WHCA Quarterly Meeting Recap – Fall 2019

  WHCA Event

by Devin Chicras

Whether in person or via our live stream, folks paying attention at our Fall 2019 Quarterly Meeting on October 15th, 2019 at Skyway VFW Post #9430 learned all sorts of valuable information from deciphering what’s on their General Election ballot to what proposed land use policies are set to shape their neighborhoods for the next twenty years, and much more.

You can watch or listen to the full video of the meeting on Facebook.

WHCA Fall 2019 Quarterly Meeting video originally Live Streamed on Facebook, 10/15/19

Or, you can continue reading for a full recap, complete with handy links and contact details.

King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) West Hill Community Crime Prevention Officer Jen Eshom speaking
King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) West Hill Community Crime Prevention Officer Jen Eshom

Deputy Jen Eshom, our Community Crime Prevention Officer based out of the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) West Hill Alajawan Brown Memorial Storefront (12629 Renton Ave S), announced that there has been “no sharp increase in crime”. Jen has received a lot of questions about abandoned cars in the neighborhood. Residents are encouraged to report abandoned vehicles to the 24-hour KCSO Non-Emergency line: 206-296-3311.

If you need to reach Jen, her email is [email protected] and her cell phone number is 206-423-6350.

King County Fire District 20 (KCFD20) Fire Chief Eric Hicks speaking
King County Fire District 20 (KCFD20) Fire Chief Eric Hicks

KCFD20 Chief Eric Hicks reports that there have been “no major fires since last quarterly meeting”. The number of calls are actually down from the same time last year.

October is fire prevention month, families should make a plan: know how to get out of your home and have a place to meet.

The Great Washington ShakeOut is October 17th at 10:17am. Remember: Drop, Cover, Hold.

Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau (WSRB) is a nonprofit licensed by the Washington State Insurance Commissioner. As of November 1st, the Protection Class rating will improve in West Hill from a 5 to a 4, largely because KCFD20 recruit training has improved and has developed effective local partnerships. Property owners can contact their insurance agent to see if they may qualify for improved rates on their policy.

Skyway VFW member Raney Wright speaking
Skyway VFW Post #9430 member Raney Wright

Raney Wright of Skyway VFW Post reminded attendees that upcoming events are listed on an easel upstairs. Although this is a private club, the community is welcome as long as they sign in – nonmembers just can’t come to the Post’s meetings. On October 16th there will be an Andrews Sisters Tribute program, tickets for sale at the door. The annual Kid’s Halloween Party is on 10/26, 2-5pm. Free event, every kid is invited. The Post will also be at the Veteran’s Day Parade in Auburn, which is the largest west of Mississippi, on 11/9. The recent “S.O.S. Breakfast” charged $5 a plate and raised over $100 for the Post.

Friends of Skyway Library member Kathleen Sidwell speaking
Friends of Skyway Library member Kathleen Sidwell

Kathleen Sidwell from Friends of Skyway Library reminded us that the annual book sale will be held at Skyway Library on November 2nd from 10am to 5pm – only 50¢ for books. They are still accepting donations, you can drop off book donations at the library. The Friends will also raffle gift baskets ($1/ticket) for the first time ever at the event. All proceeds support programming at the library.

Skyway Water and Sewer General Manager Cynthia Lamothe speaking
Skyway Water and Sewer General Manager Cynthia Lamothe

Cynthia Lamothe, Skyway Water and Sewer’s General Manager, reported that they are currently replacing water meters. Older water meters report less water, but newer meters report more as they are more accurate – so you may see a difference in your bill. The Department of Health tracks water efficiency, so they could get in trouble if reporting is not accurate.

King County Utility Right-of-Way Franchise hearing (an appeal to the King County Superior Court ruling that King County Council does not have the authority to charge utilities rent or compensation for right-of-way usages such as gas pipes, sewers, and telephone poles) was on September 17th, as of now, no decision has been made yet. The Skyway Park Pump Station Consolidation project is moving along. There has been a site visit and a prebid meeting. Bids opened October 3rd and four bids were received. They are currently evaluating the lowest bidder and are hoping to award the contract in the next few weeks and start the project this fall.

King County Wastewater Treatment Division Presentation
King County Wastewater Treatment Division Presentation

Eunice Lee and Kristine Cramer from King County Wastewater Treatment Division (KCWTD) presented information on the South Treatment Plant in Renton.

