West Seattle, Washington
While Highland Park continues fighting to get the city to build a roundabout at Highland Park Way and Holden, the city has repeatedly mentioned that it can make other, smaller changes to improve safety at the intersection in the meantime. Today, SDOT announced that those changes will be made in the next few weeks. The following letter has been sent to nearby residents, after notification to the Highland Park Action Committee, whose chair Charlie Omana forwarded it to us:
Subject: Highland Park Way and Holden Intersection Improvements
Dear Highland Park residents,
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will be making some enhancements to the
intersection of Highland Park Way SW & SW Holden St (see below and graphic). The purpose of these
enhancements is to increase safety and make the intersection more predictable.
The work that SDOT will be doing includes:
• Enlarging the painted triangles in the northwest and southwest quadrants of the intersection
• Extending the southbound right-turning lane and installing advance lane configuration signs and
• Installing yield signs and markings
• Repainting the northbound left-turn arrow markings
• Installing a barrier to prevent eastbound left-turning vehicles from turning into the outside curb
lane of northbound Highland Park Way SW
• Converting SW Austin St to right turn in and right turn out only
We expect to make these changes within the next few weeks, when the weather is dry enough for us to apply paint to the road.
Please note, this work will not preclude a potential future roundabout at this intersection. SDOT has
applied for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) 2018 City Safety Grant for funding the full design and construction of the roundabout. We expect a decision about the grant in
If that grant is not received, Mayor Jenny Durkan promised HPAC last month that the city would come up with a “Plan B” for funding the roundabout.
Thanks to Highland Park Elementary PTA president Laura Olson for the photos and report:
The sun was shining for Highland Park Elementary’s second annual Move-A-Thon! Students wore their own individually tie-dyed spirit wear as they walked, skipped, and ran to the cheers of staff and parents.
A big thanks to our PTA volunteers who made this event possible and our sponsor Rain City West Screen Printing. While this was primarily a fitness celebration, it’s also a fundraiser. If you want to support the HPE PTA in it’s continuing good works, you are welcome to contribute!
Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s visit to the Highland Park Action Committee finally happened last night – 7 months after she accepted the invitation extended by HPAC’s Gunner Scott during her February “town hall” at the Senior Center of West Seattle. We got it all on video – first, the mayor:
And in our second clip, the department heads who accompanied her, mostly to address homelessness-related issues such as the Myers Way east-side cleanup – interim Human Services Director Jason Johnson (a West Seattle resident), HSD’s Navigation Team manager Fred Podesta, as well as Seattle Parks and Recreation leadership, introduced by HPAC chair Charlie Omana:
Other top city staffers were there too, including new Department of Neighborhoods director Andrés Mantilla – a Highland Park resident – Seattle Public Utilities‘ Mami Hara, Parks interim superintendent Christopher Williams, and deputy SDOT director Elliott Helmbrecht.
If you don’t have time to watch the video and weren’t among the ~50 people at the Highland Park Improvement Club for last night’s event, here are the toplines:
She opened by talking about the budget proposal she unveiled on Monday (here’s our coverage, from attending a media briefing at the mayor’s office) and pitching for the Families/Education/Preschool/Promise Levy that’ll go to city voters in November.
Regarding homelessness, she touted her plan for hundreds of additional shelter beds and the need to close “gaps” in regional behavioral-care services. She said the city-sanctioned Camp Second Chance in southeast West Seattle “is being managed well.” And she said the Myers Way east-side cleanup had finished ahead of schedule.
Regarding police and crimefighting, she promised that she and SPD Chief Carmen Best would figure out how to “do better.”
In Q&A with the mayor, local community advocate Pete Spalding opened by mentioning how former Mayor Murray had cut ties with community groups such as neighborhood-district councils and asked Durkan about renewing a commitment to working with community groups. She declared that her presence last night was a “signal to you” that she has made that commitment, and she added that she believes in “community-based government,” that solutions come from communities. “You’ll see me back here,” she promised.
