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Centers of Attention

Posted by Hester Serebrin at Oct 26, 2017 02:00 PM |
Weigh in on Puget Sound Regional Council’s Centers Framework Update.

Puget Sound Regional Council’s Regional Centers Framework Update draft is out for public comment. This framework identifies which jurisdictions - those identified as “centers” - are slated to accept the majority of the region’s growth over the next few decades, and has the potential to shape them into dense, walkable, and vibrant places.

We’ve previously talked about the work of PSRC on our blog, explaining how improvements to our region’s long-range transportation plan (T2040) can support equitable, healthy, transit-rich communities, but the update to the Regional Centers Framework is an equally critical process that guides growth and land use decisions. The idea is that, consistent with the goals of Growth Management Act, the more we concentrate growth in dense urban areas, the more we can avoid the negative environmental and social impacts of sprawl.

To “qualify” to be a center, PSRC is asking jurisdictions to demonstrate that they are well suited to accept that growth: that they have sufficient infrastructure, that they have done the proper environmental analyses, and more. However, the current criteria and evaluation process have several issues that TCC is concerned with: The regional growth centers criteria do not account for the region’s housing affordability crisis; despite our regional focus on transit-oriented development, the current centers do not align with the region’s planned high-capacity transit system (light rail, and bus rapid transit); and expectations for new regional centers and previously designated regional centers are not consistent.

TCC has weighed in a lot (search for “TCC”) during the Centers Framework process as PSRC staff and board members have developed a proposal. The draft proposal is out for public comment, and we’d urge you to weigh in.

Here are some of our top priorities for the framework:

  • Social equity is an essential component of inclusive planning. To ensure that centers are inclusive hubs of opportunity, we strongly support the inclusion of the new social equity components, which ask jurisdictions that want to be centers to complete an assessment of housing need, including displacement risk, as well as documentation of tools, programs, or commitment to provide housing choices affordable to a full range of incomes and strategies to further fair housing, and directs PSRC to recommend a comprehensive equity impact review tool to address social equity through policies and implementation decisions for centers.

  • Dense, walkable and bikeable centers connected with transit are critical. Centers should be hubs of activities, homes, jobs, and services, and easy to get around in affordable ways that promote community health and environmental sustainability.

  • Create a strong, consistent, comprehensive framework with clear requirements and outcomes. Centers criteria should be used to achieve regional performance and planning goals, rather than simply assigning each county a certain number of centers.

  • Accountability is key - for both new and existing centers. Subarea planning and analysis requirements should be provided upfront to determine eligibility --  rather than done after designation. Performance should be monitored on an ongoing basis. Centers that do not achieve these targets should be re-evaluated, and should develop a plan for compliance, or face de-designation.

  • Expand the notion of performance beyond achieving growth targets. PSRC should also measure how all Centers help us meet safety, public health, GHG reductions, inclusivity and other Vision goals, then develop the Centers framework to help meet desired regional outcomes.

Send comments to CentersComment@psrc.org by Nov. 8, 2017.

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Also out for public comment? The joint Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) Washington Transportation Plan (WTP) - Phase 2.

The Washington Transportation Plan establishes a 20-year vision for the development of the statewide transportation system. WTP is based on the six transportation system policy goals established by the Legislature: preservation, safety, mobility, environment, stewardship, and economic vitality (RCW 47.04.280).

Read more here: https://washtransplan.com/, and submit comments by November 6, 2017 using the comment form or survey link provided on the site.

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