August 13, 2013 WWRHAH meeting notes

Here are the notes from our August 13, 2013 WWRHAH meeting! There’s a ton of notes tonight. Details on SDOT, transit, and Roxhill Park follow details about our guest.

SDOT & Projects updates from the Infrastructure Committee

We have a smattering of updates here for projects in various stages of development:

  • Three weeks ago we were told by SDOT that we would get a response on the Roxbury petition within 60 days. So, we have up to about 40 days to go.
  • Chris Stripinis is going to speak to the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) group on September 5th about the current SDOT Roxbury safety petition, at 7pm at the North Highline Fire Station 1243 S.W. 112th Street (link to meeting details and map).
  • The folks on 30th Ave SW, south of Roxbury, are still working on gathering petition signatures for speed humps (like the ones on 10 Ave SW by Highland Park elementary). This is for traffic calming.
  • The pending sidewalk project from the Safe Walk To Schools program (already fully funded) hasn’t begun construction yet. We thought it was supposed to be done in time for the September 2013 school year, but no sign of it yet. We’ve reached out to Brian Dougherty at SDOT for an update. This was the rebuilding of all the sidewalk crossings at the intersection of 30th Ave SW and Roxbury, and to extend the sidewalk south from Roxbury to 97th on the city side of 30th. This is a map of the location.
  • The folks from 25th Ave SW near Roxbury have a huge problem with speeding, are looking for relief, and are working with us on getting a petition into SDOT for speed humps as well.

Roxhill Park project planning: a spring/early summer 2014 clean up and cook-off:

 

From NabeWise on Flickr
From NabeWise on Flickr

The beginnings of something like a “Roxhill Park Days” (proper name to be determined later!) is underway. We’re in discussion with the Department of Neighborhoods and in the early stages of planning for an organized annual clean up and work party at Roxhill Park to deal as a community with the larger overgrowth, visibility, and sight line problems in our neighborhood park. Part of this is going to involve getting a grant from the Department of Neighborhoods through one of it’s programs, and we have an October 17th deadline to beat. Some highlights of what is possibly in the cards, if everything aligns correctly:

  • Early June 2014 date
  • Organized community work party, like we had for the Roxhill Castle construction
  • Supply tools for the work with the grant, purchased from locally owned businesses
  • All tools purchased would be donated to the West Seattle Tool Library
  • Clean up and cut back all the growth and invasive species in the back 1/3 of the park
  • Clean up all the visibility and sight lines of the paths through the bog and Longfellow Creek
  • Have some sort of chili cook-off contest with prizes (TBD) to feed hungry volunteers
  • Other fun stuff for a one day event, which would be an annual event

We’ll have more details on this as soon as possible.

A letter to the City of Seattle, the Mayor, the City Council, and others on transit

There are three factors currently working in tandem to significantly worry a lot of people in West Seattle, that we have been talking about on and off for months in our meetings.

  1. The looming reduction of mass transit services region wide with the King County Metro funding crisis coming out of Olympia. All services will face up to a 17% cut in volume.
  2. This is only compounded for us in West Seattle, with the equally looming end of the Viaduct and the construction headaches that will cause for all of us soon.
  3. Third, the population because of increasing density (whether you’re a fan or not) in West Seattle is increasing, further straining transit — transit which may soon reduce, straining it even further.

Individually, any one of these things is a topic deep enough for a three hour meeting, or more. Put together? Again, regardless of what side you’re on about any of these issues, altogether they equal out to everyone coming out of West Seattle having a pretty awful commute very soon. Because of this, we are going to draft a letter, a call for answers and solutions on the city level, and this also is coming very soon. We hope to have a rough draft posted and circulating for feedback in a few days. We plan to take a very similar approach to this very complex problem as we took with the Roxbury safety position on July 21, 2013.

The American Homestay Network

We had a guest tonight: Ron Davis, CEO of the American Homestay Network. They are a local company that is developing a network to allow foreign college students (aged 18+) live with sponsor American families. They are looking for sponsor families in the West Seattle area, and he described the programs to us tonight.

Our local community colleges have a huge financial dependency on revenues from foreign college students. For example, the 800 foreign students, out of the approximately 8,000 students at North Seattle Community College pay 40% of all tuition revenue that the entire school receives. These foreign students effectively subsidize and underwrite the school programs for our local students. This is because, like with out of state students, they pay a premium for attending our American schools. The Seattle region is 5th in the nation for foreign student enrollment; coming mostly from Southeast Asia. This year, there are estimated to be around 21,000 foreign students from that region. These students add about $500,000,000 a year to our regional GDP.

Many of these students culturally prefer to stay with local American families to be immersed in both our language and culture. We’re losing these students as a percentage year over year from not having American families to live with, in our area.

Homestay Network is the first professional standards based home stay placement firm for these students – all the rest of these companies globally are much less organized and more ad hoc, started a year ago. They are creating a standards system for the process of hosting students. Hosts are tested and reviewed extensively to become certified as hosts. They do background checks on all hosts and students through the State Department and local background and criminal checks. The certification process for the host is $50. Homestay underwrites the rest of the fees. You need to re-certify and get background checked again every 3 years.

North Seattle Community College last year had to turn away nearly 100 students who didn’t have families to live with — there is a need for hosts. The Seattle area has 350 host families in the Homestay Network right now. They need 1,000 host families as soon as possible.

All the students are over 18 years old, and demographically come from middle to upper income families; these are typically by our American standards top tier, high-performing students. Initial visits by students tend to be around 8-10 weeks long, and then they stay typically for years until their schooling is done. They often go home during extended breaks. The host families are compensated: typically around $650-$800 USD per month. Payment comes through the Homestay program — no cash comes directly from the students.

One of the main reasons for the home stay method preferred by foreign students, as mentioned, is to be immersed in English language and American culture. On the flip side, the host families typically become immersed in the culture (and even language!) of the visiting students. He mentioned quite a few stories of the families even going “back home” to visit their students afterward, such as at weddings. It sounded like an incredibly interesting program that wants to expand more to West Seattle: http://www.homestaynetwork.com

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Stay tuned, and enjoy the rest of the summer in this very awesome weather.

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