Northwest NEWS

August 31, 1998

Local News

Air better but salmon still dying

   by Woodinville Weekly staff
   SEATTLE--The economy is doing well, the environment is doing so-so, but home ownership isn't an affordable option for those living on a median income in King County.
   Those were some of the highlights of the county's annual growth and benchmark reports released last week by Executive Ron Sims.
   Sims gave government a "strong B" in its efforts to manage growth, a Seattle newspaper reported.
   He also used the reports to promote the SmartGrowth initiative he introduced last June.
   "And while the picture is rosy economically, we must aggressively deal with the impacts through SmartGrowth planning, such as transportation, housing, growth management and environmental initiatives," Sims said.
   There were positives in the reports: wages rose 5.3 percent after a 14-year stagnation; there were 1,249 new businesses after a decline the year before; more people are riding public transportation and good air quality days increased to 321 last year with zero unhealthy days.
   There were also negatives: The number of salmon returning to Lake Washington is half of what it was in the 1980s; the number of acres in farmland declined 30 percent to 42,000 acres today from almost 60,000 acres in 1982; more people are driving more vehicle miles, and the high school graduation rate is down 3.3 percent from 1995's 83.2 percent.
   Then there was woe for young people who may want to live close to their families. The report says that the average house price is up eight percent to $214,000 while rents are up five to seven percent.
   The area with the highest average price for a home was, not surprisingly, on the Eastside ($270,000) while the most affordable could be found in south King County ($156,000). The median 1998 income for a household of three: $53,100.
   The growth report has provided population, economic and housing information since 1983 while the benchmark report tracks the 20-year countywide growth management plan and policies.
   The county uses the reports to ensure government is on track to achieving 20-year goals.
   SmartGrowth, which has its own site on the county's webpage, is an attempt to direct more growth into cities. By the county's measure, 91 percent of growth has occurred in urban areas. That's up from about 15 percent in the 1980s with a goal of around 96 percent.
   The growth and benchmark reports are available at area libraries, county licensing sites and at