“The South Treatment Plant is a real workhorse. Built in 1965, South Treatment Plant is part of a regional wastewater system that sits on 94 acres in Renton, Washington, and works around the clock to clean the water we use in our homes, schools, businesses, and industries. It serves the largest geographic area in the King County Wastewater Treatment Division’s service area.”

“We want to continue providing the community with information about happenings at the South Treatment Plant. If you’d like to be added to a future email list, please contact Eunice Lee at [email protected].”

“For more information about educational programs or tours at South Treatment Plant, contact Katelyn Leeuw at [email protected].”

“To report odors, call the 24-hour hotline at 206-263-1760.”

“Visit www.kingcounty.gov/keepwaterclean for tips on how to improve water quality.”

Little STEAMers Academy CEO Julien Jonfelix speaking
Little STEAMers Academy CEO Julien Jonfelix

Now in its third week of existence, Little STEAMers Academy (12620 Renton Ave S) was represented by Julien Jonfelix. Little STEAMers provides daycare for youth aged 2 months to 5 years, and features a lot of hands-on learning. It has a capacity of over 60 kids and is currently about 15% full. The community is welcome to take tours between 10am and 5pm. He shared that his family purchased the building about a year and a half ago and all five businesses are owned by the same family including the photography studio, law office, real estate office, and beauty salon.

Lakeridge Garden Club member Linda Cassee speaking
Lakeridge Garden Club member Linda Cassee

Linda Cassee is a new Lakeridge Garden Club member and invited everyone to an upcoming lecture on growing Clematis vines on November 2nd, 11am to 12:30pm at the KCFD20 Admin Building. Check it out before you head over to the Friends of Skyway Library book sale!

WHCA Board President Jeremy Williams speaking
WHCA Board President Jeremy Williams

WHCA Board President Jeremy Williams shared that Yvette from the nonprofit organization God Is has invited everyone to a Halloween Trunk or Treat and Classic Car Show on October 31st from 4-7pm at the Rainier Beach Planet Fitness parking lot. God Is will also have a booth at our Halloween Takeover on 10/28.

Jeremy also reminded us that elections are coming up on Tuesday, November 5th, so get registered online or via mail by 10/28 or else you have to go in person, which you can now do at the elections office up to election day.

There are a staggering thirteen Advisory Votes on the 2019 General Election ballot. Two statewide initiatives are regarding $30 car tabs (I-976), and affirmative action (R-88).

Lots of local races coming up such as the Director of Elections, King County Council District 2 (view the debate between incumbent Larry Gossett and challenger Girmay Zahilay from our Voter Town Hall event in July), Port of Seattle Positions 2 and 5, Renton School Board Positions 1, 3, and 4, Skyway Water Position 2, KCFD20 Commissioner, Public Hospital District Commissioner Positions 2, 3, and 5.

Local measures include the King County Medic One replacement levy and Renton School District’s Building for Excellence Bond. WHCA formally endorses the RSD measure, which did not validate in the February 2019 Special Election due to low turnout during the “Snowpocalypse” even though it was passing.

Thank you as always to King County Elections and Seattle Foundation for their support of WHCA’s efforts through their Voter Education Fund.

Renton School District Community Relations ED Randy Matheson speaking
Renton School District Community Relations ED Randy Matheson

Executive Director of Community Relations for Renton School District, Randy Matheson, reported that no money is given from state or federal governments to build or update schools. Schools have to get approval from voters. The February 12th Special Election measure did not pass because of the snow, and was only 400 votes short even though 63% voted Yes. Some precincts in the West Hill area were as high as 76% Yes.

The measure is back on the ballot for the November 5th, 2019 General Election. Lots of great projects for local schools. Projects are expensive – a roof alone costs $1.25 million to replace.

In addition to updates at existing schools, the bond would allow RSD to build a new elementary school in the Renton Highlands Sunset area to alleviate overcrowding in the area. RSD owns property behind the Albertson’s across from Hazen High School, and the need is so great that they could fill school today with the number of kids in the area.

Facilities being updated is a good thing for more than just students – many community groups use space as well for public events (Alajawan’s Hands Thanksgiving at Talley High School, WHCA Voter Town Hall at Talley HS and Dimmitt Middle School, previous WHCA Quarterly Meeting at Campbell Hill Elementary).

The good news for taxpayers is that because of all of the new residents moving in and paying property taxes, tax rates will remain flat even if the measure passes.

