West Seattle, Washington
Car prowls, car prowls, car prowls – that’s what Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith just told the Highland Park Action Committee is that neighborhood’s biggest crime problem – like most other West Seattle neighborhoods: 145 in this area so far this year, compared to 46 in the same period last year. HP’s Westcrest Park is a hot spot, though not as much as Lincoln Park; Lt. Smith hailed the vigilant citizens who have stepped up keeping eyes on the park, and he encouraged people to keep reporting them, even if nothing was taken: “We need to report these crimes,” even if that means a jump in stats because more people are reporting what happens.
Also up this year over last: Robberies, especially along the southernmost boundary of Highland Park (SW Roxbury) – about a fourth of them were “shoplifting (incidents) gone bad.” Residential burglary is happening at about the same rate has last year, and “we’ve arrested one prolific burglar/car prowler recently, so hopefully we’ll see a reduction,” Lt. Smith noted, adding that non-residential burglary is down by more than half.
Still to come at HPAC, in our next report – city reps are here with their draft recommendation for what should be done with the city-owned Myers Way Parcels; we’ll have the details later tonight.
The Highland Park Improvement Club‘s “Uncorked” wine-tasting fundraiser packed the house last night, for wine-tasting, appetizers, and an auction to raise money for the nonprofit community organization. One item was a subtle reminder of some travails that HPIC’s almost-century-old community-center building at 12th/Holden has encountered this spring:
That art donated to the auction by R. Mac was painted on a piece of the overhang that came down, we’re told. The auction also included some more-conventional items, including these festive baskets:
A major change for this year’s “Uncorked” – instead of it being a sort of wine-tasting potluck, with participants bringing wine to contribute, the wine was provided by local wineries, including the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) Northwest Wine Academy:
In our photo are Jessica and Phyllis from the academy; they brought a rosé. (NWA’s spring-release event is coming up June 9th-11th, by the way.)
P.S. This year’s “Uncorked” sponsors again included WSB.
The folks at Highland Park Improvement Club want to make sure you know that, post-“eyebrow” trouble, their building is back in business again – they just hosted the monthly Corner Bar on Friday night and have another big event on the way:
The awnings are gone, the building is safe, and we are back in business! Movie Night, Corner Bar, Highland Park Uncorked, and all classes and events are on! More than ever, we need your support to help make this neighborhood gathering place better.
Highland Park Uncorked is Saturday, May 21. Tastings from 8 local wineries, raffle, silent auction featuring local artists – register here.
(Sponsors for HP Uncorked include WSB.) HPIC is at 12th SW/SW Holden.
Big changes this year for the Highland Park Improvement Club‘s annual wine-tasting fundraiser, Highland Park Uncorked, coming up Saturday, May 21st:
Registration is now open for our 8th Annual Highland Park Uncorked! We are so excited to be planning this event, with a few changes that will be sure to impress you!
Register now, as we’re sure to sell out.
A few noteworthy changes & new events:
*We now provide the wine for you! We’re working with 8 local wineries to bring you some amazing wines to try! So leave your bottles at home, the wine is on us…
*Everyone gets a commemorative glass to take home! Because you are our valued guest and supporting our community, we think you all deserve one.
*Silent art auction! With so many amazing talented artists in our very own neighborhood, we will be highlighting them with a new silent auction, in addition to our regular raffle. Our club is deeply rooted in this community, and it’s a perfect opportunity for us to share some of our local talents with you all.
*Wine Roulette! Test your luck by spinning our wheel and pulling a wrapped wine bottle from our ‘wine cellar,’ ranging from high-end bottles, worthy of sharing with the boss, to barely guest-worthy, but still drinkable. No matter what, you walk away with a bottle, the club gets a donation, and it’s a great opportunity to win a top-quality bottle of wine for a cheap price.
So register now! As a reminder, we book out in tables of 10. So book an entire table, or we’ll put smaller groups together so you can cozy up to some new friends.
(WSB is among the co-sponsors of HP Uncorked again this year.)
That photo is from Nancy, one of two smashed-in vehicle windows she noticed at Westcrest Park Off-Leash Area late today. We’ve had other reader reports lately, and the SPD crime-report map shows nine car-prowl reports in the general Westcrest vicinity in the past month, though that’s likely an undercount, since some don’t report it and some file online, which takes a while to work through the system. While an SPD “car-prowl prevention” one-sheet mentions calling 911, Nancy says today’s victims tried that and were pointed to the non-emergency line, where they gave up while waiting (as we’ve been reporting, the call center has fewer 911 lines while renovations are under way and calltakers are in temporary quarters).
