About Tovar Planning
















My public sector career began in 1976 with the City of Kirkland where I served as the planning director from 1982 to 1992.  At Kirkland, I led a high performing professional staff of 12 planners, six of whom went on to become planning directors for other cities.   I developed effective relationships with council members, planning commissioners, and community members, wrote award-winning design guidelines for Kirkland’s walkable downtown, successful annexation strategies, and shoreline policies that resulted in public access to 25% of the city’s Lake Washington frontage.  I laid the foundational land use policies and organizational practices that set Kirkland on the path to the treasured place that it is today – a thriving lakeside community with diverse commercial and residential neighborhoods and a walkable, vibrant downtown.


In 1989 as President of the Washington City Planning Directors Association, I convened the state City and County Planning Directors Associations in drafting Toward a Growth Strategy for Washington.  That report became the blueprint for what became the Growth Management Act of 1990.   In 1992 I began a twelve-year stint on the State Growth Management Hearings Board where I wrote over 300 decisions interpreting the Growth Management, Shoreline Management, and State Environmental Policy Acts.   From 2005 through 2011 I served as the planning director for the cities of Covington, Shoreline, and Bainbridge Island.   In all three cities I led updates of comprehensive plans and development codes, served as the SEPA responsible official, and cultivated best practices by city staff, planning commissioners, and council members.


My private planning practice was launched in 2012 and for the next five years I advised cities, counties, state agencies, and private clients on a variety of plans, codes, and strategies.  To see representative examples of my clients during those years and the projects I advised them on, click on the Projects tab above.


From 2017 to 2021, I lead two university-based projects funded by the Washington Legislature to identify needed reforms to the Growth Management Act and other state planning laws.   As a project manager at the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, I co-lead The Road Map to Washington’s Future.  The project objectives were to articulate a vision of a desired future for Washington and to identify reforms to state laws and policies needed to reach that future.  The Final Report, issued in June of 2019, listed dozens of potential reforms to the state’s planning framework.  Six of these were highlighted as urgently needed systemic and transformational reforms. These six are summarized in the Road Map Executive Summary linked below.


From 2020 to 2021 I was the project manager at the University of Washington for Updating Washington’s Growth Policy Framework.  That project continued the collaborative conversation, building upon the findings and reforms listed in the Road Map report.  In an appendix of the UW Final Report, extensive potential bill language was offered around six key issue areas:

  • Adaptive and inclusive planning at a regional scale
  • The cycle and dedicated funding for updates to comprehensive plans and development codes
  • Housing elements, affordable housing, and infill infrastructure improvements
  • Improvements to development regulations and permit processes
  • Resilience to climate change
  • Municipal annexation


Much of the draft language presented in the January 2021 Final Report was included in bills passed in the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions.


Link to the Road Map to Washington’s Future Executive Summary  Road-Map-Final-Report_Executive-Summary.pdf


Link to the Final Report of Updating Washington’s Growth Policy Framework  https://clc.be.uw.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2021/01/WA-GPF-Final-Report.pdf