University News

University of Washington − Department of Urban Design & Planning

May 7 Reception and Lecture Featuring John Rahaim 

The Department of Urban Design and Planning would like to personally invite you to join us at the University of Washington on Tuesday, May 7th for a reception (6 pm) and lecture (7 pm) featuring John Rahaim, Planning Director for the City and County of San Francisco. The lecture, entitled "Can Planning Save the City's Soul? - 21st Century San Francisco", will focus on Rahaim's experience and “lessons learned” in San Francisco where he is dealing with strong and rapid growth demands while addressing rising housing costs, dramatic demographic changes, growing economic disparities, and increased homelessness.

Please RSVP for the event here:

Please feel free to share this event with your network of colleagues and friends. We look forward to connecting with you at the lecture on May 7.

More about John Rahaim

John Rahaim was appointed Planning Director for the City and County of San Francisco in January 2008. In that role, he is responsible for overseeing long-range planning, environmental reviews, and development entitlements for most physical development in the City.

During Mr. Rahaim’s tenure, the Planning Department has completed detailed plans for approximately 20% of the city, where most of the city’s growth will occur. The city’s population is now growing at a pace of 10,000 per year, and San Francisco has the fastest job growth rate of any US city. The Planning Department is involved in major land use policy and program development, especially related to housing, transportation and public realm planning. In addition, the Department reviews 8000 proposed development projects per year, of which nearly 2000 require detailed review and analysis, more than any city in the US.

Prior to his appointment in San Francisco, Mr. Rahaim was Director of Long Range Planning for the City of Seattle and was the Founding Executive Director of CityDesign, Seattle’s Office of Urban Design.

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Western WA University − Huxley College of the Environment

"Getting to Regional Pluralism: Merging Tribal Nations in the Emerald Corridor Planning Framework"

Nicholas Zaferatos, Ph.D., AICP
Director, WWU Urban Planning and Sustainable Development Program, Principal Investigator

The Bullitt Foundation has partnered with Western Washington University’s Urban Transitions Studio Lab (the applied research arm of WWU’s Urban Planning Program) to fund a 2-year research project to address issues regarding the exclusion of tribal governments in Washington State’s Growth Management planning process. The long-term goal of this project is to identify pathways to achieve a regional planning framework that embraces a plurality of visions and is inclusive of tribal governments. 

Importance of Plurality in Regional Planning

One of the most perplexing problems facing regional cooperation in planning Washington State’s Emerald Corridor (the Bullitt Foundation defines this region as the I-5 urban corridor) lies in the relationship between local governments (counties, cities, utility districts, etc.), deriving their authority to plan from the state; and tribal nations, whose authority emerges from their inherent sovereignty, treaty-based rights, and federally conveyed rights, and who are not subject to state planning laws. These rights and authorities involve overlapping jurisdiction both on and off of Indian Reservations. Further complicating the situation is the fact that local governments have historically applied policies that directly affect tribal interests in ways that are often adverse to tribal community goals. Adding to the confusion is the absence of a clear directive in Washington’s planning legislation to help guide local governments towards the coordination of their growth management policies with those of neighboring tribes. Differences in respective community goals often result in regional conflicts that frustrate efforts toward an inclusionary regional planning vision. With urban growth projected to significantly increase in the Corridor over the next several decades, which will further stress the natural ecosystems, the impact on tribal interests can be expected to increase dramatically. 


Conflicts between tribal and non-tribal governments in Washington State are complex and have led to decades of litigation. The focus of Indian conflict in Washington State, beyond the well-acknowledged treaty fishing rights litigation, include unresolved tribal land claims; land use jurisdiction; water rights; tribal economic development; public services delivery; and the management of environmental, cultural, and natural resources. During the past few decades, tribal interests have extended well beyond reservation boundaries over the rights of tribes to off-reservation natural resources in the network of rivers and watersheds throughout the state. These interests involve the right of fish passage (Culvert decision), the right to minimum levels of instream flows (Hirst Decision), the right to protect riparian areas that affect the survival of fish, and the rights of tribes to protect cultural interests through their delegated authority under the National Historic Preservation Act. The marginalization of tribes in Washington’s regional planning framework precludes our state’s ability to attain inclusive and equitable long-term goals that reflect the interests of the diverse communities that live together in the Emerald Corridor.

