Item Coversheet
Item #7.

Staff Report: 026-23


Mayor and City Council


Eric Holmes, City Manager




Comprehensive Plan Charter Resolution
Key Points
  • The comprehensive plan is a significant policy document that plays a major role in guiding growth and development, influences how the community looks and feels, and how it functions and operates over time. Washington’s Growth Management Act requires the City to adopt an updated plan and modify its zoning code and development standards necessary to implement the plan no later than June 30, 2025.
  • Given the complexity and number of policy decisions that will occur over the life of the project, it is necessary to establish an overall decision-making framework to ensure shared understanding and collective ownership of cumulative decisions made during the policy development process.
  • Designing an equity forward co-creative process with members of the community, particularly disproportionately impacted community members, will require a clear, concise, and transparent process to ensure there is shared understanding about how policy decisions will be made.

Strategic Plan Alignment

Goal 1: Ensure our Built Environment is one of the most safest, most environmentally responsible and well maintained in the Pacific Northwest


Goal 3: Create new programs that engage people of all ages, cultures, family configurations, educational backgrounds, trades and professions


Objective 3.2: Improve services available to underserved or vulnerable communities


Goal 6: Facilitate the creation of neighborhoods where residents can walk or bike to essential amenities and services


Objective 6.2: Improve amenities and services that allow residents to age in place


Goal 7: Build on our status as the largest City on the Columbia River by strengthening connections to the river and the waterfront.


Goal 8: Strengthen commercial, retail and community districts throughout the City


Objective 8.1: Make downtown Vancouver a vibrant destination for the community and the region


Objective 8.2: Strengthen neighborhood business districts


Goal 9: Build the strongest, most resilient economy in the region


Objective 9.1: Create infrastructure and policies that support job creation

Present Situation

The City of Vancouver’s comprehensive plan provides the overall long-term vision and policy direction for managing the built and natural environment in Vancouver and providing necessary public facilities to achieve that vision. The City adopted its first comprehensive plan under Washington’s Growth Management Act in 1994 (Chapter 36.70A RCW), with a major re-write occurring in 2004, and a less substantive update occurring most recently in 2011.


Since the last time the plan was updated, significant changes have occurred in the community, including increased population growth, greater diversity in the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the community, expanded private sector investment and development activity, rising awareness of the impacts of climate change and need for immediate climate action, emergent technologies that have transformed how people move around the region and engage with each other, and, not least, the impacts of a global pandemic and associated public health and economic crises that affected all community members. In addition, Council policy priorities have evolved to prioritize climate action, community safety, and equitable access to opportunities and resources. These trends and priorities require a re-imagining of the City’s 20-year growth and development plan and new policies and programs to meet the needs of the Vancouver community now and into the future, reflective of a target year of 2045 for fully achieving the vision outlined in the plan. The Comprehensive Plan update will establish a new community vision and a set of goals, policies, and implementation strategies to achieve it, and will ensure that Vancouver continues to meet and exceed the requirements of the State’s Growth Management Act. This effort is broken down into the following five tasks:


  • Co-Creation: Establish a process to develop and create the plan with members of the community, conduct community engagement activities in a method consistent with state law, and place an emphasis on elevating the perspectives of communities that have been historically underrepresented, excluded or negatively impacted from public decision-making processes.
  • Comprehensive Plan: Perform a holistic re-write of the existing Comprehensive Plan that includes defining a new set of goals, objectives, policies, and overall strategy that is responsive to issues and needs identified during the process of co-creation with plan stakeholders and the public, while also accounting for long term trends that will affect the community in the future. The plan strategy will establish an overall land use framework that specifies where and how the City will grow and the infrastructure needs necessary to achieve that vision, as well as overall strategies related to housing, climate, environment, resiliency, community health, public facilities and services, economic development and opportunity, and achieving equitable outcomes.
  • Implementation Strategy: Develop a detailed strategy for implementing the goals, objectives, policies, and overall strategy outlined within the revised plan, including recommendations for future programs and policy work, and a public facing tool to help staff and members of the public understand how implementation of the plan is progressing over the long term;
  • Land Use Code: Modify the existing zoning code (Title 20 of the Vancouver Municipal Code) to reflect the goals and policies identified in the revised plan and achieve the community’s vision;
  • SEPA: Complete the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process in compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA);


