Change coming to Hwy 99 as council approves redevelopment plan; Pine Street lighting also OK’d

Highway 99 corridor map

Changes are coming to Highway 99. That’s the bottom line after the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved the subarea plan that covers the two-mile stretch of state highway running through Edmonds, plus adjacent multi-family and commercial areas.

The meeting, which lasted until 11:30 p.m., was standing-room only for the first 90 minutes as citizens waited their turn to comment on a range of projects under council consideration for another city initiative — Sunset Avenue.

The majority of those attending offered their thoughts in three areas:

– What’s working and what isn’t along Sunset Avenue.
– Ways to discourage wrong-way driving at the Caspers Street/2nd Avenue North interchange. A contingent of 2nd Avenue residents made it clear that they oppose an idea — raised by Public Works Director Phil Williams during an Aug. 8 council committee meeting — to allow drivers to turn left on 2nd once they realize they are headed the wrong way on Caspers Street.
– What the city should do about the lighting project on Pine Street at the bottom of Point Edwards, which has been on hold since late May following concerns about impacts to a nearby demonstration garden.

Approval of the Highway 99 project Tuesday night came one-and- a-half years after the city began a series of public meetings on the topic, followed by numerous city council presentations and plan refinements. The result is a plan that will do the following:

– Consolidate most of the zoning categories for the Highway 99 Corridor into one designation: CG (General Commercial) instead of CG and CG2 and multifamily.

· Update both parking and pedestrian standards for the area to be more consistent with current and future needs, including for mixed use; and

· Add new design standards to ensure a more pedestrian- and transit-friendly environment, with additional consideration for adjacent single-family zones.

To ensure that Highway 99 redevelopment includes affordable housing, the council also agreed to designate it as a Multifamily Residential Targeted Area. Such a designation allows the city to implement the multifamily tax exemption program for developers who include 20 percent affordable housing units in future Highway 99 developments.

In a twist unique to Edmonds, the Highway 99 designation specifies that the 20 percent affordable housing designation be split at 10 percent each between units for low and moderate incomes. In addition, the designation will be based on the median family income for Snohomish County, which is a lower threshold than the definition included in the state statute, explained City Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty.

The next step for Highway 99 is to begin detailed design work for future improvements, which are expected to take years to complete as the city acquires funding for various components of development.

“Please listen to the citizens,” said 2nd Avenue resident Francois Madath during his remarks to the Edmonds City Council.

Many people turned out to offer their thoughts on next steps for Sunset Avenue, including thank yous to the city for removing the controversial angled parking spaces and ongoing worries about driveway access and lack of parking enforcement. But a group of residents from 2nd Avenue North — located one block east of Sunset — stole the spotlight with their concerns about keeping their quiet street just the way it is.

“We have an abundance of children on that street,” noted 2nd Avenue resident Francois Madath, who was accompanied to the podium by youngsters displaying signs and petitions. “A lot of people on 2nd Avenue are very concerned about what has transpired on Sunset Avenue and the back and forth that has happened there.

“If you open up a left turn lane or a right turn lane onto our street, that is definitely going to create a lot of problems for us,” he said. “We’re here to say please, before you move on doing anything, please listen to the citizens both on 2nd Avenue and on Sunset.”

Lena Maul said she and her family, which includes three children, moved to 2nd Avenue five years ago “and one of the things that attracted us to that street was the one-way traffic.”

Removing one-way-in access would minimize safety not only for the residents but for “the many, many citizens who walk on our street on a daily basis,” Maul said.

In the end, the council voted to make no changes to 2nd Avenue, but encouraged Public Works Director Phil Williams to add more signage to clarify driving restrictions in the area. And councilmembers agreed to add nine additional parallel parking spaces to Sunset Avenue as well as conduct miscellaneous restriping on the street and improve driveway access. Voting against the Sunset changes was Councilmember Mike Nelson, who said he couldn’t approve it since it didn’t include a raised curb along the walkway’s edge to separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Williams recommended that project be delayed until a series of utility construction projects are completed on during the next several years.

