West Seattle, Washington
(Jim’s video of one of this year’s new songs, which you’ll likely recognize)
A little over a week since this year’s West Seattle Lights/Helmstetler Family Christmas Spectacular music-synched shows came to a close, and we’ve just heard from show designer/mastermind Jim Winder, with the final word on this year’s donations made by showgoers/fans – all of which goes to charities; Jim has the impressive five-year tallies too:
West Seattle Food Bank
1,050 lbs of Dried Foods
5,600 lbs of Dried Foods
Northwest Parkinson Foundation
Grand Totals – Including Brian Teachout ($500), Dr. Kingston ($1200) and Pushing Boundaries ($391)
So a BIG THANKS to the people of West Seattle and Maple Valley that made it all possible and VERY worthwhile!!
Jim Winder and Debi Selix, The Helmstetlers, and West Seattle Lights
(Double-take on “Maple Valley”? Jim added a show there for the 2014 holidays.
Three followups this evening:
NO JAIL FOR DRIVER WHO ASSAULTED BICYCLIST: In King County Superior Court this morning, Judge Regina Cahan sentenced 38-year-old Erika Soerensen, the woman found guilty of assault last year for driving into 33-year-old Jake Vanderplas as he rode his bicycle on 26th SW in North Delridge. Prosecutors had recommended 3 months in jail for Soerensen, who has no felony record; the judge sentenced her to 240 hours of community service, and revoked her driver’s license for a year.
BAIL HEARING FOR ALKI BURGLARY SUSPECT: The 32-year-old White Center man arrested Thursday afternoon after an Alki burglary remains jailed tonight. A judge set his bail at $20,000 for this case, but he also has a no-bail warrant for a probation violation. We obtained the probable-cause document after his bail hearing; it says that after he stole a package from inside an apartment building in the 6000 block of SW Stevens, a resident saw and followed him. The suspect allegedly took containers of prescription drugs out of the box and dropped the box. The witness confronted him, and he gave those unopened bottles to the witness. He asked the witness not to call police, and then fled; the witness called 911 and stayed in pursuit. Along the way, the documents say, the suspect dropped more medication, threw his backpack into a recycling bin, and eventually hid in a backyard treehouse along the 6200 block of Admiral Way. The witness waited nearby for police; they soon found the suspect, who surrendered. They tracked down his backpack and found a smaller bag inside it that contained “hand tools commonly used in the commission of burglaries.” A check of the court system shows the suspect’s record goes back at least a decade.
BEACH DRIVE DEATH INVESTIGATION: The King County Medical Examiner’s Office says they still don’t know what caused the death of a woman found in the water off Emma Schmitz Overlook early yesterday, but they know who she is. We added that information to our original report earlier this evening.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 3:05 PM: If you think some crime suspects get out of jail too quickly now – wait until next month, when, according to a story KING 5 broke last night, the county might not allow some of them to get booked into jail at all – they’ll be brought downtown, processed, and released. We just heard about this when Mayor Murray’s office sent a news release, saying he has sent County Executive Dow Constantine a letter objecting to it:
Mayor Ed Murray has serious concerns about a King County proposal to release additional felony suspects in property crime cases immediately after booking in downtown Seattle. The mayor outlined his concerns today in a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“This proposed plan presents an unacceptable public safety risk to the residents of Seattle and will undermine our mutual efforts to reduce drug and property crimes,” wrote Murray. “This proposal also has serious potential policing and budget implications for the City of Seattle.” (Full letter embedded below)
On Feb. 1, King County plans to reduce the inmate population by instituting a “book-and-release” policy for several felony drug and property offenses, including auto theft, hit and run (with injury), malicious mischief, reckless endangerment, stolen property, theft, vehicle prowl and drug possession.
The proposed plan will mean that suspects arrested for these crimes in communities around King County will be brought to Seattle to be booked and then released onto the streets of downtown.
Currently, judges individually assess each suspect booked at the jail to decide whether to hold them pending trial. The proposed County plan would eliminate a judge’s review in favor of a presumption of release for these non-violent offenses.
