Story and photos by Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
It’s a time of change for the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights (WWRHAH) Community Coalition, which met Tuesday night at the Southwest Library to discuss issues and to talk about the group’s future.
As previewed here, it was the last WWRHAH meeting to be led by coordinator Kim Barnes, who is stepping down to focus on other endeavors such as her work to make Delridge Triangle a safer and more usable space for the community, as well as involvement with Roxhill Park along with her fulltime job. She said it “has been an honor to serve our community” and would still be available and ready to help answer questions in the future.
Attendees thanked Barnes (and gave her a hearty round of applause) for her two years of service leading the group, which she has led since Amanda Kay Helmick (who also ran for City Council) stepped down. Although nobody in attendance on Tuesday night signed up to immediately lead the group (at least one person expressed potential interest), several attendees pledged to attend the next two already-scheduled group meetings at Southwest Library on the first Tuesdays of the month (July 2 and August 6) and to see how things go. Group members also committed to keep the WWRHAH email list active, and Barnes noted that their website and Facebook page would remain accessible and would just need someone to maintain it.
Neighborhood news from the meeting:
SLURRY SEAL PROJECT: Attendees talked about the slurry seal projects happening this summer to renew road surfaces, including a project in Roxhill / South Delridge / Highland Park (project map here). A letter was sent to neighbors (although it seems that some may not have received it). Anyone with questions can contact 206-257-2208 or DOT_SlurrySeal@Seattle.gov.
COMMUNITY BARBECUE: Happening this weekend, on June 9th at Roxhill Park.
PLANTS AT ROXHILL PARK: Attendees reported some concerns about the way native plants are maintained at the park, echoed by others in attendance who also help with the Roxhill Park Champions group. Deb Atkinson said that progress has been made to get the right people from the parks department involved to help, and she would report back to the group.
DELRIDGE TRIANGLE: Barnes and other attendees talked more about efforts to improve the area, which is essentially a large bus stop that is SDOT property, but is situated in a problematic way that has encouraged crime and littering. However, Barnes and others have worked to get grant funding, Seattle Parks has agreed to acquire it, and now they’re moving into a new design phase designed to “activate the space” and make it a safer spot where people can feel comfortable and kids can play.
ROAD SAFETY: Neighbors talked about concerns involving vehicles speeding in the area, particularly on 26th Ave SW, including buses. Neighbor Earl Lee has been able to get involved with a “calming program” allowing him to check out a radar gun to measure speeds and collect evidence to make an argument for more signage and enforcement. Attendees also talked about the 26th and Cambridge area being a concern because it’s now a bus stop with a school in the area but there is no light or crosswalk and the grade of the area is challenging.
HOUSING: Attendees talked about the increase they’ve seen in prospective developers looking to buy land in the area to build housing, particularly east of Westwood Village (26th between Roxbury and Barton).
CRIME: Barnes said that regular attendee Lt. Steve Strand was on vacation and unable to attend the meeting, but she reminded attendees that the chance to hear directly from SPD officers is yet another reason why community meetings like this are an important forum.
KEEPING THE GROUP GOING: There was additional discussion about Barnes’ departure and the future of the group:
- Attendees talked about the various successes the group has had, including pedestrian improvements and clearing walkways, community and park cleanups and events like the summer barbecue and Family Movie Night and world music festival, and road safety. Barnes noted that she originally came to her first meeting to get help dealing with an issue she was having with a neighbor, and not only did she get advice and help to deal with the problem, but she saw that she could contribute and make a difference.
- Attendee and member Eric Iwamoto (also a member of the District 1 Community Network) noted that because community groups are no longer organized in a “community council” model, there basically aren’t any particular rules about how the groups need to be set up. Barnes agreed, saying that the group can exist without officers or a defined meting structure, which could work in WWRHAH’s favor as it relates to their future. Attendees agreed that it was important to get a diverse group of attendees and fresh faces, and that community groups typically have the most success when energized by individual issues and projects (like transit, crime and development) but that it’s important to expand beyond that as much as possible. Barnes said that although the group had been involved with projects, she sees the group as more of an information resource and forum, “who to contact and what to do.” But Barnes also suggested that if an individual issue were to be pursued, it might be the fact that there isn’t a community center in the area, which she said is an obvious need and that the population of the area obviously supports the need for it.
- Attendees agreed that getting the word out about the group will be important in order for it to continue. Barnes said she’d be happy to help introduce people, and she noted that there are about 175 people active on the group’s email list.
- Barnes noted that the meeting room at the library is reserved for at least two more months, and attendees pledged that they’ll continue coming long as people keep attending. The organization may become a group “lead-by-committee,” some attendees agreed. As noted above, the meeting ended without anyone formally taking the reins of the group, but there was a general commitment to keep something going.