Letter to the Editor: Kristiana Johnson’s position on building heights in Edmonds

Edmonds is a unique place. Not just our downtown, but our neighborhoods too. I want to keep it that way. The building height issue, unfortunately, has been used in past and current elections to divide our community. The argument is framed as keep downtown Edmonds the way it is or get used to tall buildings blocking our views.

No one wants tall buildings in the historic downtown. I am working to protect our historic downtown. I support existing efforts as a Council representative on the Historic Preservation Commission and am an individual member of the Edmonds Historical Museum. I am also looking at innovative ways to protect our downtown as a historic district through the Main Streets USA program or Transfer of Development Rights (TDR).

I know from my experience as a planner and now as an elected official, most people want reasonable solutions that are fact-based and citizen driven.

The fundamental question for whoever is on the Council is,
How do we make sure we are providing enough homes for future residents and support to existing and new businesses while keeping the character and charm of our existing neighborhoods? Our current Comprehensive Plan, the guiding document for any budget and building decisions gives us very good direction and took years to refine. I will look to be sure any future proposal is consistent with our Comprehensive Plan.

My voting record on this issue is clear.
1. I did not vote to raise building heights in the downtown core
2. I did not vote to allow for buildings of 55’ at Harbor Square.
3. I actually voted to reduce building heights in some zones after the Compass development on SR104.

The first vote was a technical change in the wording of height limits in the Business Development (BD) zones 2,3,4 to be consistent with the wording in BD 1 zone. BD 1 zoning already says the limit is 30’ to allow for a roof line. Zones 2,3,4 had wording that also allowed 30’ but it was written as 25’ plus 5’ for a roof line.

I supported, per the recommendation of the Planning Board and an extensive public process by the Port of Edmonds, a formal discussion about the Master Plan conceptual proposal.

I believe in thoughtful, fair, honest and inclusive debate. You can always count on me to follow that policy.

Kristiana Johnson

 

  1. Kristiana Johnson has been a Government Urban planner and as she stated in the Edmonds Beacon her vision for Edmonds is what the government visions. Look at those that endorse her and they overwheimingly support taller buildings in the downtown and waterfront corridor. 1 she increased the living space height from 25′ to 30′, this encourages square block homes. 2 She voted to proceed with Harbor Square at 55′, in fact she was on the planning board that worked with the Port. 3 The vote on Compass I believe was to lower the height that they could build over the existings code through the building incentive that allows builders to build over the code height. I’m against these building incentives, if we want rain gardens, or open space lets put this in our codes. We shouldn’t compromise on what we want in Edmonds. Developement Transfer Rights, this is starting in King county, just happens to be where Ms Johnson was a Urban Planner. This allows a Developer to buy land in the country and in exchange for not developing it they can build over existing height codes in the city.(King 5 did a story on this 10/23/2013) Is this Ms Johnson’s vision for Edmonds? If you do your research you will see that those that strongly oppose taller buildings support and have endorsed me, such as Joan Bloom. Randy Hayden

  2. People can read Councilmember Kristiana Johnson’s statement in the Beacon at

    https://edmondsbeacon.villagesoup.com/p/edmonds-council-candidates-air-views-on-city-issues-part-2-johnson-vs-hayden/1067035.

    The Harbor Square Master Plan proposal that passed the Planning Board with a 6/1 vote was just that, a Master Plan. It included the “concept” of allowing higher buildings in one area of the whole parcel. Those areas were NOT in view corridors. In return, the City could have negotiated for significant improvements to the Marsh along with other civic amenities. This conceptual plan was totally consistent with the existing Comprehensive Plan.

    I find Mr. Hayden’s position on heights, “No Tall Buildings,” to be very inconsistent with his statements about property rights.

    He stated, during his 2012 race for the Legislature,

    “I believe property rights should not be infringed upon by government. Land owners should have full use of their land and any loss of land or it’s use should be fairly compensated by the government. I will not support United Nations land reform programs that strip land owners of their land and the use of it.” Randy Hayden Jan. 2012

    Source: https://randyhayden32.wordpress.com/issues/

    Isn’t the Port a property owner – and that the tax payers actually own the Port? How is restricting heights, a vertical form of property potential, different from restricting use of land that might have wetlands or other sensitive areas? If he does not allow any property owners in downtown Edmonds to increase their heights, do we need to compensate them?

    While we’re on the subject of sensitive areas, does Councilmember Bloom know that Mr. Hayden also do not support any state, and therefore, I would assume, City and Port, funding for open space preservation?

    Source: https://votesmart.org/candidate/biography/140142/randy-hayden#.UmwtHxYb6ns

    What other strategies and policies would he want changed in the current Comprehensive Plan?

    Two other concerns about his stated positions. Has he committed how he will vote on any legislation having to do with height? This should concern both those that are not wanting any change and those who would consider a certain amount depending on where and how high. Why should you be concerned? Because what is his definition of “tall?’ Given his position on property rights, when he actually has to vote “no” to allow a zoning change for an additional 10 or 20 feet, will he then define “tall” as 30 or 40? And if that is not the case, has he made up his mind about legislation that is not even before him?

    Councilmember Kristiana Johnson has a voting record now. Mr. Hayden just has the record he created on line when he ran for the legislature in 2012 and now for the city council. I would encourage people to read for themselves about their education, qualifications, experience and positions. I’m sure Mr. Hayden is a very nice person and believes what he is saying. After studying the info and meeting them both, there is no doubt in my mind who I am voting for to help guide this city of 40,000 people.

    As a former King County Councilmember, I was privileged to work with 110,000 people in my district and hundreds of others from the Region. I met very few who didn’t really care about their community. The challenge was listening to all the voices and then finding the common ground and legislation to get them there. I’m sure Mr. Hayden is one who cares, but I have not seen that he is willing to put in the time to learn about the issues or how to really solve them.

    Maggie Fimia

    For additional info on Councilmember Johnson

    http://www.electkristianajohnson.com

    For additional info on Mr. Hayden:

    https://www.meetup.com/WeSurroundPugetSound-912ers/members/9231229/

  3. Maggie, the Harbor Square Master Plan Proposal was more than just a concept, it was their plan. So it sounds like your OK with 5 story buildings as long as it’s not in the view corridor? I’m not. I agree that we need to be more focused on improving the marsh, but I’m not willing to compromise on building heights in the downtown or water front corridor. You seem to be focused on the group I’m in We Surround Puget Sound. This is a group that teaches, everything from the Constitution to Government finances. We are never to old to learn. We have also done alot of food drives for the needy, and on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 we brought food and deserts to a good majority of the local fire stations. We also bring in speakers, some of them are our state representatives which I have built relationships with. Through these possible help for our Marsh? Maggie I’ve been perfectly clear about building heights, something that Ms Johnson hasn’t.

  4. During the campaign for Mayor, Mayor Earling stated in a brochure under a heading of “Quality of Life”:
    (that he) “Supports a comprehensive economic development plan that maintains current building height laws”.

    Now that is pretty straight forward and clearly understood and stated without
    several paragraphs of elusive jibber jabber characterized as “fair, honest debate”.

    So where is Ms. Johnson’s straight and unequivocal position on building heights? I fear its where a

    lot of other preceding her in the effort to fool most of the folks long enough to get elected.

  5. Ray, the mayor has endorsed her due to her stand on the Harbor Square. When she ran for the appointment she fooled the council members about her stance on building issues. I agree she is well qualified as a urban planner, but if her vision isn’t yours why would you vote for her? 2 of the 4 council members that appointed her now realize they were fooled.

  6. And what facts are those, Randy? You seem to be an upright guy with strong beliefs. I believe most of us have no problem at all with that. But to insinuate that you want to listen to and respect the opinions of all, and then state that you are intractible on building heights (or any other issue) seems incongruous, and in fact, troubles me deeply.

    Here’s what I want in a city council member. I want an upright person like you appear to be, but one who listens to all, doesn’t entrench himself or herself in lazy absolutes (e.g. no taller buildings anywhere under any circumstances), is willing to compromise, is smart and intuitive, communicates well both orally and in writing (you’re at your best when you’re edited), values our community and environment, and and is willing to consider and compromise on all issues.

    We need council members who are not divisive and who will listen to the changing voice of Edmonds. You are absolutely correct that this is a special place. But special places change with the times and opportunity. Nobody I know is looking to make Edmonds the next Kirkland or Ballard, but how about becoming what we can become without sacrificing our quality of life? The simple and quite lazy mantra of “no taller buildings” shouldn’t be enough to get you or anyone else elected to city council (although it worked for Mr. Plunkett in his one-dimensional 2009 campaign against what I believe was a far superior candidate in Ms. Cloutier, as well as in a couple of elections since then). We should be smarter than that. We need fresh ideas, a true commitment to community, a recognition of our changing demographics and community desires, and (above all) the true willingness to listen to all voices and to compromise our way to a brighter future.

    Edmonds is a special place–you haven’t convinced me you can preserve it. Vibrant communities grow–intractible, defiant positions stand in the way of that growth and our chances to make this an even better place to live.

    I am trained as a city planner and environmental permitter. I have lived in Edmonds for 36 years have been an owner and have worked in an environmental and engineering firm headquartered in Edmonds (with offices throughout the Northwest) for the past 26 years. I plan to vote for Ron Walmbolt, Kristiana Johnson, and Strom Peterson for council. I truly believe they have the qualifications, intellect, and conviction to make this a better community.

    Please convince me why I shouldn’t.

  7. Steve should fit right in with Ms. Johnson’s beliefs. I had no idea we had one so superior in our midst. He knows everything and has the unique ability to identify those fools that disagree with himself with terms such as “lazy mantras” and “one dimensional”. However, could it be he does not respect the opinions of others.

    Do we need a “city planner and environmental permitter” dictating our level of quality of life.? In the past when these types start directing traffic we end up with screwed up budgets, lots of
    unnecessary conflict, and onerous, useless laws such as the plastic bag nonsense.

    And that is why we have elections that afford a level of protection from arrogant individuals.

  8. Steve, its seems like you have made your choice already. You have a much different vision than I do for Edmonds, more revenue through more building? I believe that Edmonds can thrive staying a small community. You and Ms Johnson have the same background and I wouldn’t expect you to vote for me. The facts are the voting record, actions are more truthful than words. As far as me not listening to both sides I have. I have developed a reputation as someone that listens. I was asked to be a mediator between Occupy Wall Street Seattle and the Washington State Tea Party Patriots, because of my reputation. It’s funny that because I don’t agree with you, you claim I don’t listen and call me lazy. As someone that has worked as a trained city planner maybe you can explain what is now starting in King County. Developement Transfer Rights. This is where a Developer can buy land in the country and in exchange for not developing it can build over existing height codes in the city. Is this what we have to look forward to in Edmonds? By the way Ms Johnson was a Urban Planner in King County where this is taking place. Just a little something to think about.

  9. Randy, please do not think for a moment that I think you are lazy (your ownership of a successful business and active community service would make you anything but). I respect you for your commitment to Edmonds and your willingness to run for and possibly serve as a city council member. That takes guts and no shortage of thick skin these days. And I believe you listen to people. I’m only saying that, if elected, I trust you will extend your listening and mediation skills to all issues. As you know from your mediation experience, there are reasonable and unreasonable points to be made on both sides of any issue. Rigid campaign promises can foreclose rational consideration of opportunities that emerge in changing times and shifts in public opinion. You are right, I have made my choice, but I thank and respect you for your commitment to our community.

    As for what King County appears to be doing, I don’t believe there is any desire or need for “land banking” for trade-offs here in Edmonds, so I don’t believe it would ever become an issue. However, I’m sure the good people of Edmonds would make their opposition known loud and clear on the subject, if it had the potential to degrade our quality of life. On the other hand, I do believe that asking for implementation of well thought-out onsite and near-site improvements as development incentives can yield very positive environmental and community benefits–and that is relevant to Edmonds today.

    Good luck to you in your future endeavors, whether on council or in other community service roles.

  10. Steve– Your originally posted comment of Oct. 28, 12:09 AM is well written and right on target as to the needs for our city and for members of our city council. And, by the way, I totally agree with your proposed voting direction as I had summarized in my Letter to the Editor in last week’s Beacon.

  11. Steve Johnston, when you say “willing to consider and compromise on all issues”, must that willingness to compromise be consistent with State and City laws? Would you support candidates willing to vote for and/or vote to continue City Actions that may not be allowed under State and/or City laws?
    For example, please read the November 2, 2009 City Council Agenda that is still available on the City’s website. Please review item 9 – Review of construction easement reserved by Ordinance No. 3729. Please see Exhibit 4: Narrative on Motion to Reconsider Ord 3729E. In that Narrative, then City Council President D.J. Wilson identified several serious flaws with Ordinance No. 3729.
    Two of the candidates you support, Strom Peterson and Ron Wambolt voted to deny my family a very reasonable request for simple Reconsideration of flawed Ordinance No. 3729. After a 55 minute long Executive Session conducted without any Transparency behind Closed Doors, they immediately voted to remove the Reconsideration item from that evening’s City Council Agenda.
    Is this behavior consistent with City Councilmembers who listen to all and communicate well both orally and in writing? Can Edmonds voters trust Councilmembers willing to deny citizens a very reasonable Request for Reconsideration?
    I would love to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss. There is an element to this story that relates to two different Edmonds Environmental Firms.
    Please don’t entrench yourself in the absolute that you have enough information to make your choice. There are still 7-8 days left to gather more information. That is what I intend to do. This is a critical election and the voters of Edmonds should try to do everything possible to make the best vote they can make.

  12. Ken:
    Few readers will do any additional research of your issue. Too bad that you neglected to state that in addition to Strom and I voting for the motion that you’ve referenced, so did the five other councilmembers – the action on the motion was unanimous. And two of those councilmembers, Michael Plunkett and Steve Bernheim,
    are supporters of Ms. Fraley-Monillas

  13. Mr. Wambolt,
    How sad that you feel the need to opine that few readers will do any additional research. I hope you are wrong because voters should be as prepared as possible before they vote. I hope Mr. Johnston will meet with me before he votes. Even if only one more voter is aware of what took place, it will be time well spent.

    I did not mention the five other councilmembers because they aren’t candidates. I’ve always wondered why Mr. Wilson. Mr. Plunkett, Ms. Olson, Mr. Bernheim, Mr. Orvis, Mr. Peterson and you met behind closed doors to discuss this matter rather than doing so transparently in Open Council Session. Why is the City still refusing to release the November 2, 2009 Executive Session Meeting Minutes – nearly 4 years after the Council voted to remove an item from the agenda after a 55 minute long Closed Meeting?

    Was former Mayor Haakenson’s October 29, 2009 advice to Mr. Plunkett that “you may want to rally three other votes to remove it from the agenda on Tuesday night if you think its wise” proper?

    Also, does the fact that Mr. Plunkett and Mr. Bernheim voted with you somehow make Ms. Fraley-Monillas responsible for their conduct? I’m not tracking the relevance of your last sentence.

  14. Mr. Johnston, there is still time to meet before next Tuesday’s vote. I plan on supporting candidates who I believe will consistently listen to and respond to citizen’s reasonable requests and comments. I support Open Government, transparency and as few Executive Sessions as possible.

    1. As do I, Ken. We may or may not disagree on what constitutes responsible open government, and when and and how often Executive Sessions may be appropriate, but I believe they are appropriate at times. You and I have no problem at all with the desire for responsible governmental transparency. I couldn’t agree with you more on that count.

      I would like the opportunity to meet you sometime in the future, perhaps after the upcoming elections, when it may feel a bit less like a “showdown” and more of a conversation. I have already voted, so I’d have to crawl into the ballot repository box in the unlikely event you convinced me to change my vote, and I doubt if that’s a good idea.

      It appears from my review of some of your previous extensive comments on this magnificent website (thank you, Teresa!), that you have had some historic and personal issues regarding “takings” with previous councils. I don’t know all the details, but I’m sure you’ve attempted to exhaust all recourse (legal and otherwise) regarding this issue, with results being less favorable to you than you would have liked. And you have to agree, given the unanimity of the council’s decisions regarding your situation, that there are more than just the current candidates and currently seated council members that are responsible for these conclusions.

      I also have issues with the decision-making of previous councils and specific council members, particularly with those who “blow off” the comments of well-intended and well-qualified citizens addressing what they think will take the city to the next level; ignore professional opinion, surveys, and studies; ignore the fact that an increasing percentage of residents are saying exactly what Evan Pierce stated so eloquently in his letter to the editor posted yesterday; and dismiss the efforts of the Port in advancing a citizen-prepared, thoroughly vetted, and viable concept for redeveloping Harbor Square. At least the Port started the conversation; unfortunately, certain members of the council stopped it. By the way, the Port has given us a magnificent waterfront and marina, and a prosperous and growing waterfront that is the envy of greater Seattle. So no–they are not the enemy.

      This is not only my city, but the city my children have chosen to live in. They used to call it “Deadmonds”, and now they call it “home”. We’re making progress, but there are miles to go.

      All I’m saying, Ken, along with growing legions of others, is let’s make Edmonds all it can be, and all it can be for coming generations. Unfortunately, it is likely to take a dramatic change of who sits on the council to make it so.

  15. Thank you for your response Steve. I would greatly appreciate an opportunity to meet with you after the election. You may regret not meeting with me before you voted. Despite that, I think we will have a productive and interesting discussion about the City we both love so much.

    I agree that dramatic change of who sits on the council is needed. As election day draws near, the possibility exists that I may vote for only one of the incumbents. Still doing my research and waiting to receive responses from candidates, including major questions I have related to the condemnations at five corners.

    The following discusses my views on Executive Sessions:

    Elected officials often convene behind closed doors with their legal advisors in what is known as an executive session. Executive sessions can be held to discuss the acquisition of real estate and to review negotiations related to publicly bid contracts. Executive sessions can be held to evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for public employment and to discuss pending litigation. Per RCW 42.30.110, there are fourteen (14) reasons to conduct an executive session.

    I am of the strong opinion that, in many instances, state of Washington law requires the eventual release of executive session meeting minutes to the citizens. For example, after real estate has been purchased and after publically bid contracts are finalized, I believe the citizens of Edmonds deserve to know what was discussed behind closed doors in an executive session. Another example is after pending litigation has been settled and/or all appeal rights related to the litigation have been exhausted.

    The current Washington State Open Public Meetings Act, adopted in 1971, contains the following preamble:

    The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. RCW 42.30.010.

    Let’s make the city of Edmonds the beacon for open government and transparency in the state of Washington. Let’s keep detailed minutes for all executive sessions. Let’s determine which executive sessions or portions of executive sessions do not require permanent confidentiality. For those, let’s clearly establish the point in time the related executive session meeting minutes will be made available to the citizens of Edmonds.

    Imagine the increase in the citizens’ trust of our elected officials if Edmonds were to do so. The citizens’ confidence that high ethical standards are adhered to during executive sessions would greatly increase. The citizens’ confidence that laws are followed and applied equally to all citizens would grow.

    The time has come for Edmonds to assert itself as a leader. A great way to do so is to take bold action supporting open government and transparency.

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