Plan History and Archive
Included below are links to recent and past Comprehensive Plans – from the most recent plan to plans adopted nearly 50 years ago that established a framework that continues to guide County planning today.
On July 24, 2020, the King County Council adopted Ordinance 19146, amending the 2016 Comprehensive Plan. Some highlights of the 2020 limited-scope midpoint update are noted below.
- Adopted Sea Level Rise regulations for marine shoreline areas
- Adopted Fossil Fuel and Fossil Fuel Facility regulations
- Amended the Transfer of Development Rights area to address equity issues
- Amended development regulations related to Accessory Dwelling Units and Cottage Housing to promote their use
- Restructured the Subarea Planning Program to expand the scope and focus on community identified needs
- Established standard land use and zoning for the Bear Creek urban planned development
- Adopted a suite of map amendments including minor adjustments to the urban growth area and agricultural production district boundary
Ordinance 19034 adopted King County's Shoreline Master Program. This ordinance included a set of changes to the Shorelines chapter in the Comprehensive Plan. Highlights include the following:
- Updating polices and text to reflect current information and changes in state law.
- Updating aquaculture policies, including new policies for finfish, net pen, and geoduck aquaculture.
- A suite of amendments made to the zoning code to effectuate the policies and other changes in state statutes and rules.
These amendments were adopted by the County Council in December 2019, approved by the Washington State Department of Ecology at the end of January 2020, and became effective February 2020.
Highlights of 2018 Update to King County Comprehensive Plan
On October 29, 2018, the King County Council adopted Ordinance 18810, amending the 2016 Comprehensive Plan. This follows and builds on adoption of Motion 15142, the Restructure Plan for the Subarea Planning Program, on May 9, 2018. Highlights of the 2018 Update are summarized below.
- Eight‑Year Update Cycle. Shifts major review from four‑year to eight‑year cycle. Dates for eight‑year cycle aligned with Growth Management Act timelines.
- Four‑Year Midpoint Cycle. Revises the formerly unused midpoint update to create a new four‑year midpoint cycle. Midpoints allow substantive policy changes and amendments to the urban growth area boundary, but no longer require review of the entire plan on a four year basis. The intent of these updates is to be limited in scope. The legislation also directs a 2020 Midpoint update.
- Annual Cycle.Revision to allow adoption of: (a) CSA subarea plans, (b) updates to improve alignment with the state and regional planning, and (c) workplan changes as part of the 2018 subarea planning restructure.
- Land Use Process. Leaves other land use planning process – Zone Reclassification, Docket Process, Area Zoning and Land Use Studies – relatively unchanged except for changes to deadlines to align with new Comprehensive Plan deadlines.
- Subarea Planning. Budget proposal to add two new Subarea Planners (for a total of three). Defines a standard approach and process for developing plans. The scope and content is to be primarily focused on land use issues. Schedule to include six rural area and five urban area geographies; adding these geographies extends the development and adoption dates for some subarea plans.
- Definitions. Adds or revises a definition for Area Zoning and Land Use Study, Public Review Draft, Subarea Study, and Subarea Plan.
- Public Review Draft. Requires a Public Review Draft be published for each Comprehensive Plan amendment.
On an annual basis, the 2016 Plan is updated with technical changes that do not require substantive policy changes or alterations to the Urban Growth Area boundary.
- A minor contraction of the Urban Growth Area.
- A minor increase in the size of the Agricultural Production District through some land use actions.
- Stronger protection of the Forest Production District through some policy changes.
- Stronger and more specific language about how consideration of Equity and Social Justice will shape County actions.
- Stronger commitments to Climate Action, with new policies on environmental and climate justice, more specific references to our efforts to reduce County greenhouse gas emissions and a commitment to become a carbon neutral government.
- Consolidation and refinement of policies related to Housing and Human Services into a new chapter.
- Launching a new Subarea Planning Program for each of the Community Service Areas with the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review.
- Grammatical and design changes to create a more transparent, modernized and consistent document with an Implementation Workplan, Executive Summary and new design.
The 2016 update included a strong public involvement program with community meetings, e-Newsletters, a larger email list, consistent updates to the website, and a public comment period that was open for the duration of the update process.
On an annual basis, the 2012 Plan was updated with technical changes that did not require substantive policy changes or alterations to the Urban Growth Area boundary.
- 2015 – No amendments.
