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Rethinking The Future Of Tacoma's Industrial Tideflats

"Aerial photo of Port of Tacoma" by D Coetzee is licensed under CC by 2.0

Tacoma has a decades-old reputation as an industrial city. But leaders say it’s time to rethink which specific industries are welcome. 

A City Council proposal would direct the Planning Commission to draft new land-use recommendations for Tacoma’s industrial tideflats area, which includes the Port of Tacoma.

Neighbors of the tideflats have formed a vocal block of opposition to recent industrial projects, citing safety and environmental worries.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland touched on that conflict at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

"Tacoma is not the same city it was 20 or 25 years ago," she said.

"If we could do it all over again, we probably would have asked more carefully: Did it make sense to build residential subdivisions that close to a port? Because, right now, we're experiencing the reckoning of conflict."

Public outcry last year helped kill a proposed methanol refinery in the tideflats. Neighbors are continuing to criticize plans for a liquefied natural gas plant.

A recent City Council action limited the growth of a federal immigrant detention center in the area.

Councilman Ryan Mello is behind the push to reevaluate land use in the area. He said that, whatever changes occur, the port must remain a source of high-paying manufacturing and shipping jobs. 

Mello said he's seeking "a very public and transparent process" to consider "what uses are maybe no longer appropriate in a highly urbanizing port." 

Tacoma's City Council would have to approve any changes to land-use regulations. 

Editor's note: Marilyn Strickland is a member of the KNKX board of directors. The board does not manage news coverage or day-to-day operations.

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.