For decades, the close-knit and diverse community in Skyway has been striving to flourish on their own terms.
As an unincorporated part of King County, Skyway does not have a local government entity, like a city council or mayor, working on behalf of the majority BIPOC community, making it harder for residents to preserve the parts of Skyway they love and execute much-needed additions, like a long-awaited community center. At the same time, residents like Jeannie Williams, who’s lived in Skyway for 36 years, say incorporation wouldn’t be worth the cost to the heart and soul of the neighborhood.
“Skyway has its own quirky personality all its own. It’s kind of like being out in the country but in the middle of the city. There’s cool little family-owned restaurants and it’s a good place to raise your kids. It’s very diverse,” said Williams. “All of those things make Skyway its own community.”
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
Mask Mandates a Thing (Again) & Public School Employees, Others, Required to Get Vaccine
Gov. Jay Inslee announced during an in-person-only press conference held in an Olympia elementary school Wednesday, Aug. 18, that he would reinstate the statewide indoor mask mandate — for those vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Inslee said in a tweet immediately following the press conference that COVID-19 cases are “skyrocketing” due — in large part, he said — to the delta variant and that “the best way to protect everyone is to get vaccinated and wear a mask.” He also announced that vaccinations would be required not only for those working in K–12 schools but also in “most childcare and early learning” as well as in higher education. In his tweet, Gov. Inslee listed out highlights of the new vaccine requirements for workers.
On Thursday, April 29, and Thursday, May 27, community members in the Skyway and West Hill areas can access COVID-19 vaccine doses, health insurance enrollment help, metro fare aid, and other resources at the Grocery Outlet in Skyway.
While other areas in South Seattle, such as Rainier Beach and Renton, have better access to the COVID-19 vaccine, this event is an effort to increase access for residents living in the Skyway and West Hill areas
“The community partners in Skyway know what works for their residents and we’re working with them to develop sustainable resources,” said Daphne Pie, health services administrator at Public Health — Seattle and King County. “In recent months as we’ve been working with the Skyway community, we clearly heard that services need to be brought to Skyway.”
When the Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches (REACH) started talking to the Lakeridge Lutheran Church in the West Hill area of unincorporated King County about partnering to expand and relocate its existing shelter for homeless families back in late 2019, their plan was to take it slow — go door to door, listen to community members’ concerns, assuage their fears about what it was like to live in close proximity to people experiencing homelessness.
The King County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a “coordinated attack” from hackers that disrupted an online town hall for Skyway hosted by the King County Local Services Department on October 6, according to a statement from the King County Executive’s Office. Hackers broke into the meeting and used Zoom’s annotations feature to post “offensive, anti-Black, anti-Semitic, and sexually explicit images and words,” according to King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay on Twitter, who was part of the meeting.
The Skyway Youth Network Collaborative (SYNC) is working with youth in the West Hill/Skyway area to provide leadership and community advocacy opportunities. SYNC, a collaborative that empowers youth to use their voices, two years ago created an opportunity for youth to engage local politicians and provide them with recommended actions that will better serve youth and families in their community.
One of the first projects the young people worked on was creating and distributing surveys in the community to determine what topics to focus on. The two major areas of concern they found were affordable housing and real investment. These topics fueled SYNC’s efforts this year. The process set them on a path that started with conversations with community members who are currently working to address concerns regarding affordable housing and culminated with a group of youth giving a presentation during a King County Council meeting.
A free, multi-service resource center hosted by Renton Innovation Zone Partnership will be stationed at 12643 Renton Ave. S.on Sept. 4, Sept. 18, and three dates in October, to provide Skyway residents with housing assistance, school supplies, and food resources, among other things.
“Grandma’s hands clapped in church on Sunday morning
Grandma’s hands played a tambourine so well
Grandma’s hands used to issue out a warning
She’d say, ‘Billy don’t you run so fast
Might fall on a piece of glass
Might be snakes there in that grass,’
— Bill Withers
In the face of overwhelming uncertainty, Women United’s Pepper Pot Kinship Support Group is proving that Bill Withers was on to something when he spoke of the healing properties of a grandmother’s hands in his 1971 song “Grandma’s Hands.”
Words by Anne Althauser (Photos by Matt Mills McKnight)
It’s 7:15am on a Monday morning and I need to get downtown by 8am for a meeting at Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC). I’m weighing my transportation options as I check the weather: 35 minutes walking, 15 minutes by bike, or 25 minutes by bus. Overcast with a low chance of rain, I opt for a nice brisk walk on this Seattle fall morning. As I leave my apartment on Capitol Hill, within 2 blocks of my front door I pass the bus stop, a QFC grocery store, a Walgreen’s pharmacy, yoga and dance studies, and a handful of cafes and coffee shops. Just 5 blocks away I walk past Group Health Capitol Hill Campus, where if I needed, I could visit an emergency room, family doctor, pharmacy, or any one of the 30 or so specialists on campus. I continue walking.Continue reading Health Services Desert: West Hill’s Public Health Crisis→
Those fortunate enough to have had serendipity guide them to the discovery of the Lakeridge neighborhood’s Lake Thai Cuisine are most often introduced to the feelings shock and awe upon their entry. Though serious candidates for suppliers of these sensations, it is not the restaurant’s wonderful Happy Hour that actually does justice to the phrase after a long day’s labor, nor its authentic Thai entrees that provoke lament at evolution for cursing humans with only one stomach, nor even a menu that was designed to inflate the waistline without bursting the wallet.
No, the amazement that greets patrons when they set foot through the doors of the West Hill area restaurant- located in the minute corridor between Seattle and Renton, the city limits of each being just a few feet away from its premises in opposite directions- is kindle by the sight of people from all walks of life, who have no obvious relation other than the shared experience of an exquisite meal, are utterly engrossed in collective conversation with one another.
This is no small feat in a day and age when people frequent eateries and coffee shops to do nothing more than be alone together, buried in the digital screens of their smartphones that operate as electronic appendages. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that it is transpiring in the Skyway/ West Hill area; a place whose reputation for chilly interactions between residents makes the Seattle Freeze look like a slightly breezy day.
“Food is of course important, but we wanted a place that regardless of race, creed, or income, really served to foster community right here in this area,” said Peter Stripp, who along with his wife Sirima opened Lake Thai Cuisine a little over 4 months ago.
“As soon as someone walks in here, we want them to feel a sense of warmth and at ease enough so they feel like they can make connections here with their neighbors,” Stripp says in his English accent, which compliments an urbane manner that frequenters of the area’s only Thai restaurant have come to adore.
Judging by a typical evening at the restaurant -which crackles with a festive energy resulting from spontaneous conversations amongst table mates that touch on everything from food, to life, to the surrounding neighborhoods, and often features nightly conversions of long time strangers into new friends- it seems abundantly obvious that its cultivation of the community is thriving.
But lest you think that Lake Thai Cuisine is all talk, Stripp and his wife Sirima- who was born in Thailand and had her lifelong dream of owning a restaurant realized the day the couple purchased the building Lake Thai Cuisine currently occupies after its previous tenant, a jazz lounge, floundered- view the food they serve, which consists of mainly traditional Thai dishes, on equal footing as the atmosphere they strive to provide.
“So often you dine at a restaurant and the food taste different every time you come in. It was paramount that our food be consistent, so that every single time someone ordered something they knew what to expect, and what was great the last time they visited us, wouldn’t be just okay the next time they came in,” says Stripp.
Adds Sirima, who has cooked Thai inspired food virtually her entire life, “For us our formula for success is simple: provide good food and excellent customer service, and people will come to you no matter where you are.”
Her last point alludes to the fact that the area of Skyway/West Hill has received constant criticism for being infertile ground for start ups- especially restaurants with their traditionally low profit margins. Though the many carcasses of one time businesses that are now occupied by church storefronts would seem to attest to this, Stripp believes that Lake Thai Cuisine’s location- with its high visibility along Rainier Avenue- is a boon for the restaurant.
“There is honestly no reason why we can’t be successful here,” say Stripp. “Rainier Avenue South is becoming a heavily trafficked area because people want to avoid the main freeways if they can. We feel that we are in a prime location.”
“In fact,” the Englishman shares, “We continue to attract devoted customers because of where we are at, not in spite of it, as the other day a gentleman came in here and said: Please, please don’t leave us. The people and food here are too good!”
Lake Thai Cuisine is located at 11425 Rainier Avenue South Seattle, WA 98178, and is open Mon-Thurs from 11:30am to 9:oopm, Fri-Sat 11:30am to 10:00pm, and Sunday 4:00pm to 9:00pm.
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle