Friday, February 28, 2014

No Keystone XL Pipeline


Above: Anti-Keystone XL pipeline activists hold up a pipeline longer and blacker than the shadows cast by the sun late this afternoon in downtown Olympia.

by Janine Unsoeld
To coincide with protests and actions against the Keystone XL pipeline this weekend in Washington D.C., local activists are letting President Barack Obama know how they feel about it through emails and creative imagery. President Obama will soon decide whether to approve the pipeline.
Keystone XL is a proposed pipeline that would run 2,000 miles from Canada to Texas carrying tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet, across six states and several major rivers, including the Missouri, Yellowstone and Red River. This project would potentially threaten water supplies for millions of Americans along its path if a leak or spill were to occur.

A major, youth-led protest at the White House will be held this weekend called XL Dissent. For more information, go to www.xldissent.org. For local information, contact Olympia Climate Crisis group organizers Glen Anderson at 491-9093 or Rod Tharpe 951-1080 or go to www.olympiafor.org.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Public Restroom Realities in Olympia: Challenges to a Human Need, a Human Right


Above: The homeless stay near a public restroom on Percival Landing, on Sylvester Street, in downtown Olympia. The state Capitol Building is in the distance. The fencing is around the Oyster House restaurant, which burned down in July 2013.

By Janine Unsoeld

Public restroom closures at night in Olympia dramatically impact the downtown business community, and the human rights of the homeless, and other members of the community simply needing to perform a regular function: peeing and pooping.
On Christmas night, I helped Crazy Faith Ministries feed a couple hundred people a wonderful feast under several tents in downtown Olympia. I ate a great meal and had pie and coffee too. And then, while enjoying the camaraderie for an hour or so, getting to know a couple of guys at my table, I realized I had to go to the bathroom.

Being Christmas night about 7:30 p.m., everything was closed.  The thought of how privileged and lucky I was to have a home to go to suddenly struck me as I left, just to go to the bathroom.
For street people, every night is a Christmas night with nowhere to poop or pee. Sure, on most nights, up to a certain time, some local businesses are open and may let some people come in to use the restroom, but many others don’t. Let’s face it, for many restaurants and businesses, the invitation is only open to those whose appearance is somewhat tidy.

And after regular business hours, a whole lot of street people have no other choice but to go wherever they can find a place.  And that’s usually in an alley or some bushes.
Public downtown restrooms, open from about 8:00 a.m. to dusk, are located at Intercity Transit, Heritage Park, Percival Landing, Marathon Park, the Olympia Center, the Farmer’s Market, East Bay near the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, and the Olympia Timberland Library. All locked at night.

The gate to West Bay Rotary Park is locked, but even if you sneak around it, the porta-potty located on that site is locked.
So, out of the whole litany of players working to make downtown a happier, safer, cleaner, more comfortable place for all, where is the accountability and responsibility for basic, 24/7 public restroom availability in the city, county, Parking and Business Improvement Area, or Olympia Downtown Association’s current list of priorities?

People need to go to the bathroom, every day and every night, like, now.
Downtown Ambassador Program Report

Rob Richards is the program manager for the Capital Recovery Center (CRC), a community mental health organization. Richards runs the Downtown Ambassador Program, which is a result of a contract between the City and CRC to provide the services it provides.
Richards says there was some discussion at the council level in 2013 about restrooms, but it dissipated pretty quickly as that issue was trumped by other priorities.

Their program statistics are impressive. In their January report, the Clean Team collected 91 bags of trash, 26 anti-social deposits, i.e. feces, cleaned up 446 incidents of graffiti, 339 stickers and 286 flyers, along with helping downtown community members in other ways.
“Currently we're working with the Washington Center for the Performing Arts staff to kick off a monthly cleanup downtown. The Second Saturday Spruce Up is a small scale volunteer event where we'll partner each month with a different local business or community group to do some basic clean up downtown, picking up litter, graffiti abatement, pulling weeds, etc. The point is to get more folks engaged in our neighborhood, bringing positive energy and action.”

He admits, when asked, that the lack of public restrooms is one of the biggest needs for downtown.
“Public restrooms are one of the biggest needs we have downtown, especially ones that are accessible at night. Presently there's no place to go after about 7:00 p.m. when the public facilities close. I've heard from many, many business and property owners that restrooms should be a priority given that they are dealing with the brunt of the issue in their storefronts and back doors in alleys.”

Richards says he doesn’t know how many porta-potties would be needed to accommodate the needs of the community at night.
“It kind of depends on the size and scope. We need at least one restroom available all night, centrally located in the downtown core.” Asked how one would be secured or monitored at night, Richards says that Pacific Security is one company that is already active downtown at night.

Richards says he’s not a fan of the porta-potty solution though.
“Best practices seem to show us that this isn't one that you can solve with a lighter, cheaper, faster approach. Successful public bathrooms need to be a part of the aesthetic of the neighborhood, a place worth caring about. Porta-potties don't come close to being something that the community will take pride in,” said Richards.

