Opponents of Jackson Place DESC facility dominate forum

The Jackson Place beast appears yet to be calmed, judging by the events of Monday’s public forum on the planned Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) Crisis Solutions Center at 16th Ave S and S Lane Street. Community members expressed anger and distrust of officials from the DESC, King County and the City of Seattle, questioning why the center must be placed so close to residencies in the Jackson Place neighborhood. With the assistance of Peter Eglick, attorney for the Jackson Place Alliance for Equity (JPAE), concerned members of the community dominated the forum, and those hoping to gather support for the project had a difficult time gathering momentum for the creation of a good neighbor agreement.

People challenged almost every official who attended the meeting, and few answers seemed to appease their concerns. One JPAE member asked Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, a vocal supporter of the project, why she had sent DESC Director Bill Hobson an email saying he did a good job “calming the beast” after the November 9 community forum. The email was obtained through a public documents request (PDR).

“I was referring to the media,” said Bagshaw of her remark. She then apologized.

Another area resident who had documents from the PDR questioned Councilmember Tim Burgess, another Center supporter who was in the audience, about a meeting he had with an official from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). The resident asked Burgess whether he thought it was a conflict of interest to invite Andy McKim from DPD to a meeting to discuss the land use designation for the proposed center while the decision was still being made. If the center is considered a hospital, it would be approved outright for a commercially zoned property. If it is considered a jail, a lengthy public process would be necessary. As we reported last week, Alan Justad said DPD stands by its determination that the Center most closely fits the department’s definition of a hospital. Burgess said he does not see a problem with their meeting.

But the representatives from King County and the DESC who answered questions during the Q&A portion of the forum said up front that they would not answer questions about zoning. Amnon Shoenfeld, director of King County’s Mental Health, and Graydon Andrus, director of DESC’s clinical programs, were able to answer most other questions about how the facility would operate and how plans for the facility developed, but they said they were not lawyers and were not familiar with zoning laws. No one else present at the meeting was available to answer zoning questions, which caused much unrest among the crowd.

Few big pieces of new information came out during the forum. When one person asked why the county doesn’t build one in every neighborhood, Shoenfeld said, “If we had the money, we would love to have more than one.” Of course, the County only has funding for one, and this is the location the DESC has chosen.

Carol Bennett, who said she owns “quite a bit of real estate in Jackson Place,” said she has had to deal with issues from other area services.

“I can’t tell you how tired I am of the services in this neighborhood,” she said. She was particularly frustrated with Operation Nightwatch, a Christian service for the homeless located 6 blocks from the proposed DESC site, she said. “We don’t dispute that [the DESC] facility is needed … but I don’t want it here,” she said.

Kristin Wall of the JPAE asked for clarification on whether there would be 24-hour lockdown, pointing out differences between a story in Seattle Times and last week’s story in Central District News.  “It is not a locked facility,” said Graydon, who explained that people would be able to leave, but staff would try to convince them to stay. If they insisted on leaving, staff would follow them until they left the area.

One person asked about compensation for any property value losses caused by the center, but Grayson said it will not affect values.

King County Councilmember Larry Gossett will be lending a hand in the process to create a Good Neighbor Agreement between the center and the community. He defended the public process followed by King County and the DESC.

“This is not an atypical situation that occurred,” he said of the DESC’s decision to lease the building on Lane Street, then engage the community through public forums to explain the center.

Eglick’s presence at the meeting set the tone at the start. Before facilitator Sharon Maeda could get the meeting going, Eglick spoke out of turn and questioned her bias, since she was hired by King County to moderate the meeting. Maeda was not able to regain much control of the crowd after that. Eglick, who specializes in land use and zoning law, also got the last word of the Q&A by reading documents dictating how clients would be referred to the center and arguing that the center would have the power to hold people for 48 to 72 hours involuntarily. He said a county memo from 2009 outlines the center’s holding power. Hobson has denied that the center would be using police hold, as did the presenters at the meeting.

