Joshua McNichols | KUOW News and Information

Joshua McNichols

Reporter

Year started with KUOW: 2007

Joshua has been the "growing pains" reporter since 2015, documenting the region's growth and change. 

Joshua “took the long way” to radio, working in architecture firms for over a decade before pursuing his passion for public radio in 2007.

By "long way," he means he's also been a writer, bicycle courier, commercial fisherman, bed-and-breakfast cook, carpenter, landscaper and stained glass salesman. He’s detailed animal enclosures to prevent jaguars from escaping the Miami Zoo. Once, while managing a construction site in Athens, Greece, he was given a noogie by an Albanian civil war refugee in his employ. “You do not tell those guys how to place stucco,” he said.

All of which has no doubt made him the story-teller he is today.  

Ways to Connect

Rockie Ward  may have a job for you to work at Omax. They make machines that cut metal using water.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

People call it the “silver tsunami,” for those currently in senior positions in Kent's industrial valley. A massive wave of older, experienced workers is considering retirement at around the same time.


Luke Muñoz overcame the obstacles keeping him from leveling up his skills thanks in part to the generosity of an uncle who gave him a quiet room to study away from his noisy siblings.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Pat Pritchard stood before a group of students at Green River College in Kent. He told his students that he doesn’t train them to be grunts, because what we need from workers is changing. 


The spillway doors at the Howard Hanson Dam. A red mark on the left door indicates the highest water the dam ever saw, in 2009. This revealed weaknesses in the dam that have since been fixed, but storms could bring higher water someday.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The Green River hasn’t flooded in more than half a century.

It used to all the time. Every other year or so, the valley filled with water and turned into one long lake, from Auburn, Kent, and Renton up to Seattle.

Now the area holds the largest collection of warehouse and manufacturing jobs in the state, worth billions of dollars. Someday, it will probably be under water again.


A couple Kent farmers known as the Johnson brothers and an unidentified hired man stare down the photographer from a raft during a 1910 flood in what we today call The Green River Valley.
White River Valley Museum, Clark Collection

This is a story of a war between farmers. Farmers in Kent and Auburn were frustrated because their valley was constantly flooding. And that made it difficult to farm in their beautiful, very fertile valley.

That led those farmers to do some naughty things.


WSDOT

Remember Bertha, and how lots of people thought it would never finish digging the two-mile tunnel beneath Seattle's waterfront?

Well, the machine reached daylight around midday on Tuesday. After nearly four years of digging, the machine is about to reach the finish line on Highway 99 near the Space Needle.

Reporter Carolyn Adolph stands on a development site near Black Diamond, WA. Her fellow reporter Joshua McNichols is behind the camera.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bill Radke speaks with KUOW reporters Joshua McNichols and Carolyn Adolph about what they learned from their time reporting in Black Diamond for KUOW's Region of Boom team.

Harold Nesland III owns Sahara Pizza in Snoqualmie and Black Diamond.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

A woman, a new resident of the huge Snoqualmie Ridge development, had called in for pizza.

It was the first pie order for one of those new shiny houses, and Harold Nesland III, owner of Sahara Pizza, drove it over.

Moon Bang, originally from Korea, owns the Black Diamond Bakery. She has periodically encountered racism since she bought the bakery 10 years ago.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Our region was built with immigrant labor. It’s part of the story of growth and development here. There are many ways to tell that history. How we tell it signals who belongs, and who is a foreigner.


Bill and Cindy Wheeler have lived on Lake Sawyer for 30 years, but they don't know the weir master.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Our region’s rapid growth is straining our lakes, especially little lakes on the fringes of urban areas. When growth approaches, the communities around them aren’t always prepared to protect them from pollution. 


Vancouver, British Columbia
Flickr Photo/Andriy Baranskyy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/68ttdz

Like Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., also has a housing shortage. At the same time, many new homes in Vancouver sit vacant. Vancouver’s experience could hold lessons for Seattle.


Mine #11 in Black Diamond supported a workforce of 400-500 people, underground and on the surface. This mine operated from 1896 to 1927. Photo is from 1904.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collection Negative No. UW-23734.

The hill at Palmer Coking Coal Company in Black Diamond is smoldering. 

A vacant lot in Black Diamond, Washington
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Do we have enough land for all the people moving to Washington state? There’s a bill working its way through Olympia that would change how planners would answer that question. It’s backed by builders and realtors.

Artist's rendering of Oakpointe's 'Ten Trails' development
used by permission from Oakpointe Communities

So how did King County's largest development in recent history end up way out in Black Diamond?

It happened in part because of Black Diamond's history as a company town. 

Development signs in Black Diamond
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

The City of Black Diamond may have to shut down, according to its mayor. That is, unless the mayor and the City Council can agree on a budget for 2017 at a meeting Thursday night.

Mary Ann and Bill McDermond have lost friends over their opposition to the massive project that's being built in Black Diamond
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Mary Ann and Bill McDermand moved to Black Diamond 23 years ago for the peace, tranquility and the strong sense of community. Their kids used to play with the neighbors kids, she said, “and we just got along good with everybody.”


The Black Diamond Museum sits in the town's old railroad depot. Trains no longer run through the city.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Emily Fox speaks with Joshua McNichols and Carolyn Adolph about their team reporting project, Region of Boom, which explores the growth of our region, one town at a time.

File photo of Uber driver near the San Francisco International Airport.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Downtown Seattle streets are getting congested. This month the city will roll out its plan to redesign downtown’s roads to ease traffic. Part of that includes examining where Uber and Lyft fit in.


Ella lives at Capitol Hill Urban CoHousing, a development built by nine families so they could live together in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Seattle is growing fast, but it doesn’t have many kids.

Sure, the schools are overcrowded and there are babies in strollers everywhere. But as a percentage, the number of kids in Seattle is really low, because there’s not a lot of new housing designed for families.

Still, some parents are finding a way to stay in the city anyway.


Drivers wait to cross Mercer Street
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Traffic engineers have a nickname for the years 2019 to 2021, when a slew of new megaprojects will get underway in downtown Seattle around the same time. They call it “The Period of Maximum Constraint.” Translated into plainspeak, it means during those three years, we’ll be up the creek in a leaky canoe without a paddle.


Relics collected or created by William Shelton, stored at the Hibulb Cultural Center
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols/Posey Gruener

Wayne Williams struggles to tell the story, because of his health. He speaks in bursts, between coughing fits and gulps of orange juice. 


Elizabeth Mehlbrech lives in Marysville, where she finds the rent for new apartments more affordable than other places closer to Seattle. Mehlbrech manages Fitness Evolution, near The Lodge Apartments, where she also lives.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The farther people flee from the major metro areas, the cheaper the housing. But there’s only so far they can run, because there’s an imaginary wall that stops development from sprawling all over the landscape, a wall that protects the less developed green places that make the region beautiful. 

It’s called the urban growth boundary. Beyond it, developers face more restrictions. 

Just inside the boundary, Marysville, Washington, is growing fast as existing rents trend higher and higher. For those who can't afford it, there's nowhere left to go.


Trains running through Marysville can be up six minutes long, which doesn't sound like a lot unless you are constantly getting stuck in their traffic backup.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Donald Wilson should be eating breakfast with his friends at the Tulalip Casino. But Wilson is not eating breakfast. He’s sitting in his car, at a railroad crossing.

It's a situation he faces just about every other day when he's just trying to get from one side of town to the other. "Every time we run into the train," he said, "it’s like, ‘God darn it!’”


Amanda Batterson of Skip's Everett Towing has her doubts about shoulder driving, which would provide congestion relief to commuters living north of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Washington state plans to open up parts of Interstate 5 to shoulder driving. It begins early summer, when the state will let buses drive part of the shoulder south of Everett.


Ken Cage, president of the Marysville Historical Society, says important parts of Marysville history were bulldozed to make room for this mall.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Marysville is the fastest growing big city in western Washington because there’s space to build housing. But there aren’t many jobs in Marysville. So one in six people end up commuting more than an hour to work.

It's a bedroom community that failed to make itself over in the 1980s. Now it's trying again.


Deborah Daoust of Seattle Center says when Harrison Street busts through Aurora in 2019, it'll be much easier for people to get from South Lake Union to the Seattle Center. Thomas and John streets will also break through later.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The tunnel boring machine called Bertha is currently about a half mile from the end of its journey. Contractors expect to be pulling it out of the ground by June. But the tunnel through downtown Seattle is only part of the project. 

The neighborhood around the tunnel’s northern entrance is also getting a makeover.


Teacher Briana Nelson would like to have a place of her own in the Central District.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Seattle’s Central District was historically important to African Americans, until many were priced out.


Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson stands in front of the property he wanted opened up to development.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

As you head east to Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, lush green forests line the freeway. 

KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The city of Seattle wants your feedback on a plan to channel more growth and affordable housing into the city’s most popular neighborhoods.

For Tableau, a software company in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, the bohemian neighborhood is part of the recruiting spiel.
Flickr Photo/Scott Lum (CC BY-NC 2.0) http://bit.ly/2h3woD4

On hot summer Fridays, workers from the software company Tableau gather at a dock and jump in the water.


KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

As a general contractor who does small house remodels in Seattle, Chris Spott knows how to get rid of a pickup truck load of dirt. 

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