LOTT Clean Water Alliance’s Restroom
Ben McConkey, Public Facilities Coordinator for the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, knows all too well the issues about trying to keep a restroom open 24/7.  The restroom near LOTT on East Bay Drive is only open May through September and for special events.

“Anytime I have opened them up, we have problems…the drug use paraphernalia is overwhelming. I would love to figure out a solution and help our community in this realm…but it’s just too dangerous to keep it open 24/7, especially with so many children around.
“In 2013, we found, roughly, about 90 used needles on our downtown properties...at least 40 of those were East Bay Public Plaza restroom related. We dispose of these properly in sharps containers. We also found a box of 100 brand new needles in the men’s room on the East Bay Public Plaza last summer just ahead of Sand in the City. They were tucked up high on a dividing wall.”

McConkey showed Little Hollywood a few photos, including a picture of a long drip on the wall of the East Bay men’s restroom which McConkey said was tested to be a blood/heroin mix.
McConkey says LOTT is a willing participant in developing solutions. 
 
“Both our safety officer and I are involved with our downtown community through Brian Wilson and the Olympia Downtown Association. Safety is paramount in our projects and activities – and that safety is for everybody using a LOTT facility.  Sadly that means we must limit accessibility to the East Bay Public Plaza restrooms during the time of year when the plaza is getting a lot of use…and when we have a security officer on site. 

We have provided secure access to the family bathroom, which has a lockable door from the inside, by keeping the door locked and having users contact the security officer for access.  The reason for this has been illicit drug use in the family bathroom. This summer the security officer will step up visits to the men’s and lady’s restrooms in order to deter the drug use in the bathroom complex,” says McConkey.

Heritage Park Restrooms To Be Closed on Water Street
Also in a critical location, the public restrooms at Heritage Park near the intersection of Water Street and Legion Way will be closed from March 3 until mid-May, according to a press release issued earlier this week by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (DES).

Enterprise Services maintains the state's Capitol Campus, which includes several parks and restroom facilities. An inspection by an engineering firm confirmed the state assessment that the roof is failing and must be replaced. Fencing will be erected around the construction site during the project.

Three porta-potties and a hand-washing station will be placed nearby to serve the public during the closure. One of the porta-potties will be accessible to people with disabilities.
The limited interior work is intended to make the restrooms clean, safe and complaint with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. New fixtures and partitions will be installed.

Jim Erskine, communications consultant for Enterprise Services, told Little Hollywood that the porta-potties will be locked at night at the same time the restrooms are usually locked, at dusk. 

Erskine also said that the restroom's existing toilet fixtures will be changed out to a stainless steel type that is designed so that there is no seat to lift up. Apparently, people are taping used needles to the underside of toilet seats in order to save them for reuse. He said that DES custodial services staff frequently finds needles in the restrooms at Heritage Park.
City Research and the City of Olympia’s Downtown Project
 
The City of Olympia's Downtown Project is based on city council priorities and works in collaboration with a variety of downtown related organizations. Priorities are developed under the city's Land Use and Environment Committee, featuring a nicely written, grade-school type check-off list grouped under the categories of Clean, Safe, Economic Development, and Placemaking.

City staff member Brian Wilson spearheads that project, of which the Downtown Ambassador program is one piece. Wilson has been involved with this issue for a long time.
A couple years ago, Wilson presented detailed restroom options and cost assessments to the city General Government committee. Wilson outlined the costs, with positives and negatives of porta-potties (American Disability Act (ADA) accessible porta-potties are about $340 a month with twice a week cleaning; single sized porta-potties are about $210 a month), expanding hours for existing facilities (over $5,000 a month), and the construction, operation and maintenance of single stall restrooms similar to Portland’s Loo facilities ($50,000 - $100,000 to build and install; $1,215 a month to operate and maintain).

He also looked at current visitor restroom programs in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Seattle which have implemented programs to provide public restroom access at private facilities in exchange for a fixed stipend or memorandum of understanding.
The information appeared to go nowhere due to a lack of funding options.
In December of 2013, Wilson gave the full council an update for Phase III of the Downtown Project’s workplan for 2014.  Solutions for 24 hour access to restrooms were not discussed, although he mentioned that a particular problem area where people openly defecated was recently fenced off.
A restroom is planned at the artesian well park on Fourth Avenue, as required by the mobile food vendor code, however, it is not anticipated to be open all night.

Interview with Brian Wilson about Restrooms
Wilson answered a few questions earlier this month from Little Hollywood about restroom accessibility in downtown.

Little Hollywood: I'm looking at Phase I and II Task Lists under the City's Land Use and Environment Committee, and I see a nice check-off list grouped under the categories of Clean, Safe, Economic Development, and Placemaking. Under Phase II, it mentions Expanding Restroom Availability, with a $5,000 allocation for a pilot project. Please explain.
Brian Wilson: Council allocated $5,000 toward creating public restrooms downtown in late 2012. We completed a feasibility study of different options other cities have used. The key to public restrooms (particularly 24 hour restrooms) is creating a managed solution (infrastructure, cleaning, security, etc). We learned that $5,000 is not enough money for a viable solution at this time. This is an issue that I could write several pages about.

