Summary-Comprehensive Plan

The State of Washington passed the Growth Management Act (GMA) in 1990 that requires most cities and counties to develop a “Comprehensive Plan” to manage the implications of population growth. The last time Clyde Hill created a Comprehensive Plan was in 2015, and the GMA rules mandate that we update this plan by the end of 2024, and this will be called the 2024 Comprehensive Plan.

And due to significant changes since 2015 in State laws and numerous updates to policies by King County, the work effort by Clyde Hill to create the 2024 Comprehensive Plan is extensive, costly, and requires the use of consultants.

What can be frustrating is that the requirements to create a Comprehensive Plan for a fast growth city (e.g., Bellevue) are virtually identical to a slow growth mature city such as Clyde Hill.

What is the purpose of the Comprehensive Plan ? – The document provides a plan for Clyde Hill for the long term, setting a “vision statement” for our future, and will include goals and policy statements for our land use, housing capacity, community services (capital facilities, utilities, parks) and transportation considerations. While the vision statement and goals/policies necessarily need to reflect the perspective of residents, such statements also must be consistent with the requirements of the: (1) GMA (i.e., WA state laws); (2) King County Policies (known as “countywide planning policies”; (3) the “Vision 2050” and the “multicounty planning policies” from the Puget Sound Regional Council (“PSRC”). Drafting language that reconciles view of residents and new governmental policies will be a challenging process, in my opinion as a resident.

What is role of the residents in the development of the Comprehensive Plan ? Getting residents involved is key, especially as the 2024 Comprehensive Plan will be a significant change from 2015. And, as mentioned above, the document is supposed to reflect the vision of the residents. The City of Clyde Hill has asked residents to weigh in through a now closed community survey during 2023 and via other means. Clyde Hill will likely continue community engagement in 2024. And, of course residents can attend any Planning Commission meeting or City Council meeting to gain an understanding of where the City stands in developing the Plan, and provide commentary. During 2024, residents can attend such meetings and provide feedback about draft language in the Plan, including the Vision Statement.

What are the more complex areas of the Plan ? As noted above, the prime objective of the Plan process is a mechanism for the State and County to plan and manage growth. There are secondary objectives from the State, such as ensuring cities are adopting new land use requirements, and embracing other directives, such as availability and commitment to create affordable housing. Due to the large number of laws passed recently, land use “control” has shifted significantly from municipal cities to the State. The 2024 Comprehensive Plan will include a section for Land Use and a section for Housing, and while everything in the Plan is important, these two particular sections are critical and complex. Here are some new requirements related to Housing, as an illustration:

  • RCW 36.70.070(e) requires the city to evaluate how zoning may have a discriminatory impact on the community
  • RCW 36.70A.070(2)(b) requires the Housing element to provide goals, policies, and objectives that serve each economic level in the city. Additionally an inventory is required of our existing a projected housing needs (provided by King County).

Can the City elect not to complete the Comprehensive Plan ? That is likely a legal question, but since the document is required by the GMA, it would seem illogical not to complete the Plan as we surely would face unpleasant legal hazards. In addition, the City would likely lose eligibility for State grants that provide funding sources for maintaining our roads and other activities and would be subject to sanctions by the governor, including withholding real estate excise taxes.

When is the Comprehensive Plan due, and who “approves” the document ? As mentioned, the Plan must be completed by the end of 2024. The Plan, which is prepared by City Administration, is subject to reviews by the Planning Commission, and then City Council will also review and take a vote on whether to adopt the Plan. The Plan is then subject to a review (and possible comment process) from the GMA and from the PSRC, The end goal is to attain a “certification” from the PSRC. The key focus of the GMA and PSRC review process is assess whether the Plan is conforming and consistent with priorities and policies of the GMA, King County, and the PSRC.

