John M. Campbell


Case No. ……………………



San Juan County


1. Petitioner: John M. Campbell

P.O. Box 250

Orcas, Wa. 98280

(360) 376-2035

FAX (360) 376-5492

2. Date of action under appeal: December 20, 1998

Date of publication of the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Code (UDC)

3. Detailed statement of issues presented for resolution by the Board:

4. The issues under appeal are the Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan and the Regulations of the Uniform Development Code which do not meet the requirements of the Growth Management Act RCW 36.70A.070, (2) and WAC 365-195-310.

  1. The Act requires, 36.70A.070, (2), an inventory and analysis of existing and projected housing needs and WAC 365-195-310, an evaluation of the extent to which the existing and projected market can provide housing at various costs for various income levels.
  2. The Comprehensive Plan includes, buried in an appendix, a Housing Needs Assessment reveals that 34% of the population is LMI of which 31% is paying in excess of 30% of their income on housing. It is ten percent of the population. The needs assessment provides substantial anecdotal evidence that there is a severe shortage of affordable housing in the County. None of this is reflected in the Housing Element which provides no quantitative statement of existing or projected housing need. It provides no statement of the extent to which the existing and projected market can provide housing at various costs and for various income levels. There is no estimate of the present or future extent of population in the planning area which will require assistance to obtain housing as recommended by WAC 365-195-310.

7. It should be noted here that the projected population used by the Needs Assessment is based upon a growth rate of 2.5%. In fact, as stated in the Introduction, pg. 7, the county has been growing at a rate of 4.8% from 1970 to 1990 and to all appearances, continues to do so.

8. In fact, San Juan County is a remote and finite group of islands experiencing substantial growth. The market is completely unable to provide affordable housing to the low and moderate income segment of the population. The Housing element does not consider this issue.

  1. The Act, RCW 36.70A.070, (2) (b) requires a statement of goals, policies and objectives and mandatory provisions for the preservation, improvement and development of housing including single family housing. The Housing Element offers no quantitative goals or objectives. The Housing Element in fact offers no effective goals or policies of any kind to meet the present or projected needs of low and moderate income households.

10. The Act requires, RCW 36.70A.070 (2) (c), the plan to identify sufficient land for housing, including but not limited to, government assisted housing, housing, housing for low income families, manufactured housing, multifamily housing, and group homes and foster care facilities. Neither the Plan nor Appendix I give any information on how the anticipated growth or affordable housing will be distributed between rural and urban areas.

11. Consider the land use maps. There is no shortage of land designated for housing as substantially all land on all the islands are designated rural, agricultural or forest, all permitting housing. As substantially all this land is expensive shoreline or is designated for densities of five or more acres per dwelling unit, it is all designated for estate and retirement development, not to meet the needs of low or even moderate income families. We find no analysis that suggests that the supply of existing or potential small lots and multi family zoning is adequate to the need.

12. It is important in the discussion of residential density to understand a fundamental premise of this plan which was a requirement of the County Commissioners that there would be no change in the existing allowable residential densities (see Plan, Land Use 2.1.B, par. 3). It is indicative that this fundamental policy is unstated in the Housing Element. Such a requirement is a distinct handicap to either "encouraging development in urban areas" or "reducing the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low density development". It is a handicap to affordable housing as well.

13. Consider San Juan Island with nearly half the county population. Outside of the Town of Friday Harbor there is no small lot zoning except shoreline nor any multifamily zoning. The unstated presumption apparently is that affordable housing will occur in the Town of Friday Harbor thus relieving the County of any responsibility for the matter. That assumption is consistent with the GMA mandate to avoid sprawl and encourage development in urban areas but there are two problems that remain

a. The vision statement speaks of a rural community. Working people live in San Juan County, working at some of the lowest wages in the state, in order to live in a rural community. The writers of that Vision Statement did not imagine that affordable housing would be confined to Friday Harbor.

b. The Town of Friday Harbor has not accepted that responsibility. Friday Harbor already has all the assisted housing on San Juan Island. The availability of water and sewer in Friday Harbor is critical and inadequate to serve any significant growth.


14. On Orcas Island, with roughly 35% of the county population and six urban/activity centers, the picture is a little brighter but not for long. The five small activity Centers are currently defining their land use districts in a manner that will insure that very little multifamily or affordable housing will occur. In the meantime, lacking Land Use Designations (Activity center is not a land use designation), the Activity Centers are under a de facto moratorium on any development, residential or otherwise. Activity Centers are generally tiny shoreline locations. Being in the Shoreline, development is further constrained by Rural Shoreline designations and development standards. The unincorporated village of Eastsound does offer some multifamily zoning. Unfortunately this area is rapidly filling up with non-residential uses. In addition, the Eastsound Water user’s Association is under a moratorium on new connections with no end of the moratorium in sight.

