City working with neighbors, social services on Samish Way goals

Promoting redevelopment and addressing health and safety challenges

Aug 12, 2014 - by Mayor Kelli Linville

Our city is a vibrant and dynamic place, with many types of people and
distinct neighborhoods. And even though our great quality of life puts
Bellingham on top lists across the country, we also have some challenges.
It’s become increasingly apparent that, in addition to implementing the
downtown strategy, one of these areas that needs to be addressed is the
redevelopment and public health and safety challenges on Samish Way.

Over the winter, I convened a Community Solutions Workgroup that examined
issues facing our downtown, and in that process several community-wide gaps
in services were identified that apply to areas throughout our city,
including Samish Way. We are pursuing those solutions, such as a mental
health court, providing increased coordination and outreach between social
services, providing a range of housing alternatives, and creating a 24-hour
mobile mental health response system. These will help in creating a safety
net of services for those most in need.

Implementing the urban village plan

In the course of examining next steps for Samish Way, it has become clear
that some of the challenges on the corridor may inhibit our ability to
successfully implement the community’s vision as identified in the Samish
Way Urban Village Plan. Samish Way adopted an urban village master plan in
2009, and I believe we need to assist in making sure it’s a place where
people want to invest and turn the vision of what Samish Way could be into
reality.

The master plan provides a policy framework for the 78-acre area surrounding
Samish Way in the Sehome and York neighborhoods. Many neighbors and
community members were involved in that visioning process and shared the
following goals:

  • To promote a mix of commercial, residential and service uses,
  • To provide amenities within walking distance,
  • To have a transportation network that is designed for walking,
    biking, transit and automobiles,
  • To facilitate strong community connections and active public
    spaces, and
  • To promote sustainability and quality design.

In the months ahead, it’s my goal to develop an implementation strategy
that will require the City and our partners to take strong action on these
items.

Overcoming challenges

As we develop that implementation strategy, we are also partnering with
agencies and community groups to address and improve the public health and
safety needs on Samish Way. The Bellingham Police Department, county and
state health agencies, both the Sehome and York Neighborhood associations,
social service agencies, faith-based organizations, and the City are
concerned with the increase of crime and safety concerns in the Samish Way
corridor, particularly regarding activities occurring at or around several
hotels.

We have taken a hard look at some of the crime and safety statistics on
Samish Way, and I have several concerns about the information that has come
forward in the past several months. Several hotels have more than their
share of calls to police and emergency medical services, and several rooms
have tested positive for unsafe levels of methamphetamine contamination.
This is very troubling to me, to neighbors, to our emergency responders and
to social services.

If there are illegal activities, they should be enforced against. For the
innocent victims who happen to live in these situations, there needs to be
alternatives for housing. If we are to take action and enforce against
violations, we can’t be putting families on the streets. That is why I have
asked my staff to work with health and social service agencies to ensure
housing alternatives are offered if facilities are closed due to public
health reasons.

We need to identify services that support residents in achieving economic
independence and self-sufficiency. We also need to work with the hotels that
have the most issues with police and emergency calls. The City has begun
outreach to some of the hotel owners to discuss how they can do their part
in bringing about compliance and positive change in the area.

We are working with our law enforcement, our government partners,
neighborhoods and social services to ensure a safe community in all areas of
our city. Without all of our partners, the City would be unable to do this.
I’m excited as we start to help people who need help, clean up illegal
activities, and redevelop the area. I am confident that if we work together,
Samish Way is going to be a wonderful example of a healthy, thriving urban
village.​

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