West Seattle, Washington
7:03 PM: We’re at the Joint Training Facility on Myers Way, a short distance north of the encampment that the city plans to change into a larger, sanctioned encampment. This is the first major meeting since that announcement. The city’s director of homelessness, George Scarola, is emceeing. He promises to answer questions that were raised at the smaller December meeting that followed the announcement. We’ll be updating as this goes.
First bit of news from Scarola – apparently Polly Trout of Patacara Community Services will be the camp’s operator “if we clear all the hurdles.” Her nonprofit has been supporting it.
Now, a list of speakers. First, Jason Johnson, deputy director of the Human Services Department, which is accountable for dealing with homelessness. He directs those interested to the city’s online FAQs resulting from their first three sanctioned encampments (Myers Way will be one of three more announced so far).
He confirms Patacara will be the operator, that it will remain a “clean and sober” encampment, and that it’s expected to grow to “50 units – about 70 people.” The encampment, as a sanctioned camp, will have an “operating budget” including trash, rodent abatement, toilets. What about “tiny houses” at this camp, as with the others sanctioned by the city? Johnson didn’t directly answer it but said the others have some but didn’t start out that way. Timeline: One year, with a potential renewal for a second year. “Two years is the maximum an encampment can remain permitted at any one location.” And the operator is expected to set up a “community advisory committee.”
Two questions from attendees: From a resident at nearby Arrowhead Gardens – what does “basic hygiene services” mean – will they have portable showers? Johnson says they’re still working on the contract and budget and don’t know yet. From someone else: What happens to the camp residents after those (potential) 2 years? Johnson says there will be “case management and services (at the site) … to continuously work to help people to navigate … into whatever is better, next, for them” – housing, “reunification with family,” etc.
Second, Patacara’s Trout, who says she’s been working with Camp Second Chance since June.
“(It) is a really extraordinary community,” she said, calling it an “organized, ethical, diligent group of people.” She says it can be “a healthy place for people who have recently been through a lot of trauma,” and a “safe place” as well as a place where people are “experiencing kindness.” Partnering with the city will “improve the physical quality of life” there, including water and Dumpsters. She promises that the camp will be “good neighbors to the housed neighbors in the neighborhood.”
1st question for her, what about the trash from unauthorized camping across the street? That’s not in her bailiwick, she says, but they might have “litter patrols.”
2nd question – who are/will be there? What ages? “We’re not going to have any children in the camp,” Trout replied. And “the intake process is managed in a democratic way by the camp itself.”
One attendee interjects that the camp originally turned up on the Myers Way Parcels site “because it broke through a fence … there was no community involvement.”
Next speaker, Mike Ashbrook from the city Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which is accountable for the site as city property. He says “the plan is to quarantine off the wetlands and any known sensitive areas we have” but also to protect access for City Light and others who need to get to part of the site.” “We also understand that the site has contamination issues,” and says they have been working with King County Public Health to “try to mitigate” that. He mentions the kiln dust “in a define area” and says test wells have been drilled to confirm it’s not spreading out. An attendee challenges that and offers a thumb drive that he says has a report on it showing otherwise.
Attendee question: “Why didn’t you plan these things about water and garbage before you started, instead of now saying ‘you’re gonna, you’re gonna’?” Ashbrook says they are “allowed” to provide those services “once a camp gets sanctioned.”
7:29 PM: Next, Susan Fife-Ferris from Seattle Public Utilities, saying, “I’m here to talk garbage.” The camp has gotten “bag service” so far, she says, but will be delivering a Dumpster on Friday. (Added: Photo we took of the bag stack north of the camp earlier today)
She says there’s been a “litter crew” cleaning along Myers Way at least weekly. “If you see an illegal dump, use Find It Fix It or call our illegal-dumping line, and we will clean it up within 10 business days” – if it’s on public property/right of way. She also mentions the sharps program and says you can report those and they will be picked up within 24 hours; there are six drop boxes around the city, and they can be dropped at the South Transfer Station (which is in nearby South Park). She insists the campers “want to be good neighbors” in terms of keeping things cleaned up.
First attendee question for her: How do homeless people have so much garbage? Fife-Ferris says that’s “personal” so she can’t really answer that but she expects a “significant decrease” once the Dumpster is being provided. Second is about sharps disposal, and she and Scarola reiterate the 24-hour commitment.
Next speaker – Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis.
He gets applause, but the cheers are even louder for Community Police Team Officer Todd Wiebke, the precinct’s point person on homelessness-related issues. Davis mentions a department “navigation team” of eight who will be handling these issues citywide. He says that Camp Second Chance is well-organized in his view, compared to others he’s dealt with. Switching gears, he says that if there are any “criminal issues … that we need to know about,” don’t hesitate to report it.
Questions: The audience member who’s been challenging speakers says he’s waited “hours” for police response. “Do you have any numbers about how much better it’s going to get?” Davis replied, “No one should have to wait that long. (But) we do not dispatch from our precinct – calls go through 911, and they prioritize.” So, the audience member says, “how can you commit to any improvement?” Davis admits they might not be able to, because officers are not dispatched from the precinct. “That’s not acceptable.” It’ll have to be, for now, Davis says, adding that he would love to have more officers.
Gunner Scott from Highland Park Action Committee, a nearby community council, asks how SPD will work with KCSO, which apparently doesn’t have a representative here, given the camp is close to the border. Who do you call, what do you do, if a criminal crosses the line? Scott says that Camp 2nd Chance isn’t the problem so much as the RVs along the street. “There’s a lot of real estate out there… some is city of Seattle, some is King County,” and KCSO has resource challenges too, he notes.”If there’s an issue where we can collaborate,” they do. “We put the best effort we possibly can with the resources we have to get out there and get after our bad guys.” He mentions the precinct’s new bicycle team, 6 officers and a sergeant (at another meeting we covered recently, it was mentioned they are still awaiting bicycles for four of them). He said they are going down the hillside on the east side, into the “Grotto” area among other areas.
Next question: An attendee says he understands that SPD has been told to “stand down” on some crimes, so can people be told which ones. He says he witnessed an assault and an unsatisfactory police response when Camp Second Chance arrived last summer. “First of all, there is no ‘stand down’ process,” Davis replies. “We can only go by the information that’s given us” in terms of making an arrest.
After that, a nearby resident says when she calls 911 to report a problem, the dispatcher has no idea what area they are talking about, so can the dispatchers be better-educated in where Myers Way is? “That sounds like something we need to work on,” Capt. Davis agrees. Maybe, he says, SPD can even meet with dispatchers, and he then suggests that having a dispatch-center rep at the next meeting would be a good idea. “And King County Sheriffs,” someone else calls out.
7:50 PM: Back when “Nickelsville” was in Highland Park, no matter how the camp was run, it was an “attractive nuisance” drawing trouble to the surrounding area, the next person points out, so what can be done about that? Davis says that’s a “polarizing issue” and they’re trying to figure out “how to tackle that.” He said the SPD “navigation team” will be dealing with that.
Now, another city manager, Rodney Maxie of Seattle DOT, who says that street maintenance and urban forestry are among the divisions for which he is accountable. He says he hears a Find It Fix It Walk is coming up here soon – local community leaders say, “News to us! When?” – and Scarola says, we’re announcing it now. Apparently it will be in Highland Park. No date yet.
He acknowledges issues with “borders” on city, county, state land in the area and says various city departments have formed a new partnership with WSDOT to take on these issues. In response to a question, he says agencies/jurisdictions are “coming together” to clean up areas no matter whose land they’re happening on.
“You could take care of a lot of problems if you put up signs saying ‘no overnight camping along Myers Way,” suggests an attendee. Maxie says that they have to “assess the constitutionality of everything and make sure we’re treating everybody fairly.” He also says they are working on addressing “new no-parking zones” regarding RVs as well as other vehicles.