Lynn Davison has been hired to facilitate the creation of a Good Neighbor Agreement and urged people to help create guidelines for center operations that would meet the needs and address the concerns of area residents. Those interested should email her at [email protected]. She will forward respondents to Councilmember Gossett, who will attempt to select a balanced group.

0 thoughts on “Opponents of Jackson Place DESC facility dominate forum

  1. I live one block away from the DESC Center and I’m proud to welcome it to our neighborhood.

  2. Why would we engage in a Good Neighbor Agreement when the siting of this facility is not even legal? Seems premature to me. They are not even legally binding.

    The city, county, and DESC were all over the place last night. Backtracking, contradicting themselves, talking down to the audience, etc. They clearly were not prepared for the number of neighbors who turned out and the caliber of questions asked.

    Please consider contributing to the JPAE (www.jpae.org). As you saw last night, Peter Eglick is a great attorney and well worth our money. While he has donated many hours to this effort for a transparent, lawful process, the JPAE continues to incur legal expenses.

    No matter how worthy a project is, there is no excuse for short-circuiting the legal processes required to site it.

  3. I think I would be more inclined to welcome it if they actually had answers to our questions. I don’t share the same blind faith that you have.

    Here are my concerns:

    The screening procedure that we were told has been in place for months now is a flat out lie. As of a couple weeks ago (according to emails obtained through public record requests) they have no procedures for screening “clients” other than for police officers. That means 70% of the people admitted will have no screening before hand (assuming 30% are brought in by law enforcement as mentioned last night). I feel really bad for the neighbors who have children that will have this in the back of their minds. As far as I know there still is no procedure.

    The zoning of the site is clearly illegal, in fact they can not use a portion of the building because it is zoned residential. Yet no one wants to talk about this. Also, you would think there would be doctors working at a hospital (just saying).

    Also, no one seems concerned about the interaction that DESC is proposing to have with the surrounding community. I tried to ask about this last night but was hushed by the moderator. Of these facilities located across the country none of them are located in residential areas and the interaction of this facility/community will be unprecedented, though no one wants to stop to talk about this. Instead all I hear is how this is important for everyone else, who gives a crap about the neighbors that will have to deal with this facility on a daily basis.

    From the first day we were told that no one would leave this facility, now we hear last night (only because I asked because they were trying to pitch that the 16 bed portion would not be able to leave) that people would be allowed to come and go but only escorted. Where does the line get drawn and what is the truth. Not exactly inspiring the confidence that a good neighbor would.

    This whole project has been a poor effort on the behalf of DESC, King County and the City Council. How can they bring this to the neighborhood, twice now, with no answers. If I were them I would be pretty embarrassed.

    Funny thing is I really want to believe this thing will work.

  4. To participate in a Good Neighbor Agreement assumes that the DESC’s Crisis Solutions Center is a legal, permissible use at 1600 and 1618 S Lane St. Legal documents show the Crisis Solutions Center is not an outright, legal permissible use at 1600 and 1618 S Lane St. http://www.jpae.org/home/latest-developments

    I live 125 ft from the propose site of this facility and do not feel the need to wait until the end of the Good Neighbor process to determine whether or not I will feel comfortable that the facility will operate transparently in my neighborhood. From the beginning, nothing about the process of siting this facility on S Lane St has been transparent to the public. And I think it’s foolish to think a Good Neighbor Agreement is going to magically give this facility transparency.

    City elected officials, DPD and DESC have gone to great lengths to avoid adhering to a legal process in the siting of the Crisis Solutions Center in the Jackson Place neighborhood. It’s absurd to think they would adhere to an agreement that is not legally binding.

    I’m thoroughly disappointed by the lack of respect from Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, Councilmember Tim Burgess and Councilmember Larry Gosset towards the Jackson Place Community. As elected officials whose job is to represent the people, they have FAILED miserably. As re-election approaches, they can be assured they WILL NOT be receiving my support.

  5. The Jackson Street Business Association speaker also nailed it. The good neighbors agreement offer is a and has always been a manipulated unenforcable sham. The whole meeting was a carefully scripted controlled farce that they lost control of when they realized the neighborhood was not as dumb as they expected. I love it when they underestimate an audience. Onward to the law suite unless they abandon plans to dump on us!

