Crime, and government that doesn’t listen: Citizens share opinions at housing strategy meeting

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    Edmonds City Council President Mike Nelson addresses a crowd of more than 50 citizens at Monday evening’s town hall on Edmonds’ draft Housing Strategy.

    During a Monday night open house organized by Edmonds City Council President Mike Nelson, more than 50 people gathered at the Meadowdale Community Center to share their opinions and feedback on the City of Edmonds’ draft Housing Strategy.

    “The primary purpose of tonight’s meeting is to hear from you,” Nelson said as he opened the meeting. “There’s no formal presentation or set agenda.  For tonight I want to keep it casual and informal and give you the opportunity to say whatever you want.”

    Nelson began by asking for a show of hands from those who hadn’t heard about the housing strategy. About 10 people raised their hands, and in response he provided a quick overview of the issue.

    He explained that the State of Washington’s Growth Management Act requires cities to develop and submit plans detailing how much growth they expect and how they plan to accommodate it, and that in 2017 Edmonds Mayor Dave Earing appointed the Edmonds Housing Strategy Task Force to help make recommendations.

    “One of the challenges for Edmonds is that we’re pretty well built up,” Nelson explained.  “So for us it comes down to accommodating our expected population growth in the space we have, and that means higher density.

    “Eventually, the council will study, discuss and ultimately vote on whither to use the plan as a roadmap,” he said, adding that “it’s not a done deal til then.”

    So far, there have been two public hearings on the plan, the first on May 21 and the second on Aug. 28. Both drew considerable public interest, with many citizens expressing strong opposition to the plan out of concern that bringing higher density, affordable housing to Edmonds would degrade our quality of life.

    “I’ve heard a lot of frustration, concern, support and opposition about the various aspects of the plan,” Nelson continued, “and I believe much of that arises from folks feeling that there’s not been enough public input. So tonight I want to hear from you and give you the opportunity to say what’s on your mind.”

    An owner of a multi-unit building in the Northgate area, this participant expressed frustration at having tried to accommodate low-income tenants referred by social services and ended up with serious crime and drug problems.

    Initial questions and comments centered on concerns held by many about the adverse effects of higher-density housing, and in particular “low-barrier” housing intended for low-income populations, but which doesn’t impose rules for behavior.

    “These will inevitably bring in alcoholics, drug addicts and sex offenders,” voiced one participant. “This would degrade our community, and I don’t want my taxes to subsidize it.”

    Added another attendee: “Many people in low-barrier housing don’t want help, they want to live that way. I’m happy to help people who want to help themselves, but not those who don’t.”

    Another oft-voiced issue was the perception that the housing strategy was being forced on the community without regard for citizen concerns.

    “The city is dead set on pushing this through,” said one participant. “But most citizens I’ve talked with don’t want it. I don’t want a consulting firm and city council deciding what citizens of Edmonds should do and pay for. It needs to be put to public vote and not pushed down our throats.”

    Another attendee praised the efforts of the faith community to provide housing and services for low-income populations, characterizing them as gentle people who respond positively to this kind of help.

    One citizen drew applause after suggesting that the plan be altered to specifically exclude low-barrier housing. “What stings about this plan is that it appears to be for the homeless and the addicted. I think we can have multi-family, higher-density housing without attracting these lower elements.”

    While this seemed to meet with the approval of many in the room, others pointed out that even with the low-barrier element removed, density would bring a host of other challenges and costs for things like parks, water supply, wastewater systems, traffic and of course, parking.

    Nelson responds to citizen concerns.

    As the meeting wound down, many in the audience expressed thanks to Nelson for providing this opportunity and asked if there would be more sessions.

    “As of now I have another town hall set for Oct. 15 at the Senior Center,” responded Nelson, “with two more to follow in other neighborhoods. I’m hearing lots of concerns, and I want to make sure that there’s plenty of opportunity to get these out in the open.”

    In the meantime, citizens can become informed about the background and status of the draft Housing Strategy process at the main website. The most current iteration of the full Housing Strategy document is available here.

    — Story and photos by Larry Vogel

    7 Replies to “Crime, and government that doesn’t listen: Citizens share opinions at housing strategy meeting”

    1. Although this review of the meeting is accurate, it does not convey the angry tone of the meeting and some negative comments made about the Mayor for forming a task force composed completely of people who will benefit from the implementation of this plan. It further doesn’t mention that the people present feel something this important should be put to a vote.

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      1. Just an FYI, here’s a quote from the story: “The city is dead set on pushing this through,” said one participant. “But most citizens I’ve talked with don’t want it. I don’t want a consulting firm and city council deciding what citizens of Edmonds should do and pay for. It needs to be put to public vote and not pushed down our throats.”

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      2. I agree with you about the angry tone and the general dissatisfaction with the Mayor, but I would like to commend myednews once again for doing a great job covering this topic.
        Their article, on a small neighborhood meeting, was online and open for posting the very next morning.
        As a news junkie for 45 years, I thought the story was very even handed and tried to accurately present what happened objectively.
        Did you notice that in reading the article it is impossible to guess where the writer stands on in the debate?
        Compared to the screaming bias in the mainstream media, both left and right, reading myednews is a wonderful example of what journalism should be, factual, though, and impartial.
        They are the only news organization that I support with a paid subscription.

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    2. I was at the meeting and I would estimate that 80-90% of the attendees were against the Task Force Strategy, for many well stated reasons.
      I have attended all or almost all the city meetings and this was the first one meeting where I felt there was any interest in the input of the public. My past questions have never been addressed but have been routinely ignored. Thanks to Mike Nelson for having such an open discussion.
      It is also my impression that there has been growing interest and opposition to what amounts to a racial redevelopment in Edmonds. The attendance to the public meetings has grown from a handful to standing room only. I hope even more Edmonds residents will find the time to attend, or at least to follow this issue and to comment to our elected officials their concerns.
      The most important point I wanted to make at the meeting was that I am adamantly opposed to the city getting into the homeless housing industry.
      The faith based community is free to use their money, land and resources to help those in need without any restrictions from government, even though their actions may mean increased city expenses [paid for by the city taxpayers] for police EMS, public schools, and public health.

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    3. Las Vegas Case Shiller (housing likely to become affordable in a bad way):
      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LVXRNSA

      Vegas Population Growth Stalled, 4 years negative population in city centers.

      Interest Rate hikes (if 2% could be considered a hike) has already hit markets:
      https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/jessecolombo/2018/09/27/how-interest-rate-hikes-will-trigger-the-next-financial-crisis/amp/

      Seattle likely to be Vegas 2.0. We’re the most inflated market in nation at a time when interest rates have been the lowest too low for the longest too long.

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    4. I was at the meeting; this article did not mention the cost of affordable housing that was discussed. The Westgate project, owned by Bartells receives a 12 year tax abatement on all residential units for setting aside 19 of 91 units for affordable housing. For adding the need for more services to the community they pay nothing. Over 60 percent of Edmonds revenues come from property taxes. We taxpayers of Edmonds are getting increased density, traffic, etc and being made to pay for it. Developers get the benefit.

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