Councilmembers also heard from people both for and against restarting a street lighting project on Pine Street that was requested by Point Edwards residents. The project has been on hold since late May following concerns about impacts to wildlife at the nearby demonstration garden.

The city council in November 2016 approved the $20,000 lighting project after hearing from residents who said they didn’t feel safe walking in the area of Pine Street and Highway 104 — located at the bottom of the Point Edwards development — after dark, due to lack of street lighting.

Two members of the Snohomish County Audubon Society, which operates the garden, requested more time to review the project. But several Point Edwards residents countered that human safety was just as important as the safety of nearby wildlife.

Public Works Director Williams explained that he reviewed two options for lighting. First was a proposal from Snohomish County Public Utility District that would includes three fiberglass poles with a 35-foot mounting height, topped with a 50 watt Type II LED. This light includes a shielding option designed to minimize light spillage into the demo garden, Williams said.

Under the PUD proposal, the city would install the buried conduit and the PUD would install the poles. The PUD would then operate and maintain all three of the lights at a cost of $6-$8 per light per month.

The second choice, know as the Sternberg option, reflected an earlier suggestion from some councilmembers that the city’s Pine Street project try to match the look of existing streetlights within the Point Edwards development. This option would include five poles, at a 13.5 foot mounting height, spaced 82 feet apart. The light itself would be a lower-intensity 32 watt Type 4 LED. This type of light doesn’t offer shielding options to address spillage concerns, Williams said. In addition, the city would be responsible for operations and maintenance.

The council voted 5-1, with 1 abstention, to approve the PUD lighting. Voting against was Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, who had argued for more time to study the matter. Abstaining was Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who expressed concerns that the project was being rushed through the council.

In other actions, the council:

– Approved a resolution supporting the merger of SNOCOM and SNOPAC 911 emergency call centers. See background in our previous story here.

– Approved amendments to the city code governing the downtown Edmonds Business Improvement District, otherwise known as the Edmonds Downtown Alliance or ED!. The amendments were OK’d by the alliance board at its July 13 meeting, and include: Modification of boundaries to recognize the potential for BID expansion; recognition of a second, lower-dues-paying “by appointment” business classification to include “and/or office-based” and adds new examples such as professional service firms, assembly or production of goods and corporate offices; and clarification that assessments for members in newly expanded areas of downtown BID will pay their dues after the first full quarter they are included.

– Heard a report by state lobbyist Jennifer Ziegler summarizing the key state legislation passed this year, as well as work yet to be done. For Edmonds, a positive outcome of the state budget was the acceleration of $1 million to the city to fund initial work on Highway 99 redevelopment. In addition, Edmonds received $700,000 for the Waterfront Crossing Project analysis.

But other major city projects — such as the Edmonds Waterfront Center and waterfront redevelopment project — are in limbo because the Legislature has yet to pass a capital budget, said Ziegler, who said there’s a chance that lawmakers will return to Olympia for a fourth special session this fall.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. How much money has the City squandered on the Sunset Ave experiment to date? It was supposed to be a trial only with a cost of no more than $20K which would after a period of one year be put back th way it was if the public didn’t like it. Now there is such chaos down there since all the experimental paint markings are ghosting through, and that poor street is no longer what it was. But how much has actually been spent on it?

    1. Here’s the word from the City of Edmonds Public Works Dept. on how much has been spent on Sunset Avenue so far. (Most of it on predesign activities in 2013 and 2014, the city says):
      Sunset Expenses
      Lifetime $115,205
      2017 $ 176
      2016 $ 1,766
      2015 $ 1,955
      2014 $ 33,852
      2013 $ 77,456

      1. According to my calculations, this amount seems to be quite way off…….Work alone done on one private property certainly would not have only added up to $176.00 this year…..These totals must not include any grant monies or monies from other sources………..If I remember right, the original amount for the landscape architecture company out of Portland and the drawings that we saw at that first meeting I believe was somewhere in the $44,000 category, just for those first drawings…………It would be nice to share the FULL amounts of money spent from ALL sources……afterall, those were grant monies other people did not get …….I would be surprised if the surveying alone wasn’t more than $115,205……..I think I still have paper-work for a lot of the costs

  2. I am saddened that after all the initial hullabaloo meeting to initiate discussion around more low income housing offerings IN Edmonds (to have them feel a true part of the community), plans for more, affordable housing (low and median income-based) is really not to be in Edmonds, but will be along the 99 “corridor,” and still away from the primary Edmonds living area. Whether that is entirely political/money-based, the conditioned American culture or a combination of both, it is saddening that there is still a separatist – us and them – mentality at play, which does not serve to truly integrate.

  3. On the 205th/edmonds way areas – are the colored areas new development? Or a combination of already built housing and soon to come?

    1. Here’s a link to the Highway 99 project page which shows scenarios for how the implementation could progress over time. City officials have told me to to expect this project to take many years and to be completed in stages as grant funding and other funding becomes available. We’ll be doing follow-up stories over time as well.

  4. Sherry make and interesting point. Where do we put affordable housing? First a few points of clarification so be sure folks are all talking about the same thing.
    1. Affordable housing the amount spent on housing and basic utilities should be no more than 30% of house hold income. That would mean a household income of $40,000 could “afford” a housing and utility payment of $1000/month.
    2. Affordable Housing in the new codes does not specify a dollar value but instead says that 20% of the units must be rented at 20% below market rate. So, if the market rate for a new complex is $2000 and the complex has 100 units then 20 units must have a rent of $1600. Assuming $200 for utilities then the family income needs to be $72,000 to be “affordable”.
    3. The developer in 2 above would have had a rental value for the 100 units of $200,000 per month but by lowering the rent of 20 units and giving up $400 rent each the reduction would be $8000 or now a new total of $192,000 per month.
    4. Developers will be given two types of incentives to provide these units below market rate units. One is likely the ability to build a taller building allow for more units and second there will be a property tax reduction. That reduction will allow for no taxes on all 100 units for a period I think to be 12 years so long as they continue to offer 20% of the units at 20% below market price. These are taxes that would help all of Edmonds but they will be basically used to subsidize the rent reductions.
    So, to the affordable question, affordable to whom? Using the 30% of income idea and the example above a family income of $72,000 would be needed. Assuming an income of $40,000 and using the 30% idea the total spent housing and utilities would have to be $1000 or maybe around $850 for rent alone.
    The current rent range for Edmonds for a one bedroom is $1165 to $2025. A new development would likely be at the higher end of the range so new one-bedroom units may well rent of $2000 per month with the “affordable” units renting for $1600. $72,000 of income would be needed to match the ideas of “affordability”.
    Sherry’s point is these new units will be on Hwy 99 and not in the “primary living area”. Other cities have made different incentives allow developers to add space for a “fee” and those fees would be used by a city to provide housing in other locations. This “ransom” approach would give developers the density needed to justify projects AND pay a fee so help support housing elsewhere.
    When the Westgate development is complete we will have our first real example of the use of the current incentives and we will see what the market rate and the “affordable” rate will be. My guess is the numbers will be like the example above that would require an income of $72,000 to rent an “affordable” unit.
    The census data for King and Snohomish shows about 30% of the population has Median Income of around $30,000. The Edmonds data shows about 5% of our population having around a $30,000 income. Those 500 families already have housing in Edmonds.
    As we kick around the terms of affordable, low income, it may be helpful to use real data real estimates to discuss the issue of housing. I have not seen any data from the city that shows the anticipated rents or tax reductions that will happen because of these new policies. Maybe the Council has some data that helped them make these policies. If they do that would be interesting to know. If they don’t they are just guessing what the real impact will be.

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