Planners' Newsletter

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march 18, 2024 

March Planners’ Newsletter

Wind Turbine Photo

Climate Survey sheds light on small and mid-sized cities’ planning needs

Small and mid-sized Washington cities need more technical assistance and collaboration from partners to effectively and equitably measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions in local comprehensive plans, according to a survey (PDF) conducted jointly by the University of Washington and the Washington State Department of Commerce.

Climate Commitment Act

This Climate Commitment Act-funded survey included feedback from 64 small and mid-sized cities within 11 counties required to develop a GHG reduction sub-element, including cities with a population between 6,000 and 50,000 within Benton, Clark, Franklin, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, and Whatcom counties.  

Key survey findings include:

  • Assistance related to developing a GHG emissions inventory, conducting a Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) study, or training are mentioned by the majority of respondents as the most needed items to develop a climate sub-element
  • The majority of respondents cite financial constraints and lack of in-house technical expertise as the biggest challenges with government incentives and integrated climate resilience measures as the most-cited opportunities for developing GHG emissions reduction measures
  • Nearly half of respondents are familiar with Commerce’s technical guidance having at least briefly reviewed the June 2023 guidance or Menu of Measures (a list of model climate goals and policies)

To address HB 1181 requirements and early feedback from cities and counties, Commerce published updated climate element guidance (PDF) with engagement best practices and minimum requirements for cities and counties in January. We are also providing cities and counties with planning grants, technical assistance, online workshops, and other resources to help them develop and implement their climate elements. Over the next year, we will provide emissions inventories to the 11 counties that are required to develop a GHG reduction sub-element. Cities may use the county inventories to help shape their own.

To learn more, visit Commerce’s climate planning website.


Contact our climate planning team.

Call for nominations

18th Annual Governor’s Smart Community Awards Program

Commerce announced the 2024 Smart Community Awards this past week seeking amazing examples of planning and project development from across our great state. The Governor’s Smart Communities Awards program recognizes outstanding efforts of local communities, and their partners throughout the state, to create vibrant and livable communities through Growth Management Act planning and other community development objectives.

Submissions are due by May 15, 2024, so get your favorite project turned in soon. For more information and nomination forms, visit our GSCA webpage. The Department of Commerce administers the Governor’s Smart Awards program.


Contact Valerie Smith.

TDR and LCLIP Request for Proposals

Advance the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) and Land Conservation and Local Infrastructure Programs (LCLIP) in Puget Sound

Commerce is requesting proposals (PDF) from qualified consultants to provide feasibility assistance and guidance for local governments to successfully implement Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) and Land Conservation and Local Infrastructure Programs (LCLIP) in the Puget Sound Region.

TDR is a market-based mechanism that supports voluntary transfers of development rights from rural areas where development isn’t needed to urban areas where development is needed.  

LCLIP provides the financial incentive by allowing cities to receive a portion of the future property tax revenue from the TDR property transfer to be used on infrastructure for the new development. The whole program supports conservation and infill development.

Proposals are due by April 1, 2024. We hope to have proposals graded and a consultant onboard by late spring.


Contact Deborah Jacobs.

Housing updates

Funding Deadline: Commerce awards initial CLIHP awards but more funding is available

Commerce has awarded $240,000 to five county/city partnerships across Washington to support the coordination of land use planning and homeless service planning. This grant helps counties and cities work together to coordinate resources and plans for their lowest income housing needs, including those residents' experiencing homelessness. Another $760,000 in funding is available, with each county eligible for up to $50,000. The grant program remains open through the end of April.

Five county/city partnering applications were awarded funds:

Counties and cities coordinating together, or a non-profit provider of affordable housing and/or homeless housing in partnership with a county or city as lead applicants, are eligible to apply. For more information about the CLIHP grant, including how to apply, see the GMS grants webpage.


Contact Laura Hodgson.

Commerce materials on supportive housing types coming this spring

In 2021, the Washington Legislature changed the way communities are required to plan for housing including a requirement that cities must allow emergency housing, emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing (PSH), and transitional housing, collectively referred to as “supportive housing” (RCW 35A.21.430, RCW 35.21.683).

Although cities were required to update their regulations to be consistent with this code by September 30, 2021, many jurisdictions did not have the resources or information to make these regulatory changes. Others who updated their regulations may not have been aware of state and federal fair housing laws and continued to impose regulatory barriers to the siting of supportive housing types.

To support jurisdictions as they regulate supportive housing types with their next periodic update, Commerce is working with Abt Associates and the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) to develop several resources to support local jurisdictions. These resources include:

  • State of the Practice Report to summarize existing local practices and best practices for the siting and development of emergency housing, emergency shelters, PSH, and transitional housing.
  • Model ordinance to help local jurisdictions develop their own ordinances.
  • User’s Guide and Best Practices Report to supplement the model ordinance and provide best practices.
  • Four case studies on successful local implementation from King County and the Cities of Spokane, Vancouver, and Wenatchee.
  • Communications toolkit to help jurisdictions communicate the benefits, challenges, and best practices associated with emergency housing, emergency shelters, PSH, and transitional housing.

