For almost 30 years, Futurewise has worked to encourage sustainable natural and built environments by using the policy, advocacy and legal tools available through Washington State’s Growth Management Act (GMA). We have great appreciation for the GMA framework, however, we also recognize that Washington is a different place than it was in 1990 when the GMA was adopted. The work of managing growth needs to evolve and adapt over time, particularly as the impacts of climate change and the disparities between different segments of the population rapidly increase.
We're hiring! Futurewise is looking for a new Executive Director who will chart a course for the equitable application of growth management as our cities struggle with affordability, homelessness and climate change.
Dear Supporters of Futurewise, I’m writing to inform you that our Executive Director, Chris Wierzbicki, has resigned from Futurewise effective July 30th. Chris was offered a position as the Public Works Director for the City of Bainbridge Island (where he has lived for 12 years), and has decided to accept the offer for both personal and professional reasons. Chris has been a real asset for Futurewise since he joined in 2015, so it is with great sadness that I share this announcement, but I wish him well in his new endeavors, I know he will do well for the City.
Originally published in The Urbanist
Originally published in The Urbanist
We’re pleased to announce that HB 1923 passed both the House and Senate yesterday – the final version of the bill closely reflects the summary that we offered in our blog post of April 12th. Even though the bill has weaknesses – particularly the optional nature of the increased density provisions – the context and process that led to its passage offer much to be hopeful about.
While we wait for our priority bill, HB 1923 to make it out of the Senate after some minor language changes, here’s an update on the status of some of the other bills we have been supporting in Olympia in the last few weeks:
Originally published in The Urbanist
Benton County is the second fastest growing county in all of Washington state. As the County welcomes thousands of new residents each year, we as a community have a responsibility to plan wisely for growth. County residents want to protect existing wells and accommodate future development. That’s why Futurewise and Benton County are excited to announce a settlement agreement that will safeguard water resources, plan for improved state highway and transit service, and plan for adequate wildfire fighting capabilities within the County.
We have been working hard in Olympia over the last couple of weeks to shape HB 1923 into legislation that aligns our growth strategy goals and values: advancing equitable, affordable in-fill development in cities that offer access to opportunity and frequent transit service. The current iteration of the bill (which has changed since it’s last posting, available here), sits in the Senate Rules Committee, which we believe will vote to move the bill in the next day or two.
There’s only about five weeks remaining in the legislative session at this point, and we are continuing to track the twists and turns of our priority bills.
The update from Olympia today finds our priority bill, HB1923, in a precarious position. This past week the bill moved out of the House, and onto the Senate – but with a host of watered-down provisions, including the following: (for an overview of the last iteration of the bill - more or less - see our blog post from February 8th)
Next week, we’ll be celebrating community leaders from across Washington at our Spring Luncheon and Livable Communities Awards. Each year, Futurewise honors those who are working to make our state a more sustainable, equitable and vibrant place to live. This year’s awardees hail from all over Washington and are pioneering innovate approaches to planning, environmental education, community development and more.
Today we are throwing our support behind two very important bills, 2SHB 1923 and SB 5812, in the hopes they make progress this week.
On Tuesday, March 19th, Futurewise is welcoming activist scholar Dr. Lisa K. Bates, Ph.D. as our Keynote Speaker for the Spring Luncheon and Livable Communities Awards. Dr. Bates will be speaking on the topic “Housing Justice, not for ‘Just Us’”, a timely exploration of the false dichotomies that anchor the affordable housing debate and proposal for how we can advance equitable, effective affordable housing policy. In this month’s Wonkabout Washington, we’re giving you a preview of Dr. Bates’ work. If you’d like to meet her in person, join us at the Spring Luncheon and Livable Communities Awards, where The Urbanist will be receiving the Excellence in Smart Growth and Transportation Award. Tickets are sliding scale and available at Futurewise.org/luncheon.
Our work in Olympia slows just a bit this coming week, as cutoff for policy-focused bills just occurred. While at this point in time we can’t quite guarantee the status on each of the bills we’ve been tracking, here are some key updates and predictions:
Thanks for tuning in to this week for an update on Futurewise legislative actions. Next week will be the last week for committee hearings on policy-focused bills, meaning that all bills that aren’t moved out of committee by next Friday will be considered “dead”. The cutoff for bills with a fiscal impact is two weeks later, on March 1st.
Thanks for following us as we engage on the bills this session that resonate with (or against) our organizational values. Here are the bills up for testimony this coming week:
Thanks for keeping up with us as this fourth week of the 2019 legislative session is almost behind us. Coming up next week are a host of new bills and issues we will be testifying on:
In addition to the bills we reported on last week, we’re presently keeping our eye on a few more that are coming into focus:
Originally published in The Urbanist
The 2019 Washington State Legislative session opened with a host of land-use and growth management issues that we’re working to weigh in on. Here is a quick rundown of the issues we are focusing on this week:
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Monday is the first day of the 2019 Washington State legislative session, and Futurewise is preparing to engage on a host of important issues related to land-use and transportation. We have been carefully developing our priorities this year, as Democrats will be entering the 2019 session holding their strongest majority in recent years with a 16-vote margin (57-41) in the House and a 7-vote margin (28-21) in the Senate.
In 2018, Futurewise continued our work across Washington to advance livable communities while protecting our state’s most valuable natural resources. Here’s just a few of our top victories from the past year:
To our supporters,
Futurewise is hiring for two positions -- a Water Resources Project Coordinator and an Events and Communications Intern. Check out the job descriptions below for more information.
Many of our communities publicly owned land that is no longer a necessity; with our State’s desperate need for more affordable housing, it makes sense for jurisdictions to sell that excess land to below market rate for the production of income-restricted affordable homes and other public goods
On August 14, 2018, the Pierce County Council voted to double amount of working farmland county policy will conserve long-term. The recent Pierce County Fresh Look report concluded that “[t]here’s near-consensus support for protecting Pierce County’s best farmland and sustaining the economic viability of local agriculture.”
Wow, what a great night! We were thrilled to see over 100 people turn out to learn about Woody Guthrie and the Grand Coulee Dam, and listen to music from local artists Trentalange, Matt Tilghman-Havens, and Naomi Wachira.
Futurewise is serving on the Advisory Committee for the Ultra High-Speed Ground Transportation Study - a WSDOT effort to investigate intercity passenger transportation system traveling at speeds of 250 mph or more between Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR (with several possible stops in between). The committee includes a mix of local, state and international leadership, including legislators and representatives from the Governor's office, and the office of the BC Premier, and will be meeting over the course of the next year to provide guidance and feedback. While this concept has been around for at least a decade or more, the most recent effort was given new life by interest from the private sector, including Microsoft, who are participating in the study phase of the project funding.
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is updating their recommendations for scientifically sound management of riparian ecosystems (rivers, streams and surrounding areas). Futurewise largely supports these changes and the attached comment letter outlines our suggestions for improving them further.
Complete street policies and implementation are key elements of a safe, sustainable, and equitable transportation system in Washington - both the urban and rural areas.
Futurewise has worked with City of Seattle staff for several years, providing input on policy regarding Accessory Dwelling Units. We're excited to
For over a year, Futurewise has been leading the outreach work for the Seattle for Everyone Coalition’s support of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). Within the HALA are 65 distinct policy recommendations that work together to address the housing affordability crisis Seattle is facing.We know that people are happier when they are able to live close to jobs, schools, parks and other amenities; and that living in dense urban areas reduces our environmental footprint. That’s why we have pushed for key policy recommendations from the HALA that will help to increase our housing stock, reserve homes for our low-income neighbors as well as curb sprawl.Since its creation in 2015, Futurewise and Seattle for Everyone have worked to pass many of the HALA policy recommendations. Some of the key policy highlights that have passed to date include:
Last week, Outreach Coordinator Angela Compton traveled to Yakima with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) to facilitate a workshop on Storytelling for Advocacy at the 2018 Conference for Ending Homelessness.
Futurewise partnered with S4E and Welcoming West Seattle to host a panel discussion for Affordable Housing Week 2018. The discussion was held at Southwest Youth and Family Services in West Seattle and covered the topics of transit oriented development and affordable housing – specifically, the role that the City of Seattle and Sound Transit can play to help facilitate affordable housing around future light rail stations in West Seattle and across the City.
Futurewise is excited to announce that the Tacoma City Council voted unanimously to approve the Tacoma Mall Subarea Plan on Tuesday, May 15. The plan is an innovative example of smart urban growth, including increases in transportation access, implementation of affordable housing incentives, and promotion of resident and environment health by encouraging green infrastructure.
Futurewise is helping coordinate the 2018 Stormfest in Des Moines Beach Park. Stormfest is an interactive stormwater science festival that provides experiential field lesson to 6th grade students from the Highline School District.
On April 27th, the Sound Transit Board updated the agency transit oriented development (TOD) policies to implement equitable transit oriented development (eTOD) and adopted a plan that allows for land to be discounted for affordable housing. This is the culmination of 3 years of work, starting with the 2015 transportation package, to update and incorporate affordable housing requirements in the Sound Transit TOD policy. With the passage of ST3 in 2016, Futurewise went straight to work with Sound Transit and partner organizations to advocate with staff and Sound Transit Board members to shape the policy.