Don’t leave anything in your car; you might not be as “lucky” as one recent victim, whose backpack and wallet were stolen from her car – also via window-smashing – while she was walking her dogs; the backpack was found tossed aside at 14th and Barton, according to the finder, who contacted us while trying to locate the owner. The victim told the finder that hundreds of dollars were run up on the cards in her wallet before she got them canceled.
Some of your West Seattle neighbors have been out doing awesome things this weekend. Thanks to Highland Park Action Committee chair Gunner Scott for the photos and report on Saturday’s HP Community Cleanup:
Thanks to the 15 neighbors who came out to pick up trash at Highland Park Playground; on SW Holden from Highland Parkway to 16th Ave SW; down Highland Parkway to Othello and the 3 traffic circles on 12th Ave SW at Thistle, Cloverdale, and Trenton.
A few more areas of West Seattle have cleanups in the works for this month – stand by for news on those!
12:57 PM: We’re getting word of a big Seattle Police response near Highland Park Way and Holden right now – you might see the Guardian One helicopter helping with the search too. SPD tells us it’s a foot pursuit of someone who ran from police, a possible suspect in a package theft. We’re on the way to find out more.
1 PM: We’re not there yet but hearing via scanner that the suspect might be in custody.
1:14 PM: About all we can verify is that the search is over – helicopter left and police cleared just as we were running up – had to park on the other side of Holden and traffic was too jammed for an easy crossing. Will follow up shortly with media relations in hopes their system has the info.
From last night’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting:
HIGHLAND PARK ELEMENTARY UPDATE: Two years after the school community reached out to its nearest community council, in hopes of enlisting help with its struggle as one of the most-challenged schools in the district, it was time for an update. HPE’s principal, PTA representatives, and School Board director Leslie Harris were among those who spoke. We recorded it on video:
In all, principal Chris Cronas said many good things have happened but many challenges remain. He has been working on social/emotional learning. Also, the school adds a 6-hour preschool next year, and his staff is working with churches and other area groups to identify the preschoolers who will attend.
MYERS PARCELS: Open-space advocates from around the city are coalescing to try to stop the city from selling this land in southeast West Seattle. Mary Fleck from Seattle Green Spaces Coalition spoke to HPAC:
The land is left over from a city land purchase that was originally related to the Joint Training Facility next door. As reported here previously, the mayor earmarked $5 million from the expected future sale to help fund programs to address homelessness. The land is commercially zoned, but advocates believe it’s important as part of the Duwamish River watershed, and could have other future uses. Right now the push is to slow down the process so that there can be more outreach to people in the community who might not be aware of the potential sale plan.
HPIC BUILDING UPDATE: One week after the “eyebrow” collapse, and days after the work party to clean up after it, HPIC reps told HPAC that the remaining overhang has been braced, and now they’re making plans about how to raise money for further repairs. HPIC’s already-planned Uncorked annual wine-tasting fundraiser is coming up on May 21st (WSB is a co-sponsor), and that will pre-empt HPIC’s movie night this month. One more note: They’re considering a fenced area outside so that Corner Bar events in good-weather months can include outdoor imbibing.
HIGHLAND PARK CLEANUP DAY: Get involved in a community cleanup this Saturday! Details on this page of the HPAC website.
Highland Park Action Committee meets fourth Wednesdays, 7 pm at HP Improvement Club. Get updates between meetings at hpacinfo.wordpress.com
1:24 PM: Less than 48 hours after the “eyebrow” of their historic, almost-a-century-old building fell off (WSB coverage here), members, friends, and neighbors of the Highland Park Improvement Club are hard at work getting the debris out of the way. They have enough help, they told us, to be done this afternoon; that help included neighbors who didn’t wait for the announced 11 am start time, as well as someone passing by who asked if they could take some of the plywood off HPIC’s hands.
Next step, shoring up the remaining awning, and they’re putting out a call to West Seattle contractors/construction companies to see if anyone’s willing to help (contact info is on the HPIC website, hpic1919.org). That’s on the south side of the building, along SW Holden, where the sidewalk remains closed until the awning is shored up:
In the short run, they’re hoping to put a brace on that remaining overhang. The building not only is used as a community center by Highland Park groups including HPIC – this Wednesday, for example, it’s scheduled for the regular fourth-Wednesday meeting of the Highland Park Action Committee – it’s also usually busy with classes, rentals, and events including movie nights and the first-Friday Corner Bar.
