Tacoma’s doing something different on homelessness

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.”

Continue reading in CrossCut

Originally written by Julia-Grace Sanders in CrossCut

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:

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.

Continue reading in Seattle Transit Blog

Originally written by 

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Oregon equal pay legislation heads to Gov. Brown

Legislation that will ensure women are paid the same rate as men for the same work is headed to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.

House Bill 2005, which was amended by the Senate last week, unanimously re-passed the House Monday.

“Oftentimes we don’t get the opportunity to stand together on an issue that started out extremely contentious,” said Rep. Jodi Hack, R-Salem, referring to an hours-long House debate on the bill’s first version.

The legislation, called the Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017, expands upon existing federal law, which provides protections explicitly for women.

It requires that differences in compensation among employees must be based on job-related reasons such as merit, seniority, quantity or quality of production, workplace locations, travel, education, training or experience.

It expands protected classes beyond gender to include race, color, religion, sexual orientation including perceived or actual gender identity, national origin, marital status, disability, age and veteran status.

Continue reading in the Statesman Journal

Originally written by  in the Statesman Journal

SR 530 Mudslide: Long Term Recovery Report

On the morning of Saturday, March 22, 2014, a portion of an unstable hill collapsed, causing the most deadly natural landslide in US history. A wave of mud and debris, 25 feet high and traveling 60 miles an hour, engulfed an entire neighborhood four miles east of Oso, Washington. It swept across the Stillaguamish River and buried State Route 530, cutting off communication and transportation to small communities east of the slide. The slide covered nearly a square mile, destroyed 49 homes, and took 43 lives. President Elson Floyd quickly committed the resources of Washington State University to assist in the recovery, and asked WSU Extension to be on point for the institution.

In April 2014, as emergency response efforts turned toward long-term recovery strategies, WSU formed the interdisciplinary SR 530 Mudslide Recovery Team. Co-led by WSU Snohomish County Extension1 and the WSU Division of Governmental Studies and Services (DGSS), the team included members from the WSU Extension Community and Economic Development (CED), Youth and Family, and Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Units; the WSU Energy Office; WSU North Puget Sound at Everett; and CAHNRS Communications—all with diverse experience and backgrounds. The Team collaborated with elected leaders, tribal officials, area nonprofit leaders, state and federal agency personnel, and local citizens, making relevant expertise from across WSU available to aid in the rebuilding efforts and helping the communities move toward self-reliance and sustainable economic futures. The uniqueness of the WSU effort lies in the depth and diversity of team members who worked collaboratively to positively impact the community.

WSU’s initial response included one-year tuition waivers for students from the region, the placement of WSU-paid student summer interns in the communities, and the implementation of youth and economic development programming. Almost immediately, the WSU team started planning for transition from direct service to a more sustainable model.

Continue Reading the SR 530 Long Term Recovery Report

One Tool for Dismantling Structural School Segregation in Seattle: Better Zoning

View Ridge Elementary is one of Seattle’s highest-rated public elementary schools. Eighty-five percent of View Ridge students demonstrate or exceed grade-level proficiency on math and English standardized tests, well above the state average of 55 percent. But despite being a public school, it tends to be expensive to attend View Ridge—prohibitively so. There’s a structural reason for this: The city has zoned 93 percent of the school’s attendance area single-family zoning. Unless a family is wealthy enough to afford a house in the neighborhood, where home prices average $850,000, or lucky enough to find an affordable rental (only a quarter of dwellings in the surrounding census tract are renter-occupied, and rents average $3,000 per month), the chances of attending this school rest on the whim of the district lottery via the open enrollment process. This school year (2016-2017) just four out-of-area students won admission to View Ridge, and all of them already had siblings attending the school.

The story of View Ridge is not uncommon in Cascadia’s largest city, nor in other cities across the region. Though Seattle boasts many high-performing public elementaries, most of them sit in the city’s most expensive and restrictive residential neighborhoods—places where zoning regulations prohibit nearly any housing that isn’t a single-family, detached structure. On average, single-family zoning covers 72 percent of land in attendance areas of Seattle’s 13 top-rated, non-option, public elementaries. (The city has 16 schools that received a perfect 10 score on the GreatSchools rating system. Three of these schools are option schools which don’t have typical attendance areas and so these are excluded from this calculation.)

When communities impose this kind of restrictive zoning pattern, it results in only a small slice of the city’s families being able to afford homes within most of the top schools’ attendance zones. Housing prices average over 20 percent more in neighborhoods surrounding the city’s top 16 elementary schools—all those that received a 10, the highest score possible, on the GreatSchools rating system—than in the city as a whole. In addition, these neighborhoods offer a lower proportion of rental units than the city average. And, in many cases, this cycle reinforces itself: Wealthier neighborhoods pour private funding into their public schools via PTAs and other fundraising, paying for things like added tutors, smaller class sizes, and after school enrichment programs. These private dollars likely boost school performance and in turn, the presence of a top ranked school further boosts real estate prices in the vicinity.

Continue reading in Sightline Institute

Originally written by Margaret Morales in Sightline Institute

The World’s First Floating Light Rail

Seattle already has the world’s longest floating bridge, and next month, it’s going one step further: building the world’s first floating light rail line.