  6. Some of you (i.e. RM Weller, KristininSeattle) are clearly looking for ANY excuse to prevent this project and it’s really sad. You aren’t the first people to try to use land use regulation to prevent a social service project in your neighborhood, but have you even thought about the positive aspects of this project and the ways in which it might benefit your neighborhood and our community as a whole? Probably not because NIMBYists like you are generally selfish and uninformed. Comparing this facility to a jail is just ridiculous.

    If you were smart you would embrace the Good Neighbor Agreement and work with DESC to mitigate the negative impacts on your neighborhood, rather than wasting your time (and the public’s time & money) fighting a process that has taken place within the guidelines of our local planning and development process.

    Keep up the good work DESC!

  7. I’m glad to see so many people come out to the meeting last night. I will definitely send my support by donating money to the JPAE, and getting the word out to my neighbors as well.

  8. Smart? So you condone organizations working under the radar to fulfill their own agendas so that they have minimal resistance even when it is justified? It is that type of reasoning that contributes to our society’s apathy. You know, the “look the other way and pretend that everything is straight and narrow” approach. Somehow I think if they were building right in your back yard, you wouldn’t feel the same. It’s easier to make a statement like that when it doesn’t personally affect you.

  9. Jenny – what’s really sad is people like yourself who don’t take the time to become educated on ALL aspects of a proposed neighborhood project. It’s disheartening that anyone would blindly accept what City elected officials and organization executives put on the table without first verifying the legal validity of a proposed project.

    Even worthwhile programs carried out by worthy agencies, endorsements by elected officials, and intentions to serve particular populations are not bases for cutting corners and manipulating the Land Use Code.

    Comparing this facility to a jail is not ridiculous – it’s the truth. Perhaps you should take a moment and read the facts for yourself. They’re conveniently located on the King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services website, under Crisis Diversion Planning Archives – the document is called MIDD Final Strategy Report_062509. I’ll even make it easy for you – here’s a direct link to the King County site: http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/MHSA/MIDDPlan/MIDDC.

    Pages 6 and 22 spell it out pretty clearly – individuals who are arrested and diverted to the Crisis Solutions Center will be placed on a 48 hour Police hold. That’s 48 hours of incarceration, which would be liken to a jail.

    Since when did it become legal to site incarceration facilities in residential neighborhoods? Perhaps you would like to volunteer the property across the street from your home to site this jail, I mean social service project.

  10. Kristin – You can continue to try to hide behind land use to disguise your prejudice, but it’s quite obvious that you have a problem with individuals experiencing homelessness and those with both chemical dependency and mental health issues. Maybe we can just lock up all of our “undesireables” and throw away the key so that you can live in your little bubble? Would that make you happy? Unlike yourself, I’m very informed on the matter and am not approaching it through a selfish lens.

    Sean – If you have a problem with the public process in Seattle or King County, why don’t you do something to change it instead of complaining about a facility you don’t want in your neighborhood? And FYI – there ARE projects like this in my neighborhood….

  11. Jenny – Playing the prejudice card now, are we? Not once in any of my commentary did I say I have a problem with individuals experiencing homelessness/chemical dependency/mental health issues. Not once have I questioned the need for a program like the Crisis Solutions Center. I DO think the CSC will provide a vital service to King County residents. Over the years, I have supported many social service programs (financially and volunteering my time) that serve the homeless/drug addicted/mentally ill.

    What I do take issue with is violating a fair, transparent legal process of siting the CDS on S Lane St. The law is the law and EVERYONE should be held accountable when laws are not followed.

    Are you saying that DESC and DPD should be allowed to violate Land Use Codes to serve their own agenda? Now I call that selfish.

  12. Kristin – I find your comparison of DESC’s Crisis Solutions Center to a jail to be extremely offensive and indicative of your prejudice. Based on your commentary, I have a difficult time believing that you truly care about providing this “vital service” to Seattle’s most vulnerable citizens.

