Puget Sound's future as seen in 1959

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  1. Terry

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    Looking Into Sound Area's Future, November 22nd, 1959

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    MELVIN V. LOVE, Bellevue municipal judge and chairman of the Puget Sound Regional Planning Council, discussed mass-transportation questions as he stood before a large map of the Puget Sound area in the Council's office', Seated were Robert R. McAlbee, left., Council director, and Howard Odell, chairman of the Board of King County Commissioners and vice chairman of the Puget Sound Governmental Conference.-Times photo by Roy Scully.


    IS Seattle, in its growth, heading for the Los Angeles type of sprawl? Is King County's expanding population going to do away with green • belts and parks? Is there a way to make mass transportation palatable? These are some of the questions for which answers are being sought through the self-help efforts of the Puget Sound Regional Planning Council and the Puget Sound Governmental Conference. These groups first comprehensive progress report, covering accomplishments of the past two years, just has been issued. King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap Counties and the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Bremerton participate in the Governmental Conference. Approximately two thirds of the 46 planning commissions on Puget Sound make up the Regional Planning Council. They maintain an office in the County-City Building, with Robert R. McAbee as its director and Robert A. Eveleigh, his assistant. In 1954 several planning commissions had begun meeting jointly for informal discussion of mutual problems, but it was not until the Governmental Conference was organized a1d a staff was hired [n June, 1957, that the agencies had a means of functioning.

    THE 100 or more members of the Regional Planning Council assemble four times a year. Planning directors of the cities and counties in the area meet once a month. An executive committee composed of 13 of the 21 members of the Puget Sound Governmental Conference also meets at regular intervals. Maps, recommendations and predictions emanating from the various sessions, McAbee thinks, are realistic and without local prejudice. For the first time methods of planning for the region are developing on an accurate,
    basis.
    "We have learned some things we did not know about this region," McAbee said.
    "This is a pioneering effort. We bad almost no precedent for attacking . our regional problems and no material with which to explain them. Some things never were recorded on a general scale or with uniform methods."
    Taking' the population figures as an example; McAbee said that what a chamber of commerce or city council
    believes will happen ten years from now in .a specific community may not develop in the anticipated direction.
    The Regional Planning Council found, after studying over-all calculated growth estimates for its four counties, that the proportions which reasonably could be credited to each did not tally with boosters' estimates. Some communities expected greater increases and some anticipated less than their share of the total growth.

    THE Council has thrown perspective on the figures, which are stupendous enough to give planners cause for meditation. By 1970 the population of the four counties will have increased 30 per cent over the. 1957 figure and by 1990 the present population will have doubled. Where are all these persons to live? McAbee and Eveleigh are convinced that one cannot look at the region from Seattle with blinders on."Do we want to follow the Los Angeles pattern of growth?" asked McAbee. "It seems to be what will happen here unless the region has some guidance.
    "How can we prevent it? There are some techniques, if they are applied, such as provision for parks and green belts.'.'
    The immediately pressing problem is transportation. "It takes about ten years to find and put into effect the solution of a transportation problem," McAbee said. "We're away behind now; the demands will be upon us before we can provide a facility.""We are putting almost 100 per cent staff effort into getting a transportation study launched. The subject is so complex that we are not yet ready to say we can or cannot do the study on a co-operative basis, so many agencies and political jurisdictions are involved."

    THE transportation issue was handed to the Governmental Conference and Regional Planning Council after a pilot study financed by the City of Seattle, King County and the state brought a recommendation that the question be examined on an interurban regional basis.
    The cost was prohibitive, therefore the City Council asked if the research could be accomplished by a technical committee set up by the Governmental Conference and Regional Planning Council, the State Highway Department, local transit engineers and city and county engineers.
    "An answer has to be found for the movement of people, 'not vehicles," McAbee explained. "Somehow we must discover a way to make mass. transportation palatable. Standing in
    a crowded bus is not the answer. "We used to assume that the only answer to highway transportation was to build roads. Available property for this purpose is becoming scarce."
    TRAVERSING long distances from the north end of Seattle or Snohomish County to go to work in the South end of the city is a common practice. Thousands 'of persons reside under one governmental jurisdiction and work under another. Several years ago there was talk of dissemination of industries, encouraging some to move to outlying districts.
    "The proposal was stimulated by defense measures," McAbee said. "With less talk of bombs we hear less talk of dispersal of industry. The subject seems to have been dropped, but the need of it for the sake of our traffic and highway problems still exists."
    Among revelations brought out by regional research is the fact that considerable land has been' designated and planned for industrial sites which never may be used for this purpose.
    "Contrariwise," McAbee said, "there has been an amazing lack of planning for recreational facilities."
    Beaches and. picnic spots are becoming scarce as residential areas fill the open spaces.

    "ANOTHER question," McAbee said, "is, 'What are we going to do about the Green River Valley?'
    The land-use survey covering the four counties shows that only 4 per cent of the entire Puget Sound area is agricultural and only 1 per cent has proper drainage. The Green River Valley is a choice farming section, yet its inhabitants have tremendous ambitions for industrial development, which, if realized, would destroy valuable food production and deprive the region of its 'green finger.'''
    McAbee pointed out that these and other urban problems belong to the area as a whole, for the area is tied together by highways and the Sound. Questions of sanitation, garbage-disposal and water resources reach from one community to' another, often crossing county lines. "The mere fact that our planning council exists indicates the amount of problems with which governmental bodies were confronted because of the population growth," McAbee said. "It
    indicates maturing of the planning concept and a realization that we have to consider the impact of Seattle; Tacoma, Bremerton and Everett on each other."

    'MCABEE thinks effective action can result from the regional' council, because the body is responsible directly to the Governmental Conference, composed of representatives
    of legislative bodies."Weare a means by which planners and governmental agencies can
    get together at the top level," McAbee said. "We don't make decisions by voting, but by arriving at a mutually agreed solution. '
    We want to make city and county planning commissions more effective. When two agencies fail to consult each others' wishes we have controversies like that between the Seattle
    Port Commission and the town of Tukwila regarding development of the Duwamish Valley for industry. "If, for example, Seattle and King County had had the same plan when the Lake Washington bridge was discussed, the present difficulty over location of the span would not have arisen."

    NOVEMBER 22, 1959
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2019
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