The undertaking is part of a $3.7 billion project to build a light rail corridor linking Seattle to the city of Bellevue on the east side of Lake Washington by 2023. It’s a tricky endeavor; the floating bridge has to withstand the pressure of two pairs of 300-ton trains traveling at speeds of up to 55 mph. To make it happen, the transit agency Sound Transit is turning to cutting-edge earthquake technology. With 50,000 riders expected daily, there’s absolutely no room for mistakes, the Seattle Times reports:

A derailed train would sink 200 feet to the lake bed. If track components break or wear out, transit service would be halted for maintenance, or subjected to slowdowns.

Still, this isn’t a city that shies away from massive infrastructure ventures. Its replacement project for the Alaskan Way Viaduct introduced us to Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel boring machine, which emerged from its controversial years-long trek under downtown Seattle earlier this year. And as I reported in December, it’s also working on a new “flexible” bridge designed to ride out an earthquake with little to no damage.

Seattle is also home to four of the world’s longest floating bridges. One of them, the Lacey V. Murrow Bridge, spanning more than 6,600 feet along Interstate 90, connecting Seattle to nearby Mercer Island. (The original version of that bridge was the longest floating bridge in the world until 1963, when the city completed a 7,500-foot span of State Route 520 just a few miles north. In 2016 the city replaced SR 520 with a 7,700-foot bridge, which is the current record holder.)* Come June, its two reversible HOV lanes will be replaced with railway tracks, and the rest of the bridge will be reinforced to sustain the added weight and movement. The light rail, according to the Times, will be 30 percent heavier than what the bridge is currently designed to withstand.

To grasp the complexity and the immense challenge ahead, it helps to understand how these bridges work. The I-90 bridge, as it’s better known, is essentially supported by more than two dozen massive pontoons—watertight concrete blocks filled with air. Buoyancy helps these structures stay afloat, and maintenance checks are strenuously done to prevent any cracks. According to the Times, some of the gravel within the pontoons will be removed to prevent the rail cars from throwing off the balance, thereby keeping buoyancy.

The more significant challenge is at the hinges that join the floating and fixed sections of the bridge together. Below the deck, pontoons are linked together, and steel cables anchor them to the lake bed, which helps keep them from violently wobbling during strong winds and fierce waves.

Continue reading in City Lab

Originally written by Linda Poon in City Lab

Urban Extension: Aligning with the Needs of Urban Audiences Through Subject-Matter Centers

The educational program model is the principle approach Extension uses to deliver on its mission of “taking knowledge to the people.” However, with county-based faculty fully engaged in long-term program delivery, they may have little or no capacity to address emerging issues faced by urban communities. Urban governments often seek the research capacity of a university in addition to, or instead of, the traditional Extension programming model but sometimes turn first to other urban-serving universities. Washington State University Extension has addressed these challenges by establishing subject-matter centers. This article examines how subject-matter centers can add capacity to traditional Extension offices in order to be responsive to emerging local needs, suggesting models that other university Extension programs may use or adapt to their local communities. These models also foster more community engagement and articulate greater public value for the institution as a whole.

Keywords: metropolitan, public policy, short-term projects, building capacity, responsiveness, programming, public value

Introduction

Since its inception over a century ago, Extension has fulfilled its mission of “taking knowledge gained through research and education and bringing it directly to the people to create positive changes” (U.S. Department of Agriculture, n.d.) through nonformal education and learning activities–often referred to as programs (Peterson, 2015). While variation exists across the Extension network, Extension programs are comprised of the key attributes of planning, design, implementation, evaluation and stakeholder involvement (Franz, Garst, & Gagnon, 2015).

Franz et al. (2015) provided a comprehensive review of approaches to and the evolution of Extension programs, including Boone, Saftrit, and Jones’ (2002) assessment that program development is complex and technical. Franz et al. (2015) noted that most Extension professionals directly or indirectly utilize the program development model articulated by Seevers and Graham (2012) comprised of planning, design and implementation, and evaluation. However, Franz et al. (2015) presented additional program development models with more steps—one with 15 steps (Boyle, 1981) and an interactive, nonlinear model with 10 concepts (Caffarella & Ratcliff Daffron, 2013); as well as models from differing foci—a systems approach for organizational improvement (Boone et al., 2002), lifelong learning (Boyle, 1981), peoplecentered (Cervero & Wilson, 2006), and adult education (Caffarella & Ratcliff Daffron, 2013).

The development, delivery, and implementation of a program are not enough; it must “create positive change” in order for Extension to deliver on its mission (Kalambokidis, 2014). Historically, Extension professionals have worked to provide value to the lives of rural stakeholders and community members by developing programs that fit the specific needs of the communities they serve. This direct impact on the lives of program participants is a private value of Extension’s work. Historically, articulation of these direct benefits has been sufficient for Extension and its traditional audiences (Kalambokidis, 2014). In tracing the evolution of needs assessments (an integral piece of traditional program development), Garst and McCawley (2015) reinforced that the U.S. Congress created Extension primarily to help meet the needs of rural communities and assist farmers in providing the amount of food needed throughout the country as populations continued to grow, linking the private value (assisting farmers) with the public value (ensuring an adequate food supply) of Extension. While implicitly articulated in Extension’s past, it is only recently that Extension has begun to focus on articulating its public value (Franz, 2011; Franz et al., 2015; Kalambokidis, 2014), which is defined by Kalambokidis and Bipes (2007) as “the value of a program to those who do not directly benefit from the program” (p. 12).