Resolution of past exclusionary practices and the associated historic conflicts between tribes and non-tribal governments requires a new approach in order to form mutually beneficial working relationships. As a process for developing intergovernmental policy reform, a clearer understanding of the underlying tensions is first required, along with a pathway toward establishing a meaningful dialogue with affected parties in order to more clearly understand the divergent interests, values, procedures, and the authorities that intersect in tribal and non-tribal regional space. 

Since the 1980s, the approach used by the State’s Executive Branch to resolve regional natural resources conflicts has emphasized cooperation and negotiation over litigation. In 1987, state natural resources agencies signed the historic Timber, Fish and Wildlife Agreement with tribes, environmental groups and private industry groups rather than litigate issues regarding timber harvest regulations. This cooperation led to another historic agreement, the 1989 Centennial Accord, between the Governor and the then 26 federally recognized Indian tribes in the state which proclaimed a new “government-to-government” relationship with tribes that has changed the way state agencies work with tribes. Nearly every executive agency now has a “tribal liaison” who is responsible for understanding the interests, concerns, and rights of tribes and facilitating a government-to-government dialogue to resolve potential conflicts. 

Conversely, the State Legislature has not adopted a comparable framework. The Growth Management Act (GMA) is a prime example of how tribes are marginalized in the regional planning process. These local and regional planning processes overlook or often ignore tribal interests and, as a consequence, tribal issues are left unresolved and all too often end up in the courts. Like the state, Indian tribes, under their own enabling legislation, also plan their futures. Tribes are planning for future population growth, the increased demand on natural resources, the need for expanded services and infrastructure, employment and community betterment, and the impacts of climate change on their geographically low-lying populations and the ecosystems that support their treaty-protected natural resources. While there appears to be an alignment of common interests between tribes and regional governments, to date Indian tribes have not had a meaningful and formal way to participate in forming a collective vision for planning the state’s future. 

Strategy to Address the Problem

While successful experiences in intergovernmental cooperation with tribes have occurred in the past, there has yet to emerge a general framework for regional pluralism in planning. Only through a collaborative process among tribal and non-tribal participants might we hope to identify a path leading to an approach that is inclusive of those diverse interests. 

The project is directed by Professor Zaferatos and supported by a project team of professional and scholarly experts in the fields of tribal law and policy, governance, planning, and environmental and natural resources policy. Key community partners and project informants who will be consulted in the project include planners working for tribal and local governments. 

The project includes two primary components: the identification, clarification, and conveyance of tribal interests affected by local and regional planning; and the evaluation of mechanisms fostering intergovernmental regional planning. The project’s first phase begins with the identification of the realm of intersecting tribal interests that occur throughout the Emerald Corridor region of Washington State to clarify the legal and policy basis supporting those interests (subject to the tribes’ consent to disseminate those interests). The second phase focuses on identifying information gaps, overlapping interests, and anticipated points of policy, jurisdictional, and procedural conflict. This process is conducted through a series of workshops with tribal and local government participants. Both tribal and local government participants, represented by their respective agency planning directors, are invited to a series of workshops to evaluate models of intergovernmental cooperation to formulate recommendations regarding workable approaches.

The project concludes with concrete recommendations aimed at fostering an inclusionary regional planning framework in Washington State. Anticipated outcomes include: 1) documentation representing the realm of tribal interests in a descriptive and mapped report format; 2) frameworks and model agreements guiding intergovernmental cooperation; 3) policy reform recommendations to the State’s planning legislation; and 4) guidance to local governments on establishing collaborative planning mechanisms in the form of a “tribal chapter” to the Short Course on Local Planning.

For further information, contact [email protected]

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