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Skyway Is Making Big Moves. It’s Also Facing Tough Choices.

As development begins in Skyway, residents and community organizations are weighing the balance between investments and gentrification.

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It doesn't get much Blacker or Browner than Skyway – at least in Washington state. Seattle's neighbor to the south is not only two-thirds people of color, but it's also 27% Black. And like most Black and BIPOC cities across the US, its communities have faced dramatic levels of divestment.


According to the Seattle Times, "…sidewalks and bus routes have been scarce. Weeds have marred the baseball diamonds. Today, the area has no bank, no pharmacy, no all-ages restaurant with many tables, and only one supermarket. For years, the sign above a church on the main drag has read 'Pray for Peace in Skyway' referring to nearby shootings…."


Skyway Can Do Better


The residents of Skyway are stepping it up, though, and they're organizing for change. Skyway Solutions, a local community development organization founded by King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, leads the charge to form a plan. By conducting outreach into traditionally excluded communities from the planning process, Skyway Solutions hopes to actualize a program to revolutionize the area in ways that align with the needs of the community and the opportunities provided by both King County and the City of Seattle. They are encouraging community input and attempting to implement solutions that the residents of Skyway have long been seeking. These solutions can come with consequences that also demand consideration.


Annexation

Skyway is unincorporated. As a result, it is currently dependent on King County for public funding. That funding is often scarce, and incorporating it into a larger city could put Skyway in a position to receive more aid. In 2012, the community entertained the idea of annexing into Renton, but that idea was voted down because residents didn't believe that Renton had enough resources to fund Skyway's needs fully. Annexing into Seattle could bring in more funding and opportunities. This option also raises concerns about gentrification.


Development or Gentrification


Seattle was the fastest growing city in 2022. The housing vacancy rate in Skyway is 0%. According to Ryan Quigtar, a program director at Skyway Solutions, “People looking to escape Seattle rent will move out here because it is still ‘Seattle,’ but relatively cheaper.”

And if people with options want to move into Skyway, residents with fewer options will be forced to move out. Organizers like Quigtar hope efforts to develop more low-income units and increase density will ease the burden placed on low-income residents of color as Skyway continues to march down the development path. Skyway's rent has increased by 27% over the past year. For the 1700 community members that live below the poverty line already and for the thousands more that live below the area median income, the little more than the 60-70 units of affordable housing currently being planned will do little to alleviate their concerns.


Whether Skyway will become part of Seattle or continue to seek investments from King County and private investors has yet to be determined. Whatever choice residents make, though, comes with consequences. If they remain unincorporated, they face a continued lack of resources. If they annex Seattle, they face gentrification and displacement. If they organize effectively and continue to center their efforts on the needs of the most vulnerable community members, the potential is there to develop without displacement.



Do you own a business in Skyway that could benefit from free or affordable assistance in growing your business? Get started today!


 

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GS Potter is a researcher, analyst, and strategist with over 20 years of experience supporting grassroots and grasstops organizations, media outlets, and strategy firms. Her specialty is producing content and analysis for BIPOC communities and those supporting them.

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