By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
There was a lot to talk about when HPAC, the community coalition for Highland Park, Riverview, and South Delridge, convened its first 2023 meeting online Wednesday night.
Transportation was the big topic. The photo above shows SW Holden from 12th SW to 11th SW. The former intersection is getting a pedestrian-activated signal, and SDOT was going to as a result remove the flashing beacon at the latter – until local advocates convinced them not to. That responsiveness was something on which they complimented the night’s marquee guest, SDOT director Greg Spotts. He started work just as what HPAC called “two and a half years of hell’ – the West Seattle Bridge detour – was ending. HPAC co-chair Kay Kirkpatrick, facilitating the meeting, told Spotts that SDOT was very responsive to the area’s needs and concerns during that time.
Spotts then offered a few opening remarks. “I’ve developed a real passion for West Seattle,” though he decided to live, carlessly until at least this fall, in South Lake Union. He’s done 100+ field visits with community members around the city, four mornings a week, every week. (In West Seattle, those have so far included Fauntleroy and Alki.) His first day at work in Seattle started with.a visit to the West Seattle Bridge. He talked about the Alki response to reckless driving – installing features including speed humps. He also talked about the rapid response that created a bike detour when the low bridge broke down in last month’s ice storm. Spotts said his theme for SDOT for 2023 is “Delivery fast and flavorful, in concert with our values.” He said he told the mayor in his July 1st job interview that he wants to end the days of telling communities what they’re getting by pointing to lines on a map, and start “co-creating” projects instead.
Then he listened to myriad concerns raised by attendees.
For starters, those included buses, driver accountability, the distance between pedestrian crossings (especially on SW Roxbury east of 8th), sidewalks “in major disrepair” (especially after they’re destroyed by developers and not fixed). Spotts acknowledged how rampant reckless driving is, recounting a meeting with non-WS parents who were struggling to come up with a safe plan for kids to walk and bike to the library. “I’m noticing great differences in the pedestrian experience in different neighborhoods,” and he also acknowledged noticing how construction crews are impeding sidewalk/street safety. On the topic of flashing-beacon crosswalks, another attendee said the new one at 17th/Henderson has made a big difference, as has the new one on Barton, and the new-ish ones on 16th, all of which he uses. But the attendee went on to say that some have had non-working “bike buttons” that he’s reported via Find It Fix It without repairs resulting. Spotts said if things are broken and not being fixed, reach out to his communication team. Another concern: People driving recklessly on cut-throughs. Spotts said it happened in an area of Los Angeles in which he lived, too. What about restricting traffic on some streets? Spotts said areas of London have that concept and if there’s community support, maybe there’s an area in Seattle where that could be tried.
Attendee and transportation activist Deb Barker, who was on the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, expressed gratitude for the staff that worked with the task force and responded to concerns such as low-bridge access for people who needed life-saving health care. She also brought up residential areas that had trouble during the detour times and didn’t get as much attention as Highland Park and South Park – northern 16th SW and Sylvan Way, for example. She also surfaced the station-location concerns regarding Sound Transit‘s West Seattle light-rail planning. And she invited him to the April 5th District 1 Community Network meeting. Spotts assured her he is “very engaged” with the light-rail plan and that the “next eight months are absolutely crucial” for finalizing station locations. He reminded everyone that he worked on a portfolio of “urban megaprojects” on behalf of the LA Mayor’s Office.
Another question: With a new transportation levy on the horizon, will it address maintenance, for example? He said he had already worked up a plan for “finishing strong” on the rockily implemented Levy to Move Seattle, so they’ve been having monthly meetings with a “deep dive” into aspects where it’s fallen short. The concern is that levies focus on what’s shiny and new. He promised that they are and will be talking about the non-glamorous aspects (“bridge seismic” most recently).
He vowed to come to Highland Park and vicinity to see the transportation challenges in person in the not-too-distant future.