Read the full article: Urban Extension: Aligning with the Needs of Urban Audiences Through Subject-Matter Centers

Originally written by Brad Gaolach, Michael Kern and Christina Sanders in Journal of Human Sciences and Extension – Spring 2017 Special Edition on Urban Extension

When Disaster Strikes, Extension Responds – WSU Extension Asks Communities, “What do you need?”

“In the world of University Extension where we offer an array of programs designed to meet a community’s needs, it is second nature to be on the lookout for opportunities to implement them. In this instance, however, the team set out to do exactly the opposite: understand the complexities of the needs first, then design or modify a program to meet that need.”

On March 22, 2014, a catastrophic landslide devastated a rural region in northwest Washington. A hillside gave way, burying an entire neighborhood, taking 43 lives, and temporarily closing State Highway 530, the physical and economic lifeline for the area. Carrying a wall of mud and debris, it destroyed 49 homes and structures; creating a slide zone nearly a mile wide. In the aftermath, what emerged were resilient and interdependent communities with a shared goal of growing their economies while preserving quality of life. The events of that day could have left a region totally devastated but instead they served as a catalyst for economic revitalization efforts, and spurred Washington State University (WSU) to explore how it supports communities in moving forward after a disaster.

Immediately after the slide, WSU’s President, the late Elson Floyd, committed University resources to assist with recovery efforts. Instead of focusing on mounting an emergency response, WSU Extension turned its attention toward long-term recovery strategies and formed the interdisciplinary SR 530 Mudslide Recovery Team. Co-lead by Snohomish County Extension and the Division of Governmental Studies and Services, the Team included members from the WSU Extension’s three units: Community and Economic Development, Youth and Family, and Agriculture and Natural Resources; the WSU Energy Office; WSU North Puget Sound at Everett; and communication experts from WSU’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences – all with diverse experience and backgrounds. The Team made a foundational commitment to focus not simply on what the University had to offer, but to concentrate on the immediate, short-term, and long-term needs of the communities. By keeping the communities’ needs central to their work, the Team asked community leaders, “What do you need?” instead of telling them, “Here’s what we’re going to do to help you.”

In the world of university extension where we offer an array of programs designed to meet a community’s needs, it is second nature to be on the lookout for opportunities to implement them. In this instance, however, the team set out to do exactly the opposite: understand the complexities of the needs first, then design or modify a program to meet that need. It is important to note that WSU Extension was known to, and valued by, the communities through the legacy programs and activities of the local County Extension Office; however, many of the resources on the Mudslide Recovery Team were new and included regional specialists and faculty located on WSU’s main campus three hundred miles away. As the needs of the community evolved after the landslide, so did the composition of the Team.

Read full article: When Disaster Strikes, Extension Responds – Extension Asks Communities, “What do you need?”

Originally written by: Christina Sanders, Martha Aitken and Monica Babine via Western Rural Development Center.

High-rises in the Chinatown ID? Fear that development could erase neighborhood’s culture

Tam Nguyen, owner of Tamarind Tree restaurant, worries that development in the ID could harm its culture. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Standing on the corner of 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street, Tam Nguyen can picture the changes that he fears may be coming to Seattle’s Little Saigon, whether the City Council approves a proposed upzone of the neighborhood or not.

Nguyen sees shiny high-rise buildings, chain restaurants and cookie-cutter cafes — a neighborhood missing the Vietnamese-American businesses and people that have made it unique, and he wants to know if the council sees the same thing.

 “They’re sitting up there passing all these policies above our head,” he said. “If the city doesn’t get more involved, our community will be gone for sure.”

Northwest of the intersection — where utilitarian, low-slung buildings house Nguyen’s popular Tamarind Tree restaurantan eight-story complex with 200-plus apartments, hotel rooms, child-care center and theater is planned.

To the southwest, a poultry warehouse may be bulldozed and replaced with more than 300 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space.

Down South Jackson in each direction, developers are bidding on properties and preparing to break ground.

And just up the hill, Paul Allen’s Vulcan is transforming the Yesler Terrace public-housing complex into a mixed-income community.

“The developers are coming in and whatever they want to do with Little Saigon, they’re going to do it,” said Nguyen. “They’re buying the land. They’re making plans.”

Though such projects are allowed under existing zoning, Mayor Ed Murray’s upzone would permit even taller buildings in most of the Chinatown International District, including Little Saigon, and would trigger a new program requiring developers to help create affordable housing.

Nguyen isn’t set against the upzone. He says more affordable housing would be welcome. Indeed, some neighborhood advocates are asking the council to boost the requirements, which the city says would generate about 150 income- and rent-restricted units over 10 years.

Continue reading in The Seattle Times

Originally written by  in The Seattle Times