As part of our collaboration with the City of Algona and the Algona Public Awareness Action Coalition (APAC), Futurewise has kicked off Grow with Algona and we have gotten some great environmental stewardship projects literally in the ground! In just one day, Algona residents planted 22 Pacific dogwood trees all around Matchett Park in collaboration with City staff, as part of a tree planting effort we are leading. We carefully selected dogwoods for the high-water table in Algona and the maintenance and beauty requirements of the City.
The Mall Subarea Plan has the potential for transforming a critical Tacoma neighborhood into a model of positive urban growth, as well as implementing ground-breaking policies that could influence planning in other areas of the city. Futurewise supports the policies and goals as outlined in the city’s plan materials: investment in job growth; increases in transportation access; implementation of affordable housing incentives, and promotion of resident and environment health by encouraging a variety of green infrastructure. Click here for a link to the city's plan.
Imagine a policy that could help lower the cost of rent, relieve congestion, reduce our transportation emissions and air pollution, and also improve bicycle parking. By changing Seattle’s rules for off-street parking in new buildings, Futurewise and our community partners were able to achieve all of these goals. Legislation to update parking requirements in Seattle passed through Seattle City Council on April 2nd. This new legislation will:
On April 19, 2018, Futurewise filed an appeal of the Benton County Comprehensive Plan on the grounds that sprawling development is unsustainable in rural areas without adequate planning for drinking water. The county’s comprehensive plan assumes the high end of state population growth projections, or 6,794 more people in the rural area in the next 20 years. Water resource planning efforts in the lower Yakima River have made clear that water in Benton County is already allocated and flows in the river are too low for salmon and steelhead outmigration and rearing.
Futurewise is hiring in Tacoma!
StormFest is a unique 2-day, interactive, stormwater science focused educational festival for 6th grade students at Highline School District. Environmental Science Center is adapting the hands-on Drain Rangers curricula to create 5 different 25-minute innovative, in-field, experiential lessons focused on local water quality and stormwater solutions that meet Washington State Common Core and NGSS 6th grade standards. We are seeking individuals with varying levels of experience in environmental science (including watershed science), education (formal or informal) or working with children. For more information, click here.
A powerful new set of health and safety protections are coming to the renters of Kent, Washington. At its March 20 meeting, the Kent City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance before a packed audience. The ordinance establishes a proactive system for ensuring that rental housing owners maintain their properties and provide healthy and safe living environments to their tenants. The adoption of this ordinance by the Kent City Council culminates a year of hard work by Futurewise staff, our partners at Living Well Kent, and a diverse group of community stakeholders.
It was a short session this year, but a rather productive one. See some highlights below on the bills we worked to support and prevent this year.
With policy committee cutoff soon approaching on February 23rd, today it appears that we're achieving success with our legislative agenda.
These are the bills we see coming forward next week in Olympia:
Last night - Thursday, January 18th - the Washington State Legislature effectively overturned the State Supreme Court Hirst decision by passing SB 6091. See our press release on this issue here.
This was the first week of the 2018 Legislative Session, and we were hard at work reviewing and testifying on a number of bills. Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights:
We’re getting a new database at Futurewise specifically designed to help organizations like ours “engage and change the world.” And while we couldn’t be happier, it is an exacting and complicated process to convert our files to the new format. While this is happening, we’ve had to slow down some of our donor communications to be sure that our record-keeping doesn’t get confused between systems. If you’ve made a gift to Futurewise recently, we want to thank you for your contribution and your patience.
This week kicks off the 2018 Washington State Legislative Session, and Futurewise will be present in Olympia working to serve the people of our state by advocating for important land-use and environmental issues.
In spite of many challenges, 2017 has been a year of wins and progress for growth management across Washington. Take a a look at some of what your support has made happen:
Futurewise lost a great friend and supporter in September. We were saddened to learn from our Spokane office of the passing of Elizabeth Cocchiarella due to pancreatic cancer. She lived life fully, gave generously and anonymously – and in this season of thanksgiving, we celebrate her life with gratitude.
It was but a year ago that I sent a message out to all of you, lamenting what had transpired the night before on election day 2016. We were eating doughnuts in the conference room - comforting one another, and suggesting that maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked. Looking back, it seems we were quite naïve.
This October, Futurewise brought together state and local agency stakeholders for a day-long convening focused on the use of innovative financing and funding approaches for solving environmental challenges. Field experts from across the county – from Maryland, to Chicago to California – presented a wide range of financing approaches, including the use of public-private partnerships and credit trading, to advance the construction of green stormwater infrastructure, improve the resilience of forests against wildfires, and solve surface water quality issues. Futurewise will beworking with stakeholders over the coming year to identify and advocate for pilot projects here in the Northwest that take advantage of these tools – including how they may be used to improve land-use outcomes in urban and rural areas of Washington.
Are you a sharp, energetic self-starter with excellent communication and interpersonal skills? Do you know someone else who is? We're seeking the perfect fit for a new team member who will educate and engage the public on the benefits of environmental quality, working directly with community members, partner organizations and decision makers.
