This year’s Independence Day celebration in my hometown of Bainbridge Island, WA is still warmly imprinted on my heart. Visiting Bainbridge was nostalgic, as well as a chance to reflect on my hometown city as a return visitor who has spent a lot of time in the local government world.
The 4th of July on Bainbridge reflected the best of America. The crowd was comprised of people from all segments of life. The food represented different countries of origin–and, importantly included kettle corn and a hamburger fundraiser. The parade featured seniors from the Senior Center, the high school football team (Go Spartans!), Boy Scouts, bagpipes, elected officials, public safety vehicles and a World War II Veteran. It was simple, authentic and grand.
Downtown’s main street has been revamped with new curbing, planters and more. The upgrades were a fitting backdrop to the throngs of people who descended onto the Island to celebrate the 4th - it is a huge regional draw. Yay public works and infrastructure investments!
By Island standards, there has been significant development of high-density housing throughout the downtown area. This has held at bay some tract housing in other areas of the island, and it works well as transit-oriented development given the walkability to the ferry that whisks commuters to downtown Seattle. Ferry-proximate condo units are attractive for urban workers in Seattle, as they provide a stunning commute as you cross Puget Sound.
Yet, one can see signs of frustration with the increased density and concerns about it changing the character of the community. The City Council implemented a development moratorium, and development remains a hot topic in local politics. How do you preserve what makes a place special while allowing for more people to live there? How does Bainbridge Island avoid becoming just another deforested, high-density suburb of Seattle? Local control and heated discussions will influence those answers. The housing policy debate is not limited to California. It spans the West Coast.
My hometown has certainly changed since I moved away 25 years ago, but it still feels like a place to which I can always return.