West Seattle, Washington
Historic Highland Park Improvement Club had a full house Saturday night for the 10th anniversary of their fun and festive fundraiser Uncorked. It’s evolved from its origins as a sort of DIY wine-tasting event, where the partygoers brought the wine, to an event with 10 participating wineries! Along with beverages, appetizers, and good company, an art auction was part of the festivities – here’s some of what we noticed:
Proceeds help keep HPIC in good shape – it’s almost a century old, and hosts numerous events, classes, and meetings. P.S. This year’s Uncorked co-sponsors included WSB.
Got some time to spare right now? Get over to Highland Park Elementary! The photo and invitation are from Connie Wolf:
The Highland Park Elementary PTA was hoping that May 5th would feature a Grand Opening Party for our school’s new playground, but as is typical for big projects, the construction took much longer than expected. Happily, as of yesterday, all the construction is complete! The work we have left to do is to move the engineered wood fiber (play chips) under our new net climber and slides. It’s a big job and a good workout. If you have an hour or two to spare, please join us [now] to get the “pit” filled in. Thank you everybody for your support!
When older apartment buildings are put up for sale, the accompanying listing often assures prospective buyers that a little work can bring the rents up to market level. That might be good news for the buyers, but not necessarily for the renters. West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold says the city is investigating what happened after a building in her neighborhood, 900 SW Holden in Highland Park, changed hands. This is republished from her weekly newsletter, published on the city website today:
Last Wednesday, while I was walking from my house to the Highland Park Action Council (HPAC) meeting I noticed one of the large apartment buildings in my neighborhood was boarded up. I didn’t know why that had happened, and because I work hard to keep up on what is going on in my District, and especially my neighborhood, I was feeling disappointed in myself for not being aware that a new major development was apparently occurring just two blocks away from my home. But then, during the meeting with HPAC, one of the attendees mentioned that the very building I had noticed on my walk to the meeting had been recently cleared by the landlord of all its tenants and some of them had become homeless as a result.
This immediately alarmed me because the City of Seattle has, since the 1980s, had a Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) that gives renters at least 90 days’ notice and financial moving assistance whenever a building is going to be renovated, demolished, or if there’s a change of use. It was immediately apparent to me that there was no way that the legal process for the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance could have occurred so quickly and I became worried that people had been improperly displaced. On my way home that evening, I walked around the perimeter of the building and indeed, it was apparent that all but a couple of the units were vacant.
When I got home that evening, I looked up the address on the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) website to see what development activity was planned at the site. But there were no planned development activities associated with TRAO or a demolition, renovation, or change of use associated with the address. This further confirmed my suspicion that renters in the building had been improperly forced to move. The next morning, I contacted SDCI and asked them to send an inspector out to the property.
I am saddened to report that I learned yesterday that SDCI has found that the tenants in the building recently had received a 100% rent increase and that this increase led to 20 of the 23 households being displaced from the building. Again, I’ve been told by my neighbors that several of these households are now homeless. This is, I believe, a shameful result and an abuse of a landlord’s right to increase rent free from any regulation.
The TRAO says that it is unlawful for landlords to use excessive rent increases to circumvent the requirements for 90 days’ notice and access to moving expenses assistance. But, there is no limit to how much a landlord can raise the rent. You see, the TRAO entitles low income renters who must move because of renovations to money to help them pay their moving costs ($3188). But if a tenant moves because of a big rent increase, they won’t get the assistance.
Not only do rent increases in Seattle lead the nation, but some rent increases are actually used to circumvent other tenant protections such as the TRAO. In 2014, Councilmember Nick Licata brought attention to the fact that “each year more and more tenants find out they were deprived of critical relocation assistance following a massive rent hike due to loop holes created by state law” and that some property owners do this as a regular business practice. You may remember the story of the Lockhaven Apartments and the Prince of Wales. In 2014 and again in 2015, State Senators David Frockt (46th District) and then State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th District) introduced legislation to disincentive for the practice of using rent increases to circumvent TRAO.
A number of landlords and their lobbyist testified against the bill, and it did not pass the State Legislature, so in response, Councilmember Licata worked to amend Seattle’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) to help tenants deprived of relocation assistance and 90 days’ notice to move that they would have otherwise received if their landlord followed TRAO instead of displacing them with a large rent increase. Specifically, the law prohibited rent increases for the purpose of avoiding the required Tenant Relocation Assistance process. If a landlord increases rent by 20 percent or more, which results in a tenant vacating a unit within 90 days, then applies for a permit to substantially rehabilitate the unit within 6 months, the owner can have their building permit denied until the owner pays the penalties. Penalties are $1,000 per day for each day from the date the violation began. The change Councilmember Licata made to the law has helped a lot of people, see this article from March, where under the new TRAO law, SDCI was able to require a landlord to pay $168,268 in relocation payments to 46 households that were living at 104 Pine St.
But somehow, and sadly, people who want to avoid their obligations seem to manage to find new loopholes as soon as you close one set of loopholes. The owner of this property that has displaced 20 Highland Park household with a 100% rent increase found yet another loophole in TRAO. From SDCI’s investigation we have learned that the property was purchased in January 2018 and the new owners, after the rent increase of nearly 100%, and after 20 tenant households vacated as a result of the rent increases, is now doing a rehabilitation that includes painting the exterior, painting interior units, tearing out carpeting and replacing some appliances. None of this work requires that the owner obtain a permit and it does not meet the definition of substantial rehabilitation (which requires work of $6000 or more per unit).
I am thankful that SDCI is continuing to investigate and will be requesting the owner sign a certification that the rent increase was not for the purpose of avoiding application of TRAO. If people are in touch with the displaced renters, please encourage them to contact me so that I can put them in touch with SDCI for purposes of this ongoing investigation.
firstname.lastname@example.org is her e-mail address. Records show the 51-year-old complex was sold for $4.2 million in January to a Renton-based LLC led by a real-estate investor who also leads the corporation that holds an Everett building that the Daily Herald reported was the subject of discrimination accusations in 2015. The listing flyer for 900 SW Holden, meantime, noted that its rents were 30 to 40 percent below market level, and that more than 80 percent of its tenants were month-to-month.
Seattle Police, according to radio communication, have found at least one shell casing while investigating reports of gunfire in Highland Park. The discovery is reported in the 8400 block of 10th SW, not far from some of the locations where 911 callers reported hearing it – from the 8600 block of 12th SW to the 9200 block of 21st SW. No reports of anyone being hurt.
From a reader reporting anonymously:
(Friday) sometime between 12:00-1:30 pm, in the South parking lot at Westcrest Park, my car was broken into – no sign of forced entry and nothing obvious taken – except for my wallet, from the glove compartment. I was playing with my son for about 20 minutes at the small play area there in front of the lot, and did take passing note of a sketchy looking man hanging out listening to his radio and possibly reading a newspaper in a beat-up old-model white pickup truck.
After 20 minutes, we walked the dog into the dog park, then played for an hour or so at the Westcrest playground and then returned to the car around 1:45 pm. I noticed my wallet was gone only when I went to grab it before heading into a store around 2 pm. I then started receiving text alerts about suspicious charges about 15 minutes later. The thieves racked up over $11,000 or charges at Apple, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and other stores, all at Southcenter – within probably 20 or 30 minutes, before their charges started being declined and I was notified. While filing a police report, I was told by the officer that it is relatively common for thieves to use signal-boosting devices for RFID key fobs to mirror the correct frequency to a vehicle and thereby gain entry without any apparent sign of forced breaking and entering. These devices can work over a fairly sizable range: the playground we were at near this parking lot would be well within range. I had no idea such a thing existed and hopefully others can learn from my mistake:
1) Westcrest parking lot, in the middle of the day, as per other reports on here, is still a high car prowl, sketchy place.
2) Be aware of suspicious looking car-sitters and remove all valuables from your car. The glove box is the first place they target after any visible purses on seats.
3) Thieves can essentially gain entrance to your vehicle if you have a keyfob and hang out relatively near your vehicle for a while. Consider getting an RFID blocking device and place your key in it.
Regardless of whether they’re using an electronic device, car prowlers can work quickly, we’ve heard from police and victims time and time again, without those nearby, even in busy areas, being aware of what’s going on.
12:55 AM: Seattle Fire has sent a midsize fire response to the 900 block of SW Holden after a caller reported some kind of possible fire across the street from their home, according to radio communications. So far, the units on scene aren’t seeing anything. We’re monitoring.
1:10 AM: Nothing found – SFD has left and the call is closed.
