It’s a side of Edmonds you don’t see in the brochures or the travel sections. It’s an area of stark contrasts where manicured neighborhoods and popular restaurants juxtapose with shuttered businesses, seedy motels and homeless encampments.
My Edmonds News took a drive with Edmonds City Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas along Highway 99 from the county line to 212th Street. She took us off the main highway, down side streets, through parking lots, and behind commercial buildings.
It’s like passing through a portal to another world.
Even a fast peek reveals numerous patches of overgrown vacant land riddled with homeless encampments, families with children living in poorly maintained 50-year-old mobile homes, boarded up buildings inhabited by occasional transients, and piles upon piles of trash. And mere yards away are new apartment buildings, some of the best restaurants in the city, new car dealerships, and the vital Edmonds/Swedish medical campus.
It’s a mixture of extreme diversity squeezed into a 3-mile stretch of highway. It’s many things to many people.
And for Fraley-Monillas, it’s more than just a political constituency. It’s home.
“I’ve lived in the same house just a few blocks from Highway 99 for almost 30 years,” she said. “In that time I’ve seen it go from a place where children and families could walk at any hour of the day or night to one where many are afraid to leave their homes after dark.”
According to Fraley-Monillas, crime has been on the upswing in this area for the past decade, and this trend is increasing. “The current improvements to the highway in the City of Shoreline are great, but they’re having the effect of pushing criminal activity north into Edmonds,” she said. “I’m not saying this is the only factor, but it does contribute to the problem.”
While prostitution and associated criminal activity are becoming more common, Fraley-Monillas says that crimes against property are of greatest concern to the residents.
“No one here leaves their doors unlocked,” she said. “You don’t even leave a rake outside if you expect to see it again. Some of it doesn’t even make sense. Who’d want the gas cap from my old RV? But sure enough, one morning it was gone.”
What’s the answer?
Fraley-Monillas believes the solution lies in following Shoreline’s lead and providing more incentives to renovate old buildings, build affordable housing, and bring more people to the area.
“The robust businesses in the Edmonds International District (home to Ranch 99 Market and Boohan Plaza) are a great example of what can be done,” she says. “People come from out of the area to the shops and restaurants, and there is significantly less crime than only a few blocks away. We need to see more of this.
“It’s pretty clear to me that as long as we have broken down buildings and people who don’t want to develop, we’ll have a problem,” she concluded.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel