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South Hill in the 70s

by Carl Vest

In the early 1970s a big population surge on South Hill was just getting underway.  And, from the point of view of land use it was sort of a transition phase from that of being a community of primarily small farmers to a more modern suburban orientation.  People were being drawn to the Hill for many reasons but all had expectations about a way life they hoped to experience.  It also was a time when local community development groups started taking root.  In the late 1960s, for example, the T-19-A unit was created.  It was subsequently absorbed by the South Hill Development Organization (SHDO).  Finally, there evolved a team known as the South Hill Community Council, which is still in existence. 

It was in 1972 that SHDO decided to formally collect some facts and opinions about community issues from South Hill residents.  It took a survey with the intent of coordinating the collected data with appropriate County officials for planning purposes.  At that time it was believed that the local population was 1,532 households.  A questionnaire was developed and mailed to each.  Replies were received from 1,112, an amazing response rate of 73 percent. 

It was found that about half of the residents had lived on the Hill less than five years.  Generally they were in single family homes (90 %).  Only six percent worked on South Hill.  Forty-five percent labored in Puyallup, Sumner, or Tacoma.  Forty percent listed themselves as being employed as professional, technical, or management workers.  Convenience shopping took place in Summit and Puyallup.  Gasoline was bought on the Hill, but not groceries, clothing, and building supplies.  As for the future, residents wanted to see the establishment of both concentrated shopping centers and a large shopping mall.  And, as we all know, that’s how it turned out.

Respondents thought that mobile homes should be restricted to mobile-home parks or subdivisions where lots were purchased.  It was the opinion of Fifty-three percent that neighborhood streets should not be extended to main arterials.  About one-third thought that subdivisions should be either of a cluster design or some type of cul-de-sac.  Eighty-one percent wanted small farms to be a part of the land use mix. 

A need for parks was expressed.  About one-third wanted a community park developed, while about one-fourth thought it should be either a neighborhood design or some combination approach.

Who should have the most influence about development on South Hill?  Sixty-seven percent thought it should be residents and community groups.  Only about one-third indicated happiness with their governmental representative; thirty-six percent declared they were fairly dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.  As for possible annexation or incorporation, respondents wanted no part of it.  Fifty-four percent said NO.

In summary, three quarters (76 percent) envisioned a South Hill that would be a suburban residential area, where people commuted to work elsewhere and to shop, and a place where development was clustered in groups with undeveloped land between the clusters.  This, of course, has only been partially achieved.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.