Not all sunsets, scenic vistas: Councilmember Fraley-Monillas leads a tour to ‘other’ Edmonds

Highway 99 cuts through Edmonds' southeastern corner between the county line and 212th Street. This 3-mile stretch is a study in contrasts, where vital businesses and established neighborhoods exist side-by-side with homeless encampments, vacant buildings, and according to Edmonds City Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, a growing crime problem.

Highway 99 cuts through Edmonds’ southeastern corner between the county line and 212th Street. This 3-mile stretch is a study in contrasts, where vital businesses and established neighborhoods exist side-by-side with homeless encampments, vacant buildings, and according to Edmonds City Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, a growing crime problem.

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.

A drive behind the Burlington Coat Factory reveals one of many vacant, overgrown patches of land.  The mattress and backpack provide mute testimony to the use of this land as a homeless encampment.

A drive behind the Burlington Coat Factory reveals one of many vacant, overgrown patches of land. The mattress and backpack provide mute testimony to the use of this land as a homeless encampment.

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.

Councilmember Fraley-Monillas shows her back yard to tour participants. "When we first moved here we were so happy to be on a greenbelt," she said. "But now transients pass through to drink and smoke, some even set up camp. It's turned what used to be nice into something scary."

Councilmember Fraley-Monillas shows her back yard to tour participants. “When we first moved here we were so happy to be on a greenbelt,” she said. “But now transients pass through to drink and smoke, some even set up camp. It’s turned what used to be nice into something scary.”

“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.”

The former Mick Finster's bar stands boarded up, but sadly not vacant. "This building is regularly used by transients," said Fraley-Monillas.

The former Mick Finster’s bar stands boarded up, but sadly not vacant. “This building is regularly used by transients,” said Fraley-Monillas.

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.

Ranch Market plaza, a centerpiece of the International District, is an example of what can be done to influence positive Highway 99 development, Fraley-Monillas says.

Ranch 99 Market plaza, a centerpiece of the International District, is an example of what can be done to influence positive Highway 99 development, Fraley-Monillas says. (My Edmonds News file photo)

“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

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14 Comments

  1. It appears our Mayor coined the term “The Other Edmonds” in his May guest column on myedmondsnews. And although the intentions of his column were good, it’s not helpful a helpful term or fair characterization, it’s divisive and not helpful to the conversation.

  2. Thank you Council-woman Monillas for bringing this information to the forefront. We can only do something about this if we recognize that there is a very big problem here and start working to change it. There are many people barely getting by here living in extreme poverty, on the street, drugs, prostitution, etc. We can change this by recognizing there is a need HERE to come up with some creative answers. We need to fix these broken down buildings and also clean up all of the drug activity and prostitutiion that has been going on here for a very long time. We also need to have the businesses that are here (all of them) be PARTNERS in this and a larger police presence.

  3. The city should also make sure that DEVELOPERS working THERE are screened WELL,follow certain criteria and do NOT use drug people, cash in envelopes for work, etc. Some of these fly by night workers end up staying in this area and making it worse with this type of population. Developers who operate like this ONLY bring more problems to the area and Edmonds doesn’t need developers who operate like this…..using people and then throwing them away….vulnerable people left on our streets

  4. We need to ensure that all decisions and expenditures made by the City Council and staff are for ALL of Edmonds. There’s only one Edmonds, and too often “the bowl” has been considered “Edmonds.” Wrong. This article is an excellent illustration of what we need to do to bring our great city together. There is no “other Edmonds” (I agree, a divisive and even condescending label). Let’s invest time and money improving all parts of the city, and in particular those areas which have been neglected while “the bowl” has been protected.

  5. Oh my goodness! Who wrote the copy for this article? So well written!

    Over the summer I’m assisting on a creative project that hopefully will bring to light the victims of the U.S. recession across America in this “post-recession” era; so of course this article grabbed my attention.

    With an intention to help feed homeless teen-agers and children as one of my resolutions over the coming months, I want to take this opportunity (while we are coming to a realization of “the other Edmonds”) to shout out the food barrel at Revelations yogurt and dessert bar (527 Main Street), the Edmonds food banks, and all of the other community-giving and church groups that help feed Edmonds’ disenfranchised population.

  6. I don’t see anything in the Councilwoman’s comments regarding regulatory enforcement – all I hear are lamentations about lack of taxpayer, and taxpayer money, involvement. What about the property owner’s obligation to maintain the properties to avoid transient trespass? Who is the current owner of the former Mick Finster’s property, the undeveloped area behind Burlington Coat Factory and the property those 50-year-old mobile homes are sitting on? Un-maintained, overgrown property means concealment for criminals, and responsibility for maintenance lies with the property owners. If the property owner refuses to accept that responsibility, the city should be pursuing legal solutions, not incentivizing development with public money.

