by Devin Chicras
What services will the first ever King County Economic Development Manager offer our Skyway Business District? Could the County buy more land to create better access points to Skyway Park? Who are the newest WHCA board members? About forty neighbors (and hundreds more online) joined us at Skyway VFW Post #9430 to find out answers to those questions and many more on Tuesday, April 16th at West Hill Community Association’s Spring Quarterly Community Meeting.
The 90-minute community catch-up included reports from several local agencies and organizations and featured a special presentation from King County Parks. Watch the full video below (starts about two minutes in), or read on for highlights and important links.
Neighbors filed into the downstairs meeting room of the VFW and spent some time chatting with guests and meeting new folks.
Board President Jeremy Williams presented Erika Tedin and Lou LeCroy (as well as Curtis Faulks, in absentia) with Certificates of Recognition for their service on the WHCA board and to the community (00:06:45 in video).
Next up, annual elections for the WHCA Board of Directors was held. Many candidates submitted an application in advance, allowing us to share a little about them with the community in advance and to print their names on the ballot. Write-in nominations were requested from the floor, but there were none. Each candidate got one minute to address the membership (00:09:10 in video).
A WHCA “Member” is anyone over the age of 18 who currently resides in Unincorporated West Hill. Members are eligible to vote at our Quarterly Meetings, and to nominate (or be nominated) for the Board of Directors. A three-member Election Committee (Lisa Cooper, Cliff Cawthon, Jeremy Williams) ran the election according to WHCA Bylaws, and an appointed Elections Observer, Raney Wright of Skyway VFW Post #9430, ensured the count went smoothly.
Leading our Community Reports for the night was Raney Wright for Skyway VFW Post #9430 (00:25:55 in video). Raney mentioned that the Post’s chartered Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Troop, 419, is the only special-needs BSA troop in the state of Washington and one of only a few in the whole country.
Raney mentioned that guests are welcome to come to the Post for their weekly events, such as Tuesday’s baked potato bar and movie night for just $5. Similarly, Thursday night is hamburger night (also $5), a tradition that goes back forty years! Saturday, April 20th from 2-4pm is the Annual Kids’ Easter Egg Hunt at the Post.
Raney also revealed that there are many veterans of the Gulf War living in our neighborhood.
Cynthia Lamothe, the General Manager of Skyway Water & Sewer District (00:31:50 in video) made a quick introduction and mentioned that the District serves 15,000 customers and that there are a lot of great resources on their website.
West Hill’s Principal Subarea Planner Kevin LeClair was joined by the new Economic Development Manager for the King County Department of Local Services, Hugo Garcia (00:32:15 in video).
Kevin is taking over for the recently departed Brad Clark in leading the Subarea Planning process. He mentioned previous community forum, stakeholder interviews, and smaller forums that have been held since last year to solicit community feedback.
On Saturday, June 1st, DLS will be hosting a community forum on the plan at Dimmitt Middle School “to learn about and comment on the draft land use and zoning changes proposed in King County’s Skyway-West Hill Community Service Area Subarea Land Use Plan. We’ll also share and receive feedback on public comments we’ve collected from the community over the past year and a half.”
“There will be four stations focused on different geographical areas. Each station will have maps and summaries of proposed zoning changes in that area. There will also be note-takers ready to record your questions, concerns, and feedback.”
The four geographic areas that the stations will represent are:
- Northwest – the north end of the Renton Avenue S commercial and residential area
- Southwest – Martin Luther King Jr. Way S and the S 129th Street commercial area, Anderson properties, and mobile home park
- Central – the Renton Avenue S commercial area south of the Seattle City Light corridor to S 128th Street
- Northeast – the Rainier Avenue S commercial area and RV park
“At a fifth station, participants can learn about the public comments we’ve gathered so far, identify community assets, and reflect on the community’s vision for the future.”
The event will be divided into two two-hour sessions: one at 10am and another at noon. Language Interpretation provided in Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese. Disability accommodations are available on request.
You can view more about the plan on its dedicated web page, and email your comments on the plan directly to [email protected] if you can’t make the forum.
There will be another forum in the Summer and additional opportunities for feedback when the draft plan is released.
King County DLS Economic Development Manager Hugo Garcia has deep roots in unincorporated King County and the small business world and is looking forward to getting to know the community and working to boost economic opportunities in our neighborhoods.
King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Sergeant Dusty Davis mentioned that our Community Crime Prevention Officer (a role formerly referred to as “Storefront Officer”) James “Jimmy” Mitchell has been deployed for military service for a year (00:37:45 in video).
