Futurama citySeattle is in the midst of its update to the city’s comprehensive plan, dubbed “Seattle 2035“. Washington State’s Growth Management Act requires that cities and counties across the state update their comprehensive plans every 10 years to adequately plan for a 20-year horizon. The current update cycle has many other cities and counties working to complete their updates by the state-required June 30, 2015 deadline.* Prior to the update process, a lot of behind the scenes work is done: buildable land and capacity analyses, reviews of effectiveness metrics from past plans, demographic and job projections, analysis of current levels of service, and much more.

With the launch of Seattle 2035, two years of public engagement begins, led by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). The public can review the background profile of the comprehensive plan and comment about where future planning policy should go. Whatever ultimately comes out of the comprehensive plan update, these policies will guide implementing regulations over the next decade and more.

If you would like to get involved, be sure to check out the website, comment, and attend future meetings. A great upcoming kick-off is the Seattle Pecha Kucha and open house Thursday:

Pecha Kucha Seattle, the City of Seattle and the Seattle Art Museum are collaborating on Big Ideas – Imagining Seattle’s Future, 2035 & Beyond, an evening of presentations by leaders from across Seattle’s innovation / creation community. The theme will be exploring grand visions of Seattle’s future. These discussion will hopefully inspire great conversations and ideas as we begin the process of updating Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan.

The event will be held Thursday, January 30th, 5:30 – 8:30 pm at the PACCAR Pavilion at the Olympic Sculpture Park.   There will be an Open House ahead of the event featuring information about the Comprehensive Plan and Seattle’s growth over the past twenty years. (4:30 – 5:30 pm)

*I probably should plug Snohomish County’s 2015 Update.

Stephen Fesler is a land use planner working for Snohomish County’s planning department. He is passionate about urbanist land use practices like urban design, heritage preservation, transport, and rural and environmental conservation. He moved from Kent to Seattle in Spring 2012 and now resides in the University District. He commutes via the 512 and regularly can be seen on the 44, 49, and 70s.

24 Replies to “Seattle 2035”

  1. At some point, shouldn’t it become a regional goal, instead of individual municipalities?
    I’d be all for starting King County wide, and later (another 20 years or so, the entire greater metro area of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.)

    1. PSRC coordinates with all 4 fully planning GMA compliant counties under its responsibility: King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap. Theoretically, countywide planning policies, city plans, and the PSRC’s regional plan all marry together to align and implement the regional plan. There’s a lot of back and forth.

    2. Good point. Seattle city limits is not a closed system, it’s greatly affected by every single other city in the local area. Even the area isn’t a closed system, but the effects from outside the nearby counties (King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, and let’s throw in Skagit and Thurston) are much more negligible.

      1. I think PSRC should also expand to include Thurston, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. There are definite commute patterns between king and Thurston counties and there are urban areas with strong growth in the other counties.

  2. Hey, maybe by then we will have decent, frequent and somewhat fast train service between here and there.

  3. Agree on the regional point. Many of us area already living our lives on a regional basis, a trend that’s not likely to change in 20 years.

    But Stephen, some introductions are in order. What percentage of the population has any idea what “Pecha Kucha” is? Some might wonder if this enterprise would really prefer it if those who don’t know would simply stay out of its way.

    A few minutes online tell me that definition is a presentation mode featuring twenty slides in twenty seconds. If anybody can explain to me how, even given twenty years, this Power Point substitute can give us an economy where a strong majority of the population can comfortably earn enough of a living to participate competently in our government with a level of influence equal to anyone in your group- the road’s yours ’til 2035.

    Mark Dublin

    1. This is just a kick-off point for the update project. I’m sure DPD will have more public events. DPD will also be present so that people can find out more beyond the just the presentation. But, sure, to explain the full process and the minutia of every detail is difficult. I’d keep an eye on the website. They’ll be adding more content (they did today in fact), which will help provide more information for which people can provide better comments in response.

  4. Harkens back to this great presentation by the city of Detroit. Its amazing that the plan is based on only one outcome – growth. What happens if it doesn’t occur?

    1. Well, with what other source are we supposed to plan on beside data that which indicates growth? I’ll be the first to admit that DPDs projections haven’t been fully correct in a lot of ways in the past. That may be good in some ways because they have something to measure and can more accurately project in the future by refining their metrics and digging deeper into permitting history and analysing any and all available, relevant data types.

