Downtown Snoqualmie

For over a year, regional planners have wrestled over growth plans with six small cities that are planning to ‘grow too fast’. Last month, the PSRC Executive Board tabled a decision on reclassification that could have eased the way for faster growth in Covington and Bonney Lake.

Six smaller cities, four of them in King County, are planning for growth that runs ahead of regional targets.

The region’s growth management strategy, VISION 2040, focuses most development within an urban growth boundary. Inside the growth boundary, the highest planned growth in each county is in “Metropolitan Cities” like Seattle and Bellevue. The next highest growth rates are planned for “Core Cities”, with progressively lower growth in “Larger Cities” and “Small Cities”. Small cities outside the contiguous urban area should grow more slowly than cities within.

In the last round of comprehensive plans, Six small cities created plans with growth capacity well above their regional targets. Four of these (Carnation, Snoqualmie, North Bend and Covington) are in King County, and two are in Pierce (Gig Harbor and Bonney Lake). In response, their plans were certified conditionally until they could come into compliance with regional goals. To date, the conditional certification has not impacted their access to grant funding, but might do so in the future.

Small cities have lower growth targets because they are typically further from major business centers. This means longer commutes that increase demands on regional transportation infrastructure. Unplanned growth impacts traffic in neighboring communities and on rural roads. The character of small towns is to be preserved. (Some small cities are indeed charming, others maybe less so). But slow growth strains the budgets of many smaller towns, dependent on an influx of new residents or businesses to fund existing services and infrastructure.

Two cities with conditional certification, Covington and Bonney Lake, sought reclassification as ‘larger cities’. The reclassification might allow a higher growth target (it’s not automatic, but switching to a peer group with higher targets would influence future discussions). In December, the PSRC Executive Board appeared poised to approve. Within King County, the debate turned more contentious. The County’s Growth Management Planning Council (GMPC) has so far not agreed to a reclassification. Covington meets the size criteria (as does Bonney Lake in Pierce County). But reclassification were not scheduled to happen before the next comprehensive plan cycle. To some, a premature reclassification evades proper consideration of the policy question.

Advocates of faster growth frame the issue as being about autonomy in city decision-making, and claim the PSRC is overstepping its authority. Everybody accepts that cities must plan for enough growth, and growth targets therefore act as a floor on zoned capacity. Do they also act as a ceiling constraining too fast growth in the wrong places? Some of the cities are targeting a pace of development dramatically faster than regional plans. The shared goal of concentrating growth in the largest cities doesn’t work if a growth target is only a floor.

Bringing the plans into compliance means restricting growth. Some of the options are problematic. North Bend, for instance, has reduced housing capacity by buying up otherwise commercially zoned land for parks, reducing permanently the footprint of the city. But North Bend has also progressively down-zoned undeveloped residential zones in the city from 6-8 units per acre to just 2 units per acre. Slowing growth may mean swapping denser growth for sprawl.

Small city mayors, supported by the construction lobby, are poetical about the appeal of small city life. Notice, however, that median house prices in Covington ($334K) and Bonney Lake ($343K) are up to 60% lower than Seattle and Bellevue. The market is signalling that many people would prefer to live in denser places with shorter commutes. Growth in distant small cities is propelled by the scarcity of housing closer to major employment centers.

Workers who move to exurban cities accept long commutes for homes they can afford and impose disproportionate traffic impacts on others. Fewer than 2% of workers who live in Covington are employed there, and two-thirds are commuting more than 10 miles each way to work. Eventually, growth in Covington and other exurban cities will translate to new highway projects and perhaps another cycle of sprawl.

In a way, the small cities are forcing a discussion about affordability and the pace of housing growth. Housing becomes even less affordable if growth is curtailed in small cities without a corresponding easing of barriers to growth in high-demand areas. Are the inner suburbs prepared to grow faster so that workers don’t have to drive so far for a home they can afford?

85 Replies to “Should Small Cities Grow Faster?”

  1. Gig Harbor has seen a huge amount of growth right up against their northern boundary at Borgen Blvd. The cluster of stores there have a large draw area including Gig Harbor, Key Peninsula, and South Kitsap up to Port Orchard. Now, those stores are being filled in with a lot of different housing developments. They are even building a new grade school to serve the new neighborhoods.

    Transit service is sparse. There are two PT buses which venture over the bridge. The 100 provides hourly service to Tacoma Community College. The 102 provides commuter service to downtown Tacoma. The ST 595 has commuter runs to Seattle. Kitsap Transit has the Purdy Connector which provides some service to the Southworth Ferry from just north of GH. And of course, there’s a “trolley”:

    1. I have family living in that very area of Gig Harbor. There’s a lot more development coming to that area, outside the city limits but in Pierce County. To me the GMA is completely inadequate to the point of being a joke.

      1. It’s a huge area being converted to single family suburban no-sidewalk development. It goes west to Kopachuck State Park and south to the end of Fox Island.

    2. It is interesting that the Narrows bridge traffic volume isn’t increasing much but housing is growing. Gig Harbor had always been a suburb of Tacoma and the decreased congestion when the new bridge was built was supposed to open the flood gates and everyone was going to move to the peninsula. Are there jobs coming with increased housing so people don’t have to go across the bridge? Or is Gig Harbor the retirement community of Tacoma?

      1. I grew up in Gig Harbor. 15 years ago there wasn’t a whole lot there because the mayor had successfully fought off most of the developers. Eventually they built just outside of city limits (Borgen Blvd), which the city later annexed I believe — think they had to provide services out there but weren’t collecting taxes from there.

        Coinciding with the residential boom, and somewhat preceeding it, was the new Target, Albertsons, Costco, Home Depot, etc. This reduced the need of Gig Harbor residents to travel to Tacoma for shopping.

        Also, the bridge toll has steadily increased, which really irritates a lot of people there who were promised the toll wouldn’t be more than $2.50 (currently $5.50 I think). So a lot of people avoid crossing the bridge out of spite I think; it’s not that they can’t afford it.

        Those are the reasons why the volume of traffic hasn’t increased much yet. The flood gates are open though.

      2. Gig Harbor sprawl extends north to essentially Bremerton. Some people may be working there or in scattered locations across a huge swath of land along the highways. Every single one of the strip malls, fast food restaurants, construction firms, and assorted other businesses that are there to serve the residents have employees. Those employees have to live somewhere too.

      3. I also grew up there.

        The other reason that Gig Harbor was fairly stagnant was that the sewer system needed to be upgraded in order to support more development. They finished this maybe five years ago, and so some of that single family housing was probably pent up demand from when there was a moratorium on building. The question I have whenever I drive through the area is still “Where do these people work?”, though.