Another neighborhood advocate, Kay Kirkpatrick, brought up the Highland Park Way/Holden roundabout that neighbors have long been seeking. Is it in the city budget? Can money from other on-hold projects (such as Fauntleroy Boulevard) be diverted to it? The mayor’s answer (about 19 minutes into the video) was that “it’s clear that a roundabout is the best result” for the intersection, and that the city is planning in expectation that it’ll get a state grant to fund it – but if not, the city will find a “Plan B.” In the meantime, the mayor said they’re looking at “other ways to slow traffic down” there.
Another transportation issue brought up: Bus service to Highland Park, particularly Route 131. (While buses are managed by King County, the city has had an increasing role as it’s “bought” additional service hours on some routes, and more of that is proposed in Durkan’s new budget.)
In crime and safety, a neighbor from the 13th SW area shaken by home-invasion burglaries earlier this year said they still feel the response might have been better in a more-affluent area. “We want to feel safe in the area … and more has to be done for people to feel more trust in the Police Department.” The mayor acknowledged that she was aware of the community’s concerns and said she hopes that they are doing better now. “We know we can do better in parts of the city.” She again mentioned that her budget calls for more officers – 10 more citywide next year, 30 more the year after that, above attrition (though where they’ll be assigned isn’t clear, and the budget shows the Southwest Precinct overall staffing level not changing). Assistant Chief Adrian Diaz also addressed the concerns and mentioned safety/self-defense training to “empower” community members.
And one more question before the mayor left was from a South Delridge resident who spoke of the dozens of derelict/abandoned properties in the area, wondering why it takes so long to get them addressed. The mayor mentioned a South Park property that had been handled but invited the resident to get her more specifics so they could “work on (it).” (A p.s. on that, Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s been working on the issue and is scheduled to talk about it at next week’s Southwest District Council meeting, 6:30 pm October 3rd at the Senior Center of West Seattle.)
We will add notes later this afternoon from the conversation with Human Services Department leaders that followed the mayor’s departure; you can watch the 30-minute video above in the meantime.
Seattle Parks is considering changing the hours at Riverview Playfield (7226 12th SW) in hopes of enabling more police enforcement in response to problems there. Next Thursday, the city Board of Park Commissioners‘ meeting will include a public hearing on changing the hours from 4 am-11:30 pm to 6 am-10 pm. Here’s the rationale as listed in the city briefing paper for Thursday’s meeting:
At this site, there have been continuous complaints about illegal behavior occurring at the park. Drinking and vandalism occur in the evening hours and people congregate at all hours. Neighbors and Parks staff cite four specific reasons for requesting the change in hours:
1) Maintenance workers are burdened with cleaning beer cans, broken glass, and laden trash. The park benches were often found damaged.
2) Tagging is pervasive especially late at night and after the park has closed. At sites with similar issues, changing the closing time to 10:00 p.m. enabled SPD to do a sweep through the park and enforce the closure time.
3) Neighbors frequently call 911 because of the late night activities which often include loud and boisterous behavior, in addition to illegal activity.
4) Community members do not feel safe confronting those who loiter in the park after hours and the earlier closure time enables the police to enforce the rules.
Perhaps the biggest incident in recent years – the 2016 arson that left a new restroom/storage building at the park closed for a year (top photo). The Parks Board hearing is during its regular meeting at Parks HQ downtown next Thursday (September 27th), 6:30 pm, 100 Dexter Ave. N.
A mayoral visit that’s been months in the planning is now one week away – Mayor Jenny Durkan, hosted by the Highland Park Action Committee. You’re invited. HPAC chair Charlie Omana has just sent the agenda for the September 26th event, with word that the city’s Human Services Director will be there too:
6:15 Doors open
6:30 Calling meeting to order
6:35 Guest Speaker – Mayor Jenny Durkan
6:50 – 7:00 Q&A with Mayor
7:10 – Conversation with Randy Wiger, Recreation Program Coordinator, Parks Department, about programming in HP parks
7:30 Guest – Jason Johnson, Interim Director, Department of Human Services: Open conversation about City of Seattle policies on homelessness
8:00 close meeting
After four months as its interim director, Highland Park resident Andrés Mantilla is now officially in charge of the city Department of Neighborhoods, confirmed today by the City Council.