If you notice police activity just southwest of the 1st Avenue South Bridge, in the area between West Seattle and South Park, here’s what it’s about, according to scanner traffic: Police are looking for a suspect who is reported to have run away after crashing a vehicle near Highland Park Way SW/2nd SW. (added) A K-9 team has joined the search in the brushy areas alongside the highway.
11:31 PM: If you hear the Guardian One helicopter in southeast West Seattle, near Westcrest Park – it’s being called in to help with what scanner traffic indicates is a search for two people described as auto-theft suspects. There’s a ground search with K-9, too. The suspects are described so far as male, white, one in a camouflage jacket, ponytail and goatee, the other in a black shirt or jacket and “slightly unshaven.” If you have any information, call 911.
12:54 AM: Sounds as if police detained one person. We’ll be following up later this morning to see what else we can find out about how this started and shook out.
This morning Highland Park Elementary students rocked the tie dye at our first annual Move-A-Thon!
This fun event was made possible by our incredible school staff, passionate parents, and community-minded sponsors (Rain City West Screen Printing, Roxbury Lanes, Pagliacci Pizza, and West Seattle Runner). Also a very special thanks to our friends at Gatewood Elementary and Genesee Hill Elementary for their guidance. It’s been a landmark year for the HPE PTA, and it has everything to do with the support we’ve received from our West Seattle village.
This is what your generosity and thoughtfulness helps us accomplish!
In case you haven’t already seen it on our calendar – Saturday night, our area’s only rowing club invites you to a benefit party at Highland Park Improvement Club (1116 SW Holden). It’s the seventh annual fundraiser for Duwamish Rowing Club, 6-10 pm, with a chili dinner, silent auction, and raffle drawing, plus guest speaker Bill Tytus, owner/president of Pocock Racing Shells. Donation is $25 adults, $10 youth 10-18, and you’re invited to bring your favorite (vinyl) record to play! You’ll be supporting the club’s mission “that rowing should be affordable, accessible, and open to anyone who wants to participate.”
CRIME-TRENDS UPDATE: First up, Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith, with updates on Highland Park trends.
Last weekend, we featured Sam‘s report on Highland Park Elementary playground progress. We received a followup, with photos, from Connie Wolf of the HPE PTA:
Over 100 adults and kids generously gave of their time (last) Sunday morning to move a mountain of play chips and prep the gravel under our new net climber. A huge THANK YOU to our school families and staff, community members, City Year, Pomegranate Design, and Bethany Community Church for turning a daunting task into a community-building celebration. All the credit for organizing the event and getting Phase One of our playground built goes to the volunteer group Highland Park Plays and especially Gretchen DeDecker (Seattle Public Schools Program Manager).
Up next – concrete work is wrapping up, and then we’ll finish getting the chips into the play area. The highly anticipated play structures will be ready for our students in April. We’re planning a Grand Opening Party on May 5th. Stay tuned for details!
FRIDAY, 9:25 PM: Friends and neighbors are trying to find out what happened to Kathleen, who they say hasn’t been seen at her Highland Park home for two weeks. Her disappearance is suspicious, explains her neighbor Grace, because Kathleen’s home appeared to have been ransacked and her dog left behind, with obvious signs of neglect. Grace says Kathleen “was considered our neighborhood vigilante,” in terms of watching out for crime and suspicious activity, and that she would never let a neighbor’s disappearance go unremarked on, so they’re trying to find out what happened to her. They say Kathleen worked at Home Depot but hadn’t been there for a few weeks. A police report has been filed, 2018-109928, so if you’ve seen Kathleen or have any information about the circumstances of her disappearance, her friends hope you will call 911 and refer to that incident number. (We are not publishing Kathleen’s full name, as we have not heard from relatives, nor, Grace says, have neighbors.)
ADDED MONDAY MORNING: We just talked with Det. Mark Jamieson at SPD media relations, who talked with the detective assigned to the case after we inquired. He confirms what a family member says in the comment section, that at this point there is no indication of foul play (criminal activity); she was reported missing about two weeks ago and the case remains open.
Big birthday party this afternoon at Highland Park Improvement Club for a longtime community mainstay – Martha Mallett celebrated her 90th birthday! After a few warm words for partygoers, led them in a cheer of sorts:
She’s been involved since the 1950s with the historic community center, which is getting close to its centennial.
