We Made News, Magic, and Friends in 2021

  Community Interest

by Devin Chicras

2021 was a year of getting things done in the face of great challenges. It was a year full of big wins on the path to collaboratively building a more equitable, informed, engaged, and vibrant Skyway-West Hill community. Here’s a recap of some of the things we got to do this year, with your support.

Newspaper clippings featuring West Hill Community Council from 1991.

We’re evolving

In 2021, we marked 30 years of serving our community!

West Hill Community Association was founded by a group of neighbors as West Hill Community Council in 1991. As a quasi-governmental organization, one of the original “Unincorporated Area Councils (UACs)”, WHCC was the conduit for community members in the unincorporated Skyway-West Hill neighborhoods to hear from and be heard by our local government (King County). When UACs lost their quasi-governmental status and annual funding after the founding of the King County Community Services Areas Program (now King County Local Services) in 2012, WHCC let the community vote on its future. The results were clear: the best people to advocate for us, fight for us, and create community-strengthening activities for us… is us. West Hill Community Council became West Hill Community Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and didn’t skip a beat. Another decade later, and we’re undergoing another major evolution…

We’re becoming a Community Development Association (CDA) to prevent displacement of our neighbors.

In July 2021, the WHCA board voted unanimously to begin the process of becoming a Community Development Association (CDA). The process will be challenging, requiring our 100% volunteer-run organization to raise millions of dollars and hire our first-ever employees, but we are dedicated to finding new ways to meet our community’s needs and create neighborhoods that work for all. Learn more about what a CDA is and our next steps.

We’re placemaking

We worked with King County Local Services and Renton Technical College to fabricate durable custom message boards for the Campbell Hill and Skyway neighborhoods.

One was installed in front of Nevzat’s Espresso on Renton Avenue South at South 126th Street, and the other was installed in Campbell Hill Garden, at the intersection of 64th Avenue South and South 129th Street/South Langston Road. Both message boards are made of steel, with self-healing rubber tackboard surfaces for folks to pin or staple flyers, posters, and business cards. Side panels feature abstract street maps of each location cut out of sheet metal. The Cambell Hill Garden installation also included the addition of a brand new crushed gravel walkway, two 6-foot long benches, and – eventually – new landscaping.

Devin Chicras (WHCA) and Elisa Stuart (RTC Instructor) cut the ribbon on one of the new community message boards on July 23, 2021.

In March, we installed invisible, rain-activated art and messages submitted by neighbors throughout Skyway business district sidewalks.

Our community submitted and voted on messages to turn into rain-activated art. Your WHCA Events Team designed, cut stencils for, and sprayed those messages up and down Renton Avenue South in the heart of Skyway. And you can’t see them… unless it rains! Did you see any of our Rainworks rain-activated sidewalk messages between 68th Avenue South and 76th Avenue South last year?

Installing Rain Activated Sidewalk Art in Skyway

We’re beautifying

Our 2021 West Hill Action Mob (WHAM) Litter Challenge for Earth Month (April) saw neighbors pledge to remove 50 bags of trash from their streets.

Last April, we asked neighbors – our extended West Hill Action Mob team – to help us make Skyway-West Hill shine: grab a grocery bag, go for a walk around your neighborhood, and fill it up with litter. At least twenty neighbors pledged to fill over 50 bags and report back. Here’s what a couple of you shared:

Me and my two daughters, 9 & 7, and our pup go for regular walks around our neighborhood near Talley HS. This week they’ve learned about Earth days it was fitting we all grabs bags and gloves for our regular walk. I was surprised to get 3 full bags and could still fill at least 3 more. We talked about how great it felt to help clean up the things thrown out along the road and parking lots. It was surprising to us that there’s so much of it when you’re looking for it and lots of plastic and aluminum cans. We will definitely continue grab and fill a bag at least a couple times a week.

Rebecca, who helped clean up around 76th Avenue South and South 132nd Street

I took my two kids the first day, and we collected 3 bags of trash. The second day I went, I collected one of trash and one of recycling. I think I’ll take my kids around to pick up trash on a regular basis – it was a fun exercise.

Arwyn, who helped clean up around 79th Avenue South and 80th Avenue South
Promo video for 2021 West Hill Action Mob (WHAM) Litter Challenge

WHAM volunteers cleared a mountain of fireworks debris from Skyway on July 5th.

2021 was the last year that consumer fireworks are legal in unincorporated King County, and predictably, the parking lots and public spaces around the Skyway business district were full of fireworks debris and other trash afterward. On July 5, 2021, neighbors came out to do something about it.