  2. Growth in small cities should be treated no differently then growth in metro and large cities. This is to say that since PSRC does not care about how the largest cities in the region grow, only that they grow, that they should take the same tact with every city (and let them grow). PSRC and the GMA’s ability to create afforadle (purchasable) housing stock near the urban areas has never been enforced and likely never will be. For PSRC to take a stance against small city growth belittles why people are choosing to buy out there. The market is clear, it wants SFHs for under 400K and likely wants them at prices much lower than that. Nothing about our metro area makes is a unique snowflake in this matter, there are numerous peer cities that don’t suffer such a housing stock shortage and inflated prices. While there are peer cities that suffer the same problem they suffer for the same reason. Our collective political will does not care about affordability when it comes up against protecting existing home owners from housing stock deflation or the ills (their words) of density. This creates a drive to expand where no one lives in order to secure a more affordable housing price and avoid the density discussion all together. The overarching goal of the Housing section of Vision 2040 reads as follows “The region will preserve, improve, and expand its housing stock to provide a range of affordable, healthy, and safe housing choices to every resident. The region will continue to promote fair and equal access to housing for all people.” The sole reason that the small city growth “problem” exists is because the range of products in our regions largest cities is not very robust and almost exclusively high-end. Let me be clear, regional leadership should support the opportunity for all middle class families to own a housing product of there choice that allows them to balance trade offs (distance from urban centers, density, community size, etc) and at present they do not do this. This is the middle class version of a fight for $15 an hour and it is like our politicians are completely blind to it.

    1. Except there are a whole lot of small cities that are mostly single-family and have much higher density than places like Covington. I seriously doubt expansion into the boonies is actually required. Getting residential areas of Edmonds to the density of central Snohomish or Sumner could double the amount of homes there, with all of them being single-family. New homes in Edmonds (where there is good transit in the area) have way less traffic impact than in Covington.

      1. This is exactly the issue in play. Edmonds has a median home price of roughly $500,000 and Covington has one of $340,000. Densification of Edmonds would in many likely scenarios deflate the values of homes in Edmonds or reduce the growth of home prices. On the other hand, in convington building anything and giving the City mass inflates the home prices and land values. So the market pushes for two things, leave Edmonds alone (slow growth) and grow Convington like crazy. PSRC and the GMA could step in and alter the scales of this equation and say Convington you can’t grow and Edmond you must densify but then there would inevitably be a political discussion about how PSRC is over stepping its bound. Look into Seattle, there are large neighborhoods which do not wish to grow and they hide behind the same issues time and time agian. It would hurt the neighborhoods character, cause problems and hurt home values. And they win there battles with this logic because the regions leaders see opposition and do not wish to fight it for future home owners or home owners in other cities who would like to move to Seattle.

      2. Building more houses would increase the vacancy rate (the number of for-sale units) relative to the number of buyers. This would slow down the price increases and eventually stop them. If you kept on building it would roll them back. The price won’t fall to zero because there’s an intrinsic minimum value in living in Edmonds, but it would roll back the extent that it’s overpriced due to artificial scarcity. Of course it wouldn’t get that far because developers and owners would stop building as soon as the price started falling. The only way it would fall beyond that is if there’s a sudden population decrease due to a recession or catastrophe. But that’s generally how house prices go up and down.

    2. The Puget sound region already has a huge stock of cheap single family homes. Even in Seattle there are many single family homes in south Seattle for not that much money. If you don’t believe me look on Redfin. In 5 years when the baby boomers start to sell their houses we will have a massive surplus.

      It’s really in just certain high end neighborhoods near job centers that have high prices. Building in the middle of nowhere where prices are low and people have long commutes just makes the situation worse.

      When I was a kid they were building single family homes out like gangbusters, but do you know what happened? Traffic got worse and those distant suburbs effectively started to get further and further from jobs. My parents place, which is is quite nice but a long commute, hasn’t seen the same increase in valuation as places closer to Seattle.

      Long term (10-20 years) there will probably be more consolidation in urban areas, and the small towns will die. The reason is there US population is not growing very quickly, and few people are having kids. Most of the population growth in the puget sound region is people moving from the Midwest, where population is actually decreasing in some places. Or from Asia, which is also starting to see an aging population and low birth rates.

      If you look at Japan, what happens when the population starts to age and there are few births is the countryside empties out and everyone moves to the big cities. Small towns can’t survive if they are full of old people and no workers,

      1. That doesn’t apply to Pugetopolis. The for-sale inventory has been at a historic low since the recovery, with only a 30-day supply instead of six months. That’s why there are bidding wars on the houses that are for sale. My friend who grew up in Rainier Valley wished he had bought a house there in the 80s or 90s because when he looked in the 00’s they were already too expensive. He ended up with a house in SeaTac, which lost a third of its value in the crash and hadn’t fully recovered when he sold it a couple years ago. But Rainier Valley keeps going up and must be in the 300 or 400K’s now: he saw a new house in Columbia City for $600K.

        The small-town population decrease in Washington is way out around Omak and Shelton and Aberdeen, far beyond Bonney Lake and Shelton. They will grow as long as Pugetopolis as a whole grows. Pugetopolis will keep growing long-term as climate change in other parts of the country gets worse.

        The boomers in Pugetopolis won’t sell their house because where will they live? Only a fraction of them will be willing to downsize to a condo or apartment or move out of the region, and if they try to buy another house they’ll run into the same problem other home-buyers have: the cost. Eventually they’ll die and them some houses may be available. But the millenial generation is larger than the boomers and they’ll fill up those houses.

      2. Since 2000 prices have gone up and down. Which is typical of puget sounds boom bust housing market over its whole history. Seattle Bubble has a blog post that shows housing construction since 2000 is actually still ahead of household growth. Probably the housing shortage had more to do with an inefficient distribution of housing (too much in the wrong places, and too many baby boomers occupying large single family homes).

        I think it’s telling that your friend’s SeaTac place never recovered in value. Even Columbia city is a lot more expensive than just slightly south.

        My parents place has doubled in value… but over a period of 17 years or so. Once you take inflation into account, it’s not that much growth. Over the last few years there has been very high growth in the value of king county properties, but calling it a permanent trend at this point is premature.

        Remember the market only recently reached the height over the bubble… after 7 years… and not accounting for inflation. Is that really that impressive? Negative real growth over a 7 year span? Cherry picking the height of the last bubble makes it look bad, but cherry picking from the low of the recession makes housing prices look like they have gone up way more than they actually have.

      3. Brendan, the OFM data the Seattle bubble blog likes to use is difficult to apply to many discussions other than do people of some means have opportunity to have a roof over there heads. The discussion of purchasing a home is one where this is explicitly the wrong data. OFM data talks about all housing products as if they are equal. What small city growth shows is that there is a distinct lack of certain products and people are willing to suffer long commutes to get to areas where those products can be affordable purchases. When the SB blog talks about constrained inventory for sale that is the key message to take away. People in the metro area legitimately struggle to find properties to buy and then that further increases the cost of them.

        Also your argument about 7 years to recover from the bubble and historic growth trends is also irrelevant. If 20 years ago houses were over priced and artificially constrained then all that data shows is that they still are. And more importantly is how the cost of a house compares to inflation and the buying power/availability for each quartile of the regions income range. In particular the amount of new purchasable housing stock being made for the 25-50% quartile is very low in Seattle. The region as a whole is essentially asking those people to rent which is an awful financial decision for a long term resident.

      4. The rental and for-sale markets are mostly separate, and are diverging. There are a large number of apartment dwellers who can’t afford a house, and conversely house buyers who won’t consider an apartment (and would stay with family or a roommate if they can’t get a house/condo). A lot of apartments have been built since 2012, and the rent increase might finally decelerate this year, but that’s exactly what they said in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. so we’ll see if they’re right this year. The apartment vacancy rate is rising, but the for-sale inventory is at a record low and falling. There are essentially a fixed number of SFHs in Seattle for a growing population. The townhouse conversions are a drop in the bucket.

        “Seattle Bubble has a blog post that shows housing construction since 2000 is actually still ahead of household growth.”

        Something is wrong in that statistic. If housing construction were ahead of household growth then prices wouldn’t be rising rapidly. And the growth is definitely in apartments, not houses. Houses have only a 30-day inventory or less which is extremely low. House/condo construction is far, far behind household growth (of people who want to buy houses).

        “Probably the housing shortage had more to do with an inefficient distribution of housing (too much in the wrong places,”

        There’s not too much housing anywhere in Pugetopolis. People are moving to Everett and Tacoma under duress because they can’t afford south King County. A lot of people moved from Seattle to south King County since the 90s but the opportunities are filling up. Those cheap apartments on Renton MLK are being redeveloped, and south King County’s rent increases reached the fastest in the region in 2016. Hardly any housing has been built in south King County because it’s the least desirable area (by profit-minded developers, tech workers, affluent people), but it looks like the other areas are about filled up and demand is spreading to south King County. That will increases prices and will start to increase construction, but it will take years for construction to reach full speed because of the lingering perception of undesirability — the same phenomenon as in Rainier Valley. The valley’s prices are rising but they’re not as high as central or near-north Seattle. Long-term with continuous growth the prices in central and south King County will tend to converge, in proportion to the desirability gap. The gap will lessen as more middle-class families move in and trendy restaurants/clubs appear, but it will probably not disappear completely.

        “Since 2000 prices have gone up and down.”

        After the dotcom crash stabilized, prices went down exactly once, in 2008-2010. I don’t know what prices did in the 2000 crash because I wasn’t paying attention: everybody could afford an apartment if not a house. My rent was still $500, the cheap studio by Harborview was probably $400 or less, and there must have been a lot of houses for $200K. I count things from 2000 because I think that’s a reasonable price level, and it’s also what prices outside the expensive west and east coasts have remained at more or less.

        In any case, even if we take both the 2000 and 2008 falls, that still only implies that prices will fall in a major recession. That’s not helpful news if you’re one of the thousands who get laid off in a recession. We need a better solution than that.

        The problem is that most houses and apartments in south King County have skeletal or no transit nearby, and there are only a few jobs down there and most of them are low-paid industrial, so it’s an hour or two transit commute to most jobs or better-paying jobs. Telling people to just live in those conditions is not something I’d wish on my enemy, and some people can’t even afford that and have to move to Tacoma or Everett or Olympia, which is another hour away.

      5. If housing prices were going up with inflation people wouldn’t be complaining. But rents were going up 5% in the 2000s bubble, and 5-10% currently, while inflation has been less than 2% since 2000. In 2008-2010 rents paused and went back slightly (in the form of “$100 off”, “free first month”), but it only took one year to wipe all that out and more. So if it takes a huge economic crisis to roll them back just that much, and then before and after they’re rising at 5-10%, that’s not a good enough situation.

      6. I don’t buy the idea that apartments are a separate market at all. Some consumers have preferences for a condo or a house, but ultimately they are in the same market,

        There’s a limit to how much more expensive a house can be per square foot than a condo before people just buy condos.

        Similarly, there’s a limit to the difference between rent and the cost of a mortgage before either people just keep renting, or more likely apartments get converted to condos.

        Just before the recession hit, a gap between the price of home ownership and the price of renting opened up… and coincidentally there were thousands of apartment to condo conversions in seattle.

        Also, during the recession my rent went down by one third… It took years to recover. There were a ton of vacancies in my building. So the idea that rent always goes up is wrong. A boom bust cycle is normal. Run ups in home prices are normally followed by periods of decline,

      7. “I don’t buy the idea that apartments are a separate market at all.Some consumers have preferences for a condo or a house, but ultimately they are in the same market, ”

        I said “mostly separate”. And there’s not even a single apartment market or house/condo market, but multiple markets at different price points. Some of those are more house/apartment fluid than others. I may have overestimated the separateness, but you may have underestimated it.

        “There’s a limit to how much more expensive a house can be per square foot than a condo before people just buy condos.”

        The other way around. Urban condos more expensive per square foot than low-density houses.

        “during the recession my rent went down by one third”

        Your rent went down by a third? Where was that? My experience was southwest Capitol Hill, where practically every building had a “For Rent” sign. Did you have to move to get the reduction?

      8. I didn’t have to move at that time, but as a matter of policy I always act like I’m thinking about moving whenever my lease is up. Whatever price I get quoted for the next year, I say something like, “I like it here, but it’s kind of expensive, can you do better? Otherwise I might need to move.”

        I did that for 8 years at my last place, and I got either reduced rent, or, as prices started to rise, I got the increases reduced. Until the last year when facebook put an office building across the street from me and they refused to negotiate. So I moved out.

        If your landlord doesn’t think you will move, of course they will charge whatever they feel like because you have no negotiating power. On the other hand, if they think you might move, and they are worried they might not rent the place again right away and lose several months rent, then you have leverage. Of course if the vacancy rate is zero, you have no leverage and prices go up…

        That’s why when people claim that “luxury” apartment buildings are inherently expensive I shake my head. The price is determined 100% by your leverage or lack thereof.

