Region Of Boom | KUOW News and Information

Region Of Boom

Region of Boom is a new series on KUOW.

Each of the stories below will begin with a place on a map, a place being reshaped by the booming forces affecting our region.

By examining those places and talking to the people we meet there, we’ll discover together what we’re giving up for growth – and what we’re getting in return.

Take a look at where development is happening now and make sure to tell us what is going on in your own neighborhood.

Follow the ongoing discussion at #regionofboom

This project is edited by Carol Smith. 

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.

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