While the official agenda for Monday night’s Edmonds City Council meeting centered around the city’s proposed 2019 budget, citizens packed the council chambers to discuss another topic: the city’s draft housing strategy.
Many of those speaking at Monday’s meeting — held a day earlier than normal to avoid conflicting with Election Day — encouraged the council and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling to throw out the existing draft and start from scratch. The year-long effort has recently drawn vocal opposition from some who fear that the strategy as written could lead to negative consequences for the city — from crime to overcrowding. Critics have also said that the city has not done enough to involve citizens in the planning effort, and that both the mayor-appointed task force and the city’s chosen consultant have not represented the city’s residents or its values.
The City of Edmonds announced two weeks ago that it will be “taking a pause” to rework its draft housing strategy. That will likely include the appointment of an entirely new task force, although such an announcement hasn’t yet been officially made.
City Council President Mike Nelson — who has held two town halls on the topic — says the city should go even further and “reboot” the entire process.
“I very strongly advocate for a reboot instead of a reset,” Edmonds resident Dave Cooper said Monday night to audience applause. “I think enough issues have been raised…that we should start over with input from the actual citizens of Edmonds, and less input from special interests.”
Driving the creation of a housing strategy is the City of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan, a city council-approved document that calls for Edmonds to develop a housing strategy by 2019. The Housing Strategy Task Force has been meeting regularly, and has retained the services of Berk Consulting to assist. The first draft was presented at an open house in May, followed by a city council presentation in July and another public meeting in late August. Then, in early September, the city sent out an announcement stating it will start reviewing workshop notes and figuring out next steps for the process.
Nelson has suggested amending the comprehensive plan to push back the deadline for creating the housing strategy to the year 2020.
Testifying before the council Monday night, Edmonds resident Rebecca Anderson said she’d like to see “a new process for the housing strategy moving forward.” She also urged elected officials to be stewards for the city’s residents and protect Edmonds’ quality of life. “I typically have people say, ‘I love Edmonds,'” when I tell them where I live. Will they say that in the future?” she asked.
But several local residents who have worked for years on housing issues pleaded with elected officials to make sure that any redo of the strategy doesn’t leave behind those Edmonds residents who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
“I realize that many of you are afraid that we are going to turn into something horrible if we have fair housing for people,” said Edmonds resident Carolyn Harris, who co-founded the Edmonds Housing Instability Coalition. “But fair housing just means that everyone who works here, can live here.”
This includes people who are struggling to pay their rent because they are on fixed incomes or who are facing steep rent increases, she said.
Donna Murphy of Edmonds said that “affordable housing is not synonymous with low-income housing, nor is it synonymous with homelessness.” Plans that incorporate affordable housing strategies “allow young vibrant families, older aging-in-place seniors to continue to build and strengthen and invest in the Edmonds community.”
Murphy urged the council to “utilize the research outlined in the housing strategy that supports what’s best for the most — not just the loudest voices in town.”
At the end of the public comment period, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling noted that the housing strategy wasn’t on the evening’s agenda, but that the council would be talking about it next week.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the council:
– Unanimously approved the refinancing of bonds for the Edmonds Public Facilities District, which oversees the Edmonds Center for the Arts, via a loan from First Financial Northwest Bank. Under the plan, the current loan would be reduced from an average rate of 4.24 percent to a fixed rate of 3 percent. The agreement also requires the city to purchase a Certificate of Deposit from First Financial that will be used as collateral for the new loan. The refinance will save the Public Facilities District more than $51,000 annually, Finance Director Scott James told the council.
-Unanimously approved $15,000 from 2018 city council contingency funds to pay for 2019 water quality quarterly testing of local streams that will be performed by Edmonds-Woodway High School’s Students Saving Salmon Club.
– Continued to hear a range of 2019 budget presentations from various staff departments. Among the highlights: Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan is requesting $153,497 to fund a school resource officer and patrol vehicle for Scriber Lake High School, in a cost-sharing arrangement with the Edmonds School District. Compaan is also asking for $74,700 to replace the department’s supply of tasers, which are 10-plus years old, and $25,000 to cover costs associated with basic law enforcement academy training of new police recruits. In addition, the police chief is requesting $49,900 to purchase an electronic ticketing system for parking tickets, which are currently hand written.
— By Teresa Wippel