• City of Tacoma QA
  • City of Tacoma Data




STAR Community

Tacoma is the first of 30 pilot communities to submit and receive certified STAR community rating, receiving four out of five stars, in the first national community livability and sustainability rating system.

The quantitative assessment is robust. The City’s Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability led the community-wide effort to collect and analyze more than 500 possible areas of data-supported achievement across seven categories. Tacoma performed particularly well under built environment; education, arts and community; and natural systems, leaving more room for improvement in the climate and energy; economy and jobs, equity and empowerment and health and safety categories. 

Local governments can use the rating system to evaluate, quantify and promoting livability and sustainability efforts. They can also share expertise with each other. As other communities are certified, Tacomans will be able to see how Tacoma benchmarks in apple-to-apple comparisons. 

See Tacoma's STAR "Highs and Lows" for a list of areas we excelled in and areas with room for improvement.
Tacoma's STAR Story...
Our process...
Our 4-STAR Results...
Pretty good, but so what?
Built Environment

Tacoma is actively shaping its built environment to providing livability, choice and access for its residents, and others, to live, work and play within its community.

Tacoma has policies and incentives to encourage compact and complete centers with a pedestrian focus for new development, affordable housing, and brownfield development. Most neighborhoods have ample parks within walking distance, which neighbors value and use often. Tacomans can also be proud that municipal services provide their citizens with secure and high-quality drinking water plus safe and progressive wastewater and stormwater management practices and infrastructure. In addition, there are no areas of missing data in this category.

Where would further progress provide the best value?

The following are some action items called out by the STAR certification process as missing potential areas for improvement:

  • Minimize and manage ambient noise and light levels to protect ecological systems and night sky visibility
  • Establish a design review board for proposed development projects
  • Fund proactive zoning enforcement and vacant lot cleanup
  • Support temporary, creative neighborhood uses for vacant and unused properties
  • Increase households with transit access
Climate and Energy

Climate change is anticipated to impact Tacoma with more flooding from the sea level rise, storm surge and heavy rains. These changes could threaten our natural environment, infrastructure, buildings and public safety. We can prepare for and lessen these impacts by doing our part to conserve energy and resources.



We’re doing well in many climate and energy areas. For example, Tacomans can be proud of a 16 percent decrease in community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 1990 created by driving fewer miles, reducing industrial natural gas use and diverting waste from the landfill.

Where would further progress provide the best value?

The following are some action items called out by the STAR certification process as missing potential areas for improvement:

  • Assess and plan to understand climate change vulnerabilities leading to adopting climate building/zoning codes to address future threats, campaigns/incentives to encourage resident/business behavior shift or improving facilities to deal with future impacts
  • Mitigate greenhouse gases through a large education campaign, largest-emitter task force, or by adopting energy efficiency requirements
  • Further industrial and commercial sector resource efficiency through utility data tracking and reporting, increasing training for building managers and operators, and/or community building challenges
  • Partner for resource efficient public infrastructure through voluntary greenhouse gas reporting, expanded facility operating trainings and collaborative strategies
  • Minimize waste through a public education campaign or waste-to-energy project, such as converting human waste to vehicle fuel at our wastewater treatment plant

What missing measures would have value?

How Tacoma is progressing on some fronts is simply unknown. We may be doing very well, or not. If knowing this information about our community would have value, what methods could be used to track them and who would do so?

  • Decreasing climate vulnerabilities
  • Electric/fuel-efficient vehicle ownership
  • Aggregate building use of energy/water resources
Education, Arts, and Community

The Tacoma community does much to empower a vibrant, educated, connected and diverse community.

