Council moves closer to creating housing commission, pledges more citizen involvement

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Districts for proposed Edmonds Housing Commission

Following months of controversy over the city’s attempt to develop a housing strategy, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night agreed on several concepts aimed at increasing citizen involvement and transparency in the process.

Councilmembers Dave Teitzel and Neil Tibbott outlined a plan for revisiting the initiative, which has 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.

Based on that feedback, the city announced in October it was pausing the effort, and councilmembers committed to revisiting the process in 2019.

On Tuesday night, councilmembers appeared united in their approach to find a different way — one that is heavy on citizen involvement.

For starters, the initiative will no longer be referred to as an affordable housing strategy. Instead the focus will be on developing “housing options” for people with a range of needs, including senior citizens, veterans and those with disabilities.

And a high priority will be placed on ensuring all citizens are informed about the city’s efforts, with plans not only for more meetings and other forms of outreach, but expansion of a proposed citizen housing commission from seven members (one from each identified geographic zone) to 14.

Early in the discussion on the issue, some councilmembers wondered whether forming a commission was necessary. But in the end, they agreed it would be an important step, in the words of Councilmember Neil Tibbott, “to involve citizens from around the city to give input, from their perspective.”

The initial proposal had suggested just one representative from each of the seven zones, which were created to be roughly equal in population throughout the city. It also had proposed an extensive list of criteria for choosing members, ranging from past committee experience to length of residency. Councilmember Mike Nelson suggested that the group be expanded in size, and he and other councilmembers agreed that the council should also take another look at the proposed criteria, to see if items should be subtracted or added.

Councilmember Teitzel said he would work to revise the commission criteria based on council input and come back with a revised proposal for future consideration.

Once a final plan for creating a commission is approved, Teitzel stressed that the city will make an effort to notify all citizens “and give everyone in town an opportunity to apply.” This outreach will include mailing a postcard to every household, Teitzel said.

Additional efforts like that postcard and a large numbers of public meetings — which are likely to require outside facilitation due to city staff time limitations — will cost money. However Councilmember Diane Buckshnis stressed the importance of the effort and the need for involving citizens in the discussion.

“This is our city,” she said. “This is very important to many of us.”

Buckshnis also noted that the council has $93,000 in its own budget reserves to put toward expanded community outreach.

Another issue that is still on the horizon is whether the city will amend its Comprehensive Plan to extend the due date for developing a housing strategy or to change or remove related language in the plan. Since the Comprehensive Plan is only updated once annually — and that usually occurs later in the year — the council decided those decisions can be delayed for now.

At the end of the meeting, Tibbott expressed appreciation for the councilmembers’ efforts to collaborate on addressing citizen concerns about the housing strategy. “This would not have come together without each one of us having a different role,” Tibbott said. “I want our citizens to know that our council is working together on this.”

In other action, the council:

– Heard an Edmonds Marsh study update from Windward Environmental. The study is aimed at documenting current conditions within the marsh and its buffer areas, with the goal of evaluating ecological functions provided; identifying restoration opportunities such as vegetation enhancements; and coordinating with others to provide an overview of data and information being collected. The final report is expected in September of this year.

A piece of biochar. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

– Agreed to place on next week’s consent agenda approval of design work for a new system that will replace the city’s wastewater treatment plant sludge incinerator with a two-step process that creates a dried product. As we reported in our earlier story, the city has been finding it increasingly difficult to find spare parts for the city’s 30-year-old sludge incinerator, and stringent and expensive new regulatory requirements for sludge incineration are virtually impossible to meet. The planned solution is a two-step process that involves sludge drying and pyrolysis — the chemical decomposition of organic materials at high heat with little to no oxygen. This creates both a dried product and a “biochar,” which is sterile and has the appearance of charcoal. The biochar byproduct can be used in city parks or sold as a soil conditioner or amendment.

– Approved by a 4-3 vote (Councilmembers Mike Nelson, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Kristiana Johnson voting no) a proposal to change the way the council’s committee meetings are scheduled so that audio recordings of the meetings can be uploaded and made available on demand via the city’s website for next-day review. (Nelson reiterated his longstanding view that the meetings should be videotaped and that audio wasn’t sufficient.) To accommodate the new process with the city website technology, the committee meetings must start at 7 p.m. The council agreed to no longer have short business meetings at 7. p.m. preceding committee meeting nights (always the second Tuesday of the month).

– In a procedural move, held a public hearing on the council’s decision last week to extend the city’s moratorium prohibiting the use of tire crumb rubber infill on public playfields. No one testified on the matter and the resolution will go into effect as passed — with the moratorium in effect through Aug. 21, 2019.

— By Teresa Wippel

 

 

8 Replies to “Council moves closer to creating housing commission, pledges more citizen involvement”

  1. First step before selecting a new committee is to undo all actions done during, under and by the previous one. Namely the administrative rezoning undertaken for Edmonds Lutheran Church, Compass Housing and Blockables Inc. That action was done at the behest of people who did not and do not reside in Edmonds. This is the only way to regain voter and resident trust. Otherwise the new committee that will have no power and requires residency to be considered for membership highlights the appearance of a corrupt and non-democratic City administration.
    The new committee should be granted a broad mandate including studying the funding sources, investors, ownership stake and associations of any and all organizations taking part in projects that are granted tax exemptions, code deferrals and any other incentives by the City. Additionally, as the current zoning and City plans already exempt specific areas from being developed further or differently these areas should forgo representation on the committe in favor of additional representation from the areas most impacted. Finally no one who does not reside full time in a City of Edmonds located property should be appointed. Previous committee members, those involved in current projects (particularly those under scrutiny) should recuse themselves.