8 PM: An attendee asks about issues brought up regarding another of the three upcoming sanctioned encampments – one to be opened in Georgetown – and pedestrian issues. Maxie says some sidewalk, barrier, traffic-calming improvements are being planned. “When will it be implemented?” Maxie replies, “Probably in the next few weeks – it’s going to be really quick.” He then mentions this is a different situation, starting as an unsanctioned encampment that the city has decided to sanction.
HPAC’s Scott says they asked about lighting on Myers Way at the December meeting, and wonders what is planned. Maxie says the Find It Fix It walk can address that – and attendees say, no, that’s not going to be a Myers Way Find It Fix It. Maxie starts to say that there are issues raised by lighting. Scarola apologizes for not addressing this, while saying, “That’s a tough issue, lighting.” Scott challenges, “When will we get an answer? Friday?” Scarola says it was “my mistake,” and promises an answer by the end of February.
Final city speaker, Robert Stowers from Seattle Parks, to talk about the long-term plan for Myers Way Parcels. He says it will be a “few years” before FAS transfers the land to Parks, and they will have to examine their funding for what they can do. He promises that the city will come out then and “engage” the community about “what you want in a park.”
“We want it now!” somebody shouts out. “We don’t have the land yet,” Stowers reiterates. Parks already has “about a dozen landbanked sites waiting to be parks” around the city, he notes. (Three of them are in West Seattle.)
First question is more of a statement – Seattle Green Spaces Coalition is going to be “visioning” for the land’s future, and invites Parks to participate. Someone else suggests that the city should put some money into development in exchange for the area “hosting” the camp.
When will the date for the transfer be announced? HPAC’s Scott says. No answer to that.
What about Hamm Creek? is another question. Since it’s not Parks property, Stowers says, he doesn’t know.
8:09 PM: The speakers are done, and now it’s on to a general Q/A period.
Officer Wiebke takes on the Hamm Creek question. Dealing with campers in that area “is going to be whack-a-mole,” he says. When was the last time you went into that area? an attendee asks. “Probably a couple weeks,” Wiebke replies. He adds that while he believes he’ll be safe heading into that area, policy requires that he have “resources” with him if he goes into the area. He mentions a 2-day project late last year that cleaned up the area – “you probably remember the tractors.”
But, “I don’t believe I’ve ever been to a cleanup where we’ve gotten everything.” He answers the question asked earlier about “why so much trash” – “A lot of these people are outdoor hoarders,” because of mental challenges, he says. He mentions finding bicycle frames but not being able to match them to owners because “most people don’t register their (bicycles).”
Back to Hamm Creek, he says the water and soil have been tested – he doesn’t know how recently, but has not heard of any pollution problems detected. “I don’t think they’re (relieving themselves) directly in the stream.”
Question for Trout – is one Dumpster enough? (And other refuse concerns.) Fife-Ferris from SPU answers instead. The Dumpster might be picked up daily, she says – they will expect Trout to tell them how often they need pickup. Might be “two Dumpsters picked up every other day.” Trout says she talked with Waste Management about one Dumpster each for trash, recycling, composting, and that they hope to help pick up the rest of Myers Way.
Scarola at this point mentions that City Councilmember Lisa Herbold is here. She wants to ensure the written record of the meeting is kept, so dates can be followed up on, etc. Scarola agrees to that.
Next person is local resident Pat Lemoine, who says he has an alternative plan “that could get everybody in Camp Second Chance into homes in the next week for $600,000.” How much is the encampment budget? he asks. Human Services Department rep Johnson says that the budget for all the sanctioned encampments is less than $1 million.
The next question is about more specifics regarding the partnership between SPD and KCSO. Are there regular meetings, etc.? No, Capt. Davis says, the structure “depends on whatever happens across the borders.” He says other department reps, however, are often at the SPD SeaStat meetings. He mentions the prospect of annexation, and that has put an extra spotlight on the area. He mentions a crackdown led by an multi-agency task force a few years back.
Brought up next – a sinkhole problem in the area, “8 feet across and 30 feet deep,” Officer Wiebke says, “near the church.” He says he’s not sure whether “piping” was to blame, but SDOT came out, “filled the hole back in.” It was first reported by “a homeless lady living right next to it,” who told him that the soil moves in the area so “at night you can hear the trees twisting and turning.”
Next is the attendee who says he’s been attacked by “forest and RV campers,” and wants more of a commitment to “making our neighborhood more safe.” He says he was advised by deputies and officers that he was told he should carry a firearm if he’s going into that area. Capt. Davis said he doesn’t know the context of the conversation but says that if they’re going into that area to report things via Find It Fix It, “give us a call.” “So what kind of response can we expect” with that kind of response? is the followup – what kind of time commitment? “Give us a call,” Capt. Davis reiterates.
At this point, Scarola tries to say they have to wrap up the meeting due to a promise to be done by 8:30. Several people are still in line. If they go fast, they can do it, Scarola agrees. First person wants more King County reps at future meetings. Next, were any King County elected officials invited to this meeting? No. “Sounds like I’m going to fix that,” Scarola adds. Next, Randy from South Park says that the “disconnect between 911 and precinct officers” is a long-running citywide problem. He also says that local leaders should be told that permanent housing is needed so people don’t have to live in encampments. That drew applause.
What community outreach was done about this encampment plan? the next person asks, saying he had only heard a bit about this before. “How do you keep the dialogue open with the most amount of people who are going to be affected by this homeless encampment in our backyard, in addition to all the RVs and the trash?” Scarola says the Community Advisory Committee will have a role, as will organizations such as the White Center Community Development Association.
“We have to do a better job,” Scarola says.
Next: “We are in a state of emergency on homelessness, declared in 2015,” says a woman. “The only difference is that the people in the camp are unhoused. We are human beings and it is a human right to have affordable housing.” She was applauded. “We are human beings and we deserve to live with dignity.”
Mary Fleck from the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition says they are engaged currently in wanting to take of the land and wants Parks to commit “to meet with us and work with us now,” not in several years. She asks Stowers to meet with them and he agrees, while reiterating that Parks doesn’t own the property yet. “But yeah, we can start talking right now,” he says.
Following that, a question about the first sanctioned encampments, which Johnson says have just been renewed through this year. “What happens to those people” after this year? he’s asked. He says it’s not a “static” group of people, but he doesn’t have data about how many have moved into housing.
Then Christopher speaks and says he’s a camper, though not in the encampment. “Homelessness, houselessness, is a never-ending problem if we don’t come together” to solve it. He is on the verge of tears.
Scarola then summarizes the meeting as “respectful and positive” and says “the issues that have been raised are all legitimate, and they deserve a hearing.” He says there are various agencies to which you can report problems, and waves a card that has hotline numbers on it.
It’s also mentioned that the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets tomorrow night (7 pm, North Highline Fire District, 1243 SW 112th).
8:39 PM: Meeting’s over. We’ll be adding more photos and links when we’re back at HQ.
9:24 PM: We spoke with Scarola post-meeting. He said yes, there will be another meeting, as had been requested, date/”form” TBD. The Find It Fix It Walk for Highland Park is likely to be in “late spring,” he said.
11:48 PM: For some reason, our software has decided it’s not taking any more comments on this story, which oddly also happened the last time we live-chronicled a meeting at the JTF. Apologies; we’re trying to troubleshoot. (And we’re crossposting this to White Center Now, which uses a different template/software version that we hope won’t have the same problem.)
By Cliff Cawthon
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
When you come to the gate, instead of the encampment beyond, the first thing you’ll notice is that there’s usually someone being either welcomed in, looking for help, or offering to help.
Camp Second Chance is on the city-owned Myers Way Parcels, and while it’s been there, unauthorized, since last summer, it is also the site of one of the three “new” authorized-encampment locations formalized by a mayoral emergency order, approved by the City Council, last week.
