Police, Parks, promises @ Alki Community Council’s ‘new start’ meeting

January 19, 2024 11:59 pm
|    Comments Off on Police, Parks, promises @ Alki Community Council’s ‘new start’ meeting
 |   Neighborhoods | West Seattle news

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

What you see above – taped onto the door of Alki UCC Thursday night – was one sign (literally) of the Alki Community Council‘s “fresh start.”

Another sign – more than 20 people in the room, and others joining online, a much larger turnout than most recent meetings.

“We’re all here thanks to a very long history of volunteer service,” new ACC president Charlotte Starck observed in her introductory comments. “This group has done a lot for a long time … we’re all here because we love Alki, we love our home, we want to contribute … We’re not just driven by one issue.” Starck explained that the new leaders, elected in. November, see the role of the ACC ss to “facilitate the conversation and help keep the dialogue going,” not necessarily to advocate for any particular position.

New vice president Lindsey Pearsall elaborated that they hope “to bring the community together, to uplift Alki in general.” She said they’re working to streamline communications, including launching a newsletter – “a resource for the community to go to.” They’ll also be updating the website, automating membership technology, and working to circulate a community survey. That’ll be announced in the newsletter. She’s also interested in ideas of how you would like to see information distributed. They’ve also been connecting with other neighborhood groups, with new District 1 City Councilmember Rob Saka, and others.

From there, it was on to the night’s featured guests and topics:

SEATTLE POLICE: Some in attendance wanted to look ahead to summer season – but first, the Southwest Precinct delegation introduced themselves: Second-watch commander Lt. Josh Ziemer and Community Service Officer Dennise Lopez in person, Community Liaison Officer German Barreto remotely. Someone suggested that not everyone knows what CSOs do, so Lopez explained that CSOs respond to “non-emergent concerns the community may have,” and participate in many community meetings. They’re on 7 days a week, 7:30 am-8 pm.

Lt. Ziemer summarized 2023 crime stats for Alki: A significant increase in robberies, though it’s still a low number he said; motor-vehicle thefts up 22 percent, burglaries and thefts down, an increase in disturbances, an increase in traffic stops (as part of proactive summertime patrols – what SPD calls “directed patrol”). Two murders in Alki (May 13 and May 21), fewer shots-fired reports. He noted that the department has been targeting auto theft, and said that the Community Response Group did an auto-theft operation in West Seattle this week and made a number of arrests. (We asked the SPD media office about this today, but they said they had no information about it.) In the past month, he said, 3 motor vehicle thefts were reported in Alki – one was an Amazon truck, one was possibly stolen by a “fake tow truck.”

An attendee wondered if SPD kept records about how many hours officers spend helping out in Alki Beach Park. Hard to track, said Lt. Ziemer, but they do track overtime spending, for example. How about numbers of arrests/convictions? How about recidivism? The latter, anecdotally, is often a “high percent,” he said, but the former would be stats that would havec to come from prosecutors

Another attendee wondered about focusing resources at night because that’s the trouble time, instead of assigning extra officers in daytime. They try, said Lt. Ziemer. What could the community do now to ensure we have summer-season support? asked Pearsall. You could express your concerns to the precinct captain, to Councilmember Saka – “the squeaky wheel” gets the attention, Lt. Ziemer stressed. An attendee asked about the status of earlier closing times on Alki for this year and beyond, since they’ve been announced the past few years only after major incidents, and it would seem helpful to get earlier word of such plans. Even Seattle Parks reps at the meeting weren’t sure. (We’ll be checking on that next week.)

Starck expressed an interest in arranging for a session of the personal-safety class that SPD periodically presents. Officer Barreto said it’s a free “situational awareness” 2-hour class, and they’d presented it for groups previously, such as Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network. (If you’re interested in an Alki-coordinated session, email hello@alkicommunitycouncil.org

LEAD PROGRAM CHANGE: The scheduled guest wasn’t able to be there but Starck summarized the change they were supposed to discuss – Alki residents can’t make direct referrals to this long-running diversion program right now (though police can make Alki referrals), because the funding and demand for the program is currently more focused in the Delridge area.

(Graphic from seattleschools.org)

SEATTLE PARKS: Rhys Harrington (in person) and Susan Melrose (remote) were there to talk about the work planned for Alki Community Center and Playground in parallel with the Alki Elementary School rebuild (which is still awaiting a resolution of the parking/zoning situation). Right now they’re midway between planning and design.”This project’s been going on for a while,” but the project does not involve anything on the field nor anything on the Whale Tail Playground end.

Harrington noted that Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Parks have been working together at the site for a century, and that historically part of the space between the playground and school grounds was an extension of Schmitz Parkway, so they have to maintain pedestrian access. (But, it was clarified later, no parking – the west end, adjacent to the playground, will no longer be a parking area when the project is complete.)

Some of the operating systems were tied together for Alki Community Center and Alki Elementary – water, communication, HVAC – and decoupling it is part of the work. The community center also will get new paint, flooring, “when it’s opened back up it’ll feel like a new building.” Parks is letting SPS use some of its property – like the sports courts – for construction staging. Contractor parking will be focused on the small parking area on the center’s east side.

There were some questions about how construction trucks will access the site – that matter was deferred to SPS. For the playground project, they have a baseline design program but not a design yet; once they do they’ll take it to the community. It will be designed by SPS, with Parks guidelines and review, Harrington said. Melrose elaborated on the public engagement that’s planned – three meetings, idea discussion, then three concepts, and finally a “preferred schematic design.” The first meeting is likely to happen in March.

A former Advisory Council member said an opportunity is being missed to re-envision the community center’s future. Harrington noted that ACC isn’t being staffed as a community center any more – it is being used for preschool and afterschool programs. “For the school not to have a thriving community center” seems like a big loss, she said. Harrington explained that there’s no capital=improvement project for ACC, and no money allotted for such a project. They’re just working on improving the utility systems.

More clarifications in response to questions: The ACC work is being funded by SPS. What kind of outreach for the project, besides the aforementioned meetings? There’ll be a sign on the site, a website, a mailing about the community meetings, media outreach, and an online survey for those who can’t attend the meeting(s). The meeting invitation will come from SPS, which led some attendees to express concern, given their track record, perceived as minimal outreach on the school project itself.

An Alki teacher said safety is a concern because the area in question is much-used. He said he’d like to see the ACC be a “really vocal player” as the planning and discussion goes on. The group’s leaders reiterated that they feel they can provided the most value by doing what this meeting did – connecting community members with information and opportunities to ask questions directly of key players.

WHAT’S NEXT: The ACC meets third Thursdays most months – check alkicommunitycouncil.org for updates, and email hello@alkicommunitycouncil.org with questions/ideas.

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