- 2014 – Ordinance 17842 to allow recreational marijuana in the Vashon Rural Town Plan, to allow the Rainier Ridge Four to One Project, and to integrate the updated King County Strategic Plan.
- 2013 – Ordinance 17687 included minor technical changes to comply with Growth Management Hearings Board case 13-3-0002 (City of Snoqualmie v. King County).
- Integrated the King County Strategic Plan into the Plan with a new Guiding Principle to promote the linkage.
- Promoting public health and healthy communities.
- New policies and development regulations to implement the School Siting Task force recommendations.
- Alignment with the County's Road and Transit Functional Plans.
- Reinvigorating the role of annexations in achieving and ensuring the efficient provision of urban services.
- Significant revisions to affordable housing policies to bring greater clarity and emphasis on the role the county and the cities have in providing access to housing for all the county's residents.
- Better defined policies and text regarding designating species and habitat of local importance
- Acknowledging the role of the Strategic Climate Action Plan.
- Changes to the King County Shoreline Master Program required by the state Department of Ecology.
- Alignment with the 2010 King County Open Space Plan.
The Countywide Planning Policies (CPPs) are a series of policies that address growth management issues across the entirety of King County; these are developed by the Growth Management Planning Council (see description under 1990, below).
The 2012 CPPs were prepared to address changes to the Growth Management Act, to take into account the passage of 20 years since their initial adoption, and to specifically reflect the regional direction established in VISION 2040 (see description under 2008, below). The 2012 CPPs provided direction at the county and jurisdiction level with appropriate specificity and detail needed to guide consistent and useable local comprehensive plans and regulations. While VISION 2040 was consistent with the overall growth management strategy of the 1992 King County CPPs, restructuring the 1992 document into the six chapters of Environment, Development Patterns, Housing, Economy, Transportation, and Public Facilities and Services was done to match the structure of VISION 2040.
On an annual basis, the 2008 Plan was updated with technical changes that did not require substantive policy changes or alterations to the Urban Growth Area boundary.
- 2011 – No amendments this year.
- 2010 – Ordinance 16949 with amendments to technical appendices, and work program direction relating to aquatic habitat restoration in an agricultural production district.
- 2009 – Ordinance 16985 concluded a year-long review and first major update to the County's Shoreline Master Plan ("SMP") in over 30 years. The Shoreline Master Plan is comprised of both policies and regulations to guide development within the County's shoreline jurisdiction and set policy to protect the ecological functions within the shoreline while allowing reasonable and necessary use of the shorelines to support the region's economy and provide recreational opportunities. The Shoreline Master Plan was added as chapter 5 to the Plan.
VISION 2040 polices and growth strategy established a common region-wide framework that ensures consistency among county and city comprehensive plans adopted pursuant to RCW 36.70A.070, and county-wide planning policies adopted pursuant to RCW 36.70A.210 (Washington Administrative Code, 365-196-305).
- Provided incentives for farmers, and promoted partnerships with local farmers' markets.
- To focus growth in urban areas, provided greater incentives in the Transfer of Development Rights program, and revised the transportation concurrency model to permit more housing units per development where there are the roads, sewers and other infrastructure and services.
- Simplified the concurrency system with a more transparent model and growth map.
- Encouraged sustainable development and low impact development in all county construction projects.
- Updated the County's greenhouse gas emissions inventory and called for King County to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of 2007 levels by the year 2050. Also, included climate change in future disaster preparedness, levee investment and land use plans
- Supported a regional trails system that links corridors to form a countywide network.
- Inclusion of Equity and Social Justice Initiative principles.
- Introduced three new framework policies: health, equity, social and environmental justice; climate change; and measurement and monitoring.
On an annual basis, the 2004 Plan was updated with technical changes that did not require substantive policy changes or alterations to the Urban Growth Area boundary.
- 2007 – No amendments this year.
- 2006 – Ordinance 15607 and Ordinance 15606 included amendments to development codes and policies, updated the Transportation Needs Report and the Regional Trails Needs Report, and changed a few arterial classifications.
- 2005 – Adopted a suite of ordinances with technical changes and cleanups following the 2004 update. The ordinances amended and renumbered policies, revised land uses in a number of areas (including allowing expansion of the existing Vashon Maury Island Service Center; modification of the P-Suffix development conditions for four parcels, revised the Holmes Point Site Disturbance P-Suffix condition; changed zoning on nine parcels in White Center to allow for greater flexibility for redevelopment; clarified limits on the use of exempt wells within closed basins and on Vashon and Maury Islands); allowed greater flexibility within a utility corridor easement; provided flexibility for adding porches to cottage housing and clarified cottage housing densities; repealed Special District Overlays that became redundant following adoption of the Critical Areas Ordinance.
