Three organizations working for the advancement of Lake City have been given a $100,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation to come up with a roadmap for the improvement of the North Seattle neighborhood. 

The funds were presented to Children’s Home Society of Washington president Sharon Osborne June 16 in a ceremony at the Lake City Farmers Market with Wells Fargo officials, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Debora Juarez.

Juarez, an area resident, said she had full faith in the Children’s Home Society, economic development agency Lake City Future First and Lake City Neighborhood Alliance to build a better Lake City.

“These are the people who make things happen,” Juarez said. 

Lake City will be one of six neighborhoods nationwide to participate in a pilot of Wells Fargo Foundation’s National Neighborhood Grants Program. 

Communities in the pilot program are in Seattle, Houston, Texas, and Baltimore, Maryland. The program has been rolled out on a national scale after Foundation officials deemed they had found success issuing local grants issued to East Coast communities like Dover, Delaware.

Lake City Neighborhood Alliance board chair Sandy Motzer, a retired nursing educator at the University of Washington, found out about the grant after a former colleague at the university told her the Wells Fargo Foundation would nationalize the program. Motzer took the grant application to Home Society Director Ann Fuller and Future First Director Chris Leverson and proposed they file jointly.

With funds from the neighborhood planning grant, the Children’s Home Society of Washington, Lake City Future First and Lake City Neighborhood Alliance, have formed a steering committee and hired an urban planner to develop a plan and list of projects for the community over the next year. 

If the plan develops to the Wells Fargo Foundation’s satisfaction in a year’s time, the community will be eligible for a $750,000 grant distributed over a period up to 5 years. That amount is a drop in the bucket compared against the expense of sidewalks and other possible community projects, Motzer said. But that funding could lead to more funding down the line.

“It was seed money, really,” Fuller said. “[Wells Fargo] actually helps you meet other funders.”

Much of what develops in the plan will depend on responses to a community-wide door-to-door survey, required by the Wells Fargo Foundation to ensure project proposals are truly community driven.

“We’re supposed to do a 250-person random sample of the community, but we hope to get 500,” said Ann Fuller, the director of the Home Society.

That survey could present a boon for Lake City leaders, as the population’s true demographic makeup has remained elusive for planning purposes. Fuller and Lake City Neighborhood Alliance board chair Sandy Motzer described a Lake City population that was increasingly made up of people of color and non-English speakers who weren’t being counted in community meetings. Motzer said the Alliance didn’t yet have representatives from cultural, racial or ethnic groups.

“Our membership is actually quite white,” Motzer said. “We need to do better outreach and engagement.”

Provided household members are willing to sit down with the volunteers who administer the survey, it could paint an accurate picture of what projects the community wants to see come to fruition.

“I think this is an opportunity to have a more robust and inclusionary survey,” Leverson said.

The three organization leaders have their own thoughts on what projects they would like to see in the neighborhood. Fuller and Leverson noted a current lack of east-west bus service, teen centers and community centers. All three pointed out the lack of green parks, sidewalks and a full-service senior center. North Seattle has the least complete sidewalk network in the city, Motzer said.

Motzer said she believed a senior center, in particular, could help non-English speaking seniors in multigenerational households.

“They’re a stabilizing force in the family,” she said. “They can, for example, provide child care to their grandchildren so that their children can work. If the seniors fail, the family fails.”