West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Almost a year after the Barton Pump Station Upgrade Project north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock was finished, and adjacent Cove Park restored and reopened, a loose end dangles: The future of the little white beachfront house at 8923 Fauntleroy Way SW, immediately north of Cove Park.
King County bought it to use as a construction office during the three-year pump-station project.
Now, as was revealed in a discussion at last night’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting, there’s a chance its site could become a slice of city parkland – at little-to-no cost for the city. Sort of an expansion of Cove Park, though that is actually a community-maintained, SDOT-owned street end.
Some neighbors are adamantly opposed to the idea, wanting the house to remain in use as a single-family residence, and were at the FCA meeting to say that directly to Chip Nevins, acquisition manager for Parks, who was there, he said, as early “due diligence” in determining the site’s fate.
Nevins explained that while Parks generally wouldn’t have an interest in acquiring Fauntleroy-area property, since the area is already “rich” in parkland – including Lincoln Park a short distance north – it would be hard to resist a chance to get something like this for free or near-free. If someone was told “do you want to make the park bigger and it won’t cost you any money, why wouldn’t you?” he asked.
Assessor’s records show the county bought the 2-bedroom, 1-bath, 1948-built house and its 35-foot-wide, one-third-acre lot (tidelands included) for $950,000 in 2008. Now, it’s considered surplus, and that status, as with most government agencies, triggers a disposition process. Nevins said the county has suggested a sort of swap might be possible – its pump station includes some land leased from SDOT that, like Cove Park, is technically part of the Barton street end, but if it could get possession of that land – through a street-vacation process – the city could wind up with 8923 Fauntleroy Way in return.
This would be something of a complicated process, not just because of the street vacation, but also because Parks would want to figure out if there is community interest in acquiring the beachfront site. So a public meeting will be organized, and some other means of feedback will be set up. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold was at last night’s meeting – to “observe” this item, she explained – and indicated she’d already been hearing from “both sides”; if a street vacation is involved, it ultimately would require approval from the City Council, so she and her colleagues also would be getting feedback.
If the site was accepted by Parks, what would be done with it? one attendee asked. Nevins suggested at one point that at the very least they would probably want the county to pay to have the house demolished, so that wouldn’t become the city’s responsibility. Beyond that – maybe open space? Or at least some plantings? One neighbor expressed concern that while the current administration might decide on that, someone down the line might decide to build a picnic shelter or other facilities that could attract more, and more problematic, usage.
Nevins reiterated that many questions remain to be answered – such as, has the city been making money in permit payments for the county’s usage of the pump station site, and would that be revenue lost in this prospective deal? (If we’ve found the correct city legislation, it appears the county pays the city $84,387 a year.)
And, he added, many layers of process remain to be gone through. The public meeting would likely happen before summer, though, so stay tuned; if the city and county moved forward with what in essence would be a “trade,” the process would likely take up to two more years.
(ADDED THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Seattle Channel video of entire meeting)
10:12 AM: We’re at Seattle City Hall, where the City Council’s Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries, and Waterfront Committee is tackling the topic of “tree stewardship” – including the much-discussed, recently revealed case of illegal cutting in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt.
Public comment started the meeting, and that included half a dozen people speaking in favor of tree stewardship, including two members of the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, which has its roots in West Seattle. We’ll add toplines of their remarks later.
The Seattle Channel feed is not embeddable, so you’ll have to follow this link to watch live.
The committee is chaired by Councilmember Debora Juarez; also here are its official members Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell, and District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold. First, the slide deck goes through the background on why “trees are vital” (you can see the slide deck in our story from Tuesday).
10:20 AM: They’ve jumped on to questions about the incident, including how to find out about it earlier. Parks Supt. Jesús Aguirre says they rely heavily on tips from the public – in this case, “it was on the list,” he says, and they just didn’t get to it that quickly, because it wasn’t at “the top of the list.” SDOT’s Kubly says his department gets a few complaints a month about illegal cutting – it’s “Category 1” if public safety is involved, a downed tree, etc., “we respond to those as quickly as we can” – illegal cutting is only “Category 3.” They’ll “send an inspector out as quickly as we can” if they have information that it’s happening right now. “The e-mail came to us and didn’t give any indication of the severity, that the location was being clearcut,” he said; you’ll recall that the East Admiral cutting was reported to have been reported to SDOT in January, then eventually checked out by Parks in February.
