An aerial view of Everett. (Getty images)

An aerial view of Everett. (Getty images)

Editorial: What ‘home’ can be for next 30 years

The Puget Sound Regional Council wants public comments on its Vision 2050 plan for growth.

By The Herald Editorial Board

The year 2050 is a good ways off, of course, but most of us hope to be around for much — if not all — of the 31 years between now and then.

And many — especially as we sit in traffic, search for affordable housing or just live our daily lives — might want to have a say in the planning for what happens during the next 30 years regarding those and other issues in the Puget Sound region.

Here’s your chance.

The Puget Sound Regional Council, a coordinated effort among government and agency officials in Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap counties to address transportation, growth management and economic development issues, is continuing work on its Vision 2050 plan, an update of earlier such plans completed for 2020 and 2040. It’s meant to set out a coordinated strategy on those related issues for the four-county region that can guide similar planning by counties and cities.

Two open-house meetings are scheduled in Snohomish County on March 12 and 18 to allow residents to review a draft environmental review of the plan, in particular its three alternatives, and provide an opportunity to give officials and others guidance on how to shape the region.

And now is when those comments might carry the greatest weight.

Mike Todd, a Mill Creek City Council member and a board member for Snohomish County Cities association, said he and other local officials hear a lot of complaints when a notice goes up about a new development. But, Todd said, often by that point, the zoning and rules are in place and the project, regardless of objections, often is approved.

“Those conversations really need to happen earlier,” he said. “This is our chance to weigh in and have a say in what’s coming.”

And here’s what’s coming:

Between now and 2050, the four-county region is expected to add 1.8 million people to the 4.1 million now living here. And it will add 1.2 million jobs to the 2.2 million existing jobs. Imagine how Everett, Mill Creek and Edmonds might prepare for their share of that growth in population and the facilities to accommodate them. Planning for where and how those people will live, work and commute can help determine the outcomes for the livability of communities, time spent commuting, the impacts on the environment, the affordability of housing and more.

The importance of planning for the next 30 years becomes clearer when you consider what’s happened in the last 10: The tech industry has seen rapid growth, much of it in Seattle and King County; aerospace and manufacturing has continued its steady growth in Everett and Snohomish County; rent and home prices have increased dramatically; commute times, particularly between Everett and Seattle, have increased, but so has transit ridership; and concern over climate change has grown in urgency, as have the impacts on the environment, air quality and the health of Puget Sound and other waterways.

That growth, particularly in jobs and housing, hasn’t always been balanced, notes Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, who also is serving as PSRC’s president until his term is up in April.

“We’ve got more people who live here, driving into King County for jobs. So one of the strategies we’d like to see is more jobs based here so people are working closer to their homes,” Somers said.

That’s an element in each of the three alternatives proposed in the environmental review.

Vision 2050 offers three alternatives:

The first would adopt the 2040 plan adopted about a decade ago, which directs the largest share of growth to the region’s five major cities: Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Bremerton and Tacoma, allocating less growth to urban unincorporated areas and rural areas.

The second, a transit-focused alternative would direct about three-quarters of the expected growth to areas within a quarter-mile to a half-mile of high-capacity transit lines, including light rail, bus rapid transit, commuter rail and ferries, directing most growth away from rural and unincorporated areas.

The third, called the reset urban growth alternative, would largely follow growth patterns that have occurred since 2010, assuming more growth for rural and unincorporated areas than the first two options.

Each of the three has its own trade-offs and benefits, Todd and Somers noted, which is why the public’s preferences are key.

“We want to see what their view of the future looks like,” Somers said. “It’s important for them to express their views and desires on the quality of life, making traffic as efficient as possible and protecting rural areas, while creating a vibrant economy.”

Vision 2050

Two open-house meetings regarding the PSRC’s Vision 2050 plan are scheduled in Snohomish County:

4 to 6 p.m., March 12, Edmonds City Hall, 121 Fifth Ave. N., Edmonds.

4 to 6 p.m., March 18, Bothell Police Community Room, 18410 101st Ave. NE, Bothell.

In addition Snohomish County Cities and Snohomish County Tomorrow has scheduled a Vision 2050 Summit from 5:30 to 8 p.m. March 21 at the Everett Station Weyerhaeuser Room, 3021 Smith Ave., Everett.

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