Comprehensive Plan Overview

Process & Outreach


Proposed Urban Village Expansion Areas on Future Land Use Map

Comprehensive Plan Overview

What is Seattle 2035?

Seattle 2035 is a yearlong, citywide conversation about change – where we’ve been, where we are now and where we want to go over the next 20 years. Our future includes newcomers attracted to Seattle by jobs, a spectacular natural setting, a culture of tolerance and a high quality of life. By 2035, we’ll grow even more – 120,000 people and 115,000 jobs. That’s the population of Kent, and the jobs of Kent and Renton combined!

What is Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan?

The comprehensive plan is a 20-year vision and roadmap for Seattle’s future. It guides important City decisions about where future job and housing growth occurs, and what city investments (utilities, transit, parks, sidewalks, and other city services) are needed to support growth. Every eight to ten years this plan gets a thorough review and update.

Seattle 2035 is the name of the current update. Over the next 20 years. Seattle will add 120,000 people and 115,000 jobs– an increase of 18% population and a 23% in jobs over today. Seattle 2035 public process shaped this update through meetings, discussions and other events to share information and engage Seattleites in planning for the future. Several drafts are generated and reviewed:

Draft Plan           Released July 7, 2015. Public comment period July 7- November 20 2015. This plan represents city staff’s recommendations. It evolved over two years of assessment, study, extensive public outreach and engagement.

Mayor’s Plan     Sent to Council on May 3, 2016. This plan represents the Mayor’s recommendations. It reflects a thorough review of all public comments and feedback on the Draft Plan, additional technical analysis and discussions.

Final Plan            To be adopted in fall 2016. City Council will review and discuss the Mayor’s Plan, hold public hearings, and make additional changes to the plan.

Why do we need a comprehensive plan, or an updated plan?

Many policies in our current plan date from 1994. But, Seattle has changed– more populous, diverse and prosperous. We have more transit, and our economy is growing quickly attracting people, jobs and investment at a fast pace. Technology is rapidly changing the way we live, work, learn, socialize, and much more. The city faces tough challenges and increasing inequality – how to keep housing affordable, prepare for climate change, and improve transportation. Our plan helps us anticipate and address these challenges so Seattle continues to offer opportunity and prosperity to all the people and businesses that choose Seattle as home.

Planning for future growth is smart, but also legally required by the state Growth Management Act (GMA). This 1990 act helped curb costly sprawl development by channeling growth to existing cities and towns. GMA requires the City to have a comprehensive plan, and to review that plan every eight to ten years. We adopted our first plan in 1994, and reviewed the plan in 2004.

What is the Urban Village Strategy?

This term refers to a desired pattern of growth where most of the new housing and jobs locate in designated places:

Urban Centers: The Plan designates six urban centers: Downtown, First Hill/Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Uptown, University District and Northgate. These are places that meet the King County’s planning criteria for urban centers, including the potential for high levels of job and housing growth. They are the densest places for jobs and housing.

Hub Urban Villages: The Plan designates six hub urban villages: Ballard, Fremont, Lake City, Bitter Lake, North Rainier and West Seattle Junction. Hub urban villages are places that are expected to experience both job and housing growth, but at lower densities than expected in the urban centers.

Residential Urban Villages: The Plan designates 18 residential urban villages including places like Rainier Beach, Columbia City, Admiral, Upper Queen Anne and Wallingford. Residential urban villages are centered on smaller business districts that are expected to experience primarily residential growth, although they all have capacity for some commercial growth.

Manufacturing and Industrial Districts: The Plan designates two manufacturing/industrial centers: Duwamish and Interbay areas. These are places where residential uses are not permitted and where the City encourages the growth of manufacturing, port and other kinds of employment.

How effective has the Comprehensive Plan and the Urban Village Strategy been?