3:04 PM: As Alan said in comments, no work party tomorrow. Here’s the official message just in from HPIC:
Thanks to all that helped! We just wrapped it up. There will not be a work party tomorrow. Many hands made light work! We do have a small pile of metal next to the large dumpster in case anyone is interested in saving us from cutting it up to size for the recycle bin! It is yours for the taking.
We are also putting out the call for a bonded contractor to remove the awning that has not fallen. We are hoping to hire someone from the neighborhood.
7:11 PM: And the latest on the building’s status:
The debris from the fallen awning is cleaned up, a support post was put under the awning next to Holden and repairs were made to the handrails. We are now back open for classes and meetings. We still have a large dumpster in the middle of the parking lot for removal of the awning on the Holden side. We hope to have that awning removed soon but, until it is, we are not going to be able to support any large rentals or Corner Bar. Hopefully, we will get the rest of the awning removed very soon, as none of us want to miss Corner Bar!
(The next CB would be Friday, May 6th.)
West Seattle’s historic Highland Park Improvement Club building is closed until further notice after an overhang, described as the”eyebrow” of the building, collapsed late today. Nobody was hurt, but the collapse raised safety issues and that means the much-used almost-a-century-old building at 12th and Holden is off-limits for now. Its regular uses include classes – yoga was scheduled tonight – as well as meetings and HPIC events such as Corner Bar and Movie Night; it’s also rented out for special events. We covered its 90th-anniversary celebration in 2009 – read HPIC’s history here – and it’s where we hosted the first candidate forum of last year’s historic City Council District 1 campaign, in February 2015.
Seattle Fire and Police were at the scene to help secure things. So were HPIC leaders, who told us they first heard about this from an apartment resident across the street who reported looking out her window and simply seeing the awning fall down, without even much of a sound. Seattle City Light was en route to check if any power lines were in a precarious spot if the rest of the awning came down. We’ll be following up with HPIC about repair plans and needs.
Celebrate Earth Day weekend by helping out with a community cleanup. We’re mentioning the ones we’ve heard about – yesterday, we featured Saturday’s North Delridge cleanup, and today, this announcement from the Highland Park Elementary School PTA:
Saturday is the second annual HPE Earth Day Cleanup. This year we are working together with the Playground Planning Committee to both clean up the school and design our future playground. The Earth Day portion of the event will meet at the front of the school from 9:00 – 12:00, rain or shine. Come prepared to clean up and beautify the school grounds. The playground planning portion of the event is from 8:00 – 4:00. Come to either event, or both. Stay for 30 minutes, or all day! Coffee and lunch will be provided.
HPE is at 1012 SW Trenton. The Highland Park community also has a series of neighborhood cleanups planned – more on that later – and if you’re looking for volunteers for your cleanup, we’d love to help; e-mail the information to email@example.com – thanks!
11:28 AM: Thanks to the person who tipped us about this (text/call 206-293-6302, 24/7): The guns-drawn police response in the 9400 block of 9th SW in south Highland Park is a Bellevue Police case, with Seattle Police assisting. We were told at the scene that it involves a Bellevue warrant related to auto theft. That’s all we know so far, but we’re checking with BPD and will update later if we find out anything more.
6:37 PM: We just heard back from BPD’s public-information officer, who says, “I can confirm that investigators with our Department’s Special Enforcement Team (SET) were in that area investigating a vehicle theft and serving a search warrant on a residence.” Officer Seth Tyler added background on the SET, saying that it “addresses specific types of repeat crimes with an innovative, proactive approach. The team targets prolific, active criminals in an effort to lower the overall rate of reported crime. The team conducts plainclothes surveillance of targeted areas and surveillance of known active criminals and then coordinates with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure that arrested suspects remain in custody. Additionally, SET works frequently with the investigative units of other agencies to help address multijurisdictional offenders.”
ADDED THURSDAY: More info from Bellevue PD – we’re publishing a separate followup.
8:26 PM: A crowd is gathered right now for a candlelight vigil at the site of Thursday morning’s deadly crash, in memory of 21-year-old Devin Francis.
They are filling both uphill lanes of Highland Park Way, so please avoid the area for a while.
9:07 PM: The vigil was breaking up as of about quarter till. We will go back in a while to check.