In his letter, Murray outlined alternatives to reduce burdens on the jail (reducing the time between a suspect’s arraignment and trial), as well as reduce impacts on the city (remote booking or mandatory return transportation for suspects brought downtown for booking from jurisdictions outside of Seattle).
We’ve asked both the county and city for a copy of the memo that Murray says police chiefs received this week, and we’ve asked the executive’s office for reaction to Murray’s letter. We’ll add whatever we hear back.
5:13 PM UPDATE: To answer journalists’ questions including ours, the executive’s office set up a conference call last hour, and your editor here was one of four who asked questions. The toplines:
*This is a done deal at this point – it was part of the county budget approved by the County Council and Executive.
*Rather than a budget cut, this was a budget request that didn’t get granted. The County’s director of adult/juvenile detention William Hayes, one of three county reps on the call, said it would cost $5.2 million to open another section of the jail to handle the increase in daily population expected over the next year if everything was status quo – last year’s average daily county jail/detention population (Seattle and Kent) was 1900, 50 over projections, and this year was expected to be 1920. There’s room at the jail – but not the personnel to staff it. That request was not granted. This policy is the result.
*The key talking point was that this would mean a difference of a few hours or few days in time most of these suspects would have spent in jail. It was also stressed that police will have the option to say, we don’t want this suspect released. In response to that, we pointed out that police might not get immediate access to the suspect’s full record, or warrant status. The county reps say that if technical problems keep them from finding out whether there’s a warrant out for someone, they won’t be released until the status can be verified.
*Overall, the county reps (also including Constantine spokesperson Chad Lewis and a budget-office staffer, Krista Camenzind) said a “chronic structural gap with the county’s general fund” is to blame. 70 percent of the general fund goes to criminal justice, from deputies to prosecutors to defenders to judges to jails, and it’s been going down even as the population grows, with a $54 million gap to cover this time around. We asked, couldn’t the civil system have been cut instead of the criminal? Reply: It already had been.
*We asked for a copy of the memo that the mayor mentioned, received this week by police chiefs around the county pointing out which crimes this generally would affect. The county reps say that was a draft memo and they don’t have a final version yet because suggestions were made by chiefs at a meeting yesterday and some of them are being incorporated into the final version.
Overall, Lewis summarized, the county considers this change the “best of bad options that are available.” Hayes said it’s not as if the suspects are being set entirely free – they will have to come in for court dates, and even if they fail to appear, “at some point (the legal system) is going to catch up to them.”
The cynical person might wonder if this is a setup for a forthcoming ballot measure to ask for more criminal-justice funding, we suggested. Lewis said no, there are no plans to seek any kind of a funding measure for public safety; Constantine is pursuing the Best Starts for Kids initiative, Lewis pointed out, an early-childhood initiative that he hopes will reduce the need for criminal justice, years down the road.
ADDED 6:12 PM: The mayor’s office has provided, at our request, the document mentioned in Murray’s letter, circulated to police chiefs earlier this week. Read on for the full text – including the proposed list of crimes; note that not all property crimes are involved – for example, residential-burglary suspects would still be held as they are now, this memo says:
Before raising the 12th Man flag at noontime today, King County Executive Dow Constantine had an announcement intended to draw cheers from transit users:
Delivering on his initiative to better coordinate transportation services, King County Executive and Sound Transit Chair Dow Constantine today announced the launch of a free smartphone app that makes it easier for riders to plan trips with 11 transit agencies across Puget Sound.
The Puget Sound Trip Planner — available for Apple and Android mobile devices — allows riders to plan a trip that includes buses, rail, ferries, streetcars, and water taxis. It merges popular features available on existing trip planners and offers real-time predictions for bus arrivals.
More info, and the full list of participating agencies/services, can be found here.
Today we welcome Blue Dot Industries as a new member of the WSB sponsor team. Here’s what they want you to know:
Blue Dot Industries offers general contracting services, with affordable / competitive pricing, and with customer appreciation for the integrity in their business practices: “We ALWAYS guarantee our work.”