Highland Park-residing City Councilmember Lisa Herbold was among those at HPIC to honor Martha.
The councilmember read a special city proclamation declaring today “Martha Mallett Day” and detailing Martha’s many accomplishments:
As the proclamation noted, Martha’s decades of involvement with HPIC date back into the 1950s! Memorabilia including photos were on display at the party:
She was also serenaded with “What a Wonderful World.”
P.S. Due in no small part to Martha’s efforts, collaborating with neighbors, HPIC remains a thriving community organization/center to this day, with a variety of weekly and monthly events you can browse here.
Not everyone is kicking back on this Sunday morning! Sam sends the photos from Highland Park Elementary, explaining what the people in the photo above were warming up for:
After 4 years of work, phase one is finally nearing completion on Highland Park elementary’s new playground plan. We are moving wood chips into place as we await the contractor to finish pouring concrete.
For 5th graders at Highland Park Elementary, it’s the trip of a lifetime – traveling across Puget Sound for outdoor education. But every year, teachers and community members have to raise money to make it happen. This year’s trip is almost here and they still need help, and asked if we could let you know. From the crowdfunding page:
Highland Park is a unique place. We are a Title I school that serves an extremely diverse population with 80% of our students receiving free or reduced-price lunch. Many of our students speak more than one language and bring rich, cultural backgrounds to our community. The wide spectrum of learners creates a distinctive environment where we are happy to teach and grow with our scholars.
Each year, we have the pleasure of taking our fifth graders on a trip to IslandWood – a school in the woods on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle. During the four-day excursion, students are exposed to many things that they have never seen or done before, beginning with the ferry ride across Puget Sound and extending throughout their time on site. The staff at IslandWood provides an authentic, engaging learning experience. Every year, we get to watch our students learn in a way that cannot be provided inside the four walls of a classroom. To see the transformation under which many students go when they step beyond the world they live in is nothing short of inspirational. We love seeing those ‘lightbulb’ moments when our scholars click with learning in new, indescribable ways. Not only is the trip to IslandWood a fun-packed adventure, but it shapes the fifth-grade community upon our return as well. We create a close bond and build deeper relationships that greatly improve our ability to rise to the demands of fifth grade.
We want every student to be able to take this trip and have the opportunity to do something completely outside of their normal routine. However, while all the benefits of IslandWood are impossible to quantify, they do come with a price tag. This is where we need your help.
As teachers of Highland Park Elementary, we want to raise money to subsidize the cost of IslandWood so that every student can afford to come, and the only way we can do that is with your support. The last two years, generous donations helped pave the way for our students to have this powerful experience and we want nothing more than for this year’s scholars to receive the same opportunity.
Please consider donating to this trip and help us change the lives of these fifty-eight scholars.
Here again is the link.
11:33 AM NOTE: As commenters point out, there appears to be a problem with the donation process, which isn’t shown until three steps in … we have a message out to organizers … if you were planning to donate, please save the link and check back later! Sorry! (Per comments – fixed.)
But first: Outgoing co-chair Gunner Scott said he’s going to keep Mayor Jenny Durkan to her promise to visit Highland Park. He extended the invitation at her West Seattle “town hall” last weekend:
And she accepted it. Scott says he hopes to have her visit for coffee, donuts, and a look at Highland Park’s infamous traffic trouble (the one for which a roundabout is being sought).
Speaking of city business – City Light’s new meters will be installed in West Seattle soon:
11:31 AM: Thanks for the tips about police activity outside the Highland Park 7-11. That helped us zero in on the source of some scanner traffic about an arrest – and now we’ve just obtained more information from SPD media-relations Det. Mark Jamieson (officers at the scene declined comment). He says the white Escalade in the photo was suspected in connection with a West Seattle burglary this morning and a non-West Seattle burglary yesterday (in South Precinct jurisdiction); an officer spotted it, called for backup, and a “felony stop” (which usually means guns drawn) was made in the 7-11 parking lot. They arrested a suspect and impounded the vehicle, pending a search warrant. More details are expected to be made public a bit later, police tell us, so look for another update.
ADDED 1:36 PM: SPD Blotter‘s report notes that an “observant neighbor” is to thank:
A neighbor called 911 Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. after she spotted a man attempting to break into a home in the 1200 block of SW Othello Street. The witness continued to update dispatchers as officers were responding to the home and described a white Cadillac Escalade driving away from the home.