LH: Specifically, I would like to know where the entire theme of restroom availability is in the city's, the Parking and Business Improvement Area (PBIA), and/or Olympia Downtown Association's current list of priorities. I am not seeing any.
BW: The overall theme is that there is no shortage of public restrooms during business hours. We have about eight or so in downtown. But after about 5:00 p.m., we don't have a solution at this point. The city, the county, and the business community all have an interest in this issue. The details of the facility are where it gets tricky....We used to have porta-potties behind the Eagles Club but those lead to a lot of criminal activity including public drinking, drug use, and sexual activities.

LH: This seems to be a human right issue, not a "safe" issue as it is listed under the current list of priorities.
BW: I agree that it's definitely a human right issue. We also need to realize that previous attempts have turned into safety issues for downtown. Proper maintenance and security are key. Location is key. That said, public restrooms absolutely need to be in the conversation going forward. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and brainstorm ways to go forward. This is a community issue that involves several stakeholders. The restrooms would serve many different populations: homeless, visitors, etc.

LH: Is the Artesian Commons restroom planned to be open at night, or just when the mobile vendor trucks are open?
BW: At this time the Artesian Commons restroom will be open until the park closes at 7 PM. I am really pushing for the park to be open until 2 AM. The Artesian Commons is a step in the right direction. The current model is an improvement from the current condition and I'll be fighting to expand the hours as we move forward. No promises whether that will ever happen. Community feedback and support for such an idea is very important. It all comes down to site management...which is really a dollars and cents matter.

LH: I watched your Dec. 10, 2013 report to the council on Downtown Project, Phase III. Nowhere are restrooms a priority although I heard you were able to put a fence up around a problem area. As Councilmember Jones said, some things fell off the list. When does providing restrooms become part of the downtown conversation?

BW: Restrooms are still in the conversation. Funding sources is the real issue as it isn't cheap to make this crucial amenity successful.
I just met with over 20 bar owners and bartenders who made it very clear that we need 24-hour public restrooms in downtown Olympia. I couldn't agree more. What we're missing is a proposal that includes a managed solution that fits into the current funds available. It's not impossible, but it's trickier than many realize.

The Parking and Business Improvement Area (PBIA)
The PBIA was created by the Olympia City Council advisory committee in 2006, with board members elected annually by the PBIA ratepayers in downtown Olympia.
 
Businesses are assessed fees based on the number of employees. The fees are spent on various downtown projects such as $7,000 on the decorating of benches a few years ago. This year, they spent money giving out a string of Christmas lights to each participating business to make downtown look prettier for the holidays.

In the entire 19 page Parking and Business Improvement Area (PBIA) Five Year Strategic Plan for Downtown, 2011- 2015, the word bathroom” or “restroom” is not mentioned once.
Olympia’s 2014 Downtown Master Plan

The city of Olympia will soon be embarking on its 2014 Downtown Master Plan, and opportunities will arise for plenty of public input into this vision.
“As a planning commission member, the homeless situation is now becoming more of my” problem, so to speak, because of what we want downtown to become from a planning perspective,” says Carole Richmond, a member of the Olympia Planning Commission.

To attract families, downtown needs to be clean, safe, and welcoming. Downtown is the heart and soul of Olympia and of the whole South Sound. It really seems to me that we should be making our best planning and redevelopment efforts there, which can include some housing and amenities, i.e. restrooms. I think we need a regional solution, not one that falls disproportionately on downtown Olympia. All cities want to attract entrepreneurs and employment. We're no different.”
 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Pet Works To Open in Downtown Olympia


 Above: The Pet Works is set to open in downtown Olympia in about a week or so. Potential customers have been stopping by in anticipation every day Little Hollywood has stopped by.

By Janine Unsoeld

Rebecca and Eric Smith, owners of The Pet Works in Longview and Astoria, are excited to open a pet shop in downtown Olympia at 407 Fourth Avenue. The Pet Works staff has been busy stocking shelves and hiring employees, and is set to open any day now.

The store will be open at least six days a week, from about 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., with shorter hours on Sunday. “We're not sure yet what's appropriate for the area, but we'll figure it out soon,” said Eric Smith.
First reached in a telephone interview last November, Rebecca Smith had hopes of moving in by early December, but interior renovations to the historic railroad depot building have taken a little longer than expected.

The NW Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC) moved into a separate, upstairs space of new renovated offices yesterday. For more information about the NW Cooperative Development Center, see the October 17, 2013 story at Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

The building is next to the artesian well, which is being revitalized into an area with mobile food carts and restroom facilities. The Artesian Commons is scheduled to open in early May. During the project, access to the artesian well is available. 

