Sunday, October 03, 2021

More growth means more diversity for Olympia neighborhoods (more maps with census data!)

Every single block group in Olympia declined in the percentage of "white only" respondents. This isn't saying a great deal. Olympia's most diverse neighborhood is 62 percent white, it's least diverse is 90 percent white.

Taking Thurston County's rate of diversification (going from over 80 percent white to just over 70 percent) as a measuring stick, I was able to rate Olympia neighborhoods. Neighborhoods in the map below in a shade of blue diversified more than Thurston County, in orange, less than.

Taking the map from yesterday, there seems to be fairly strong correlation between neighborhoods that did not grow in the past 10 years and retained their lack of diversity (when compared to the rest of the county).  

In fact, when you take the raw data (population change vs. racial makeup change), you see a trend towards neighborhoods that grew less staying whiter.

There are definitely some neighborhoods that run counter to the trend. But, citywide, the neighborhoods that grew were the ones that became more diverse.

I included technical notes in my previous post on population growth by neighborhood if you want more information about how I got here. I did though update my crosswalk document to include the race data that I used in this post.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Where Olympia didn't grow (and even lost population) in the last 10 years (this time with census data!)

Olympia's neighborhoods saw varying patterns of population growth and contraction over the past 10 years. 

Olympia grew by almost 10,000 residents and Thurston County as a whole grew by over 40,000 in the 2010s. Obviously population growth is not evenly spread across the county. But it is amazing to see that while the population of our community grows, there are neighborhoods so walled off by exclusive zoning, that they were able to fend off this growth.

I'm convinced that the slow and declining growth in population in these neighborhoods is the on-the-ground impact of exclusive single-family zoning. After years of work, Olympia finally passed zoning rules at the end of the decade that ended this kind of zoning. 

You can see below that the story isn't nearly as simple as "single family neighborhoods shank/didn't grow and multifamily neighborhoods grew." The 2010s did seem to serve as a natural experiment of what the long-term impacts this zoning had on neighborhoods. 

Olympia started clamping down on neighborhood multifamily housing (like duplexes and cottage apartments) in the late 1970s. The 2010s were the fourth decade of this kind of enforced low density, and the recently released census data gives us a way to examine its impacts. 

Here is the map I ended up with:


Here is what I take away from this map:

1. The vast majority of Olympia grew very little. I colored block groups that didn't increase more than 100 people in yellow. And, these block groups make up most of this map. While these areas did grow, it is worth noting that they did not grow very much.

2. The neighborhoods that shrank were a mix of housing types. Especially, the two block groups on the Westside include a significant number of apartments. It is worth noting that the apartments and other multifamily zoning there are older structures.

3. Except for downtown, all of Olympia's growth happened on the edges. For a few block groups, especially on the far east edge of Olympia and on the Westside along 101, this is where a significant number of new apartment buildings are being built. While a lot of attention has been paid to multifamily housing downtown (which has brought in new residents), the real driver of Olympia's new population are less flashy apartments along the edges.

I wrote more about the apartments being built on the Westside last year, illustrating how multifamily housing on the edges of Olympia are driving racial segregation. 

A few notes on how I did this work:
  • I did a similar examination a couple of years ago using American Community Survey data. While I found similar shrinking neighborhoods then too, the ACS data is an extrapolation of survey data, and is less precise than the census headcount. 
  • Block groups are just about the narrowest geography you can assess changes in population change across Olympia. I had to cross-walk a few block groups that had broken in smaller pieces. I posted my notes on that in this spreadsheet.
  • The data and shape files are the OFM datasets of the recent census release.
  • Because I did the cross-walk, the geographies I mapped were the 2010 block groups, since I combined the 2020 block groups.
  • The block groups I picked do not line up with the borders of the city exactly. In places where I had to choose, I chose to go over the border of the city.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

How proposed legislative and congressional redistricting maps impact Olympia and Thurston County

Starting last week, redistricting commissioners in Washington State have been releasing proposed maps for legislative and congressional districts. 

