January/February President's Message - From Rick

By Rick Sepler, AICP

Temporary Encampments Workshop. As the arc of my planning career arc continues (I’m still a few more years out from becoming a Director Emeritus), I continue to be amazed by how planning skills give us schema with which we can tackle emerging issues.  Planners are effective problem solvers who have developed techniques that can quickly ascertain the key aspects of an issue and develop a range of approaches to address them. When faced with unknowns, it has been my experience that planners are also very effective at coming up to speed through both research (websites, Planners Advisory Service reports, articles) and capitalizing on their professional colleague’s experience with similar issues.

I think this is where APA-WA comes in. Through our educational efforts, support of quarterly planning forums, workshops and conferences, we provide both resources, training and reference materials, as well as opportunities for planners to connect with others in our field.  I often think that we learn as much from each other as we do through more structured means.

On May 10, 2019, APA-WA will be holding a one-day workshop on a very challenging issue - planning for temporary encampments for those experiencing homelessness.  The workshop will be held on the Western Washington University campus in Bellingham.  Please hold the date, as it promises to bring together resources and expertise that we need as practitioners, as well as provide an opportunity to discuss and develop the best approaches to address this emerging issue.

Unlock the Door. You no doubt have seen the advertisements in print and even during the Super Bowl about the “Unlock the Door for Affordable Homeownership” campaign. Sponsored by a variety of groups (Washington Realtors, Building Industry Association of Washington, Master Builders, Habitat for Humanity and others), the message states that by “unlocking the doors,” more people can have access to affordable homeownership and that our legislators need to act to make it so.  The extent of the crisis is stressed in these ads, while the reasons the “doors are locked” is not addressed at all. It is only by going to the Washington Realtor's’ website that you can find their legislative agenda which daylights the obstacles to affordable homeownership.  Some, but not all, of the realtor’s initiatives resonate with good planning principles. Initiatives that support reforming condominium laws and increasing funding to address homelessness are both needed. However, increasing urban and suburban housing supply in Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) raises some concern. While we agree that focusing density in well-served urban areas should be encouraged, expanding UGAs to accommodate suburban (or less) densities, particularly when growth can be accommodated through other means, really just increases sprawl and its associated environmental, social and economic problems. Sometimes certain doors are locked for a reason.

Return to the January/February issue of The Washington Planner