The Pet Works store has seven new employees so far, and will continue hiring up into the 20 - 30 employee range.
While the Smith's will not be relocating to Olympia, they have hired a manager and employees to operate the Olympia business. Potential employees must have experience with dogs and other pets, be comfortable cleaning, feeding, and maintaining a healthy environment for pets, be a fast learner, have excellent customer service skills, genuinely love animals, must be able to lift 40 pounds, and have experience stocking and maintaining merchandise. Resumes may be sent to: petworksolympia@gmail.com.
Eric Smith adds, “We have a low employee turnover because we treat them right. Our manager at the Longview store has been with us for 10 - 12 years, and another employee has been with us over 20 years. At our Astoria store, most have been with us since we took it over in 2008.”

Above: Catnip and related products produced by From the Field in Rainier will be featured at The Pet Works in downtown Olympia. Little Hollywood knows of at least four cats who can't wait to try it! Meow!

The Pet Works Supports Local Businesses and the Environment
The Smith's are excited to have established firm relationships with several Thurston County and Western Washington area businesses.
“Our dog bones and treats are all made in Tumwater at Western Meats, our catnip and related products are brought to us by From the Field in Rainier, our dog wash tubs are made at Olympia Sheet Metal, and our nylon leashes and collars are from a business in Washougal called LoCatis. We've been dealing with that company (LoCatis) for about 30 years,” says Eric Smith.
“We're all about keeping as much money circulating in the Northwest. In fact, 100 percent of our business funding is through Thurston Bank. From the ground up, the whole project is geared toward keeping money in Olympia.”
Asked why they were interested in coming to downtown Olympia, Rebecca Smith said, “Our Longview store was established in 1975. We’re locally owned and operated. Then we opened an Astoria store in their downtown. We love it. It kind of fits with our whole vibe….We plan on being part of the community and all the improvements. I see downtown as being on the verge of something amazing.”

Rebecca Smith added, unasked, that the business does not use plastic bags, with a couple exceptions. “We've been supporting our local community from the beginning. We come from a logging community and we've used paper bags since 1975. We don't do plastic. The only thing we wish we could figure out is how to not bag our fish and crickets in plastic,” laughs Rebecca Smith.

Above: Rebecca Smith, center, checks a display with The Pet Works staff earlier today.

About the store inventory, Rebecca Smith said, “It’s very important to us to have no farm raised pets. Having USA made products is huge for us. We’re careful about what we sell. We’ll offer natural, organic foods made in the USA as much as possible, brands such as Fromm, Tuscan Natural, and Blue Buffalo.
“We’ll have animals for sale - no puppies or kittens - but we’ll have small animals like guinea pigs. The birds will be locally raised. We’ll have a large selection of fresh water and saltwater fish, and yes, we’ll have bunnies. We know where they come from.”

The Pet Works will also offer some turtles and reptiles. When asked, she said ferrets will not be offered. They come from farms and they aren’t for everyone.”

Asked if the store will offer dog training classes, Smith said, “Maybe in the long term, but not in the short term. We will have grooming and self-service dog washes.” Smith said one current store manager relocated early to Olympia to find a dog groomer. ‘They’re hard to find!’”
“For us, customer service is huge, but we don’t want to ruin business for other independent, local businesses.”
The Smith's are aware that there are three pet shops in the area: Mud Bay in West Olympia on Harrison Avenue, PetCo, on Black Lake Boulevard, also in West Olympia, and PetSmart in Lacey.
“A man just stopped in this morning on his way to another pet store, wondering if we were open yet, saying that his pond fish got cleared out last night by a raccoon,” said Eric Smith.

Long Term Vision
Rebecca Smith has been a part of The Pet Works’ family for 15 years, starting with the original owners. She grew into managing the business for them, and in July of 2004, purchased the store to make a great life for her family. She has a blog that she maintains for the Longview and Astoria stores. Chances are, she'll start one for Olympia.

Asked if she’s concerned about the current difficulties facing downtown Olympia, Smith says, “We know how to do business in a downtown. In Longview, our business is next door to a historically known drug house. We’re not afraid of, or unfamiliar with, the situation.” And, she adds with a laugh, “Our manager comes from a background of security - he’s a big man.”

Asked if they were familiar with the Pet Parade celebration in downtown Olympia held every August for the last 85 years, the Smith's said they were not. But after hearing an enthusiastic description about it by Little Hollywood, they will no doubt be very involved.


Rebecca coordinates the Pug Parade in Longview and a pet fashion show in Astoria. It seems The Pet Works will fit right in.


Above: The artesian well saw non-stop business earlier this weekend, as it does everyday. In the background is the building now occupied by The Pet Works and the NW Cooperative Development Center. The NW Cooperative Development Center moved in yesterday.

For more information about the NW Cooperative Development Center, see the October 17, 2013 story at Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

Thursday, February 20, 2014

People’s House Hosts Conversation about Homelessness


Above: A location for The People's House, a proposed low-barrier homeless shelter at 113 Thurston Avenue NE, is seen in the center of the picture (green building), across the street from the Boardwalk Apartments in downtown Olympia.
 
Community Voices About Proposed Shelter Location Are Heard
By Janine Unsoeld
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

Editor’s Note: While many people who spoke Wednesday night were known to me, some did not say their names before speaking, or just used their first name. Out of respect, I have reported that introduction as stated and have identified them as they identified themselves unless they voluntarily gave their names to me or said I could use their names.

