City of Olympia

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Watersheds of Olympia.jpg

The City of Olympia has municipal jurisdiction over the southern extent of Budd Inlet, including portions of the historical Deschutes Delta and tributaries like Percival Creek Watershed, the lowest reaches of the Deschutes River Watershed, Schneider Creek Watershed, West Bay Watersheds, Southern parts of Butler Cove Watershed, the Mission Creek Watershed, and Indian-Moxlie Creek Watershed. In addition the the City manages the Eastern half of the Green Cove Creek Watershed as well as portions of the Henderson Inlet Ecosystem (specifically the headwaters of Woodard Creek). Additional areas such as Downtown, West Bay, Crestline, East Bay and Ward Lake have only seasonal streams.

City Governance

The city has a seven person city council with one of those positions being the "mayor". Most administrative power is held by a city manager that is hired by the council as an employee. The council however approves key decisions (which decisions?)

The city has three departments involved in natural resources management. The largest is Public Works, which includes the municipal stormwater utility. Community Planning and Development is responsible for long range planning, permits, and neighborhood associations including Shoreline Master Program and Growth Management Act implementation. Parks and Recreation is small, and manages publicly owned lands, but also manages and creates community gatherings. There are various special districts which also affect the City of Olympia environment, including the Port of Olympia which has substantial ownership of shorelines and liability for historical contamination, and LOTT which is a waste water utility and treatment system serving Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater. Legal arms of the city can get involved in land use disputes, with the Hearings Examiner being among the most important roles.

Community Planning and Development

CPD reviews and enforces permits, updates required plans, and also manages "urban forestry". There are housing action plans, housing code amendments, parks and rec plans, regional climate plans, transportation plans, water system plans, storm water plans, shoreline plans, and the comprehensive plan which tries to integrate all the plans consistent with the Growth Management Act. However CPD doesn't write all the plans (how are plans integrated and are there discrepancies in plans?)

  • Recognized Neighborhood Associations are established with a one page form and form File:Olympia 2020 recognized neighborhood association roster.pdf. They have limited privilages relative to the operation of the city, and are more or less coherent in their operations. There is not clear mandate from the city for community development within a RNA. Once an RNA claims a territory, there is no additional RNA formation within that territory. It appears that in some circumstances, RNAs are established by business interests rather than residential interest groups (for example the West Bay Drive Association).
  • Shoreline Master Program - results in shoreline designations and rules for shoreline development under SMA. The last Olympia plan was state approved in 2015.
    • 22 Jan 2021 the City issued a Determination of Non Significance (City of Olympia 2021) for an update to their SMP based on Ecology review.
  • Comprehensive Plan - implements requirements of GMA including zoning, building codes, and other plans.


  • The parks department volunteer program manages adopt-a-park and park steward programs for self-insured or city-insured work on parks.
  • File:Olympia 2018 surface and storm water plan.pdf describes the current strategy for water management.
  • Parks collaborates with City Environmental Services, which provides more sophisticated restoration and natural resource planning.
  • Both Parks and Environmental Services have tools for loan to support work, and allow any non-motorized tools (even things with big sharp blades.) They prefer that you use their tools.
  • The Green Cove Creek Watershed and Mission Creek Watershed have large city owned natural areas managed by parks, with restoration assistance by Public Works.
  • Public Works hires a Washington Conservation Corps crew to support work in the City and they work in parks.

Public Works

Other Important Roles

Common Non-Governmental Actors

In addition to the special districts, there are a range of frequently seen actors involved in the land use arena:

There are a number of entities summarized at Thurston County Volunteer Restoration Opportunities