Letter to the editor: Edmonds buildings may be taller than you think


Building heights in our city continue to be a concern of some Edmonds citizens. The downtown BD zones have a height limit of 30 feet. Some will likely be surprised to learn that of the relatively few buildings that have been constructed in the past 10 years, only two do not exceed 30 feet – the bank at 5th and Dayton, and the bank at 3rd and Main. The following is what a review of the remaining buildings has revealed:

*The building on the southeast corner of 5th and Walnut is a little over 36 feet above 5th Avenue

*The building on the northeast corner of 5th and Walnut is 34 feet above 5th Avenue

*The building on the northeast corner of 3rd and Dayton is a little over 34 feet above 3rd Avenue

*The building on the northeast corner of 3rd and Bell is 32 feet above the street.

*The building near the southeast corner of 3rd and Bell is almost 35 feet above 3rd Avenue.

Several condominium buildings have also capitalized from being on sloping lots. For example the building that I’m in is as much as 39 feet above Dayton Street.

The bottom line is that because of the topography in the downtown area the vast majority of the redevelopment exceeds 30 feet – that means that the minority who build on relatively flat lots are height disadvantaged.  So if they want 3 floors they can’t also get the higher ceilings that buyers prefer.

The purpose of my comments is to illustrate that the Port’s request for an increase in the 35 foot height limit for Harbor Square is really not unreasonable – considering that there are buildings in 30 foot zones that are taller. The Harbor Square site is quite flat, so 35 feet is pretty much the limit that’s achievable there.

Ron Wambolt

  1. Ron, I truly hope you weren’t climbing a ladder to take these measurements! But your story is what I find puzzling about the ‘heights debate’ and that is what is being measured to determine the height. For example, with your downtown buildings, is this including any mechanical on the roofs or just the top of the roof itself? I can get one measurement for my home by using the roof peak, or add almost 5 feet if i include the wood stove chimney as the tallest point on our house. I know that the City has likely described, in detail, what an allowable ‘height’ is but this seems not to be the result in your examples. My concern is whether the public is using this word/concept correctly, and consistently, while debating the merits of designs for Harbor Square. Or will we forever go on debating ‘height’ while not agreeing to what makes up the proper definition.

  2. Jim:
    They are the official measurements from the city. The height does not include any roof structures – only the building itself.

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