Murray announces new strategy for city planning

To better manage planning and investments in rapidly growing Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray today signed an executive order to create a new Office of Planning and Community Development to integrate strategic planning functions from across city departments into one single entity.

“We have moved beyond the debate about whether we should allow growth – growth is already here,” said Murray. “When we develop new housing in a neighborhood, we must ensure we also have adequate open space, transportation and access to jobs, social services and other amenities. How we grow and how we invest will go hand in hand.”

Seattle is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, on pace to permit 9000 new housing units this year – 30 percent more than 2014. Seattle will be home to another 120,000 residents and 115,000 jobs by 2035.

The new office elevates the planning functions of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to manage Seattle’s construction boom and job growth, while also coordinating public investments in transportation, parks and housing. This office will be composed of planners with expertise in a range of subjects across city departments.

The office will also act as a single point of contact for Seattle residents who have concerns or comments about City planning and investments. The Department of Neighborhoods, led by new director Kathy Nyland, will help facilitate a new approach to community engagement.

“We need an entry-point for community concerns about how we preserve the Seattle that drew us all here in the first place,” said Murray. “And most importantly, this office will help us develop a shared vision for what kind of city we want Seattle to become.”

The mayor also announced that longtime director of DPD, Diane Sugimura, intends to retire later this year after more than three decades of service to the City of Seattle.

“On behalf of the people of the Seattle, I want to extend my thanks to Diane,” said Murray. “I look forward to Diane’s continued contribution to this important conversation on managing growth, as well as her insights in what we are looking for in the next generation of leaders in Seattle planning.”

Over the last two decades, the City has successfully channeled new housing into urban villages to create planned density. Nearly 75 percent of growth has been focused into Seattle’s Urban Centers and Urban Villages.

“My 37 years with the City have been an amazing roller coaster of activity and change,” said Sugimura. “I’ve been fortunate to have been part of these exciting and challenging times. I look forward to helping create the new Office of Planning and Community Development, which will provide an integrated and equitable approach to city growth.”

As integrated planning is elevated to the new Office of Planning and Community Development, the existing regulatory functions of the Department of Planning and Development – permits, code enforcement and inspections – will be housed in a separate agency to be named later. Nathan Torgelson, currently the deputy director at DPD, will lead that agency. Torgelson has 25 years’ experience in planning and economic development in various roles in the cities of Seattle and Kent.

The mayor’s September budget submittal to the City Council will include a detailed plan for both agencies. City departments participating in this planning process include: Department of Planning and Development, Transportation, Parks, Public Utilities, City Light, Housing and Economic Development.