White Center community leaders and small-business owners say they’re disappointed with King County officials’ response to a string of fires, break-ins, and vandalism that in recent months has devastated the area’s commercial hub.
They describe the situation as yet another example of how unincorporated parts of the county lack sufficient services and government support. But County officials say they’re responding to White Center fires and have made progress addressing the community’s concerns.
A two-alarm fire that quickly spread through businesses near the intersection of 16th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Roxbury Street in the heart of White Center early Monday morning has had a devastating impact on six local businesses. But the rapid creation and success of fundraising sites by customers and members of the community are giving hope to the businesses that were just emerging from a difficult pandemic year.
According to Shauna Sheppard, a spokesperson for King County Fire Protection District #2, the fire was first reported slightly before 2 a.m. Monday, July 5. The cause of the fire is still under active investigation, but Sheppard said it has been deemed accidental, and despite it happening in the late hours after Fourth of July, fireworks were ruled out as a cause. “The fire started in the basement of The Lumber Yard,” Sheppard said, referring to the local gay bar which has been a fixture in the neighborhood’s burgeoning LGBTQIA+ scene since 2017.
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
Seattle Public Library Summer of Learning + Branches Reopen
This week, The Seattle Public Library (SPL) reopened the doors of the Central Library, as well as several branches so crucial to people in the South End: the Columbia Branch in Columbia City, the International District/Chinatown Branch, and the South Park Branch. All of these libraries reopened this week, allowing patrons once again to browse the shelves, use Wi-Fi, place holds, speak with librarians, or sit and read the latest newspapers and magazines. In addition, the library system has revised opening-hour procedures and will no longer close for a cleaning/sanitization break mid-day. You can find all library hours online at SPL.org. Library patrons must still practice physical distancing and wear masks at all SPL branches.
On a small sliver of land in South Park along the Duwamish River, there once sat eight affordable houses. Now only five remain. Over the past few months, the new owners of these properties, National Products Inc. (commonly known as Ram Mounts or NPI), have begun demolishing these cottage-style houses.
Ram Mounts purchased the lots — known as the South Park triangle — through a shell company in 2019 for $2.5 million. The company is a plastics manufacturer that owns multiple warehouses and facilities on the block across the street to the south of the triangle. It hopes to replace the houses with a “park-like setting, with a noise abatement wall” to serve as a buffer between its facilities and the rest of the neighborhood. The company also plans on using the adjacent right-of-way for more parking.
However, some residents fear that Ram Mounts is simply using this new purchase to continue to expand their footprint in the area. Jennifer Scarlett, a neighbor who lives one block away from the triangle, sees the recent purchase and demolitions as part of a larger pattern of industrial expansion. “Yeah, they’ve already expanded twice … they’re an industrial company, they’re not on industrial zoning, and they keep expanding,” said Scarlett.
Organizer, promoter, entrepreneur, computer scientist, father, and community gardener — Chukundi Salisbury has amassed several titles since moving to Seattle as a 5-year-old boy in 1975. He’s looking to add at least one more come November: state representative for Washington’s 37th Legislative District.
For 25 years, voters who live in King County’s 12 unincorporated areas that do not have their own police departments have seen their already-small power over who enforces the laws in their communities dwindle. Since the position of King County sheriff became an elected one in 1996, more and more people have moved to cities that have their own police departments. Today, just 11% of voters live in unincorporated King County.