Goodbye to a Golf Course, Vashon’s Housing Crisis, and a Theater Under Threat

A weekly recap of King County news.

• The city of Kent closed its Riverbend par 3 golf course earlier this month to make way for a 500-unit apartment complex known as the Marquee on Meeker project.

The City Council voted 5-2 last May to sell the property for $10.5 million to Auburn-based FNW, Inc./Landmark Development Group for the mixed-use project that also plans to include businesses, such as restaurants.

The council approved trying to sell the par 3 property in 2014 to help eliminate the city’s enterprise golf fund debt of nearly $4 million and allow for about $6 million in capital improvements to the rest of the Riverbend Golf Complex, which includes an 18-hole course across the street from the par 3, a driving range, and a pro shop.

“With the first phase of proceeds, Riverbend will be paying off a portion of its interfund loan, establishing a new cash reserve, purchasing maintenance equipment, purchasing a new range ball machine, expanding the driving range, completing on-course restroom, and other site improvements, and expanding the pro-shop space on the 18-hole side of the course,” said Parks Director Julie Parascondola in an email Tuesday.

The projects are designed to help with the long-term success of the 18-hole course under the city’s Riverbend’s Sustainable Business Plan.

Mayor Dan Ralph officially signed closing documents on March 29 for the property sale. Kent Reporter

• More than 50 supporters of Centerstage Theatre filled the Federal Way City Council chambers on the night of April 17 after city officials announced they may not renew the organization’s contract to operate the city-owned Knutzen Family Theatre at Dumas Bay Centre.

Under the three-year contract, which is set to expire June 30, the city pays Centerstage $100,000 a year to manage the space.

Federal Way Parks Director John Hutton said the recommendation not to renew the contract is financially driven. The city faces an approximately $850,000 budget shortfall. In response to that shortfall, the city council last month approved levying a 7.75-percent utility tax on Lakehaven Water and Sewer District customers.

“The city has no desire to harm Centerstage, and I personally have no desire to harm Centerstage,” Hutton told the council Tuesday night. “But the city has a fiduciary duty to protect the public purse and spend taxpayer funds in a way that maximizes the benefits to the greatest number of our citizens. I feel the best way to do this at Dumas Bay is to maximize all revenue streams and manage expenses closely. The spaces Centerstage currently occupies have real rental value, and the city needs to capture that revenue.”

Councilman Mark Koppang said that while it is important to evaluate city resources, he is concerned about not looking further into renewing the contract.

“When do we lose our soul as a city?” he said during the council meeting. “I think that is an important component and one that we really do need to look at. … I don’t look at Centerstage as a necessity for our community necessarily, but I do look at it as a strategic partnership for us.”

Angela Bayler, managing director of Centerstage, said the management fee from the city makes up nearly a third of Centerstage’s $350,000 operating budget.

“Losing the $100,000 would definitely put Centerstage in great jeopardy of closing,” Bayler said. Federal Way Mirror

• When Bonney Lake police officers were making the long drive back from Cle Elum with the body of officer James Larson, they had a lot on their mind.

But as the procession drove through Enumclaw, past Southwood Elementary, their spirits were lifted by the sight of the whole Lake Tapps Hornets lacrosse team—a part of the Lake Tapps Lacrosse Club—taking a knee out of respect for Larson, who died in an avalanche March 3.

Officer Todd Green, Larson’s partner, said the department had been talking about that moment ever since, so they organized a time to get together with the athletes.

On April 4, coach Ben Craighead took the te

am to Frankie’s in Enumclaw—courtesy of another community member who heard of what the team did via word-of-mouth—but they didn’t know they’d be visited by a very thankful police department.

“We saw a ton of things, but the coolest thing our officer saw was your team going to that fence and kneeling for us,” Green said after entering the restaurant. “That showed an amazing amount of respect… [Jimmy] would have loved to see that.”

“We’re in a climate right now where people are not looking out for each other anymore. And we need to change that,” Green continued.

“We need more people like you guys, that are taking charge, that are doing neat things like that and showing respect.” The Courier-Herald

• Vashon’s Shelter America Group, which announced two years ago it hopes to build “workforce” housing on a parcel of land owned by islander Mike Masi, has recently re-tooled the project and begun outreach efforts in hopes of persuading King County to provide funding for it. Last week, Shelter America’s President Christopher Bric said the property near town on Gorsuch Road is rare, with water, sewer and a patient seller, who has wanted for years to provide affordable housing.

“Someone called it ‘The Halley’s Comet Project,’ ” he said. “Vashon won’t have an opportunity like this in the foreseeable future unless something changes dramatically.”

As housing prices continue to climb in this region, renting a home on Vashon is growing increasingly challenging, with few signs of hope for improvement in the near future.

The rental situation is straining not just the renters themselves, but the organizations that sometimes assist them. Last year, the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness provided $100,000—a record amount—for rental assistance and utilities, according to Emma Amiad, who is one of the nonprofit’s leaders. This type of assistance is the largest portion of the group’s budget, she said, noting that they served 253 family units last year. The vast majority of adults were employed: medical assistants, teachers, receptionists, grocery store employees, and those who work for the island’s nonprofits. She noted that the math is simple. If people work for island wages, which often do not far exceed minimum wage, it is hard to pay $2,000 each month in rent.

“The problem is there is no solution,” she said.

She mentioned the housing development that Shelter America’s Bric hopes to build.

“We desperately need his project,” she said.

Talking last week, Bric noted that from the beginning he and others working on this project knew it would be a multi-year endeavor. In late 2016, they were turned down for money from King County, but the county asked them to try again. In the time since then, there have been some changes to the project, which includes one, two, and three bedroom units. Previously, the county had required a 65-foot setback from a creek on the property, then expanded it to 165 feet. And more units were requested through the use of conservation measures.

“We have shown a very good effort to follow those leads,” Bric said.

If built, the project would be for people who earn 60 percent of the area median income or below. In 2017, that was $67,200 for an individual and $96,000 for a family of four.

“What people are learning about Vashon is that we have slipped into a crisis with our housing and that needs to be addressed,” Bric said. “We would fill this overnight, and we would fill this with islanders overnight.” Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber