SMR Architects concept drawing
SMR Architects concept drawing of DESC's supportive housing project in the Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle. DESC director Bill Hobson recently said no sex offenders will be allowed to live in the supportive housing complex.

Sex offenders out, locally-sourced produce potentially in at DESC Delridge project

Sex offenders will not be allowed to live at DESC’s Delridge Supportive Housing apartments, DESC Executive Director Bill Hobson confirmed at an advisory council meeting on March 27. Additionally, members of a pilot produce cooperative discussed their vision for the membership-driven, locally-sourced grocer to go in at the retail space facing Delridge Way S.W. once the building is up.

No sex offenders at DESC Delridge
DESC (Downtown Emergency Service Center) plans to build a 66-unit apartment complex at 5444 Delridge Way S.W. “with supportive services for homeless men and women living with serious mental/addictive illnesses or other disabling conditions.”

Concerning the decision on sex offenders that Hobson said he basically committed to back in June of 2011, but made official this week, he said “I think your concern about childhood safety is perfectly reasonable. I think that for people who do not know about the dynamics of homelessness or major psychiatric issues, the project coming to this neighborhood, the concern for property values is also a very legitimate concern for neighbors to have.

“There are virtually none (sex offenders) in the homeless population,” he added. “It is less than one percent. They are not in the population for the most part and we will spring them out, we have access to the King County Sheriff’s website and I’m happy to talk more about our screening mechanisms.”

Hobson then referenced a Seattle Times article he recently read that stated over 90 percent of sexual abuse cases are committed by a family members or close friends of the victim’s family.

No full-size grocery store, but possibly a produce cooperative
Shifting gears, the Delridge Supportive Housing Advisory Committee turned to the question of what will go in at the retail space required in DESC’s housing plan.

Parie Hines, co-chair of North Delridge Neighborhood Council, started off the conversation with a review of a study commissioned by several city and county organizations and researched by Diane Lupke & Associates, Inc. to assess the potential for a full-service grocery store in North Delridge. The need for local healthy food options in Delridge has been a longtime conversation for residents.

The findings of the study stated, “Current incomes, population density, traffic counts and proximity to alternatives do not support location of a standard supermarket within the Delridge area,” or, as Hines put it, “I think it tells us what we already know: it is hard to build a grocery store in Delridge.”

The study went on to suggest alternatives including subsidized markets (like the Food Trust on the East Coast), small independent grocers, mobile markets (like the Stockbox Grocer pilot that was in Delridge for a while), fresh food offerings at convenience stores (which is already happening at a few locations) and a co-op grocer.

A co-op grocer
Galena White and Ranette Iding presented their idea to take over retail space in the DESC building with the Delridge Produce Cooperative, one of the alternative models mentioned in the Diane Lupke study.

White and Iding passed out materials defining a co-op as a “member-owned, member-controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of all members and according to common principles established for cooperatives,” although they wished to make it clear anyone (not just members) could shop there, and their focus would be on bringing in locally produced food (even some from Delridge gardens) at the lowest possible price.

White, Iding and Ariana Taylor-Stanley came up with the idea in 2009 and have been working towards a business model since that time, including the formation of a buyer’s club that purchased produce from farmers direct at wholesale prices so they could understand the process. Today, they are working with StartZone, a Highline Community College program that helps startups develop a business plan and conduct feasibility studies. They said they hope to carry a wide variety of locally-sourced vegetables, grains, fruits and meats that will cover the staples of cultural culinary variation in Delridge, hire staff that speaks native languages of immigrant groups living in the area, and are looking into the requirements to accept SNAP food stamps.

For DESC’s part, Hobson said his top priority was filling the space with a business the Delridge community needs and supports. He committed to a very low rent for the space and said if the community wants the produce cooperative, he would consider helping out with the purchase of infrastructure items (like coolers, freezers and shelves). When asked what DESC’s relationship with the eventual tenant will be, he said they will simply be the landlord.

“The last thing I want to do is go to a commercial real estate broker,” where Delridge residents would lose any say in what went in at the retail space, Hobson said.

The next Delridge Supportive Housing Advisory Committee meeting will be held on April 12, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.

Included on the itinerary for that next meeting is more information from DESC on how they will screen tenants for criminal backgrounds, further discussion on what the neighborhood wants to see installed at the retail space and whether the produce cooperative is the right fit, more information on what residents, businesses and institutions can expect when DESC residents move in and how they can respect those tenants, timeline for construction and, finally, public safety.

Seattle's Department of Planning and Development is expected to make a final decision on issuing a Master Use Permit to DESC for their Delridge project in the next couple of weeks. The MUP is expected to be issued after the project recently passed a final design review.

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