Westwood Council tonight: Denny site future; jail-sites fight

June 10, 2008 11:28 pm
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Two big agenda items at tonight’s Westwood Neighborhood Council meeting at Southwest Community Center: The future of the Denny Middle School site, once the school’s torn down after its replacement is built on the Chief Sealth High School campus, and the fight over the two southeast West Seattle sites on the city’s “final four” list of possible misdemeanor-offender jail locations — read on:

Two high-ranking city guests were on hand for the Westwood meeting: City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen (who lives in West Seattle but represents the entire city, as he reminded tonight’s gathering, since the council’s NOT elected by district) and deputy Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams.

Most of the meeting, led by Westwood Council president Steve Fischer, focused on the future of the current Denny site. Area reaidents still feel they weren’t allowed into the Denny/Sealth combined-campus decisionmaking process early enough to really have a say, so they are determined to lock into this matter as early as possible in order to help shape the site’s future in a way they feel will truly benefit the neighborhood.

As we reported after the most recent major public meeting on the Denny/Sealth project in late April (WSB coverage here), the school district drew up some possibilities, most of which were various combinations of tennis courts and softball fields.

Westwood is working on its own vision, and it takes a more holistic look at the entire swath of public property in that area — Southwest Community Center just east of Denny, the Southwest Athletic Complex to the east and south of there, stretching on to Trenton, right across from the north side of Westwood Village. Neighbors have complained before that fencing keeps the site from being accessible and usable so much of the time – tonight they used the rueful nickname “Westwood Penitentiary” for the resulting effect of that fencing.

And since they don’t have particularly fond memories of the process that resulted in the Denny/Sealth combined-campus plan — refer back to the Westwood meeting in June of last year (WSB coverage here), when district reps apologized for lack of communication but declared the project was moving forward anyway — they’re worried the school district might pursue an agenda of its own for the land, perhaps a revenue-generating regional sports complex — this “worst-case scenario” (regarding maximum possible non-permeability of the site) showing a cluster of tennis courts is one thing that worries them:


The Westwood design proposal, with a more recreation-oriented, pathway/walkway-linked feel to the entire area, got good reviews from Williams and Rasmussen. Williams, however, also cautioned the group that the Parks Department isn’t exactly rolling in money these days, so a frugal view would be important too.

Rasmussen added that this is the sort of vision that might fit into the potential park-money levy that’s under consideration for this fall’s ballot – if, for example, the city were to look at acquiring this land from the school district — and stressed that the Westwood Council needs to get involved in the levy-shaping process ASAP, including participation at the next public meeting of the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Citizens’ Advisory Committee next Tuesday, 5:30 pm at Seattle Center.

Williams added that the concept of adding green space near the Southwest Community Center might make sense in the context that SWCC is the only center that’s not already part of a large park/green-space area.

Along with recreation, Westwood leaders also suggest the space could be an important gathering place for area residents in case of emergencies. As the Denny-site discussion wrapped up, Rasmussen suggested that he would like to see more citizen comments, and Westwood leaders agreed to try to find a way to collect them – possibly utilizing the neighborhood website.

As for what’s next in the process — as we reported in recent coverage of a Denny/Sealth design-team meeting, the district promises that community meetings are ahead for discussing the Denny site’s future. No dates set so far. (All WSB coverage of the Denny/Sealth issues is archived here.)

JAIL-SITES FIGHT: Highland Park Action Committee leaders — new chair Dorsol Plants and vice chair Rory Denovan — were on hand to join in the discussion, as their group has led the way for West Seattleites opposed to the city choosing either of the two nearby sites (map here) as a location for a misdemeanor-offender jail. Councilmember Rasmussen said he had been talking with King County Councilmember Dow Constantine, who is one of the county leaders pushing for an extension that would make it less likely Seattle would have to build its own jail, if a “regional solution” involving other cities could be found. If such a solution is not reached, however, Rasmussen cautioned, the city will have no choice but to do something, because the county has said it will not be able to handle cities’ misdemeanor inmates in a few more years, and those inmates have to be housed somewhere. But he also promised to look into why some areas seemed to have been overlooked entirely in the site-selection process. Meantime, the Westwood Council will officially support Highland Park in opposing the two West Seattle sites.

ONE MORE NOTE: Since Councilmember Rasmussen heads the council’s Parks Committee, we asked where he stands on the beach-fire ban that the Parks Department is investigating, possibly for future years. He told WSB the city has the same responsibility it’s always had, to be sure fire rings are used reasonably and responsibly, but his feeling is that beach fires are a tradition, and he wouldn’t back a ban. (Though parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher says it’ll be status quo for this year, the beach-fire briefing is still on Thursday’s Parks Board agenda, and we will be there to let you know what’s discussed.)

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