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Abstract

Since near misses nearly twenty years ago, comprehensive reform of Washington land use regulatory legislation has been simmering on the back burner. In 1989, the pot began to boil. Central Puget Sound area motorists fumed in "gridlock" traffic. They denounced dense, downtown development, fretted over soaring housing prices, and lamented the loss of forests, farms, and salmon-spawning streams. Thus, the growth management revolution was fomented not by the poor and downtrodden, nor by academic theorists, but by the middle-class suburban masses who sensed escalating degradation of community, environment, and quality of life. They demanded change. The revolutionary battles were fought on many fronts, and the outcome was always in doubt. The Governor's office, diverse elements of the legislature, the Growth Strategies Commission, and all relevant interest groups skirmished during a period extending from the 1989 through the 1991 legislative sessions, straddling a bitterly fought initiative campaign. The resulting Growth Management Act ("GMA") was enacted by the 1990 and 1991 legislatures in two hotly contested installments known respectively as "GMA I" and "GMA II.21 GMA I and GMA II, shaped or deformed as they were by last-gasp political compromises, contain unresolved internal inconsistencies, politically necessary vague language, and significant gaps. Consequently, while the general concepts of the GMA are understandable in the abstract, there is much uncertainty about what they will mean in practice. Whether and when such uncertainty will be resolved by additional legislation, Department of Community Development (DCD) guidance, rulings of the new Growth Planning Hearings Boards, and interpretations by the courts remain to be seen. Accordingly, the purpose of this Article is to trace the complex history of the GMA, analyze the Act's major features, and identify unresolved issues in Washington's growth management revolution.