Seattle's growth plan is to increase density, amplify the urbanization, and somehow accommodate all the additions. As we noted before, since 2000, new residents have effectively added another Seattle to Seattle and the local region. For many of them, a move to Seattle is followed by a move to the suburbs or even the rural fringe after they see the cost of housing or decide they want some quiet. How much longer can that go on?
No one knows.
In the meantime the EPA analyzed growth throughout the country under several scenarios. Here's what our region's population density looked like in 2010.
Places that have more room to grow may have more dramatic shifts but Seattle's is simple and significant. Seattle's density spreads, but quickly runs out of room. If only a few of us are living on the water or up in the snows, then the main consequence is that suburbia succumbs to urbanization. Instead of going from brown to beige to green, from urban to suburban to rural as we had in 2010; the region urban areas drawn in brown basically cover much of today's suburbia. If the color shifts on the map seem subtle, that's because they are. Seattle is already very dense, which is why it feels like we're running out of room. The most obvious changes are on the Eastside, where Bellevue becomes more like Seattle and the east side of Lake Sammamish becomes more like Bellevue.
Seattle has natural wonders, but they are also constraints on where we can build and live. Growth stops when we hit the Sound or run up into the Cascades. If we had more land we probably wouldn't be digging tunnels under the city. It may require similar projects to accommodate everyone.
As for housing, supply of houses we're familiar with will probably be in short supply and high demand. Maybe Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver will all become like Hong Kong; and today's prices will look cheap. Or, the future will surprise us, as it always does.
Dive in. Play with the map. See what it says about your neighborhood. Who knows, Vancouver, WA could become the new Seattle.
· According to Wall Street Journal, "Seattle is the New San Francisco" [CS]
· The Seattle-Area Has Grown Enough To Add Another Seattle [CS]
· Integrated Climate and Land Use Scenarios [EPA]