Revised Community Revitalization Plan

landslide site memorial with sign: Always in our hearts, never forget - March 22, 2017 10:37Executive Summary

Arlington and Darrington are small communities in the foothills of the Cascades, located about one hour north of Seattle, and linked inextricably by history and geography. On March 22, 2014, we experienced a devastating mudslide that took 43 lives and temporarily closed State Highway 530, the physical and economic lifeline between the towns. In the aftermath, what emerged was evidence of two resilient and interdependent communities with a shared goal of growing their economies while preserving quality of life.

The America’s Best Communities competition is—and has been—a means of making progress toward that goal, as well as an important component of our collective economic development strategy. However, we have created a comprehensive approach to leverage local and regional assets and coordinate efforts; because the execution of the tactics outlined in our Community Revitalization Plan is based on the larger North Stillaguamish Economic Redevelopment Plan (ERP), we can rely on the latter to provide guidance and ensure that we maintain the course in the coming years. The goals in the ERP center on infrastructure, industries and employment, community and workforce development, resilience and sustainability, placemaking and rural innovation. These six goals are used to organize strategies and tactics in our CRP, and the two documents work in tandem to demonstrate a comprehensive economic development strategy for the region.

Achievement of Short-Term Tactics

We met or exceeded our commitments for every tactic presented in our CRP. This document presents a summary of our progress and impact for every tactic.

The can-do attitude of our community members and partners was truly awesome, and our results reflect their eager and willing attitude. In addition to the funds from ABC, we were able to leverage other funding sources and in-kind contributions to accomplish even more.

Where We’re Going

We will continue to enact the strategies contained in the ERP opportunistically, but we are extremely well-positioned to leverage additional funding from ABC to implement catalytic projects and improve the fortunes of residents and business owners in our region. The landslide is an element of our past that will forever affect our communities, but we are committed to a resilient and sustainable future, and ABC can be a part of this mission.

For every strategy achieved during the CRP, we’ve started thinking about where we need to go next to maintain momentum, capitalize on success and magnify our impact. That information, drawn from the ERP, the thoughts and suggestions of community members, and other lessons learned during the implementation of our CRP, is presented in this document.

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Tacoma’s doing something different on homelessness

Man getting water out of a faucet outside
A man gets water at one of the Tacoma encampments where water and portable toilets are being provided as the city gets ready to move residents. Credit: Matt M. McKnight/Cascade Public Media

Like Seattle, Tacoma has a homelessness problem so severe that city leaders have declared a state of emergency. But the city is taking a different approach than its neighbor to the north.

Tacoma is framing its emergency declaration as one of “public health.” It’s a bit more limited than the attempts in Seattle and King County, as well as others in Portland, Los Angeles, Honolulu and the state of Hawaii, where the emergencies are more generally about homelessness itself.

“Our goal isn’t to end homelessness or to solve homelessness,” Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said. “This effort is about reducing homelessness, engaging our community, engaging the homeless population and learning what we can learn about longer-term sustainable solutions.”

Strickland estimated that 500 people are homeless in Tacoma. According to the 2017 Point in Time Count, Pierce County as a whole had more than 1,300 experiencing homelessness, with 504 unsheltered during the late January count.

Strickland said the city focused on what is happening on the ground in Tacoma, rather than trying to study what others had done with their states of emergency. “It addresses the fact that many of the people living in camps were living in squalor,” Strickland said.

Crews on previous clearings of unsanctioned encampments  found garbage and human waste. Strickland said the conditions created a health hazard both for the people in the encampments and for the surrounding residences and businesses.

The city is spending six weeks assessing the needs of those currently living in encampments as well as providing services such as handwashing stations, porta potties and showers. These services have already begun to materialize as “pop-up” cleanup sites near encampments.

Clearing the encampments will occur in the second phase, which could start after the initial phase ends June 26, as the city establishes some form of temporary, transitional centers. “Every person will have different options,” Strickland said. “Some may just need help with first and last month’s rent and they can get housed in a regular apartment. Every situation is unique.”

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Originally written by Julia-Grace Sanders

Seattle is Denser Than 90% of Large U.S. Cities

There’s been a good deal of recent attention to Seattle’s continued growth spurt. The Upshot column in the New York Times points out that we’re also one of the few cities that is growing denser as we add population. In fact, Seattle is already cited as the 8th most dense of the 50 most populous U.S. cities. I’ll expand on that last fact in this post – hopefully giving some context for what our current state of density means relative to the other large cities of the U.S.

Two questions arise naturally: What is a “large” city? And how should density be measured? Here, I’ll define a “large city” as one with at least 100,000 residents. Such cities are in the 99th percentile of population for all incorporated places in the U.S. – so that seems sensible. As for density, I find the population-weighted density metric to be more informative and interesting than the usual “population divided-by area” measure. Population-weighted density measures the density at which the average person resides and is less sensitive to the amount of vacant land within city boundaries. For an excellent example of why one might prefer weighted density, see Honolulu, Hawaii. The traditional density is about 6,000 ppl/sq. mi., but the weighted density is closer to 25,000. That difference is like suburban Renton vs. Lower Queen Anne, so it is significant!

How does Seattle stack up when it comes to weighted density? To find out, I pulled census block group level population estimates for all U.S. cities with over 100,000 residents from the 2015 American Community Survey. In all, I calculated weighted densities for about 300 cities. Here’s what the distribution of those densities looks like:

graph: weighted Density Distribuition

The most common density is around 5,000 ppl/sq. mi. and is exemplified by fast-growing, sprawl-y Colorado Springs, Colorado. At about 13,500 ppl/sq. mi., Seattle manages to make the 90th percentile of the distribution – which means it is denser than 90% of the cities in my sample. And New York City is by far the king at almost 75,000 ppl/sq. mi.

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Originally written by