By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
First, Delridge in 2015 …
Then, Roxhill/Westwood in 2016 …
Next, Highland Park in 2017.
Though it was semi-announced in early February, the date wasn’t set until very recently: Thursday, May 25th. The start time and route are not set yet. Those will be discussed at a series of meetings starting next week, according to two city/AmeriCorps reps who coordinate the Find It, Fix It Walks. Lemmis Stephens and Paige Madden came to HPAC’s meeting to talk about preparations for the event, starting with a public planning meeting next week. And they got an earful of skepticism and concerns, much along the lines of – “so, we find it, AND we then have to fix it?” from people who already spend much of their time volunteering for community-improvement projects
Earlier in the day, the city announced a May 4th meeting to form the Community Walk Action Team in advance of the event – the group will decide the start and end time. The city reps will be going to meetings, talking with businesses, “to find out what the needs of Highland Park are.” There’ll be a gathering before the walk and the (committee) will decide that too, said Stephens. There will be at least two planning meetings, possibly three.
In the meantime, applications for small grants to work on community projects are available (find the link on the lower left side of this page) – you don’t have to be part of an official group or a nonprofit. The money is available as a reimbursement after having been spent, Madden said – but HPAC co-chair Gunner Scott said that’s problematic too, particularly for people in an economically challenged neighborhood. “We’ll help you find a fiscal sponsor,” she said, and Scott said that wouldn’t be much help.
And that’s what sparked questions about who actually does the “fixing” of problems identified before/during the event. For example: “Isn’t some of the problem the illegal dumping that goes on around here?” one attendee said. “That’s a crime – so is there anything in the Find It, Fix It program that works with police (to curb that)?”
Police reps will be there, Madden said – Southwest Precinct leaders – as part of the city delegation that will be brought together for the event. In the meantime, Stephens said, use the Find It, Fix It app to report problems you see. He added that the app now has a new tab for reporting encampments. One attendee said he is an “avid user” of the app and has filed hundreds of reports, but isn’t clear on how they are “closed out” when the issue is addressed.
Attendees brought up a couple of big issues for Highland Park – the roundabout proposed (but still not funded) for Highland Park Way/Holden, and the restroom building at Riverview Playfield that’s been closed since an arsonist hit it more than a year ago (our photo was taken this week) and reportedly not in line for repairs for up to six years:
HPAC co-chair Michele Witzki said, “Sorry that we’re all so angry, but … we’ve been told our needs are too great, and funding was given to something further down the list.” Another attendee said, “We’ve been fed this series of ‘yes, we’re here to help you,’ but when it comes down to it, it’s all false hopes.” Witzki mentioned the major crashes on Highland Park Way and other problems including the slide that closed the road back in February:
Scott also pointed out that the neighborhood has hosted encampments multiple times in the past – from the original “Nickelsville” in 2008 to Camp Second Chance right now – and that’s another point of contention that locals have with the city.
Back to the grants: “So we can apply for money but we have to fix (problems) ourselves?” one attendee asked.
Well, not exactly, said Madden. She said that the mayor’s presence tended to shine a brighter spotlights on problems. “So we find these things that we take the mayor through – who’s accountable for bringing it to fruition?” asked an attendee.
Co-chair Scott said that was a good point – accountability – which they’ve heard about from other areas that have had Find It, Fix It Walks.
“The people here already volunteer plenty – we don’t want to be told about another volunteer opportunity or that we need a work party” as a result of the FIFI Walk, said Kay Kirkpatrick – “we want some support.”
For starters, said Madden – e-mail concerns, whether or not you’ll be able to bring them to the May 4th meeting. Another issue brought up: The boundaries shown as “Highland Park,” brought by the AmeriCorps pair, didn’t match the areas of concern. They said they can work on that.
Starting the walk on the Highland Park Way hill might be ideal, walking up from the slide zone, “past the random bus stop” and the lack of sidewalks along part of it. “I think we should do that at about 7:45 in the morning,” suggested Nicole Mazza, HPIC president, “so (the visitors) can understand.”
Traffic issues near the Westcrest Park off-leash area are also a concern, pointed out one attendee – traffic control measures and signs would be the request.
Again, if you’re interested in helping plan the Find It, Fix It Walk, the best way to do that is to get involved with the planning committee as it launches next Thursday – here’s the info again, including how to contact the coordinators if you have suggestions, comments, or questions, but can’t get to the meeting.
Also at the meeting:
UPDATE FROM POLICE: Southwest Precinct Lt. Steve Strand, daytime watch commander, is making the rounds of community meetings this week, in place of Operations Lt. Ron Smith. Local trends: Car prowls at Westcrest Park, near the off-leash area, have not been as big a problem lately as in the past, Lt. Strand said – they’re hopeful they’ve “driven out of the area” some of the repeat offenders. Recent shots-fired calls – “we’ve got good information on who’s committing those, and it’s a gang-type feud that’s happening, and we’ve put extra officers in the area” focusing on very specific problem houses, with people linked to other parts of King County, as has been reported at other meetings. One suspect has just been arrested, he learned just before the meeting, and they’re hopeful they’ve identified other suspects, with other arrests to come. Property crime, meantime, is a big issue, and the bicycle squad is part of an assigned patrol on that – focusing on areas “where they can be most effective.”
Community concerns: One attendee said a prowler is coming into her yard and removing the security lights she’s placed there. She said she didn’t want to call 911 to report it when he’s there, feeling it’s not an emergency – Lt. Strand said that yes, if someone is prowling your property, DO call 911, and be ready to describe exactly what they’re doing that’s suspicious or criminal – “looking through windows, trying car doors” – and be ready with as much descriptive information as possible, including any vehicle that might be involved.
HPAC co-chair Scott brought up speeding issues – and was almost hit yesterday – and wondered if enforcement might be possible. “It’s getting out of control.” Lt. Strand promised to bring that request back to the precinct for discussion. Scott said the problem is particularly bad between 6 am and 9 am.
One more concern: Discovering drug paraphernalia, including needles, in the park. “Is the best way to handle that to call police?” including if drug usage/dealing is seen? Dealing is a priority, usage not as much, Lt. Strand said – again saying that the more information you have before you call, the better.
RAPIDRIDE H LINE: Other community groups – South Delridge and Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights – have voiced concerns about issues including routing when the 120 is converted into Delridge RapidRide H Line. The question is whether HPAC will sign onto their letters of concern or send one of its own. They decided to do the latter, making points including that they don’t want to see a reduction in stops.
TRAFFIC CIRCLES: There’s talk of a summertime beautification project. It was suggested that fall might be better given how many conflicts there might be in summertime.
COMING UP AT HPIC: Fridays are big at HPIC: President Mazza said May 5th is Corner Bar with live music, the possibility for spending time outside, “it’s kid-friendly.” May 12th will be the next Art Lounge, including Amy Bradley‘s jewelry class this time as well as opportunities for artists to come in and work on their projects – this is a 21+ event. Third Fridays – May 19th – are family movie nights; fourth Friday will soon be a night with another feature such as karaoke or open-mic. “We’re trying to make this a place where you can walk to in your neighborhood and have a good time,” Mazza explained.
And she reminded everyone about the 9th annual Highland Park Uncorked; last year, it raised $15,000 (the first year, $1,300), which all goes back into the club, which is volunteer-powered, owned by the neighborhood, and the money funds improvements to the building (which lost part of its roof last year, you might recall). You can buy tickets here. (WSB is co-sponsoring Uncorked again this year.) More improvements are in the works, including curtains for separating spaces inside the club.
Highland Park Action Committee meets fourth Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, at HP Improvement Club (12th SW/SW Holden).