August Planners’ Newsletter

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August 16, 2023

August Planners’ Newsletter

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Part one: Climate and housing updates

With so much to talk about, we will separate the August Planner’s Newsletter into two mailings. This newsletter is part one, featuring updates on climate planning, guidance from our housing planners, and much more. We will publish part two later this week, which features available funding opportunities for cities and counties.

Climate update guidance and resources

New planning and funding resources build climate resilience

Gov. Inslee signed HB 1181 into law in May, adding a climate goal to the Growth Management Act (GMA) and requiring local comprehensive plans to include a climate element with goals and policies. Commerce published early planning guidance in June to help cities and counties develop the required climate element. The agency’s companion Menu of Measures includes about 200 model climate goals and policies, including those listed in the new University of Washington report.

This report recommends strategies for communities to reduce extreme heat impacts and improve public health outcomes, including enhancing heat warning systems with community outreach, improving protections for outdoor workers and increasing tree canopy and shade structures. Commerce will provide approximately $30 million in climate planning grants in the 2023-25 biennium for fully planning cities and counties to support development of climate elements with the expectation that additional resources would be available throughout the current period update cycle.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will invest about $575 million to build coastal resilience at regional scales. Coastal states, tribes, cities and counties are eligible to apply for NOAA grants, which may be used for planning and implementation activities that increase resilience to climate-exacerbated hazards and impacts including sea level rise and coastal erosion. Applicants should submit a letter of intent by Aug. 21, 2023 and a full application by Feb 13, 2024. See additional information at the NOAA Climate Resilience Regional Challenge website

Housing updates

Final housing element guidance published

Final guidance for updating housing elements is now available on the Updating GMA Housing Elements web page. The following items can be used in updating your housing elements under new state guidelines:

If you are working through a housing element update and need assistance, or a presentation from Commerce, contact Laura Hodgson at or 360-764-3143.

Draft Displacement Risk Map – Comment through September 29

Commerce developed a Draft Displacement Risk Map to support jurisdictions with the new housing element requirements. This map will help jurisdictions meet GMA requirements to “identify areas that may be at higher risk of displacement from market forces.” Please send any comments or questions about the draft displacement map to Laura Hodgson at by Sept. 29.

For those jurisdictions in the Central Puget Sound area, this memo explains how the map provides an additional level of information about displacement risk. On Thursday, Sept. 7 from 1 – 2 p.m. we will host a webinar to demonstrate the map, briefly explain the methodology, and answer questions. For more information, visit the GMA housing elements web page.

Middle housing model ordinance consultant selected

Commerce has selected a Makers Architecture and Urban Design (“MAKERS”) consultant to prepare middle housing model ordinance(s), which recent middle housing legislation requires Commerce to publish no later than Jan. 23, 2024. The model middle housing ordinance(s) will identify approaches local governments can take to address HB 1110 (2023) and will include annotations for explanatory purposes. If a local government has not passed an ordinance or regulation implementing HB 1110 by six months after their periodic update, the model ordinance takes effect until the local jurisdiction adopts consistent local development regulations. For more detail on HB 1110, see our publication on HB 1110.

MAKERS’ project team includes Land Development Consultants (LDC), Neighborhood Workshop, ECONorthwest and Ogden Murphy Wallace (OMW) PLCC. The model ordinance process will include outreach to stakeholder groups, including a local government planner advisory group. A 30-day public comment period on the draft model ordinances will occur in winter of 2023.  For more information, contact Dave Osaki at

Need text, PowerPoints or handouts to talk about housing?

Help for talking about housing in your community is now available! We have produced a series of outreach materials that local governments can use to talk about housing products in their community. They cover the need to plan for housing, planning for the lowest income segments, racially disparate impacts in housing, middle housing and more. These videos are also available in three languages. Access all products from the bottom of our main planning for housing web page.

To start, check out these videos on housing.

Nisqually wetlands scene

Sound Choices Checklist

The Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead (HSIL), in partnership with Department of Commerce, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Partnership, and the Stormwater Strategic Initiative, has updated the Sound Choices Checklist for Comprehensive Plans.  

