PORT ANGELES — City Manager Nathan West discussed housing and homelessness, enhancements of the commercial district and increase in city personnel during his annual State of the City address.
“What I am here today to talk about is the future of Port Angeles,” West told the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce audience on Wednesday. “I think it is really important to make you all aware that, at the City of Port Angeles, the staff and City Council, every day, are thinking about how we can build a better future for our community.
“How can we build a better future for our climate? How can we build a safer community? How can we build a community that provides adequate housing for everyone in Port Angeles? I think those are really important starting points of how we are building this community,” he said.
West noted that the lack of affordable housing has been a significant topic of conversation over the last few years. The city council, planning commission and staff are now in the process of making changes to municipal zoning code to allow for more housing development.
West said Port Angeles is “leading the way in Washington state relative to housing in communities of our size.
“We have done some amazing things relative to what the council has ultimately passed in legislative changes for this city, and ultimately I believe we have a responsibility to better facilitate housing in this community,” he said.
The city council will meet on March 21 to hear a second reading of revisions of the municipal code on housing and possibly adopt proposed changes.
West blamed a drop in residential development from last year on supply chain issues and costs, but he said he expects it to pick back up again.
In 2022, the city issued 579 building permits worth more than $33 million. Of those permits, 43 went into building residential structures, down from 53 in 2021.
So far in 2023, 41 permits for building residential have been approved, with 11 pending.
West also discussed the commercial districts of the city.
“We really care about the outcomes for all of our commercial corridors, but we have to recognize that the downtown is the heart of this community, and we need that heart to ultimately thrive,” West said.
West specifically noted the city’s recent decision to hire a downtown resources officer, something that many members of the chamber and Port Angeles business owners, in general, have requested.
He also teased some of the coming attractions to the downtown corridor, which include the opening of the Field Arts & Events Hall this summer, renovations to the Red Lion Hotel and eventual construction of the Lower Elwha Hotel.
West spoke about the recent hires to city positions and the changes and impacts filling those positions has made, and why there are still positions that need to be filled.
“We added 21 new positions to the city, and that has brought some major changes, particularly in our solid waste department,” West said.
The City of Port Angeles took over much of the solid waste management in the city following the ending of its contract with Texas-based Waste Connection. Officials said they took over the utility to better manage its rates.
“It’s also a step to recognize that we have got to increase capacity at the city to actually get the infrastructure improvements done, to make the changes we need to see happen on the ground,” West said.
Finally, West highlighted the relationships the city has built across the community with groups like the chamber and associated business owners and community members.
“We wouldn’t be as successful as a city without all of you and without all of the relationships and partnerships that we build with you every day through the different projects that we work on,” West said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.