He succeeds Kathy Nyland, who led the department for three years following Bernie Matsuno‘s four-year tenure. Mantilla has worked for the city in a variety of roles for the past decade, detailed here with other info about his background. The announcement of his confirmation quotes him as saying, “I am deeply appreciative of the power that community engagement and inclusive outreach has in building a more equitable Seattle. I look forward to working with community and neighborhood groups as we continue this important work.” (Photo from seattle.gov)
We were reviewing our Nest cam from (Wednesday) night and noted that the car parked in our driveway (which abuts the alleyway) behind 12th Ave SW near Holden was broken into and rifled through. We had 0 things of value in there. We believe the thief probably just came across trash, basically, but … here’s a link to the video clip.
The prowler comes into view at the upper left just before the one minute mark, and goes back off-camera about a minute and a half later.
Not only are cool and/or nostalgic and/or funky finds, priced to sell, available outdoors AND indoors at the Highland Park Improvement Club Giant Yard Sale, the bar is open too. We got one enthusiastic recommendation for the Bloody Marys.
Prefer something non-alcoholic? Outside, there’s a lemonade stand. And more records. And even a bit of golf gear.
We could go on, but really, one person’s treasure is another person’s … you know how it goes. So go see for yourself before 3 pm. HPIC is at 12th and Holden, and you can park down the block at Riverview if you’re not close enough to walk or ride.
With less than two weeks until Seattle Public Schools starts classes for the new school year, there’s word of a principal change at one local school. Received tonight from Laura Olson, president of the Highland Park Elementary PTA:
Highland Park Elementary School is thrilled to announce that effective August 24th we have a new principal, Adam Dysart! Mr. Dysart was the Assistant Principal at Highland Park last year, where he built a strong relationship with the HPE community, showing that he is truly committed to the success of each and every student. We are so pleased that Mr. Dysart was selected to lead our school and we are looking forward to a new and exciting school year. A big welcome to our new principal!
We would also like to offer a heartfelt thank you and good-bye to our former principal, Chris Cronas. He arrived at HPE in 2014 when our school faced a number of challenges. He was the central figure in a community meeting where those challenges were outlined, and in his 4 years with us he has worked with staff and community members to transform our school. Thank you for everything, Mr. Cronas, and good luck in your future endeavors!
She shared the two letters related to the announcement – first, from now-former principal Chris Cronas:
Dear Highland Park Families,
I had mentioned to students on the last day of school that there was a strong possibility I would not return. After speaking with my family and friends over the summer, I have decided to move on from Highland Park and leave the principalship altogether. I am resigning my position with Seattle Public Schools. I have been a school leader in Seattle for 11 years and I have learned so much from my experience.
When I arrived to Highland Park four years ago, the school had a myriad of challenges that took time to address. I can say with confidence that our community is in far better shape than it was when I arrived. And now, our students and staff need your help to take that final step toward academic success for every student. I know Highland Park is in great hands, supported by amazing staff and families. My very best to you all as you continue your work to make Highland Park the very best school for every child who walks through our doors.
And here’s how the change was announced by Dr. Mike Starosky, the district’s assistant superintendent/chief of schools:
Dear Highland Park Elementary community,
I am pleased to announce that Mr. Adam Dysart has been selected to be the new principal of Highland Park.
Mr. Dysart was the assistant principal, and was selected because of his relationships with and commitment to the Highland Park community and creating equitable outcomes from all students. He is a strong instructional leader who appreciates families and community members as a valuable resource.
Prior to serving at Highland Park, Mr. Dysart spent time as the Assistant Director of Student Advancement in Highline School District, a program manager for student supports in the Seattle Public Schools district office, and has elementary curriculum and classroom experience. Principal Dysart holds a deep commitment to meeting the needs of the whole child through a multi-tiered system of supports and is deeply committed to Highland Park.