15. The Act requires that the planning jurisdiction "Makes adequate provision for existing and projected needs of all economic segments of the population." Just what "adequate provision" means in a remote, high cost, growing community like San Juan County is not entirely clear. The Dept. of CTED, in their review dated 8-13-98, noted that "More information is needed on how the County will encourage the development of affordable housing during the next 20 years……..The county needs to develop additional goals and policies specifically addressing these needs." It is clear that the San Juan County Housing Element is entirely inadequate and ineffectual to the present and growing needs. Consider first the County’s general housing Policies, 5.2.A:

    1. Promote fair and equal access to housing opportunities for all persons. In a high cost, growing area like San Juan County that is easier said than done.
    2. Ensure that County policies, codes, and regulations do no restrict, prohibit or substantially increase the cost of establishing a variety of housing types or impede the goals, policies and objectives of this Housing element. It is the market, not county policy, that is the chief obstacle to affordable housing and it is going to take very vigorous county policy to begin to accommodate the anticipated need for affordable housing.
    3. Allow the rental of guest houses (accessory dwellings) on a long term basis to provide opportunity for affordable housing. This policy is vigorously supported by the tourist rental industry. It sounds fine until we examine the regulations in the light of this supercharged housing market where summer rentals commonly bring $1,000/week. The UDC, 4.18, allows an accessory unit on any lot, anywhere without restriction as to affordability or term of rental. The effect of this regulation on rural character in the shoreline and elsewhere is beyond the scope of this petition. The effect on affordable housing will simply be to convert existing (often illegal) affordable units to legal, high cost summer rentals. It is mendacious to call this a provision for affordable housing.

d. In accordance with the Federal fair housing Act, ensure that regulations for residential development do not preclude the siting of household facilities for special needs such as the developmentally disabled, mentally ill, victims of domestic violence and the elderly. This appears to have been done as these uses are Provisionally permitted subject to administrative review in all districts.


e. Provide incentives for efficient development patterns through innovative site planning techniques which minimize road, sewer, water, and other infrastructure costs. Provide standards for cluster developments, small lots and small lot districts, manufactured housing and planned unit developments. A review of the UDC fails to reveal any incentives for "innovative " site planning or standards for cluster developments. The Land Use Element is conspicuously lacking in small lot districts. We find no provisions for Planned Unit Developments.

16. Consider next the low and moderate income housing policies, 5.2.B:

    1. Establish the County’s role in the provision of low and moderate income housing as the facilitator of non-profit and for-profit development and financing initiatives. The County will undertake no direct housing development. If San Juan County is to remain the diverse community described repeatedly in the Vision Statement it will require a more active County engagement of the issue.
    2. Formulate a density bonus program to provide an incentive for creating low and moderate income housing. Such a program should include standards for innovative site planning techniques which minimize road, water, sewer and other infrastructure costs. This could be a useful policy but, except in Eastsound, it is not implemented by the Plan or the Uniform Development Code (UDC) regulations.
    3. Provide opportunity and specific standards for locating seasonal and year round worker housing such as dorms, bunkhouses, hostels, group homes, and other communal living arrangements. ……This too could be a useful policy but it is not implemented by the Plan or the UDC.
    4. Develop programs to transfer development rights to identified low and moderate income housing receiving properties. ………….Whether such a program would be of any benefit to affordable housing is doubtful but in any event, it is not implemented by the Plan or the UDC.
    5. Maintain a housing advisory board to advise the Board of County Commissioners on housing issues and to coordinate the development of affordable housing opportunities in the county. This has been done.
    6. Utilize state, federal and local housing resources to the maximum extent possible consistent with the goals and policies of this element. This too has been done. It is to the County’s credit that they have consistently cooperated with both for-profit and non-profit housing developers.
    7. Continue the owner-builder permit program and work to improve the flexibility of this program to enable citizen to construct their own homes. A program to teach owner/builders conventional, cheap, fast and durable, good construction practices would be an educational and cost effective complement to this program.


