Last week Matthew Johnson posted an excellent piece regarding Regional Growth Centers and why Ballard isn’t one. The short answer is that Ballard doesn’t have enough employment, and losing this classification amounts to losing 100s of millions of dollars in federal transit funds. In other words, there’s a large financial incentive to would-be Regional Growth Centers to add jobs.
I argue that this is a backward incentive. Job growth outside of the core is fundamentally poorly served by transit in our hub-and-spoke system (just try to get to Ballard from the East side, or the islands, or even from some places north on transit). But what’s worse is that job growth outside the core helps build sprawl. People choose housing based on a combination of lifestyle, cost, and transportation ease. Make it easier and cheaper to live further from the city, and builders will build further from the city. Every job added to a suburb, even a Regional Growth Center style suburb, potentially adds a home further out into sprawl.
King County should remove this job-based requirement, and let growth centers be centers of residential growth.