Region Of Boom | KUOW News and Information

Region Of Boom

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.


Black Diamond City Council was mired in disagreement over the city's 2017 budget. Council member Brian Weber ended that by making a gesture of 'good faith'.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The city of Black Diamond has a 2017 budget at last.

The City Council voted to approve the budget Thursday night after being divided for months.

For this map, we combined a map from 1919 with Google maps to approximate modern roads and living areas. We then took satellite maps from the City of Black Diamond showing proposed new developments and sketched those out as well.
KUOW Graphic/Kara McDermott

A mega housing development is going up in Black Diamond outside Seattle, and some of those houses could be built on top of old mine shafts.

Bill Kombol, manager of Palmer Coking Coal, which is still in operating in Black Diamond, though it hasn’t mined in the area for years.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Ours is a region full of hazards, including earthquakes and slides.

It’s also a region where the rising cost of housing has been pushing people to the edges of the region to look for homes. But as people go farther out, they encounter a hazard not seen in the city: abandoned coal mines.


The Oakpointe development in Black Diamond has already cleared land.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with Dennis Box, editor of the Enumclaw Courier-Herald, about what he's learned in his years covering the struggle over development in Black Diamond, and why he thinks the story of this small town "goes to the very core of who we are."

"One side is a developer with this vision, it's a remarkable vision, of creating this town. But on the other hand you have a story of people living their lives in a place that they expected to stay one way. And suddenly it's not staying that way," Box said. 

In a company town, says Leonard Garfield, 'you spent your whole day, and all of your night, working for the company whether you knew it or not.'
Courtesy of MOHAI, 1978.6585.30

Bill Radke speaks with Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Museum of History and Industry, about what it was like to live in Black Diamond, Washington, when the Pacific Coast Coal Company ran the mines — and also rented the homes, sold the groceries, hired the doctors, and brought in the entertainment.

For a laborer in that kind of environment, Garfield says, "you can imagine that you could build up some resentment."

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.

KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Residents of Black Diamond, Washington tell KUOW Producer Posey Gruener about their hometown  and what they think of a planned development that will significantly change it.

Mount Rainier looms behind the site of the Oakpointe development in Black Diamond, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with Kristen Bryant, member of the development watchdog group Save Black Diamond, about why she continues to fight a near-inevitable development and what she thinks of those in town who criticize her efforts.

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. 

KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Black Diamond is a city of 4,000 people southeast of Seattle. It's a haven for cyclists headed for Mount Rainier, and a historic coal mining town. But a huge housing development has loomed over this small town for 20 years, and the tension over it is tearing the city apart.

KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The Black Diamond City Council is racing toward a deadline to pass a city budget. It was supposed to be in place at the end of last year.

But there are two competing versions of the budget, and Thursday night's meeting settled nothing.

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.

An 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.


How an Arlington subdivision was returned to farmland

Jan 31, 2017
Third-generation Arlington farmer Andrew Albert. Albert planted winter wheat around a power box that was meant to serve the housing development.
KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener

Farm becomes subdivision. It's an old story, and one that Arlington hay farmer Andrew Albert has seen a lot.

"Happens all the time. Land is farmed for generations, then one generation ends, the other takes over, and they have different ideas, and it's no longer a farm," Albert said.

2017 is the year the record books will show there are 4 million people living here. But we don't need to wait for the official count: Person Four Million is thought to be among us right now.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

In case you hadn't noticed, our region has been growing fast. 

By this June, a major milestone will be official: The Puget Sound region’s population will be more than 4 million people. 

KUOW’s Region of Boom team is playing welcoming committee to the new guy, whoever that may be.


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.


Inside the Tulalip Casino near Marysville
Flickr Photo/simone.brunozzi (CC BY-SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/54xrxm

Growth is happening in many industries across the region. In Marysville for example the Tulalip Casino is now the center of shopping and housing developments.

It's part of the reason Marysville is the fastest-growing big city in Western Washington. But the role of tribal casinos is larger than that.

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. 


Yes, there was operatic singing here once. Marysville bought the city's historic Opera House from a private owner. Now it's a place for jazz nights, craft classes, weddings and parties.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Seattle’s growth is transforming the cities at its edges. Residents in these growing bedroom communities want things to do when they’re home.

Marysville was just 9,000 people 30 years ago. Now’s it’s over 60,000, and the fastest-growing big city in the Western Washington. It also has a broken-up downtown and a dead industrial waterfront. 

Developments are popping up all over Marysville.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Marysville is the fastest growing big city in Western Washington.

In part that’s due to people leaving the Seattle housing market to find more affordable housing in a place a commutable distance away.


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!’”


Eileen Donoher lives in Snohomish and commutes to the UW Medical Center. She has three small children. 'We can make it work,' she says.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The Seattle area is getting more expensive. People are finding new ways to adapt, like moving farther away for affordable housing.

But what happens when you still need to work in the city — say, at a hospital in Seattle’s core?

State Representative John Lovick in his car. The former state trooper and Snohomish County Executive offered to drive a reporter around in the early morning to demonstrate a particular form of suffering felt by commuters North of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bill Radke speaks with Carolyn Adolph about how — and why — she ended up stuck in traffic with state Representative John Lovick.

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