Office of Planning & Community Development: Growth and Livability

Seattle skyline with a foggy skySeattle is again the fastest growing city in the country. Our beautiful natural environment, diverse communities, and strong job market all serve to attract people to this region. As our population grows, so too must our supply of housing or Seattle will increasingly be affordable only to the wealthy.

While there are many benefits to living in a growing city, like more job opportunities, new neighbors, lively streetscapes, a greater diversity of businesses, and more vibrant public life, there are also challenges. In Seattle, our challenges include increasing competition for housing, risk of displacement of current residents, more traffic, and more demand for public infrastructure. To address these challenges, we are committed to continually investing in livability to help growth bring benefits to everyone.

Originally published in Seattle.Gov

View the Growth and Livability Report and Growth and Livability Case Studies by visiting the Office of Planning and Community Development’s webpage.

A National Framework for Urban Extension

birds eye view of a cityAbstract

To help ensure Extension’s relevance and accessibility to an increasingly diverse population, the National Urban Extension Leaders group created a framework based on historical and emerging developments. Themes focus on programs, personnel, partnership, and the positioning of Extension at local, state, and national levels. For Extension to be a vibrant and resilient 21st-century system, it must build on best practices, leverage regional and national networks, and invest in innovative strategies that engage people living and working in metropolitan communities. A robust urban Extension presence contributes to building strong connectivity among urban, suburban, and rural communities.


In an effort to reinvigorate a national discussion and move toward a more sustainable and integrated approach to urban Extension, a group of mid-level administrators working in metropolitan areas across the United States began meeting in late 2013. This group is called the National Urban Extension Leaders (NUEL). NUEL’s steering committee prepared A National Framework for Urban Extension, a report for the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP). In October 2015, ECOP approved NUEL as a director/administrator-approved group of Extension employees who cooperate in advancing the strategic importance and long-term value of urban Extension activities by being relevant locally, responsive statewide, and recognized nationally. Advancing urban Extension is now one of ECOP’s top priorities (Extension Committee on Organizational Policy, 2015; National Urban Extension Leaders, 2015).

Although there are many similarities in Extension’s work across all geographic settings, dynamic situations in cities and large metropolitan areas present unique challenges and opportunities as Extension extends a history of innovation. Rural and urban communities are interdependent (Dabson, 2007; Davoudi & Stead, 2002; Lichter & Brown, 2014), necessitating a synchronized flow of Extension’s work along the urban–rural continuum. To embrace effective urban Extension models and approaches, the Cooperative Extension System need not abandon its historic rural agendas.

Capitalizing on the extensive resource network of the nationwide land-grant university system, Extension must become better equipped to efficiently and effectively address complex urban priorities. In this article, we summarize relevant national trends and their overarching implications; suggest, against a backdrop of historical context, emerging opportunities and recommendations related to urban Extension; and issue a call to action. For the purpose of this article, the terms urbanmetropolitan, and city are used interchangeably to refer to densely populated areas; no consistent parameters for population density have been established with regard to urban Extension.

Continue reading in the Journal of Extension

Originally written by: Julie Fox, Marie Ruemenapp, Patrick Proden, and Brad Gaolach


How Seattle Bucked a National Trend and Got More People to Ride the Bus

the word "bus" painted on the roadAlmost every major U.S. city has seen years of decline in bus ridership, but Seattle has been the exception in recent years. Between 2010 and 2014, Seattle experienced the biggest jump of any major U.S. city. At its peak in 2015, around 78,000 people, or about one in five Seattle workers, rode the bus to work.

That trend has cooled slightly since then, but Seattle continues to see increased overall transit ridership, bucking the national trend of decline. In 2016, Seattle saw transit ridership increase by 4.1 percent—only Houston and Milwaukee saw even half that increase in the same year.

“What’s happened with the city of Seattle was an interesting and important experiment.”

Bus service is crucial to reducing emissions in the Seattle region. According to King County Metro, which serves the region, nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state come from transportation and its operation displaces roughly four times as many emissions as it generates, by taking cars off the road and reducing traffic congestion. The public transit authority has been recognized for its commitment to sustainability and its bus fleet is projected to be 100 percent hybrid or electric by 2018.

So what exactly did Seattle do to improve ridership in a city famously clogged by cars? Three people with different positions in the Seattle transit community: Advocate, official, and bus driver, weigh in.

The bus driver: When buses get priority, riders prioritize the bus

On Third Avenue, where Adelita Ortiz’s routes usually begin, her only traffic obstacle is a stream of other buses traveling down the road. The street blocks off cars and becomes a transit-only corridor during the morning and afternoon rush hours (private vehicles are supposed to turn off after a block on the street). Third Avenue is one of a few transit malls in the United States that restrict private automobile use. Only Portland’s streetcar line or Boston’s Silver Line bus tunnels come close to dedicating as much space to public transit as Seattle’s arterial rush hour north-south escapeway.

Continue reading to hear these experts weigh in on their city’s ridership success.

Originally written by 

Infographic: Where in the West young people are moving

This story is part of the State of Change project, produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network.

 Across the West, more young people are moving out of rural communities than in. In every decade since 1980, most rural counties in the 11 Western states lost 20-somethings, without an influx of other young adults to make up for the loss, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau migration data by the Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics. A few managed to attract young people with the lure of some nearby metro area like Albuquerque or Denver, or a roaring tourism industry like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but the undeniable trend has been a slow march to cities, where, especially in the West, jobs and people are increasingly concentrated.