Assistant City Attorney Joseph Groshong is asked about how his department pursues cases like this. The process “takes time” to be sure they have the right people, etc. “If there are people listening out there who participated and want to come forward … it would help us speed up the resolution,” he volunteered. “We have a cross-department effort to get to the bottom of this …” He noted that the “criminal side” of the case is in the hands of the Police Department (as we reported last week), while the City Attorney’s Office is pursuing civil and “regulatory.” “We can’t share the details of what we are doing because that might risk what we can recover for the people of Seattle,” he said.
Councilmember Juarez also noted that City Attorney Pete Holmes had spent an hour in his briefing with councilmembers earlier this week, saying the case could go to Superior Court as well.
Councilmember Bagshaw notes that the council recently discussed “encroachment” on parkland and declared this “the biggest encroachment of all.”
10:31 AM: Now they’re looking at photo/map images of where this happened, and Councilmember Juarez asked for an explanation of the question many had asked, “how could (this many) trees have been cut and nobody noticed?” Replied Supt. Aguirre, “It’s hard to see … (and) we don’t have folks from city staff out there actively looking at” the area.
“How many homes have better views now?” he’s asked. He mentions that half a dozen houses are directly adjacent to the area. Councilmember Herbold mentions what she had told us previously, the County Assessor’s office revisiting the area to be sure the view evaluation information is accurate for properties in the area. Herbold adds that she received a letter from a tribe offering trees to help restore the area.
Kubly says SDOT will work with Parks on a restoration plan and he believes it’s going to include a mix of conifers. He also said that one of his first questions when he heard about this was whether a retaining wall would need to be built to protect Admiral Way.
Council President Harrell says that he hopes that even as the civil and criminal investigations proceed, that the restoration won’t have to wait – that there’ll be a plan sooner. “And somehow through all this madness, we’ll be better than we were on the new area.” He hopes that somehow “we can turn this into a positive thing” and “the community that has been devastated by this” will experience that.
Juarez says she wants to see a return to the committee “to report to us where you’re at … not only on the restoration plan but what we’re doing to address this.” She says the public wants to be reassured “that we’re taking this more than seriously.”
Herbold adds that “as policymakers” the council has been asked to take a look at existing laws and whether they need to be beefed up, and she “would like to take a deeper dive” into that.
Aguirre is now acknowledging the process by which homeowners have been allowed to seek permits for cutting city-owned trees in some spots and says there’s a “disconnect” between parts of his department, and wants to work on that.
Juarez suggests that homeowners who border greenbelts/parkland should have to know what their responsibilities are so they don’t just have something done and plead ignorance.
Kubly says, “We need one point of entry” for tree complaints, and again acknowledges the lack of followup to clarify the original report made to his department. He also says there should be a baseline followup time along the lines of the “72-hour” rule for potholes. He says SDOT is working on various things including a “Tree Capital Plan.”
10:55 AM: The discussion is wrapping up and so is the meeting. Bottom line: No new information about who did it and what will happen to them, but vows all around that this is being taken “very seriously” though the original complaint received in January was not taken particularly seriously – with illegal tree-cutting complaints considered low priority.
4:05 PM: Just added video of the entire meeting.
The photo (which was accompanied by a similar one, except the flower is white) is from Jeremy Puma in Sunrise Heights, who writes:
My son and I found these beautiful trillium flowers growing in the woods at Lincoln Park (Saturday). Wonder if you would be open to reminding your readers that these ephemeral beauties are threatened natives, and picking the flowers will kill the plant?
Some trilliums are threatened or endangered; It’s best to enjoy the flowers with eyes and/or a camera.
That’s an excellent reminder to tread lightly in general in our natural areas.