Mr. Dysart earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Washington, his Master in Teaching from Seattle University, and his Principal and Program Administrator Certification from the University of Washington’s Danforth Educational Leadership Program.
Thank you to Principal Chris Cronas for his leadership as principal. Principal Dysart is committed to building upon the strong work that has been done by the staff and families of this school. Mr. Dysart’s first day as principal is today, and is looking forward to seeing students and families at the start of school.
Please join me in congratulating Principal Adam Dysart.
(Any other new principals for the new year? Please let us know so we can spotlight them too. Thank you!)
10:43 AM: Another traffic alert of sorts – a project under way by Highland Park Elementary. Thanks to Sam Drucker for the photos and report:
After a couple of years of planning, and in collaboration with Children’s Hospital, the Duwamish, and a local artist (and HPE alumnus), we are spending this morning painting the intersection by the entrance to our new playground.
The project is meant to help slow traffic around the school, honor and recognize and thank the tribe whose land our school and community reside on, and provide another opportunity to get people together to build relationships.
4:36 PM UPDATE: Here’s the finished mural:
The photo is from the artist, Marianne Maksirisombat.
Another stolen vehicle to watch for – Ayn and her family really need it:
It was stolen the morning of the 8th between 2:30 am and 8:00 am. From in front of our house near the corner of 18th Ave SW & Elmgrove.
It is a Black 2018 Honda Odyssey, license plate# BJX 7919. Has a license plate holder that says SODO Honda of Seattle.
I’m disabled and have three children with Autism. We desperately need our vehicle for doctor appointments and therapies.
My disability placards and walker with wheels and seat were also in the Van.
Call 911 if you see the van – and/or an abandoned walker, too.
Big fun at Highland Park Elementary on this second-to-last day of school – a Field Day celebration! Thanks for HPE’s PE teacher Chellie LaFayette for inviting us to stop by. Third- through fifth-grade students had fun for an hour and a half in the morning, which is when we visited:
Then in the afternoon, preschoolers through second-graders got their turn, and the school day was scheduled to end with free balls for everybody courtesy of the YES Foundation. P.S. The district’s school year ends with one-hour-early dismissal tomorrow.
No major injuries but two cars are damaged after colliding at Highland Park Way and Holden. The Highland Park Action Committee continues trying to get traffic calming for this intersection and took a mayoral assistant on a walking tour earlier this week for a firsthand look.
(WSB photos. Foreground from left, HPAC vice chair Gunner Scott, mayor’s rep Kyla Blair, HPIC board member Kay Kirkpatrick, pas HPAC co-chair Michele Witzki, HPAC chair Charlie Omana, Dutchboy Coffee’s Jenni Watkins)
Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s promised visit to Highland Park has been postponed – Highland Park Action Committee still meets June 27th as usual, but will feature other guests. However, a member of her staff, Kyla Blair, kept her date to meet with HPAC leadership and other community advocates to scout out top concerns – particularly the SW Holden/Highland Park Way traffic mess.
We were invited to go along with the delegation as they walked Blair down from Highland Park Improvement Club (12th/Holden) to the problem-plagued intersection during the Wednesday morning outbound commute. They got to show her, firsthand, driver cut-throughs on side streets (above, SW Portland) to escape the logjam at the intersection.
And they told the story of the roundabout that has gone unfunded, despite a state grant application that had high-profile support plus more than 400 community members’ petition signatures. The mayor’s assistant got to see students and others crossing Highland Park Way without benefit of a crosswalk.
The roundabout saga is just the latest in 80 years of traffic concerns at the intersection, as shown in city records – and in WSB coverage (a few high-profile crashes were brought up). Overall, there’s long been a “lack of city investment” in Highland Park, as HPAC chair Charlie Omana described it. “It’s a historically redlined neighborhood,” vice chair Gunner Scott added. Durkan’s predecessor Ed Murray visited for one of his Find It, Fix It Walks last year, but little has resulted. Meantime, as noted along the way, both Highland Park Way and Holden are seeing redevelopment, further adding to traffic.
