Planners' Update Newsletter - May 2023

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may 16, 2023

Planners' Update Newsletter

Awards for Planning Excellence

Photo of 2023 Planning Assoc of WA awards presentation

The Washington chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-WA) and the Planning Association of Washington (PAW) announced the 2023 award winners for outstanding contributions in the field of planning in Washington state at PAW’s annual conference last month.

For the 37th year, the associations jointly recognized excellence in planning efforts in government and the private sector, and increasing public awareness of planning across Washington state.

Each winner provides an enduring example of planning excellence and positive growth. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Introducing our new tribal planner, Bridget Ray

Bridget Ray headshot photo

We would like to introduce Bridget Ray, Ojibwe/michif (she/they), tribal planning liaison for Growth Management Services.

“People belong to the land. It’s our job to care for the places we live, and our tribal planning centers mother earth and community,” Bridget said of her new role.

Helping to foster conversations and strengthen connections between state and tribal planning efforts, Bridget is excited to join the Commerce team and meet with tribal communities and planners across our great state.

Born of mixed cultural heritage and raised by the Salish Sea, Bridget lives in Steh-chass (Olympia, WA), where she has tended to the land with her family for decades. A second generation tribal liaison, Bridget is an accomplished tribal planner and facilitator with expertise in integrated environmental projects, sustainable infrastructure, and public engagement. She has been an active participant in Tribal Canoe Journey since Paddle to Elwha 2005, helping grow Green Team efforts on water conservation, waste reduction and stewardship.

A greener Greener, Bridget is a graduate of The Evergreen State College with a dual BA/BS in Liberal Arts and Environmental Science, with a focus in Marine Life and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). She currently serves as director of the Salish Sea Collective, is on the Board of Directors for the Na’ah Illahee Fund, Earth Creative and The Yarrow Project. Bridget is also on the planning team for the UW Living Breath Indigenous Foods Symposium, and a member of the Green Infrastructure Summit Host Committee. The last Green Infrastructure Summit opened with the first ever tribal planning panel.

Please join us in welcoming Bridget Ray. You can reach her at

Planning for Housing Updates

Webinar offers tools for discussing racial discrimination in housing

The 2021 amendments (HB 1220) to the Growth Management Act (GMA) require that jurisdictions identify policies and regulations that result in racially disparate impacts, displacement and exclusion in housing. It also requires that communities identify and implement policies and regulations that begin to undo these impacts.

To assist the community staff teams that are taking on this all-important and difficult work, we will host a free webinar on how jurisdictions might best engage in these discussions about race when addressing these new GMA housing element requirements. 

Commerce’s consultant in this effort, BDS Planning, will cover:best public engagement practices when discussing racially disparate impacts, exclusion and displacement, and identify tools that can be used to engage community-based organizations to support your planning work. 

"Talking Race for Planners"

Wednesday, May 24, 2023, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.

Register for the May 24 webinar (Zoom)  

Housing Update: ADU draft guidance updated, 30-day comment period now open

As you may know, Commerce was in the midst of updating Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) guidance when the 2023 legislative session ended. Our Growth Management Services team has again updated the draft ADU Guidance (Box PDF) to reflect recent session law HB 1337 expanding housing options.

The intent of HB 1337 is to further ADU home construction and increase the variety of housing types and housing options for residents of any income and ability level.

The bill requires local governments fully planning under the GMA to update comprehensive plan policies and regulations within 6 months after the due date of their next GMA periodic update required under RCW 36.70A.130

We will finalize the guidance in June 2023, along with editable PowerPoint presentations and pre-recorded webinars for your educational outreach purposes.

Comments or questions?

Please submit comments and questions on the draft guidance by June 15, 2023 to Catherine McCoy at

Pilot program primes cities for new climate planning regulations

Commerce recently wrapped up a pilot program to help three small and geographically diverse cities integrate climate resilience into their comprehensive plans — critical work that will help the communities meet new regulations and bounce back from the impacts of stronger storms, deeper droughts, and other hazards worsened by a warming world.

The pilot cities — Port Angeles, Pullman and Woodland — worked over the winter and spring with Cascadia Consulting Group and BERK Consulting to test the Commerce Climate Programs draft planning guidance for developing resilience goals and policies for a comprehensive plan climate element. The work is timely.

On May 3, Gov. Inslee signed into law a bill (HB 1181), adding a climate goal to Washington’s Growth Management Act and requiring comprehensive plans to have a climate element with resilience and emissions mitigation sub-elements. The resilience sub-element is mandatory for all counties and cities fully planning under the GMA and is encouraged for all other jurisdictions.

The pilot cities used the University of Washington’s new Climate Mapping for a Resilient Washington webtool to explore expected local climate impacts over the coming decades. They used this information to audit their body of planning work (including comprehensive plans) and identify goal and policy gaps and opportunities to bolster climate resilience.

Port Angeles and Pullman used the guidance to dig even deeper, assessing climate vulnerability and risk for local assets such as urban forests, trails and buildings. All pilot cities and consultants used the information to draft goals and policies for policymaker consideration over the coming months.

