Edmonds City Council to revisit idea of retail-only requirement in core business zones

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night will revisit the idea of excluding offices from ground floor retail spaces in the core business zones of downtown Edmonds. The proposal recommended by the Edmonds Planning Board was defeated by a 3-2 vote when two councilmembers were absent at the Aug. 23 council meeting.

The thinking behind the proposal is that retail businesses generate more foot traffic for the entire downtown business core than non-retail office space, such as a bank or law firm. Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and DJ Wilson were absent for the Aug. 23 vote; at that time, Councilmembers Michael Plunkett, Lora Petso and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas were opposed to the idea while Strom Peterson and Steve Bernheim voted yes.

Also on the council agenda:

–  A presentation on  the 2012-2017 Capital Facilities Plan and Capital Improvement Program.

– An update by the South Snohomish County Commission for Health.

– A presentation by the Edmonds Police Foundation.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, Public Safety Complex, 250 5th Ave. N., Edmonds. You can see the complete agenda here.

  1. I feel that this topic is important. Here’s what I said a month ago. A bit vitriolic, but I was feeling frustrated at the lack of intellectual rigor applied to a key economic development proposal, while much oxygen was consumed discussing change orders for a completed park, and who should hang for it :

    (Todd Cloutier on August 24th, 2011 at 10:36 am)

    The financial discussions are all interesting… but what grabbed my attention was that three Council members rejected a “Planning Board Proposal” to require the 1st floor, street-front of the Downtown business core to be retail or restaurant. That is, no more financial services, insurance, or real-estate offices on the street fronts Downtown.

    This proposition is a key element of the joint Planning Board – Economic Development Commission plan to create the “critical density” of retail downtown in order to increase business, and thus to benefit all citizens through having a more vibrant Downtown, and tax dollars to support our City. And to draw more visitors. And to draw more potential residents who fall in love with our City. Which would make our City government budget more balanced for the long run as well.

    Of the three “no” voters, none of them had arguments that indicated that they understood the background, the process, or the vision for Downtown. They clearly stand in the way of any progress in making our Downtown once again a vibrant and viable retail core.

    If we want to keep our Downtown quaint and small (which I do!), that means we don’t want tall office/retail buildings there. Agreed. But, then we have to increase the density of retail by another means if the Downtown is to survive. If we do not, we will be left with the patchwork of businesses that we have, which does NOT support itself well in this economy. (A big THANK YOU to those who shop Downtown, by the way)

    The Planning Board/CEDC solution is to keep the finance, insurance and real-estate offices, but get them off of the street front so that we can increase retail traffic by making all store-fronts retail or restaurants.

    I am tired of the “No, you can’t do that… and no, I don’t have another suggestion… I’m just saying no.” votes at Council lately. There are teams of volunteers working their tails off trying to improve this City, but the Council seems to just wave all of the work away, as if they know better. Guess what… they don’t. They offer no alternative ideas that could be scrutinized, they just exercise their power.

    But they sure were quick to shell out $70k they didn’t have, for a “park” in front of a mostly vacant building. Brilliant.

  2. Very well said, Todd. I can feel your frustration, and its understandable. I attended the Planning Board meetings at which the proposed changes were discussed and thoroughly deliberated. I have often said, and I truly believe it, that serving as a volunteer member of the Planning Board is the toughest job in our city. How city council dealt with this issue is a good example of why that’s the case.

    The three Council Members that voted not to support the Planning Board’s recommendation were: Petso, Plunkett, and Fraley-Monillas. The recommendation was supported by Council Members Bernheim and Peterson. Council Members Wilson and Buckshnis were absent.

    Hopefully there will be a better result tomorrow night.

  3. I E mailed the council members again that not only is this good policy but it sends a message to retailers looking to come to Edmonds the we are serious about making are retail core strong. Shame on those council members who are short sided and can only say no to change. This a great way to help revitalize the retail core with out mentioning the H word.

  4. I had been considering moving my CPA practice to Edmonds for the past year or so. One of the main reasons was there seemed to be a lot of empty storefronts that I would be able to relocate to. (sorry, it’s true.) After many ideas, I ended up relocating to a larger space in Shoreline. However, I gotta be honest, there is a lot of empty space in Edmonds. Before restricting who can move where and keeping in mind the large number of businesses that fail in Edmonds, maybe it would be better to improve the entire area for all local businesses, not just the retail.

  5. In case anyone is interested, here is the official map of the affected area. It is centered around the fountain. It extends one block east and two blocks west and south.

    I’m curious whether the owners of the affected buildings were surveyed. It would be interesting to hear their thoughts. Apparently none testified at the Aug 23 meeting.

    As noted in the Aug 23 minutes, existing offices would be grandfathered in.

  6. I,, too, would like to know what thoughts are of current property owners in the area effected. Also, if it ‘retail only’ creates a more vibrant & interesting downtown area, I’m all for it. But wonder whether we’ve forgotten that hard-economic times will eventually end and so we might consider that preserving open space & purchasing small parks even at this time may be equally wise. Not all ‘vision’ decisions should be purely economic, at the city level.

  7. Susan,

    I like the idea of buying open space. However, I don’t believe in spending money we don’t have. The City can’t spend $70K on a small plot and at the same time ask me to vote for three different levies. Well, I suppose it can but, I won’t vote for them. And, I suspect that a majority of Edmonds will not vote for them.

  8. It worries me that the recent & discreet proposed zoning changes are based on the Economic Development Commission’s (hard) work instead of waiting for the ‘vision’ that the upcoming Strategic Plan (SP) will define. I’m looking forward to hearing from as many constituencies as possible (Arts Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, neighborhoods, Priya) in the SP process by way of creating a ‘vision’. Although this proposal for retail-only vs. mixed business use seems not only economically-based but perhaps aesthetic and urban-planning-smarts oriented, I have no problem with discussing it now. It’s just that I’d like to balance out current rhetoric on financial woes with consideration of our other intense interests that are, by definition, more longterm interests – – arts, historic preservation, environmental preservation, improving neighborhoods and look forward to seeing them.

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