Though the actual walk on Wednesday morning had to be limited to the Highland Park Way/Holden visit, there was also discussion about the need for improvements at 16th/Holden; Jenni Watkins, in her second year of operating Dutchboy Coffee at that intersection, talked about seeing crashes and helping people who got hurt. Before long, Blair had to get back to City Hall, and promised she’d convey what she heard. Meantime, Omana will be booking a new date for the mayor’s visit.
During Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s West Seattle “town hall” in February (photo at right), Highland Park Action Committee vice chair Gunner Scott invited her to visit HP – and she accepted. HPAC has been working since then to get a commitment for a date, and they finally have one. HPAC announced today that the mayor will be guest speaker at their June 27th meeting. It’ll move up half an hour as a result – 6:30 pm (doors open at 6:15 pm) at Highland Park Improvement Club (1116 SW Holden). From HPAC’s announcement:
We have requested the focus of the Mayor’s remarks to address the infrastructure needs of Highland Park, specifically, the Highland Park Way & SW Holden St. intersection. This has been HPAC’s preponderant infrastructure project, which we have been working to bring to fruition for many years. Further, Highland Park has been working to make this intersection safer in varying capacities for well over 70 years!
Here’s our coverage of SDOT’s update on that project at last month’s HPAC meeting.
We published the city Human Services Department‘s announcement of another year for Camp Second Chance shortly after receiving it on Thursday afternoon. Since then, the two community councils closest to the sanctioned encampment – the Highland Park Action Committee and North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – have sent HSD interim director Jason Johnson this expression of disappointment:
The neighborhoods of Highland Park and the various neighborhoods comprising the unincorporated urban area of North Highline are extremely disappointed to hear that the City of Seattle has extended the permit for Camp Second Chance for an additional 12 months at the Myers Way Parcels (Fiscal and Administrative Services PMA #4539-4542). With this extension, the camp will have effectively been present at the current site for 2 years and 8 months, easily exceeding the allowed 2 year stay duration for encampments as outlined in Seattle Municipal Code Section 23.42.056, subsection E.1.
Camp Second Chance established itself on the Myers Way Parcels on July 23, 2016 (“Myers Way Parcels,” 2016), 10 days after former mayor Edward B. Murray declared that the property would be retained by the City of Seattle for the purposes of expanding the Joint Training Facility and for expanding recreational space (“Mayor Murray announces,” 2016). Polly Trout of Patacara Community Services—the organization which would become the sponsor for the camp—is reported to have used bolt cutters to break the lock on the fence that had been securing the property (Archibald, 2017a), thereby allowing the group of campers, who had defected from SHARE Tent City 3 earlier that year (Archibald, 2017b), to trespass and establish their new camp. The status of the camp remained in limbo for some time thereafter.
In a post on her blog concerning a possible eviction of the camp, Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold (2016), who represents the district in which the camp is located, relayed that she had “urged the Executive [branch of city government] not only to have its work guided by established public health and safety prioritization criteria, but…asked whether outreach workers have the ability to ask for more time if – in their estimation – more time would help get campers access to services.” Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw and King County Council member Jean Kohl-Welles, who are not representatives of the area where the camp is located, had requested from Mayor Murray that the camp not be immediately evicted (Jaywork, 2016). Within 5 months of the camp’s establishment on the Myers Way property, the Murray administration proceeded to officially sanction the encampment (“West Seattle Encampment,” 2016), thereby delaying the community’s request to have the Myers Way Parcels relinquished to the Parks and Recreation department for future development of the site in accordance with community wishes.
I want to make clear that the communities surrounding the encampment are not strangers to disadvantage. Our neighborhoods have suffered from a lack of investment going back at least a century, and from redlining in the 1930s. The lasting effects of this lack of investment in our neighborhoods are palpable to this day!