Licensed General Contractor Max Hewson and Interior Designer/Operations Manager Bernadette Stone are the Blue Dot Industries team. Max is a master carpenter and licensed electrician with 30 years’ experience building and renovating residential and industrial facilities.
Since they do most of the work, especially with the initial contact and discussions, their customers don’t also have to deal with a middleman – you’re always dealing with Max or Bernadette. While they have only been in West Seattle for a few years, Max is a Washington native, having grown up in the Grays Harbor area, then living and working in Snohomish County for most of his adult life.
Blue Dot Industries prides itself on referrals via word of mouth from happy customers who tell them that in the end, “we have built what they have imagined.” Read more about what they do here; see some of their work here. Call Blue Dot Industries at 206-948-9724, or send them a message by going here.
We thank Blue Dot Industries for sponsoring independent, community-collaborative neighborhood news via WSB; find our current sponsor team listed in directory format here, and find info on joining the team by going here.
1:32 PM: Police and Fire are at the scene of a crash at California/Alaska involving a motorcycle, and we’re hearing that northbound traffic on California is blocked. Apparently no major injuries, as the medic unit has been cancelled and a private ambulance summoned.
1:39 PM: Added a texted photo (thank you); our crew is en route. Looks from that photo and this one on Twitter that the motorcycle is down on California just north of Alaska.
1:51 PM: Emergency vehicles have cleared the scene and everything’s open again.
Yet another car prowl at Lincoln Park. Today’s report is from Luna:
We had our car broken into between 8:15 and 8:50 this morning in the Lincoln Park south lot. There was nothing in the car for them to take. Everyone that stopped while we were cleaning up and getting someone to come and pick up our kiddo was so nice and surprised, it makes me glad to live in West Seattle even if this happens at our local park! We also chatted with a couple who were broken into in the same spot last week, so be careful, everyone! There really was almost nothing visible in our car and they didn’t take the kids Patagonia jacket that was on the floor, so it seems like they were definitely looking for a purse/wallet. Just wanted as many people as possible to be aware!
This is the third reader report we’ve received this week about Lincoln Park car prowls; we tried checking the police-reports map again for the latest tally, but it’s not working so well at the moment. We also have a message out to local police leadership to ask how they’re tackling this problem, and will add whatever we hear back.
After someone asked whether the huge “12th Flag” would go up at West Seattle Corporate Center before tomorrow’s Seahawks-Panthers playoff game, we went over to Delridge/Andover and found it flying! Well, “flying” is a bit of an exaggeration – not much breeze this foggy morning – but we stood around, camera ready, until it caught a hint of movement.
BACKSTORY: The 1,500-square-foot, Tacoma-made flag first went up last year, days before the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win.
P.S. If you’re downtown, you are invited to cheer as King County Executive (and native West Seattleite) Dow Constantine raises the 12th Man flag at the King County Administration Building at 12:12 pm today – 500 4th Avenue.
12:24 PM UPDATE: The aforementioned downtown flag-raising was accomplished with the help of the executive’s baby daughter Sabrina – here’s the video just tweeted via @kcexec:
(If you are having trouble getting that to play – you can view it on its host site, here.)
Since the crash that damaged a Longfellow Creek footbridge three weeks ago, we’ve been checking with Seattle Parks about the status of repairs. This morning, Parks spokesperson Joelle Hammerstad tells WSB the footbridge has reopened:
While working to make repairs to this bridge … we determined that the main structure is sound. We have re-opened the bridge and re-installed temporary fencing where the railing was damaged. The repairs/upgrades will take longer than expected but patrons, will be able to use the bridge while our carpentry staff order supplies and fabricate needed parts.
As reported here last week, the driver who crashed the pickup eastbound on SW Yancy, through the railing, and into the creek, 40-year-old Rossindo Ramos, is charged with DUI and reckless endangerment. He and his passenger escaped serious injury. We’re following up with Parks on what the repairs will cost and whether they’ll pursue restitution.