  7. Kudos to Adrienne, the Mayor and other leaders for their concern about poverty in Edmonds. My wife (Heather Marks, MSW) has a surprising number of children from Edmonds at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry, where she helps them overcome barriers to care. The Center is at 6222 NE 74th St, Seattle, WA 98115 (Sand Point) in Seattle and is run by the University of Washington. If you know of families whose children need free or reduced dental care, encourage them to contact the Center at (206) 543-5800. Having healthy teeth is a crucial –and often neglected–element in helping families out of poverty.

  8. Yes, the property owners are well aware of what goes on there and they have a responsibility also.

    This IS something our WHOLE City of Edmonds can get behind and help transform an area with very vulnerable people and make a difference for so many………Many young people with issues on the streets there just waiting for someone to come along that really CARES!…….Edmonds should have NO disenfranchised……Let’s take care of our most vulnerable! FIRST and everything else will fall into place…….

  9. As is known, the ‘other Edmonds’ generates 80% of the tax revenue that fuels all of Edmonds. Much of what we have and enjoy in Edmonds comes from revenue the business community on Hwy 99 provides to City Hall. The article correctly points to a continuing problem, public safety, in adjoining Hwy 99 neighborhoods, and facing many of these successful businesses. Too many citizens simply believe these issues are part of life along the 99. But we know that any measure of a similar problem elsewhere in Edmonds would not be accepted. The Police Dpt does a great job of responding to immediate issues and by working with property owners to be responsible. What needs changing is the general perception of life on, and around Hwy 99. And along with perception comes additional action. An example would be for the Chamber to get interested in this business/community issue and help in making the vibrant Hwy 99 business community safer and better for all. This is but one thought, but a good starting place to partner in fixing this problem. Success in addressing such problems is a winner for the entire City.

  10. How many of the business owners on 99 are from other States? and have absolutely no interest in regards to the crime here as long as their bottom line does well…..It is just not a “perception” of what goes on here on 99…….And I’m not sure how the Chamber could solve law enforcement issues. ……..other areas around the world have shown that Chambers are part of the problem……..development at whatever cost……This has happened over and over again around the world with the exception of the Scandanavin countries…….disenfranchised people eventually rise up.

  11. Are we talking about the same Chamber of Commerce that had their stuff or someone’s stuff sitting on a TO BE DEVELOPED property at the back lot of our Post Office on Main Street, for at least a year? This area on 2nd & Bell sat for a long period of time with WHATEVER on the property, including a Winabago and an Airstream, parade float, “Chamber Of Commerce” item float?, etc (sp) and other large stuff, while the grass and undergrowth was left

    knee-high for a very long period of time and totally UNATTENDED.

  12. I find the reference of “the other Edmonds” very offensive. Edmonds is a cute, vibrant wonderful place to live. Addressing these issues and proving solutions will not only improve Edmonds but also provide help to those that truly needed it.
    I find that lack of attention and addressing these needs makes Edmonds have “two blacks” and then some. Shame on leaders for turning a blind eye and having the attitude of the 99 area is what it is.
    It is very obvious there is a great need not being addressed or solutions being sought. EVERY Edmonds citizen be it homeless or not deserves safe housing and having their basic needs met.

  13. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments regarding all the issues around Highway 99. A special shout out to Councilmember Bloom who was the only member of council to be willing take the “tour”. Mayor Earling and staff are supportive of the focus of needed changes.
    We will be offering public hearings for the neighborhoods input as the proposed changes are offered.
    Please keep the conversations up and don’t let this area continue to be the “other Edmonds” another 10 years.

  14. Thank you Adrienne. I live on the other side of the border in Shoreline. Your reference to affordable housing in Shoreline leaves me with a question or 2. First, the apartment development in shoreline along hiway 99 is almost entirely 1 bedroom and studio apartments that rent at the same rate as units in South Lake union. This is hardly affordable housing. To see real constructive attempts at providing low cost family housing, Seattle is a better model. They require 2 and 3 bedroom units to be made available at affordable rates(60% of the average county income) so as to provide family housing. If what you want is 90% of your units to be 1 bedroom or studio units affordable at 100% of the average king county income level, follow Shoreline. It provides housing to mostly transient people who vacate apartments annually with no commitment to schools or communities. They live here and leave every day to jobs some where else. It actually costs the city more money to care for these folks than they provide to the city. What side of an imaginary line on 99 you live on matters less than taking care of real important issues. I am glad you are on the city council. You serve your city with grace and commitment!

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