Oxford House, Twin Lakes crime rates comparable

Police visits to the Twin Lakes neighborhood aren’t expected to rise with the introduction of an Oxford House, but residents still have concerns about screening and safety in the neighborhood.

The City Manager’s office collected police service data following the city Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety Committee’s Feb. 11 meeting. The information was presented to the Federal Way City Council Tuesday night.

City Manager David Mosely also told councilmembers Tuesday night the Twin Lakes Oxford House will host a community meeting at Calvary Lutheran Church from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 to provide program information and updates, answer questions and discuss the formation of a citizen advisory committee.

The King County Dispute Resolution Center will facilitate the meeting.

The Twin Lakes Oxford House will house up to eight men who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Many Twin Lakes residents have been opposed to the Oxford House, saying they are concerned about rising crime rates, the screening process, falling property values and the seemingly surreptitious manner in which Twin Lakes came to be designated the neighborhood in which the house would be located.

Twin Lakes residents had asked city officials how many police calls there were to the neighborhood to compare the rate with Oxford Houses located throughout the region.

City data shows there were 2,174 calls for police service in Twin Lakes in 2000 and 2,078 calls in 2001. With 2,009 households in the reporting area, that means the calls for service rate in Twin Lakes was 1.08 per household in 2000 and 1.03 per household in 2001.

Those rates are comparable with Oxford House calls for service rates, which averaged 1.0 per residence in 2000 and 1.7 per residence in 2001, according to the city report.

But Twin Lakes resident David McKenzie said neighbors have questions about the city’s data.

“You can make whatever you want out of numbers,” he said. “I work with numbers all the time. You can make them do whatever you want.”

Some Twin Lakes residents continue to express concerns about the federal Fair Housing Amendment Act, which designates those recovering from drug and alcohol addictions as disabled.

City officials have said the act requires them to make reasonable effort to provide housing for the men. The act prohibits discrimination against disabled people in housing.

But some residents said they wonder how city officials know the men are recovering addicts if there isn’t a more thorough screening process.

City staff said that while background checks aren’t conducted on Oxford House residents, neither are they conducted on any other person who moves into the Twin Lakes neighborhood.

Kelly McKenzie, David McKenzie’s wife, discounted the comparison.

“You can’t really compare a family who moves into Twin Lakes with eight unrelated men who are drug and alcohol addicts,” she said. “To put them on equal footing is absurd ... comparing apples to oranges.”

The Twin Lakes Homeowners Association has weighed in against the Oxford House, too, saying the house violates two of the association’s covenants — one prohibiting businesses from operating out of a house and one capping at five the number of unrelated people living in a single-family residence.

City officials handed down an administrative interpretation of city code that will allow the men to live together in an effort to provide reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Amendment Act, city officials have said.

City officials determined the Oxford House was a living arrangement and so did not require a business permit of the occupants.

Steve Polin, Oxford House’s general counsel in Silver Springs, Md., discredited arguments against the house. The Oxford House is not a business, he said, and, under the Fair Housing Amendment Act, covenants cannot restrict disabled people from living in a home.

Residents and the Twin Lakes Homeowners Association have contacted various legislators and continue to look into legal action, David McKenzie said, though no lawsuits have been filed.

Polin said Oxford House will wait and see what happens. “Either way, we’ll deal with it,” he said.

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