They put on West Hill Action Mob vests, grabbed some tools, bags, and snacks, and started working on cleaning up parking lots along Renton Avenue South from Skyway Grocery Outlet at 68th Avenue South to the now-vacant U.S. Bank at 76th Avenue South.

Recap video of West Hill Action Mob’s Skyway Fireworks Cleanup 2021

WHAM partnered with King County Parks to clean up Skyway Park in July.

On July 21, 2021, we covered the park from end to end, collecting everything from beer bottles to used tires discarded in blackberry bushes.

In total, we filled at least three 33-gallon bags full of trash, in addition to some larger pieces such as car parts, a rolling wardrobe rack, and a child-sized plastic basketball hoop.

Toward the end of the event, we took a few minutes to clear over two cubic yards of blackberry plants from around Taylor Creek.

Video from Skyway Park cleanup event with King County Parks and West Hill Action Mob on July 30, 2021

Register now for a special native plant restoration event in Skyway Park (free parkour lesson, if you want!) on Saturday, January 29, 2022.

Skyway Park Cleanup event with King County Parks and West Hill Action Mob on July 30, 2021
Group photo from Skyway Park cleanup event with King County Parks and West Hill Action Mob on July 30, 2021

We’re celebrating

We converted our annual summer film festival into Skyway Virtual Cinema, providing free streaming access to blockbuster hits and distributing hundreds of Cinema Packs stuffed with goodies at four drive-through events.

More than 170 households registered to access a new family-friendly streaming film for up to 72 hours each weekend in August (“Sister Act”, “Godzilla vs Kong”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Raya and the Last Dragon”).

On the four Thursdays preceding each movie release, we held an in-person drive-thru event in the same venue where Skyway Outdoor Cinema is held. Each night, 200-300 neighbors drove or walked through the parking lot where they were greeted by our friendly volunteers and a large yellow-cape-wearing T-Rex (a familiar face at Skyway Outdoor Cinema events). Each guest received a free “Cinema Pack” – a bag stuffed with microwaveable popcorn, candy, movie-themed goodies and trivia, and instructions for accessing the next streaming film. We even partnered with HealthPoint to host a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic on-site.

Walk-up guests at the Skyway Virtual Cinema Pack Pick-Up 2021-08-12

Our Halloween Takeover series followed a similar format, which was a huge improvement from last year.

It included a free stream of “Beetlejuice” and giving away 300 Cinema Packs in a Halloween-themed drive-thru with inflatables, costumed characters, and a dance party in the rain. We also announced the three winners of the inaugural Halloween Spirit Contest.

Halloween Takeover Cinema Pack Pick Up on October 28, 2021 in front of the former U.S. Bank in Skyway

Congratulations to the winners of West Hill Community Association’s 2021 Halloween Spirit Contest! 3rd Place, Mia Horberg; 2nd Place, Nora and Clark Weitkamp; 1st Place, Hilt Avila.

Winners of West Hill Community Association’s 2021 Halloween Spirit Contest

The Winter Takeover kept up the seasonal fun and brightened up our neighborhoods.

Another 300 Cinema Packs were handed out by Santa, Frosty, and Buddy the Elf surrounded by giant inflatable decor for our Winter Takeover ahead of Skyway Virtual Cinema’s stream of “Elf”.

Winter Takeover Cinema Pack Pick Up on December 17, 2021 in front of the former U.S. Bank in Skyway

The annual Holiday Lights Contest winners were chosen by a panel of notable community folks, including Fire Chief Eric Hicks and Skyway Coalition Manager Rebecca Berry.

Winners of West Hill Community Association’s 2021 Holiday Lights Contest

We’re connecting

Our quarterly community meetings continued to keep our neighbors informed, spotlight the work our community partners are doing, and provide a conduit to local government officials. Don’t miss the next one on February 15

Our popular business spotlight videos on Skyway restaurants like My’s Vietnamese Sandwiches & Deli, La Herradura, and Beach Comber Sports Bar & Grill put local business owners in a starring role.

Community Spotlight – My’s Vietnamese Sandwiches & Deli in Skyway
Community Spotlight – La Herradura, Skyway Food Truck
Community Spotlight – Beach Comber Sports Bar & Grill in Skyway

Our online presence has continued to grow and social media reach has increased, as more folks value staying connected to local news, opportunities for advocacy, and learning more about their neighbors, favorite businesses, and fun events. Are you connected to all of our channels?

Thank you for making our 2021 so memorable! We look forward to doing even more big things in 2022 with you.

Like having a more equitable, engaged, informed, and vibrant community? You can make a huge impact by joining your neighbors in giving $5 or more a month to the leanest, hardest working all-volunteer nonprofit in the neighborhood.