I don't think it possible to say enough about the Fremont Neighborhood Service Center, or any of the city's other 12 Neighborhoods Service Centers.
How can you say too much about an office, tucked away under the Aurora Bridge in a largely industrial building, that no one knows exists? Especially when so many people would be able to do more and avoid unnecessary frustration if they only knew about this easily accessible resource.
The city's bureaucracy confounds even the best and the brightest among us. The Department of Neighborhoods mission is "connecting people, communities and government." Yun Pitre, the Lake Union neighborhood district coordinator, sees her work in the service center as "being the bridge. When there are interesting projects, I can give ideas about what city funds are available, connecting groups with staff in the city."
She directs organizations and individuals to city services, and she lets "the city know about issues at the community level." Yun admitted, "I think one of the issues is that we are not utilized."
"One of my jobs is the Lake Union District Council (LUDC)," Yun told me. She coordinates several neighborhoods beyond Fremont, including Wallingford, Eastlake, Westlake and South Lake Union - "all the neighborhoods around Lake Union," she explained.
LUDC meetings, held the first Monday of each month (although not in December) at 6 p.m. in Yun's office, gather neighborhood representatives to discuss common concerns and prioritize city funds for community projects and some street improvements.
Yun distributes a monthly electronic newsletter with citywide information on events, library news and city services.
She attends community meetings, but with so many scheduled in so many neighborhoods, "I don't go every month." She also attends city-sponsored public open houses and workshops.
Yun fields questions, complaints and inquiries from concerned citizens. Most people simply need her to direct them: "The City of Seattle is so big! I'm trying to make sure they get to the right department or person."
In reverse, city staff call on her for contacts, and she keeps informed about issues and people in each neighborhood so staffers can be more ef-fective and go directly to the group or person they need to reach.
Working with the community
The Fremont Chamber of Commerce shares office space with the Neighborhood Service Center, and when Yun came on board last summer, the chamber interim office manager helped her learn the neighborhood. Now, Yun returns the favor.
In October, the Chamber hired a permanent executive director, Queen Anne resident Michael Jerrett. Michael talks to Yun on neighborhood issues and "who's who. She's a great resource," he said. "It's great sharing the office with her."
Coming in to a community as established and active as Fremont hasn't bothered Yun. "It hasn't been a lot of guessing," she said as people offered advice and background - including their own, often-biased perspectives. "Even though I only hear one version, I try to keep in mind that there is another side.
"My past work experience was outreach," she said about the work she did for the City of Kent in transportation. Even before that as a State of Washington case manager.
It may be a far cry from her major in college in psychology, but through it all, she learned how to work with a wide range of the population. "You have to know how to navigate with people with a whole lot of personal interests at stake," she said.
While at her last job, with Sound Transit, Yun met with district coordinators, and she admired the way their jobs involved everything from transit issues to human services; hence, she was excited o work for the City of Seattle.
Connecting with Yun
While her office at 908 N. 34th St. is open normal weekday business hours, she doesn't get a lot of drop-ins (although she offers a wide variety of pamphlets, fliers and community papers in several languages.)
Neither Yun nor Michael recommends dropping in, as both find themselves out at meetings or visiting neighbors too often.
You can call Yun, either to ask a question or to find out if the office is open, at 684-4054, or check out the Department of Neighborhoods' website, at www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods, to learn more about what the Fremont Neighborhood Service Center and our city have to offer.
Kirby Lindsay has lived in Fremont long enough to remember when the phone numbers there all started with "Melrose." She invites your comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.