After months of contentious debate and discussion that ultimately led to the decision to reexamine and rework the Edmonds Draft Housing Strategy, the City of Edmonds has taken the first tentative steps down the road to make this happen.
“It’s become very clear that the first draft is far from perfect,” said Edmonds Development Services Director Shane Hope. “The first step in the redraft effort is to clearly articulate the general vision for housing in the city and the specific issues that need to be thought about in redoing the housing strategy.
“To help in this regard I’ve reached out to several citizens with varying opinions and perspectives on these issues and asked them to provide me advice for developing the next draft housing strategy,” she continued. “By helping us look at things like community character, livability and neighborhood values that need to be addressed and thought about in the redraft, examining what in the prior draft is valuable and worth keeping, identifying what is not, and suggesting new provisions that need to be added, we can lay the groundwork to launch what we hope will be a successful redraft of our housing strategy.”
Hope stressed that this new group, called the Citizens Housing Advisory Committee, is informal, and is in no way the “be-all and end-all.” Rather, she said, it will pave the way for subsequent public meetings, focus groups and other more formal ways to help rework the housing strategy.
“This won’t happen without lots of public input,” she added. “I’m hoping to have other groups, maybe focus groups, larger public forums/meetings, ways to share opinions so we can come up with a good redraft that makes sense to most people.”
The group had an introductory meeting on Nov. 8. According to Hope, the next meeting date is being scheduled now, but will likely be Nov. 15 or 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Brackett Room of Edmonds City Hall. It will be open to the public and announced on the website.
“The members all live in town and many are long-time local residents,” Hope added.
The committee members include Treg Camper, Alicia Crank, Lindsey Crawford, Brian Goodnight, Pat McDevitt, Dave Teitzel, Bob Throndsen, Rob Van Tassel, and Diana White. Van Tassel is the only member who was on the original Housing Strategy Task Force that developed the current Draft Housing Strategy.
The reason Edmonds is developing a housing strategy in the first place is rooted in the State of Washington’s Growth Management Act, which requires cities to develop and submit plans detailing how much growth they expect and how they plan to accommodate it. In response to this mandate, the Edmonds City Council included in the latest Comprehensive Plan a provision to develop a housing strategy by 2019. In 2017, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling appointed the Edmonds Housing Strategy Task Force to help make recommendations that would lay the groundwork and lead to development of a comprehensive housing strategy for Edmonds.
The task force met regularly, retained the services of Berk Consulting to assist, and presented the first draft at an open house in May. This was followed by a city council presentation in July and another public meeting in late August. In early September, the city sent out an announcement stating it would start reviewing workshop notes and figuring out next steps for the process.
This led to much debate and discussion over the subsequent months, with many residents stating they felt they were not being heard. They also expressed frustration that in their view, the draft housing strategy was not reflective of our community values and would take Edmonds in a direction that would be detrimental to residents’ quality of life.
Hope vows that this latest effort will be different.
“I want to hear from everyone who wants to put their perspective forward,” she stressed. “This advisory group is there to get things jump started. I want more focus groups, public meetings, and interested individuals to help shape the strategy rewrite. We’ll be posting advisory group meeting notes, agendas and meeting schedules to the website. We’ll be adding public input fields. I really do want to work with people — I want everyone involved in this.”
Responding to criticism from citizens who wondered why an application process wasn’t conducted for the new advisory group, Hope said that it’s not uncommon for a department to solicit advice from a person or group of persons without going through a formal public process to solicit, recruit and officially recognize them.
“Establishing the advisory group doesn’t mean there won’t be a more formal process later for appointing folks to have a role in the strategy redevelopment,” she said. “This is meant to be a simple departmental advisory group that will help generate ideas to get the housing strategy rewrite effort off the ground, including ideas for more robust public involvement.
“We’re taking a step back and we’re looking at what we’ve done,” she concluded. “We recognize the existing draft strategy isn’t perfect, we need to pull out what works and discard what doesn’t. We need to add new ideas, and mash it into a newer strategy that works for our community.”
Hope urges everyone to stay current on the Housing Strategy rewrite effort by joining the mailing list. Sign up at the website to get updates delivered to your inbox.
— By Larry Vogel