Who pays for the preparation of the Plan ? While the GMA has provided a $125,000 Grant to Clyde Hill, a reading of documents on the Clyde Hill website indicate the cost of completing the Plan will substantially exceed the Grant value. According to the Dec 12, 2023 City Council meeting, the costs-to-date are about $193,000, and during the August 2023 City Council meeting the total costs of the Plan were estimated at $310,000 (note that during the Dec 12th meeting, no total cost estimate was provided). In summary, to the extent that the cost of the Plan is not covered by Grants, the costs are borne by residents and charged as an operating expense, which contributes to our deficit.

What happens after the 2024 Comprehensive Plan is completed? As mentioned above, the State has passed and is expected to continue pass, mass quantities of legislation about land use and housing mandates that impact municipal cities. The 2024 Comp Plan will incorporate some of this legislation, most notably HB1220 (“housing capacity”) that requires cities (1) review land capacity; (2) include policies about moderate densities; (3) document barriers to housing availability; (4) consider housing in relation to employment, and consider ADUs in meeting needs; and (5) identify local policies and regulations that result in racially disparate impacts, displacements, and exclusions in housing.

But there is much legislation and change that becomes effective in 2025 and beyond, which will not be reflected in the 2024 Comp Plan. Clyde Hill will of course assess each area and update their City Code and policies as necessary, and could make a policy decision to have a formal process to “amend” the 2024 Comprehensive Plan in subsequent years to reflect the rules. Some of the known new legislation that becomes effective after the 2024 Comp Plan is finalized includes:

  • HB1110 (Middle Housing) – this is a big, big deal…requires that require cities to address zoning requirements for “middle housing”. HB1110 defines nine types of middle housing, which are essentially types of housing between single family homes and high rise buildings, such as duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhomes, courtyard apartments, and stacked flats. The rules places Cities into “tiers” and Clyde Hill is a Tier 3 city, which means we have to permit four of nine of the middle housing types and MUST allow two units per lot. There are lots of other rules, this is just a summary, and the WA Commerce Department is expected to issue the final ordinance and user guidance about HB1110 during early 2024. Clyde Hill will likely complete their process of implementing HB1110 by mid-2025.
  • HB1337 (ADUs) – This essentially expands housing options by easing barriers to the construction and use of ADUs (accessory dwelling units), such as legalizing two ADUs per lot and placing restrictions on how much on-site parking can be required . Clyde Hill will likely complete their process of implementing HB1137 by mid-2025.
  • SB5258 (Condos) – this is intended to increase the supply and affordability of condos and townhomes. Requires cities to allow division of a parent lot into separately owned lots. Also encourages the development of smaller condo projects (12 homes or less) by subjecting them to the residential building codes, not the commercial codes. The Commerce Department appears to working out some details about implementation guides, so the timing here is uncertain.
  • HB1181 (Climate Change) – requires cities add a climate change and resiliency element to the Comprehensive Plan. The assessment must be completed by 2029, and Grant money may be available to help offset the cost the work of implementing the new standards.

Final Thoughts….for now…. The City commenced work on the Plan in 2022, and the process is starting to come together. In the coming months, I suspect there will be a lot of discussion about the Plan as the City gets ready to deliver a document for City Council to consider. In these coming months, it will be worthwhile for residents to get involved, make your opinions known, and contribute to the completion of the document. Keep your eyes on the next City Council meeting on Jan 9th, then the Planning Commission meeting on Jan 25th, and then the next City Council meetings February 13th and March 12th….

The last thought…residents should consider that the incredible increase of mandates, rules and guidance from the WA Commerce Department, King County, and Puget Sound Regional Council increases the work load of the City and increases the costs of running operations. For example, since 2019, the State has more than doubled the budget allocation to the Commerce Department and double digit increases in funding year-over-year are routine. At the same time, the State does not appear to be willing to allocate increased amounts of our property tax bills to fund the increased costs to Clyde Hill, nor do they appear willing to free up restrictions on how cities can spend money from the Real Estate Excise Tax fund.