Washington State has one of the strongest community planning statutes in the nation, which has enabled our citizens, businesses, elected leaders, and our profession to help “make great communities happen” across the state. APA looks forward to continuing work with the Ruckelshaus Center, peer organizations, and stakeholders to carry out the Road Map to Washington’s Future and help ensure Washington’s future continues to be successful at promoting sustainable development patterns, preserving farmland, building a resilient economic base, and saving taxpayer dollars. While that work is underway, below are the priorities of the Washington Chapter of the American Planning Association for the 2019 legislative session. 

2019 Legislative Priorities 

By:Yorik Stevens-Wajda and Esther Larsen, Legislative Committee Co-Chairs

Housing & Homelessness

In order for communities to function, there must be an adequate supply of housing in proximity to employment, public transportation, and community facilities, such as public schools. The housing stock must include affordable and accessible for sale and rental units, not only to meet social equity goals but in order to ensure community viability. The development of a diverse and affordable housing stock must be carried out without sacrificing sound regulations that are in place to protect the environment and public health.

APA Washington supports the 2017 Housing Affordability Response Team (HART) Recommendations and Affordable Housing Advisory Board 2019 Legislative Agenda

  • Provide funding to continue the work of HART, implement the recommendations in the HART report, and explore areas for further research.
  • Provide planning grants and local governments to plan for housing at every income level, especially for lower-income households, and require accountability
  • Continue to support local efforts to assess land capacity through buildable land reports.
  • Encourage communities to facilitate the development of more affordable housing.
  • Seek responsible changes to development-related statutes and regulations to facilitate housing development. Coordinate these changes with the Road Map project.
  • Provide stable and dependable funding for affordable housing.
  • Encourage public agencies to consider underutilized public property as an opportunity for affordable housing.

Climate change

Local planning has for years been directed to help support a lower statewide carbon footprint, but much of that planning has been hampered by distorted prices for carbon-based energy. Pricing carbon would go a long way towards supporting those plans and making a low-carbon Washington a reality. The legislature is strongly urged to take decisive action on this issue in 2019, regardless of the outcome of I-1631.

APA Washington supports updating, clarifying, and strengthening the state’s statutory greenhouse gas emission reduction benchmarks, as well as action to establish mechanisms, such as pricing carbon pollution, that will achieve those benchmarks.
APA Washington supports legislative efforts to pursue climate action plans, regulatory measures, incentives, technical standards and specifications, and mitigation and adaption measures in comprehensive plans.
APA Washington supports incorporating climate impacts, indicators, and benchmarks in comprehensive plans, environmental impact analysis, and development reviews.


The legislature has made strides but more steps are needed to address infrastructure deficits. Local governments need tools like the Public Works Trust Fund and revenue options. The state should also establish mechanisms to ensure funding decisions reflect state, regional, and local plans and policies.

APA Washington supports loan programs, local funding authority, and state appropriations to address infrastructure needs that align with state, regional, and local plans and policies.

Support funding for planning

The need to provide local governments with the tools to adequately fund planning remains a high priority for APA Washington. Good planning generates value and pays ongoing dividends through the efficient and effective provision of public services, a healthy tax base, and engaged communities.

APA Washington strongly supports grant funding appropriations for upcoming comprehensive plan update cycles and other targeted planning work.

Annexation reform

A core principle of the state’s planning framework is that urban growth areas should transition to municipal governance, providing local government that is more local, flexible, and fiscally sound. However annexation and incorporation activity in many urban growth areas has stalled.

APA Washington supports a state program of incentives and regulatory simplification to facilitate and encourage annexations in urban growth areas.

Support funding for civics education

Last session’s HB 1896, which APA Washington supported, calls for one credit of civics education to be part of high school curricula in the state and provides for an expanded civics education teacher training program, subject to state funding.

APA Washington supports appropriating funding for an expanded civics education teacher training program that will implement HB 1896.

School siting

School facilities have the potential to be positive centers of community life and to provide important neighborhood amenities like recreation and space for physical activity. When improperly located, they can also create permanent demands on school district and family transportation budgets, incentivize more sprawl and convert working or potential farm and forest land, and make inefficient use of public infrastructure. Washington APA continues to prefer that schools serving urban populations continue to be located in urban areas, with a focus on healthy site planning and priority for safe walking and bicycle paths between school facilities and adjacent neighborhoods.

APA Washington supports public facilities serving primarily urban populations, including schools, locating within urban growth areas, near the communities that they serve.

APA Washington supports funding for collaborative efforts between school districts, local governments, and others (such as the Clark County Quality Schools Task Force) to address siting challenges and support smart and healthy site planning in a positive and thoughtful way. 

Return to the September/October issue of The Washington Planner