Democratic appointees April Sims and Brady PiƱero Walkinshaw and Republican appointees Paul Graves and Jo Fain have taken different approaches to moving borders in Thurston County and around Olympia. In this post I'll take a look at the legislative and congressional proposals, taking a zoomed in look at what they could mean for our community

The need for all of these legislative maps is to shrink the 22nd District, it is about 7,000 people too large by its current boarders. Alternatively, the districts that the 22nd traditionally borders (the 35th and 20th) are both underpopulated by a few thousand. Each of the proposed maps approaches this task in different ways. 

The Graves and Walkinshaw maps approach by taking similar routes. First Graves:


Then Walkinshaw:


Both of these move various rural districts into different combinations of southern Thurston County and let the 35th district in Mason County take up more of mid-suburban Thurston County and Cooper Point. The 22nd District is going to become more compact, and its interesting that most of the mapmakers are taking off the west side and leaving urban Lacey largely inside the district. 

In addition to Lacey/Olympia balance, taking the Cooper Point peninsula out of the 22nd would leave Evergreen State College out of the 22nd for the first time in history.

This includes the College precinct, which is the most dependably Democratic district in the county. While one precinct hardly a legislative district makes, it is interesting to see it on the other side of the line.

Another note about Walkinshaw's legislative map. In it, the 35th takes up so much of Thurston County, I would be super curious what the population split between Mason and Thurston County is. The 35th has traditionally been a Mason County district, but in this map, I think Thurston County might make up the majority of the population.

Sims' map for the 22nd is the most outlandish, in my opinion:

Take a closer look:


The map takes away so much of the Westside that is literally splits the City of Olympia in two! There isn't a lot I can really say about this map other than to say that I don't think that's a great idea.

Compared to that, Fain's map isn't very fun at all. Of all four, it maintains the current 22nd district the most:


Nothing much to see here.

Speaking of nothing much to see here, and moving on to the Congressional District maps, here is Sims' proposal for the 10th in Thurston County:


This is a fairly status quo map, which pretty much keeps the congressional district lines in Thurston County the same while carving Mason County out of the 10th, making it a strictly Thurston/Pierce county district. Like the 22nd, the 10th is also slightly overpopulated and needs to shrink to maintain proportionality. 

Walkinshaw's map for the 10th is downright fascinating:


I mean, that's simple.

It is the same as Sims' in that the 10th becomes a Pierce/Thurston district, but it takes in *all* of Thurston County. I have to admit, I like how simplistic that becomes.

Graves' proposal for Thurston County is by far the most radical:


It would remove the 10th congressional district from Thurston County altogether and move it into Pierce and King counties. Then, Thurston County would be carved up between three more competitive districts. Oddly, while this 6th district would stretch from Olympia out and around the Olympic Peninsula, including the entire Kitsap Peninsula, it would still be a fairly safe Democratic district. This surprises me, but that's according to commissioner Graves

Fain's congressional map is a split between Sims' and Graves' in how it treats Thurston County.


The 10th still makes it all the way south to Olympia, but the 6th and the 8th still split up the rest of the county.

Most fascinating about the Republican maps is how they treat the SE portion of Lacey. Both map separate Lacey proper with at least a portion of the Lacey UGA from the city.

Graves:


Fain:


What I can say about this technique is that it is a small example in our county for Republican mapmakers to stretch rural districts as far into suburban precincts, without breaking up Lacey.

Monday, September 06, 2021

What the network graph of campaign contributions tells us about the Olympia City Council races


Over the last few days, I've been pulling down Public Disclosure Commission data and putting together a network graph of financial contributions among city council candidates. This illustrates the flow of individual contributions to campaigns and between candidates. This shows, in a broad sense, of how candidates are connected by who is contributing to them. I took some care to clean up the data (so contributors aren't showing up more than once) but there might be some small errors.

 


1. There definitely are three primary lanes in the races. Or at least there was before the winnowing of candidates in the August Primary. I'd been using a shorthand to think about candidates running for city council. They were either in the right-hand side, mainline/incumbent or left-hand side lane.

Turns out the contributors thought the same thing. Contributions for all the right-hand side candidates (Mercer, Gauny, Kesler, Weigand and Carlson), mainline (Cooper, Gilman, Huynh, Parshley and Payne ) and left-hand (Wilkinson, Destasio, Reed and Brown) are generally distinct from each other. When there are connections, they are connected through the mainline group. There were a lot of contributors that gave to multiple candidates, but mainly to either the left or right and the mainline. Out of more than 1,200 individual contributors, there was only one that gave to both left and right.

