Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan

On Monday, January 28, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution laying out a strategy for reviewing, updating, and implementing neighborhood plans. I introduced the resolution, with Councilmembers Clark and Bagshaw as co-sponsors.

Seattle’s 37 adopted neighborhood plans are a critical part of our Comprehensive Plan and the core strategy for our implementation of the Growth Management Act (GMA). They designate where new growth should be targeted and identify priorities for neighborhood amenities such as open space and street improvements. I was involved in developing the Central Area Neighborhood Plan before I ran for City Council, and my first major assignment on the Council was to shepherd the plans through the Approval and Adoption process. The plans were adopted between 1998 and 2000 after a city-wide effort energizing thousands of neighbors to work together to become community advocates for neighborhood visions, a public participation effort that is still a model studied by other communities around the country and around the world.

The neighborhood plans are now close to two decades old. While generally the core values and visions and many of the key strategies identified by neighborhoods seem to remain valid, to be accurate guides for changing neighborhoods the neighborhood plans must be periodically reviewed and refreshed. Virtually all neighborhoods have experienced implementation of plan priorities. Many neighborhoods are also experiencing significant increases in households and/or jobs beyond what was anticipated in their neighborhood plan. These changes need to be incorporated into the plans, especially as we near the next twenty year update of Seattle’s growth targets.

Ballard is a great example. The explosion of new apartments, condos and businesses along Market Street goes beyond what was anticipated in the Ballard plan. The designation of 15th Avenue as a rapid ride corridor was also not anticipated. That part of the city is changing and we need to make sure that the plan is still relevant and that we are doing what residents said the city should do to respond to future growth.

There have been a few plans that have been recently updated because there have been very significant developments in those neighborhoods, such as light rail line construction or other transformational activities. Plans where updates are completed or in the process of being updated include Broadview-Bitter Lake, Roosevelt, University District, Capitol Hill, Downtown, South Lake Union, North Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, Othello, and Rainier Beach.

In the light of these changing conditions, we need to have a regular schedule for neighborhoods to review the implementation of their plans, engage new residents and businesses in working to implement the plans, provide the opportunity to consider whether recommendations that have not been implemented should be dropped, modified, or reemphasized, and adopt to changing conditions by developing new priorities and plans for the next phase of development under Seattle’s implementation of the GMA.

In order to do that, the Council and Mayor agreed to commit the City to working with at least three or four neighborhoods per year to review and update their plans. Our goal is to involve each neighborhood in this work at least every ten years. The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and Department of Neighborhoods (DON) will lead the work with other City Departments partnering to ensure that neighborhood priorities are addressed and that inclusive engagement and outreach to neighborhoods is provided, especially the Office of Economic Development (OED), Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).

We aren’t replacing existing neighborhood plans and all the hard work that went into them. Rather, we need to make sure that the plan’s recommendations are relevant. The core strategy will emphasize a place-based approach that successfully leverages public improvement, private investments and a collaborative approach to community engagement that furthers plan implementation, offers more value from the community’s input, and is strategic in leveraging investments to create change toward community and City goals.

Priority will be given to neighborhoods whose plans have not been reviewed since initial adoption, have experienced significant changes in conditions (such as implementation of major transportation facilities), have experienced either significantly more or significantly less growth than anticipated, and/or are expected to experience significantly increased growth in the future. Any urban center plans that have not been fully implemented or recently updated shall be given priority.

DPD, in cooperation with DON and the Seattle Planning Commission, will develop a draft schedule for implementation work based on the needs of specific neighborhoods as part of its ongoing three-year work plan.

The conversations and hard work required for neighborhood planning and plan implementation build partnerships between community members, local business and local government. We must keep this spirit alive and healthy in Seattle, and this resolution creates a path forward for doing that.