King County completed the second four-year cycle amendment with adoption of the 2004 update. Adopted by Ordinance 15028, some highlights of the amendments include:
- Clarified the County's support for annexations and incorporations of the urban unincorporated areas to provide more predictability for cities and for residents of those areas.
- Required a life-cycle cost/benefit analysis of sustainable development projects.
- Clarified the County's role in managing the regional trail system, and acknowledged the roles in cultural affairs.
- Prioritized the spending of limited transportation dollars in the urban unincorporated area, and promoted an innovation to address mobility needs of persons with disabilities.
- Clarified the importance of clean air to the health of all citizens, and the need to focus on such critical issues as greenhouse gases.
The 2004 Plan confirmed the adequacy of development capacity within the existing Urban Growth Area to accommodate adopted growth targets.
On an annual basis, the 2000 Plan was updated with technical changes that did not require substantive policy changes.
- 2003 – Ordinance 14775 included minor policy changes to reflect changes in endangered species listings; amendments to properties (Tanner Mill) within the North Bend Urban Growth Area.
- 2002 – Ordinance 14448 revised references to Regionally or Locally Significant Resource Areas as a criteria for placing R1; revised mining site designation criteria; amendments to implement the Snoqualmie Urban Growth Area Subarea Plan; corrected minor mapping errors; and allowed kennels and catteries as a home occupation in the Agriculture zone on lots that are five acres or more.
- 2001 – Ordinance 14241 amended land uses and development conditions related to one property (Marshall/Oatfield property) to require compliance with the Four to One program.
The year 2000 marked the first quadrennial review and significant revision of the Plan since 1994 . Adopted by Ordinance 14044 and Ordinance 13962, the major goals for the 2000 Plan were to improve its usability, eliminate inconsistencies, and improve public understanding of growth management issues. The 2000 Plan also acknowledged King County's changing role as a regional government with significant responsibilities as a local service provider to the rural area; the need to effectively integrate land use and transportation planning; and amendment to protect Chinook salmon in accordance with the Endangered Species Act.
Starting in 1998, annual amendments were limited to technical policy changes and not allow changes to the urban growth area boundary except for Four to One projects. Annual amendments are made through the following actions:
- 1999 – Ordinance 13672 amended the RA-2.5 density policy; disallowed annexation of parcels in the Agricultural Production District; processed a Four to One proposal; and made other technical changes.
- 1998 – Ordinance 13273 established a review process that limited annual updates to "technical' amendments" and reserved substantive policy issues to be addressed once every four years to allow for cumulative analysis of Plan amendments, consistent with GMA. Once every four years thereafter, major changes to the plan's language and changes to the Urban Growth Area boundary could be considered.
Prior to changes in 1998, Annual Cycle changes were not limited to technical amendments and therefore many of the updates included a substantial number of changes. Given the number of changes, they are not summarized below but can be viewed in the attached documents.
- 1997 - Ordinance 12824 to finalize the Zoning Code Conversion under the GMA.
- 1996 - Ordinance 12170 to comply with Growth Management Hearings Board case 95-3-0008 (Vashon Maury Island, et al, v. King County), as well as Ordinance 12531 with a variety of policy and land use changes.
- 1995 - Ordinance 12061 with a variety of policy and land use changes.
Following adoption of Countywide Policies in each county, the regional plan is updated in 1995 to include multicounty planning policies, pursuant to RCW 36.70A.210 (Washington Administrative Code, 365-196-305). VISION 2020 also establishes, for the first time, a system of designated regional centers intended to accommodate growth and focus high-capacity transit investments.
With the ratification of the Countywide Planning Policies in 1992 (described below), the County proceeded to adopt its first comprehensive plan under the auspices of the GMA (Ordinance 11575). The 1985 Plan was expanded to meet all GMA requirements and contained policies related to urban and rural land use, economic development, housing, resource lands, natural environment and critical habitats, facilities and services, transportation, and parks, recreation and open space. Special designations were made to include agricultural production districts for the protection of farming areas; provisions for housing on larger lots in the rural area; establishment of forest production districts for the continuation of large-scale forestry activities; and designation of open space areas for protection of the natural environment. King County was the first jurisdiction in Washington State to adopt a GMA comprehensive plan.
