Tom Campbell, who as a legislative staffer helped write the original 1990 Growth Management Act, stands in the eco-friendly subdivision called Clearwater Commons in Bothell. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Tom Campbell, who as a legislative staffer helped write the original 1990 Growth Management Act, stands in the eco-friendly subdivision called Clearwater Commons in Bothell. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Purchase Photo

Bill would add climate-change factors to state planning law

Backers say HB 1099 would limit sprawl and cut greenhouse gases. Critics fear it would hurt housing options.

EVERETT — Climate change is the second-most-common problem that state Rep. Davina Duerr hears about from her constituents.

Their No. 1 concern? Transportation, which in Washington contributes nearly 45% of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change.

Those woes inspired the Bothell Democrat to co-sponsor House Bill 1099, which would update Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA). The 30-year-old law was designed to limit growth beyond city boundaries. Among other significant changes, the bill would require that the 10 largest counties plan for climate change by reducing greenhouse gases and vehicle miles traveled, and that all counties prepare for climate impacts such as increased fires and floods.

Duerr’s 1st District is bisected by I-405, which can be a commuter’s nightmare. Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Bothell and Kirkland are on the west; much of unincorporated Snohomish County lies to the east. Policies that reduce the need to commute not only cut greenhouse gases, Duerr said, they save tax money spent on roads, sewers and stormwater systems.

“It helps if those elements are closely packed,” she said. “The more we sprawl, the more there is to maintain.”

HB 1099 is one of many bills related to growth management and zoning that the Legislature is considering. It now goes to the Senate, after being approved by the House of Representatives on a party-line vote of 56 to 41. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Housing & Local Government committee.

Republicans testified that it wasn’t the right tool to address climate change, or they doubted the climate is changing, or they feared it would worsen the housing crisis.

“This is a terrible bill,” said Rep. Robert Sutherland, of Granite Falls, adding that it would exacerbate big-city problems such as “gangs, addicts, squalor and tent cities.” Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen said the bill would put “one more layer of complication” on local governments such as Puyallup, where she serves on the City Council.

In a Feb. 16 hearing, city and county associations also raised concerns about the cost of new mandates. Their lobbying worked, and the bill now includes assurance that they need not meet Growth Management Act requirements without state support. Construction, business and real estate industry representatives objected to potential new limits on building sites. And environmental groups gave the bill full-throated approval.

No group is more eager to see the proposed changes than nonprofit Futurewise, which focuses on land use. Its Washington Can’t Wait campaign puts it this way:

“This year, the Central Puget Sound counties — King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap — kick off their next comprehensive planning updates, which lock in plans for the next 8 years. If we don’t pass HB 1099 this year, we will lose another decade to plan for a climate-resilient future. The science couldn’t be clearer: that’s a decade we can’t afford to waste.”

If the bill becomes law, its climate change element won’t impact Snohomish County planning. That’s because climate change is already part of the planning process here, said Lisa Dulude, county energy and sustainability manager.

“At least in my reading of the bill, we’re doing and planning to do what it’s proposing,” she said. “We’ll definitely have all of the elements … adaptation and mitigation, interim targets, transportation and clean fuels.”

The bill mandates the creation of model climate change ordinances for local governments that don’t yet have them, and that’s where Dulude foresees statewide impact. The ordinances are essentially templates, created by the state Department of Commerce, which cities and counties could adopt or use as a starting point for writing their own. Commerce would get the lion’s share of state agency money called for by the bill — $8.2 million over six years.

Tom Campbell, chairperson of the volunteer Snohomish County Climate Action Advisory Committee, helped write the original Growth Management Act when he was chief policy advisor to the speaker of the state House. Back then, he said, climate change wasn’t discussed much. Transportation was.

Campbell wants Snohomish County to move ahead with climate-friendly regulations, in parallel if not ahead of updated state law.

“If the comprehensive plan element (of the legislation) is adopted, the Department of Commerce is charged with coming up with model ordinances and guidelines to go along with it — and they take forever,” said Campbell, who once served as a deputy director in that department.

HB 1099 would give the state Department of Ecology regulatory authority over greenhouse gas emissions, Campbell noted.