    If you’re interested in informing yourself about the project and what services it will actually provide, here’s a link to some information:

  13. Why Jenny you are sooo right. Why placing it anywhere else is just silly! The people down there are just too uppity and negative. They should just listen to thoses who know more than them! They need to continue going to crime prevention meetings and spending evenings at meetings like this rather than wondering what brew pub or restaurant or book shop to meet friends at. You do not need to worry about going to silly places like that, that is for other neighborhoods where this kind of facility would be inappropriate! Silly JCPP/Central District people, just accept your place and keep attending those crime meetings!

  14. Way to go Kristinin Seattle,I would like to thank you for your time and passions,It seems to me that Seattle just can not afford a jail.King county is full and expensive. What do you think?

  15. Dozens of sites in Seattle would not create any opposition. Dozens. There are empty buildings all around the Goodwill site. There are no residents right next door to them.

    Every official who spoke last night was rude. Had they been giving out chocolate-covered twenty dollar bills I would not have wanted it. I’ve never seen an elected official – multiple elected officials – talk down to an audience like that before. Their explanations were also so deflective and evasive, they bordered on being outright lies.

    The process was not done correctly and many King County employees know that calling this a “hospital” is a gamble.

    There is a civil liberties issue that no one has picked up on. Police will be seizing people for criminal activity. There is no other basis for them to do so, unless they are accessing the mental health laws that permit them to take people to the hospital for an assessment to protect themselves or others. A form has been created, however, that people will be forced to sign, in a police car, without the benefit of an attorney (or a sound mind at the time), that requires them to admit that there was probable cause to arrest them and they can choose to go to jail or to this facility. You now have to decide if you care about drug treatment or constitutional rights more because they are in direct conflict in this surreal situation. How many physicians will work at this hospital? Maybe one if they’re lucky, but the budget being what it is will make that a luxury that they won’t be able to afford once the zoning decision is no longer being questioned (it has to be a hospital or a jail for the police to justify the involuntary transport of anyone to the facility).

    These same exact services could be housed AT THE JAIL, which would eliminate the cost of a building and administrative overhead for DESC (paid for with tax dollars). But it’s the mental health and drug treatment tax that the county is accessing for this facility, which has limits on it that (probably) prohibit providing drug treatment to people IN JAIL. Not because that’s bad policy. Because the money has to be allocated solely to drug treatment and mental health issues. There are already empty cells they could utilize – it’s the restrictions on the money that is motivating the county and city to cram this down resident’s throats without adhering to proper process.

    That violates the democratically created zoning laws and creates an inefficient use of the tax dollars people voted to set aside for mental health and drug treatment. Everyone at this facility can still face criminal charges. In fact, every one of them will be admitting probable cause to get into the place. What a boon for the prosecutor who will not have to deal with any suppression hearings before getting his conviction stats padded with these easy cases. Although the prosecutor’s office has a good track record of supporting such diversion programs, this does create a systemic incentive to select these individuals for charging decisions if the political incentives governing that office change.

  16. “It is not a locked facility,” said Graydon, who explained that people would be able to leave…staff would follow them until they left the area.”

    That’s completely ridiculous. At 3am, for example, a staffer is going to leave the safety of his/her building and follow a combative person down the street….until they leave the area? Leaving the facility short staffed and the staffer vulnerable? Honestly, that’s just sad and ridiculous that this was even stated.

    I work in a law enforcement support position and so deal with clients of DESC daily. I have DESC’s various addresses memorized, as do all my coworkers, as we read frequent police reports of assaults at and in front of DESC facilities, more than a few involving DESC staff, with the offenders eventually trespassed from DESC. There WILL be combative, addicted and mentally ill people acting out at this facility, and that behavior will spill in to the streets around the facility. This happens at EVERY DESC facility. Do a public records request for DESC’s various addresses and read the police reports for a 3 month period alone.

    I think DESC is awesome. The work they do is quite desperately needed and the staff have some seriously thick skins and a lot of compassion. I just massively disagree that their services belong in anything resembling a residential area.

  17. Wow, Jenny. Way to start out with such an incredibly hostile, attacking tone that few will want to read your posts. What neighborhood do you live in, by the way?