The King County Sheriff’s Guardian One helicopter was in the area and spotted the SUV leaving the neighborhood. The pilot directed officers to the vehicle in the 1600 block of Southwest Holden Street. Seattle police officers took the 23-year-old into custody and have turned him over to burglary detectives. Detectives believe the suspect may be responsible for an additional burglary in the area this week. Detectives will book the suspect into King County Jail for investigation of burglary.
ADDED 2:58 PM: According to a separate online update from the South Precinct’s commander, the non-West Seattle burglary yesterday was in the 10100 block of Rainier Ave S. The victims, who were home, provided police with a plate number, so that’s how police knew what/who they were looking for.
Saturday night, you’re invited to have a good time for a good cause – a big party with food, drink, and one of the coolest “photo booth” settings ever, all for the Highland Park Elementary PTA, which shares this announcement:
The Highland Park Elementary PTA is putting on our first-ever auction, and we need your help! Our event is less than a week away, February 3rd, and we’ve sold only 61 out of 150 tickets.
An energetic and resourceful group of parents got together to organize our ‘Fund the Future’ auction – featuring delicious food from Joanie’s Catering, tasty cocktails, a ton of items up for bid, games, and a DeLorean. Yes, a DeLorean! Dressing up in costume from your favorite era is encouraged (bonus points for working in the ‘Back to the Future’ theme). Need childcare? Lil’ Bug Studio is showing their support by offering a Parents’ Night Out during the event so your school-aged children can have a fun night out too.
Fundraising is an essential job of any PTA, but a significant challenge at a school where over three quarters of our students come from low-income families. While the Highland Park PTA’s budgetary needs are just a fraction of more affluent schools, we still need to raise funds so we can provide enrichment opportunities for our amazing students, support our hardworking staff, and bring all of our families into the school through events.
We just brought the Science On Wheels program to our school and every student spent a memorable day exploring astronomy. We are beginning construction on a 4-year-old project to build a playground and in two months students will have play structures for the first time. We are trying to make sure our 5th graders have the opportunity for a transformational outdoor experience at IslandWood.
Help us continue this impactful work by going to our party! You can find out more about ‘Fund the Future’ at our blog, and tickets are available for purchase at Brown Paper Tickets. If you can’t make the event, please consider helping our 5th graders get to IslandWood.
Be the lightning that powers our school family into the future!
Get your ticket(s) here.
From the Highland Park Action Committee‘s January meeting:
‘I FOUND A NEEDLE, NOW WHAT?’ The Sharps Collection Pilot Program from Seattle Public Utilities gave a presentation. It was basically Needle 101 – where do discarded needles come from? Not just IV drug users – could be people with medical conditions that require injections, even pets that need shots, or allergy sufferers. In Seattle, it’s illegal to just throw needles in the trash, “for the safety of sanitation workers,” said the SPU presenters.
If you find a needle on public property:
12:42 PM: A big Seattle Fire callout is in the 8400 block of 5th SW [map], near Westcrest Park, where SFD says what started as a vehicle fire has “extended to a structure.”
12:48 PM: According to radio communications, the fire has not extended to the residence at that address. Many of the responding units have been dismissed. Adding an SFD photo from before the vehicle fire was extinguished.
1:08 PM: Our crew at the scene confirms that the fire is out. How it started remains under investigation; we’re told no one was home at the time, and there are no injuries.
1:16 PM: Firefighters on the scene also confirm that damage is limited to the vehicle and garage. (Photo of the other side of the house, added above)
6:08 PM: SFD tells us they have not yet determined how the fire started, “pending further investigation.” Damage estimate: “$20,000 loss to structure and $20,000 loss vehicle.”
(Reader photo, texted)
Thanks for the tips on an emergency response at 15th/Holden in Highland Park. The scene cleared shortly after we arrived a few minutes ago, but for anyone who was wondering – police tell us a pedestrian was hit. Her injuries were not major, and a private ambulance was called to take her to the hospital to be checked out.
We’ve heard from residents of Highland Park and South Delridge about possible gunfire heard around 12:30 am. 911 calls were made. This time, so far, no word of any shooting victims, and we haven’t heard whether any casings or damage turned up either.