What we learned from the pilot

Feedback from the pilot cities included the following observations:

  • The resilience guidance and its companion tools were clear, accessible and user-friendly.
  • The workbook would benefit from inclusion of real pilot program examples on the step specific tabs.
  • Jurisdictions should supplement county-level climate impact information (in UW’s webtool) with more granular, localized climate data.
  • Integrating these sub-element items into comprehensive planning will be significantly harder without additional capacity and/or climate expertise and support.
  • Additional resources could also include fact sheets designed for public consumption helping to describe the need for city and countywide climate planning integration.

Big, small, urban, rural – the rest of Washington’s geographically and politically diverse jurisdictions may be starting from very different places in terms of past climate work and planning capacity. Our forthcoming planning guidance will meet jurisdictions where they are, recommending planning best-practices, leveraging trusted resources, and providing flexible pathways toward creating a climate element that meets local needs and supports environmental justice.  

We will publish the draft climate element planning guidance by the end of June and revise it over the final months of 2023 to reflect the new state planning requirements. Jurisdictions with a 2025 comprehensive plan periodic update deadline will be the first required to integrate a climate element.


For questions about the pilot program or the planning guidance, please visit our Climate Program website or email

News from outside Commerce

WDFW Update

WDFW logo

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Riparian Management Zone Checklist for Critical Areas Ordinances 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is pleased to announce the release of a new Riparian Management Zone Checklist for Critical Areas Ordinances.

The checklist is a voluntary technical assistance tool intended to support local jurisdictions as they designate and protect riparian ecosystems as critical areas (i.e., Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas). In 2020, WDFW published a Best Available Science Synthesis that formed the basis for their revised Riparian Management Recommendations.

WDFW’s new checklist is designed to help local planners translate these BAS-based recommendations into Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) amendments in support of healthy, intact, and fully functioning riparian ecosystems This guidance also supports the requirement for BAS to be included in developing policies and development regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas.  

Similar to other checklists designed for land use planning updates, WDFW’s Riparian Management Zone Checklist consists of a series of questions of a jurisdiction’s existing CAO and is meant to be used iteratively to increase consistency with current guidance. Each question includes a citation to the corresponding Riparian Management Recommendation(s) for further supporting information. Questions cover a broad range of topics including riparian management zone delineation, incentives for riparian restoration, and measures for bolstering climate resilience.

The checklist also has spaces for citing the CAO section where the question is addressed and for describing how the CAO addresses or does not address the riparian management recommendation (or does not apply).

If you need help updating your CAO and/or completing this checklist, please use WDFW's appropriate regional Land Use Planning Contact email for technical assistance.  

Ecology is hiring a senior shorelines planner

Department of Ecology logo

The Shorelands & Environmental Assistance (SEA) program in the Department of Ecology is looking to fill a Senior Regional Shoreline Planner (Environmental Planner 4) position. This position is located in tje department's Eastern Region Office (ERO) in Spokane, WA.

Intended to provide leadership and support to the SEA Program, the senior planner position will work closely with local government partners in the Eastern region to develop, adopt and implement their Shoreline Master Programs (SMPs) consistent with updated rules and laws. This includes permit review, grant administration, training, outreach and support for the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) compliance team.

Experienced planners are encouraged to apply. For questions contact,

Upcoming Events

Webinar: Kick off for 2025 Commerce/Thurston Regional Planning Council Periodic Update series

Thurston Regional planning council logo

When: Wed., June 14, 9:30 a.m. – noon

Where: Online via Zoom

Register now for the Kick-off workshop

Commerce is partnering with the Thurston Regional Planning Council and the Municipal Research and Services Center to bring you workshops on various planning topics to support jurisdictions due in 2025. The kick-off workshop will include:

  • Overview of the periodic update
  • Summary of new legislation
  • Grant availability and application procedures
  • New requirements in housing and climate change
  • Resources from each partner

Future workshops include deep dives into other planning topics applicable to the update. Stay tuned to the periodic update webpage for future workshop information and registration.

Spring Planners' Forum - June 1

The Planners’ Forums are quarterly events held regionally across Washington state and in partnership with both the Washington APA and the Planners Association of Washington. Each one features guest speakers discussing planning related topics in association with the guidelines set down by the American Planning Association. While regionally focused, the forums are typically on Zoom and available for statewide attendance. You can learn more on the Planners’ Forums webpage.


Northwest Planners’ Spring Forum – June 1, 2023 at 9 a.m.

Register for June 1 Spring Forum (Zoom)

Remember, folks needing American Planning Association (AICP) credits will receive credits for attending based on topics covered. Learn more about Commerce’s regional forums at the Growth Management Planners' Forum webpage.

The Short Course on local planning

The Short Course on local planning offers an overview of land use planning laws in Washington, an introduction to comprehensive planning and plan implementation under the Growth Management Act (GMA), and a review of roles in planning and mandatory training on the Open Public Meetings Act for local government officials. All courses are online, free and open to the public.

In-person/hybird course:

Online-only (Zoom) courses:

Ask about local presentations

Commerce also offers e-visits to local planning commissions or other meetings. Topics include, but are not limited to, comprehensive plan basics and roles in the planning process. Contact your regional planner to request a presentation.