    3. You want an SFH under $400 thousand in a “small city”, go find one in Omaha. Or Springfield, Missouri. Or Des Moines, Iowa. The land around them is good only for growing more corn, a crop with which we are blessed/cursed with an over-abundance. There are no endangered species because it’s all pretty much the same from Columbus, Ohio to the “lime line”.

      The remaining undeveloped Puget Sound lowland is a precious rarity.

      Go read a book on ecology.

      1. The point is that inflation-adjusted prices are 32% higher than 2000 plus a fraction for compounding, but rents and house prices in Seattle are up 100% or more. That’s a lot of increase that can’t be attributed to inflation or taxes. That kind of increase didn’t happen in Houston or Dallas where the housing supply is allowed to increase with the population growth. (But they did it in a sprawl way while we’d prefer an infill way.) Seattle is now creating 9 housing units for every 12 new jobs, so that’s better than it was a few years ago but it’s still not keeping up.

      2. Mike,

        I understand what you say, but I read Fred as saying “it’s OK to have sprawl in Covington because middle class people need it”, and I’m saying that it’s not. There are plenty of places where sprawl cities can accommodate many more people than already live there, and so the price of housing is much lower.

        True, wages are generally lower, but not proportionally as much lower as is housing cheaper. So folks who want that suburban experience can have it there at a reasonable cost, because there are millions of acres of the Midwest which don’t yet have houses on them and government isn’t trying to limit growth.

        However, if you want to live in the Northwest and have that experience, you inevitably will participate in destroying the thing that you love.

        I realize that this is a purely political position, and not one of a very economically progressive nature at all. However, it’s not that I don’t want people to have that suburban long-commute experience if they really love it. It just want them to realize that the impacts are too great to unleash here and that they should go elsewhere to seek it.

        As I stated in the original post, the Puget Sound Lowland is a unique ecosystem which is being paved over at a blistering pace. It needs protection and the fewer “growth at any cost” people who live here the better.

  3. It’s interesting to me that Covington is designated a small city, but Maple Valley is designated a large city. I lived in Maple Valley when I was in high school and we always thought of Covington as the larger town.

    1. The cutoff is a (somewhat arbitrary at this point) combined jobs + population total of 22,500. Below that and you’re a Small City. Above that and you’re a Larger City.

      If you have a PSRC-designated Regional Growth Center, you’re a Core City regardless of size.

  4. Problem solved: If your town is served by ST Express, Sounder, or Link you can grow fast. If not, you can’t.

    1. Also, if your town zones for small lot sizes, walkable street grids, and no cul-de-sacs, you can grow fast.

      1. This is the right direction, Frank.

        All these small towns are in the Urban Growth Boundary, and are therefore planned for urban growth eventually. It is only a matter of when. All the transportation and water infrastructure for buildout needs to be planned and budgeted for.

        PSRC should stand down on attempting to enforce its growth plan through resisting reclassifications as population increases, or treating the growth target as a ceiling.

        Instead, PSRC should ramp up the requirements for all new developed neighborhoods to be transit and pedestrian supportive. “Conditionally certify” (i.e. reject) comp plans that zone for less than 12 units/acre, zone residential further than 1/2 mile from nearest retail zoning, or don’t plan for transit-legible arterials.

        Oh, and when we run out of greenfield land inside the UGB, don’t expand, require developers to do only infill fron then on out.

      2. This is what I was about to say, Frank, with the addition of ample traditional (as in, not strip mall) mixed-used zoning. If your growth can’t support local commerce, that tells you something.

  5. The city designations here are idiotic. Population of anything but the metro cities are largely a political accident, and a horrible basis for planning. Instead, it should be:

    1st Tier: Metropolitan (Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Everett, Bremerton, the only category they get right)
    2nd Tier: Nearby suburbs (directly adjacent to the big 5 regardless of size, like University Place, Mukilteo, Shoreline)
    3rd Tier: In-betweener suburbs (Larger suburbs located between metropolitans, like Federal Way, Mercer Island, Lynnwood)
    4th Tier: Outer suburbs (cities of any size farther from metropolitans or geographically situated to create sprawl, such as Marysville, Covington, Gig Harbor, Lakewood – these would be required to prove a local job presence in order to allow growth, something that only Lakewood could probably do)
    5th Tier: Towns (Cities far enough from metropolitans that they should function as separate economies, such as Lake Stevens, North Bend, Bonney Lake)

    1. Bump up Lynnwood to first tier. It’s accepting larger growth than Everett, and it’s centrally located and an existing Sound Transit hub to Seattle and Bellevue, Edmonds and Mukilteo, and in the future Canyon Park and maybe to Highway 9.

      1. I agree completely. That designation makes way more sense, even if we quibble about whether a place should be designated as one tier or the other.

    2. This whole discussion illustrates the problem – if Lynnwood wants to be bumped up to first tier, by what process, and based upon what metrics aside from total population?

      Basically, can the PSRC use carrots and sticks to facilitate smart growth, rather than just growth. (The PSRC growth areas already do this, I believe )

    3. Bainbridge Island is a “larger city” despite being mostly exurban, simply because the whole island is incorporated. That incorporation happened in the early 90’s as a way to get more local autonomy for the island, but with the GMA it’s had the perverse effect of making it hard to control the creation of more exurban housing.

      The drinking water question ensures the island will pretty much have to stay mostly exurban. Jack and Frank’s idea would focus on adding housing mostly in the Winslow area, near the ferry, which makes a lot of sense.

  6. “In a way, the small cities are forcing a discussion about affordability and the pace of housing growth. Housing becomes even less affordable if growth is curtailed in small cities without a corresponding easing of barriers to growth in high-demand areas. Are the inner suburbs prepared to grow faster so that workers don’t have to drive so far for a home they can afford?”

    Excellent point.

    Fred: “regional leadership should support the opportunity for all middle class families to own a housing product of there choice” … “The market is clear, it wants SFHs for under 400K.”