The original December announcement of those three locations (including one in Georgetown) marked a leap forward for a plan the mayor calls Bridging the Gap to Pathways Home. The camp is to be given a one-year lease, with the possibility of renewal for a second year.
Nonprofits, community members, and residents are currently in a conversation around the Mayor’s move. And a community meeting is scheduled for 7 pm next Wednesday (February 1st) at the nearby Joint Training Facility. The authorization is greeted enthusiastically by camp liaison Eric Davis: “Being able to safely transition into housing, as opposed to being [swept] out of somewhere every three months…it’s a blessing the Mayor [has] sanctioned us [so far].”
I visited the camp to talk to residents about what this order means for their future. Read More
2:11 PM: A month and a half after announcing three “new” authorized encampments around the city, including the Myers Way Parcels site that is already home to an unauthorized encampment, Mayor Murray is following through. Here’s the announcement, including plans for a community meeting:
Today, Mayor Ed Murray sent emergency orders to City Council authorizing three previously announced encampment locations for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle.
The orders call for three new encampments, each with capacity for 60 to 70 people, to be established at 8620 Nesbit Avenue North, 9701 Myers Way South, and 1000 South Myrtle Street. These locations will be permitted for one year, with an option to be renewed for an additional year. The City has been actively meeting with residents and neighborhood leaders ahead of today’s announcement and will continue to engage with the community as the sites are established. Upcoming community meetings are:
Monday, January 23, 2017
Georgetown Community Council Meeting
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Old Georgetown City Hall, 6202 13th Ave South
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Myers Way Community Council Meeting
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: City of Seattle – Joint Training Facility, 9401 Myers Way South
Additional meetings with South Park and Aurora/Licton Springs community groups are being scheduled.
The emergency orders sent to City Council today are part of Bridging the Gap to Pathways Home, Mayor Murray’s interim plan to address the immediate needs of people living unsheltered, while the City fully implements its long-term plan, Pathways Home.
We are following up with the mayor’s office to ask for a copy of the “emergency orders” and also to ask whether a decision has been made on whether the Myers Way encampment will continue to be self-managed as Camp Second Chance (which moved there, unauthorized, last summer) or whether a nonprofit is being sought to run it.
ADDED 4:41 PM: Here’s the order for the Myers site. Mayoral spokesperson William Lemke says they’re still working on who will operate it.
Two weeks after the city’s director of homelessness led a meeting (WSB coverage here) about the plan to officially authorize and expand the encampment that’s just inside the gateway to the west side of the Myers Way Parcels, George Scarola has sent this update/recap:
On December 8th my office organized and led a community meeting at the Greenbridge Learning Center to discuss the City’s decision to make the homeless encampment on city-owned property at Myers Way one of three new City-sanctioned encampments. This is the site where Camp 2nd Chance is currently operating. The plan would allow current campers to stay and expand the number of people living there from 20 to 60 or 70.
The City is setting up new encampments because it has adopted a key recommendation from the Task Force on Unsanctioned Encampments: when people are required to move from unsafe, illegal encampments, the City should offer safe alternative places to live. Attached is a fact sheet with FAQs that was distributed at the meeting.
The primary purpose of the December 8th meeting was to listen to concerns and questions from members of the surrounding communities. Approximately 50 people attended, as well as officials from the Police Department, the Human Services Department, the Department of Neighborhoods, and the Department of Financial and Administrative Services. I am attaching notes from the meeting which lists questions, requests and comments from community members and City officials.
The next step in the community notification process will be a second community-wide meeting in January at a time and place to be determined. At that meeting we plan to have a team of City officials on hand to address the concerns and questions raised by the community. It is our intention to do all we can to make the encampment at Myers Way a safe, clean place for its residents and a good neighbor to the surrounding communities.
We’ve uploaded the two documents mentioned above – here’s the FAQ; here are the city’s meeting notes. Also of note, the Highland Park Action Committee‘s letter sent to Scarola last week, post-meeting.
Two updates related to the city’s plans to change a Myers Way encampment from unsanctioned to sanctioned, one of three new authorized encampments announced almost two weeks ago:
CITY COUNCIL BRIEFING TOMORROW: When the council’s Human Services and Public Health Committee meets at 2 pm Wednesday (City Hall, downtown), its agenda includes an update from the city’s director of homelessness George Scarola on the interim plan that includes three “new” authorized encampments, including one on Myers Way in southeast West Seattle. Here’s the slide deck just added to the meeting agenda:
(If you can’t read it via the embedded document, here’s a direct link to it on the city website.) Two notes of local interest – one, it says the city is still talking with potential operators of the Myers Way encampment, which suggests that Camp Second Chance, which has been there without authorization since July, might not be the operator after all. Second, it mentions showers open for use at Delridge Community Center “since December 1st”; our understanding is that they’ve been available longer than that. Tomorrow’s meeting, by the way, as with most Council meetings, has a public-comment period, and will be live on Seattle Channel (cable 21, seattlechannel.org).
COMMUNITY CONCERNS: Following up on last week’s meeting at Greenbridge about news of the authorized encampment (WSB coverage here), Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council chair Amanda Kay Helmick has sent Scarola this letter voicing community concerns. We were copied and are publishing it in its entirety below: Read More
By Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
To say that emotions ran high at last night’s meeting about the city’s plan for an authorized encampment on Myers Way is an understatement.
Led by George Scarola, the city’s director of homelessness, the meeting included an invited group of about 40 concerned neighborhood advocates, and escalated into raised voices and statements of clear dissatisfaction with the city, one week after Mayor Murray’s announcement of three new encampments around the city, including this one.
In an overview of the homeless problem citywide, Scarola said there were 3,000 unsheltered people on the streets of Seattle as he spoke, and even more if you counted those in shelters. Countywide, he said 10,000 are homeless, 4,500 of those unsheltered. “Something different is happening,” he said of the problem. “It’s a phenomenon that has become common.”
The city’s plan, he said, is to get homeless people only what they need as fast as possible – not a “Cadillac” but to get them sheltered. The city is working with various non-profit organizations to become more effective in solving this dilemma. In the meantime, the city needs to address those 3,000 people, without them living in parks, on school grounds or on sidewalks.
Folks living on the edge – under freeways, on the edge of parks – will be asked to move and given 72 hours to do so, Scarola said, with the offer of a warm place to stay. Camp Second Chance, which moved to the city-owned Myers Way Parcels last July, is currently unsanctioned, but is slated to be one of three new sanctioned homeless encampments within the city. 20 tents are there now; the city says 50 will be added. Rules would apply – it would be a clean and sober community, as its organizers say it is now. People would be allowed to bring partners and pets. Read More
(UPDATED 6:30 PM with comment from City Councilmember Lisa Herbold)
4:44 PM: A month and a half ago, during the uproar about whether camping would be allowed in city parks, Mayor Murray promised to announce four new authorized encampment sites. Since then, city staff has been reviewing locations, and has just announced three sites – including one in southeast West Seattle, part of the city-owned Myers Way Parcels. Here’s the announcement just in:
Today, the Human Services Department announced the siting of three new temporary sanctioned encampments for individuals living unsheltered in Seattle. This action is part of the Bridging the Gap plan, announced in October, to better address the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness while the City fully implements its long-term plan, Pathways Home.
Together, the following three new sanctioned encampments will serve more than 200 people starting in early 2017:
1. 1000 S Myrtle Street will contain up to 50 tiny houses serving 60-70 people.
2. 8620 Nesbit Ave N. will contain up to 50 tiny houses serving 60-70 people.
3. 9701 Myers Way S will contain up to 50 tents serving 60-70 people.
“Today’s announcement recognizes our need to provide safer alternatives to the people living unsheltered on our streets as we work to implement Pathways Home,” said Catherine Lester, Director of the Human Services Department. “We remain committed to our long-term plan to transform our homeless services system and focus our investments on getting people off the streets and into housing. In the meantime, we will continue the work of increasing our outreach efforts, implementing a more compassionate set of protocols when cleanups are necessary and offering trash and needle pickup services.”
In October, Mayor Murray announced the Bridging the Gap plan, which recognizes that the City should not displace unauthorized encampments that do not pose an imminent health or safety risk or do not unlawfully obstruct a public use, unless the City can offer those living there a safer alternative place to live. The plan reflects the principles laid out by the Task Force on Unsheltered Cleanup Protocols.
That announcement came a month after Mayor Murray announced Pathways Home, Seattle’s plan to transform our homeless services system by focusing our investments on the goal of getting people into stable housing. The plan aims to eliminate barriers to better meet the individualized needs of those experiencing homelessness, shift investments where necessary to achieve the goal of moving people into housing, and increase accountability to this goal through performance-based contracting.
The first of the authorized encampments is scheduled to open in early January.
Additional information about the Mayor’s actions to address homelessness can be found here.
There’s already an unauthorized encampment – Camp Second Chance – on part of the Myers Way Parcels (it was slated for eviction four months ago but that was shelved indefinitely). We have asked the Human Services Department to clarify if that camp is included in this plan or not. (ADDED: Spokesperson Chelsea Kellogg says this is the same site CSC is on.)
BACKSTORY: At one point, the mayor planned to sell part of the Myers Way Parcels to raise money for homelessness-related programs. Then he announced in mid-July that most of it would be kept for open-space purposes, except for a section to be used to expand the Joint Training Facility that borders it to the north.
Related to that – and immediately preceding this announcement – local advocates had learned that the site had yet to be transferred to the Parks Department, as the mayor had indicated it would be, and instead remains in the portfolio of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which remains accountable for its maintenance. Councilmember Lisa Herbold subsequently learned of this and asked Parks Superintendent Jesús Aguirre about it. His reply to her: “Although the property has been committed to and designated to be transferred to SPR’s inventory, the official transfer has not yet happened. Finally, since we do not have the funds to maintain the property, FAS has agreed to continue doing so. We will update our maps listing the land-banked sites to include the Myers Way site moving forward, with the caveat that there is not yet funding available for the development of the site.” (“Land-banked” refers to sites Parks owns – such as the Morgan Junction Park expansion site and the Charlestown and 40th SW sites in West Seattle – but has not yet developed with park facilities.) How, or whether, this relates to the encampment announcement is not yet clear.
The Myers Way Parcels have had other proposed uses in the past, including, in the late 2000s, consideration as a possible site for a new city jail that ultimately wasn’t built.
ADDED 6:30 PM: From Councilmember Herbold:
Because I know Highland Park residents have expressed concerns about equity with the rest of District, I asked what criteria HSD used to select the approximately 50 sites throughout Seattle that were deemed eligible for consideration. Here is what I was told:
Urgency: The primary review focused on city-owned parcels that could be activated quickly based on site conditions and current use of the property.
Geographic distribution: They primarily focused on parcels located in different areas of the city from the 3 existing authorized encampments.
Authorized Encampment Ordinance: They prioritized sites based on how they met the requirements of the authorized encampment ordinance, including location in non-residential zones, availability of transit, minimum lot size of 5000 sf, adjacent uses, etc.
Underlying Financing: As a budgetary consideration, they evaluated the underlying ownership/financing of sites to determine the amount of required compensation for the use of the site (e.g. utility ownership or gas tax financing).
Given these criteria, they evaluated about 50 possible sites for the new authorized encampments and of those sites, 5 were located in West Seattle. I’ve asked what the other 3 sites were. One of those was the old Nickelsville site. Specifically, I’d like to be able to explain to the community what made the other two sites in West Seattle less desirable.
The Mayor’s Office has told me that they will pledge to work closely with the surrounding communities to make the Myers Way site a good home for encampment occupants and a good neighbor to the surrounding communities.
We have additional followup questions we’ll be pursuing with the city tomorrow.
10:48 PM: Last time we heard from Camp Second Chance, the encampment that moved from a Tukwila church to a private site on Myers Way, and then to city-owned land across the street, it had a deadline to clear out: The city had posted a warning that it would clear the site at 9:30 yesterday morning. But it didn’t happen; a social-media post by the camp’s nonprofit sponsor said the city extended the deadline until tomorrow. That apparently isn’t happening either; tonight, the camp liaison contacted us to say they’d received word of another extension, to “mid- to late-August.” The camp is hoping the city will allow them to stay until they find a new, authorized site; they say they might have an offer of one on private land in South Park. Meantime, we’ll be checking with the city tomorrow.
THURSDAY NOTE: An SPD Community Police Team officer who’s been focused on homelessness-related efforts tells WSB the “week or two” reprieve claim is accurate.
Another development today in the saga of the encampment Camp Second Chance.
First, the backstory: Eleven days ago, after three months of being hosted by a church in Tukwila, the camp set up on what turned out to be private land next to the east side of the City of Seattle-owned Myers Way Parcels (WSB report, July 18th). The land’s owner asked them to leave, and they said they would.
That move last weekend took Camp Second Chance across the street (WSB report, July 24th) and just inside the Myers Way Parcels’ main gate on the west side of the street. This past Monday night, when the mayor and city department heads were in West Seattle for the Roxhill/Westwood Find It, Fix It Walk, we asked the city’s real-estate-handling department (Finance and Administrative Services) director Fred Podesta about the camp; he told us (WSB report, July 25th) it was unauthorized and would at some point be told to leave.
That point has already arrived. Polly Trout from Patacara Community Services, the nonprofit that has been working with the camp, just sent the photo atop this story, showing the eviction notice she says the city gave them yesterday, warning the area will be swept next Tuesday (August 2nd). From her e-mail:
On July 28, the City of Seattle gave official notice to Camp Second Chance that they must vacate the unused city lot that they are occupying by this coming Tuesday, August 2, or be swept. Please call Mayor Murray and ask him to give the camp three months on the site while they continue to look for a new host site.
Camp Second Chance is a sober and well managed homeless encampment. The camp is self-governing and receiving supportive services from my 501c3 nonprofit, Patacara Community Services. They have a code of conduct, 24 hour security, Honey Buckets, and trash removal. The community is clean, safe, and ethical.
Until July 18, the camp had a legal site at Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila. They were there for three months, as per their agreement with the church, and have been invited to move back there in January. However, they were unable to find another host site in time, and they wanted to honor their three month agreement with the church, so they have moved to a Seattle city owned lot that has been unused and vacant for several years. They are continuing to search for a new permitted site sponsored by a religious organization and plan to move as soon as they have located one.
The camp is home to 25 adults, one toddler, and two dogs. Most of the camp residents are working. I firmly believe that ALL people deserve a safe place to sleep, but believe me when I say: I know this community well and you will never meet a more decent and hardworking group of citizens and neighbors. Seattle has declared a state of emergency around homelessness; right now, there are probably 100 homeless encampments in Seattle. All of them are necessary, under the circumstances, because people have no place else to go.
The camp residents do more than just care for themselves and each other. They also give back to the neighborhood by doing voluntary outreach and resource referral to other homeless people in the area, and deter crime and illegal dumping on their block.
