Sustainable Development and the Living Community Challenge in North Rainier

In the early 1990’s, Seattle began a neighborhood planning effort that spanned 38 Seattle neighborhoods.   The neighborhood plans provided the City with direction on a broad range of subjects important to the neighborhoods, which would be incorporated into the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  In 1999, after an extensive community outreach process, the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan was completed.  During the process, the City recognized the North Rainier Neighborhood as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the City.

In 2009, the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan was updated to take into account changed circumstances, including the new light link rail service.  Like the neighborhood planning process, the update process engaged a broad cross section of the community and it allowed community members to express their views at 48 neighborhood and  City-sponsored meeting and events in North Rainier in 2009.

A central theme of the updated Neighborhood Plan was the creation of a vital, pedestrian friendly, “transit oriented development” within the Town Center.    The Mount Baker Town Center (the area around the Mt Baker light link station) was envisioned as a vibrant neighborhood core, with open space and parks, and development standards to accommodate a vibrant pedestrian environment for people of all ages and abilities.   The update recognized that goals and policies were needed to help make the Town Center the “heart of the neighborhood” — an inviting and livable place, where people could gather and engage in physical activity.    The Town Center was to help the blighted area achieve qualities enjoyed by other more affluent Seattle neighborhoods, “where public places and open spaces help create a sense of identity and welcome.”   The plan was to create a sense of place inviting and attractive to residents and to badly needed economic development.   Another key theme focused on sustainability.   The plan identified the North Rainier Urban Village as a “Green Hub” providing green jobs and training, and an emphasis on sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.   

Sadly, the vision and promise of the North Rainier neighborhood has not yet materialized, but the residents and businesses within the Mount Baker Town Center still believe in the promise of the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan, and recently gained momentum by becoming the first community in Seattle to be registered for the Living Community Challenge.  It's important to note that the framework of the Living Community Challenge, administered by the International Living Future Institute, is remarkably consistent with the goals and ambitions of the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan to create a model transit oriented community.  The Living Community Framework also aligns with the City of Seattle's Equity and Environment Agenda.

One Sustainable Planet has a workgroup that will use the Living Community Challenge in North Rainier as a means to push for policy and regulations in Seattle that support sustainable development, not just in North Rainier, but throughout the city. The North Rainier Living Community Challenge will also be a case study which will help us understand how to support sustainable development elsewhere in Washington State. 

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