wiebke, from being redeployed to the new citywide Navigation Team. As he had said in other recent community meetings, Lt. Smith noted that Ofc. Wiebke, for example, is the only one in the city “impounding RVs” when merited (when crime is involved).
Lt. Smith was thanked for the new bicycle patrol, which had apparently dissuaded some suspicious behavior near Chief Sealth International High School, according to an attendee. Lt. Smith said that once it gets warmer, they’ll be spending a lot of time in the Alki Beach and Lincoln Park areas. Overall, “they’ve been doing really good on arrests and on-views” – which means trouble intercepted because officers happen onto it while patroling, as opposed to responding to 911 calls. He said precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis has been directing them to patrol areas where they have a concentration of crime reports, such as car prowls (another reason to be sure you report all such break-ins, even if nothing’s stolen).