    If you mean a traditional quarter-acre house lot, then no, that doesn’t scale, we’re not going to pave over from the Canadian border to the Oregon border to have never-ending Covington sprawl. If you mean compact house-townhouse-condo developments like the Issaquah Highlands, Redmond Ridge, and New Holly, then there’s room for some more but we can’t guarantee it can scale to everybody. If we do build these developments, I’d prefer them in or next to existing city centers rather than in isolated greenfield areas. I could possibly support these kind of developments in Bonney Lake and Carnation depending on the details. But the American dream of a quarter-acre house for everybody was false and just gobbles up land and resources and requires undue subsidies. You don’t see Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain, Japan, or Taiwan doing that, and even Canada which has a lot of suburban sprawl has been channeling growth more compactly (and upzoning in inner cities and creating new satellite cities in spite of NIMBYs). We should be doing the good things our peer countries are doing,

    1. Mike, I had a significant qualifier in the first sentence you quoted. “that allows them to balance trade offs (distance from urban centers, density, community size, etc).” I did not mean to portray myself as an anti-density zealot. In fact I am an exceedingly pro density advocate who has worked in land use for many years. The issue is that we as a Metro area attempt to rationalize what is good for the region without understanding what the constituents of the region want. I can tell you with certainty that many residents would love the 1/4 acre American dream home. I can also say that those same residents can be just at enthusiastic about different housing products when you explain the context and what they get as a new home owner and what the community gets as a whole. What is missing is several fold from our regional discussion; what should be the target selling price of housing stock, what are allowable impacts on current values of home and neighborhoods, what should new neighborhoods character be and where should the be located. I will forgive folks if they believe these issues have already been discussed and decided because it at times appears they have been via various comprehensive plans and regional reports. However, they haven’t really been. What has occurred is a discussion which has no teeth and proves wildly unconstructable. This is done through a simple planning mechanism of masking that no developer or private market force would ever want to build what is on the plan. If the return of building high end stock in limited supply clearly outweighs the return of building dense affordable houses no one will build affordable. If the ability to build high end is essentially unchecked there will never be a desire to build moderately priced stock. In the hinterlands of our region is where the current equation gets reversed simply because they make their money on creating value in land that had none before. In the interior of our urban area the land already has value and so their is a lack of economic incentive for the development community. The exception to this is in poor or disadvantages neighborhoods (which is why gentrification exists). Only through restriction of other investment opportunities or through the ability to create land value in the interior markets will the system effectively incentivize construction. I understand people’s desire to look to international peers when discussing this but I will caution people to not underestimate how vastly different their housing, economic and regulatory systems are. Comparisons which appear valid at the surface are often not.

    2. If you’re going by price targets and an SFH-based solution, then you should explicitly define the range of house types you have in mind and probably even their proportion (percentage of detached/attached/condos and lot sizes). Because while the government considers townhouses single-family (or at least fee simple ownership), many people don’t. They’ll interpret “more SFHs” as meaning the quarter-acre ideal or fifth-acre compromise. “Yeah, that’s what! I want Build, baby, build! My house is my castle! Gonna build a moat all around it in the yard!”

      The Issaquah Highlands is good. The subdivisions on Kent-Kangley Road are not. We can have some more of those but they should not be the majority of the solution, and I worry that Bonney Lake’s and Carnation’s and Duvall’s growth will be like that. I appreciate Covington’s attempt to densify its center. I wish it would do something like that in the rest of the city.

      “I had a significant qualifier in the first sentence you quoted. “that allows them to balance trade offs (distance from urban centers, density, community size, etc).” I did not mean to portray myself as an anti-density zealot.”

      Not you, them. The people who are balancing the tradeoffs. If the only available housing is like the Issaquah Highlands, they’ll buy that. But if there’s an opening to build fifth-acre cul-de-sacs instead, then some developers will do that to cater to a higher-end market, and the cities might require it because of pressure from their yard-and-car residents. (“We don’t want to live in apartments. We don’t want to live in row houses either. Or close-together houses.”)

      You raise a good point about target price levels. That’s been missing from the discussion, and it’s similar to what I say about transit. Our transit planning should start from the desired level of service and mobility (frequency, speed, coverage, fare, corridors), then map out how to get from here to there and what it would cost, and only then compromise. Instead we mostly get, “What should we do next?” or “How much should we spend?” in a vacuum, with no relating it to how much it fulfills the needs. Many people don’t even know what the needs are, especially if they’ve never used transit much.

      Translating this to housing, a fundamental question is, ‘What type of housing should a person making $X or $Y be able to buy?” Which is the same question as, “What type/size/location of housing should cost $100K, $200K, $300K, $400K?” Thanks for bringing this up. However, King County is so far beyond it that we can’t even imagine rolling prices back to $100K or $200K; the best we can do is to try to stop the increases. Which is the same thing as bringing supply and demand into balance. Which is what Houston and Dallas have, and why they’re increasing population without growing more expensive. But Houston an Dallas do it by sprawling out with those dreaded fifth-acre cul-de-sacs and garden apartments, and we want a different solution here.

      “what are allowable impacts on current values of home and neighborhoods, what should new neighborhoods character be and where should the be located”

      You’re right that we should make these explicit. This is related to my point that we need to define the range of housing types and their proportions. The growth targets indirectly do that but they leave too much wiggle room. Obviously an urban center can’t reach 10,000 units without 4-6 story buildings, but outside that we need to make sure most developments are more compact than traditional subdivisions. Requiring street grids and walkable layouts would be a place to start. There’s some of that in large New Urbanist greenfield proposals, but it should be a standard in smaller regular subdivisions too.

  7. Heck no! They shouldn’t be allowed any growth at all until all the externalities these exurbs create are internalized: climate pollution, air pollution, water runoff, tax flight, heavily subsidized roads from state packages, forest and farmland loss, traffic congestion in actual cities, etc.

    1. If you want to cut off exurban/suburban growth hard, then you also need a hard upzone of the inner areas: throw the NIMBYs off the bus. Otherwise the increasing population will push prices to the stratosphere. Seattle is watering down HALA, and upzoning Magnolia and Clyde Hill is going nowhere, and even Wallingford can’t get over its one-story buildings a single block from 45th. They should take a page from Chicago, and the entire area from Ballard to U-Village up to 65th should be zoned ten stories where it’s lower. That doesn’t mean ten stories everywhere. Chicago’s north side has a mix of 3-10 story buildings with some row houses and detached houses sprinkled in. But the large cities aren’t doing that. We’re pushing them and they’re making some progress, but it’s not enough, and until it is, we can’t cut off suburban/exurban growth or the non-rich won’t have anywhere in the region to live.

  8. I second Donde. I don’t agree, necessarily, with all of his classifications, but definitely with what he is saying in principle. Medina, Yarrow Point, Hunt’s Point, & Clyde Hill, for example, shouldn’t be restricted to “small city” growth restrictions, given access to all of the cross-lake bus routes and proximity to both Seattle & Bellevue. The “Points” are functionally, an extension of both Seattle & Bellevue. Ruston is an extension of Tacoma. There’s no reason Algona and Pacific shouldn’t have the same growth targets as both Federal Way & Auburn, given that they are geographically closer to Tacoma than Auburn. I also question why Silverdale is classified as a core city. Sure, it’s the only place with a shopping center for many miles, but that doesn’t mean we should be concentrating growth there. Maple Valley, located closer to the edge of the UGA should be classified LOWER than Covington, which is closer in. These classifications need to be revised to account for proximity to urban areas. The GMA is an excellent tool that I’m glad our state has, but this article highlights one of its biggest flaws.

