Letter to the editor: Listening to majority of Edmonds citizens or to the chosen few



Tuesday evening the Edmonds’ City Council will be discussing several options to salvage what has been a very flawed process for adopting an Edmonds’ “Housing Strategy.” I strongly support the option listed as #5.

The 2019 chart of government organization in Edmonds notably places the citizens of Edmonds at the top, above the mayor, the city council, the various departments, the courts.  As such it should absolutely be the citizens of Edmonds who decide what the city will look like in the future.

The Edmonds’ City Council “Code of Ethics” enumerates the ethical principles which shall govern conduct of elected officials. It clearly states that the douncil shall “conduct business of the city in a manner which is not only fair in fact, but also in appearance.” The administration has rushed to create a “new” housing task force constituted of handpicked and like-minded members. If the city council allows this process to go unchecked, it certainly is an example of the council conducting business in a manner which is not fair in fact or appearance. Citizens will continue to have little or no trust in the process.

On Thursday evening I attended a meeting of this “new” task force which is being called the “Citizens Housing Advisory Committee,” a group of handpicked Edmonds residents who purportedly represent different viewpoints. It was abundantly clear that the handpicked members on that committee lean heavily toward exactly what is in the strategy as it exists now: much greater density and the destruction of Edmonds’ small town feel.

I noted three very disturbing issues at the meeting when the members were asked to come up with “talking points.” Granted, these were labeled “talking points,” but each point was enthusiastically received by the committee and they were meant to be a guideline for issues the task force considers important. First, although a long list was compiled, nowhere on the list was what the costs to Edmonds’ residents would be from a housing strategy that envisions massive new development. All must concede, that was a huge issue with the Berk plan. There is no doubt that there will be costs to us and those must be discussed. We will see increased traffic, higher taxes, and a shortage of parking.  Second, one member said, after it was brought up that the “charm” of Edmonds should be considered, that “charm” is in the eye of the beholder and that charm might mean high density and walkability to some, which of course would mean more developments like  Westgate in multiple places. That might be true. However, the majority of citizens in Edmonds must be the ones who define Edmonds’ charm, not a faction on a committee, not the city council, not Mayor Earling. Edmonds charm should be defined by a majority of the citizens here. And finally, one of the talking points roundly approved was that the committee should “talk to people outside of Edmonds”! (Note, this was not to assess ideas that had not worked in other places as that was a separate talking point.”)  I find this idea astonishing, that this handpicked committee thinks they should talk to people outside of our community about what our housing strategy should be, about what our city should look like, about how we should conduct ourselves. Edmonds government has really lost sight of who should be in charge here: us! Remember that very little public input was solicited from the start of this housing strategy process and Edmonds’ citizens were treated like our voices didn’t count. A stop has to be put to that frame of mind. The majority of Edmonds’ citizens should be allowed to say what our housing strategy will be.

The process by which this new task force was created was corrupt from the start and does not meet either the “fairness or appearance of fairness” test. Starting on Oct. 24 or perhaps even earlier, the Development Services Director began secretly handpicking members for this “new committee.” A first meeting was scheduled a mere two weeks later for which there was almost no public notice. This is more of the same flawed process that has gone on for almost two years. It must stop.

Option number 5 does several positive things. It calls for a legislatively selected committee. I understand that to mean an “open application” process as is currently used for boards and commissions in Edmonds. Although this group is labeled a “task force” or a “committee,” what it will be doing may ultimately change Edmonds and the way it looks far more than some of the other groups that are designated “boards and commissions.”  The open application process means that task force or committee members would be confirmed by the city council and their applications would be public documents. The committee as it stands now and the process by which it was selected wlll not pass the transparency nor the fairness test. The citizens of Edmonds will not have faith in this new task force. This is not good government.

Option 5 also allows for extending the Comprehensive Plan completion date for the Housing Strategy element. This is necessary to give enough time to actually create a strategy that the majority of Edmonds citizens can support.

If the goal of the members of the city council is to have the citizens of Edmonds truly back a comprehensive and fair housing strategy, it will back option 5 which is more of a complete reboot and should be adopted so that the public will finally have some confidence in a much more transparent process. I urge Edmonds’ citizens to contact the city council and demand they vote for a complete reboot, Option 5.

Lynne Chelius

26 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Listening to majority of Edmonds citizens or to the chosen few”

  1. The small town charm was a huge factor to my moving here a few years ago.
    I definitely feel the council has their own agenda to change this charm. Meaning, a small Seattle like mess with their massive feel good intervention. How’s that working out.

    The community needs to be a part of these decisions! Officials like the feeling of total control, in their little world, what’s good for all. How dare you !! Hand picking your like thoughts is beyond your power, as elected representives.


  2. I think there has been plenty of opportunity for public input to the process, and many Edmonds residents would like to see more affordable housing in our community. Whether or not the point of view expressed here is that of the majority is a matter of conjecture. (Loudest doesn’t necessarily mean most.)


  3. There is an interesting opinion article in the Seattle Times today by the Shoreline mayor. What caught my attention was that he states that over 94% of the growth in our cities is coming from people moving here from other places. I keep wondering if we are going to destroy our own communities for the sake of people who are moving here from other states? I personally believe that if you try to “legislate” affordable housing, or change your building codes to accommodate lower cost, the net result will be a place few of us will care to live in. I cannot afford to live in Woodway. Perhaps they need to start cutting down some of those Woodway trees and begin building low-cost condos there where they have lots of land? Hummmm. Doubt that is going to happen. Money talks.


  4. Well said….I don’t trust that board and they aren’t even picked yet. People we need a Mayor and board who will do what property owners want. Put it to a vote. I say property owners because we will be the ones through taxes that will foot the bill.


  5. This was a long and angry letter, and while I can’t parse out every argument against the proposed housing policy, I do have these thoughts:

    My husband and I are retired. We love our Edmonds home and community. But we know our children —- educated, employed, hardworking—- can’t afford to live here.

    We know that many folks working in Edmonds retail shops and arts organizations and service industries can’t afford to live here.

    We moved here from out of state. If I count how many of our good friends in Edmonds moved here from elsewhere, it’s almost all of them. And I would say those folks made tremendous contributions to the Edmonds community, through their work and volunteer commitments.

    We need to be smart, practical and compassionate moving forward with a housing policy. If you are a resident in Edmonds simply because you “got lucky” in a real estate cycle, I don’t believe that’s a sound enough policy for the future.


    1. What you have described is a situation that is not at all unique to Edmonds. The younger generation cannot generally afford to purchases home anywhere because homes have appreciated in price by a greater percentage than wages.


  6. We need to stop the covert plan to bring “low barrier housing” for drug addicts and the mentally ill to Edmonds, which will raise our taxes and ruin our quality of life. And to give lengthy tax holidays to developers who temporarily set aside a few units to be “affordable.” The “Affordable Housing Strategy” will make our housing LESS affordable.


    1. The new Bartells apartment building at Westgate.
      They fought for Code changes, using the hype that they could not build if they did not get the changes they wanted. And the fear mongering that CVS was coming up North and we needed to do what Bartells wanted done.
      Bartell’s got exemptions to allow very few parking spaces.
      And guess what Citizens of Edmonds, they got a 14 year exemption on property taxes from the City of Edmonds. Thank your elected officials.
      Who makes up the difference in revenue, YOU, the property owners.
      And this is only phase one of the project.

      Earling, show the Citizens and Tax-Payers of Edmonds, where you communicated this exemption to the Citizens of Edmonds. Now it is becoming clear why your campaign was funded by $ 10,000.00 from a Chicago real-estate association to get you elected. Social agenda, over the preservation of a small town.
      Dave Earling needs to be removed from office.

      Edmonds will look like Ballard within five-ten years.


  7. Residents are showing up in increasing numbers each week to Edmonds city council meetings and other public meetings sending a clear message to the Mayor, city council members and Shane Hope that residents expect to be heard and included in a complete reboot of a new Housing Strategy for Edmonds. The overwhelming majority of the people who are speaking up at the council meetings, town halls and through the media make it clear that they don’t trust the existing Housing Strategy process and the original hand-picked participants with special interests; who, by admission in the latest public meeting (if I’m not mistaken) half of those on the original task force don’t reside in Edmonds. Yet, the Mayor, Shane Hope and those who may be determined to get this strategy through (come hell or high water) are attempting an end-around strategy by once again hand-picking people for a citizens advisory housing committee in an attempt to appear to be listening to the people. As we listened to the first meeting of the new committee, it was apparent that some sitting around the table are unaware of the number of people attending the Town Halls (graciously hosted by City Council President Mike Nelson) and the residents opposition. If our city representatives were truly honoring the people who elected them, they would be transparent with a public invite to participate on this citizens committee; or better yet, they would honor the public’s request for a completely new and transparent process in choosing a new housing task force and a rebooted housing strategy, envisioned without the interests of politicians who may have higher political aspirations and/or special interest groups in the mix. This latest attempt to circumvent the opposition to the current task force and its housing strategy is frustrating and insulting. It only furthers the determination of residents to continue to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and remind them that they are expected to serve all the residents they were elected to represent, not their own ambitions.


  8. Lynn is spot on. The so called ‘Housing Strategy’ is nothing more than a progressive cause rooted in control of citizens. Our city council, I believe is made up of progressives (no diversity here, which I find so hypocritical) who do not have the interest of the citizens that they are supposed to represent. Rather, they are certain that they know best. They think that we are not smart enough to make these decisions on our own. I honestly don’t fault the city council as much as I fault those Edmonds residents who continue to vote these leftists into office each election. Thank you Lynn Chelius and people like you for speaking up and making a difference!

    Bob Wilke


    1. Great effort…. However if you don’t like, or are “I fault those Edmonds residents who continue to vote these leftists into office each election” not satisfied with how some Americans vote for a given issue or person, then change their minds. You don’t get to claim it’s the damned Progressives fault and fake news…. that’s not how it works.


