PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles City Manager Nathan West said it’s time for the city to return to the projects in progress when the pandemic turned the world upside-down in 2020.
“I think it’s time to pick up where we left off two years ago. It’s time to pick up with the momentum, the excitement, and all of the hard work that was being done that we were seeing move so quickly,” West said in closing his State of the City address on Wednesday.
“It’s time to start back up. That’s not to say that we didn’t work really hard during the pandemic, we all did … but now’s the time to pick back up and get things going. Let’s move Port Angeles forward,” he said at a Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting.
West hit on five key points during the address that he said are issues of critical importance for the city.
These are housing and homelessness, commercial district enhancement, improving the capacity of the city, improving high-performing relationships and pandemic recovery.
“So the first goal is to make sure we have done everything we can to facilitate the increase in housing units to our community, ensure that they are affordable and that we are doing everything we can to provide permanent housing and providing services to those experiencing homelessness,” West said.
West shared some stats from 2021 on housing. A record-setting 53 single-family units were granted permits, but only 13 were valued at $200,000 or less.
“This presents a real challenge for affordability in our community and the ability for people to find a way to actually obtain this housing other than individuals coming from outside our community with larger incomes that out-compete some of our local citizens,” West said.
West commented on the recent changes in land use codes to create more infill in the city limits, which allows for multi-family housing development and development on smaller lots.
“We no longer have any specifically single-family lot zones in Port Angeles,” West said. “We’ve now allowed duplexes and ADUs (accessory dwelling units) throughout the city, and that was a big deal and a big change.”
West said at least $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were spent on housing solutions.
West touched on the relationship between housing and employment and some solutions under review.
“Housing frequently plays a role in the ability to hire for all of our employers across the community, and I think it’s important that we are thinking about solutions. I want to thank those in the private sector that are taking the time to invest in new housing units,” West said.
West listed off some of the recent housing developments such as Anian Shores, Dungeness Valley and Milwaukee Trails that are at different stages of development.
“A big part of that is making sure we have a downtown that is walkable, clean and vibrant,” West said.
“It’s also important that we’re not just focused on downtown, but on all our commercial corridors.”
West highlighted some recent capital facility projects downtown and other commercial corridors, such as 24-hour bathrooms, railing replacement on the pier, improvements to the U.S. Highway 101/Truck Route intersection and the Laurel Street stairs.
“These are just some of the projects that I think are really important,” West said.
“We have heard for years about the need for restrooms to be available for visitors and residents in the downtown area, and we now have programmed in three restrooms,” he said.
West told of the number of capital facility projects that were put on hold during the pandemic: More than 180 projects valued at $123 million, with the majority of the money $97 million worth of transportation-related projects.
“We need to make sure we are investing in that infrastructure before it falls apart and do so at the right time, which is a real challenge,” West said.
In 2020, the city completed 22 capital facility projects and 26 in 2021. It is on track to complete more in 2022, West said.
In 2021, the city issued and executed at least 74 Memorandums of Understanding or similar contracts with other community organizations.
“I think it’s so important that we’re all maintaining really strong relationships in such a small community,” West said.
Members of the city council and staff can be found on at least 25 other boards or community entities, he said.
West specifically highlighted the relationship between the city and the chamber of commerce.
“The best one to highlight is the Citizen of the Year, Steve Methner, and just recognizing the success of the new facilities and the new playground at Erickson Park in the form of Generation Two Playground because that is not an achievement that we could have done alone as a city,” West said.
“It’s a great demonstration of how important relationships are.”
More than $1 million in the ARPA funds the city received were invested in housing solutions.
Another $500,000 was put toward tourism, specifically supporting the Black Ball Ferry Line, which generates a lot of revenue for the city.
While close to $200,000 was used to help working families get access to affordable childcare, $106,400 was given to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, and $98,700 was given to Shore Metropolitan Park District for childcare programs.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.