Thanks to Sam for the tip – we just stopped by the Short Stop convenience store in Morgan Junction and confirmed that tomorrow is its final day of operation. It’s found a new location – in the Pierce County town of Milton.
Since the dry cleaner next store is already closed, this will clear the way for Seattle Parks to demolish the 6311 California SW building that’s on the site of the quarter-acre it purchased for $1.9 million in 2014 to expand Morgan Junction Park. But the demolition equipment won’t be showing up any time soon. Though the teardown permit was issued more than four months ago, there’s some other work to do first, we found out from Lise Ward with Seattle Parks. She tells WSB that once the building’s vacant, they’ll call in environmental specialists to test for hazardous materials and determine what kind of abatement will be required before teardown. They’ll also take steps to seal it off until demolition, Ward says, which they’ll do as soon as they can. She says they’re thankful to the community for their patience.
The original purchase was to “landbank” the site for future park development. Money to plan and design it is on the Seattle Park District levy’s funding list for this year.
That’s the presentation that will be shown to the City Council’s Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries & Waterfront Committee tomorrow morning, as two Parks and Recreation managers brief councilmembers on what they’re doing about encroachment – people who live next to Parks property and are encroaching on it in myriad ways, maybe something as simple as throwing yard debris over the line, maybe something larger like having a fence or a hedge that’s all or part on city land.
With so much Parks property in West Seattle, this could be a major issue, so we checked with Donald Harris, one of the Parks managers who will be at tomorrow’s meeting. He says this is something they heard from citizens on the advisory committee that put together the Park District levy approved by voters in 2014 – appreciation for acquisition but also, concern that the city isn’t fully using/appreciating what it already owns, so the levy included “encroachment removal” funding.
You’ll notice if you go through the slide deck above (or here) that the only West Seattle park mentioned is Schmitz Preserve Park. We asked Harris if that means they’re focusing on something major involving that park; he said no, but they will be looking at its boundary to see what’s happening around it. “We’re pretty methodical – we go out and do a survey to be sure we know where the boundary is.”
Overall, he said, the department “is looking to be a little more diligent in protecting the boundaries of parks where there are neighbors who might not have understood where the line is and gone over it.” If you’re interested in the topic, the briefing is scheduled during the committee’s 9:30 am Thursday meeting at City Hall; it’ll be live on Seattle Channel, seattlechannel.org or cable channel 21.
Thanks to Darlene Allen for the photo of a tree down on the north path at Lincoln Park. This is the first notable damage we’ve heard about from this morning’s windy, wavy weather (earlier coverage, including high-tide aftermath photos/video, is in our morning traffic/weather report) – but the wind advisory remains in effect until 4 pm, so please let us know if you see/hear about anything else – 206-293-6302, 24/7 – thank you!
Two developments in the ongoing issue of whether the city should sell the undeveloped Myers Parcels in southeastern West Seattle or, as advocates have long urged, keep all or part of the 30+-acre site as open space:
First, as reported here three weeks ago, today was supposed to be the deadline for the latest round of comments on the land’s fate. But that’s changed. The deadline’s being extended until at least early April, Julie Moore from the city’s Finance and Administrative Services department confirmed to WSB:
We just determined … that we would reissue the notice in the interest of reaching a broader community. We expect to get it out in early March, and the comment period will be extended for 30 days past the date of mailing. … All comments received by the new deadline are certain to be represented in the preliminary recommendation report, but as with every property disposition process, we will continue to accept all comments up to the point a final decision is made by City Council. Also, all parties providing contact information will continue to receive updates through the evaluation process, including notices for future community meetings and/or public hearings, publication of reports and City Council actions.
Here’s how to comment: E-mail Daniel Bretzke at firstname.lastname@example.org or send postal-mail comments to him via City of Seattle FAS, P.O. Box 94689, Seattle 98124-4689.
Second: The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition has launched an online petition asking city leaders not to sell the land. You can sign it here.
The city’s moving toward a new proposal for dogs in Seattle parks – and this Thursday night, the Seattle Parks Board of Commissioners will hear how Parks leadership is leaning.
