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 

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

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


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

Reduce, Reuse … Repair? Pacific Northwest Fix-It Movement Grows

Paul Savino (left) and his father Paul Savino Sr. volunteer at Repair Time, a fix-it clinic operated by Washington’s King County. Ken Christensen, KCTS9

Paul Savino’s first patient of the day collapsed under the weight of an overgrown child. He’s seen these symptoms before.

“What we have here are a couple of dowel joints that have popped and one that has snapped,” he said. “But the patient will survive, I dare say.”

A piece of sandpaper, some wood glue and 20 minutes later, the toddler-sized wooden chair was back on its feet.

Savino’s been mending stuff since he was small enough to fit in the chair. Now, thanks to him and a cadre of repair-happy Western Washington residents, more broken stuff is getting a second chance at life. Savino volunteers at “Repair Time,” a new King County recycling program that aims to encourage residents to think twice before tossing their broken stuff.

“We live in a throwaway society,” said Savino, a woodworking teacher at West Seattle High School. “But sometimes it’s literally a tiny little piece of plastic can take a functional, useable object from the trash heap back into our homes where it’s alive and well again.”

In King County, about 75 percent of household goods discarded in landfills each year could have been recycled or reused, according to county estimates. The county aims to reduce waste to zero by 2030.

Tom Watson, public outreach coordinator for King County’s solid waste division, thought the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” could use an upgrade: a fourth “R”.

“Repair often gets forgotten, but it’s an important part of reuse,” said Watson, who helped start the program in 2016. “We are directly saving from going into the landfill.”


Continue reading in KUOW

Originally written by Ken Christensen in KUOW

Mapping America’s Intractable Homelessness Problem

America has an enduring homelessness problem, with incredible human and economic costs. When they’re acknowledged, homeless people are routinely shunned and criminalized, and often considered less than human. But even folks who want to help often find it hard to wrap their heads around the complex issue.

That’s where Gretchen Keillor’s new data project comes in. Keillor, an urban planner at the design firm Sasaki, wants to break the issue of homelessness down into simple, digestible parts through snazzy data visualizations. “As a planner, I think we should be taking a stronger responsibility in responding to this problem and integrating [homeless people] into the fabric of the city,” she says.

The first section of Keillor’s project presents the fundamentals of the issue. It gives a brief historical snapshot of homelessness in America, and contains answers to basic questions (who qualifies as a homeless person?) as well as more complex ones (what causes someone to become homeless?). By laying out this information in short lists and catchy infographics, Keillor hopes that concerned citizens, planners, and policymakers can dispel some common myths. “Homeless people aren’t this other demographic—they’re just people,” Keillor says. Contrary to what some may think, for example, it’s not laziness and lack of motivation that puts these people on the street, but usually a combination of systemic issues and bad luck. In fact, one of the biggest factors behind the phenomenon is the lack of affordable housing.

If the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts were to become a reality, homelessness in the U.S. would likely rise to levels not seen in nearly 30 years. That’s concerning, given how stubbornly persistent this problem already is in many parts of the country, a fact that the second part of Keillor’s project supports. Among other visualizations, it includes an interactive dot-map of the U.S. homeless population by region, state, and county based on government data. One dot represents five people:

Places with more people also have more homeless people, which is one reason some of those coastal cities have such dense pockets in the map above. But the project also lets viewers add in other layers economic, sociological, geographic, and demographic data. So, we can see the distribution of the homeless, color-coded by density (number of homeless per 100,000 people), for example. The bright red area around Las Vegas isn’t surprising—the city has the largest affordable housing deficit in the country.

Continue reading in City Lab

Originally written by Tanvi Misra in City Lab

Can Tiny Houses In People’s Backyards Help Alleviate The Homelessness Crisis?


Portland and the county it sits in, Multnomah, have been working on the issue of homelessness for years. In 2016, the city committed to adding 650 new shelter beds to make a total of 1,240. A recently approved $258 million bond measure will fund 1,300 new units of affordable housing, but those units won’t be ready for at least two years. In the meantime, the county thinks that new backyard houses could be one way to help small families–such as a single mother and a child or two–get off the street.


Continue reading at Fast Company

Originally written by Adele Peters in Fast Company


How Seattle Is Dismantling a NIMBY Power Structure

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Director Kathy Nyland (Credit: The Rose Center for Public Leadership)

For decades, activist homeowners have held virtual veto power over nearly every decision on Seattle’s growth and development.

In large and small ways, these homeowners, who tend to be white, more affluent and older than the average resident, have shaped neighborhoods in their reflection — building a city that is consistently rated as one of the nation’s most livable, as well as one of its most expensive.

Now — in the face of an unprecedented housing crisis and a dramatic spike in homelessness — that may be starting to change.

Last July, Mayor Ed Murray and the director of the city’s Department of Neighborhoods, Kathy Nyland, announced that Seattle was cutting formal ties with, and funding for, the 13 volunteer Neighborhood District Councils that had been the city’s chief sounding boards on neighborhood planning since the 1990s. Through this bureaucratic sleight of hand, Murray and Nyland signaled their intent to seek more input and feedback from lower-income folks, people of color and renters — who now make up 54 percent of the city — and away from the white baby boomers who have long dominated discussions about Seattle’s future. The message: We appreciate your input, but we’re going to get a second opinion.

A few months later, the Department of Neighborhoods doubled down on its commitment to community engagement, putting out a call for volunteers to serve on a new 16-member Community Involvement Commission, which will be charged with helping city departments develop “authentic and thorough” ways to reach “all” city residents, including underrepresented communities such as low-income people, homeless residents and renters. Finally, DON will also oversee and staff a second new commission, the Seattle Renters’ Commission, which will advise all city departments on policies that affect renters and monitor the enforcement and effectiveness of the city’s renter protection laws.

The shakeup has rattled traditional neighborhood groups, which have grown accustomed to outsized influence at City Hall, and invigorated some groups that have long felt ignored and marginalized by the city.

The shift toward a more inclusive neighborhoods department, and neighborhood planning process, is more than just symbolic; it’s political. The homeowner-dominated neighborhood councils have typically argued against land use changes that would allow more density (in the form of townhouses and apartment buildings) in and near Seattle’s traditional single-family neighborhoods, which make up nearly two-thirds of the city. Including more renters and low-income people in the mix could dilute, or even upend, those groups’ agendas.

Continue reading at Next City

Originally written by Erica C. Barnettin Next City