About 150 people attended Wednesday night's public forum at Temple Beth Hatfiloh to learn more about locating The People’s House, a proposed low-barrier homeless shelter at 113 Thurston NE in downtown Olympia.
 
Downtown Olympia suffers from a lack of accessible bathroom facilities and people using make-shift night and day shelters in downtown business doorways, parks, at the transit center, on the waterfront at Percival Landing and boardwalk, and the library.
 
There were 237 unsheltered homeless in 2013, according to the homeless point-in-time count conducted last January by the city and county.

 
People spoke passionately. Several opponents were residents of the Boardwalk Apartments, a low-income senior independent-living complex which houses about 300 residents.

The People’s House, proposed to be a low-barrier 40 bed facility, sees itself as an entry point to other area services and a pathway to permanent housing, leading to a community transformation.

After showing a brief video about The People’s House on a big screen, which can also be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mb11cjXTwol, Meg Martin, program director for The People’s House, explained the benefits of an enhanced shelter with social services.

“When people come into shelters between 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at night, and have to leave by 7:00 a.m., “there’s nothing we can do with them during that time….People discard their clothes and belongings on the streets because they have no access to laundry facilities.” The proposed day shelter will have shower, bathroom, and laundry services.

One Boardwalk resident said, “This is going to be directly across from us. It’s a serious problem. People are breaking into our buildings and cars – a good 120 (homeless) people are in our area. We hear screaming and yelling. These 40 beds aren’t going to put a dent in our homeless situation. There’s no reason to put something like that there…this is not how I intended to spend my senior years….”

David, who has managed buildings downtown for 12 years, says he has cleaned up more urine and feces on the street and in doorways in this last year than he has in 12 years. “And we’ve just spent, what, $24 million on a new fa├žade for the Washington Center? We need restroom facilities.”

Tom Dorian, Don’s Camera owner, said, “I don’t believe a 40 bed shelter is going to come close to what we need…I’d really like to see a business plan. You are about to spend $400,000 – that’s money that will be taken away from proven programs. First you were talking about an evening shelter, now you’re talking about a 24 hour shelter. Not once have you come to us, those who work and live downtown, and asked where should we place this shelter? I’ve personally been involved with Drexel House (a men’s shelter)…We all want to help the homeless, the less advantaged, but you are providing enablement. (Let me explain) 1. Many are mentally ill; 2. Many suffer from substance abuse; and 3. There are individuals who do not want to adhere to the rules or regulations, be a part of the community and show no respect. It’s proposed to be near the new Children’s Museum, playground, the Boardwalk Apartments, and the Farmer’s Market, and you want to be right in the middle of it. Talk to me up front instead of at the tail end. I want to help you….”

Betty Houser, a volunteer at Sidewalk, an Olympia homeless advocacy and support center, said she lives in the South Capitol neighborhood. “We are in the midst of a recession. People are hurting everywhere. It’s all over town…we all feel vulnerable and we need to take care of the people and get them off the street….Especially with the men, it’s so disheartening. We have to turn so many men away…and there’s no place for couples at this point. If you’re willing to sleep separately, you may find shelter but you won’t have each other to look out for….”

Bill Garson said he lives near the proposed location. “.…What is the real day use population? Are churches willing to guarantee to keep this funding and these professionals in place? BHR (Behavioral Health Resources) has a financial problem. The $400,000 isn’t new money, it’s from another program…to not have a full plan laid out doesn’t make a lot of sense. There are locations you’ve refused to look at. Sometimes you have to compromise…we’re willing to help with a location that makes sense to us….”

A man said, “The reality is, people are in distress, and there have been some implications that Interfaith Works doesn’t know what they’re doing, like this one project is a far outlier…they’ve been successful in the past and they will be in the future.”

Gabi Clayton said she has worked, lived and run homeless shelters in New York and Mississippi. “We had rules. If they couldn’t follow them, they couldn’t stay….I worked at Haven House (an Olympia co-educational, crisis residential shelter for youth). I know it’s scary, but if you can get past the labels…and see our neighbors….I would like to be at Boardwalk and would like to know the shelter is my neighbor.”

Sammy Harvell, program director at Stonewall Youth, a LGBTQQIA youth support organization that has an office downtown, said, “Sure, I have feces on my doorstep, we’re near a homeless camp, there’s people shooting up…but when I was 15 years old, I was in that same position. When I was 15 to 24 years old, I was on and off the streets. I was one of those troublemakers….Percival Landing was my favorite place to do drugs. If it wasn’t for our service providers, I wouldn’t be here – CYS (Community Youth Services) got me into housing and I got to work on other stuff. People stay in Olympia because this is their community. This is where I belong. People trying to access services are people too….I remember back in the day when I was getting kicked out because I was queer… (and now I’m) here today talking about all the successes in my life. Having these services changed my life….I see a solution in this. Give us a chance. How will we know if we haven’t given it a try?”

