Like in other cities in the region and the country, homelessness is a problem in Puyallup. First, it’s important to distinguish between homeless families with children and homeless individuals. Today, the face of homeless in our community are the individuals living on the streets and woods that have drug addiction and/or mental health conditions. The impacts we see from these individuals are garbage, used needles, nudity, theft, etc. Although family homelessness is an equal or even larger problem, they go largely unseen.
For homeless families, I’ve been a strong supporter of the City’s grant program that provides the Helping Hand House $100,000/year to provide short term hotel rooms and transitional housing to Puyallup homeless families.
Regarding homeless individuals associated with drug addition and mental illness, I’ve advocated for a two-pronged approach. First, protect the community of Puyallup from the impacts and ensure our citizens feel safe in our downtown, neighborhoods, and parks and trails. Second, develop approaches to get the individuals housing, treatment, and support services for them to recover and move out of homelessness.
We’ve made improvements on both of these approaches. Additional police officers, a library guard, a park ranger, and city policies regarding the New Hope Center operations have helped reduce citizen complaints and incidents. A dedicated homeless police officer, a pilot program with a service organization to offer assistance on the ground, and a recent contract with the Salvation Army in Tacoma to house and offer services to homeless are City initiatives that are making a difference getting some people off the streets and restoring their lives.
The problem of course is not solved. But I believe the steps the City has taken over the last several years are on the right track. This problem is regional and I believe we need more County-wide coordination and regional funding for new homeless housing and treatment centers. We also need improved pragmatic collaboration between the City, service providers, citizens, and businesses to foster programs that help homeless get off the streets and into support services while reducing, not increasing, homeless impacts in the community. And our police should continue to intervene and enforce the law for unlawful activities.
Traffic and Transportation
Along with growth in Pierce County we are seeing increased traffic. Puyallup has traffic congestion during peak commutes in large part because South Hill residents must travel through Puyallup along our North-South corridors: Meridian, Shaw Road, 9th Street SW, and Fruitland. Many of our streets also experience speeding problems through residential neighborhoods.
I’ve supported the recent addition of traffic signalization along Meridian, 2nd and 3rd Streets, 9th Street, and River Road, which have significantly improved traffic flow and decreased congestion. We need to install the same system on Shaw Road. I’ve supported speed bumps and speed displays and other techniques to slow traffic in key areas and we should continue this.
We need to aggressively pursue state and federal grants to add lanes to Shaw Road between Pioneer and 23rd. This is estimated to be a $40 million project.
I’m currently working with Pierce County leaders to complete the Foothills Trails between Puyallup and Tacoma, which will be used for recreation and commuting. I look forward to help lead this effort to fund and build this trail. I also support projects to help make Puyallup a more walkable (sidewalks for kids going to school) and bikable community.
Knutson Farm Warehouse Proposal
A developer is proposing to build 7 large warehouses on this farmland near Shaw Road (in addition to the one that is currently being built). This area is in the County but part of Puyallup’s urban growth area and Puyallup adopted a land use plan for the area in 2009. The City’s plan, after extensive negotiations with the County and land owners, calls for a mix of development types along with the protection of 130 acres of open space/agricultural land.
The proposal is not consistent with the City’s land use plan (which was designed to be compatible with the City’s infrastructure) and is projected to result in approximately 1,800 trucks per day on Shaw Road, E. Pioneer, and E. Main. The County determined the project would not cause significant impacts. The City disagreed and called for an environmental impact statement (EIS). The County fought the City in court, but recent unanimous decisions by the Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court upheld the City’s ability to require an EIS.
I have been strong proponent of ensuring this project is mitigated and does not adversely impact our community. Our already congested roads are not designed to serve this scale of a project in this location.
We have wonderful downtown that we all enjoy. I believe we have the opportunity continue to enhance our downtown and increase its vibrancy by having more quality condos and apartments for people to live. There is demand from young people to empty nesters to live downtown and be less dependent on the car and shop and eat at our stores and restaurants.
I’ve supported zoning and incentives to promote this type of development, while keeping our small-town feel. This is a good opportunity to harness the growth in our region to create a more livable, walkable, transit-oriented, environmentally friendly, and socially vibrant community.
Public Safety Building
Our current police station and jail, which were built in the 1960s, are outdated and are becoming less effective at meeting the City’s law enforcements needs. Our Court is in a rented commercial space that was intended to be temporary and is not well suited to meet the needs of the court.
The City purchased land adjacent to the new fire station up on the hill for a future new public safety building. Over the past year, designs have been prepared for a new police station, jail, and court to be combined into one building. Due to recent escalation of construction costs in the region, the overall costs were higher than expected, so Council directed staff to continue to review options and find potential cost savings.
Funding for a new public safety building will likely require a public vote on a bond. This is an important investment in our community and I believe Council needs to work together to find the best plan to submit to the voters for approval.
In Pierce County, we are seeing rents and home values rise much faster than wages. The cause of this is people moving south from King County to find affordable housing due the high cost of housing in King County. This is creating an affordable housing problem for all those that make the median income and below, but especially for lower income households. This trend is causing seniors on fixed incomes and those working lower wage jobs to move further south to find affordable housing, making it harder young individuals and families from our community to rent and buy in Puyallup, and contributing to homelessness.
Strategies that I support to address this include: building more multi-family apartments and condos in downtown, South Hill, and other areas zoned for multifamily housing to help create supply to meet demand; incentives for developers to include some affordable units in new projects; cottage housing; and use of public funding sources (e.g., new HB 1406 and County affordable housing funds) to provide affordable units and rent assistance.