      One thing for sure is that growth has consistently occurred (even in the recession) and shows no sign of stopping in this city and region. Major employers don’t appear to be to leaving that would indicate a market collapse and decline. And, DPDs as well as most other jurisdictions’ projections and plans are nowhere near as off as the woeful WSDOT ones:

      If data indicated a decline or stasis, then planners would be planning for that. That’s certainly a reality for some jurisdictions in Washington–and even some jurisdictions in the central Puget Sound. In absence of data, presuming no growth would be counterproductive almost certainly. I’m not saying something entirely catastrophic couldn’t happen. Absolutely. But it would have to be so catastrophic that the plans in place/in development are unable to adequately address that.

      Detroit is unfortunate. It was incapable of dealing with dynamic changes, playing on a global stage, lacking in diversity, and buried itself in poor infrastructure choices. Seattle doesn’t appear to exhibit any of those pitfalls in any serious manner.

      1. Plus, Seattle has a stunning location with playgrounds all around it. Other than folks who just plain hate cold weather wouldn’t want to live somewhere on the eastern shore of Puget Sound?

      2. plus/.plus global warming induced sea-level rise will force mass migration from the low lying eastern seaboard to the well armored western seaboard. Climate change models mostly point to habitable Wx patterns for the NW – everywhere else, not so much.
        I’m thinking we’re going to grow in spades.

  5. I honestly don’t understand what there is to talk about aside from increases in density. As has been said before, the plan aims to properly deal with growth. I think the answer is pretty simple: increase height limits in the city. How else is it going to be dealt with?

    Unfortunately, from my experience with Seattle on these issues, we’ll probably end up balking and marginally increasing height limits on a handful of places around town and then championing it like some sort of major progressive breakthrough.

    1. You comments help planners make that case. And in any case, the issue isn’t just growth numbers and where to put people. It’s about the kind of places you want. What policies for a wide range of topics do you want addressed? Environment? Culture? Transportation? Health? Open Space? Historic Preservation? Economic Development?

  6. Take a look at this article – Ten years ago, the BLS whiffed on its ten-year projections by 13 million jobs, since it failed to predict the mining boom, the publishing apocalypse, and the Great Recession. In all likelihood, the BLS will whiff again this decade (such is the nature of huge predictions), but perhaps it will be a Great Automation rather than a Great Recession that causes the miss. Again, why not have alternative scenarios?

    1. The PSRC doesn’t use just one data source to make projections. It’s far more nuanced and doesn’t use BLS numbers.

    2. To answer your second question. Even if the Update were only concerned with actual net growth situations only (which it is not), it would be enacting policies that *allowed* as opposed to *guaranteed* growth through future implementing regulations. Where the big off may be is actual capital expenditures on infrastructure improvements and plans associated with those (i.e. highway building and revisions…). Again though, all data points to added growth, therefore it is only logical to make any associated plans accommodate that in a reasonable manner. As I noted above, the breadth of issues is actually quite broad.

      Your persistence on this matter is really fairly similar to circular arguments of God. You don’t have the any data on your side, but you’re asking me to believe in a scenario that isn’t backed up by evidence.

    1. You know why that happened, right? It was due to specific government intervention. Growth happened – it just shifted outside the city boundary, which is economically arbitrary.

  7. Educate me. I thought it was because boeing shuttered operations? If you are going to point to the GMA for later growth in the boundaries then isn’t that arbitrary government intervention also?

    1. A. Please stick to a thread.
      B. It was white flight + new infrastructure across the region to the burbs that was spurred on after the mid 1960s, the last peak of Seattle’s population until this past decade exceeding that peak. You’re intentionally ignoring the regional dynamic here at play. Total Puget Sound population never declined. And population to jobs isn’t 1:1 ratio. Retirement, social services, tertiary education, and many more factors play into that. The GMA isn’t going away. All trends to region-wide increases in population. In 1970, Washington was 3.4 million. Today, it is over 7 million. I can’t fathom why someone like yourself would be in denial of the reality. In any case, Puget Sound planners will still do their thing to plan. And, 10 years in the next cycle, your theory about unlikely outcomes will be blatantly proved wrong.

      1. Isn’t this thread about a plan for the city of Seattle and not Puget Sound? Apologies that as a citizen of the city of Seattle that I wish my city government to plan for more than one scenario. As we are finding out with the city’s pension obligations, things don’t always go up.

      2. Again, the plan must plan for growth. Trends point to that and policies must facilitate that.The question is what those policies should look like. Plans are flexible enough that if growth doesn’t occur, there is no harm in the ultimate capacity potential that they provide. I don’t know how that’s so ridiculously difficult to understand.

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