Seen Whitney’s car? Just out of the WSB inbox:
1994 Honda Accord stolen from Westcrest Park Off Leash Area. Around 6:00 pm April 1st. Light green, two door. Pima Medical Institute sticker up front on driver’s side corner. With broken passenger headlight. Green middle sticker on bottom back window. License plate number AUH9649. Please help me find this vehicle! If seen, message me at (970) 596-9574.
(WSB photo from last month)
We’ve reported repeatedly in the past few weeks (most recently, on Thursday) that the “RV safe lot” announced for Highland Park has been on indefinite hold. And now, Councilmember Lisa Herbold says the mayor’s office has confirmed to her that it’s officially not happening – because it would cost too much, for the 10 or fewer RVs it would serve.
As a result, Herbold’s office says, the two interim “safe zones” set up in SODO and Interbay will be “extended for an additional 60 days,” and the 39 RV residents that were waiting there will get help with making their vehicles operational so they can comply with 72-hour parking laws, or they will get help finding “secure housing.”
That doesn’t address what happens to the half-dozen or so RVs that we’ve reported are described by SPD as “staged” along Myers Way, awaiting the now-a-no-go Highland Park lot, so we’ll check on that next week.
It’s been two months since the mayor’s original announcement that the lot would be set up at West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way within a month, along with the one that did open in Ballard. Since then, we’ve made almost-daily checks of the site – a paved lot adjacent to the longtime site of an unauthorized encampment that was closed two and a half years ago – and the only sign of preparations has been a canvas-covered fence around the lot.
Though the Parks and Green Spaces Levy has been succeeded by the Seattle Park District levy, some of the P&GSL projects are still in progress – and one of them is getting extra $ from the district. That’s the Highland Park play-area plan (for the park at 1100 SW Cloverdale), and a postcard that showed up in the WSB mailbox brought word of your chance to get a look at, and have a say on, play-equipment options. It’s more than three weeks away – plenty of time to set yourself a reminder: Monday, April 18th – with an open house at Highland Park Elementary (1012 SW Trenton) 5:30-6 pm, and a presentation at 6.
P.S. Note that this is a different project from the one for the school’s play area, which also has an event coming up, as we reported in our coverage of this week’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Highland Park Action Committee started off last night’s meeting feeling a little dissed.
The city promised new HPAC chair Gunner Scott that someone would be there to talk about the status of the possible future “RV safe lot” at West Marginal Way SW and Highland Park Way SW.
As of the last information Scott had – similar to what we’ve reported recently here and here – it’s apparently on hold TFN. Scott said that was the word a few weeks ago when nearby businesses had met with the mayor’s office about their concerns, and they were told a news release would make the news official.
Still waiting on that, too.
SPD Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith, who’s provided most of the information that has been made public since the last official discussion, confirmed what Scott reported having been told, that the spaces in Ballard and Highland Park just aren’t able to hold anywhere near what had been originally envisioned. Ballard is maxed out at about 16, half what the city had expected; the West Seattle lot wouldn’t be able to hold more than 10.
And he repeated what he’d most recently said to the Alki Community Council, that the RVs currently “staged” by the entrance to city-owned property on the west side of Myers Way, south of the Joint Training Facility, are people “willing to work within the system” who have been helping with cleaning up the area, including nearby non-vehicle encampments.
HIGHLAND PARK ELEMENTARY: Community involvement with the school has been a priority since the special 2014 forum discussing its challenges and opportunities.
It’s now been almost seven weeks since the mayor’s announcement that two “safe lots” for RV/car residents would be opened within a month – one in Ballard, which did open on exactly that timeline, and one in Highland Park, where the paved lot at West Marginal Way SW and Highland Park Way remains fenced and empty. We have new information, as mentioned by Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith at last night’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting:
First, regarding who will use the lot, he said the precinct so far has identified nine RVs currently in the area that would be potentially eligible. The Seattle Fire Department has been evaluating the sites and wanted better spacing, he said, which might affect the capacity, though the last number we heard mentioned for the West Seattle lot was a dozen. Last week, the city Human Services Department told us that the timeline for this lot had slowed so they could “address many of the lessons learned in the first lot before we stand up a second one.” The first one, according to Lt. Smith, is hosting fewer vehicles than expected, so far. As for safety and crime prevention in Highland Park, he also said the precinct has its plan ready, whenever the lot opens.
1:50 PM: When we reported last week on the former Andover Substation going up for sale on the open market, it was the only ex-substation in West Seattle – of the half-dozen reviewed in the past year and a half – to be set for that type of disposition, right now.