I urge you to contact Mayor Murray and ask him: With so much suffering in the city, why is the city spending tax dollars to sweep an encampment that is sober and well managed, on public land that would not otherwise be in use? Please urge him to stop ALL sweeps until everyone has a safe and legal place to be, but especially not to prioritize sweeping a camp that is doing such a stellar job of providing safety, compassion, dignity, and hope to its members. …
Trout asks anyone with a site to offer to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and asks supporters to contact FAS director Podesta, and/or Mayor Murray and/or City Councilmembers. Just last night, by the way, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold – whose district includes the Myers Way Parcels – included information on the encampment situation in her latest update to constituents. You can read it in full here; this excerpt seems to run contrary to what is happening now:
… Over the months that I have been on the City Council there has been much discussion of how the City should work with people living in encampments. We are a City with very long lines for shelter and years’ long waiting lists for affordable housing and rent assistance. Whether caused by a lack of access to housing or a reluctance to accept help when available, sometime it takes time for outreach workers to help campers. As part of these discussions I have urged the Executive not only to have its work guided by established public health and safety prioritization criteria, but I’ve asked whether outreach workers have the ability to ask for more time if – in their estimation – more time would help get campers access to services. I have been assured that the Executive’s administrative protocols do allow for a “go slow” approach in these instances. As it relates specifically to the Myers Way properties, I have told the Executive that:
I understand that complaints have been made about the encampment and that this obligates the City to accept those complaints;
As it relates to acting on these complaints, I believe health and safety prioritization criteria should be used in determining when to schedule action on this encampment;
I want a report on the outreach and services being provided to the campers with assurances that should outreach workers find that more time will result in better outcomes for the campers that more time will be given;
and I’d like the City, in the interim, to provide garbage services for the campers, consistent with the encampment garbage removal project I proposed in March.
We’ll be checking with her this afternoon during her local office hours as to what she knows about the planned sweep at the site. (Added 3:25 pm: We talked with Councilmember Herbold at SWNSC a short time ago. She said she is aware of the sweep plan but has yet to hear back on the requests she made prior to writing her update, which in turn was before word that the camp had received notice to clear out.)
(back to original report) Meantime, Polly Trout’s e-mail ended with this:
This crisis does not go away when we turn our heads. If we work together and act now, we can fix this. Please join me in doing everything we can to make sure every person has a safe place to sleep tonight. I don’t want to live in a county where this kind of suffering is normalized. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that when women are beaten to death under bridges because nobody cares enough to give them a safe place to sleep we just ignore it, because there is nothing we can do about it. This is NOT inevitable and we CAN end this. But not by chasing homeless people around and destroying their survival gear while public land goes unused behind locked gates. That is not working. If the camp needs to move, let’s all work together to find them a better and legal place to be and then move them there.
While we’re working on our full report about tonight’s Find It, Fix It Community Walk in the Westwood/Roxhill area (short 1st report here): We took advantage of the presence of multiple city department heads at that event to get information about a few unrelated issues elsewhere in West Seattle. First followup: The Camp Second Chance encampment’s move to the Myers Way Parcels, after almost a week on private land across the street. We had sent an inquiry to the media liaisons at the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (which manages city-owned land like this) earlier in the day, asking if the camp was authorized and if not, whether it would be allowed to stay. They didn’t reply, so when we saw FAS director Fred Podesta at tonight’s event, we asked him directly. He told us he had stopped to check out the camp personally while on his way to the Find It, Fix It Walk. He confirmed that the camp does not have permission to be on city land, so it will eventually be given notice and then swept if it doesn’t move of its own accord. What the timeline for that would be, Podesta doesn’t yet know – “it’s not the only unauthorized encampment (on city land),” he noted. But he said the city will do what it can to help campers find services and to help the camp find another site.
Since we reported last Monday on an encampment, Camp Second Chance, moving from a South King County church to a privately owned parcel on Myers Way, much discussion ensued in the story’s comment section. The camp’s nonprofit supporter said there that it would be moving this weekend. Passing through the area this past hour, we saw that it has – the site, owned by a dump-truck company, is completely clear … and the camp in our photo above is now set up across the street and a bit to the south inside the gates to the main entrance to the Myers Way Parcels, the land that Mayor Ed Murray recently announced the city would keep rather than sell. The area outside the gate had been an unofficial staging area for RV campers earlier this year when the city had plans to open a “safe lot” in Highland Park, but that plan has long since been canceled. Some RVs have continued to camp along Myers Way in that area – half a dozen were in view earlier this week; this morning, we saw two. We have a question out to Camp Second Chance’s sponsor to verify whether that’s what is now set up on the city property.
FIRST REPORT, 4:44 PM: Another big announcement from Mayor Ed Murray this afternoon: The city will keep the southeastern West Seattle land known as the Myers Way Parcels, instead of selling some or most of it. The news release just in:
Following months of community input, Mayor Ed Murray today announced the planned usage for the Myers Way property in Southwest Seattle.
“Thank you to those who shared their input on the future of the Myers Way property,” said Murray. “The City will retain the land, dedicating the four-acre northernmost portion for important fire training needs and expanding the Joint Training Facility. The remainder of the property will be retained and designated for open space and/or recreation purposes, consistent with the community response provided through our outreach. At a future date, Seattle Parks and Recreation will conduct further public outreach to determine how best to use the property.”
Seattle Parks and Recreation does not currently have resources needed to immediately repurpose the site, but the Department will retain the property as one of its “land banked” sites. Holding such properties ensures that valuable open space is not lost, even if resources for repurposing the property are not immediately available.
The Myers Way property is one of the largest pieces of undeveloped City-owned land and is adjacent to the Seattle-White Center border.
A sale of some of the land was supposed to fund part of the city’s homelessness programs – to the tune of $5 million – so we’ll be asking a followup on where that money will come from instead. (Added: Mayoral spokesperson William Lemke tells WSB that will be addressed in the mayor’s budget proposal this fall.)
ADDED 5 PM: Just in from Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who (as shown in the photo above) toured the site with community members and city reps two months ago today:
I’m pleased to learn that the Executive will not be moving forward with the plan to sell the Myers Way parcels. This issue is important to many residents residing in Top Hat, Highland Park, South Park, Arbor Heights, as well as citywide environmental groups such as Seattle Green Spaces Coalition and TreePAC. This is a significant and important victory for the community who has worked so hard to bring the value of these properties to the attention of City decision-makers.
I had been contacted by various community stakeholders regarding the proposed sale of approximately 12 of the 33 acres known as “Myers Parcels,” owned by the City of Seattle and declared “Excess to the Department’s needs.” In May, I organized a tour of the properties with community stakeholders and City Staff. Community members had sought assurances the decision about selling this property will occur only after the entire community, specifically low income renters, people of color and non-English speaking residents are meaningfully engaged and that FAS apply the Racial and Social Justice Toolkit and follow the Equity and Environment Action Agenda before deciding what to do with this land.
In 2014, the White Center/Greater Duwamish area was identified as the fifth most highly impacted community in the Puget Sound Region “characterized by degraded air quality, whose residents face economic or historic barriers to participation in clean air decisions and solutions.” Due to the severity of air quality and contamination already present in this area, I had expressed my concern to the Executive that active use of these parcels might result in further air quality degradation.
Many organizations, such as the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, have worked diligently for many years to clean up our waterways and have expressed concerns about the implications of development on Hamm Creek and the watershed within these properties. In response to these concerns as well as those related to air quality, I’d requested the following from the Executive:
Multilingual communication, so that members of immigrant communities could take part in the decision making process.
Additional information to catalogue the geological and hydrological elements of the property, their ecosystem services, and their beneficial uses to the community prior to making a disposition recommendation to the Council.
A health impact assessment that addresses the air quality contributions made by these land parcels, vs. air quality degradation from further development prior to making a disposition recommendation to the Council, rather than based upon a particular proposed development.
We’ve been reporting for years on what’s been going on to try to determine the future of this ~33-acre site (which was even considered in 2008 for the never-built city jail project). You can browse our archived coverage by clicking MYERS WAY PARCELS beneath this story’s headline, and scrolling through the stories (including our coverage of the big community meeting June 30th).
(ADDED 12:12 AM – meeting video, in three clips, at story’s end)
6:37 PM: We’re at the Joint Training Facility in southeastern West Seattle as the city meeting “to decide what will be done with the Myers Way Properties … not a hearing, but simply to get ideas from the public” gets under way. Forrest Gillette is moderating. We’ll be updating as it goes.
