Tacoma gets discovered – again

“Tacoma looks like a better Seattle than Seattle these days”
Seattle Magazine, December 2018

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Nothing sets off my inner Tacoma curmudgeon more than breathless pronouncements from those who have “discovered” Tacoma.

For the record, I was born in Tacoma (Tacoma General to be exact) way back in the 20th Century and grew up in the “yet-to-be-discovered” town of Parkland.  (1*)

Yes, I remember the dark empty days of Tacoma’s deserted downtown, but I also remember the flourishing days – lavishly produced and immensely popular daffodil parades and elaborate, near-magical Christmas displays (including one prominent department store with a kid-sized train that kids could ride throughout the massive, full-floor toy department.

But that was then, and now, well Tacoma is a very different place.

With a surging port, a growing regional and international presence, Tacoma is not what it used to be – and certainly far from what it will be.

Washington state, for the past few decades has been growing at the rate of about a million people a decade. That’s 100,000 a year.

To put that in a little perspective, Tacoma’s population is about 200,000.

That population increase is, to put it mildly, not evenly distributed.

Seattle used to be packed with near mystical, one of a kind marvels. Now, traffic is a nightmare, parking expensive or nonexistent, decent and affordable housing is a fantasy. Homeless people and their debris seem to fill every alley and doorway. Photo: Morf Morford

Seattle used to be packed with near mystical, one of a kind marvels. Now, traffic is a nightmare, parking expensive or nonexistent, decent and affordable housing is a fantasy. Homeless people and their debris seem to fill every alley and doorway. Photo: Morf Morford

Most of those immigrants are drawn to the white-hot economy of Seattle. And brutalized by the equally white-hot real estate market there. Have you seen rents in Seattle lately? And by lately, I mean today. They’ve jumped since yesterday.

Yes, I know, rents in Seattle have “stabilized” – even dropped a bit.

They are only about 75% of the average income. Even at Seattle’s minimum wage ($15 an hour) over $2,000 a month (December, 2018) for the average apartment is nowhere near affordable.  (2*)

In fact at or near $15 dollars an hour, it would take over 130 hours of work just to afford rent.

Surrounding parts of King County are almost as expensive and are filling up rapidly.

Have you been to Kent or Auburn or almost anywhere in South King County lately? Apartment complexes stretch for multiple blocks and a single-family home is barely affordable – especially for young families

Drive through downtown Seattle recently? Homeless camps (or their refuse) line the freeways. Even more, in numbers and pure filth and sordidness, lingers out of sight, under the freeways.

Tacoma is not far behind Seattle with small clusters of tents, tarps and accumulating garbage in corners and alleyways.

And you may have heard of Tacoma FD, the Tru TV series (https://www.trutv.com/shows/tacoma-fd/index.html) based in and around (but barely filmed in) Tacoma.

It is set to begin broadcast in March.

Yes, as you might guess, one of the running jokes is that Tacoma is soggy and boring.

From Fire Rescue 1 (https://www.firerescue1.com/celebrity/articles/372713018-TruTV-orders-pilot-for-firefighter-comedy-show/) – “Super Troopers” stars Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme created “Tacoma FD,” which is about firefighters who fight boredom in the wettest city in America.”

Tacoma, for those interested in actual facts, is far from “the wettest city in America.”

For the record, when it comes to precipitation, we are pretty far down the list. I’ve noticed that many days it looks – or even feels – as if we had rain but we never did.

Other places get actual rain. We get drizzle.

If you’ve been in the mid-west – or in the states along the Gulf of Mexico, you have experienced real rain.

In terms of average days of rain or snow – Rochester, New York has 167 – Buffalo, New York also has 167 – Portland, Oregon 164, – while Seattle has about 149 (that means we get an average of 216 days without precipitation in any given year).

And when it comes to inches of rain, we aren’t even close to the top. We usually get 41 inches of rain a year – the national average is 39 inches.  (3*)

Many cities get far more inches (about 50% more!) of rain per year than we get – New Orleans, Louisiana gets over  62 – Miami, Florida gets about 62 and Birmingham, Alabama gets about 54.

When it comes to snow, Tacoma gets about 4 inches of snow per year, but when was the last time that happened? The US average is 26 inches.

Who needs chain stores, or even eBay when we have stores like this in Tacoma? I only hope independent, if not eccentric places like them - can afford to stay here.

Who needs chain stores, or even eBay when we have stores like this in Tacoma?
I only hope independent, if not eccentric places like them – can afford to stay here.

Like a true native of Tacoma, I am more than a bit leery of glowing reports of how wonderful we are. First of all, we already know it, and yes we are willing to share, but we also don’t want to lose who we are – we don’t want become somebody else’s idealized packaged urban landscape.

And second, we know that we are not wonderful. We don’t want to be anyone’s dream, but we also don’t want to be the butt of any more jokes. We like being affordable for normal people – not just tech zillionaires.

And I, like Tacoma, have learned to trust insults more than compliments – especially if they come from Seattle.  (4*)

 

(1*)   If you think Seattle loves to hate Tacoma, multiply that by about ten and you might begin to approach Tacoma’s attitude to Parkland.

(2*)    To keep up with Seattle rents, take a look at this website – https://www.rentjungle.com/average-rent-in-seattle-rent-trends/

(3*)    https://www.bestplaces.net/climate/city/washington/tacoma

(4*)   Check out this profile of cities to move to if Seattle is not your style – https://crosscut.com/2019/01/bye-seattle-7-cities-you-should-move?.