Jessica Archer of Concerned Olympians, a group that opposed The People’s House’s proposed location on the Eastside neighborhood near St. Michael’s School and Madison Elementary School, said it’s great to see people care. She feels the downtown location is wrong as well. “We can find solutions that work…I don’t know what the answer is. We have a 500% increase in heroin use in Olympia since 2006….”

Safiya Crane said she has been a resident of Olympia for 30 years and is a Sidewalk advocate. “…They want to be clean, they want to take showers. When the laundry mat next to Ralph’s became something else, the only place to go is the laundry mat near Division and Harrison on the Westside. Don’t take things like doing your laundry for granted – it’s awesome….I can’t help but think this is due to misperceptions and misunderstandings. Somebody has to give if we’re going to do this. This is Olympia! Can this be happening? Olympia is better than this! Can’t we work together?”

Dan Rubin said he’s lived here since 1976. “It’s a tough issue. I share some of your fears. I trust Interfaith Works’ experience….I have two suggestions: 1. Get real specific about what can be measured as if you have 10 to 20 years of funding. Will there be less feces and urine on the streets? I advise you to act like the long-term is what you have to deal with….2. Bring police with you. It would be much more effective to answer ‘What should you do if’ type of questions.  Faith has to be there that criminal behavior will be intervened….We need to give this a try.”

Another man said, “Why the poor, why the homeless? Why was Christ home and poorless? Pope Francis, in Joy of the Gospel, said, “The poor and the homeless have much to teach us…to lend our voice to their causes…but also to be their friends…to possess a loving attention…. How beautiful are those cities who overcome, trust…How attractive…” The man concluded by saying, “My prayer is that we have that kind of integration in Olympia and our homeless will have a place to go in Olympia, wherever that may be.”

A woman said that she recently helped a man downtown near Furniture Works who said he was 76 years old. “No one should be sitting out there, much less a 76 year old! I was going to take him home. He was sitting on a bench. I…gave him food and water. When he became revived, he said, ‘I believe in the Lord!’ I was like, great, this man has gone to places where he’s had to say that or he knows there’s a God.’ Then he said, ‘You be sure to stay warm tonight because your heart bleeds.’” She said she has since gone downtown many times to find him again, but has been unsuccessful.

Another woman said she was homeless in 1957 when she was 17 years old, and again six years ago when the snow took out her house. “When I was 17, I worked for 25 cents an hour, and I made it. Now I’m in the Boardwalk Apartments. I’m not against helping the homeless, I’m against the location. They’re druggies and rapists. I don’t want them in my neighborhood. The homeless are pests.”

When the previous speaker said the last sentence, another woman jumped up to get in line to speak.

“Be gentle with each other! The homeless have been called trash, pollution, as if they were subhuman. If we’re going to have this conversation, they deserve respect. They are powerless!”

Another woman ended the evening by saying that she can’t think of a better location for the shelter. As for being near the Boardwalk Apartments, she addressed the woman who lives there (who recently spoke) saying, “You may disagree with me, but there’s nothing like a grandmother to give love and warming.”

To the organizers of the evening, she said, “What a job you do, I bow to you.”

For more information about The People’s House, go to www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button using key words.
 
The People’s House is at www.thepeopleshouseoly.org.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Draft Drug Ordinance Covers All of Downtown Olympia


Draft Ordinance to be heard in Land Use this Thursday

By Janine Unsoeld
www.janinelittlehollywood.blogspot.com

A draft ordinance designating certain civic centers located in the city of Olympia and the area within 1000 feet of the perimeter of each civic center is being proposed as drug-free zones. The ordinance would add a new section to Olympia's municipal code.

These civic centers include the Hands-On Children’s Museum on Adams Street, the Washington Center on Washington Street, the Olympia Center on Columbia Street, Olympia City Hall on Fourth Avenue, and the Olympia Timberland Library on Eighth Avenue. A map indicating the areas shows that the entire downtown Olympia region is covered.

The draft ordinance will be heard on Thursday, February 20, 5:30 p.m., in the city’s Land Use and Environment Committee, at Olympia City Hall, 601 4th Avenue East.
The committee is chaired by Olympia city councilmember Steve Langer, and includes Councilmembers Jeannine Roe and Julie Hankins.
The draft ordinance, states, “…there is an increase in the consumption of illegal felony drugs, including methamphetamine and heroin….Drug-free zones will permit a potential enhanced sentence if a person is convicted of a felony drug offense in violation of RCW 59.50.401, 69.50.410, and 69.50.204, excluding marijuana leaves and flowering tops….”

The creation of the draft ordinance was a joint decision made between multiple agencies and departments within the city.  The police department worked with the city prosecutor, the Thurston County prosecutor, the Thurston County sheriff, the city manager’s office, the Community Planning & Development department, the parks department, and the public works department.
In response to several questions from Little Hollywood about the draft ordinance earlier this week, Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts responded:
Little Hollywood:

I am not sure stiffer drug sentences are a deterrent to drug use or an ordinance will be helpful in guiding people where they choose to do drugs, do you? Perhaps this is one piece of an effort to "clean up" downtown?
 