2. The mainline group is much more cohesive than either the left or the right. This makes sense that the middle would be cohesive, most of them serve on the city council now. They're also contributing to each others' campaigns. But, the lack of cohesion between the other lanes, when there policy positions seem so well in sync, seems weird. 

This would also explain the mismatched results in the primary. No mainline candidates failed to advance, but only one from the left lane advanced and one from the right failed to advance.

3. Just poke around, see what you find. There are a lot of random things to see in the chart. 

  •  Port of Olympia candidates are spreading their money to candidates on the right and the mainline lanes.
  • There is a contributor that gave to both Payne and Weigand.
  • The "bridging" candidates that hold the most contributors that span lanes are Kesler (right to center) and Gilman (left to right). This shouldn't surprise me, but it is fun to see it illustrated.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

A few lessons from the 2021 Olympia City Council primary election results




1. Huynh and Payne (obviously) have the upper hand going into the general election.

From the top line results, with both Huynh and Payne both breaking 50 percent, this seems obvious. But, when you look deeper at the map, you can really see how both Robbi Kesler and Corey Gauny are boxed in. From an analysis I did four years ago, I found that neighborhoods with more left-leaning voters tend to stay home during the primary. So, if you are a right-leaning candidate, you need to do really well to make up for the loss of ground due to higher turnout in the general.

Looking specifically at the Kesler/Huynh map, you see how Kesler's geographic center is in SE Olympia, with a far SW side precinct thrown in. Huynh is even able to get across I-5 into SE Olympia, pinning Kesler into several traditionally right leaning precincts.


I didn't map Bruce Wilkinson's precincts in with Huynh or Kesler, because he didn't even come close to winning any. But when you do look at his precinct level results (however small) his strongest precincts are already on Huynh's side:


Kesler looking to his supporters for help in November likely will not be a fruitful effort.

2. Lisa Parshley has more territory to win than Talauna Reed

This is probably the most interesting race to map. But first, I have a mea culpa. I was wrong about Talauna Reed doing well in SE Olympia. I had seen a fair number of Reed signs down on that side of town, specifically in front of houses with anti-density and housing options signs. I also based it on what I saw in the returns in 2019, when a progressive anti-density candidate did better in SE Olympia (and in more conservative precincts overall for that matter) in her losing effort. What I think likely happened is that housing is less of an issue this year, than Missing Middle or Housing Options.

And this is why I think the ground being ceded by Wendy Carlson (who lost in the primary) will be easier for Parshley to win in the general than Reed. Carlson (like other right of center candidates) had her center of gravity in SE Olympia. But she failed to win anywhere else, even some far Westside precincts that have been pretty dependable for conservative candidates.


Who did win those other precincts was Parshley. In fact, when you look at the Cooper/Weigand map below, you can see plenty of places where both Parshley and Weigand won. Weigand had the best show map of the conservative candidates, so you'd expect that he'd have some overlap with candidates outside his lane. But that he overlapped most with Parshley gives her the best chance of picking up Carlson's precincts.

3. Cooper/Weigand will be a repeat of Parshley/Miller from 2019

Just a repeat I made earlier in the first point, conservatives need to do amazingly well in the primary to be able to last through the rising turnout in November. Weigand did as well as any conservative, but not well enough. His map is pretty classic for a conservative, winning in SE Olympia and out far on the Westside. He even took some near in water view precincts. 

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But again, his finish behind Cooper (both in the low 40s) isn't enough to carry him past the general.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Interstate 5 did not destroy Tumwater's downtown. It was already dead. Killed by isolation

One of the most persistent Olympia-area history myths is that Interstate 5 destroyed Tumwater's downtown. I've written about this before, so what follows you can find in different forms in other places, but I tidied it up for this post.

Daisy Ackley in her “Wagon Wheel’s A’Rolling” history tells what has become common knowledge in our area, the interstate came careening through town and destroyed what was Tumwater.

Poor old Tumwater. There is nothing left of the original town, save the name. It has been drawn and quartered (as it were), but the "Freeway" running through it from "stem to gudgeon." None of the old landmarks on Main Street (now Deschutes Way) are left.