A search for a temporary replacement for Deputy Mitchell is underway, and unlike Deputy Mitchell, they will have evening hours and weekends (swing shift), but still answer emergency calls (update 04/30/19: Meet Deputy Jen Eshom, who will be filling in for Deputy Mitchell!).
The latest crime stats can be found on crimereports.com, which KCSO’s database feeds into in real-time.
Sgt. Davis also mentioned that at the request of residents they are doing traffic emphasis patrols near Bryn Mawr Elementary where officers are reporting 5-9mph over the limit during school hours and on Rainier Avenue South as officers are available and not responding to emergencies.
Longtime local fixture Community Service Officer (CSO) Scott Dungan described himself is an all-around go-to guy, a problem solver and a regular presence in the community and at storefront. You have likely seen him driving the blue KCSO van or parked outside the storefront.
King County Fire District 20 (KCFD20) Fire Chief Eric Hicks has served us for over two years, and is having a great time (00:40:45 in video). He thanked the community for all of the support they’ve shown both him and KCFD20.
There have been a lot of recent improvements at the fire station, and a new fire engine purchase is planned in the next couple years.
In February, not only did we have a lot of snow, but there was also two structure fires in West Hill. One on South 125th Street was caused by combustibles placed too close to a space heater (Chief reminds us all to keep at least a three foot clearance around space heaters!). There were no injuries.
A couple weeks later, there was a fire at Greentree Apartments caused by an improperly disposed of lit cigarette (Chief says: please use an ashtray, not your couch!) which required Renton firefighters to rescue three people from a balcony using their ladder truck. There was one minor injury.
Both fires were ruled accidental by the KCSO arson investigation unit.
KCFD20 has received a lot of phone calls about fire extinguishers. While they do not recharge or dispose of fire extinguishers for residents, you can take expired and discharged fire extinguishers to a household hazardous waste collection facility.
Chief also reminds us to check the gauge on our fire extinguishers once a month and be sure to turn them upside down and smack the bottom a couple of times to keep the dry chemical powder loose. Extinguishers more than 12 years old are no longer usable and should be disposed of.
He also reminded us to check our smoke alarms once a month and dispose of alarms that are more than ten years old. Ensure batteries are changed regularly and that there is one in every sleeping area of your house.
Recently, about forty Red Cross volunteers came to West Hill and helped KCFD20 install 80-90 fire alarms across five local mobile home parks.
Firefighters also recently climbed the Columbia Tower stairs to raise funds to fight leukemia and lymphoma. Thirteen firefighters from our department raised over $10,000 for the cause.
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) classes are starting in June, and there were a lot of applications (nearly thirty in this class) for the 2-week intensive course. Learn more about the program on their website.
In addition to their website, you can follow KCFD20 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; or come chat with the Chief over a cup of coffee at the fire station.
Frana Milan, Communications, Outreach, & Engagement Manager for King County Parks (00:47:00 in video) presented the planned improvements to Skyway Park and discussed the creation of a new pocket park in the grassy wedge of land under the power lines on the northeast side of Renton Avenue South at 75th Avenue South.
Stated project goals for the Skyway Park improvement project are to contribute to making the park a safe and well-used community asset, and to prioritize improvements that enhance safety, activate the space with multiple recreation options, and build a base of community support for and involvement in the park.
It was decided that the best option to activate the park was to bring all improvements together in one space (the north half of the park).
In the north end, improvements include: installing a new playground, a new mini-mod soccer field, a newly paved pathway, improving ADA access throughout the park and parking lot, replacing one of the ballfields with grass field and rehabbing other, adding security lighting, and replacing the chainlink fence with a new wooden post and rail fence.
For the south end of the park, they’ll be improving basketball courts by adding on-demand lighting and replacing backboards and hoops, as well as repairing existing paved pathways, adding security lighting, and replacing the play area that will be relocated to the north end with grass.
Community engagement around the Skyway Park improvement project began in 2015, and a grant was secured the following year. King County Parks began conceptual design development and surveying in 2018.
The design process is currently at about 60% completion and the permitting process should be underway soon. From now until December or so, the design will be finalized and permits are expected to be approved. A major design challenge has been the natural wetlands that border the park and require a buffer zone, which constrain where things can be put and extend the design process.
Construction is currently slated for the end of 2019 and on into early 2020. King County Parks is currently looking to identify what projects can be started in advance without permitting.
Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, a few features that had been previewed in earlier plans had to be put on hold. Those features include the adult fitness equipment, the sand volleyball court, replacement of the south end baseball field with grass, and renovating the restrooms. Portable restrooms will be made available in the meantime.
Funding for this project comes from the King County Parks Levy, and King County Parks’ Youth and Amateur Sports Grants program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund – Outdoor Recreation Legacy Program.
Plans to create better access to north end by vacating the short stretch of 72nd Avenue South on the south side of Renton Avenue and annexing it as part of park so the pedestrian access point could be improved was cancelled because a road vacation depends on the adjacent property owners (Roman Casino) first taking over the property and then transferring it to King County Parks. Parks offered to fund the process, but Roman Casino declined to participate which effectively ends any further effort. Instead, Parks will work with Roads to improve sightlines by trimming back trees and improving the pedestrian bridge area.
After Skyway Solutions unfortunately had to pull out of leading the project to transform the grassy area across from Skyway Park’s “powerline hill” entrance on the northeast side of Renton Avenue South between 75th Avenue South and the adjacent alley into a new pocket park, King County Parks has found a new partner.
Nurturing Roots, a food-justice organization, will be responsible for maintaining and activating the space which will feature garden plots and community programming, and they hope to eventually create a food stand.
Rainier Valley Corps will serve as a fiscal sponsor for the project. King County Parks is hoping to turn dirt this summer and have planting begin by fall. More details still to come, including whether residents will be able to reserve and tend to garden plots.
Dave Kimmett, Natural Lands Program Project Manager from King County Parks, presented opportunities for potential land acquisitions for King County Parks in the West Hill area.
The King County Land Conservation Initiative (LCI) was started a couple of years ago by King County Executive Dow Constantine to protect remaining critical lands across the county, with extra emphasis on urban green space in addition to trails, forests, farms, and rural land.
Open Space Equity Cabinet, comprised of 21 community leaders, drive decisions, monitor progress, hold county and cities accountable and provide leadership. They’ve developed a report and advise the county on how to best engage communities and cities to add open space in underserved areas.
Traditionally, funds come from property tax assessment (Conservation Futures Tax, or “CFT”) and each jurisdiction must provide a 50% match. However, urban areas can use 100% CFT funds without the need for a match due to efforts to create greater equity in the county. Approximately $42 million is available for 2020. Annual applications from county and city departments to acquire new land are approved by a citizen-led committee.
King County Parks currently owns one other green space in addition to Skyway Park, a series of inactive, disconnected parcels that make up the “Bryn Mawr Beltway”, or sometimes referred to as “Bryn Mawr Park” on maps.
King County Parks is looking to the community to help identify additional spaces to acquire.
In researching undeveloped parcels in unincorporated West Hill, they discovered three parcels which border Skyway Park under the power lines that are for sale, and could help expand and open up access to the park. This would create a new entrance across from the upcoming pocket park on Renton Avenue South and would expand the park near the Roman Casino entrance on the north side and secure the powerline hill on the east side off Renton Avenue South.
King County Parks then launched into an audience feedback session on the topic: “What is the ONE top benefit you want open space acquisitions to contribute to the community?”
Responses from attendees included activating and increasing visibility for existing parks, greater accessibility and safety, building pocket parks, dog parks, and pea patches, access to nature and green space, neighborhood beautification, possible public lake access, and a location to install public art.
A stand-alone meeting will be planned for the near future to dig deeper into acquisition opportunities.
After WHCA Board President Jeremy Williams introduced Patricia Lopez, the new interim Executive Director of Skyway Solutions (01:28:25 in video), current WHCA Directors lined up at the front as the 2019 WHCA Election results were announced.
Both WHCA Directors running for reelection, Jacqueline Frazier and Margie Lindberg, were reelected.
Newly elected Directors include: Beth Hintz, Anthony Miller, Micah Phillips, and Cindy Subjeck. Congratulations to all, and thanks to the community for participating in our public Director Election process.
Jeremy mentioned that Members don’t have to be a Director to be engaged or to volunteer, and Members may still submit an application in case of vacancies throughout the year.
Thank you to all our guests, speakers, and those that joined us via livestream. A very special thank you goes out to Lordia Williams for all of the great photos featured in this post.
Stay connected with your WHCA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and sign up for neighborhood news in your inbox. You can find upcoming events on our calendar.
Our next Quarterly Community Meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 16th (details to come, so stay in touch!).