The ordinance covers all of downtown. It sounds like the police would be doing their regular job to make arrests as needed, but the additional police time would come primarily after the arrest. If our police are able to do their part, and make the bust, have additional police time and court trial times been taken into consideration?
 
Has a potential enhanced sentence been discussed with city or county prosecutors? Is the Thurston County Drug Court involved in these discussions?
 
In the course of enforcing this ordinance, could there be an increased effort, or perceived effort, that police could stop and question/frisk people who look undesirable? I am not sure what our current police protocol is about this, but it's been an issue in other cities.
 
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts:
 
“The concept of creating drug free zones was an idea proposed by the county prosecutor several months ago when he and I were discussing a regional approach to address crimes downtown.  The RCW already identifies drug free zones and allows for local governing authorities to identify and designate civic centers as drug free zones. 
 
“The designation is not designed to eliminate drug crimes but can serve useful purposes.  It is part of a much broader strategy to reduce the impact of drugs in our downtown core.  It serves as a positive statement about what behaviors are acceptable and desired in our downtown and provides a way for the County Prosecutor to address chronic and repeated violations of drug crimes. 

“While the statute allows for enhanced penalties and some may be prosecuted under that context, it will help guide individuals into drug court and treatment through a criminal justice process.  It will also work to assist the prosecutor’s office in creating exclusion orders for individuals who are repeated committing felony drug crimes in downtown.  The prosecutor has committed one prosecutor to handle all downtown felony cases to ensure we are responding consistently.  She is also closely connected to the Thurston County narcotics task force. 
“The intention is to not prosecute every felony drug crime under this statute, we do not have the space to house every offender even if we wanted to but there are individuals who need treatment and the only likely way they will receive it is through an enforcement process. The city prosecutor has been involved in the drafting of the proposed changes to our municipal ordinance.

“The Olympia Police Department has made no changes to stop and frisk policies and will follow current laws.  There is a focused effort to change downtown and officers will be actively engaged in reducing crime downtown.  We are focused on criminal behavior not on social status.  We have two foot patrol officers assigned downtown who work with the Ambassador Program, Capital Recovery Center, Union Gospel, Sidewalk, Behavioral Health Services and many other services to address negative behavior that often stems from mental health issues and chemical dependency.”

Echoing Chief Roberts' response, Laura Wohl, public information officer for the city of Olympia police department, added: “The enforcement of the drug-free zones is really no different than the enforcement of the rest of our drug laws.  The drug-free zones add additional sentencing criteria for crimes that are committed within the zones that are drug-related.  In that sense, no additional enforcement is needed. 

“However, the illegal drug use has been growing downtown which is what has prompted a multi-prong response, including the drug-free zones.  Part of that response includes the addition of two walking patrol officers to our regular patrol complement.  One position was started in 2013 as a temporary position, but two full-time positions were funded in 2014.  In addition, we have emphasis patrols also occurring downtown. 

Emphasis patrols involve officers working on a specific issue for a particular amount of time.  For example, several officers might be assigned to patrol a known area of drug dealing over Friday and Saturday night when drug deals are expected to occur.

“As you note, the criminal justice system is greater than just the police.  Most drug crimes are felonies, meaning they will be prosecuted by the county prosecutor’s office.  The prosecutor has worked closely with the city in developing our drug-crime reduction strategies and is prepared to devote the resources necessary to prosecute drug crimes.  Any incarceration would occur at the Thurston County jail and the Thurston County sheriff, who runs the jail, is also on board.”
Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim is expected to be in attendance at the Land Use committee meeting. 
 

Tumwater Brewery: A Contract Brewery for Samuel Adams or Sierra Nevada?


Above: The brewery and the swollen Deschutes River as seen yesterday from Tumwater Falls Park.
 
Positive Prospects Emerge For Tumwater Brewery Property

 By Janine Unsoeld
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

The last few years have been frustrating for Troy Dana, commercial real estate agent and property manager for the former brewery in Tumwater. Selling 800,000 square feet of cold, empty, dark and decrepit looking buildings is not easy, but recent prospects may be looking more positive.

No doubt, the removal of the covenant restricting production of alcoholic beverages at the property last June helped, but recent rumors brewing in the rainy South Sound air can now be confirmed to be based on truth.

In response to an inquiry from Little Hollywood, Dana offered tantalizing hope yesterday in exclusive interviews just before and during last night’s Brewery District Plan open house. A public hearing was held after the open house by the Tumwater Planning Commission and Tumwater city council.
 
“I can’t make a comment on specific companies, but several large brands are interested in the possibility of utilizing a contract brewery in Tumwater. It’s safe to say there are four that have expressed interest and would like to know more. I’m ready. It’s time.”

And no, it’s probably not MillerCoors time. The Miller days are gone, having blown the last whistle here in 2003, putting 400 people earning family wage jobs out of work.
 
Above: A Miller Brewing Company advertisement from a 2001 Lacey Thurston Chamber of Commerce membership directory.
 
Dana says the 31 acres involving the brew house and warehouse have been appraised at $16 million, and the building still has 300 barrel tanks, infrastructure, and plumbing to support a viable contract brewery here.