Tacomans can be proud that more than 75 percent of residents live within one mile of a community venue and that all-day kindergarten, after school programs and career pathway initiatives are available to our youth. Plus, a wide breadth of social and cultural events are promoted and supported throughout our community. We can further be satisfied that:

  • Our residents report feeling an increasing "sense of community"
  • Tacomans have local access to community capacity-building programs and programs to promote the development of strong youth leaders
  • Zoning codes support farmer’s markets, community gardens and urban agriculture
  • We provide art and cultural support though a 1 percent for the arts ordinance for new major development projects, an Arts Envirochallenger program to support curriculum-based arts education and support for entrepreneurial development programs , such as Spaceworks, for creative professionals
  • Our community has adopted a Historic Preservation Plan with support, such as codes that prohibit demolition by neglect and encourage rehabilitation and maintenance of historic buildings to preserve existing community character

Where would further progress provide the best value?

The following are some action items called out by the STAR certification process as potential areas for improvement:

  • Provide further access to information about community issues, programs, services and activities for non-English speaking residents
  • Increase third-grade reading proficiency and low-income graduation rates
  • Provide local financial assistance to low- and moderate-income homeowners, residents, seniors, and/or businesses vulnerable to rising real estate values and maintenance costs associated with historic preservation
  • Adopt a policy to encourage local government hiring diversity

What missing measures would have value?

How Tacoma is progressing on some fronts is simply unknown. We may be doing very well, or not. If knowing this information about our community would have value, what methods could be used to track them and who would do so?

  • Annual progress report for the public outlining local school system performance
  • Annual number of historic structures retrofitted or rehabilitated with energy efficiency or clean energy technologies
  • Using a diversity index to analyze the effectiveness of policies, programs, service delivery and infrastructure investments
Economy and Jobs

Equitably shared prosperity can create access to good, quality jobs in Tacoma.

Tacomans can be proud that six different property tax incentives have been approved in the past three years to retain/expand local business and we have local support for buy local programs and campaigns. In addition, we’ve seen local increases in annual sales and the number of businesses established. Tacoma’s achievements also include:

  • A 90 percent job placement rate for graduates participating in workforce training programs
  • Over the past three years, more than 570 entrepreneurial and small businesses associates have participated in 15 training opportunities
  • More than 20 electric vehicle charging stations are located throughout Tacoma

Where would further progress provide the best value?

The following are some action items called out by the STAR certification process as missing potential areas for improvement:

  • Create a comprehensive sustainable economic development vision and strategy with education that proactively fosters green businesses, jobs and practices
  • Develop a family/living-wage policy applicable to City of Tacoma employees, contractors and entities that receive financial incentives or assistance from the City
  • Adopt economic localization plan

What missing measures would have value?

How Tacoma is progressing on some fronts is simply unknown. We may be doing very well, or not. If knowing this information about our community would have value, what methods could be used to track them and who would do so?

  • Measure percentage of residents employed over time
  • Track growth of targeted industry businesses
  • Track total funds deposited in locally-owned and operated banks
Equity and Empowerment

Tacoma will become more sustainable as it strives to ensure equity, inclusion and access to opportunities for all of its residents.

Tacomans can be proud that we have a Human Rights Commission that investigates civil and human rights violations and police officers trained on conflict prevention and non-discrimination. In addition, elected officials and government staff meet regularly with residents to answer questions and listen to concerns. In Tacoma, we also:

  • Implement projects to reduce acute exposure to contaminants and risks associated with prioritized environmental justice areas of fine particle air pollution and lead contaminated soils.
  • Construct new facilities and infrastructure in locations that reduce existing disparities within the categories identified in the outcome measure
  • Conduct community needs assessments to inform development of human services plans

Where would further progress provide the best value?

The following are some action items called out by the STAR certification process as missing potential areas for improvement:

  • Conduct education campaigns about the electoral process, voter registration and participation, and other issues related to civic literacy, including a mock youth voting program
  • Adopt a policy to encourage diversity in local government appointments to advisory boards and commissions
  • Adopt an environmental justice plan aimed at reducing locally polluted or toxic environments
  • Adopt an equity or social justice policy that establishes a clear commitment to equity in local government decision-making, activities and investments
  • Implement supportive workplaces programs for people living at, or near, the poverty line that includes affordable child care, transportation assistance, health care, medicine, toiletries, household goods, and shelter

What missing measures would have value?