Here are some examples of how the plan has successfully managed growth:

  • About 79% of housing and 78% job growth occurred in urban centers and villages since 1994.
  • Proactive planning in urban centers like downtown and South Lake Union has encouraged significant economic development and job growth for the city.
  • Capital investment in urban centers and villages helped maintain the quality of life.
  • Key transportation policies such as the Transit Master Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan and Bicycle Master Plan ensured urban villages are well connected and have multiple options for getting around.

How will the Plan help to make Seattle a more equitable city?

The Plan highlights current disparities, and include new policies to address these disparities. The proposed pattern of growth take into account transit investments, as well as communities that have a high risk of displacement or low access to opportunity. The Plan’s guiding policies, the equity analysis and the equitable development implementation plan will influence future city policies, programs and investments for the next 20 years.

How will the Plan help minimize displacement and make housing more affordable?

The City has incorporated equity and anti-displacement values into the Mayor’s Plan, which will guide density, investments and growth in a manner that takes into account the risk of displacement caused by policy changes. Policies in the Growth Strategy and Land Use elements make it easier to build housing, especially near very good transit. Policies in the Housing element set goals for meeting the needs of different income groups. The Housing Appendix has lots of background information on the needs of different households and the current housing stock.

New policies also support the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. The City is promoting aggressive investment strategies to preserve and expand housing affordability, which will help ensure that people with low incomes can afford to stay in their communities. These strategies involve acquiring and renovating existing affordable housing, providing owners with tax incentives to keep rents low, and building new affordable housing developments in neighborhoods at high risk of displacement.

What changes to our transportation system will help keep us moving with so many more people and workers?

The Plan encourages the development a multi-modal connected transportation system. This system is planned to consider various modes (walking, cycling, automobile, public transit, etc.) as well as the connections among modes. A multi-modal system accommodates the City’s growth strategies and provides better travel options for people and goods. In just the past few years, the City has significantly increased travel choices–quicker and more reliable bus service, adding more RapidRide routes, enhancing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and increasing options car sharing options.


How does the Mayor’s Plan address displacement differently than previous plans?

The 1994 and 2004 versions of the Plan did not directly address displacements, or have an equity analysis. The Mayor’s Plan includes new goals and policies to minimize displacement and increase opportunity for marginalized communities. When estimating growth rates for urban villages, we considered the results of the equity analysis, risk of displacement and access to opportunity, in additional to other factors. A more moderate rate of growth is estimated for Othello and Rainier Beach because although they have very good transit, they also have a high risk of displacement and low access to opportunity. As other plans are drafted or updated, this analysis can guide future policy about plans and programs for housing, transportation and economic development.

Do our utilities have the infrastructure to support 120,000 more people and 115,000 more jobs?

Over the coming years the existing utilities infrastructure is well poised to accommodate growth and be more sustainable, efficient, and equitable. The electrical system will need to increase capacity and reliability to adapt to emerging technologies such as local solar energy production and electric vehicles, while continuing to address climate change and maintaining a significant distribution system.  The drinking water, drainage, and sewer systems will need to respond to new regulations and the impacts of a changing climate, and continue to update systems to address combined sewer overflows.  The communications systems will need to grow to continue to address City, business, resident, education, health, service sector and mobile communication needs. See the Utilities Appendix for more details on existing utility infrastructure and future needs.


What kinds of jobs does the 115,000 increase represent?

The job estimate of 115,000 by 2035 is based on projections developed by the State of Washington and the Puget Sound Regional Council. Municipalities within King County, including the City of Seattle, worked together to develop how the regional estimates for King County are likely to occur. This process is designed to estimate the total number of jobs, but not the specific types of jobs that will occur. However, national and local trends indicate we are likely to continue to see services and information technology account for an increasing share of regional jobs. Land Use Appendix Figure A-4 shows jobs by sector between 1995 and 2014.  

How does the Plan support arts and culture?