More details on these resources will be available in the coming months, including a 30-day public comment period on the model ordinance and a user’s guide with best practices report.

Growth Management job openings

GMS team is hiring!

All job openings are posted on the Commerce Job’s Board:

Outside of Commerce

Upcoming funding for Puget Sound recovery projects

Puget Sound National Estuary Program

The Habitat and Stormwater Strategic Initiative Leads (SIL) have upcoming funding opportunities for projects that advance Puget Sound recovery. The Habitat SIL will open two competitive funding opportunities the week of March 25 for two-year projects that accelerate Puget Sound's recovery. The funding will focus on 1) increasing capacity and workforce development to meet Puget Sound habitat recovery goals (Investment Priority A) and 2) supporting new science, synthesis, and analysis for improved protection and restoration of kelp and eelgrass in Puget Sound (Investment Priority C). More information about current Habitat SIL investment priorities can be found in the Joint SIL FFY2023-2025 Investment Plan and the full list of upcoming funding opportunities are available on the Habitat SIL website.

The Stormwater SIL is preparing to solicit proposals for Innovative BMPs for treating stormwater in toxic hotspots and transportation areas beginning mid-March. See this blog for more information and links to the website that will have the RFP and application materials: Coming Soon: Request for Proposals on Innovative Best Management Practice Installations for Toxic Chemicals in Hotspots and Transportation Areas - Strategic Initiatives of the Puget Sound National Estuary Program (


Contact Dustin Bilhimer.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources planning for natural disasters

Seattle fault may have a different origin story than previously identified

Department of Natural Resources

A new study about the Seattle fault zone has been released, with a Washington Geological Survey (WGS) geologist as the lead author. Megan Anderson, an Earthquake Geophysicist, and her coauthors, have made an exciting discovery.

The Seattle fault zone is a network of shallow faults slicing through the lowlands of Puget Sound, threatening to create damaging earthquakes for the more than four million people who live there. We know the Seattle fault ruptured notably in 923-924 AD, based on local Indigenous oral traditions and geologic evidence along the Puget Sound shoreline.

A new origin story, proposed in this study, could explain the fault system’s earliest history and help scientists improve hazard modeling for the densely populated region.

Beyond offering a possible explanation for why the fault zone exists, the study’s results about the geometry of Washington’s more ancient faults and geologic structures provide valuable details about the bedrock under and within the Seattle basin.

“This buried tectonic story was so much fun to discover, and now it will provide a great basis for getting back to answering our original questions about active fault geometry for the Seattle fault and other faults in western Washington,” Anderson said.

To read the full press release article, click here, Seattle fault may have origins in an ancient tear in the continent - AGU Newsroom.

Upcoming events

2025 Periodic Update workshop series – Legislative Update

Commerce is partnering with the Thurston Regional Planning Council and the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) to bring you workshops that support jurisdictions with periodic updates due in 2025, as required under RCW 36.70A.130. 

Thurston Regional

This workshop will cover:

  • New legislation
  • Budget overview
  • Future leadership & legislation
  • Grants & new guidance
  • Q & A

April 3, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Register (Zoom) 

Each workshop in the series will feature a different periodic update topic in-depth. Stay tunes to the periodic update webpage for more information, previous session materials and registration. 


Contact Suzanne Austin. 


WAC Housing Policy Rulemaking

Please Join Us: Housing Policy Rulemaking Listening Sessions in March and April

In June of 2023, Commerce filed a CR-101 (pdf) considering amendments to Washington Administrative Code 365-196. This new rulemaking addresses multiple pieces of legislation including housing, permitting, development regulations, urban growth areas and rural development all within the Growth Management Act.  

We invite you to attend listening sessions in March or April to review draft considerations and help us prepare for a formal CR-102 filing later this year.

Public listening sessions:

For information about this rulemaking process, a list of legislation being implemented, and more information, please visit the Commerce Rulemaking webpage.


The Planning Assoication of Washington (PAW) is delighted to present our 2024 Annual Conference, April 24-26 at Campbell’s Resort in Chelan.

PAW Logo

This year’s theme is Planning: The Next Generation and we have an exciting agenda with tracks focused on New Voyages, the changing landscape of requirements and the environment in our field, and Boldly Go, all about how the planning profession is evolving. Wednesday evening will include a reception, great for networking, followed by a Short Course. Thursday evening’s entertainment will be a return of planning trivia followed by a planning-themed ukulele performance. CM’s will be available, including the Law CM through a Case Law Update presented by Phil Olbrechts. Please visit 2024 PAW Annual Conference - Planning Association of Washington for more information, including registration and room reservation details.


Winter and Spring Planners' Forum Schedule Coming Soon

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.

Individuals 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.

Online (Zoom) courses:

In-person 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.