How Tacoma is progressing on some fronts is simply unknown. We may be doing very well, or not. If knowing this information about our community would have value, what methods could be used to track them and who would do so?

  • Percentage of registered voters
  • Volunteerism rates
  • Number of residents that feel a “sense of empowerment” to make a positive impact on Tacoma
  • How equitably residents of diverse income levels and race/ethnicity have to access and proximity to key community services
Health and Safety

Strong communities create healthy, resilient, and safe places for residents and businesses to thrive.

Tacoma has good emergency response times and well-coordinated, educated and trained staff and citizen volunteers. Multiple agencies perform data collection, evaluation and monitoring to track trends and identify emerging community safety needs. In addition, many activities and programs promote active living, such as an Active Transportation program, “Bronze Bike Friendly Community” community status and more than a 100 family-oriented Metro Parks Tacoma events. And, Tacoma schools are increasing the amount of fresh and locally-produced foods they serve to schoolchildren.

Where would further progress provide the best value?

The following are some action items called out by the STAR certification process as missing potential areas for improvement:

  • Create guidelines to encourage incorporation of active design features in new public buildings
  • Conduct a comprehensive community health assessment to develop a community health improvement plan
  • Adopt health policy statements or commitments for local decision-making
  • Measure how many residents are within a walkable quarter mile of a healthful retail food outlet
  • Adopt menu-labeling requirements or regulations that discourage, tax, or prohibit the sale of unhealthful foods or beverages
  • Address residential indoor air quality problems related to mold, pests and other hazards through inspections and enforcement
  • Develop a local inventory of assets and resources available for emergency response and mutual aid requests and a post-disaster plan that addresses long-range redevelopment issues
  • Adopt a safe communities strategic plan with a comprehensive, balanced approach that includes violence prevention, intervention, suppression, enforcement, and reentry strategies

What missing measures would have value?

How Tacoma is progressing on one front in this area is simply unknown: the ability for low-income families to access low-cost, healthful food. We may be doing very well, or not. If knowing this information about our community would have value, what methods could be used to track them and who would do so?

Natural Systems

How is Tacoma protecting and restoring our natural resources? An ethic of stewardship leads to decisions that appropriately address this basis upon which all life depends.

Tacomans have an Open Space Habitat and Recreation Plan to protect and restore natural resources through land conservation, corridor connectivity, and restoration. A possible result of this is that 90 percent of Tacomans live within a half-mile walk of green infrastructure features that integrate with the built environment to conserve ecosystems.

In addition, we have access to a great number of educational and outreach activities that increase ecological literacy and knowledge about natural resource protection. As a possible result, Tacomans can be proud that we’ve demonstrated reductions in fine particle pollution (largely due to winter wood smoke reductions) and are acting to protect and restore the water in Commencement Bay.

Where would further progress provide the best value?

The following are some action items called out by the STAR certification process as missing potential areas for improvement:

  • Create incentive programs to encourage land owners to adopt green infrastructure practices that link to the broader green infrastructure systems
  • Create a comprehensive green monitoring program and regularly report on status of desired outcomes
  • Use incentive programs to encourage local businesses and private owners to grow and sell native or desirable plants and animals and avoid invasive or harmful plants or animals species

What missing measures would have value?

How Tacoma is progressing on some fronts is simply unknown. We may be doing very well, or not. If knowing this information about our community would have value, what methods could be used to track them and who would do so?

  • Track invasive species containment, prevention, and eradication from comprehensive priority natural systems areas
  • Track wetlands, streams, and shoreline buffer acreage to demonstrate no net loss of habitat
3 years from now... can we be doing better?

Throughout 2014 Tacomans can help shape the future of our community by participating in an update to our comprehensive plan. Help prioritize and answer Tacoma’s big questions, including some of those listed above, by joining this comprehensive planning process.