In New Mexico, all but two rural counties have lost far more 20-somethings than they’ve gained since 1990. Tiny Harding and Catron counties led the state, losing people in their 20s at the fastest rate during the early 2000s. Only Roosevelt and Curry counties attracted people in their 20s during that time. The trend for 30-somethings in New Mexico is more mixed; more than 200 people in their 30s moved to Union County in northeast New Mexico since 2000, for instance, but hundreds of 30-somethings moved out of Socorro and Roosevelt counties.

Population Change from Migration by Age and Decade


This exodus is not just a Western problem; the USDA’s Economic Research Service says a record number of rural counties across the U.S. lost population since 2010. It’s a function both of young people seeking education and trying to keep up with a changing job landscape, said Megan Lawson, an economist with Headwaters Economics who tracks migration trends across rural counties in the West. Not only has mechanization reduced the number of people needed to work traditional rural jobs like farming and mining, Lawson said, but new jobs haven’t emerged to replace them. Jobs in the fastest-growing industries in the West — health care, real estate and tech — are cropping up mostly in densely populated areas.

If viability for small towns in the rural West depends in part on cultivating the next generation of local workers and leaders, or on a town’s ability to attract new people to fill those roles, understanding why young people choose to move is particularly important. “You really need a representation from all these different life stages,” Lawson said. “When (a community) gets too lopsided on one end or another, you really lose some of the economic opportunity and the contributions that these different ages bring.” Attracting a new generation of young people could be one answer to reversing the slow bleed of population in some rural places, though simply attracting young people isn’t a silver bullet. Bozeman succeeds at attracting young 20-somethings for college, for instance, but the town can’t hold onto them for long, Lawson said. People in their 30s continue to leave.

So, where is the young West? Where are young people actually choosing to live, and what’s drawing them there? Here’s a look at a few rural communities of all sizes -from tiny Camas County, Idaho, to booming Franklin County, Washington — that are attracting young people in surprising ways.

Continue reading in High Country News

Originally written by Leah Todd from Solutions Journalism Network

Extension, Metro Center Unite Communities to Solve Health Challenges

Extending science to serve communities is what Extension is all about. And when it comes to health, entire communities—from youth to elders, rural and urban—must band together to find solutions.

The new Culture of Health partnership unites thousands of communities in a 10-year effort to tackle the challenges they face when it comes to health.

A group of Metro Center staffFunded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health philanthropy organization, and led by the National 4-H Council, with assistance from the Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension at Washington State University, the partnership aims to solve health challenges like chronic disease and rising healthcare costs.

In a five-state, 2-year, $4.6 million pilot project, Extension professionals will launch community health councils to share health innovations, connecting youths in 4-H, local non-profits, businesses, governments, community groups, and other key players.
“This is a new approach for Extension,” said Brad Gaolach, Director of the Metro Center and principal investigator on the grant. “This collaboration lets Extension use our unique resources to help people at a national level, while training Extension agents across the country to better engage with their communities.The Metro Center’s 19-month, $246,000 role supports Extension personnel with professional development for those councils. WSU Extension will build expertise in coalition building, productive decision-making, cultural competence, youth-adult partnerships, and other areas.

Continue reading in CAHNRS News

Photo: Staff at the Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension at WSU will help train Cooperative Extension personnel across the country to help their communities address health challenges. From left are Brad Gaolach, Martha Aitken, Haley Hughes, Maria Anguiano, and Anthony Gromko (Not pictured: José García-Pabón).

This Startup Lets You Use Your Extra Cash To Invest In Community Development

Despite the fact that around 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, we, as a country, sit on a collective wealth of extra cash; somewhere in the region of $300 billion is idling in accounts nationwide. These are not emergency funds; rather, it’s what Cat Berman, founder of the new Oakland-based startup CNote, calls “just in case” cash–she estimates that there are around 30 million “oversavers,” who have an average of an extra $10,000 in their accounts.

Berman, a former managing director at Charles Schwab and the founder of several social enterprises, landed on the idea for CNote when she took a look at her bank accounts online and saw several thousand dollars just sitting there. “I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?’” Berman tells Fast Company. “Why do I have all this money just sitting in my savings account, and not doing good for anybody?” (Experts recommend keeping about six months of funds in cash in the bank in case of emergencies).

Two brunette women in front of a rustic fence
CNote founders Cat Berman and Yuliya Tarasava. [Photo: Mike Ivancie]

CNote is a way to put idle savings account funds toward the public good. The startup allows individuals to invest directly in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)–Treasury Department-certified organizations whose goal it is to invest in economic development and job creation in low-income communities. There are more than 1,000 CDFIs across America, and they make the kind of “small dollar” loans to local businesses that larger financial institutions generally don’t offer. These institutions do undeniable good–in 2014 alone, CDFIs financed over 4,102 small businesses and 24,466 units of affordable housing. But in his budget proposal for 2018, Trump has proposed cutting the federal program that finances these institutions–the CDFI Fund–from $233.5 million to just $19 million.

CDFIs combine grants from the CDFI Fund with money from private investors and financial institutions in order to make community development loans. But when Berman, looking for a more productive use for the thousands in her own “just in case” fund, thought to invest it in a CDFI, she learned that she, as an individual, could not.

“It’s not that CDFIs don’t need the cash,” Berman says. “There’s a huge unmet need–CDFIs have a deficit of over $600 million in loans they want to be doing, but lack the capital to make happen. And because they’re set up as B2B organizations and accept loans from banks and foundations, they’re just not equipped to handle and vet small individual [investments].”

Continue reading in Fast Company

Originally written by Eillie Anzilotti