One crude measure of sprawl is the share of new housing that is going into the central city, as compared to surburbs and outlying areas. On this measure, King County excelled in 2000 when the county’s Annual Growth Report revealed that fully 45 percent of permits to build new housing had been given for projects inside the city of Seattle. The city has 32 percent of the county’s population, so the smart growth principle of concentrating growth in the core of the metropolis seemed to be in practice.
The new county Annual Growth Report, which I mentioned a few days ago, shows how illusory that impression was. By 2003, that figure had dropped to 25 percent, as shown in this chart I assembled from information buried in the report. Seattle isn’t even taking its fair share of growth, much less taking a disproportionate share, as required to protect farmland and open space—and to make the city more walkable, transit-friendly, and vibrant.