    1. Although these classifications aren’t because of the GMA, but of how the local governments have chosen to implement it.

    2. Agree – there is a difference between growth through increased density and redevelopment, and growth through greenfield development

  9. So many people say that something should be done about climate change but don’t want to do anything that might harm their finances. Opposition by middle-class home-owners to increasing density because it might lower their home values is basically the same reasoning as opposition by poor people to carbon pricing because it might increase their transportation costs.

    1. Or fundamentally the same as Exxon Mobil or the Koch Brothers denying climate change because they want to maximize their profits.

  10. I wouldn’t care if small cities were allowed to grow faster if they were required to actually build a walkable street grid instead of endless suburban style housing developments with cul de sacs and non connecting streets.

    The problem is that most of the small cities have developers on their councils who don’t care one iota about building a walkable street grid or planning for the future , so you get car dependent sprawl.

    1. They just have a different conception of what is Ideal. Some people dream of a house, 2 car garage, 2 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence — and that’s just what they want.

      In order to stop sprawl, you’d have to convince people the city is a better place to raise their children. And how much will a nice 3 bed 2 bath condo run you in Seattle? (There you go.)

      1. The first thing required to stop sprawl is multi family housing in places where the demand warrants it.

      2. And the demand for urban housing far exceeds the supply, especially 2+ bedrooms that families need. Christopher Leinberger has a stat that 33% of Americans prefer a walkable urban neighborhood, 33% prefer a drivable sub-urban (his term) neighborhood, and 33% don’t care strongly either way. But 80% of the housing stock is drivable sub-urban. This means that 13% of Americans are suffering in lower density than they want, and fully 66% would be satisfied if the entire country were urban, The amount of recent urban building has improved things a bit, but only a bit.

        Another study I cited earlier (I don’t have the link now) looked at Boston and Atlanta recently. It asked people what kind of neighborhood they wanmted to live in vs what they actually lived in. In both cities the percentage that wanted to live in an urban or suburban area were close to Leiunberger’s numbers — within a few percent. But the built environment between the metropolitan is radically different. Boston is around 40 or 50% urban if I remember. Atlanta is around 12%. So suburbanittes in both cities live in what they want, urbanites in Boston mostly live in what they want, and urbanites in Atlanta mostly do not live in what they want.

        In Pugetopolis the percentages of what people want are probably similar, and the built environment is between Boston and Atlanta.

        Why is that nice 3 bed 2 bath condo in Seattle so expensive? Sometimes because it’s next to the Space Needle or the symphony hall or Neumo’s, but most of them aren’t. Sometimes because it has a breathtaking view and residents’ P-patches and stainless-steel appliances. But mostly it’s because more people want to live a the city within walking distance of frequent errands and good transit than there are condos for them. The answer is to expand the urban villages or build more urban villages in the suburbs. Keep building urban neightborhoods until the price per square foot between urban and suburban housing equalizes. And I mean real urban neighborhoods with a large percentage of daily needs, not just one supermarket and drugstore and Target and Starbucks.

      3. Portland vacancy rates were around 1% for apartments. For a while there was a place in Gresham that was renting rooms with dirt floors, and no one was complaining for fear of being evicted.

        While Portland is an extreme example, it shows what happens when housing availability doesn’t match the actual market.

        I’m not at all convinced building practices in Gig Harbor and the like aren’t leading down a similar path by limiting the housing to just those that are able to afford a house surrounded by narrow, pedestrian hostile roads.

      4. Portland’s 1% is the tightest I’ve ever seen. San Francisco’s rapid rise in the 90s and 00s was when it was hovering at 2-3%.

      5. Is that rental market or total?

        One of the many contributing factors here was the Great Recession putting a bunch of people into a financial state that disqualifies them from loans today.

      6. “One of the many contributing factors here was the Great Recession putting a bunch of people into a financial state that disqualifies them from loans today.”

        Yes. But if the recession hadn’t happened (meaning those mortgages were somehow more sound), then more people would be competing for the same number of houses and the prices would go even higher, further diverging from apartment, causing more condo conversions, increasing the partment scarcity, driving rents higher, but rents still probably not accelerating.

        What scares me even more than the current situatibn is, if the recession hadn’t happened, all this growth in 2011-2016 would haver occurred in 2008-2013. Presumably Amazon’s, Google’s, and Facebook’s growth in Seattle would have been the same or larger. Instead of rents/prices accelerating in the 00s, slightly decreasing, and then skyrocketing in the 2010s, they would have gone straight from accelerating to skyrocketing in the 00s. It would have been a tsunami that hardly anybody expected, without the buffer to recover from the previous onslaught, and the transit infrastructure even less prepared. In 2008 Link hadn’t even opened yet, and RapidRide C and D were four years away, and E after that.

      7. Maybe everyone doesn’t want to live in a stack of boxes with lots of people, noise and the rest of it? Maybe some of us want to live on a quiet street, have a bit of private space you can call your own? I’m the latter, and the trade off is a longer commute, and its worth it.

        You can have your cake and eat it, the transit system needs to be fast and designed into the overall solution. I’d happily live 100 miles from Seattle if I could jump on a high speed train, a short trip in a connector bus and walk in my front door at home in an hour, and I think everyone else would be too.

      8. That’s only an option for people who can afford a $400K house or live way in the exurbs or outside Pugetopolis. We shouldn’t base our housing policy on what works for the top 20%, we should have something that works for everybody. The upper middle class can have luxury options, but the rest of the people need something that’s practical and affordable and not in short- or long-term danger of being taken away from them and making them homeless.

      9. Maybe everyone doesn’t want to live in a stack of boxes with lots of people, noise and the rest of it? Maybe some of us want to live on a quiet street, have a bit of private space you can call your own? I’m the latter, and the trade off is a longer commute, and its worth it.

        Maybe not everyone wants to live in a place that requires a huge amount of time consuming yard maintenance and is really far too large for a single person?

        Maybe not everyone can afford or has the financial history to buy a house?

        Yet, single family housing is pretty much the only thing that is being built in places like Gig Harbor. It consumes the lions share of land use even in Seattle. If you want an apartment or condo, you have to look all the way up towards the border with Shoreline to find much of anything.

