By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
New year, new information – many community updates filled last night’s first 2018 meeting of the Southwest District Council, representatives of groups and organizations around western West Seattle.
The meeting was the first under SWDC’s new leadership, co-chairs Tamsen Spengler (of the Morgan Community Association) and Amanda Sawyer (Junction Neighborhood Organization), with secretary Roxane Rusch (Admiral Neighborhood Association).
The spotlighted guest was City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, now midway through her four-year term representing District 1 (West Seattle and South Park).
COUNCILMEMBER LISA HERBOLD: Spengler introduced her as “the most responsive city councilmember to her constituents that I’ve ever seen.” Herbold began by saying she’s glad that SWDC did not disband after the previous mayor cut ties with the neighborhood district councils like SWDC, and instead is “taking a bigger and better approach.” She also said that as a community builder and organizer, she sees the existence of two NDCs in West Seattle as a position of strength. She says she’s glad to have a staff who sees the value of responsiveness and collaboration with constituents. Regarding something mentioned minutes earlier by attendee Gunner Scott, co-chair of the Highland Park Action Committee, that it was time for neighborhood reps to hold new Mayor Jenny Durkan to her campaign comments about revisiting neighborhood ties, Herbold said she met recently with Durkan, who “expressed an interest in having a West Seattle town hall.”
As for “hot off the presses” issues, she mentioned the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee starting its work earlier today (WSB coverage here) on proposed changes in offstreet-parking policies. She passed out info about what’s being considered as “frequent transit areas” under the proposed changes – meaning areas where parking would not be required – though she said there’s “not a lot of change for West Seattle.” SWDC member Cindi Barker (West Seattle Hubs) pointed out that this map doesn’t yet show the true impact of what it would be if/when HALA MHA upzoning is implemented, since some areas not on the map now, because they’re zoned single-family, will change.
Herbold mentioned the 2014 Avalon-project appeal by Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development and said that the new parking proposals address some of the issues that factored into it. A vote is not likely before March, she said.
Another topic Herbold brought up: Last year’s Alki/Admiral vehicle-noise-enforcement survey, which she said both community members and SPD had said would be useful “in helping elevate our concerns up the chain of command.” Everyone knows what the problem is, but having the participation of 1,100 constituents, expressing interest in enforcement, really helps, she said, noting that the city budget included a call for a report by this spring on what it would take to enforce the noise rules. “By asking SPD to report back to us on how they can enforce these laws, we’re kind of getting them to buy into it,” she added. “I feel like there’s a lot of potential there,” possibly also helping other areas with recurring noise trouble.
HPAC’s Scott told Herbold that Highland Park has its own problems with noise – particularly the “Seahawks cannon” and other fireworks issues. Herbold said she has an “ongoing project with the SPD around fireworks” and has been trying to get information about how much enforcement they do, or don’t do. “They’re basically not enforcing it” is what she’s found so far. Even if they don’t enforce, she said, maybe there could be an effort to confiscate illegal fireworks and get people out of the habit.
Finally, Herbold said that she’d been asked to talk about HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability – the upzoning that the council will consider this year – and why West Seattle’s next round of city meeting won’t be until after other areas of the city have theirs. She said that could be a benefit because our area could learn from how things go in those other areas. She also said some councilmembers might wind up with their own district-specific resolutions about MHA – maybe even a resolution for each urban village. Barker said that if there’s a chance for the area to “construct something that’s more tailored to (this area),” people need to know soon. “It’s like trying to play a game when you don’t know the rules!” she said (and keep in mind that Barker is a particularly savvy citizen who was even on the original HALA focus group).
Asked about potential goals for 2018, Herbold said the revived Seattle Police Community Service Officer program is likely to come to the council in the first quarter.
Other major topics at the SWDC meeting:
SENIOR CENTER OF WEST SEATTLE: Executive director Lyle Evans had lots of stats to share about the center: 46 years of service to West Seattle – 7,000 meals served to seniors in 2017 – 2100 salads, sandwiches, and soups in the upstairs café – 25,000 meals served to homebound seniors by Meals on Wheels – 500 adults connected to much-needed medical care. As the “grand seniors” – 80+ – “age out” of some Senior Center participation, Evans said, they are hoping to get more baby boomers involved. They’re also continuing to offer classes and special events, like an all-you-can-eat crab fest on January 27th, and dance lessons coming up.
The center runs on lots of volunteer power but did get city funding for an additional social worker two years ago. They’ll also be offering conversational-Spanish classes starting soon. “Isolation is worse than smoking for seniors,” said Evans. Asked about special programming for LGBTQ seniors, he talked about the monthly get-together Second Thursday Out!. Also: Of the center’s $703,000 annual budget, $110,000 is from the city, the rest generated through donations, fees, fundraisers (including the annual breakfast coming up in May) – 24 percent of the annual budget ($180,000 last year) is generated by the Stop ‘n’ Shop thrift store. Evans also showed this video about one of its volunteer programs:
Find out here about how to become a Senior Center member.
SWDC LOGISTICS: The group will continue meeting at the Sisson Building; MoCA helped cover the rental fees last year (since the city pulled its funding), and other groups are invited to help with that this year. Co-chairs Spengler and Sawyer (JuNO) are inviting other groups to become SWDC members, or at least to come and give the group periodic briefings about what’s happening – interest expressed so far by groups including the West Seattle Timebank, WS Transportation Coalition, Sustainable WS. Former board member Vicki Schmitz-Block of the Fauntleroy Community Association says the more participation, the more relevant the group will remain. This meeting also was attended by some from the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, whose co-chair Mat McBride said there are cross-peninsula issues on which the councils can collaborate.
Announcements began the meeting:
YOUR VOICE, YOUR CHOICE: Yun Pitre from the Department of Neighborhoods talked about this year’s round. As mentioned on WSB earlier in the day, the nomination period for projects has begun – you have until February 2nd to suggest a park or street project for a share of the $3 million. Hundreds of proposals from last year were “rolled over” to this year; Pitre was asked if those who had suggested them were notified of that. She found out from colleagues today that no, they were not.
SPONSOR A FLOWER BASKET: Lora Swift from the West Seattle Junction Association announced that they’re accepting sponsors again this year – starting now! – for the almost-100 flower baskets that hang in The Junction during spring and summer.
WEST SEATTLE EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS HUBS: Cindi Barker said Highland Park, EC Hughes, High Point, and Pigeon Point all have new hub captains in training – and are still looking for a new one to take over in the Admiral area. Find out more about the hubs here.
JUNCTION NEIGHBORHOOD ORGANIZATION: JuNO will meet later this month but director Sawyer has now been told that the Fauntleroy Boulevard project team will not be at the meeting after all – they’re apparently not ready to talk publicly about where the controversial project, at one point expected to start construction about now, stands. Sawyer said her project contact told her simply to watch the project website.
BALLARD DISTRICT COUNCIL INVITATION: Spengler also announced that a January 10th meeting in Ballard (7 pm, Merrill Gardens) will have community advocates from around the city discussing talking with city reps (including the mayor’s office) about how, with the administration change, they plan to work with the Neighborhood District Councils.
The Southwest District Council meets first Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, at the Sisson Center/Senior Center (4217 SW Oregon), all welcome. WSB coverage is archived here.