Planners' Update Newsletter - June 2023

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june 22, 2023

Planners' Update Newsletter

Farewell to our Middle Housing Team

Photo of Commerce Middle housing Team members

As June wraps up our fiscal year and the summer begins, Commerce would like to start the new biennium with a hearty  thank you to our Middle Housing Team. Housing has been at the forefront of everything this year, culminating in an unbelievable amount of attention in the 2023 legislative session. The middle housing team joined us at just the right moment, helping local governments throughout our state in a season of significant change.

Intended to be short term, the team consisted of several highly experienced planning professionals (pictured above left to right):

  • Dave Osaki has been a community development director for Fife, Monroe, and Mukilteo and involved in local planning for 35 years.
  • Shane Hope was a planning and community development director for two cities, as well as a former managing director of Growth Management Services at Commerce.
  • Joe Tovar was a planning director for four cities (including Kirkland and Shoreline) and has been an affiliate planning professor and consultant.

While their work bears the moniker “Middle Housing,” the team's goals have always been the same - leveraging public infrastructure investments to support infill development that is affordable to more households. They supported the Puget Sound region directly in addressing racially disparate impacts in housing and considering middle housing as the 2024 jurisdictions started off the current periodic update cycle.

The team provided solutions for subsequent updates through the middle housing toolkit created over the last year. With new laws on the books and the periodic update cycle well underway, Joe and Shane can move into retirement knowing they helped pave the way for communities across our state. Dave has offered to stay on longer to help the housing team continue to support local governments as they implement new housing guidance developed in the last year. Even if it was for a short time, Commerce was  lucky to have these talented professionals on our team.

Periodic update grant funding available July 1

With the new fiscal biennium kicking off July 1, we want to remind you that formula grants for 2025 updates will be available soon. With so many new areas of focus required in comprehensive plans, we know this funding is timely. For jurisdictions with a 2025 due date, start keeping track of periodic update costs after July 1 so your agency can be reimbursed for items expensed under your comprehensive plan updates. Visit our grants page to learn more.

Although we are still unpacking the 2023 legislative session and budget, we do expect new funding cycles and grant opportunities for local governments to pursue as a part of their periodic updates. Some of the calculations for these funding amounts are still being considered, but Commerce intends to send out a special edition funding newsletter once we learn more.

Governor's Smart Communities Awards yield several fine examples of planning 

The nomination window for the 2023 Governor’s Smart Community Awards (GSCA) is now closed. Thanks to everyone for this year's crop of amazing submissions. Our judges will work furiously over the coming weeks to review the applications and select winners for the GSCA categories. You should expect to hear more about winners later this summer.

These awards highlight the actions of local governments and their partners across our  state, providing consistent examples of excellence in planning and forward-thinking leadership. Whether you’ve submitted an application or not, we encourage you to check back and learn more. This program provides Commerce with a constant source of inspiration. You are all amazing!

APA graphic novel offers resources for young planners

Planning ahead often means teaching young people about the importance of community planning. With so much at stake, many young people don’t know a lot about the communities they live in. American Planning Association of Washington (APA) has developed a youth-oriented, award-winning, graphic novel: “Washington By and By.”

We have a limited supply available at no charge. If you would like paperback copies for your youth commission, schools or other interested groups, please contact Valerie Smith soon with your request.

View or download the online version of Washington By and By.

APA isn’t the only one with a focus on youth in planning. Here are a few more youth resources you might be interested in:

These resources are available now or soon, and would make great summer reading for young people in your community.

News from outside Commerce

 Shoreline Permitting Manual chapter added

Department of Ecology logo

The Department of Ecology's newest chapter of the Shoreline Permitting Manual, Shoreline No Net Loss and Mitigation: Guidance for Local Governments, was published at the end of May. You can find the document on the shoreline planners’ toolbox webpage and on Ecology’s publications page. This guidance covers the framework of no net loss (NNL) of shoreline ecological functions at the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) and site-specific level, but does not contain a quantitative method for achieving NNL.

In the new chapter, you will find support for how to review individual shoreline proposals for the careful and complete implementation of SMP No Net Loss requirements. Developed for local government practitioners who review shoreline proposals, the chapter provides the following:

  • Mitigation sequencing as the mechanism for achieving NNL
  • How applicants should document mitigation sequencing
  • Mitigation sequencing tools and resources
  • Several example project scenarios
  • Mitigation plan basics

Training offered - get on the waiting list. A training on “Advanced Shoreline Permitting: No Net Loss and Mitigation” offered through the Coastal Training Program on Nov. 7 is currently full, but you can join the waiting list.

Contact for more information.

New electronic land use and environmental appeals filing system now available

Logo for environmental and land use hearings office

The Washington State Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office (ELUHO) launched an online case management system June 16 that will require users to create an account. The new system allows you to electronically file appeals, petitions, and other case documents with ELUHO’s Growth Management, Pollution Control, and Shorelines Hearings Boards. Users will be able to view cases, both historical and active, in an online, searchable database, and download case documents.

Sign up for e-mail notifications at and read the fact sheet for more information.

New glossary added to Washington Geologic Information Portal

In April, the Washington Geological Survey released a new glossary to accompany the Washington Geologic Information Portal. The glossary provides easy-to-understand explanations of every data layer on the Washington State Department of Natural Resources GIS Portal webpage.

As many of you delve into the Periodic Update process, don’t forget the science and information available to you as you plan.

Upcoming Events

Webinar: 2025 workshop series continues with  focus on housing

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 first housing workshop will include:

  • Changes to the housing element
  • Allocation and land capacity of housing needs
  • Racially disparate impacts requirements
  • Tools and resources

Each workshop in the series will feature a different periodic update topic. Register now for Workshop #1:

"Periodic Update Housing Workshop #1"

When: Wednesday, July 19,  10 a.m. – Noon

Where: Online via Zoom

Register Housing Workshop #1

Stay tuned to the periodic update webpage for future workshop information and registration.

Questions? Contact Suzanne Austin

Summer Planners' Forum schedule coming soon

Having just wrapped up several spring forums, the Planners’ Forum summer schedule will be updated in our July newsletter. With so many new topics to learn about, we hope you’ll join us for some late summer fun in planning.

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

Remember, you can receive American Planning Association (AICP) credits  for attending based on topics covered. Learn more about our 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.

Next in-person course:

  • Franklin County
    Sept. 13 - more details to come

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.