First from a lineup of five city reps is Hillary Hamilton from the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which is in charge of managing real estate and what happens to it if the city doesn’t need it, as is the situation with this 33+-acre site. She says this is happening “about halfway through” the process of deciding the property’s fate; but she also points out it’s not a formal public hearing – that will happen when this gets to the City Council, likely in September – so there won’t be time for comments from everyone, but there are “comment sheets” in the room.
6:44 PM: Second speaker is Seattle firefighter Colin McElroy – part of the site is proposed to be used as an expansion of the Joint Training Facility, which is where the meeting is happening, and his role is to explain “what happens here.”
He says his main job is at Station 14 in SODO but he “moonlights” here teaching structural-collapse training: “Our goal is to train firefighters all around the region that will help us prepare to help you guys if there’s an actual emergency – that emergency most likely being an earthquake.”
(2010 WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli, during training at JTF)
He says JTF needs more room to expand training areas, to move “noisier and dirtier operations” toward the south side of the site (further from their neighbors, a large retirement-residences complex (Arrowhead Gardens) to the north), to add parking, and to store some of their larger “props” inbetween their use, rather than having them sit in place and take up space.
Next speaker represents the broker/developer perspective, Al Robertson from NAI Puget Sound Properties.
(Click to see full-size PDF)
If you’re interested in the future of the Myers Way Parcels in southeast West Seattle, the city’s final reminder about tonight’s community meeting at the Joint Training Facility includes word of a 5:30 pm guided tour BEFORE the 6:30 pm meeting. From district coordinator Kerry Wade:
This is a friendly reminder that there will be a meeting this evening regarding the future of the Myers Way Property. Come learn more about the history of this land, what has been proposed by the city and the community, what are some of the barriers, and learn from a panel of experts what is at stake. There will be exhibits on display and opportunities for you to make comments as well.
For those of you who are interested in a brief tour of the property, please feel free to come early (around 5:30 p.m.).
Here are the meeting vitals. We hope to see you all there!
Myers Way Property Community Meeting
Hosted By City of Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services
Joint Training Facility Meeting Room
9401 Myers Way South
Thurs. June 30, 2016 @ 6:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6:00; Come early for a 5:30 guided tour)
Light refreshments will be provided
Interpreters will be on hand for Somali, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish.
WSB coverage of the site and related issues is archived here.
(Click to see full-size PDF)
Right about this time tomorrow – on what is likely to be another beautiful summer night – the city’s Joint Training Facility in southeastern West Seattle will be open to the public, a rare thing, for what might be the only community meeting about the fate of the land to its south, the Myers Way Parcels (lately labeled on some city documents as the Myers Way Properties).
Community advocates asked for this meeting, to provide a chance to hear as many voices as possible, and it’s likely the last meeting of its kind before the properties’ future lands in the hands of the City Council. As reported here in recent years, its fate has long been undetermined – the city had to buy all of it in order to get the land for the JTF, then declared the rest surplus, but a deal to sell it for commercial development fell through. Now, as reported here June 15th, preliminary recommendations suggest keeping some of it to expand the JTF, selling part of it for commercial development, and selling the rest of it to a concern that would preserve that section as greenspace.
The city has already determined that it’s not suitable to be developed for housing, because of a lack of infrastructure as well as some toxic contamination, but the mayor decreed last year that $5 million of the prospective sale proceeds would help pay for the city’s efforts to help people experiencing homelessness. Meantime, at least two community groups (here and here) have recently asked the city to delay a decision for reasons including the potential annexation of North Highline next door (NH residents are not expected to be asked to vote on that before November 2017). What do you think should be done? Whatever your answer, showing up to speak up has the most impact – the meeting is set for 6:30-8 pm; here again is the official notice, which includes information on how to comment if you can’t be there.
P.S. Among the many documents linked from the city website is this 109-page summary of some of the comments received as of earlier this month.
ADDED THURSDAY: A final city reminder about this meeting includes an addition we didn’t have word of previously – a 5:30 pm guided tour of part of the Myers Way Parcels, pre-meeting. All welcome.
(Click to see full-size PDF)
Our first report from the Highland Park Action Committee meeting that just wrapped up: HPAC voted tonight to send the city a letter asking that the proposed sale of most of the Myers Way Parcels in southeastern West Seattle be shelved. From the draft letter approved by the group:
… As you know, these 33 acres contain wetlands, wildlife habitat, and open space connected to the Hamm Creek watershed and the Duwamish River. In addition, there are several racial and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods surrounding and connected to this area, many of which are unincorporated areas of King County.
Highland Park and South Park are the closest Seattle neighborhoods bordering the Myers Way Parcel, but for the neighborhoods of North Highline, including White Center, Boulevard Park and Top Hat – the Myers Way Parcel is at the center, connecting these communities to each other. Yet, these communities have no representation or say in what happens to this area at this time. At the same time, there are ongoing discussions about annexation of these unincorporated communities into the City of Seattle, with a determination possibly as early as November 2017.
There is a significant clean-up underway for the Duwamish River, which could be the heart of this part of West Seattle, if the clean-up efforts continue and there is no additional negative environmental impact of the river, the creeks and wetlands that feed into the river.
Therefore, we are strongly urging Mayor Murray, Seattle City Council, and Department of Finance and Administrative Services to:
1) Hold off on any further plans to develop and/or sell any or all parts of Myers Way Parcels PMA #4539-4542 until there is final determination of annexation of North Highline into the City of Seattle and if North Highline is annexed that those community members are given the same opportunity to provide input into the final recommendations;
2) Until an outside agency with experience, knowledge, and connection with the clean-up of the Duwamish River has evaluated the environmental impact of the each of the “Range of Options,” as outlined on page 6 of the Preliminary Recommendation Report On Reuse and Disposal of the Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services PMA 4601 JTF Expansion Property PMA 4540-Undeveloped lot at 9501 Myers Way S. PMA 4541-Undeveloped lot at 9701 Myers Way S. PMA 4542-Undeveloped lot at 9600 Myers Way S. PMA 4601 JTF Expansion property from June 15, 2016, has been fully explored and vetted that there will be no additional negative environmental impact on the Duwamish River, the clean-up efforts or in any violation of the Clean Water Act. …
The city’s preliminary recommendations – to keep part of the land for expansion of the adjacent Joint Training Facility, and sell the rest – were made public one week ago. A community meeting is planned at the JTF (9401 Myers Way S.) one week from tomorrow, 6:30 pm June 30th (here again is the official notice). The eventual decision on the land’s future will be made by the City Council.
P.S. The rest of our coverage of tonight’s HPAC meeting will be published tomorrow.
Last Thursday’s much-discussed Alki Community Council meeting wasn’t the only meeting of the week in which Seattle Police talked about traffic-safety concerns. A similar, albeit much shorter, conversation was part of the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting one night earlier , last Wednesday @ Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. Here are our toplines on that and what else came before the DNDC:
PUGET RIDGE SPEEDING AND OTHER SPD UPDATES: Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith had a followup on Puget Ridge’s speeding concerns, which were among the problems neighborhood reps brought up at last month’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting. He said that motorcycle officers from the SPD Traffic Unit will be out for enforcement on Puget Ridge at random times during the summer.
In his crime-trend overview for eastern West Seattle, he told DNDC attendees that violent crime is down, and that car prowls remain the major area of concern, though “we’re starting to see a slight dip” in the numbers. Auto theft has increased in High Point, with five in the past month, but was down in the Westwood-Roxhill area, with three over the past month. An automated license-plate reader will be deployed to check more vehicles around all of West Seattle, he said.
MYERS WAY PARCELS: Instead of the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, another advocacy group, TreePAC, was at the meeting to talk about the site, represented by Cass Turnbull. She recapped the site’s history (previously reported here) and the fact the city is now deciding what to do with it. (As reported here earlier that day, the city Finance and Administrative Service‘s preliminary recommendations have now been made public. Turnbull said she had not read it yet but had heard – as was our assessment – that it was largely the same as the draft recommendations unveiled last month.) She says the site could be many things – “but if they sell it, it can’t be anything but industry.” She would like to see it be an environmental learning center. “It’s a very degraded piece of property” – but, that said, it still has lots of potential, and is alive with even tiny wildlife like crickets. TreePAC’s position is to ask the city to simply not sell it.
