Business

Regional council vision: Put people downtown and jobs will come

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Almost a third of the jobs in Puget Sound are located on less than 3 percent of the land, and city planners locally and regionally are hoping to increase that job density by directing future growth to city cores.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) updated Federal Way’s Land-Use and Transportation Committee early this month on its progress toward the goals laid out in the VISION 2020 growth management plan.

According to PSRC, city cores — the downtown areas in the 21 designated cities expected to take the brunt of growth, of which Federal Way is one — make up 2.4 percent of the land regionally.

But 28.6 percent of jobs are located on that land, as are 5 percent of the population and 6.6 percent of the housing.

Federal Way officials have been trying to direct the majority of growth and population density into downtown. If the city can convince developers to build housing downtown — and if office and retail jobs and services are available there — the city won’t have to rezone other areas to accommodate the population growth anticipated over the next 20 years.

PSRC staff member Norm Abbott acknowledged Federal Way has aggressively sought to build housing downtown, but added it’s a tough market everywhere. “Housing is not strong in any of the urban centers,” he said.

The state’s Growth Management Act, passed by the Legislature in 1990, requires cities and counties to make comprehensive plans governing where they’ll put housing, office and commercial development. Each city or county has to meet housing targets to accommodate anticipated growth.

Under the Smart Growth plan, cities try to direct the majority of growth to already dense areas — like downtowns — in order to preserve natural environments or more rural areas.

The work conducted by PSRC is being done under the auspices of the State Environmental Protection Act, which governs how the Growth Management Act is carried out.

The result of these efforts is a growing trend in housing in downtown cores, typically with apartments or condominiums on upper stories and business space, like coffee shops or restaurants, on ground floors.

Abbott told Federal Way officials the update last month was one of several ways PSRC intends to keep cities abreast of what’s happening.

“We try to encourage cities and help them out,” he said.

Once PSRC has made its presentation to governing bodies of each of the 21 designated growth centers, the regional council will take a year to gather public input on what its scope of work should be.

Despite the positive update and fairly good outlook, city officials told Abbott the PSRC should carefully consider and address transportation issues.

“Everything is so dependent on transportation,” said City Councilman Dean McColgan, who sits on Federal Way’s Land Use and Transportation Committee. “In the last (couple of) years, transportation hasn’t gotten any better. It doesn’t do any good to talk about housing targets if people can’t get in and out of our cities.”

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565, ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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