Now, we’ve discovered that a second one has a “For Sale” sign – a change from the plan that was in the works last December, when the City Council authorized disposition of the ex-substations, after a review process that stretched over more than two years. And the site has a page on the city website that just went live this morning, days after the other listings.
It’s known as the White Center Substation, though it’s in Highland Park, at 8820 9th SW [map]. The city report on the ex-substations last September had said that the site was suggested as a complement to a county stormwater-infrastructure project, and that the county “concurred that the former White Center Substation would be a suitable site for stormwater bio-retention.”
The bill subsequently passed by the Council in December said that the site would be offered to King County at its appraised value, listed as $355,000. But that fell through, and now the site is for sale, with the flyer setting the minimum bid at $500,000 and describing the site as 13,750 square feet, zoned LR (Lowrise) 2.
We’ve been inquiring with the county and city as to why the sale to the county fell through, and will update with whatever we find out. Bids, meantime, are due by the end of this month.
4:05 PM: Our inquiry to the county has brought this reply from Annie Kolb-Nelson of the Wastewater Treatment Division: “King County WTD has been looking at a range of alternatives to control CSOs [combined sewer overflows] in the Lower Duwamish at West Michigan and Terminal 115, and we’ve been working closely with community members to understand concerns and priorities. With regard to the substation property you refer to, King County considered the parcel but later determined we could complete the project without it. However, because the community expressed interest in it, we looked into acquiring it through alternative funding such as grants or other resources to cover the purchase costs. Unfortunately, we were unable to find the funds needed.”
It’s been exactly 24 hours now since the Highland Park crash that ruptured a gas line and forced more than 150 people to evacuate early Friday.
We’ve been following up on three aspects of the incident and here’s what we have found out so far:
THE GAS LINE: Late Friday morning, Puget Sound Energy crews were back at the scene, and you could clearly see the piping in the area where the car had flipped, not only sending gas flowing into the air but also triggering a high-pitched noise until the gas was turned off.
We asked PSE spokesperson Ray Lane for a little more about what was hit: “The car hit what’s called a ‘district regulator’ – it’s an important piece of equipment which helps set the pressure for natural gas moving through the system and into neighborhoods and customers’ homes. That explains the sound you heard at the scene. We were notified of a problem at 12:19 a, with repairs made at 1:45 a. I believe the crews were checking on the equipment again in the daylight hours. Customer service was not impacted.”
THE INTERSECTION: SW Holden/Highland Park Way is notorious for crashes and traffic backups. The community and city have partnered on exploring possible solutions, such as a roundabout, or traffic signal. And that’s still where things stand, a year-plus later, SDOT‘s Jim Curtin told us when we asked for an update on Friday: “We’re working with nearby residents to develop a Neighborhood Street Fund proposal for this location but we do not have any official projects planned at this time.”
THE DRIVER: We weren’t able to learn anything more Friday about the driver who was taken to the hospital after flipping his car, but we know SPD classified the case as a DUI investigation.
When Mayor Murray first announced on January 19th that the city would open two “safe lots” for people living in RVs and other vehicles – one in Highland Park and one in Ballard – he said the city expected to have them open within 30 days.
While the one in Ballard made that timeline – opening February 19th – there’s been no sign of activity on the West Seattle site, a paved lot at W. Marginal Way SW and Highland Park Way, aside from a canvas-covered chain-link fence around it. We’ve been asking city reps frequently for an update on the plan, and today there’s a new answer. From Katherine Jolly of the Human Services Department:
We are currently focused on getting the Ballard safe lot fully operational before we open the second lot. As you know, this is the first time the City has done this and we want to make sure we address many of the lessons learned in the first lot before we stand up a second one. I will keep you posted as we decide on a more specific timeline for the second Safe Lot.
The two lots together were originally announced as expected to hold a total of 50 vehicles; the most recent estimate for the Highland Park lot was 12. We have a followup question out to Jolly to ask about the current count at the Ballard lot, which had four when we went by two days after it opened.
Five years after becoming co-chairs of the Highland Park Action Committee, Carolyn and Billy Stauffer have stepped down, and their successors were chosen at Wednesday night’s meeting. Afterward, they sent the photo and announcement:
Pleased to introduce our new leaders! Shown left to right in the attached photo are:
Craig Rankin – vice-chair
Beth Andrisevic – secretary
Michelle Glassley – treasurer
Michele Witzki – speaker liaison
Gunner Scott – chair
Thank you to Highland Park and Riverview for these new awesome voices for our community!