According to King County officials, people living here enjoy some of the best job and residential options in the region.
That anecdotal idea is being borne out by a new report that shows roughly half of the nearly 300,000 new jobs and 225,000 new housing units within the Puget Sound region that were created over the past decade occurred in King County. And virtually all of that growth occurred in designated urban growth areas, according to county officials who released the findings.
The findings are part of the 2008 King County Benchmarks report on land-use between 1995 and 2006. The report details the progress of countywide planning policies and their impact on the environment and overall quality-of-life.
“This report points to the continued effectiveness of land-use policies that direct growth into areas where public amenities are already available, while maintaining open space including forestland and other natural areas,” said County Executive Ron Sims.
Sims said county policies guide growth and land-use by encouraging dense urban development within a designated Urban Growth Area, while preserving and protecting rural and resource lands.
In a review of 11 indicators, including employment statistics, housing starts and acreage preserved as open space, the report – described by Sims as a collaborative effort between the county and cities – notes:
• While nearly 10,000 new housing units have been added to urban centers since 2001, more than 876,000 acres of forestland have been maintained, representing 64 percent of the county’s total land area.
• Within the designated Urban Growth Area, single-family and multi-family residential densities from 2001-05 were higher than those during the previous five-year period.
• Sixteen percent of King County’s residential growth since 2001 has been in urban centers, through the addition of nearly 10,000 new housing units.
• Including newly designated areas, urban centers accommodated 37 percent of countywide jobs by 2006, combining with manufacturing industrial centers to collectively gain 111,000 new jobs between 1995 and 2006.
• King County has capacity for 289,000 new housing units within the Urban Growth Area, more than twice the capacity needed to accommodate the remaining household growth target set in the countywide planning policies.
• The Urban Growth Area can accommodate about 400,000 new jobs in commercial and mixed-use zones and 123,000 new jobs in industrial zones – nearly double the capacity needed to accommodate the remaining employment growth targets.
The benchmark program began in 1994 to provide information for King County and local jurisdictions to use for setting environmental goals and evaluating the effectiveness of environmental policies.
Sims said the reports that emerge from the program gauge the effectiveness of growth-management policies and help lead to changes of policies that aren’t having a desired outcome.
The report is available online at http://www.metrokc.gov/budget/benchmrk/bench08/landuse/landuse.htm.