Although not required by the Growth Management Act, the Mayor’s Plan dedicates an entire element to Arts and Culture. This element, previously called “Cultural Resources,” includes goals policies about public arts, the creative economy, youth and the arts, and cultural space.

Are Neighborhood Plans still part of the Mayor’s Plan?

Yes! Both the current comprehensive plan and the Mayor’s Recommended Plan includes neighborhood plans for 38 specific geographic areas. The goals and policies are exactly the same, but the look and location within the plan has changed. Here is where you can find neighborhood plans:

  • Current Plan – Look for the “Neighborhood PLanning” section, pages 8.6-8.181.
  • Mayor’s Recommended Plan – Look for the “Neighborhood Plan section, pages 191-403.

Process & Outreach

How were residents and businesses involved in the Seattle 2035 process?

The Seattle 2035 outreach process kicked off in fall 2013. Over the next 2 years, we used a variety of in-person and online methods to inform, involve and engage stakeholder organizations, the general public and underserved communities.  Highlights below. See the Community Engagement Final Report for more details.

  • Approximately 2,600 people met with us in-person Hosted 23 public meetings
  • Provided information at an additional 21 public events
  • Had 34 presentations and meetings with stakeholder organizations
  • 1,093 fans followed our Facebook page
  • 2,650 people subscribed to emails
  • 24,600 people viewed our website
  • 4,766 people participated in an online open house
  • 412 people participated in an online community on Consider.IT

What are the next steps? Are there still opportunities for the public to weigh in?

The Mayor’s Recommended Plan was sent to the City Council on May 3, 2016. City Council’s Planning Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee will review the plan, hold hearings, make changes and ultimately present a plan to the full council in fall 2016 for a vote.  Future opportunities to provide feedback include:

  • Attend (or watch on the Seattle Channel) the PLUZ Committee meetings where the plan will be discussed. If you attend the meeting in person, you will have an opportunity to speak to Council members during the public comment period at each meeting.
  • Attend and provide comments at public hearings. PLUZ will hold public hearings at the beginning and end of their deliberations. Join PLUZ or Seattle 2035 email list to make sure you are notified when hearings are scheduled.
  • Some land use proposals in the plan, such as changes to single family within urban villages or changes to urban village boundaries, will be discussed at Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) community meetings and citywide events. Visit to learn more.

What happens after the Plan is adopted by City Council?

City Council is expected to adopt an updated plan in fall of 2016.  As a policy document, the Plan lays out general guidance for future City actions. Many of those actions are addressed in shorter-range, more detailed plans developed by other City departments that focus on a particular aspect of City services, such as parks, transportation or drainage (see more examples on page __ in the plan) and advance the urban village strategy and other goals. The City also implements the Plan through development regulations, primarily found in the City’s zoning map and Land Use Code. Zoning changes associated with HALA are an example. We hope that other people (property owners, community organizations, affordable housing developers) will also use the plan to support our shared vision of an equitable and sustainable city.


How do you estimate future growth?

Puget Sound Regional Council designates urban centers regionally. All the municipalities within the region provide the estimated number of housing units and jobs to PSRC. The City of Seattle designates hub urban villages and residential urban villages. Because these areas differ significantly in land area, shape and current density, we believe rate of growth in a better measure for monitoring and comparing growth in different types of urban villages. It communicates more clearly which types are growing more rapidly.

The overall rate of growth for housing over the last 20 years (1996-2015) was 28%. Why are you estimating a lower rate of growth (21%) for the next 20 years?

Seattle is required to plan for 70,000 housing units. Because long range estimates have a high degree of uncertainty, we have also studied the impacts of growth at a higher level, 100,000 units (30% growth rate) over 20 years.

Which of the four growth alternatives from the Draft EIS was selected as the Preferred Alternatives in the Final EIS and the Mayor’s Plan?

The Preferred Alternative/ Mayor’s Plan is similar to Alternative 4 in Draft EIS. This alternative anticipates more growth in urban villages with frequent transit (a light rail station or a bus station with two or more bus lines serving multiple destinations). Key features of Alternative 4 reflected in the Preferred Alternative and the Mayor’s Plan:

  • A new urban village surrounding a proposed light rail station at 130th Street NE
  • Future Land Use Map with expanded boundaries for 11 existing urban villages near very good transit.
  • Distribution of growth has the largest amount of growth in urban centers.
  • A lower rate of growth is expected in two urban villages (Othello, Rainier Beach) where the equity analysis identified a high risk of displacement and low access to opportunity.

Why hasn’t the Ballard urban village been nominated to be a regionally designated growth center? As of 2015 Ballard is double the minimum existing activity level (population + employment) of 18 activity units per gross acre. Would this designation help Ballard get light rail sooner?

Currently, Ballard does not have the right zoning to meet the minimum number of jobs that King County requires for a regionally designated growth center. Even though Ballard has not been nominated to be a regionally designated growth center, the City has strongly advocated to have light rail from downtown to Ballard included in ST3.

Proposed Urban Village Expansion Areas on Future Land Use Map

What is a proposed urban village expansion area?

Urban village boundaries were drawn 20 years ago when Seattle had less transit service and ridership than we have today. To give more people access to the very good transit (existing or planned), we want to encourage denser development close to these transit locations, approximately within a 10-minute walk. Urban village expansion areas are areas within a 10-minute walk of very good transit, but currently lie beyond an urban village boundary. These are areas that deserve further study of how to provide more housing, including affordable housing, close to very good transit (means a transit station/stop with either light rail service, or bus service that includes RapidRide plus at least one other high-frequency bus route).

What does it mean to be within a proposed urban village expansion areas?

The dotted expanded urban village boundary shown on the Future Land Use map in the Mayor’s Plan does not change the underlying zoning. Any regulatory change to the boundary or the zoning would still need to go through a rezoning process that requires approval by City Council. However, being within a proposed urban village expansion areas signals the City’s interest in studying these areas for potential growth and change. Urban villages are a priority area for many other city policies, investments and programs.

How and when will the boundaries of urban village expansion areas be finalized?

Urban village boundaries will be finalized with zoning changes for the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Mandatory Housing Affordability, a new program that will require all new commercial and multi-family residential buildings to either include affordable housing on site, or make a payment to support affordable housing.  In exchange for creating affordable housing, developers will be able to access additional zoning capacity. The conversation on how this program could work in Seattle as well as any changes in zoning is just beginning.  The community has a real opportunity to help shape this MHA program and any zoning changes that may result will be discussed and ultimately approved by City Council in later 2016 for South Lake Union and Downtown and no earlier than 2017 in the remaining parts of the city.

How can I find out if my home is within a proposed urban village expansion area?

Some preliminary study maps (at have been created to show areas outside of urban villages that are within a 10-minute walk of very good transit service. These maps are very preliminary, and more detailed maps will be developed during the HALA community outreach and engagement process.

Why is there an urban village expansion area shown around the 130th Street provisional station, but not the Graham Street infill station?

Sound Transit will not announce a final proposal for the voters until June, and voters will decide on that package in November. City Council may decide to amend the Future Land Use Map depending stations included in the final ST3 proposal.

Why aren’t urban village expansion areas shown for all the urban villages with Rapid Ride service?

OPCD and SDOT developed criteria to identify locations with “very good transit.” These locations include all current and planned light rail stations, and three bus stations. Each of the selected bus station locations has RapidRide service plus at least one other frequent bus.

Why do expanded boundaries seem so much larger for some villages?

The expanded boundaries are based on a 10-minute walkshed around frequent transit (a light rail station or a bus station with two or more bus lines serving multiple destinations). Some urban village boundaries are already closely aligned with the 10-minute walkshed. Also, the topography and the street network can influence how the size and shape of the walkshed. Lots of hills or an irregular street grid will shrink the size of the walkshed.