Data from the American Community Survey (5-year Series, 2009-2013) show that Highland Park (Census Tract 113) has a lower median income ($53,182) and a higher proportion of residents who identify as a race or ethnicity other than White (49.8%) than Seattle as a whole ($65,277 and 29.4%, respectively). The King County census tract immediately to the South of Highland Park, which encompasses the land area where the Myers Way Parcels are located, shows even starker demographic departures from Seattle.
Census Tract 265 overlays the southeastern-most portion of Highland Park in the City of Seattle, as well as a portion of White Center, which is part of the North Highline unincorporated urban area. There, the proportion of residents who identify as a race or ethnicity other than White increases to 60.1%, while the Median Household Income drops to $35,857.
Like most Seattleites, residents of our neighborhoods are compassionate and wish to address the homelessness crisis with empathy. However, in as much as the City claims to promote equity, we ask that neighborhoods like ours not continue to be overwhelmed with the responsibility of shouldering the burden of the City’s homelessness policies while wealthier, less diverse neighborhoods remain largely unscathed.
Over the past decade, Highland Park has hosted three encampments and served as a staging area for a proposed safe lot for individuals residing in recreational vehicles. This burden has impacted not only our neighborhood, but the neighborhoods immediately south of us along the city limit. No other neighborhood in Seattle has willingly or unwillingly taken on as much and to the same extent!
Given this history, the Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) has sought resolution from the Human Services Department on a number of items, including
1) The adoption of a set of best practices (manifested as our “Neighborhood Protocols for Sanctioned Encampments” which have been provided to the department on many past occasions and are again enclosed below) by which the City of Seattle will abide prior to sanctioning an encampment in any given neighborhood.
2) That the Finance and Administrative Services Department accelerate the relinquishment of the Myers Way Parcels to the Department of Parks and Recreation.
3) A plan resolving jurisdictional issues that arise from the presence of sanctioned and unsanctioned encampments at the interface of city, unincorporated county, and state land.
4) A 10% increase in the number of police officers assigned to the Southwest Precinct Patrol to help mitigate the increased burden on our current resources. (At 124 Full-Time Equivalents for budget year 2018, the Southwest Precinct Patrol Budget Control Level is the lowest in the city.)
Despite a reply on April 18 from Catherine Lester, the previous director of the Human Services Department, the Highland Park Action Committee does not feel that our requests have been satisfactorily addressed. We understand that some of our requests will require coordination with other departments. However, it is our belief that the City needs to take a holistic approach to its encampment-sanctioning process. To date, the methods employed have lacked transparency and eroded neighborhood trust in city government.
In an effort to allow residents of Highland Park and surrounding neighborhoods to get a better understanding of the City of Seattle’s homelessness response, the Highland Park Action Committee invites the Director of the Human Services Department (whomever that may be at the time) to attend our scheduled meeting on September 26, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. PDT for a moderated discussion on homelessness policy.
We kindly ask for confirmation of acceptance or declination of this request by August 17, 2018.
Chair, Highland Park Action Committee
President, North Highline Unincorporated Area Council
Highland Park’s decade-long history with encampment goes back to the first camp that called itself “Nickelsville,” which was evicted from public land at Highland Park Way and West Marginal Way SW less than a week after it set up in September 2008.
Thanks to Dennis for the photo and report: “This is the second at least that I know of, in a year. This time there is an injury. How do I go about getting the city to sign this uncontrolled intersection???” We’ve been asked that question before, regarding other intersections. This page offers some advice. Anyone reading this who’s been through the process is also invited to offer theirs!
Transportation headlined last night’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting, led by chair Charlie Omana:
(Early concept for proposed Highland Park Way roundabout – final design may NOT resemble this)
ABOUT THE ROUNDABOUT: James Le from SDOT recapped the history of the long-proposed, little-funded Highland Park Way/Holden roundabout proposal, including the 2017 Find It, Fix It Walk during which $200,000 for design and $300,000 for construction was announced. While an application for a state grant was unsuccessful, the project got lots of support from local leaders, including U.S. House Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Another grant is being sought now – Le says WSDOT encouraged SDOT to seek the City Safety Grant for this project “because it ranked really high.” (No word yet when the decision is due. Le says SDOT has a grant coordinator who wrangles all that.) So far they have spent $50,000 of the design money and they are currently mapping the spot; another $100,000 will be spent to come up with two alternatives for the location, and the final $50,000 is being set aside as grant matching. The estimated cost for the project is $2.5 million (that’s up from a $2.1 million estimate in 2015). That includes, Le explained in response to a question, $800,000 labor and materials, and about $500,000 design costs.
(Early design concept for proposed Highland Park Way roundabout)
Tomorrow night, the Highland Park Action Committee gets an update on the long-in-the-works roundabout proposed for Highland Park Way and SW Holden. SDOT’s James Le is expected to be at the meeting with the newest information. After last month’s meeting, HPAC chair Charlie Omana learned from SDOT that SDOT has been “performing a survey of existing site conditions which should be completed within the next month. Once the survey is complete, project design can proceed, and SDOT intends to engage the public with multiple opportunities for feedback.” But, he added, only $200,000 of the project’s estimated $2.5 million cost has been committed. SDOT says it’s applied for a grant from the WSDOT City Safety Program but won’t hear until later this year. (It’s been half a year since the project was turned down for a different WSDOT grant.) Omana says, “After 5 years of working on this project in its current capacity, to have only $200k committed is disappointing. HPAC is concerned about the effects that increasing construction costs will have on the feasibility of this project over time. … HPAC will continue pushing to bring this project to fruition sooner rather than later.” And that includes Wednesday night’s discussion (7 pm at Highland Park Improvement Club, 1116 SW Holden).
Historic Highland Park Improvement Club had a full house Saturday night for the 10th anniversary of their fun and festive fundraiser Uncorked. It’s evolved from its origins as a sort of DIY wine-tasting event, where the partygoers brought the wine, to an event with 10 participating wineries! Along with beverages, appetizers, and good company, an art auction was part of the festivities – here’s some of what we noticed:
Proceeds help keep HPIC in good shape – it’s almost a century old, and hosts numerous events, classes, and meetings. P.S. This year’s Uncorked co-sponsors included WSB.
Got some time to spare right now? Get over to Highland Park Elementary! The photo and invitation are from Connie Wolf:
The Highland Park Elementary PTA was hoping that May 5th would feature a Grand Opening Party for our school’s new playground, but as is typical for big projects, the construction took much longer than expected. Happily, as of yesterday, all the construction is complete! The work we have left to do is to move the engineered wood fiber (play chips) under our new net climber and slides. It’s a big job and a good workout. If you have an hour or two to spare, please join us [now] to get the “pit” filled in. Thank you everybody for your support!
When older apartment buildings are put up for sale, the accompanying listing often assures prospective buyers that a little work can bring the rents up to market level. That might be good news for the buyers, but not necessarily for the renters. West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold says the city is investigating what happened after a building in her neighborhood, 900 SW Holden in Highland Park, changed hands. This is republished from her weekly newsletter, published on the city website today:
Last Wednesday, while I was walking from my house to the Highland Park Action Council (HPAC) meeting I noticed one of the large apartment buildings in my neighborhood was boarded up. I didn’t know why that had happened, and because I work hard to keep up on what is going on in my District, and especially my neighborhood, I was feeling disappointed in myself for not being aware that a new major development was apparently occurring just two blocks away from my home. But then, during the meeting with HPAC, one of the attendees mentioned that the very building I had noticed on my walk to the meeting had been recently cleared by the landlord of all its tenants and some of them had become homeless as a result.
This immediately alarmed me because the City of Seattle has, since the 1980s, had a Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) that gives renters at least 90 days’ notice and financial moving assistance whenever a building is going to be renovated, demolished, or if there’s a change of use. It was immediately apparent to me that there was no way that the legal process for the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance could have occurred so quickly and I became worried that people had been improperly displaced. On my way home that evening, I walked around the perimeter of the building and indeed, it was apparent that all but a couple of the units were vacant.
When I got home that evening, I looked up the address on the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) website to see what development activity was planned at the site. But there were no planned development activities associated with TRAO or a demolition, renovation, or change of use associated with the address. This further confirmed my suspicion that renters in the building had been improperly forced to move. The next morning, I contacted SDCI and asked them to send an inspector out to the property.
I am saddened to report that I learned yesterday that SDCI has found that the tenants in the building recently had received a 100% rent increase and that this increase led to 20 of the 23 households being displaced from the building. Again, I’ve been told by my neighbors that several of these households are now homeless. This is, I believe, a shameful result and an abuse of a landlord’s right to increase rent free from any regulation.
The TRAO says that it is unlawful for landlords to use excessive rent increases to circumvent the requirements for 90 days’ notice and access to moving expenses assistance. But, there is no limit to how much a landlord can raise the rent. You see, the TRAO entitles low income renters who must move because of renovations to money to help them pay their moving costs ($3188). But if a tenant moves because of a big rent increase, they won’t get the assistance.
Not only do rent increases in Seattle lead the nation, but some rent increases are actually used to circumvent other tenant protections such as the TRAO. In 2014, Councilmember Nick Licata brought attention to the fact that “each year more and more tenants find out they were deprived of critical relocation assistance following a massive rent hike due to loop holes created by state law” and that some property owners do this as a regular business practice. You may remember the story of the Lockhaven Apartments and the Prince of Wales. In 2014 and again in 2015, State Senators David Frockt (46th District) and then State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th District) introduced legislation to disincentive for the practice of using rent increases to circumvent TRAO.
A number of landlords and their lobbyist testified against the bill, and it did not pass the State Legislature, so in response, Councilmember Licata worked to amend Seattle’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) to help tenants deprived of relocation assistance and 90 days’ notice to move that they would have otherwise received if their landlord followed TRAO instead of displacing them with a large rent increase. Specifically, the law prohibited rent increases for the purpose of avoiding the required Tenant Relocation Assistance process. If a landlord increases rent by 20 percent or more, which results in a tenant vacating a unit within 90 days, then applies for a permit to substantially rehabilitate the unit within 6 months, the owner can have their building permit denied until the owner pays the penalties. Penalties are $1,000 per day for each day from the date the violation began. The change Councilmember Licata made to the law has helped a lot of people, see this article from March, where under the new TRAO law, SDCI was able to require a landlord to pay $168,268 in relocation payments to 46 households that were living at 104 Pine St.
But somehow, and sadly, people who want to avoid their obligations seem to manage to find new loopholes as soon as you close one set of loopholes. The owner of this property that has displaced 20 Highland Park household with a 100% rent increase found yet another loophole in TRAO. From SDCI’s investigation we have learned that the property was purchased in January 2018 and the new owners, after the rent increase of nearly 100%, and after 20 tenant households vacated as a result of the rent increases, is now doing a rehabilitation that includes painting the exterior, painting interior units, tearing out carpeting and replacing some appliances. None of this work requires that the owner obtain a permit and it does not meet the definition of substantial rehabilitation (which requires work of $6000 or more per unit).
I am thankful that SDCI is continuing to investigate and will be requesting the owner sign a certification that the rent increase was not for the purpose of avoiding application of TRAO. If people are in touch with the displaced renters, please encourage them to contact me so that I can put them in touch with SDCI for purposes of this ongoing investigation.
email@example.com is her e-mail address. Records show the 51-year-old complex was sold for $4.2 million in January to a Renton-based LLC led by a real-estate investor who also leads the corporation that holds an Everett building that the Daily Herald reported was the subject of discrimination accusations in 2015. The listing flyer for 900 SW Holden, meantime, noted that its rents were 30 to 40 percent below market level, and that more than 80 percent of its tenants were month-to-month.
Seattle Police, according to radio communication, have found at least one shell casing while investigating reports of gunfire in Highland Park. The discovery is reported in the 8400 block of 10th SW, not far from some of the locations where 911 callers reported hearing it – from the 8600 block of 12th SW to the 9200 block of 21st SW. No reports of anyone being hurt.