That briefing document prepared for the Parks Board hints at what might be in the proposed People, Dogs, and Parks Strategic Plan, due out soon for public comment. It’s been a subject of discussion in several community meetings we’ve covered recently, starting with the Delridge District Council‘s meeting last November.
For one, the document says Superintendent Jesús Aguirre is NOT expected to call for “unfenced, (certain) hours-only” offleash periods in parks. It also says he’ll recommend limiting the number of dogs that can be brought to a park to three per person. And he’ll recommend that development of additional off-leash areas go “through regular new park development and/or existing park redevelopment processes.”
One more note from the briefing paper: “Beginning this month, there will be a two-person team, one Animal Control staff and one Parks and
Recreation staff, patrolling parks with the sole purpose of enforcing leash and scoop laws.”
The draft plan is now expected to be made public next month, with public meetings in April and May, and a final plan in June. Meantime, the board meeting this Thursday starts at 6:30 pm at Parks HQ downtown (100 Dexter Ave. N.).
(Gina and Ryan, working at the site recently – photo courtesy Janice Nyman)
Looking for something to do on Presidents Day tomorrow? 12 fruit trees are awaiting helping hands during an all-day planting party planned at the Chilberg Link community project, says Janice Nyman. We reported on the project three weeks ago. Just stop by 10 am-4 pm; here’s a map. (They’re also collecting online as part of the ongoing matching-funds drive for art to include in the “link” they’re creating to Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook Park.)
During the next West Seattle Art Walk – one week from tonight – it’s your chance to offer your thoughts about the public art installation that’s on its way to The Junction. We reported last year about the plan for art in Junction Plaza Park, the greenspace at 42nd/Alaska where the community gathers for events including the annual Christmas-tree lighting and special features during West Seattle Summer Fest. As mentioned briefly in our report on last night’s Southwest District Council meeting – with a promise of this followup – the artist chosen for the project, Troy Pillow, will be at Cupcake Royale from 6-8 pm on Thursday, February 4th, showing proposed designs for the art installation, which is partly funded by a grant from the Department of Neighborhoods and partly with “public benefit” funding from the nearby Spruce development. So drop in while you’re visiting for Art Walk, evening shopping, dinner, etc. – here’s more info from the West Seattle Junction Association.
10:44 AM: Just went to Roxhill Park to check on the work to ready the “castle” play structure for the return of its turret – and discovered the turret had just been brought in and set in place! It was a handcrafted add-on to the community project but was removed in 2014 for fear the 2013-built “castle” couldn’t support it. After reinforcement work, it’s back, and a Seattle Parks manager at the site told us the play area could reopen later today.
3:22 PM: Just went back to check. It’s open!
It’s a crown jewel of West Seattle – and it’s yours: The city’s largest contiguous stretch of forest, known as the West Duwamish Greenbelt. Some trails provide access now, and more might be in its future. Your chance to help shape that future starts this Saturday morning. In case you haven’t already seen this in our calendar, here’s the invitation, from Paul West:
On Saturday, January 30, neighbors, trail users and other stakeholders are invited to a two-hour workshop at South Seattle College to discuss what the future trail system in the West Duwamish Greenbelt might look like.
The West Duwamish Greenbelt extends from the West Seattle Bridge south to Westcrest Park. … Currently a network of informal and improved trails provide some access. Participants will discuss potential connections to destinations such as South Seattle College, the Duwamish Longhouse, Pathfinder School, Riverview Playfield, and others.
The workshop will be held at the Chan Center at South Seattle College. It is at the north end of campus next to the arboretum. The workshop runs from 9:30 am to 11:30 am, with doors opening at 9:15 am. All are welcome.
SSC is on Puget Ridge, at 6000 16th SW. Find out more about the greenbelt and the trails here.
