We must plan for 2050, 30 years ahead of time

Ryan Mello is a member of the Tacoma City Council.
Ryan Mello is a member of the Tacoma City Council.

The central Puget Sound region is growing fast. How can we make sure that growth benefits our communities?

Almost 2 million people will move into Pierce, King, Kitsap and Snohomish counties in the next 30 years. That’s about 67,000 new people – or a city the size of Lakewood and Buckley combined — each year.

The total regional population will hit nearly 6 million by the year 2050. And while Seattle’s growth has gotten national headlines, we know that people are also flocking to Pierce County in search of more affordable homes, vibrant neighborhoods and good jobs.

This is good news for some but makes many of us wonder how our communities can absorb all this growth.

The South Sound is a beautiful place with a high quality of life. Our area is also wrestling with problems related to homelessness, affordable housing and traffic nightmares.

Assuming we can’t close Interstate 5 to stop people from coming here, our challenge is to use this growth to address our most pressing concerns and build a community worthy of future generations.

Wherever you go in the region, people talk about how they love it here and value the Sound, mountains, farms and forests. The decisions we make today will affect what we see here in the next 30 years, and we must put our community values at the center.

This is the importance of good planning. The Puget Sound Regional Council is responsible for developing a regional growth plan called Vision 2050 that includes all four counties.

Most people don’t contain themselves to one city. We all work, live and play across the region; therefore, a regional approach ensures everyone is part of the solution and that the way we grow is well coordinated.

The draft Vision 2050 plan is out, and we’re eager to have the public review and comment on it.

Elected leaders of counties, cities and towns, port districts, transit agencies and tribes have been working together for two years, listening to the public about how the region should grow. The plan has been shaped by what we’ve heard, like concerns about rising housing costs, preserving the natural environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan informs decision-making about meeting the needs of current and future residents. Working with data and public input, the draft plan prepares for growth by:

▪  Increasing housing choices and affordability, especially near transit stations;

▪  Encouraging job growth in Tacoma and Pierce County, so we spend less time commuting to a good paying job and more time with our families;

▪  Protecting the environment, open space and Puget Sound.

It’s clear the public believes that cities, counties and other agencies need to work together to solve these issues. Bad planning decisions in one part of the region impact all of us.

I am proud to be part of this process, working with others to help develop a plan that helps address the needs of the people in Tacoma and Pierce County. Now we need your voice. Everyone is encouraged to review and comment on the plan at www.psrc.org/vision.

How do we accommodate 67,000 new people each year? Where do we put them? What are you most concerned about and most hopeful for when it comes to regional growth? What are your ideas for the future?

This is our chance to get it right — for our generation and the next.

Ryan Mello is a member of the Tacoma City Council and Chair of the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Growth Management Policy Board.