DISTRICT COUNCILS’ FUTURE: The issue of the Department of Neighborhoods‘ response to last year’s City Council “statement of legislative intent” about possibly aligning neighborhood districts with council districts – among other things – came up again, with a recap of the recent Southwest District Council discussion (WSB coverage here). DNDC attendees were invited to talk about it. Michael Taylor-Judd from the North Delridge Neighborhood Council said he’s “angry” about how the DoN is rolling this out, acknowledging that yes, there is some truth to the concerns about the demographics of councils, but that they are trying to reach out further, and need the city’s help, not words of criticism, let alone suggestions that the councils will see some of their limited city resources removed. Christine Cole from the Greater Duwamish District Council was at the meeting – she had been at SWDC too – mentioning again that her DC and others in its area remain without a district coordinator.
Gunner Scott from the Highland Park Action Committee said he’s not in favor of the proposals (such as realigning neighborhood districts with City Council districts) right now. Pete Spalding from the Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council said resources have been pulled away and have eroded over the past decade-plus, and now the councils are getting criticized for what resulted from those cuts and degradations. Nancy Folsom of NDNC said she supports the concept of finding different ways to reach different community members. District coordinator Kerry Wade said that in addition to working with the district councils, not only does the DoN want to get more people to the table, they want to reach people “who don’t even know the table exists.”
Scott suggested that meetings could be made friendlier for families – offer child care, perhaps – and for those who have transportation challenges – offer vouchers, maybe? Folsom suggested it’s not about reaching out and trying to pull people in as much as changing to be “more inviting” so that they will want to come in. Wade suggested that the kind of cultural-competency training that has been made available to city employees would be good to offer to neighborhood volunteers like council members/participants. Talk then turned to what to do next and how to discuss, and how to collaborate with the Southwest and Greater Duwamish councils on a meeting to talk with the city about what it wants to do and what the neighborhood reps want to do. They’re proposing possibly meeting jointly during the SWDC night the first Wednesday in July, and inviting a variety of people all the way up to the mayor.
Also noted at the DNDC meeting:
ROXHILL FIND IT FIX IT WALK: Still tentatively set for July 25th; Wade is helping organize it and hopes that people from all over eastern West Seattle will join in. 6:30 pm is the planned start time, start location TBA.
SEATTLE SUMMER PARKWAYS: Wade recapped the plans that are in the works for September 25th, which we’ve reported several times here. She added that neighborhood groups are invited to participate, free. Here’s how to sign up to be part of it.
Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meets 7 pm on third Wednesdays at Youngstown.
(Click to see full-size PDF)
The city has just taken the next step in the plan to divest itself of most of the southeastern West Seattle land known as the Myers Way Parcels: It’s gone public with the official preliminary report and recommendations for what to do with the 30+-acre site – read them here.
The 33-page document contains basically the same recommendations as the draft unveiled at last month’s meeting of the Highland Park Action Committee (here’s what we published that night). It also contains the “draft public involvement plan” (Appendix C), including a community meeting set for 6:30 pm June 30th at the Joint Training Facility, just north of the “parcels.” Here’s the official notice.
Toplines from the preliminary report remain along the lines of, keep a north section to expand the JTF, sell the center west “developable” section for commercial purposes, and sell the south and east areas to a buyer that would be able to keep much of it in its natural state – such as an adventure park (here’s our May report on a prospective purchaser with that idea) – unless no such buyer emerges within two years, in which case Seattle Parks would get that part of the site. The report reiterates that the site has been evaluated for housing but determined to be largely unsuitable due to factors including toxic kiln dust and a lack of utilities.
From the report, a summary of comments received so far:
• A majority of the comments received expressed the desire to preserve all the property as parkland or open space.
• Two responses were from commercial developers. One is interested in developing a sustainable adventure park. One development team would like to construct a stateof-the-art facility distribution center at the Myers Way property.
• Six people wanted to be kept informed.
• One person wanted to have a dog off Leash Park established.
• One person who lived in Arrowhead Gardens wants the City to develop parking so city vehicles would no longer park at Arrowhead Gardens.
• Three people were concerned with the illegal dumping near and on the property and the homeless encampments.
As mentioned in our West Seattle Wednesday calendar preview, the Myers Way Parcels are on the agenda at the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting tonight (7 pm, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center), with a guest scheduled from the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, which wants to see the site preserved as greenspace. Also – the city’s main infopage about the parcels now contains many more related documents.
The “next steps” for all this include the possibility of a City Council briefing on the public-involvement plan no sooner than two weeks from now (no date set yet so far as we can tell). When there are final recommendations, those would go to the council for a vote. The property’s fate is open for public comment until any such final decision.
(Click to see full-size PDF)
11:17 AM: For the first time since the city Finance and Administrative Services‘ “draft recommendations” about the Myers Way Parcels came out – May 25th, as first reported here – we’re hearing from the group that’s been the loudest voice for keeping the site as open space.
The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition calls FAS’s three-part recommendation (update – here’s the PDF summarizing it) “short-sighted,” saying that the city has been less than thorough in evaluating the site’s ecology and its value, and in reaching out to the community. Here’s its statement:
The 33 acres of Myers Parcels is the largest plot of undeveloped land that the City of Seattle owns. It provides a wide range of benefits for the City of Seattle, and people in the White Center, Highland Park, South Park, Roxbury, Delridge and Georgetown neighborhoods. The City’s Finance & Administrative Services (FAS) Department issued a formal Notice of Excess Property for a large area of Myers Parcels on January 15, 2016. But it only distributed notice to a limited number of people. Then on May 25, 2016, FAS presented its draft recommendation for disposing of Myers acreage at the Highland Park Action Committee meeting.
The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition (SGSC) finds the draft recommendation short-sighted, and calls on FAS to withdraw it. It also calls on FAS to significantly increase engagement with the affected neighborhoods, and to re-assess the Myers Parcels ecology.
The FAS Department’s top-down recommendation runs contrary to Mayor Murray’s Equity and Environmental Action Agenda, which call for grassroots, community-driven planning.
FAS recommends breaking up and selling off parts of Myers Parcels, before it has assessed the current value of this forested area, which contains a watershed with two streams that feed clean water into the Duwamish River.
SGSC is working with numerous individuals and community organizations, such as White Center Community Development Association (WCCDA), Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association and others, to demand robust community engagement, and clear strategies to promote environmental sustainability and social justice.
The FAS recommendation presents nothing new. It does not take into account any of the 400+ comments sent to FAS, nor the more than 800 signers on SGSC’s change.org petition calling for the City to stop the sale until communities are fully involved in the future of this site, and new environmental studies are conducted.
FAS recommends using part of the land immediately south of the Joint Training Facility for an expanded parking lot, selling the flat portion of the site for a commercial warehouse operation, and keeping the unmarketable wetlands and critical slope, with the addition of a possible adventure park on the critical slope above SR 509. FAS does not take into account that Myers Parcels holds origins of Hamm Creek, part of the most fragile link in Chinook Salmon Recovery, and within the Superfund Site of the first five miles of the Duwamish River. Its plan does not keep that watershed healthy, or help to restore the Duwamish River and promote salmon habitat. While we are spending millions of taxpayer dollars to clean up the Duwamish River, it makes no sense to jeopardize this watershed. As a city we should be improving it, not building warehouses around it.
The land has healthy, mature trees that filter water, retain storm water run-off, control erosion, clean the air and help keep the city cool. They create a green buffer for the communities of South Park and White Center. Decreasing the green buffer by selling it for warehouse operations will degrade air quality with increased car and truck pollution. Increased hardscape will also increase stormwater runoff. The inclusion of an adventure park can also potentially degrade the forest and wildlife habitat.