LEAD: Another guest was this program’s new local manager Michelle McClendon; Highland Park has been advocating for almost a decade to get LEAD in the area. HPAC’s Michele Witzki talked about LEAD’s work helping with the Rozella Building in South Delridge. McClendon said she’s passionate about ‘restoring hope in humanity in some very strategic ways.” She started working in this area in October. Right now her priority is the Alki/Harbor Avenue area, where she’s got an outreach team working twice a week. “We are getting some folks to come indoors,” she said. “We are gaining traction.” She’s also been working in the West Seattle Junction, and her next stop is Myers Way: “We’re on it.” Witzki pointed out one thing to keep in mind – LEAD’s full government-funding request wasn’t granted, so they can’t do all the work they want to. Also, McClendon stressed: “LEAD is not a housing program” – they partnered with JustCARE, for example, with the Rozella Building situation, to get access to housing resources. She’ll bring outreach workers to the next HPAC meeting so attendees can better understand that process. But, she said, keep reporting what you see. Report to who/what? was the question in response. Southwest Precinct night shift Lt. Nathan Shopay said he’s still in the weekly city multi-department meetings to prioritize areas – and Find It Fix It reports figure heavily into those decisions. What about 2nd/Michigan? Lt. Shopay acknowledged the same thing we reported that one of his colleagues at the precinct, Operations Lt. Dorothy Kim, had said at a recent meeting: 2nd/Michigan was scheduled for a sweep but that was called off, reportedly by the mayor’s office. The area is also on LEAD’s radar, said McClendon, though they need chaperones to go in.
HPIC UPDATES: Rhonda Smith from Highland Park Improvement Club talked about the rebuilding plan for the fire-ravaged HPIC HQ. “We’re going to be meeting with the city next week to start the process for permitting,” which may take six months, meaning they hope to start demolition in fall – construction will take at least a year – and are hoping to reopen toward the end of 2024. They’re “actively applying” for grants “and also looking for private donors.” email@example.com is the address, or you can donate here. They’re taking Corner Bar – a pre-fire staple – on the road, 6-10 pm Friday, February 3rd, at Highland Park Corner Store
(7789 Highland Park Way SW). Food truck, DJ, beverages, snacks, all ages! How much of the building will be demolished? They hope to keep at least the foundation, but “that’ll be up to the city” – and the city is the reason demolition hasn’t happened sooner. More letters of support for a tentatively secured state grant are needed now, too – go here to do that. Smith said they’re also lobbying “at all levels” with elected officials to get support – but the more of a community groundswell they see, the better. “That’s why your voices are so important.”
WEST DUWAMISH GREENBELT HISTORY: Judy Bentley said they want to put together a history of the greenbelt “as folks have lived it and experienced it, from Duwamish times forward … especially longtime residents.” They want to record oral histories and are planning an event in spring, as part of Words, Writers, Southwest Stories. “We are just searching for people who have something to contribute to this.” Photos, artifacts, “anything that relates to the history of the greenbelt” matters. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you or someone you know might be helpful for this.
COMP PLAN: Get involved with this citywide process looking ahead to 2035, urged Kirkpatrick – otherwise you’ll be sorry down the road when you hear about the results and wonder why you didn’t jump in sooner. Highland Park is shown as having a high risk of displacement, Kirkpatrick added. There’s another big meeting coming up Monday (January 30th). Attendee Barker, who’s active in land use as well as transportation, recapped the December meeting in West Seattle, which largely consisted of easel-front and small-table discussions that didn’t get through much of the topic list. “People need to demand that the city pay attention to the reality of what their planning has been and could be,” advised Barker.
SOUTH DELRIDGE ACTION PLAN: A different city department is coordinating this, Kirkpatrick noted; we published the announcement of its kickoff survey last week. “Slightly vague and somewhat annoying” is how Kirkpatrick described the survey. But it does have some open-ended spots to offer feedback, so take it!
KING CONSERVATION DISTRICT: One of the three candidates for KCD supervisor, Csenka Favorini-Csorba, spoke – the postcards about this online election arrived in postal mailboxes earlier in the day. She lives in Highland Park, meaning at least two of the three are West Seattleites (the other is incumbent Chris Porter of Fauntleroy). KCD is known by some for its native-plant sales; it also does soil “It uses tadpayer dollars so it’s really important for folks to vote in” – and this is an online election, unrelated to the paper-ballot special election that’s on now for an unrelated measure. This election has a very low turnout historically, she noted,. What motivates you to want to do this? asked Kirkpatrick. She’s a backyard environmentalist, and this supports that kind of interst, she replied.
SCULPTURE: The city-funded giant Steller’s Jay for Highland Park Way/Holden will be on the southwest corner. “He’s going to be the guardian of our neighborhood,” said Kirkpatrick – the jay is a sort of “guardian bird:”and neighborhood advocates are “pretty excited” about the sculpture by artist Matthew Mazzotta.
NEXT MEETING: HPAC meets fourth Wednesdays most months, online until further notice – watch hpacws.org for announcements and updates.
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