The Sound Choices Checklist is a tool that aligns the Puget Sound recovery strategies and actions with the comprehensive plan elements. Puget Sound jurisdictions can use the checklist to consider how their comprehensive plans are setting the stage for Puget Sound recovery. 

This checklist compiles existing best practices and Puget Sound recovery priorities for local planners to consider in comprehensive plan updates. It complements the WDFW Riparian Management Zone checklist and Puget Sound Regional Council’s Guidance on Integrating Stormwater Solutions into Comprehensive Plans.

Growth Management Services is hiring!

As the state’s population grows, our need for planning increases as well. With new legislative requirements and new funding opportunities, Commerce is staffing up to meet new mandates.

As we shared with you in our recent Legislative Special Edition Newsletter, the changes coming to planning in our state are historic in nature. From planning for climate change to improving housing in our communities, take a moment to consider how you can do more for your community. Commerce is a work-from-home option for many of our employees. Planners are one of the best options for work from home as they often find roles supporting the community in which they live.

Here is our current list of positions

Headshot of Deborah Jacobs

Please welcome our new housing planner

Please join us in welcoming Deborah Jacobs, one of our new Housing Planners in Commerce Growth Management. In her role, Deborah will help manage contracts.

“I couldn’t be happier to become part of such a great team and mission,” said Deborah. “Growing accessible and affordable housing is at the core my beliefs about building a caring society.”

With a background in social and economic justice, Deborah has worked with government and community for decades. She worked for the American Civil Liberties Union in three states for more than two decades, as well as for the Ms. Foundation for Women, where she helped build programs to support our society’s most disadvantaged members with respect to child care, health care and safety.

Deborah grew up in Ellensburg and has experienced housing in rural, suburban and urban locations across the county. She earned both a B.A. and an M.A. from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. She has also studied in Scandinavia as a Fulbright Scholar.

News outside of Commerce

WSDOT logo


The Washington State Department of Transportation recently published a final report on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Targets. The focus of the report is on necessary steps to develop VMT targets at a regional scale for the most populous and fastest growing parts of the state. Discussion of actions local jurisdiction can include in their comprehensive plans in order to reduce VMT is included with land use actions identified as having the largest benefit. The report also offers potential changes to laws and rules that would help reduce VMT. 

Department of Natural Resources Logo

DNR Survey

The Washington Geological Survey (WGS) is interested in hearing how planners are using WGS maps and data to make land-use decisions. Let WGS know what you think by taking the survey!! You can find it on the WGS home page, and you can find it on the WGS Geologic Planning homepage.

Washington State Department of Health

The Washington State Department of Health would like you to save the date on September 19 & 20 for their Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Forum. PFAS are a large family of human-made chemicals in use since the 1950s that can take a long time to break down in water supplies. You can attend the forum online or in-person with focused topic discussions on source identification, treatment, surface water, wastewater, water reclamation and more.

Check out the ODW PFAS Save the date flyer to learn more and access DOH resources.

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Thurston Regional Planning logo


Webinar: the 2025 Workshop series will focus on Climate Planning in September

When: September 21, 2023 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Where: Online via Zoom


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 with updates due in 2025. The September workshop will focus on climate planning as the first of two workshops on this topic.  You can read more on the workshop flyer (PDF).

Each workshop in the series will feature a different periodic update topic. Stay tuned to the periodic update webpage for future workshop information and registration. Questions? Contact Suzanne Austin at

Upcoming Planners’ Forum

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.

  • Peninsula Planners’ Forum – August 17, 2023 from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. Agenda (PDF)
  • NW Planners’ Forum – September 7, from 9:00 to 11:15 a.m. Agenda (PDF)

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.

Short Courses 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. The program took a brief break in July and August and returns in September.

Upcoming In-person course:

Franklin County – September 13 from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Franklin County Courthouse Commission’s Room

Upcoming zoom courses:

September 21, 2023 at 1 p.m. Register

October 25, 2023 at 1 p.m. Register

November 29, 2023 at 6 p.m. Register

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.