FAS’s recommendation to “slice and dice” this land, selling off parts of it, fails to recognize the land’s value as a whole. In a true “balance,” clean water and clear air would clearly win out over more warehouses that South Park and White Center do not need.
Seattle Green Spaces Coalition demands meaningful community engagement and a valuation of all the benefits this land does and can continue to provide. If we are going to live up to the commitment of the Equity & Environment Action Agenda and our Climate Action Plan, important questions must be answered:
· What is the most environmentally friendly use of the land?
· What is healthiest for the neighborhoods?
· What ecosystem services will the proposed uses provide or reduce?
· Will wildlife habitat be enhanced or reduced?
· Will it be of use and used by the diverse communities?
· What will its value be in the future for different uses?
· How broadly will the land serve diverse community and the City?
· How will it impact the watershed and recovery of the Duwamish River?
· What are the land’s unique features and role in the ecosystem?
· What will be the interplay of planned upland development of housing and the land?
· Who will benefit from commercial development?
· Would alternate uses such as fee activities benefit or exclude neighboring communities?
So far, over 850 people have signed Seattle Green Spaces Coalition’s online petition demanding a robust, transparent and inclusive community engagement so that all people can participate in the decision-making process.
The city’s webpage with information about the parcels is here. Two weeks before the draft report came out, we toured part of the site with FAS reps, community members, and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold – see that report here.
ADDED 12:49 PM: We checked back with FAS’s Hillary Hamilton, who provided electronic versions of the draft-recommendations map and summary, both of which you’ll now see above. She says a public meeting is still planned but that they’re not yet ready to finalize the announcement. Meantime, comments are still being taken, she reiterates:
Comments are taken continuously through the review process, and a full report of people’s names and comments will be provided to the City Council before any decision is made. People can send comments at any time; we will acknowledge receipt. Those who contact us can be sure to be on the mailing list for updates. Email or regular postal mail is encouraged to Daniel Bretzke, Real Estate Services, Dept. of Finance and Administrative Services. Email is Daniel.email@example.com. Postal address is Daniel Bretzke, FAS Real Estate Services, P.O. Box 94689, Seattle, WA 98124-4689.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tonight brought first word of the draft recommendations for what to do with the Myers Way Parcels, 30+ acres of city-owned land on the southeast edge of West Seattle.
The draft was unveiled at tonight’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting by the two city Finance and Administrative Services managers who led a tour of the site two weeks ago, organized by City Councilmember Lisa Herbold for community members (WSB coverage here).
During the tour, FAS’s Hillary Hamilton and Michael Ashbrook (left-center and right in the photo above) said they were close to finishing the draft. And now – it’s ready. They came to the HPAC meeting with a one-sheet that’s not available online yet (today’s downtown power outage set them back a bit) – here’s our transcription of the “draft property recommendations”:
The draft recommendation includes a balance of planning for future City needs, financial consideration of the outstanding loans on the property and enhancement or preservation of natural spaces:
*The property immediately south of the JTF (9401 Myers Way S)
This property is proposed to be used for a future expansion of parking and training areas at the JTF. Within 15 years, City will need to relocate city parking uses at the Arrowhead Gardens Apartments. Other training needs, such as driver-safety training and trench safety, have been identified.
*The properties south of Roxbury Street and north of the City Light Right of Way (9501 Myers Way S)
This property is proposed to be sold at fair-market value. It could be sold through a negotiated sale with a developer that supports community needs such as job creation or mixed-use activities. The property could be marketed with the use of a real-estate broker to facilitate a sale for such purposes while assuring appropriate financial compensation to the City.
*The properties south of the Seattle City Light Right of way and east of Myers Way (9600 and 9701 Myers Way S)
FAS will identify a purchaser who will preserve and enhance the natural environment of the property and complete a negotiated sale. Examples may include a land trust foundation that would permit public access for recreation and education, an adventure-park operator that would preserve trees and allow public access, or a commercial developer that would preserve or enhance the natural areas. If a sale is not completed within two years, then the property is proposed to be transferred to the Seattle Parks Department for green space. Parks would consider what level of public access would be suitable through their own processes and budget.
Hamilton noted that this is a big change from only a year or so ago, when “our idea was probably ‘let’s sell everything’,” but they heard community opposition to that.
With affordable housing something the city is very interested in helping create, Hamilton acknowledged questions about why this site wouldn’t be quickly earmarked for that. She explained that the “pink” heart of the site – the part proposed for selling for commercial uses – is the most buildable but not necessarily for housing because of cement-kiln dust contamination left over from fill brought to the site decades ago. The city’s affordable-housing experts “looked really hard” at it, she said, but along with the contamination, it also would require roads, sewers, electricity, and drainage, all of which would cost a lot. Sales of any part of the parcels is instead supposed to generate some income, not drain the city coffers. The new one-sheet includes some financials related to the land – saying it’s appraised at $14 million, and that “potential sales proceeds” would have to go toward:
-$1.3 million “outstanding balance on the loan used to purchase the property” (in 2003)
-$5 million “to pay interfund loan to assist homelessness” (as decreed by Mayor Murray last November)
-$500,000 “to reimburse the Dept. of Finance and Admin. Services for consultants and holding costs”
Elaborating on the greenspace potential in the southernmost section, Hamilton said the intention would be to “save the tree canopy” – and she mentioned that could be achievable in one of several ways, including the newly emerged adventure-park idea that is “newly on the table” (here’s our recent story about it). She summarized, “We see the blue area as somewhere that the trees would always be protected, one way or another.”
Subsequent concerns that came up at the HPAC meeting – which included attendees from the neighboring unincorporated Highline area too – included parts of the property currently being used by homeless campers, and the need for more transit in the area.
The FAS reps stress that the comment period is still open and people are welcome to say whatever they think should be done with the area, as well as what should be done with the money that would be brought in by selling any part of it.
Along with accepting comments in writing, they’re working on an event June 30th at the JTF, likely “an evening meeting where we’re going to talk some more” about the proposal, and listen to community comments. (That idea came up during the aforementioned tour.)
After they’ve gathered comments on these draft recommendations, a final recommendation will be drafted in the form that would have to be approved by the City Council. That, they expect, will happen in midsummer; then the legislation would go to the council for a vote in September, under the projected timeline.
We’ll update this story Thursday when we get digital copies of what was handed out tonight, and any other information/reaction.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The city-owned 30+ acres of southeast West Seattle land known as the Myers Way Parcels aren’t even officially up for sale – yet – but a prospective buyer has emerged with a new idea:
A commercial zipline-and-ropes-course park.
“My guy can provide the most elegant and simple solution to the whole problem,” declared Douglas Plager, who says he represents Brian Funtleyder, the owner of The Adventure Park at Long Island in Wheatley Heights, NY. “Leave the trees, clean out the trash, the Scotch broom, the blackberries, clear it all out, employ 40 or 50 people.”
Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
The future of the Myers Way Parcels – 30+ acres of city-owned land on the southeastern edge of West Seattle – may be decided by the end of the year.
Updates on the timetable and process were part of the discussion as a group organized by City Councilmember Lisa Herbold toured the site on Thursday. Among them, two staffers from the city Finance and Administrative Services department, which is responsible for city-owned real estate like this, a site that’s been considered for many things, even, in 2008, the municipal jail that ultimately never got built.
The city didn’t even want most of this land when it was purchased back in the early 2000s, FAS’s Hillary Hamilton and Michael Ashbrook explained – just 10 acres for the nearby Joint Training Facility, which is in plain view next door to the north:
Then-owner Nintendo of America would only sell the entire 50-acre parcel, so that’s what the city bought.
Now it is stuck in a multi-faceted tug-of-war: