Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Location for New City Jail July 2008

Mayor Greg Nickels
PO Box 94749
Seattle, WA 98124-4749

Seattle City Councilmembers
PO Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025

RE: Location for new Seattle city jail

Dear Mayor Nickels and Seattle City Councilmembers:

As you may be aware, the North Precinct Advisory Council is composed of representatives from over 40 community groups and business organizations in north Seattle. These community groups are composed of many thousands of Seattle residents. We are committed to maintaining safe and livable neighborhoods.

This letter is written to you to share our viewpoints on the siting of the new proposed Seattle city jail, and to urge you NOT to site the jail in or near a residential neighborhood, especially at 117th and Aurora Avenue North. Here are the criteria that we believe should be used to determine the best jail location, with those comments then applied to the Aurora Avenue option.

1. Jails are Incompatible with Neighborhoods. One of the bedrocks of Seattle and of a vital city are strong and safe neighborhoods. It is just plain bad city policy to site a jail in or close to any city neighborhoods.

The Aurora Avenue location is the only proposed site with immediately adjacent residences, including single family homes, senior housing, condominiums, multi-family housing and even low-income housing. These homes would have no buffer between themselves and a jail. With an expected average stay of only 10 days, the jail will regularly release inmates, estimated to be from 20 to 40 inmates per day. No neighborhoods should be subjected to the potential criminal activity that could result.

It seems obvious that putting the new city jail in an industrial or commercially zoned area will have the least impact on important Seattle city neighborhoods and citizens.

2. Jails are Incompatible with Schools. Another siting consideration must be to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens—schoolchildren. Releasing criminals in close proximity to schools is a recipe for disaster.

In looking at the four proposed locations, Aurora has the greatest number of K through 12 schools within one mile—a total of 7 schools! These are Ingraham High School (.6 miles), Broadview Thompson K-8 (.6 miles), Northgate Elementary (.6 miles), Christ the King Elementary (.6 miles), Haller Lake Children’s Center (.6 miles), Living Wisdom School (.9 miles), Northgate Christian Academy (1 mile). There are also three Seattle Parks facilities within one mile: Madison Pool (.7 miles), Bitter Lake Playfield (.5 miles) and Broadview Park (.6 miles).

The Interbay site has 5 schools within one mile, and so is similarly ill suited for a jail. Both the Highland/Marginal and the Meyers Way sites have the least number of affected schools, with two each.

3. Jailed Offenders Will Be More Dangerous Than Originally Thought. With the cuts in King County just announced, including losing 30 prosecutors, the filing standards will be raised and potential felons charged only with misdemeanors. See The Seattle Times, Friday, June 6, 2008. Local criminal-justice leaders plan to move thousands of property-crime, forgery and drug cases to lower-level courts. In fact, according to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, King County Superior Court is prepared to push all property crimes under $10,000 to municipal and district courts. These “low level criminal offenders” are going to be far more dangerous than portrayed by politicians.

Please recall that just a few months before James Anthony Williams stabbed a 31-year-old Sierra Club volunteer, Shannon Harps, to death on Capitol Hill, Williams was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with three counts of harassment but ended up back in the community. He exemplifies one of the types of persons who will end up in the new city jail.

The obvious result of the King County announcement is that jailed offenders will be much more dangerous than originally believed. This fact simply but pointedly underscores why the new city jail should be located away from neighborhoods, schools and parks.

Aurora has been historically vulnerable to high levels of crime but has been making significant progress. And in city living with good transit lines will become even more important as energy costs increase. Although some areas of Aurora have seen a reduction in crime due to stepped up policing and community involvement, locating a jail with the potential flow of inmates daily into the Aurora community threatens the gains that they have made as a community.

4. Distance from the Downtown Courthouse. Another important consideration is the distance that police officers and court officials will have to drive to reach the new jail. Fuel cost is an obvious concern--the Seattle Police Department is already being squeezed by the recent nearly $5.00 per gallon gasoline. This same fuel cost would make the cost of public defenders (who will be needed at the new jail) go up. Another factor is that longer trips add to global warming which Seattle is trying to take the lead in preventing.

In addition to fuel costs and the detrimental effects on the environment of long trips to the new jail, such trips will take police officers off of their patrols for greater periods of time. With the shortage of staffing in the Seattle Police Department, longer jail transporting times take valuable police resources off of our streets and out of our communities.

Looking at the four possible sites, Aurora is the furthest site from the downtown courthouse at 8.8 miles, and is clearly the least suitable for a jail.

5. Lack of Flexibility for Future Growth. It is likely that in the future either growth in the size of the jail or positioning other city services adjacent to the jail will be needed. Of the four sites, two only barely meet the current 7 acre minimum: Aurora is 7.15 acres and Interbay is 7.66 acres. The other two sites are 10.51 and 12 acres, and are thus better suited for future needed growth.

6. Eminent Domain Delays. The jail should not be sited where legal delays due to eminent domain proceedings are likely or possible. Since the Aurora and Interbay sites are not already city owned, expensive and lengthy court delays are possible before the site could even be secured. This could result in delaying the start of construction and cause all the best city planning in the world to go awry.

In summary, for the above reasons the North Precinct Advisory Council strongly requests that you do not site the new Seattle city jail in a neighborhood, and especially not at the Aurora Avenue location which is obviously the least suitable of the four proposed locations. The North Precinct Advisory Council also believes that the City should consider additional sites in industrial or commercial zoned areas just south of the existing courthouse. Such areas will be far less impacted by the addition of a new jail.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Very truly yours,

Jack Heavner, President

Sunday, March 25, 2007

There's no safety in these numbers

By: Dan Pavlovic

(This is in response to Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck's guest column "Do You Feel Safe in Your Neighborhood," which appeared Jan. 3.)

No, Mr. Steinbreuck, I do not feel safe in my neighborhood.

First, thank you for the council's hard work in dealing with our city's public-safety issues - it is recognized as difficult and necessary work, and deeply appreciated.

Since you asked in the North Seattle Herald[-Outlook] about neighborhood safety: No, I do not feel safe in my neighborhood. As the block-watch captain on [North] 89th Street in Greenwood, my wife and I heard "firecrackers" at the end of our block and learned hours later that an anti-crime team officer, Troy Swanson, was shot and another man lay dead. Again, more crime on Aurora Avenue [North], which, as a family with young children, makes us feel especially vulnerable.

Drugs and prostitution have traveled along Aurora Avenue for 20 years, 30 years - and more. Archived news accounts of prostitution stings go back to the mid-1980s; neighborhood accounts go back further.

After all this time, I would say that the crime problems on Aurora Avenue are not just a police problem but a city, county and state problem.

Aurora hasn't changed much, and its reputation is deserved, but the neighborhoods that border it are changing. Look at the blocks off of Aurora Avenue and see remodeled houses, new townhomes and neighborhood groups like the Greenwood Aurora Involved Neighbors (GAIN)who represent the families living in these neighborhoods.

The city's first-ever five-year plan to improve public safety has to include Aurora Avenue as a main topic. You cannot talk about crime in North Seattle and not talk about the Aurora Avenue corridor.

When I started asking people in 2005 what they might do to change Aurora Avenue all I saw as response was a shrug. No one person could offer ideas; instead, I heard people say "Aurora Avenue will always have prostitution" or "They will always come back."

In this time I have been collecting ideas, and I would like to offer them. Of course, I do not have the long view the city does, so these are offered as pieces to a solution.


Officer Swanson was shot by a Department of Corrections (DOC) release, and as the [Seattle] P-I noted, [it was] the fourth incident by a DOC release in recent months. I would suggest expanding from one to three NCI (Neighborhood Corrections Initiative) units to Aurora Avenue. Three Seattle police officers, three DOC officers and three vans - they are targeted and economical. (Supporters include the Downtown Seattle Association Board of Trustees and the Metropolitan Improvement District Advisory Council).

You might also consider investigating any arrangements and voucher programs the DOC has with motels along Aurora Avenue, as well as the arrangement motels have regarding sex offenders. Newer state community protection laws state that the area around private and public schools is 880 feet (previously 220 feet - an area so small it only covered the opposite side of the street).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Letter to Councilmember Clark 8_2006

Councilmember Sally J. Clark August 16, 2006

Dear Councilmember Clark,

I live in the Bitter Lake neighborhood in North Seattle, and am very excited about the construction and new developments underway in the area. However, I have great concerns that the proper steps are not being taken to accommodate the influx of population and traffic that these new projects will bring, especially on Linden Avenue North.

Concerns about increased density on Linden Avenue

Linden Avenue, as it is currently, alternates from scrappy condition to non-existent when it comes to being pedestrian-friendly. Already there are many residential buildings, both condos and apartments, as well as a wonderful community center, senior apartments, and a new park by the reservoir near 140th. But the street is also very wide and has few to no sidewalks along the corridor between 130th and 145th. There are points were you have to cross the street, and cross again, just to stay on a sidewalk, and then it simply disappears. Cars speed down this street, and it is extremely dangerous for pedestrians.

With the addition of the several large new apartment buildings between 130th and 145th, with the idea of making the area into an “urban village”, there is desperate need to make the area walkable. This is especially urgent, as one of the new buildings will be affordable senior housing. There is already senior housing on 130th near Greenwood, plus the Four Freedoms house in the area. Seniors typically don’t drive, and aren’t as spry when it comes to avoiding car traffic while walking. I am extremely concerned about the safety of the current, and soon-to-be-arriving residents of my neighborhood.

Aurora Avenue improvements, in relation to Linden Avenue

I have gone to a couple of the community meetings at Inghram High School in regards to the plans of improvement for the Aurora Avenue North corridor. These improvements are greatly needed, and this is a very exciting project for the neighborhood. But after seeing the gridlock in the southern Shoreline portion of Aurora recently because of construction and road improvements, I am concerned about steps that will be taken to accommodate the delays and reroutes of traffic that this project will bring.

Like I said before, Linden Ave is a popular detour around Aurora, and will explode in traffic when the Aurora improvements begin. The street is a popular “shortcut” for locals. I have heard of no city concerns about Linden’s impending traffic, and it is especially alarming considering the three major apartment complexes that are being added to the street in the near future. Not only will there be hundreds, or more likely thousands of new residents using Linden, but I anticipate many, many cars using Linden as a detour during the construction. With no sidewalks or pedestrian-friendly areas along that road as it stands, I’m afraid there will be deadly results.

Pedestrians already love the Interurban Trail… why not extend it along Linden?

The mile-or-so leg of the Interurban Trail opened about a year ago behind my condo building, stretching from 128th to 110th along the power-line corridor. The Trail is WONDERFUL and is heavily used. But I’ve talked to several people lamenting that the trail abruptly stops at 128th and Linden, only to pick up again in the Shoreline city limits at 145th and Linden. If there was a move to make Linden pedestrian-friendly for this new Bitter Lake “Urban Village”, it seems like it would be the perfect opportunity to develop the missing piece of the Interurban Trail, and extend it between 128th and 145th along the Linden Avenue corridor. It would be aesthetically pleasing, and also offer a safe place for people to walk and stroll along the corridor.

Once again, I just wanted to say that I’m excited that there is attention being paid to our little corner of the city, and the community as a whole is behind the much-needed improvements. But I also wanted to make sure that the city is aware that the community has grave and urgent concerns about the projects and the lack of planning for some aspects of the improvements.

Thank you so much for listening.

Regards, Linda

Monday, March 19, 2007


Leave No Villages Behind - Leave no Annexed areas Behind

The voters of the City of Seattle turned down Paul Allen's plan for a Commons. Twice. The second time the City gave up 10 acres of publicly owned land as compensation for Mr. Allen's failed attempt for the citizens votes to further enrich him. Next, Paul Allen purchased property from the Seattle Times. The Seattle Times became a constant and persistent cheerleader for Paul Allen's plans for South Lake Union. Then, Mayor Nickels discovered a need for a seventh Urban Hub Village. He designated an area that encompassed much of Paul Allen's 60 acres. Bingo. the Seattle council voted the HUB village in. Over the past eight years not much attention has been paid to the other six Hub Villages. Back to Paul Allen and the elected officials of the City.

Now the scene is set for the raids on the public treasury. New zoning codes are now in place. The cheerleading for high technology developments in Paul Allen's Village intensifies. Suddenly a Local Improvement District is set up. This Washington Wonderland gimmick allows a 40.1% of the property (the volume, and value of land held ) owners to establish the L.I.D. No surprises here. Much of Paul Allen's land was within the L.I.D. and with a few other holders of large quantities of land, he could hold off the 600 or more of the majority persons affected. The 600 plus other owners of small properties within "Allen Town" are now like classic residents of the European Medieval villas. The L.I.D. also had Mayor Nickels' "Tooner Trolley" planned to run in Allentown. So now public monies must come in play to help the billionaire receive subsidies to build the trolley and to sharpen up the streets.

There is more. The park at South Lake Union, suddenly, after 45 years, needs a new sea wall. It figures. Now the City must pay more toward the Allenstown centerpiece. Bingo, the City Council found millions more to add to the restoration of this park. Millions that could have built sidewalks, bridge repair, streets with curbs and plantings, underground wiring and lighted crosswalks in Lesser Outer Seattle Territories (LOST) Northwest. More "downtowners" will clamor for a new Seattle Center, a new park for Bell Town, removal of the well utilized Aurora Viaduct and on and on for Inner Greater Seattle enrichment and enhancement. Where does this leave We the People in Lesser Outer Seattle? Lesser Outer Seattle Territories Northwest being (sigh) the annexed areas North of 85th Street to 145th, and from Puget Sound East to Interstate 5. Our are a has been ANNEXED AND UNIMPROVED AS: IMPROVED OR FINISHED OR COMPLETED STREETS SINCE 1953. FOR OVER 50 YEARS. Can we get started on the needed work for Broadview-Bitter Lake-Haller Lake portions of LOST Northwest now?

Richard L. Dyksterhuis
Bitter Lake, Lesser Outer Seattle Territories Northwest
Washington 98133

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bitter Lake Urban Village January 2007 Author Councilmember Richard Conlin

Grace Crunican, SDOT
Chuck Clarke, SPU
Stella Chao, DON

Dear Ms. Crunican, Mr. Clarke, and Ms. Chao:

On September 27, 1999, the Council adopted Ordinance 119685, amending Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan to incorporate portions of the Broadview-Bitter Lake-Haller Lake Neighborhood Plan. This action created a new Hub Urban Village centered on Linden Avenue North between North 128th Street and North 145th Street, and changed the name of the village from the originally proposed “130th and Aurora” to the Bitter Lake Village.

In so doing, the City took the extraordinary act of designating a Hub Urban Village with a growth target of 1260 households and 2800 jobs centered around a main street that was poorly designed, erratically paved, and lacked sidewalks and drainage infrastructure. This was a leap of faith on the part of the community and of the City, and was accompanied by a commitment by the City to ensure that this situation would be remedied as rapidly as possible. The Departmental response to the Neighborhood Plan stated:

“The City acknowledges that the Bitter Lake Village Hub Urban Village is among the least well developed in terms of the character envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan… providing infrastructure improvements, including those identified by the neighborhood in the neighborhood plan, will be important to address the potential impacts of that growth and create a viable urban village.”

Unfortunately, more than seven years later, there has been insufficient progress on redeveloping the infrastructure of Linden Avenue, although the projected growth is occurring at the envisioned pace. The result is that pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles share an undefined space with inadequate drainage that is both a potentially significant safety hazard and a completely inappropriate site for receiving the envisioned additional urban density that is essential to realizing the vision of the Comprehensive Plan.

We are especially concerned about the safety of the many elderly, disabled, and low income residents who live in several projects along Linden Avenue, and who are pedestrian users of this corridor. They find themselves on well-maintained and developed trails to the south of 128th, and to the north of 145th (in the City of Shoreline), but navigating puddles in the street right-of-way in the middle of what the City has designated as a pedestrian-oriented environment. Frankly, the current environment can only be described as Third World, and reflects poorly on our commitment to this neighborhood and our own growth management strategy.

We believe that it is time to take action to address this issue. Seven years is long enough – no, too long – for this situation to persist. Please provide us with a coordinated response to the following questions:

What is the current status of plans for infrastructure improvements on Linden Avenue North between North 128th and North 145th?
What is the timeline for completing the needed improvements to bring this street up to the standards required for creating a pedestrian-friendly main street for the Bitter Lake Hub Urban Village?
What investments are needed to implement these improvements, and by which Departments?
What of these are included in Department CIP’s, and in what years?
What are the current plans to fund and construct any improvements that have not currently been identified in these CIP’s?
What, if any, are the amounts that would be required to be added to Department CIP’s to complete all infrastructure to appropriate standards, and what sources are available for these funds?

Please respond to this letter by March 1, 2007. We look forward to joining you in a commitment to making the Bitter Lake Hub Urban Village a reality.

Sally Clark, Chair, Neighborhoods Committee

Richard Conlin, Chair, Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee

Jan Drago, Chair, Transportation Committee