It’s been a busy night in West Seattle – starting with the Southwest Pool Fitness Room celebration. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold was there before heading over to the Highland Park Action Committee meeting (coverage coming up), as was Christopher Williams, deputy superintendent of Seattle Parks, which runs SW Pool. She said it’s great to have a way for people to get more exercise; he talked about neighborhood pride – he grew up nearby and attended across-the-street Chief Sealth. The room is open during regular hours at the pool (2801 SW Thistle), which you can find on the schedule – it’s in a space by the shallow end of the pool, unused after gym renovations:
A little more background about the 10-years-in-the-making fitness room is here.
Tomorrow (Wednesday, January 27) at 5 pm, you’re invited to Southwest Pool for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the brand-new fitness room. Assistant coordinator Anne Barnes says there’s an extra incentive – a free gift for everyone who attends, and a discounted fee for those who stay for the 5:30 pm lap swim or Masters swim program afterward ($2/lap, $3/Masters). It’s also your chance to find out more about what’s at Southwest Pool – more than just swimming. The Fitness Room has been a decade in the making, as Parks announced:
The Southwest Pool fitness room project began following a proposal from the Southwest Advisory Council in April 2006. The room was originally an unutilized space following the completion of the gym at the then Southwest Community Center. Construction and planning was led by Seattle Parks and Recreation in partnership with the Southwest Advisory Council and Ravenna-Eckstine Advisory Council and the Associated Recreation Council.
The fitness room was completed in December 2015 and provides machines for weight training (powered by compressed air), stretch bands and balance discs, and space for static stretching. The space will allow for community members and regular swimmers to diversify their workouts while still in the same facility, decreasing the risk of overuse injuries and promoting cross-training. The fitness room is located at the south/shallow end of the pool deck. Hours of operation are identical to Southwest Pool hours of operation and may change quarterly based on public program schedules.
SW Pool is at 2801 SW Thistle.
Thanks to Bill for the tip: Almost two years after the City Council approved the purchase of 5,750 square feet of land to expand Dakota Place Park, a milestone for the project has finally happened – the demolition of old structures to clear most of the site.
When councilmembers approved the $715,000 purchase in March 2014 – using money from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy – Parks had said it would demolish the three 1927-built houses, plus a garage and shed, “as soon as possible” but that the California-fronting commercial building would stay for now.
We talked today with Donald Harris from Parks. He says the tenants in the commercial building could be there for up to five more years, under terms of the lease they had worked out with the property’s previous owner, so “you’re not going to see any full redevelopment of the property for a while.” (He says there’s a chance the building’s tenant might be interested in leaving sooner.)
They’re talking with neighbors about what they’ll be doing in the meantime with the area that’s now being cleared – Harris says they’ll likely “plant some grass, do a little landscaping, make it usable, at least.” Before anything more is done with it, money would have to be found and a design process would follow. It’s not in the budget right now, not even with the Park District funding approved by voters – “this addition occurred after the work program was in place,” Harris told WSB.
Dakota Place Park itself, centered on a city-landmark substation building, opened in 2009.
Besides what we publish here on WSB, we also receive and answer questions via various contact channels that don’t always lead to stories – but we resolved recently to share more of the resulting info in case it could help someone else.
That brings us to the question e-mailed by Doug this morning. He found a discarded needle in North Delridge’s Greg Davis Park and wondered what to do about it. We found this page on the city website. Doug’s followup note to us: “The police non-emergency dispatcher sent me to SDOT, which is only open M-F. After contacting the number at your link, I got a call back within 5 minutes. And the guy who called back said he’d just been doing maintenance at Greg Davis, so I had an opportunity to thank him for his beautiful work too.”
What will be proposed in the city’s “People, Dogs, and Parks Strategic Plan” – formerly the off-leash plan? We won’t know for another month. That’s the latest word from the city; thanks to Mike Dey from the Fauntleroy Community Association for the alert. When the new project lead, Susan Golub, spoke to the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council in November (WSB coverage here), it looked like the draft plan would be out in early January. Now the city says “tentatively … late February.” You can watch this city webpage for updates – or be at the city Parks Board’s next meeting, as they have a “preliminary discussion” about the forthcoming plan. A briefing paper just posted in connection with that meeting offers these questions for Parks Board members to discuss:
1. Should we allow/encourage sponsorships and advertising? …
2. Should we have unfenced, hours-only off-leash areas? …
3. How should new OLAs be added to the system? …
4. Should there be a restriction on the number of dogs an individual can bring to an off-leash area?
The Parks Board meets 6:30 pm next Thursday (January 28th) at Queen Anne Community Center. No dog-plan-specific meeting dates/times are set yet
Southside Revolution Coed Junior Roller Derby skaters (and parents) are out volunteering on this MLK Day: They’re cleaning up at Roxhill Park/Skatepark (where we photographed the trio above) and then heading to the South Park Skatepark to do the same. They were planning to do some skating at both parks, too, before practice tonight at their home base, Southgate Roller Rink (9646 17th SW). That’s also where you can see their second bout of Southside Revolution’s second season, in less than two weeks – 5:45 pm Saturday, January 30th; it’s a Harry Potter-themed bout against Spokane’s Cherry Bomb Brawlers. The evening will include a 50/50 raffle and bake sale to benefit Brawlers coach Ti “Smartass” Marchand in her own “brawl” against cancer. More info here!
As reported here earlier this week, the play structure at Roxhill Park is now fenced off as Seattle Parks gets going on work to enable to return of the custom-crafted turret originally installed with the rebuilt playground in 2013 and removed for safety concerns in 2014. We checked with Parks to find out how long it was likely to take and a few other details. From spokesperson David Takami:
Our crews, specifically, the Concrete Crew, is indeed starting the work to reinforce the section of the Roxhilll Park play area that supports the turret. The unexpected heaviness of the turret had caused it to lean and the underlying structure to slightly sink. The work involves lifting the underlying structure, pouring a new concrete foundation at that location, and reinforcing the recycled plastic structure supporting the turret. Once that is done, the crew will reinstall the turret. Staff will monitor the turret in the weeks and months after the repair work. I’m not sure of the cost but it will be absorbed as part of our annual maintenance budget. The work is expected to take 2 to 3 weeks.
Miss the November open house regarding the renovation of the north play area at Lincoln Park? You have one more chance to get involved – and the date has just been announced: Tuesday, February 2nd, 6:30-8 pm, at Gatewood Elementary (see the flyer here). You’ll have a chance to see the “schematic design” and offer your thoughts about play equipment – at least some of which is expected to facilitate the inclusivity discussed with Seattle Parks by the former Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor) students whose ongoing work we’ve been covering. Find the LPN Play Area project info here, including the photos/drawings of potential play equipment as shown at the November open house.
Thanks to Amanda Kay Helmick from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council for the photo and word that the playground at Roxhill Park is fenced off for the start of work to enable returning the play structure’s turret. It’s been more than 14 months since the custom-crafted turret was removed for safety concerns; it was created and installed during the 2013 community-powered project that replaced the park’s old wooden “castle,” but Parks determined reinforcement would be required to be sure the structure could safely hold it. We’ll be checking with Parks on the expected timetable for this closure and the reinforcement/restoration work.
Over the next few days, we’ll look ahead at some of what will be making news early in the new year. First – the latest on the West Seattle Mini-Golf project:
Back in fall 2014, we reported on the plan for a miniature-golf course at West Seattle Golf Course, after finding it mentioned in Mayor Murray’s 2015 budget plan. At the time, Seattle Parks described it – in response to our followup inquiry – as “proposed,” though the mayor’s budget said it was expected to be built before the end of 2015, after community discussions.
With 2015 ending, absent community discussions, let alone construction, we followed up again. First, we received a tip that a Parks letter dated October 2015 had been posted on the West Seattle Golf Club website this month. It included a new timeline, projecting that the course will be built next summer, and open by summer’s end. The letter also identified Parks’ Garrett Farrell as senior project manager, so we asked him about the project’s status. Farrell told WSB that the mini-golf project is now “in the planning, permitting, and budgeting stages,” with a community meeting (promised in the letter) getting closer: “Once we get some of the parameters set including schedule, we will post a project sign and hope to schedule the meeting shortly after the New Year.” He adds that a Parks website for the miniature-golf project is under development.