Got patience? That’s what it takes to get an image like that, says photographer Mark Wangerin (it’s a male Anna’s Hummingbird, at Jack Block Park) – “taken from 10-12 feet away, (requiring) stealth/standing still for up to an hour.” Thanks again to Mark and other wonderful West Seattle photographers who share images, from birds to breaking news and beyond, for us to share in turn with you. Impatient to get to the weekend? Here’s how today/tonight gets the party started:
THE TRUE ROMANS @ SALTY’S: Start your weekend right after sunset, with live music at 5 pm at Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor), no cover/minimum (but happy-hour specials are on until 6 pm) – rock-cover band The True Romans will perform tonight. (1936 Harbor SW)
EVEN MORE … on our calendar!
(WS high/low bridges and Highway 99 views; more cams on the WSB Traffic page)
7:01 AM: The fog is back, and this time, as the traffic cams show, you’ll be driving through it on the main outbound routes too. If you’re headed for northbound I-5, be aware there’s a crash just before Seneca, blocking the two left lanes – and, further north, that side of the freeway is closed just before Northgate because of a fatal incident.
7:24 AM: The NB I-5 crash at Seneca has cleared; one lane is now open at the Northgate scene, but backups headed that way will last for quite some time. (added) SPD says two lanes will be open there soon.
REMINDER FOR MONDAY: Access to the downtown Water Taxi and state ferry docks changes because of seawall/99 work – as detailed here.
8:07 AM: Northbound I-5 has fully reopened at the scene near Northgate.
9:04 AM: An alert via Erika’s comment: “Be careful on the 99 ramp – a big pile of nails and screws seemed to have been dumped just prior to merging onto 99N.”
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It’s not the Department of Neighborhoods‘ job to get more people to apply for its matching-funds grants, its director told West Seattle neighborhood leaders Tuesday night.
But DoN director Bernie Matsuno acknowledged that a “conversation” is needed before her department tries again to make changes to the rules for who can seek the funds and the process for vetting them.
Her appearance before the Southwest District Council – with Delridge District Council members in attendance too – came shortly after a round of proposed changes was widely panned by leaders in both of West Seattle’s city-drawn “districts,” and subsequently shelved.
She faced questions about that as well as other issues, including her own status in city government, not yet reconfirmed by the full City Council despite Mayor Murray’s voiced intention a year ago to keep her on.
The 52-year-old woman arrested after last night’s stabbing outside the 35th/Morgan minimart remains in jail, with bail set today at $50,000. According to the probable-cause documents, obtained latelate today from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Police were first called to the store for a report of a fight between two women, with about 10 people watching. The call quickly changed to a report that one had stabbed the other.
When police arrived, they found the suspect inside the store and arrested her with their weapons drawn at “low ready.” She didn’t have the knife in her possession but officers found one in a trash can. The suspect, who lives about half a mile from the store, claimed the victim had “been after (her) for weeks” and was the aggressor. Four witnesses told police they saw the suspect attack the victim, whose age is not mentioned in the report; the report says officers smelled alcohol on the suspect’s “breath and person.” They talked to the victim while medics were treating her for a small, shallow chest wound. She is described as working at West Seattle Food Bank across the street from the store and having “ongoing issues” with the suspect, who is due back in court on Monday, by which time prosecutors should have made an initial decision on charging her. The King County Jail Register says she spent three days in jail right before Thanksgiving for investigation of assault.
Another win last night for the West Seattle High School girls-varsity basketball team, 61-46 over visiting Holy Names Academy (here’s what our partners at The Seattle Times wrote). And that’s not the only news as their strong season continues. Head Coach Sonya Elliott tells us they finished third at the recent MaxPreps Holiday Tournament in Palm Springs, with Lydia Giomi and Lexi Ioane chosen for the All-Tournament Team; the two also led their team last night, with 20 points and 9 rebounds for Giomi, 13 points and 10 rebounds for Ioane, who also was featured recently as a KING 5 Western Washington Girls Basketball Performer of the Week.
