Historical Zoning Records in King County
The King County Archives can help researchers locate historical zoning information in various county records. Historical zoning information for a specific piece of property is typically compiled from a number of sources and archival collections, rather than being found in one comprehensive "zoning file" for that property.
King County Archives staff cannot answer legal or technical questions about specific zoning issues.
County zoning history, 1937-1969
King County began its zoning program in 1937, when state legislation authorized local land use planning.
For twenty years, the county issued zoning codes, made zoning decisions about parcels of county land, and issued maps showing how those parcels had been zoned.
In 1958 a ruling
(PDF, 242KB) by Superior Court Judge Malcom Douglas invalidated all county zoning actions on a technicality of law (the county had not enacted a comprehensive plan). Individuals or attorneys must determine the effects or the legality of pre-1958 zoning with regard to specific issues or properties.
King County re-enacted its pre-1958 zoning actions in legally sufficient form via Commissioner's Resolution 18801 (August 12, 1958). This resolution remained in effect, with amendments, until 1964-1965, when King County developed a new comprehensive plan and with it, new zoning regulations and maps.
King County currently performs three functions relating to zoning:
1. Establishes zoning classifications stating what kind of structures and activities can be undertaken on what kind of unincorporated county land).
2. Applies the zoning classifications to specific parcels of land.
3. Adjudicates appeals from property owners regarding zoning decisions. Since the early 1960s this function has been handled by the Hearing Examiner
, previously known as the Building and Subdivision Examiner. Please contact the Hearing Examiner's Office
if you have any questions regarding zoning appeals.
Zoning codes (pre-1969)
Before 1969, zoning classifications were established by Commissioners' resolutions. The resolutions define the classifications (residential, commercial, suburban, etc.), their sub-classification levels, and the kind of structures and activities permitted by each level of each classification. The classifications are represented alphanumerically, for example, R-1, C-2.
The major zoning resolutions (zoning codes) are listed below. They are available in Adobe Acrobat format (.PDF). You will need a .PDF viewer to view these documents. To download the free software, visit King County's PDF help page
6494 (1937) Resolution 6494
(PDF, 3.1 MB )
King County's "first zoning code"
11373 (1949) Resolution 11373
(PDF, 1.9 MB)
16426 (1956) Resolution 16426, Part 1
(PDF, 1.6 MB) Resolution 16426, Part 2
(PDF, 693 KB)
18801 (1958) Resolution 18801, Par 1
(PDF, 2.7 MB) Resolution 18801, Part 2
(PDF, 2.8 MB)
Technical re-enactment of county zoning after court rulings.
25789 (1964) Resolution 25789, Part 1
(PDF, 3.8 MB) Resolution 25789, Part 2
(PDF, 3.6 MB) Resolution 25789, Part 3
(PDF, 3.7 MB)
First enacted in 1963 as a part of King County's first Comprehensive Plan; re-enacted with all amendments and previous zoning legislation, January 1964.
These codes only define
They do not tell how the classifications were applied to a specific parcel of land.
That function was carried out by the related maps that were generated under the authority of the resolutions.
Zoning Maps (pre-1969)
The county commissioners designated the King County Planning Commission
to handle zoning matters.
The commission generated large-scale zoning maps (also called "district maps" or "area maps") that showed the classification of specific properties in King County. Here is an example of part of a zoning map:
Map showing historical zoning of individual properties near Saltwater State Park in south King County.
In 1967, staff of the former King County Planning Department prepared an index list (PDF, 253KB) of all maps that had been generated to that date under the five Commissioner resolutions (zoning codes).
The original maps were filed with the County Auditor. They have since been dispersed. Most have not been located. They may no longer exist. However, many reduced- or full-sized reproductions are available at the King County Archives and the Puget Sound [state] Regional Archives in Bellevue. A few maps from the 1940s are also held by the University of Washington. Please contact the King County Archives to determine which repository may hold maps relevant to your property.
Finding and accessing zoning maps is easier if you can provide us with the section, township and range coordinates of your property. These are survey coordinates and they can be found in the legal description of your property. They are usually written, "18-25-5" or "S18, T25, R5."
We can also find the property using just the address.
The map, when located, will tell you the zoning classification of the subject property. This classification will be defined and explained in the relevant zoning resolution, zoning code, relating to the map.
Not all properties in unincorporated King County were zoned by county government prior to 1969. If you do not find a zoning code applied to your property on a pre-1969 zoning map, it may not have been zoned until later.
Please contact the Archives with questions about zoning maps, or to schedule a viewing appointment.
Rezones of individual property parcels were approved or denied by the Commissioners, based on Planning Commission recommendations. The recommendation was made in the form of a Planning Commission resolution. These resolutions no longer exist as such, but the Planning Commission resolution number (sometimes found on old documents) can serve as a cross-reference to existing documents.
The rezone action was affirmed in another kind of resolution, a County Commissioners' resolution. Please contact the Archives for a search of these resolutions.
Rezoning resolutions may have supporting documentation attached. This documentation can include copies of Planning Commission records (the only real source of Planning Commission records is as attachments) and related "vicinity" maps.
The vicinity maps are enlarged extracts of the relevant zoning maps. Additional information includes property owner name, legal description of property parcel, township-range-section notation, proposed reclassification code, and proposed new use of property. Each vicinity map also refers to the specific zoning map amended by the change, and is cross-referenced to Planning Commission and County Commissioner resolutions approving the rezone.
||Example of a rezone map |
The "ZA" (zoning application) file number, an internal agency identifier, may also appear on the vicinity map. The "ZA" files no longer exist as such, but the number is sometimes stated on old property documents.
Some indexing is provided by the Index to Commissioner Records, which has name references to owners of rezoned property
linked to exact dates of rezones. This handwritten index is available at the King County Archives; contact Archives staff for additional information.
Area Zoning Guidelines and Adopted Zoning Maps (1974-1994)
During the 1970s, King County initiated its Community Planning Program, which was built on the 1964 comprehensive plan.
Citizen groups and planners developed community plans that revised the earlier "district maps" (now called "area zoning"), provided capital improvement recommendations, and established planning policies. Each community plan, with its area zoning, was approved by the King County Council.
|For zoning information relating to specific properties since approximately 1995, contact the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review at DPERwebinquiries@kingcounty.gov or 206-296-6600.
The King County Archives holds general information about zoning during this time.
County legislative records (resolutions and ordinances) updating the 1964 zoning code (Resolution 25789) or approving specific community plans. Please contact the Archives for assistance in identifying legislative records.
Legislation relating to zoning classifications and their application is compiled in the King County Code. The compilation, currently at Title 21A, is known as the "zoning code."
Community plans and area zoning guidelines. Between 1974 and 1994 zoning guidelines and zoning maps were prepared for the following communities and areas:
|• East Sammamish
• Federal Way
• Lower Snoqualmie Valley
• Maple Valley - Black Diamond
• McMicken Heights
• North Bend
• Rose Hill
• Snoqualmie Pass area
• Snoqualmie Valley
• Soos Creek Plateau
• Stevens Pass and upper Skykomish
• Tahoma / Raven Heights
• West Hill
• White Center
• Cumberland, Friday Creek, Kanaskat, Kangley, Lester, Palmer, Selleck, and wilderness areas
||1983 pamphlet summarizing the Community Plan for Highline
The King County Archives holds copies of these community plans and their accompanying zoning maps
. For each section
found in the planning area, there are half-section maps (east and west half-sections). The maps show how zoning codes were applied to areas within the half-section. Definitions and explanations of the zoning codes accompany the graphical material.
This map from the Vashon Community Plan and Area Zoning (1986 update) shows the east half of section 18, township 22, range 3, along Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon Island.
||Maps do not show individual parcels, but sometimes zoning for specific properties can be determined.
Please contact the Archives about using the Community Plans to research zoning classifications in the 1970s-1990s.
Current Zoning Information
Please contact the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review for current zoning information. Current zoning of specific properties can also be found via the King County Parcel Viewer, under "Property Report."