Randy mentioned that Gloria Hodge and the school board do a good job of effectively managing debt over the last several years and have caused tax rates to decline.

Renton School Board Member Gloria Hodge speaking
Renton School Board Member Gloria Hodge

Renton School Board Member Gloria Hodge introduced herself as a proud resident of West Hill and thanked WHCA for endorsing the upcoming bond measure. There are 5 RSD board members who strive to collaborate and provide students with the best education possible. “This bond is really critical… to meet basic needs and to expand”. There is a 2-minute video with more details on their website.

King County Department of Local Services Director John Taylor speaking
King County Department of Local Services Director John Taylor

John Taylor, King County Department of Local Services (KCDLS) Director, mentioned that his department was created in January 2019 to better integrate services in Unincorporated King County. He is here to talk about Skyway-West Hill Land Use Subarea Plan, which is also led by planner Kevin LeClair. On September 30th, the Executive Recommended plan was delivered to the King County Council after a lot of outreach to this community. The first briefing to the King County Council was today. Also, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) just finished a pedestrian improvement project near Creston Point on MLK Jr Way.

King County Subarea Planner Kevin LeClair speaking
King County Subarea Planner Kevin LeClair

Kevin LeClair is the King County Subarea Planner in charge of our local plan. He encouraged everyone to check out the plan online. “This is the land use plan that will guide development in this community for the next 20 years or so”.

The King County Comprehensive plan updated every eight years, and this 2020 update is a “midpoint update” 4 years in since it was not passed on schedule in 2016. The last time our subarea plan was updated was 1994. This new plan will replace that 1994 plan.

The stated Community Vision for the plan is that “Skyway-West Hill’s residential neighborhoods and commercial centers are vibrant and walkable places where people from diverse backgrounds can live, work, play, and thrive”.

King County West Hill Subarea Plan overview slide
King County West Hill Subarea Plan overview slide

The subarea plan includes a high-level overview, the purpose, vision, and community engagement elements, plus community context, the land use planning itself, and action items. Lots of information in appendices, including maps and background information. A community center feasibility study is included along with a service delivery study and an equity impact review.

King County West Hill Subarea Plan Proposed Land Use Policies slide
King County West Hill Subarea Plan Proposed Land Use Policies slide

Priorities for proposed land use policies centered around housing (density along transit corridors, equitable development, anti-displacement strategies), preserving community character, and commercial and industrial policies in the Skyway Business District, as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Rainier Avenue South Business Districts and industrial areas.

King County West Hill Subarea Plan Proposed Land Use and Zoning Map Amendments slide
King County West Hill Subarea Plan Proposed Land Use and Zoning Map Amendments slide

Land Use Map amendments include:

Two upzones along Renton Avenue South and at the old “Mount Anderson” site on MLK that would increase density to allow for more townhomes and apartments along transit corridors with inclusionary zoning, which would mean 20% of units would be reserved for those making 60% or less of King County median income (about $50k).

Expansion of Skyway Business District zoning, requiring more mixed-use and pedestrian-oriented development along Rainier/MLK business corridors.

King County West Hill Subarea Plan Proposed Action Items slide
King County West Hill Subarea Plan Proposed Action Items

Proposed Action Items include: drafting an equitable housing development strategy report (1-year turnaround), supporting local engagement in the permit review process, incentivizing locally-owned smaller scale businesses, creating community desired amenities incentives (missing sidewalk connections, safety improvements). KCDLS will work with the community to develop a list of needs (this engagement will be forthcoming) and work with developers to see what can be done. Although pursuing annexation is not part of the planning process, they will be collaborating with Renton to ensure new development aligns with Renton’s long-range plans in case of annexation.

The expected adoption date for the plan by King County Council is June 2020. The Chair of Mobility and Environment Committee is Dave Upthegrove, and you can email him with “Skyway-West Hill Subarea Plan comment” as the subject. You can also come speak at an upcoming King County Council meeting.

Thank you for staying connected to what’s new in the neighborhood! Be sure to check out our upcoming events: 10/28 Halloween Takeover at Skyway Park Bowl’s Lucky Dragonz event space and our 11/5 Election Day Voter Assistance Booth at Skyway Library and our first-ever Election Results Watch Party at Beach Comber.

Don’t forget to drop your ballot in the mail or the drop box before the deadline on 11/5!

Like having a more 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.