Skyway and West Hill residents are tired of not being given resources and amenities as an unincorporated area of King County. They hope, as voiced through surveys and a new community report, to change the dynamic in their neighborhoods.
According to Andra Kranzler, the Skyway West Hill Action Plan, to be incorporated with the King County Comprehensive Plan later this year, is all about the revitalization of the Skyway, West Hill communities.
“We want to prevent displacement; we want resources to come, but we want to show it is possible for majority-minority communities to thrive,” said Kranzler, who is the community and economic manager of the nonprofit group Skyway Solutions.
The group is responsible for coordinating the efforts of a community-wide survey, the Skyway West Hill Action Plan (SWAP) and the Community Engagement and Progress Report. Organizers have been busy since October, hosting open houses and stationing themselves at different points within the communities to get feedback through the surveys. The surveys were even translated into Vietnamese, Somali and Spanish.
Residents will tell you the community lacks gathering spaces. There are no places to seek community outside the library and the schools. Skyway Park is underutilized, they say, situated deep inside a residential corridor with no frontage access to Renton Avenue Extension, the closest busiest street.
“The Skyway West Hill Action Plan is just the community’s voice really saying, ‘Look, we’re here,” she said. “We’re a working-class community; we’re diverse. We want to honor our diversity; we want to have resources and amenities that other neighborhoods have.”
What Kranzler is hearing from other residents is that they want to feel safe in their community, find the resources that they need in their community and not be pushed out because someone has more money than they do.
Since 1994, the community has been trying to create attractive, livable neighborhoods instead of sprawl by linking land use, transportation, green spaces and people, according Skyway Solutions’ website. However, the community still lacks a vibrant economy.
The Skyway bowling alley is no longer a space for people to come and do family activities, said Kranzler.
Where there was once a pharmacy, multiple grocery stores and a hardware store, there are only a few shops today.
“So I think people are really feeling the effects of no investment for 20 years and I think people are feeling even a little nostalgic about what was because those things have gone away,” she said.
To date, the organization has had close to 1,700 surveys turned in for the effort. The SWAP was submitted to the county on June 30. The group plans to have more intensive discussions with the King County Executive Office and council members on the needs of the community and projects identified in the action plan between now and Nov. 30. The King County Executive Office is expected to recommend that the council amend or deny the action plan on Dec. 1.
Included with the action plan and community report was a 2008 parks plan that the community did as well as 2009 visioning plan and a community center visioning plan that was developed in 2012.
“So it’s not just about a plan, but it’s really about the individuals who are living in this community and a guide for them,” said Kranzler. “And if annexation comes up again, hopefully this will be a tool to help the community stay focused on what its priorities are to make sure that the city that annexes Skyway is going to be responsive to the needs of the community.”
Rachel Ramirez calls the Skyway/West Hill community King County’s “forgotten place.” She is an 11-year resident of the area and a board member of Skyway Solutions.
In the time that she’s been in the community, there’s been a real grass roots movement to turn things around, but there are no places for the community to be one together, she said.
There are no restaurants or coffee shops and the library isn’t conducive for groups to meet because they have to be quiet.
“So, we’re not meeting each other in our community, which is what we need to do,” said Ramirez.
She looks forward to doing the work with her fellow residents to get the community where it needs to be.
To learn more about Skyway Solutions, visit their website at buildskywaywesthill.org.