        As for quiet streets, thanks to all the single family housing, streets seldom stay quiet with that type of zoning. One of my relatives lives on a dead end street about 3/4 of a mile long, and people treat it like a freeway.

      10. Weasel,

        I personally believe you when you say you’d be glad to commute via HSR to a job in Seattle reasonably convenient to the train. But what about all the other trips you’d make to and from your house in the suburbs? Buses simply won’t do the job until 9 PM for the kids, for instance. Since you can’t walk to the store every day for essentials, you’d be driving every other day and forgetting something half of those days so you’ll go the day you thought you’d skip.

        And THEN there are the unique plants and animals you’ll be displacing. If you want a little place in country, find it in the Midwest where there are millions of acres of pretty similar land on which houses can be built without extreme ecological harm.

        But not here.

      11. Same situation as now, the car stays at home, wife uses it one or two days a week for short trips, and we use it on the weekends to get around. The pain point is people driving cars to work in Seattle because they have no real choice. The only solution is to stuff everyone into apartments which no one can afford – lol!

        I think HSR to some place else is fair trade off for not using thousands of cars every day to commute to work? This is the point of the comment – not using a car for daily commutes and also not living in a shoebox. In this scenario with the fact that the population is going to grow and live somewhere either way, the reduction of car use down to 0% for daily work commutes would be far more beneficial to the environment and socially.

        Midwest is a no go for a bunch of reasons, the climate, no tech jobs.

        “But not here.” – typical lack of imagination, and a resistance to change something that doesn’t benefit you :-)

  11. This is why we the most important thing we can do is free up growth in the core city (Seattle). The whole idea that these regulations somehow prevent sprawl is ridiculous. When places like Covington and Bonney Lake can call themselves cities, and then say they will grow the way Seattle is growing is just ridiculous. Are we really going to see houses replaced by duplexes in Covington? How about a new wave of backyard cottages in Bonney Lake? Of course not. They will replace farm land and forest land with houses.. That is sprawl. Everyone in those so called cities will own a car, and they will drive it a lot.

    By all means we should try and prevent this from happening. That was the point of the legislation. Of course there are subtleties (at what point should Lynnwood be considered an independent city like Bellevue, as opposed to a suburb). But the goal should be the same, which is to limit growth in rural areas and focus it in the urban locales. Sorry, but Covington, Bonney Lake and North Bend aren’t urban.

    1. But these towns are inside the urban growth boundary. There is land beyond Covington and Bonney Lake where you will find 10 acre horse farms and mossy mobile homes at the ends of long gravel roads. GMA prevents sprawl from ever occurring in these areas. But the rural land within the UGB should be developed.

      If the regional population was stagnant, it would be imperative to avoid further horizontal expansion. But Seattle has strong enough growth prospects to both develop all land in the UGA and reconstruct urban villages with continuous mid-rise apartment blocks.

      1. >> But the rural land within the UGB should be developed.

        Why? Why is it so great that every bit of land — that is quite similar to the land that isn’t being developed — gets developed. We are basically saying it is OK to put up a bunch of houses in horse farms or second growth forest, but only — only — if it is within a particular, rather arbitrarily designated boundary. What is so special about this boundary, anyway? Is it close to a skyscraper? Maybe a major university? Of course not — just some place that someone said is OK to convert from a (tree or other type of) farm to a housing development. That is sprawl, and the whole point of the entire effort was to reduce that.

      2. Because we decided that’s where the boundary would be. The question was asked twenty years ago and there was a process to decide it, and this is what they came up with. the counties make changes to it every few years if they want to; one of them is going through now. I suppose it was decided like Portland’s growth boundary: enough space for the next few decades of population increase.

  12. It’s really hard taking any PSRC designation or projections seriously. Focusing on citywide totals or large designated growth centers (numerical) is also silly. We should first be talking about residential density and employment or activity density by small areas. We should talk more about strategic incentives for the various densities and not who is categorized as what. It’s like high school where we score who is datable.

    Then we can talk about how best to allocate growth in our longer, skinny metro area. The north-south conundrum is rarely discussed. A city south of Seattle will create shorter work trip miles on average than one in Snohomish County.

    1. >> A city south of Seattle will create shorter work trip miles on average than one in Snohomish County.

      Please elaborate, because I see it as the opposite. The south end is big and broad, which means that jobs are way more likely to be a ways out of town. You live in Kent, but take a job in Federal Way or Puyallup. The north end seems more narrow to me. The Puyallup Valley basically cuts everyone off. You might move to Lake Stevens and work in Everett, but there really aren’t that many people in either place. Besides, when you come right down to it, you might as well move to Everett. Meanwhile, the northern suburbs serve both downtown and the UW, which really aren’t that far away. Everything from the south (Kent, Auburn, etc.) just seems a really, really long ways away from anything of interest in Seattle, even with Link. People make that trip, but they are stuck making the trip, as opposed to actually thinking it was a good idea from the get go.

      But that is just a theory. You may have data (or some other theory) to support your assertion.

      1. We have this thing called Sounder down here, its downfall is Pierce Transit basically snub Sounder users with their disjoined bus service at Sounder stations. Hello, connector buses anyone?

        Puyallup and Sumner are like the last two places that are commutable to Seattle via rail that have (compared to just about anywhere else) cheap houses.

        We bought a house in Puyallup/South Hill because they were affordable and we found one located where I can use transit 100% of the way and leave my car at home. If there are any other areas around the Puget Sound that fit that requirement, I didn’t find it :-)

      2. Pierce Transit (along with the city) provides my neighborhood in SE Auburn with a convenient (during peak hours) run to the Transit Center, timed with the Sounder. My next door neighbor’s 3 bedroom, 3 bath house just sold (in four days) for $300,000. So one more place!

        That’s the only transit service in the neighborhood though. I have an ongoing fantasy about regular Metro service to the transit center.

    2. South King County’s population is 800,000-something, Seattle is 620,000, the Eastside is a bit less than that. Snohomish County is in the 770,000s; Pierce County is in the 850,000s. So the center of the population is soomewhere south of the Seattle city limits. Somewhere around the airport.

    3. Many major metro areas regularly publish the ratio of workers to jobs for their cities, subareas and other groups of areas. It doesn’t get widely discussed in our region.