Dana says he receives, on average, about two inquiries a week about the property from around the world. Tumwater’s slogan, “It’s the Water,” comes from the production of beer since 1896 until 2003, with the exception of Prohibition.

In early February, Dana told the council that he is working with a developer from California who has redeveloped breweries and constructed breweries. The developer is reviewing the brewery property and considering the facility as a 250,000 barrel contract brewery.

Current Craft Beer Trends

According to the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade group, the craft beer industry is defined by four distinct markets: brewpubs, microbreweries, regional craft breweries, and contract brewing companies. Contract brewers hire underutilized but well-equipped regional breweries to produce a recipe with the contract brewer's own ingredients and formulas.

The Brewers Association tabulates production statistics for the U.S. brewing industry, and says that of the top 50 overall brewing companies, 39 are small and independent craft brewing companies.

“In 2012, craft surpassed six percent of the total U.S. beer market, with volume and dollar sales reaching record levels,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. “Increasingly, beer lovers are turning to craft brewed beer from small and independent producers to satisfy their thirst for bold, innovative and flavor-forward beers.”

The top five U.S. craft brewing companies based on 2012 beer sales volume are: 

1. Boston Beer Co. Boston, Massachusetts
2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Chico, California
3. New Belgium Brewing Co. Fort Collins, Colorado
4. The Gambrinus Co. San Antonio, Texas
5. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon

Dana declined to comment yesterday when asked about a particular company or brand. Samuel Adams is an American brand of beer brewed by the Boston Beer Company and its associated contract brewers.

Sierra Nevada is based in California. According to an upcoming March issue of Forbes magazine, Sierra Nevada will host a participatory “Beer Camp Across America” traveling festival this summer to highlight its place within the broader craft-beer movement.
 

Other Offers

In early February, Dana also shared information with the Tumwater City Council about an opportunity that came and went last year.

He said he was contacted by a man representing a national company that provides short-term storage for vehicles for soldiers deployed overseas, who asked about the potential of utilizing the brewery warehouse and parking lot. The individual received a federal contract and faced a tight timeline on whether it could be used. The rate the company was prepared to pay would have been satisfactory for a developer to offset the cost of acquiring the facility.

Dana advised the individual that he didn’t believe it was possible under the interim zoning but contacted Tumwater city administrator John Doan and met with staff to explain the situation. City staff advised Dana that under the provisions of the interim zoning, the use wasn’t allowed. Dana had offered to meet with the council to request reconsideration of the request but learned the company had moved forward to select another site. He asked the council to consider exceptions to the interim zoning, which is mixed-use.

Dana said the situation was frustrating, because “it was the right opportunity for the right reason.”
 
Dana said one of the most lucrative, attention getting ideas he’s been approached about has been interest expressed by local and national marijuana growers to use the facility and use the beer tanks.

“I’ve been told they would be perfect, hermetically sealed vessels for growing marijuana.”

The budding pot market aside, Dana says his focus has always been to bring another brewery back to Tumwater. He even thinks the brewery could attract 500,000 barrel contract brewery.

Asked if the building wasn’t too old and decrepit, Dana said, “We need to find that developer with experience with mixed use, brew pub tasting, who knows how to redevelop a site, identify that developer, and introduce them to this opportunity....We need to find out what kind of market opportunities are out there, and face the realities of what we have. Given what we know today, a contract brewery makes a lot of sense.

“A contract brewery here would be a strong logistical advantage....Breweries ship their product from the East Coast, with plenty of transportation costs. The brewery is a complex site. It’s going to take a visionary to take the next step to mitigate the risk.”

Dana, a resident of Thurston County since 1973, says he’s lived through the cultural changes of the area and remembers when “your manliness was determined by how many beers you could drink in five minutes,” he says, laughing.

Dana has attended previous Brewery District Plan open houses. “They’ve been good, and create community involvement, but at the end of the day, it will take viable capital solutions. Until then, it’s still a lot of good ideas.”
He says Centralia and Port Townsend are great examples of communities with downtowns that have come back from the brink of economic decay.

“Their downtowns are remarkable. I went to Centralia in December for the Christmas Tractor Pull and thousands of people were lining the street at 7:00 p.m. to see 40 to 50 tractors decorated with Christmas lights. I held hands with my wife, drinking coffee, and at no point ever did we feel uncomfortable with the quality of people there.

“We’re at the tipping point…at some point, somebody has to step up and we’re going to turn this around. I have invested endless energy and countless resources trying to create an economic interest in this. There’s still extraordinary brand equity in that complex. Bring it back and you’ll have substantial community support,” said Dana.
 
video
Above: Proving It's Still the Water, the mighty Deschutes River runs through Tumwater yesterday afternoon. The former brewery is in the distance. The Falls Terrace restaurant can also be seen in the video.
 
Above: Close up of easel poster on display at last night's Brewery District Plan open house in Tumwater. The circles indicate proposed roundabouts.
 
For more information about Tumwater businesses, land use, environmental issues, or the draft Brewery District Plan, read other articles at Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button.