Growth Management Act

Update the Growth Management Act to respond to needs for affordable housing, climate mitigation, and environmental justice

Background

The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires state and local governments to manage Washington's growth by identifying and protecting critical areas and natural resource lands, designating urban growth areas, preparing comprehensive plans and implementing them through capital investments and development regulations. It was adopted by the Legislature in 1990, and there are plans to update it in the upcoming legislative session.

Rather than centralize planning and decision-making at the state level, the GMA focuses on local control. It establishes state goals, sets deadlines for compliance, offers direction on how to prepare local comprehensive plans and regulations and sets forth requirements for early and continuous public participation. Within the framework provided by the mandates of the Act, local governments have many choices regarding the specific content of comprehensive plans and implementing development regulations.

Updating the GMA – Climate and Affordable Housing

HB 1099 was a bill before the Legislature in 2022 that failed only due to lack of time. We would like it to be passed in the next session. It would add a new climate element to the GMA, that would then require counties to incorporate climate change into their planning process in their comprehensive plans. It calls for comprehensive plans to help achieve statewide goals of emissions reductions, and reductions in vehicle miles driven per capita. It requires that environmental justice be given special consideration, and that the comprehensive plan avoid policies that would create or worsen environmental health disparities.

The Legislature did adopt provisions in 2021 to require communities to plan for more affordable housing.

Comprehensive Plans

King County Comprehensive Plan

Except for small routine or technical changes, King County only updates its comprehensive plan every four years. In 2020, there was a a limited scope "four-year midpoint" update, and in 2024 a statutory update is required.

Seattle Comprehensive Plan

In the Media

Current GMA Elements

The GMA lays out a list of "elements" that comprehensive plans are required to include, and a second list of optional elements. The mandatory requirements are:

  • Land Use

  • Housing

  • Capital Facilities Plan

  • Utilities

  • Rural Development (counties only)

  • Transportation

  • Economic Development

  • Parks and Recreation

  • Ports (mandatory for cities with annual maritime port revenues exceeding $60 million)

The optional elements are:

  • Conservation

  • Solar Energy

  • Recreation

  • Subarea Plans (neighborhoods, rural villages, urban growth areas, tribal areas, etc.)

  • Ports (optional for cities with annual maritime port revenues of $20 million to $60 million, RCW 36.70A.085)