“That’s a bit different — so far, there has been local control, not so many state standards,” he said. “This has always been a tension in growth management planning: What is the state’s role? One can argue that climate change is a new ballgame, that we have to do better at it. It’s an emergency.”

Campbell developed Clearwater Commons, the sustainable subdivision where he lives. He said homebuilders generally agree that denser, multi-family housing fills a need. “Their concern is a lack of buildable areas. It’s easier to push out an urban growth boundary than to do in-fill,” he said. “Here in Snohomish County, we have a Southwest urban growth area where people want to push low-density sprawl.”

Giacomo Brothers swings in a chair on the family porch at Clearwater Commons, a sustainable subdivision in Bothell. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Giacomo Brothers swings in a chair on the family porch at Clearwater Commons, a sustainable subdivision in Bothell. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Bryce Yadon, government representative for Futurewise, said there are enough parcels within current urban growth boundaries to meet the demand for housing. More rowhouses and duplexes will drive down housing costs, he said, though he acknowledged that the “further-out, single-family lot” would be less available under an updated GMA.

“Our bill isn’t restricting available lands,” he said. “We’re saying, ‘Do it in a more holistic way and give people what they want.’”

That’s not how the Building Industry Association of Washington sees it. Its communications director, Janelle Guthrie, said the proposed Growth Management Act changes would make it harder to find single-family housing statewide.

“This bill severely limits rural residential development, which is already limited,” Guthrie said. “Rural communities need housing, too. People need more choices when it comes to where they can live, not less.”

One aspect of HB 1099 does not seem controversial. That is the requirement that local governments consider environmental justice. For example, planners should be sure that a largely minority community isn’t left out of easy access to mass transportation or affordable housing.

The 31-page bill also includes a reference to sea level rise in the Shoreline Management Act — which is older than, but incorporated into, the Growth Management Act. And it replaces references to “bicyclists and pedestrians” with “active transportation,” a broad category that includes wheelchairs, scooters and skateboards. In other words, an updated GMA would require planners to consider not just mass transit and roads, but sidewalks, too.

Julie Titone is an Everett writer who can be reached at julietitone@icloud.com. Her climate change reporting is supported by the Herald’s Environmental and Climate Reporting Fund.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Claire Swander, 6 months old, gets an H1N1 vaccine from nurse Soon Ku at Providence Physician Group in Mill Creek on Oct. 31, 2009. The site had lines with a three-hour wait for portions of the morning. (Heidi Hoffman / Herald file)
Vaccine approval for kids a reminder of 2009 H1N1 outbreak

As swine flu scare closed some schools, parents flocked to public clinics to protect their children.

Darren Redick is the new CEO of Providence’s Northwest Washington service area. (Providence Health and Services) 20210514
Providence stays local in selecting a new regional CEO

Based in Everett, Darren Redick will lead the health care provider’s Northwest Washington area.

Two men were hurt after a fire in an apartment Sunday morning south of Everett. (South County Fire) 210516
Two men hurt in apartment fire south of Everett

In all, 16 residents were displaced by the early morning blaze at the Hanger 128 Apartments.

State’s E. Coli outbreak linked to PCC Market yogurt

Statewide, 11 cases are connected to the yogurt, including one in Snohomish County.

Georgie Gutenberg
Death of Lake Stevens woman not suspicious

Police had asked for the public’s help to search for Georgie Gutenberg. She was found dead Sunday.

Firefighters douse the flames at the NOAA Fisheries Building Friday evening in Mukilteo on May 14, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Fire damages NOAA site near new ferry terminal in Mukilteo

Smoke flooded the waterfront Friday night as fire crews descended on the abandoned research center.

Everett man shot while walking his dog identified

Ryan S. McFadden, 33, died of gunshot wounds.

Man killed by train near Snohomish is identified

The Marysville man, 45, was hit Thursday morning south of the Snohomish River.

Map of major geologic faults of the Puget Sound region. No caption necessary. 20210502
1. Buried danger: A slumbering geologic fault beneath us

An earthquake along the southern Whidbey Island fault reshaped the land some 2,700 years ago. Another big one is expected, and it could be devastating.

Most Read