Let’s take a step back and explore Tumwater’s history through its roads. Interstate 5 wasn’t the first road to change the course of Tumwater’s history. It is possible to tell the story of the town through its roads and railroads.

The Olympia Tenino/Port Townsend Southern Railroad (1875) and the Olympia Terminal/Union Pacific (1915) and the transition between the two show how roads changed Tumwater and how they changed the focus of Tumwater.

The Port Townsend line ran through the old river focussed Tumwater, connecting its industries directly along the lower Deschutes estuary to the saltwater on the shores of West Olympia.

The Union Pacific line (while it did connect through a branch down to the old Olympia brewery site then on saltwater) is certainly new Tumwater. And, through ownership changes in the early 1900s, both lines became owned by the same company (Union Pacific) and the latter replaced the former in connecting Tumwater to the Olympia waterfront.

In geography, here's the difference between the two lines. The Port Townsend line ran through the west side of what is now the Tumwater Falls Park. Much of the current trail is actually the old railroad grade. It continued down the west side of the Deschutes River (now Capitol Lake) until reaching saltwater near where Tugboat Annie’s is now.

While the Port Townsend Line sunset in 1916, the Union Pacific (former Olympia Terminal Line) was being completed just a year earlier. This is the current line when you think of the Olympia Brewery. Going down Custer Way, this is the line you cross over. The one obstacle that the road had to face to get from up on the east bluff to downtown Olympia and the waterfront was the bluff itself. The solution was a tunnel under Capitol Boulevard.

What's interesting to me is that while the new railroad, the railroad that started drawing Tumwater up and away from the river, seems so tiny compared to I-5. While tunneling under Capitol Way created a nice shortcut for the railroad, it pales in comparison to the obliteration of the same hillside by I-5 just decades later.

And that move, away from the industry of the river in the early 1900s, was the most vital step. It shows that Tumwater as a community was already moving away from what people claim as the city’s “downtown” well before the interstate.

This is "downtown Tumwater" as it existed in 1946 (detail from this photo at the Washington State Archives):



While I-5 may have come along later to bury Tumwater's historic downtown, by the time it got there, Capitol Way had already stuck the knife in.

The best history of this, actually what got me started on this entire line of thinking, is Shanna Stevenson's chapter "A Freeway Runs Through It" in "The River Remembers." She points out that before 1936 the main drag through Tumwater dog-legged through the old downtown Tumwater.

After the current Capitol Way was finished in 1938, it totally bypassed the old downtown. This bypass led to the creation of the commercial area down at Capitol Way and Trosper Road.

Going from crossing the Deschutes on a low bridge over waterfalls, the main road through Tumwater now crossed the Deschutes at a much wider point (a more than 1,000 foot span) over what is now the old (but then new) Tumwater brewery.

For over a decade before Interstate 5 uprooted the blocks old downtown Tumwater, the city was already abandoning its water-falls based history and moving east and south.

Even compared to the current downtown Olympia, “downtown” (and that is a real stretch to call it that) Tumwater in the early 1950s was isolated and not a thriving business district.

And the kicker is that the Tumwater City council signed onto the plan:


By 1951 a route for the future I-5 was selected which would have separated the state Capitol from downtown Olympia via an underground viaduct along Tenth Avenue. It would have crossed Capitol Lake near the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad trestle and traveled up the Percival Creek canyon into West Olympia. A spur road to the west was to be located near the head of the creek, and would have provided access to Shelton and Aberdeen.

However, in 1954 cost estimates for the Tenth Avenue route caused highway engineers to seek an alternative alignment. The Tumwater Canyon, with its basalt bedrock, was proposed as an alternative. The Tumwater Canyon alternative would virtually wipe out the original central business district of Tumwater, cross Capitol Lake in a wide curve, and cut under Capitol Way at 27th Avenue.

Another alternative route, called the Dunham bypass, would have by-passed both downtown Olympia and Tumwater to cross near Ward Lake. ...In April 1954, after much discussion, both the Olympia and Tumwater city councils signed onto the Tumwater Canyon alternative.