UP NEXT: The WSHS girls are on the road Friday night at Eastside Catholic; your next chance to cheer for them at home is Wednesday (January 14th) at 7:30 pm, vs. visiting Cleveland.
In case you’re heading eastbound sometime soon – be aware there’s a two-vehicle crash on the West Seattle Bridge near the 4th Avenue exit, apparently causing some backups. Police and fire are on it now; injuries are reported. Thanks to the person who just called from a passenger seat to let us know (206-293-6302, text or voice, any time, if you’re not driving!).
Every quarter, the West Seattle Art Walk changes up its poster art and venue list – some new, some continuing – and so, with two hours until this month’s WSAW begins, we present the new versions of both.
So which artists will you see when you go out to tonight’s Art Walk, 6-9 pm? Check out the previews on the official website, where you’ll also find the full-size venue list. (And if you’re looking for what else is up tonight, check our calendar.)
For the first time in more than two weeks, we have an official update on Seattle’s most closely watched pit – the one intended to reach the Highway 99 tunnel machine, so its cutterhead can be retrieved and repaired. WSDOT published the update this afternoon, saying that its contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners resumed digging today, and that: “Settlement levels near the pit have remained stable for more than six weeks.” The pit is 3/4 of the way to the 120-feet depth at which STP says it will pour a platform for the front of the machine to rest on, after it is turned back on to advance a short distance into the pit. Timeline? Nothing new yet, says WSDOT; you might recall, the most recent ballpark-guess tunnel-opening date was August 2017.
P.S. Reminder that seawall-and-tunnel-related work downtown will result in access changes at Colman Dock and Water Taxi Pier 50 starting tomorrow.
2:58 PM: Once the sun came out, we went over to the Murray Combined Sewer Overflow Control Project across from Lowman Beach for a look into the million-gallon storage-tank pit, during the second phase of big concrete pours. We’re checking with the county to see if they’ve set a second pour date yet, since this is a postponement from last month, and the second date also was originally in December. (If you’d like a slightly wider, though lower-resolution, view of today’s work in the pit, we have one on Instagram.)
5:06 PM UPDATE: Doug Marsano from King County says that while no date is firmed up yet, “the contractor wants to pour early next week.” So we won’t know any sooner than tomorrow (if not later) when the next big pour will be.
(Added: Photo courtesy Patrick C)
1:12 PM: Getting calls and texts about a big police search near 63rd/Admiral in the Alki area. We just called SPD media relations to ask about it and here’s what they told us: An apartment in the 6000 block of SW Stevens was broken into, and a citizen was following a suspect. Police have converged on the area, including a K-9 team. The suspect was last seen running around the area but hasn’t yet been caught, though police are reported to have found some items that might have been among the loot. The only description they have so far is a Hispanic man around 20 years old, unshaven, with a white baseball cap and black ponytail, puffy jacket (though he might have ditched it), and black pants.
(Photo courtesy Sarahjean)
1:14 PM UPDATE: Literally two minutes after we published this, police took a suspect into custody in the 6200 block of SW Admiral Way, according to scanner discussion.
ADDED: One more postscript – a reader report that the SW Stevens burglary was preceded by mail/package thefts on 55th SW, with the suspect caught on camera:
The reader who provided the screen grab from surveillance video says, “He got a fanny pack, burgundy leggings, a Paris tank top, protein powder & women’s multivitamins” – and the items were recovered. The police, meantime, got the video.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON NOTE: We hope to write a separate followup later, but in the meantime, a bail hearing for the suspect, who is 32 years old, was held this afternoon. Bail was set at $20,000. He has a record – and had a warrant out for his arrest. The case has also landed on SPD Blotter.
(Added 1 pm: Site work continuing at Arbor Heights today)
Quick note from today’s Land Use Information Bulletin: The hearing date for the third Arbor Heights Elementary appeal has been pushed back, “due to a problem with the notice.” Today’s notice says the Hearing Examiner will hear it February 2nd. As first reported here last month, this appeal involves issues including zoning exceptions and the fate of two trees. The construction was already scheduled as a two-phase project, resuming this spring.