  1. The affordable housing policy in San Juan County is utterly inadequate to the size and severity of the need. It is, in the aggregate a plan to do nothing in the face of a serious and growing problem that is, unintentionally but surely, aggravated by the Plan. The problem is not a lack of good intentions. The County Commissioners, Planning staff and the public all, I believe, are aware of the affordable housing problem and want to do something effective. Unfortunately, they have failed to devote the time and resources to face the issues and failed to adopt a Housing Element that offers a serious attempt to "make adequate provision for all economic segments of the community".
  2. What is most conspicuously lacking in this Plan is any suggestion of What needs to be done, Where to do it, Who will do it and How.
  3. The petitioner’s standing is as a participant who has addressed the Citizen Advisory Committees, the Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners on this issue throughout the process, both as an individual and on behalf of the County Housing Advisory Board. Attached is a copy of the recommendations presented at those hearings.
  4. The time required should be no more that an hour to state the requirements of the Act and show that they have not been met. He cannot estimate how the County could defend this Housing Element or what rebuttal would be required.
  5. The relief sought is that the County be required to prepare forthwith and without delay a substantive and effectual Housing Element. That is, identify the present and projected needs, quantitatively and qualitatively, and adopt tangible objectives, identify where it will be accomplished, who will do it and how it will be financed. Beyond that, the county requires direction and to have its feet held to the fire.
  6. To accomplish this WAC 365-195-310,2 provides some useful recommendations that have not, to date, been followed. Consider the following excerpts;
  7. (b) An assessment of the needs for housing……………..anticipated as a result of planned growth over the planning period.
  8. (c) Evaluation of the extent to which the existing and projected market can provide housing at various costs and for various income levels.
  9. (d) Estimation of the present and future extent of populations in the planning area which require assistance to obtain housing they can afford. It is very clear from the Vision Statement that an economically diverse population, not simply a wealthy enclave served by commuters, is intended. In a growing, high cost community with few existing housing resources, it is important to recognize the numbers of people who will require some kind of assistance. San Juan county is growing by approximately 250 households/ year of which over 100 will be less that median income and hard pressed to afford housing. Perhaps half will muddle by in some fashion and the other half, or roughly 50 families / year will need some form of assistance. What kind of housing? Rental (single Room occupancy, multi family or single family), ownership (conventional or Community Land Trust) or other? What is needed is a comprehensive approach that includes a wide range of rental and ownership assistance.


26. (e) Identification of existing programs and policies to promote adequate housing for population segments which cannot afford housing in the existing market and evaluation of their effectiveness. Existing programs include subsidized rentals, Community land Trust ownership and Home Equity loans. All these programs are making a valuable contribution to affordable housing at this time. All would benefit from a frank appraisal of effectiveness, including cost effectiveness, to guide future policy. The importance of cost effectiveness needs to be stressed. New housing is expensive and serves only a lucky few while others, equally needy, go without. For the cost of one new dwelling, a housing counseling program can aid hundreds of families to find housing or to become self sufficient. Both are needed so that as many as possible receive assistance.

27. (f) Incorporation of county wide planning policies on affordable housing and parameters for the distribution of such housing. This should include identification of the share of affordable housing to be provided by the planning jurisdiction and how it will be achieved. In some cases, it may be appropriate for a jurisdiction to provide assistance for the location of affordable housing elsewhere. Parameters for distribution are important in a county of islands, particularly when the providers are likely to be island specific non-profits competing for limited resources. Equally important is some clarity on the issue of rural versus urban locations and some rational reconsideration of allowable densities.

  1. The present County position is that San Juan County will provide no share of the needed housing or housing assistance. At this point, with non-profit housing providers on all major islands, I think we should accept that position and ask instead how the county is going to assist these non-profits with leadership, policy and financial support. San Juan County is the wealthiest county in the state with the lowest tax rate in the state. The county spends over $2,000,000/year acquiring open space for conservation and $3500 on affordable housing. Goals and policy can help but money delivers the housing. If the vision of a diverse community is to remain a reality, if the projected growth is to include a working community, it will require a budget comparable to the one now devoted to preserving open space.

29. (j) Preparation of a strategy for preserving, improving and developing housing which will attempt to meet the needs identified for all economic segments of the population in the planning area. In other words, What, where, who and how. San Juan County is an actively growing "Gold Coast" with high land costs, high construction costs and low wages. Unless local government takes an active role, now, in providing for affordable housing, the future will certainly resemble communities like Aspen where the working population is chiefly commuters, leaving Anacortes on the 5:40 AM ferry and returning to Anacortes at seven in the evening. That is not the Vision of this Plan nor a part of Anacortes’s housing plan either but it is the unstated implication of the subject Housing Element.

30. The undersigned has written this petition, read it and believes the contents to be true.



John M. Campbell

February 15, 1999

Attachments: 1. San Juan County Comprehensive Plan and Housing Element

Appendix 1 Population projections

Appendix 5 Housing Needs Assessment

2. Uniform Development Code

3.Documentation of standing

4. CTED letter 8-13-98