Given the number of discrete collective policy decisions that need to be made within each one of these categories over the life of the project, and the level of complexity and interdependency of the various elements included in it, the following steps will be necessary to ensure the final plan is reflective of its identified goals:


  1. Establishing an overall decision-making framework to ensure shared understanding and collective ownership of cumulative decisions made during the policy development process;
  2. The development of a robust visioning and goal setting process (in partnership with the City’s in-process update to the Strategic Plan), to ensure policies, regulations, and implementation methods are rooted in an articulated purpose;
  3. Collective formation and buy-in of the established vision and related goals between co-creative partners designing the plan;
  4. Divide a highly complex and inter-related process with a wide variety of interested stakeholders into manageable and logically organized phases where each policy decision builds off decisions made earlier in the process and informs those that will come after.


The development of the below decision-making framework and chartering process with City Council is designed to ensure the four steps above are achieved during the plan update process. Based on the project scope of work and consultation with Council at a Feb. 6, 2022, workshop, the project team recommends the following process and structure for Council review and formal action at key points:




Review / Action

Time Window

Equity Framework

Structure to ensure disproportionately impacted and historically marginalized populations drive policy design process

Other key process design goals from Council and Planning Commission

Joint PC / Council Workshop

Council Resolution

1st / 2nd quarter of 2023

Community Partnership Framework

The details on how we Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate, and Empower Co-Creative Partners

The who, how, and when this occurs

PC Workshops

Council Workshops

Council Resolution

1st / 2nd quarter of 2023

Goals Framework

Input from Scenario Planning and Community Partnership efforts

Identification of Plan Chapters & Elements

Prioritization of goals against each other

PC Workshops

Council Workshops

Council Resolution

2nd / 3rd quarter of 2023

Land Use Framework

Input from Scenario Planning and Community Partnership efforts

Consideration of Capital Facility and Infrastructure needs to support vision

Minimum of 3 alternatives established for EIS process

TMC Workshops

Joint PC / Council Workshop

Additional PC & Council Workshops as needed

Council Resolution

4th quarter of 2023

/ 1st quarter of 2024


Tangible policies to mobilize objectives of Goals + Land Use Framework

PC Workshops

Council Workshops

Council Resolution

1st quarter of 2024

Code Concepts

High level concepts for mobilizing the established policy framework through the Land Use Code

Identification of potential early action items, structure, arrangement, and content of code.

Joint PC / Council Workshop

Additional PC & Council Workshops as needed

Council Resolution

2nd / 3rd quarter of 2024

Implementation Methods

Framework for mobilizing policy items not covered under the Land Use Code (dashboards, program development, incentive structures, future sub-area planning)

Framework for measuring success and outcomes of the plan effort

Final review of accountability matrix structure for incorporation of feedback into plan outcomes, and long term follow up on implementation

PC Workshops

Council Workshops

Council Resolution

3rd / 4th quarter of 2024

Code Framework

Input from Co-Creative partners on Code Concepts

Relevant inputs from Draft EIS

More detailed framework for mobilizing the established policy framework through the Land Use Code

PC Workshops

Council Workshops

Council Resolution

4th quarter of 2024 / 1st quarter of 2025

Plan Adoption

Final EIS completed at least 60 days prior to adoption

Final Comp Plan Document, Appendices, and Land Use Framework

Final Code Language

Final Implementation Matrix

PC Recommendation

Adopted by Ordinance (Council)

June 2025




  1. The proposed chartering framework supports shared understanding between City Council, City staff, and the community about how iterative decision making will occur throughout the plan update process.
  2. The chartering framework will help to set a foundation for the overall effort, and is structured in a manner where key decisions around process equity are established early, which will help to ensure equitable outcomes result from an intentionally defined process.


No identified disadvantages.

Budget Impact

No additional budget impact is associated with this request.

Prior Council Review
  • April 4, 2022 City Council Workshop reviewing the scoping process for the project.
  • Approval of the 2022 spring supplement and 2023-2024 biennial budgets, both of which included decision packages to support the project.
  • December 19, 2022 City Council authorization of contract execution with WSP.
  • February 6, 2022 City Council Workshop reviewing the draft chartering framework.

Action Requested

Approve a resolution formally endorsing the proposed chartering framework.


Domenic Martinelli, Senior Planner, 360-487-7943; Rebecca Kennedy, Deputy Community Development Director, 360-487-7896