(UPDATED 11:20 am with video of SPD media briefing at the scene)
(Photo tweeted by Aloysha)
6:52 AM: Fire and police are headed for Beach Drive SW and Oregon, for a report of someone in the water, possibly face down, about 20 feet offshore.
7 AM: By all accounts (via scanner), this is confirmed to be a body, brought ashore, and most of the rescue response has been canceled.
7:06 AM: First evaluation is that this is a woman around 50 years old, per scanner. The Medical Examiner is on the way. Our crew should be arriving shortly to find out more.
(WSB photo: Police have taped off the scene)
7:15 AM: At the scene, we’ve learned the body was spotted by two people out for a walk. Police are declining comment, referring us to the media-relations unit. This all happened near the stairway that goes from the sidewalk down to the lower part of Emma Schmitz Overlook, across from Me-Kwa-Mooks Park.
7:35 AM: An SPD spokesperson is apparently headed to the scene to talk with us and the TV crews that have arrived. As already noted in comments, if you’ve been here since at least 2012, you probably immediately recall the unsolved murder of 53-year-old Greggette Guy; her body was found in the water about half a mile north in March 2012, her car was found near where all this is unfolding today. But again, there’s NO information yet on how the woman found this morning died. We’ll update as soon as police have an official statement.
(WSB photo: King County Medical Examiner crew arrives)
8:24 AM: SPD spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb has briefed us. This is NOT currently being investigated as a homicide and is (corrected) NOT considered a “suspicious death”; so SPD is investigating with the Medical Examiner, which has a crew on scene. The woman is believed to be in her 50s but that is just a guess so far – apparently no ID on her; they will be checking missing-persons records to try to find out who she is. Police are likely to be at the scene another hour or so, but the woman’s body will be taken away by the ME shortly.
11:20 AM: Above this line, we have added the video of Sgt. Whitcomb’s briefing, in its entirety. Questions were asked by the four crews who were there – ours, and three of the four local TV-news organizations. SPD Blotter has just published a post about this, but there’s no new information.
ADDED FRIDAY, 5:29 PM: The King County Medical Examiner’s Office identifies the woman found off Emma Schmitz Overlook as 69-year-old Carolyn Arnold. According to the KCME’s afternoon media-hotline recording (a daily list of cases they investigate), the cause of Ms. Arnold’s death has not yet been determined, pending toxicology tests (which can take weeks).
(WS high/low bridges and Highway 99 views; more cams on the WSB Traffic page)
So far no major problems reported. We’re about to separately report on a rescue response on Beach Drive SW.
7:45 AM: Our ongoing coverage of that situation is here; SFD cleared the scene quickly but you’ll still see police and now the Medical Examiner.
TRANSPORTATION NEWS: Last night, West Seattle Bike Connections reported on SDOT’s presentation to the Bicycle Advisory Board regarding options for the notorious 5-way intersection west of the low bridge … Avoid the south end of Beach Drive today – the next concrete pour for the Murray CSO storage tank will bring dozens of trucks throughout the day … Road-restoration work by the Barton Pump Station next to the Fauntleroy ferry dock is planned next week.
8:48 AM: Police and fire are checking out a reported two-vehicle crash at 30th/Thistle, which is just west of the Sealth/Denny school zone. (Update: A texter says it’s blocking traffic; in case you were wondering, classes have already started at both schools.)
9:26 AM: Just back from the crash scene. It’s been cleared. No serious injuries.
The twice-postponed concrete pour at the Murray Combined Sewer Overflow Control Project will start tomorrow (Thursday), according to an announcement this evening from the King County Wastewater Treatment District. This one will bring up to 10 trucks per hour into the Lowman Beach area, starting at 7 am, according to KCWTD’s Doug Marsano. They might work into the evening, past the general 6 pm end time, if necessary. Marsano’s alert says, “The site will be very busy while the pour occurs, so please avoid the east of the 7000 block of Beach Drive SW to the extent possible.” If you have questions or concerns, with this or any other part of the million-gallon-storage-tank project, the hotline is 206-205-9186.