After months of asking residents, business owners, customers and employees what they think about Edmonds — from housing prices to shopping opportunities to transportation options to schools — the consultant hired to develop a road map for Edmonds’ future presented his findings to a joint meeting of the Edmonds City Council and Planning Board Tuesday night.
Among the highlights of online surveys and in-person focus groups: Edmonds needs a wider variety of stores to keep people from shopping in nearby communities; it should encourage creation of more affordable housing to accommodate young people and families; and the city needs to develop a more user-friendly regulatory environment for businesses.
Consultant Tom Beckwith said he wanted to give council and planning board members a chance to review the data before it is shared with community members during a Strategic Plan open house set for Thursday, May 3. You download the full 110-page report from the city’s website (click on April 24, Retreat #4 Presentation Material) that summarizes the results of the online and mailed surveys, and in-person focus groups and brainstorming sessions, otherwise known as charrettes. The next step will be to go out in late May/early June with a statistically valid survey distributed at random to registered Edmonds voters, Beckwith noted.
The surveys were divided into five categories: adult and young adult residents, businesses, employees and customers. Here’s a summary of each:
Young adults (119 responses)
Because many of the survey respondents were from Edmonds-Woodway High School, the majority of those answering the questions (79 percent) ranged in age from 14-18. Based on their responses, young adults “do seem to have an affection for Edmonds,” Beckwith said, but the availability of jobs are an issue. Among the consultant’s recommendations: Create a youth jobs placement service and youth-oriented programs and places.
Adults (681 responses)
The majority of those surveyed were in professional/managerial jobs with college/graduate school educations. Citing a tendency for more women than men to complete these type of surveys, 68 percent of those responding were female, Beckwith noted, and 93 percent of all respondents were 45 and older.
The survey asked adults to rate a variety of areas, including city governance (lower ratings for “managing public finances” and higher ratings for “providing information to the public”) and employment opportunities (average to low ratings for number and quality of jobs available). Safety and security — including police, fire and hospital services — got medium to high ratings with ambulance/paramedic services rated the most favorably. Streets, sidewalks and roadway lighting did not fare as well, and in a different section of the survey, street maintenance — an ongoing issue due to the city budget — was also rated low. Educational opportunities, from preschools through adult continuing education, received average to high rankings.
Transportation conditions — in particular the availability of bus routes, stops and schedules and on and off-street parking — were rated lower, and Beckwith noted that the issue of bus schedules and stops also came up in the business survey. In particular, PCC Natural Markets noted that the majority of their employees commute by bus because they can’t afford to live in Edmonds, “and bus schedules don’t match the PCC schedule.”
Parks and recreation activities — in particular beach and shoreline access — received high rankings, but one area noted as lacking was the availability of public restrooms.
Adult respondents also gave high rankings to Edmonds’ arts and cultural programs, including the Edmonds Arts Festival and performing arts events in general. The city’s special events, from festivals such as the Taste of Edmonds to the 4th of July, Halloween and Tree Lighting celebrations, also received high marks.
When it came to “design appearances” of the city’s neighborhoods, those responding rated the downtown area highest, with Highway 99 receiving the lowest marks.
Adult residents said the city should recruit more tourist and art services, restaurants, retail and high technology businesses. These opinions were also reflected in the customer surveys (484 responses), which indicated that people are shopping elsewhere for clothing and shoes, housewares and hardware store items. The latter of which reflects the closure of the Ace Hardware store last summer, Beckwith said, adding: “You need to bring a hardware store into town.”
Edmonds is also surprisingly weak in drawing customers for professional, legal and dental services, Beckwith said.
For their part, the 219 Edmonds businesses that participated in the survey expressed strong feelings about how the city treats its businesses. A significant number of those responding rated the city regulatory environment and procedures average to very low, and gave average to low ratings to businesses’ ability to get city approval of projects.
The issue of affordable housing came up often in both the survey questions and the focus groups, which is likely connected to the desire to attract younger people and families, Beckwith said, describing it as “the need for community to renew itself.”