  9. Excellent letter!! I totally agree.
    I think that we residents of Edmonds. should demand that the city respond to our concerns about the future of our city, and quit trying to ram their agenda thru over our very public objections.
    Maybe we should just completely bypass the corrupt city process and appoint our own independent task Force.


    1. Dave, great idea. There was a group of concerned citizens handing out fliers, a task force, and Dave did not like that.


  10. Council has an opportunity in its agenda item 6.1 tonight to add needed balance to the Mayor/Staff-selected Citizens Housing Advisory Committee. It should vote to do that unanimously. Not only is it their opportunity, it is their duty as our elected representatives.


  11. There’s a deeper, ideological war that’s currently being won by a loose alliance of four major power centers: the socialist intellectuals, the compassion brigades, the homeless-industrial complex, and the addiction evangelists. Together, these four groups have framed the political debate, regionally diverted hundreds of millions of dollars towards favored projects, and recruited a large phalanx of well-intentioned voters who have bought into the “politics of unlimited compassion.”


  12. Glad to see Citizen group created it’s a step in the right direction. A few observations, I do recognize some of these people’s names that make up this Citizen group. Volunteering their time and energy is admirable and appreciated. A simple search discovers a few of them currently or recently participated in other committees and/or boards and a few have had some nice stories recently written about them in myEdmonds news, they seem like great Edmonds people . With that being said no disrespect to people in this group, but I believe limiting people to one committee and/or board or program participation a year would be a welcome change in my mind. One example to celebrate our Towns diversity is by allowing more people to volunteer and participate in these small committees and groups? The Mayor or whoever has this power should consider limiting participation to one group or committee at a time per year, per person, there is 42,000 people in this town that would love to participate. I have observed the same trend of recognizable citizens volunteering among our many communities boards, commissions, and programs for years now. I believe know one person’s view point is so intelligent and valuable that they need to have the opportunity to serve on multiple boards and in this case newly created Citizen group. My other observation does anyone on this committee actually reside in Esperance? The fact that a lion share of Esperance neighborhood is the subject of possible massive rezoning plans as it relates to this housing strategy. It Seems to make logical sense that Esperance community of more than 3,000 people should have a larger voice in any created Citizens group? My guess is not one of these volunteers making up this Citizen group resides in Esperance?


  13. Thank you Lynn; I am also in agreement with everything you said. I do live in Esperance and my once quiet street of 228th St. SW has most recently been turned into a freeway on-ramp. If Edmonds wants low income housing, then please build it in your own neighborhood. I see that Salish Crossing is up for sale again; that would be a perfect place to start, with bus, train and ferry transportation already in place. And yes you are correct, many citizens are feeling angry and unheard!


  14. At the City Council meeting (November 13) virtually every speaker objected to the Comprehensive Housing Plan and the opaque process the city has used to implement it. This was the same response we have seen at all the previous meetings. Therefore I was surprised to hear Council member Teitzel propose a plan that differs minimally from the plan the majority of Edmonds’ residents have already been objecting to and resisting. In addition, he included an unrealistic time table that would complete the entire process in just over one year. I believe he should listen to the residents of Edmonds.
    In addition, Council members Johnson and Fraley-Monillas both expressed the need to provide help for Edmonds seniors, veterans, the disabled and others. Many of us agree with this. Rent control was suggested as a way to achieve this goal. A far better solution is lowering and/or freezing property taxes. This could go a long way to helping these people and solving the problem.


    1. Edmonds seniors, vets, the disabled and others all may need some help paying their housing bills. lower or freezing property taxes beyond the current methods would simply shift more of the cost of government to others. It would simply be another subsidy not unlike the various subsidies proposed in the housing strategies plan. Rent control would only help renters and would be against current state law. Our council could if it wanted pass a rent control ordinance just like it previously passed other laws that look like they we against state law but they may think a bit more carefully before acting on rent control.

      I see an opportunity for a new local business. The purpose of the business would be to pay taxes for folks. The business would work with individual home owners and pay what ever portion of their tax the choose (10%, 50% or 100%) and for doing so they could take an interest in their home and be reimbursed when the home is sold. A charge to set up the service and a charge for the time value of money would also apply. I am guessing someone could set up such a “tax payment service” to help folks to stay in their homes a little longer and the new business could make a profit providing that service.


        1. The Reverse Mortgage product is an expensive product. What could help is a product that has some of the features of a reverse mortgage but at a far lower cost. Such a product what make it easier for seniors to stay in their homes longer.


  15. Rent control has been discredited by economists regardless of political orientation. There are many articles on the internet that describe the negative effects of rent control. For example:


    For a more in depth discussion, I urge those who are interested in getting Thomas Sowell’s book called Basic Economics and review the extensive section he has written on rent control.

    If the state ban on rent control is removed, and rent control is implemented in Edmonds, it will have the exact opposite result of what housing advocates desire. It will dramatically increase the cost of all housing in Edmonds, it will severely limit the supply of new moderate priced housing that will be built, and it will reduce the supply of moderate priced housing that is available for current tenants.


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