      An example: Poking around the PSRC web site, I quickly pulled out the population and job totals. This is not the true comparison of workers to jobs but it makes an interesting point.
      King: 1.6 residents for every job
      Kitsap: 3,0 residents for every job
      Pierce: 3.0 residents for every job
      Snohomish: 2.8 residents for every job

      It’s pretty clear that the net commute into King County today is big from the other counties. It appears to be getting bigger every year. Consider how a heavy directional commute burdens not only our highway system but our transit system too. That means that there will be lots of empty morning train seats for commuters leaving Downtown Seattle. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

      1. Snohomish County talked about it a little during the ST3 debate, that it has a strong live/woirk imbalance. 2/3 of Snohomish County residents travel outside the county for work, and 2/3 of Snohomish County workers live in another county. Its main reason for supporting ST3 and the Paine Field deviation is to generate more jobs in Everett and Paine Field, so that more county residents would be able to work within the county rather than leaving it, to reduce that imbalance and commuting and improve the county’s economy.

    4. What’s the population of JBLM? If it were excluded, would Pierce County’s 850,000 go down to Snohomish’s 770,000 and make south King County the only one to break 800K? Military bases are unusually self-contained and have unusually dense housing, so they aren’t quite the same as the rest of the areas.

  13. Somebody set me straight if I’ve left anybody out. But one thing I’m seeing missing is conditioning any increase in city size to installation of enough public transit that population growth doesn’t mean same for private cars.

    I keep stressing developers’ practice in decades past of installing streetcar lines to bring people to their new homes and amusement parks. Seems we could use an update. And the more aggressive, the better. Would be good if some disused freight spurs be put to electric light rail or Diesel Motor Units. Along with the bile trails that often go there.

    If Central Kirkland Corridor had done this when pavement went in, at least we’d have the long linear streetcar park I think belongs there. Which I’m pretty sure we’ll have eventually. I think current plan says forty years. Better than never.

    But meantime, would be a lot cheaper and easier if the rails and catenary went in with the housing. Wouldn’t hurt to make growth permission and building permits conditional on it.

    Mark Dublin

    1. That would be an ideal policy but transit is not planned or funded like that. The cities don’t fund transit (unless they voluntarily do, and the exception of Everett); transit comes out of a countywide and regionwide tax, which is fixed at the rate decided by the legislature and the voters. Cities don’t have the responsibility to increase transit, and they can’t do much about Metro even if they want to because they can’t force Metro to divert money to their city at the expense of all the other cities. Somebody gains transit; somebody else loses it. The county had the chance for a Prop 1 style increase and the voters rejected it, especially in south King County.

      1. Any reason everybody and entity listed above can’t voluntarily do what I’m suggesting? Somehow equivalent street and road network has never needed to be imposed at gunpoint. I never bought the idea that just because people, or cities, or legislatures have never done something before, they never will.

        Looking at condition of I-5 sixty miles away from Seattle at 6 every weekday morning, I doubt I’m the only legislator-contacting voter who’s wondering same thing. On his way to collect his pink slip for being late to work for last three years.

        Have seen accounts of municipal reaction to the first cars. Fact that horses probably killed a lot more of their operators than anything with an engine primary reason for aggressive car control.

        Like a municipal ordinance that if any motorist saw a horse-drawn vehicle approaching, he had to pull off the road, dismantle the car, and bury the pieces before the horse saw it. Probably still on the books in (name your favorite small city.)

        This is why I believe that the inevitable revolt against car culture will begin with fifteen year old girls with good posture, well-tailored red coats, and shiny riding boots suddenly leaping from their saddles, grabbing tools out of their saddlebags, dismantling the closest SUV and burying it.

        Immediately after they vote.

        Mark (Doesn’t “Anonymous” look like something Mark Twain would’ve named somebody who invented a zeppelin powered by a horse on a treadmill?)

      2. They aren’t willing to? Their residents don’t want to pay taxes? Those are reasons, and they’re large enough to sway the outcome on these things. Of course they could all voluntarilly invest in their city’s transit. But somebody would have to convince them to do so, and nobody persuasive enough has appeared yet, nor do we even know what kind of person would be able to do it.

      3. I suppose there is a counter argument, if those residents don’t like paying taxes, why did they vote for ST3? But that just gets into the paradox that a lot of people are more willing to vote for regional transit than local transit.

  14. People change their minds, Mike, for many reasons. Depending upon how many bridges and highway structures disintegrate, like I-5 along whole inadequately supported length of Capitol Hill from the Ship Canal to Jackson, revised thinking should take twenty seconds to begin.

    Nature also has excellent reasons for making voters die without exerting that much effort. In our case, exponentially lengthening time to get anywhere these last three years has certainly started the engines of change between many trapped motorist’s ears. High blood pressure and road rage also shorten turnover time.

    My own favorite indicator is watching children’s reactions to view out the right hand train window between Tukwila International and Rainier Beach. About a hundred feet below, fewer and fewer car passengers, and drivers, of any age are going “wheeeee!” anymore. Though average “Are We THERE yet?” age is increasing by the crawling mile.

    So as soon as we can get them printed, help me start circulating petitions to lower the voting age to sixteen. We wouldn’t be the first. And if we start calculating ST-Whole Future votes by number of years between first train ride and voting, we get a two year head start on experience-revised voting patterns.


  15. South Hill is in the process of being re-zoned.

    I’ve read all the info I can find about it – we get stuff in the mail as our street is currently zoned for single family homes, is just inside boundary to be changed to high density.

    I suspect once the demand is there a developer will snap up the melting trailer park over the fence as its one title. What the end game will be for our quiet dead end street of mostly decent houses all built in 1980 is unclear – I suppose again once the demand is there developers will attempt to buy up the properties to consolidate them for high density housing, how and when that plays out, who knows.

    All the usual fluff about nice neighborhoods, parks, transit, jobs etc. Nothing “in it” for those of us that live here and work in Seattle e.g. an end-to-end transit system with better continuity.

    1. Does this mean a real urban village is coming to Puyallup? How is downtown Puyallup doing? Are people clamoring for better transit to Tacoma and Lakewood, or are people more oriented toward Seattle and Bellevue?

      1. From Puyallup Sounder station in the morning 99% its towards Seattle, a good number of these riders are dropped off by the ST 580 express bus, but I dont know how many come from Lakewood, or are picked up from the park and rides near by.

        I occasionally see one or two people hop onto the last south bound train for Tacoma (which turns around and becomes the last peak commute north bound train), and no one ever gets off for the last waiting ST 580 express bus to Lakewood. So people are either getting other buses or drive into Tacoma – most likely they drive. The 402 bus to Federal Way I catch to the station is maybe half full, and I’m the only person to using this bus to get to the train with the odd exception.

        I’ve only lived here two years, but down town Puyallup seem to be doing ok – I quite like that we have this older downtown with its small one off shops, and then the big box commercial area in South Hill.

        As for the urban village, I’m not aware of it.

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