If I-5 did kill any part of Tumwater, Tumwater let it happen. And at any rate, Tumwater's actual commercial districts had already moved on.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The scale of out of town real estate investment in Thurston County is small

A candidate for Olympia City Council recently released a list of ideas to prevent out-of-towners and corporations from buying homes in Olympia. The end would be to make housing was more affordable by making it harder for people who don't live here to bid up houses. This is an interesting line of thinking, but first I wanted to dive deeper into the phenomena he describes. His post leans to heavily on anecdotal evidence of distant corporations snapping up single-family homes.

Thankfully, Thurston County GeoData allows you to download the entire parcel database. This can tell you who bought any piece of property, when, and for what price. Here is what I found:

1. More rentals, more out-of-state buyers. But within the normal range.

Both the number of out-of-town buyers and homes simply bought for rentals has gone up in the last year. That said, they've gone up to a point well within the range of what you would expect in any given year since 1995.

For rentals, I looked at single-family home parcels where the owner's address did not match the address of the parcel:From the above chart, about half the percent of single-family homes in a given year are purchased as rentals. I assume there is a skew towards homes purchased further back to be listed as rentals since many homes would have been bought and sold several times since 1995. So, if a house today has a sale date in the 1990s, it is likely a long-term rental held by the same person. But you can even see in recent years (say since the economic recovery in the mid-teens) there was a slow decline in the number of single-family homes bought for rentals, with a slight uptick this year.

For out of state owners, I just looked at the owner's state:

Again, there was year-by-year data available back until the 1990s, and houses with sale dates that far back are long-term purchases, probably making them more than likely to be long-term rentals. But even these have owner addresses more likely to be in Washington. And again, there is an uptick this year in out of state purchases. That said, the vast vast vast majority of single-family home purchases are made by residents of Washington. The uptick this year when from two percent to only five percent of all purchases.

2. Two major out of state corporate buyers, but in context not a big deal for Olympia or the county

Lastly, I was able to take a look at who the buyers had been in the last year with out-of-state addresses. The GeoData spreadsheet does not include names, only addresses. But with a bit of sleuthing, I was able to find two  corporate buyers that are currently active in the Thurston County Market. Home Partners and Invitation Homes (as of early June) own 71 parcels with single-family homes across Thurston County purchased since the beginning of the pandemic.

Again, that is definitely a number, but when compared across all purchases since March 2010 (arbitrary date I picked to put a pin in the current pandemic-fueled housing market), their total purchases only count towards 1.1 percent (71 out of more than 6,400 transactions) of the market. 

Also, the map of their purchases are telling:

Most of the homes purchased by these two corporations are outside of Olympia. In fact, they are mostly in newer neighborhoods on the fringes of the advancing wall of sprawl of our community. The actual parcel-by-parcel impact, at the very least, is being felt in Lacey, Tumwater and the unincorporated county, but not Olympia.

Yes, some single-family homes are being bought by institutional buyers. And in the grand scheme of the entire single-family housing market in Thurston, it is a tiny amount. 

But why should this worry us? Is it because we think all homes should be owner occupied?

I think we (or at least the linked-to candidate above and their supporters) have a bias in how they thing about apartments and single-family homes.

Most of the large apartment complexes being built in Thurston County are built, funded, and operated by massive out-of-state corporations. When I lived in a fairly new apartment complex in SE Olympia, I sent my money to a corporation in Texas with a regional office in Seattle. While there had been some neighborhood-level hand wringing about that fairly modest complex being built because of traffic and unsavory renters, none of the concern was about whether the apartments would be owned by an out-of-state corporation. 

But there is concern about out of state corporations owning single-family homes, because there is a mindset that these should be owner-occupied. This is the natural order of things.

There is little to no benefit for our city to be bought and owned by outside investors and incredible negatives. It creates a dynamic where people such as teachers are being outbid and forced to rent rather than building equity in a home they own and deepening their roots in the community or being forced to live far outside of town and commute great distances. That is a burden on the environment and our infrastructure as well as a cost on the teacher.

"... forced to rent rather than building equity in a home they own and deepening their roots..."

I'm not saying institutional corporate ownership of homes (single-family or apartment or in between) is a thing we need to encourage more of, I'm just saying we should examine where we decide to wring our hands.