This October, Futurewise will be hosting a convening on innovative financing tools such as pay for success, credit trading, environmental impact bonds, and community-based public private partnerships - with the hopes of inspiring local governments and agencies to start thinking creatively about how to solve some of our region's most pressing environmental and infrastructure challenges.
The City of Pasco - one of the cities in the Tri-Cities region - was the 10th fastest growing city in Washington State last year. The city, as well as the region in general, is seeing a huge influx of residents from other parts of the state, as well as young families and retirees in search of reasonable home prices and fair weather. All that growth means that urban development is more likely to start spreading out - an easy prospect in an area surrounded by seemingly limitless development potential. However, the sprawl protections enabled through the state's Growth Management Act limit that potential, which means that cities and counties in the region need a proactive strategy for economically viable growth in the coming decades.
Futurewise Executive Director, Chris Wierzbicki, and Darcy Nonemacher, Government Affairs Director for the Washington Environmental Council talk with Diane Horn of KEXP about the wrap up of the 2017 legislative session on this "Sustainability Segment." Click hereto listen.
With the closing of the 2017 legislative session on July 20th - after three overtime sessions - it's clear that the people of Washington lost out to the power of special interests on a number of fronts.
On June 21, 2017, Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Christopher Culp denied motions by Okanogan County to dismiss Futurewise and the Methow Valley Citizens Council appeals of the Okanogan County comprehensive plan and zoning regulations. If granted, these motions would have ended the appeals.
If someone tells you the Growth Management Act is responsible for a housing shortage, do not believe them. According to just issued Census data, Washington State ranked sixth in the number of total building permits issued in 2016 - see a very short article from Planetizen here.
The next four years of Seattle's City Council and Mayor's Office will have a lot to contend with as our region continues to grow, especially in terms of housing and transportation. Come join us and other local groups to make your voice heard and learn where the candidates stand on the land-use issues that impact the daily lives Seattleites.
Despite years of work on behalf of Futurewise and the Puyallup Watershed Initiative partners, and thousands of dollars of investment, the Pierce County Council is ready to scrap protections for local farms. This piece from King 5 tells the story.
Believe it or not, I started out my career by determining how to best pave over farmland to make room for new big box retail stores. This was New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the late 1990’s, and the “birthplace of the mall” was riding a wave of commercial sprawl that was eating up soybean and corn fields far outside the urban core. I was an engineer-in-training, tasked with figuring out how big of a hole needed to be dug in the ground in order to contain all the runoff generated from the endless acres of asphalt parking.
On March 2, 2017, Futurewise hosted our annual spring fundraising event - which this year was a breakfast hosted at the Westin hotel in downtown Seattle. We were please to host 350 guests, and honor a number of partners with a Livable Communities Award (see the previous blog post for details on the awardees).
Each year, Futurewise presents its Livable Communities Awards to programs and projects that are helping to make Washington State a better place for all. This year's awards will be given out at our Spring Breakfast this Thursday, March 2 (register here), but here's a sneak peak of our dedicated and diverse group of awardees!
Futurewise works closely with legislators and partners every year during the legislative session to protect and enhance Washington State’s growth management laws. This year, our legislative agenda covers a wide range of urban livability and natural resource protection issues.
The work is just beginning! Together we can make Sound Transit 3 a successful investment - not just in transit - but for how the region tackles land-use and regional transportation that will combat the impacts of climate change. In the next few days we'll be posting more about how our region can leverage this incredible opportunity.
Futurewise’s Director of Planning and Law, Tim Trohimovich, was invited to speak at the Washington Section of the American Water Resources Association’s Annual State Conference on October 26, 2016. Tim’s presentation documented that the water levels in wells in Washington State are going down, that overdevelopment in rural areas and on farmland is causing the wells of rural residents and farmers to go dry, and that rapidly increasing permit-exempt wells are threatening the water fish need for their survival. Tim explained solutions that address these serious water problems and that comply with the Washington State Supreme Court’s landmark Whatcom County decision that Futurewise and its local partners won on October 6, 2016. The Whatcom County decision was widely discussed at the conference.
Futurewise participated in "scenario planning" with other state-wide transportation partners to determine how the Washington State Transportation Plan (WTP) could be updated to deal with an uncertain future. In accordance with the graphical image shown here, WSDOT determined that two factors in the future with the highest level of uncertainty and the highest level of importance were "technological change" and "natural disasters and climate change." The four teams involved in the planning exercise discussed the opportunities and challenges resulting from four scenarios:
On October 6, 2016, the Washington State Supreme Court concluded that Whatcom County's "comprehensive plan does not protect water availability because it allows permit-exempt appropriations to impede minimum flows." This decision builds on Futurewise's 2011 win in the Kittitas County decision.