  18. I would encourage those utilizing public disclose requests to read police reports involving 517/515/511/509 3rd Avenue, 1811 Eastlake, The Morrison, The Lyon building and DESC’s other facilities, and gather statistics on the enormous number of times police respond to violence at these facilities yearly.

  19. Jenny,

    I hate to engage you in discussion, but I don’t know why you single me out for voicing my concerns and classify me as a NIMBY (not sure when this became a buzz word). All I am saying is that these questions have been asked several times and no answers have been provided. When you could provide me with detailed explanations to my questions I will listen and respond like civilized educated people would do. I do not accept “we will figure it out later” as an answer to my concerns.

    I do not see why it is wrong for me to ask questions about a facility that has a high potential to harm me or my family or my investments. I do not accept anything blindly in life and this is no different.

    I appreciate that you are passionate about the DESC facility and that is fine, but I do not appreciate you blindly classifying me as a “NIMBY” for asking a few questions that you should be asking yourself. Again I find your comments rude and I feel you are repressing my right to voice my concerns. I do not attack you for your thoughts and in the past I feel that I have respectfully responded to your posts.

  20. The Stranger telling it as it is? You’ve got to be kidding me – that write-up is nothing but a one-sided, biased rant that’s totally lacking in any REAL facts. The level of the Stranger’s reporting and fact finding/checking is comparable to the National Inquirer.

    If the Stranger had done any REAL digging into this story, they would have found documents on the King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services website under Crisis Diversion Planning Archives. One in particular called the MIDD 10b Final Strategy Report 062509 http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/MHSA/MIDDPlan/MIDDC spells out EXACT what the DESC has in store for the Crisis Solutions Center.

    Pages 4 and 5 list in detail what medical services the CSC will not be providing – these are the most basic forms of care and treatment any REAL hospital would provide to their patients. Pages 6 and 22 state that individuals who are brought to the facility by police arrest will be held up to 48 hours by a Police hold. Yet the DESC tells the public their clients will be free to go at their own will. Very reassuring…

  21. “The level of the Stranger’s reporting and fact finding/checking is comparable to the National Inquirer.” I have to agree. The Stranger article is like something a high school kid would write and is just meant to inflame.

  22. Actually, the King County jail is far from full, and the nearly new, beautiful, large, regional justice center in Kent is so empty they’re closing it down at night to save money on staffing it.

  23. Jenny, did you miss the part about these folks being brought in by the police, because the police will have been called as a result of their criminal behavior? Did you miss the part about a police hold? It’s completely legitimate for neighbors to worry about the impact of criminal offenders, EVEN those criminal offenders who also suffer from mental health issues, addiction issues, or homelessness. An SPD officer I spoke to told me they’re getting 40 hours of training on which CRIMINAL offenders to take to this facility. These aren’t mentally ill folks that the cops – with all their free time – are rounding up for free rides to a hospital setting. Get real.

  24. The only reason this facility is in the Jackson neighborhood and not in the original Tukwila site is that a very rich developer fought it. So why is he allowed to “protect” his investment and not us? I feel the city and DESC considered that people in an economically lower strata would not have the will nor resources to fight them. Let’s prove them wrong. I think we should have these types of services in our neighborhood, after all this is why I don’t live in the suburbs, but not to the concentration we currently have and seem to continue to impose. It does not provide for long term economic and cultural vitality. From my personal experience, concentrating poverty and services in one area doesn’t work (read ghettos). Oh, and I DO NOT think this service should be in ANY residential neighborhood. It is not just here, but anywhere. I also don’t have much faith in the program. The success it has had in other parts of the country were credited to the fact that they were NOT inner city. Keep the clients away from temptation. It is experimental and at best, a poorly executed band aid. What we need is long term solution that exposes these clients to a very different environment. This program just seems wasteful of resources and a missed opportunity.

  25. Ha ha! We got those idiots working for their government had outs now. Man, we gotta get after the Sally Bagshaw’s to. Tiptoeing around sniffing poppy dust instead of real visonary activity. Shame on Sally.