In early 1995 the County adopted development regulations necessary to implement the Comprehensive Plan (Ordinance 11653). By definition, development regulations include zoning ordinances, critical areas ordinances, shoreline master programs, official controls, planned unit development ordinances, subdivision ordinances, and binding site plan ordinances that control the development or land use of a property. The most significant outcome of this process was the rezone of approximately 54,000 parcels, consisting of 52 square miles, from urban to rural densities, to comply with the land use classification requirements of the GMA.
In response to the passage of the GMA, King County and cities within its boundaries formed a collaborative inter-jurisdictional body, the Growth Management Planning Council, to develop the King County Countywide Planning Policies to meet the GMA requirements to coordinate planning among all of its jurisdictions. These policies (Ordinance 10450 in 1992 and Ordinance 11446 in 1994), serve as a countywide framework for County and City comprehensive plans, and provide guidance to Functional and Special District Plans. The Countywide Planning Policies established an urban growth area within the western one-third of King County where most growth and development was projected to occur. The policies and goals included reducing urban sprawl, protecting rural areas, and more efficiently providing roads, parks and other services.
The Washington State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act (GMA) as a way to address "uncoordinated and unplanned development, together with a lack of common goals expressing the public's interest in the conservation and the wise use of our lands, pose a threat to the environment, sustainable economic development, and the health, safety, and high quality of life..." The GMA directed the state's most populous and fastest growing counties and their cities to prepare comprehensive land use plans that anticipate and manage growth for a 20-year horizon.
In anticipation of, but prior to the passage of the GMA, the four-county central Puget Sound region formed a new regional and transportation agency – the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). In 1990, PSRC adopted VISION 2020, a four-county growth strategy addressing where and how Central Puget Sound will grow and meet the transportation, economic and housing needs of those living and working in this region. Those strategies, consistent with the goals of the GMA, envisioned that growth to be concentrated into urban areas, thus protecting the rural and resource lands from the effects of sprawl and unchecked development.
Twenty years after the first plan was adopted, as rapid growth threatens forests, farmlands and open spaces, and the costs of housing, energy, and police and fire protection soar, the County began the process of creating a new Comprehensive Plan (Ordinance 07178) .
Preserving King County's natural beauty, and ensuring affordable housing and diverse living environments, remains fundamental considerations in the Plan. The new Plan creates stronger linkages to the Community and Functional plans, and seeks to address the need to coordinate development concurrent with public improvements.
The 1985 Comprehensive Plan identifies an "urban growth boundary line." This line encourages growth to areas with an existing infrastructure for facilities and services; it protects critical habitats, open spaces and natural resource lands; and it states that rural areas remain largely intact through a slower the rate of growth. The Plan also guides cities, service districts and the private sector in working together to manage growth responsibly.
Concerned residents prompt King County to draft the first Comprehensive Plan. One goal is to better connect individual zoning and land use decisions to broader community goals through the comprehensive planning process (Ordinance 00263). In 1978, Ordinance 03669 is adopted to create better linkages between zoning change, subarea planning and the Comprehensive Plan and to have the County engage with residents to develop "Community Plans" for smaller subareas. Also in 1978, the County embarks on a study of its planning policies with the intent of revising the 1964 plan.
The links above reference old plans and ordinances; however, at times there are associated documents. To search for these older documents, or older County legislation, click here.
Planning for the Future
2015 marked the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Growth Management Act and over 50 years since adoption of the first King County Comprehensive Plan. The adoption of the current Comprehensive Plan marks yet another step of King County’s ongoing success at balancing economic vitality and healthy neighborhoods with careful stewardship of our farms, forests, and open spaces. The County's long history of planning has been successful, by most measures, in realizing the broad goals of the Growth Management Act.
Working with residents, businesses, non-profits and community groups, the Comprehensive Plan continues to try to ensure that that our region manages growth effectively, protects thriving rural and resource lands, and remains in compliance with the Growth Management Act.
More History on King County’s Comprehensive Plan
The organization HistoryLink has a number of informative articles regarding planning in King County:
- King County Council approves Growth Management Act Comprehensive Plan on November 18, 1994
- King County sets urban-growth boundary on July 6, 1992
- King County adopts a comprehensive zoning plan on August 11, 1958