Population: 5,431,000
Counties: 39
Governor Gary Locke

Key Laws/Administrative Actions/Court Decisions/Organizations/Media/Regional/Calendar

Click here for the amount of protected land in Washington, and click here to review Washington's federal transportation spending.
Source:  Pew Center on the States & Changing Direction:  Federal Transportation Spending in the 1990s. Surface Transportation Policy Project

New Campaign
The "1/3 for Choices" Campaign’s objective is to convince state lawmakers that spending 1/3 of all new state transportation dollars on choices ­ buses, trains, ferries, pedestrian and bike facilities, trip reduction programs and smart growth ­ is the cheapest, quickest and most effective way to get Washington moving again.

New Report on I-745
The Washington Public Interest Research Group released "Breaking the Gridlock:  Real Solutions for Transportation Problems" in coordination with their "Unlock the Gridlock:  No on I-745" campaign.  I-745 is an initiative in Washington State this fall which, if enacted, would require 90% of all transportation funding to be directed toward roads.  A large coalition of public officials, businesses and activists believe this will be a turn away from increased transportation choices and encourage more
driving and gridlock. 

For an overview of Washington planning and zoning statutes, see a summary provided by the American Planning Association.

Growth Management Act (GMA) (1990) (Revised Code of Washington 36.70A.020)
In 1990 Washington approved a growth management law designed to reduce sprawl.  Inspired by Oregon's program, the act has 13 statewide planning goals.  In 1991, the legislature established three regional Growth Management Hearing Boards located in Spokane, Olympia and Seattle.  The boards hear appeals brought by citizens and by the state to ensure that local plans are consistent with the statewide goals. Significant features of the act include: 

  • Goal 1 mandates development of urban growth areas (UGAs), similar to Oregon's urban growth boundaries  (RCW 36.70A.110).  29 of the states 39 fastest growing counties must draw a line to put rural lands off-limits to new urban-style development. Local government must determine how much land they will need to meet population increases over a 20-year period.  Only three states -- OR, WA, TN -- have such requirements.
  • Among its 13 goals, Washington's Growth Management Act (GMA) includes a goal to "Identify and encourage the preservation of lands, sites, and structures that have historical, cultural, and archaeological significance." RCW 36.70A.020 (13) Although the GMA does not require an historic preservation or cultural resources element in a comprehensive plan, cities and counties planning under the GMA must consider and incorporate the historic preservation goal.
  • Within one year of adopting a plan, municipalities must enact zoning rules and capital improvement programs consistent with the plan.
  • Local zoning decisions may be challenged in court if they contradict local planning policies.
  • State agencies must comply with county and city planning policies.
  • County plans must harmonize with the plans of cities within the county and the plans of neighboring jurisdictions must comport with one another.
  • "Critical areas" -- e.g., wet lands, wildlife habitats, and flood plains,-- and "resource lands" -- e.g., farms and forest -- must be identified and protected.
  • Unlike Oregon, Washington opted for stronger local autonomy and does not require state approval of local plans.
  • Jurisdictions that refuse to plan -- or whose plans fail to address key issues -- lose eligibility for state-infrastructure grants and loans.  The governor may withhold sales, liquor, and gas tax revenue. So far, WA has withheld state taxes from Chelan County only.
  • Plans may be appealed to one of three state growth management hearing boards established to resolve disputes.  (Source: Smart States, Better Communities, see READINGS at end.)
1000 Friends of Washington  released a report on the progress of Washington's Growth Management Act (GMA).  The Act has been used as a model for other states looking to control unwanted growth and encourage infill development. 

Contact: The Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development; Tim Douglas, Director; 906 Columbia St. S.W., P.O. Box 48300, Olympia, WA 98504-8300; Phone: (360) 753-7426; Fax: (360) 586-3582
Internet: http://www.wa.gov/cted/growth/index.html

Special Valuation for Improvements to Historic Property (1985) (ch. 84.26 RCW and ch. 254-20 WAC)
The special valuation is a locally adopted property tax incentive program authorized by state law. For a 10 year-period, eligible applicants may exclude the increased property value resulting from rehabilitation of a qualified property (usually National Register of Historic Places or locally designated) from the new assessed valuation after rehabilitation. During this time property taxes are based on that "special valuation" instead of the full assessed value. This program has been implemented in about 30 Washington cities and counties. Contact: Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, 906 Columbia St. S.W., P.O. Box 48300; Olympia, WA 98504-8300; Phone: 360.753.7426; Fax: 360.586.3582 Internet: http://www.wa.gov:80/cted/oahphome.htm.  To see the Special Valuation FAQs, link to:  http://www.mrsc.org/planning/historic/hpfaqs.htm#5

Program for New and Rehabilitated Property  (1995) RCW 84.14.020
Tax incentives to encourage construction of new downtown housing and facilitate conversion of vacant property to residential in downtowns with "mixed use centers" in urban areas. RCW 84.14 currently authorizes cities and towns with a population of at least 100,000 under the Growth Management Act (GMA) to offer a ten-year property tax exemption as an incentive for constructing or rehabilitating multifamily housing in vacant structures. To qualify, a minimum of four multifamily units must be constructed, converted, or rehabilitated within city-designated target areas or within urban centers. For more information, see: http://www.mrsc.org/textfill.htm#E13E1

See Washington state's website for bills relating to the Growth Management Act:

For legislative updates, see 1000 Friends of Washington website at::

Washington State Land Use Study Commission (ESHB 1724)
WA legislative reforms in 1995 created the Commission to explore and eventually merge WA's land use planning and environmental laws to encourage environmentally responsible economic growth. The Commission was also charged to consider the effectiveness of state and local government efforts to consolidate and integrate the growth management act, the state environmental policy act, the shoreline management act, and other land use, planning, environmental, and permitting laws.  The Commission has issued three annual reports since 1995.  Recommendations in 1997 included increasing incentives for building within urban growth areas and providing benefits to local governments that have completed their comprehensive plans and development regulations.
For more information, contact: Internet: http://www.wa.gov/cted/landuse/about.html

Bremerton, et al. v Kitsap Cy.
In 1994, after Kitsap County approved its comprehensive plan, 19 organizations filed complaints with the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board protesting the plan's failure to meet the requirements of the GMA.  The organizations, which included 1000 Friends of Washington and the Kitsap Citizens for Rural Preservation, specifically faulted the plan's Urban Growth Area as being too large, as well as the plan's allowing development at a minimum of 1 unit per acre, which would allow unconstrained low density development in rural areas. The organizations also argued that public facilities and services were not adequately financed or sited in accordance with  the county's projected growth.  On October 5, 1996, the hearings board agreed with the organizations and declared Kitsap County the plan invalid.   Out of the ruling came a useful list of eight major consequences of sprawl: 

(1) it needlessly destroys the economic, environmental and aesthetic value of resource lands;
(2) it blurs local government roles, fueling competition, redundancy and conflict among those governments;
(3) it blurs local government roles, fueling competition, redundancy and conflict among those government;
(4) it threatens economic viability by diffusing rather than focusing needed public infrastructure investments;
(5) it abandons established urban areas where substantial past investments, both public and private, have been made;
(6) it encourages insular and parochial local policies that thwart the siting of needed regional facilities and the equitable accommodation of locally unpopular land uses;
(7) it destroys the intrinsic visual character of the landscape; and
(8) it erodes a sense of community, which, in turn, has dire social consequences.
(Source: Smart States, Better Communities, see READINGS at end.) 

Skagit Surveyors and Engineers et al v. Friends of Skagit County et al., 135 Wn.2d 542 (6/25/98)
The state Supreme Court in June 1998 ruled that the state cannot make counties comply retroactively with its 1990 Growth Management Act.  The 7-2 decision for Skagit County allows the county to keep a 1979 zoning ordinance unchanged and develop 44,000 acres of rural land with more housing than permitted under current state law. 

For recent court decisions affecting towns, cities and the state, link to http://www.mrsc.org/legal/decs.htm

1000 Friends of Washington
1000 Friends of Washington promotes sound planning under the state's Growth Management Act, educates and empowers citizens interested in local planning, and works with coalitions of business, citizen, and government leaders to achieve sustainable growth management. Address:  1000 Friends of Washington, 1305 4th Avenue, Ste. 303, Seattle, WA 98101, Telephone: (206) 343-0681, Fax: (206) 343-0683. 

Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is dedicated to protecting Washington's cultural heritage. Address:  WTHP, 204 First Avenue, South, Seattle, Washington 98104, Telephone: (206) 624-7880. 

Washington Environmental Council
The Washington Environmental Council is a statewide, non-profit organization of  individual volunteers and affiliated organizations working to protect, preserve, and restore the environment of Washington State. WEC has offices in Seattle, Olympia, and Spokane.  Address:  615 Second Avenue, Suite 380,  Seattle, WA 98104, Telephone: (206) 672-8103, Email: greenwec@aol.com 

Alt-Trans (the Washington Coalition for Transportation Alternatives) is comprised of over 60 public, private sector, and public interest organizational members and individual members. Its mission is to advocate alternatives to solo driving, reduce the environmental burdens of transportation, and promote a more balanced and intermodal transportation system.  Address: 915 E. Pines Street, Suite 301, Seattle, WA 98122, Telephone: 206/325-9932, Fax: 06/325-9936, E-mail:plschiller@transact.org 

Coalition of Washington Communities
The Coalition of Washington Communities (WAC) is dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of life in the neighborhoods of the state.  They focus on land use, transportation, and public involvement in community issues.  Address: 85 E. Roanoke St., Seattle, WA 98102,
Telephone:  206/322-5463, Fax: 206/322-5463, E-mail: cleman@eskimo.com

NowBike! Washington
NowBike! Encourages bicycle commuting, supports bicycle-friendly public policies, and advocates funding for bicycle facilities. Address: P.O. Box 2904, Seattle, Washington 98111, Telephone: 206/224-9252, Fax: 206/224-9254, E-mail: NowBike@accessone.com

"Urban sprawl turns green to brown as tree cover shrinks", Scott Sunde, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/15/98; (206) 448-8331; scottsunde@seattle-pi.com 

"Bad news for light rail: Clock's ticking, money slipping," Seattle Times. April 13, 2001. 

Check out "Toward a Sustainable Seattle: A Plan for Managing Growth --1994-2014"
Contact: Strategic Planning Office, 600 4th Avenue, Room 300-Municipal Building Seattle, WA 98104; (206) 684-808;  Internet:  http://www.pan.ci.seattle.wa.us/planning/