King County, Washington Ordinance 16948 and Equity Impact Review Process

Ordinance 16948, commonly referred to as King County’s Equity and Social Justice Ordinance, establishes definitions and directs implementation steps related to the “fair and just” principle of the adopted 2010-2014 countywide strategic plan. These steps include: applying “equity and social justice foundational practices” to county actions, plans, systems, and budgets; establishing an interbranch team to facilitate accountability and coordination; and releasing an annual equity report. As noted in its 2015 Strategic Climate Action Plan, King County anticipates that climate change will have disproportionate impacts on frontline communities, such as low-income populations and people with existing health issues. This ordinance and review process will shape decision-making among County authorities as they integrate climate change considerations into their services and projects.

Learn how King County institutionalized equity into their decisionmaking processes. 

Examples of King County’s equity and social justice foundational practices include to:

  1. Increase focus on the determinants of equity in order to eliminate of the root cause of inequities
  2. Consider equity and social justice impacts in all decision-making so that decisions increase fairness and opportunity for all people, particularly for people of color, low-income communities, and people with limited English proficiency or, when decisions that have a negative impact on fairness and opportunity are unavoidable, steps are implemented that mitigate the negative impacts
  3. Build capacity to engage all communities in a manner that: promotes and foster trust among people across geographic, race, class and gender lines; results in more effective policies, processes and services; and supports communities' efforts to develop solutions.

The Ordinance offers a definition of the determinants of equity, which include 14 elements relating to economic development, law and justice, housing, education, food systems, health and human services, transportation, employment, and more. Equity is defined as "full and equal access for all people to opportunities that enable them to attain their full potential."

The Ordinance requires the use of the Equity Impact Review process as departments and divisions develop major program and project proposals. In order to facilitate this process, King County walks users through an evaluation of positive and negative equity impacts in the Equity Impact Review tool. King County’s equity framework considers the following:

  • Process Equity: Inclusive, open, and fair access by all stakeholders to decision processes that impact sustainable community outcomes. This includes meaningful experiences with civic and employee engagement, public participation, and jurisdictional listening.
  • Distributional Equity: Fair and just distribution of benefits and burdens to all residents across the community landscape, with little imbalance based on geography, gender, race/ethnicity, or income levels of households. 
  • Cross-Generational Equity: Effects of current actions on the fair and just distribution of benefits and burdens to future generations and communities. Examples include climate change, as well as income and wealth, health outcomes, resource depletion, and pollution.


Publication Date: October 11, 2010

Related Organizations:

  • King County, Washington

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