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  2. Part of any committee should be study and recommendation of rent control. Consider the average rent per square foot in the area is $1.20 – $1.30. But the Compass Housing low barrier project already approved will charge $700/month for 250 square feet or $2.80 per square foot. The housing is not affordable it is simply scaled down to fit the income levels where they can fleece the working poor and charge double. The cost per square foot to build here is around $375 for a custom home but the Compass project partner Blockables charges $200/sq ft. So if you are building for less why renting out for more? Look at the numbers and do the math. Enact real and fair policy don’t just line the pockets of the same elite rich.

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  3. Involve the people impacted in everything. Need affordable housing? Join in building it, free labor for reduced rent. Want neighborhoods upheld join the efforts, donate time and money so what is built is comparable to what is already there but made affirdable. DO NOT continue partnering with wealth, power and industry or you will have tiny garden sheds bringing congestion, trapping people in poverty and ruining the environment. Work with people who live in Edmonds not people who make six figure salaries from “managing” the homeless and downtrodden. Most of Edmonds supported direct relief and incentives to individuals to buy electric cars now incentivize the people on housing. Don’t guve tax breaks to developers instead give people affordable rent through subsidies, work for rent programs and other direct means. Assist people in joining together to live in nice homes and share the rent. Have wealthy citizens and businesses sponsor rent reductions like you sponsor a child in a foreign school. DO NOT simply copy Seattle and other cities’ programs. Be innocative and go direct to the people. Stay away from churches, developers,non-profits, startups and other entities that have a vested interest in keeping people in poverty, on assistance and under their control. Build a community not an empire!

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  4. Noticed prior Commission experience being a factor in criteria to be appointed is already creeping into this discussion, unbelievable. This is not the first time Edmonds has been told that overly ambitious development strategies and rezoning aspirations are needed (there is plenty of capacity opportunity for affordable housing and then some on HWY 99 redevelopment, could make a real positive impact ). You think “Yost Park” exist by luck?, Darrol Haug can tell you stories of how leadership tried to zone Apartment buildings on Main Street hill, many decades ago. This is not the first time massive high density zoning aspirations have been desired in Edmond’s by Leadership. We are a small Sea-side community of 42,000 people not a mega metropolis. Let’s meet some new Edmond’s People Council, mix it up. Consider Mailing everyone a color card based on zones outlined, and residence can mail it back or drop it off in an election box clearly marked in that color that could be located inside the lobby of City Hall, then draw 2 names randomly to represent each district after appropriate time and advertisement has sufficed for everyone to have a chance to submit there names. This is defiantly sounding like Hunger Games now. This is an idea to help alleviate the self appointment conflict of interest that seems to have taken control of our town in the plethora of Committees and subcommittees. Thanks for the map and update Myedmonds news. I do appreciate the council revisiting this and there more creative and thoughtful approach to this complex and challenging issue.

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    1. Fascinating article thanks for posting this Mr. Williams.
      “Once the architectural integrity of a neighborhood is destroyed, it can never be reclaimed.” One of many concerns made in this article, hope our council members gets the chance to read this.

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  5. A central plan by our nations liberal/socialists is to require, through legislation, that states draft a plan whereby all communities in every state submit a strategy to up zone neighborhoods for higher density to insure all citizens can afford to live in all communities. Hmmm. Wonder what Innis Arden, Broadmoor, et al, plans will look like? And where are the gated communities Pelosi and her ilk reside? Or, is this utopia only for us “little people”?

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  6. This shines a light on many parallels expressed by Edmonds City Hall. If you own property, a very good read. The question that begs to be asked is weather Edmonds is taking Federal Grants, which locks them into any form of up zoning mandate. Draw your own conclusions, ask questions of the “powers” in office. You are the Public, and they work for you.

    “07 MAR The Growing Assault on Private Property – Are SIngle-Family Homes Racist?”
    Posted at 10:05h in Property Rights, Sustainable Development by Tom DeWeese

    One of the main indicators used by economists to measure the health of the nation’s economy is housing starts – the number of private homes being built around the nation. In 2018 housing starts fell in all four regions of the nation, representing the biggest drop since 2016.

    While many economists point to issues such as higher material costs as a reason for the drop in housing starts, a much more ominous reason may be emerging. Across the nation, city councils and state legislatures are beginning to remove zoning protections for single-family neighborhoods, claiming they are racist discrimination designed to keep certain minorities out of such neighborhoods. In response to these charges some government officials are calling for the end of single-family homes in favor of multiple family apartments.

    Minneapolis, Minnesota: the city council is moving to remove zoning that protects single-family neighborhoods, instead planning to add apartment buildings in the mix. The mayor actually said such zoning was “devised as a legal way to keep black Americans and other minorities from moving into certain neighborhoods”. Racist, social injustice are the charges
    Chicago, Illinois: So-called “affordable housing” advocates have filed a federal complaint against the longtime tradition of allowing City Aldermen veto power over most development proposals in their wards, charging that it promotes discrimination by keeping low-income minorities from moving into affluent white neighborhoods. Essentially the complaint seeks to remove the Aldermen’s ability to represent their own constituents.
    Baltimore, Maryland: The NAACP filed a suit against the city charging that Section 8 public housing causes ghettos because they are all put into the same areas of town. They won the suit and now the city must spend millions of dollars to move such housing into more affluent neighborhoods. In addition, landlords are no longer permitted to ask potential tenants if they can afford the rent on their properties.
    Oregon: Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives Tina Kotek (D-Portland) is drafting legislation that would end single-family zoning in cities of 10,000 or more. She claims there is a housing shortage crisis and that economic and racial segregation are caused by zoning restrictions.
    Such identical policies don’t just simultaneously spring up across the country by accident. There is a force behind it. The root of these actions are found in “fair housing” policies dictated by the federal Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD). The affected communities have all taken HUD grants. There is very specific language in those grants that suggest single family homes are a cause of discrimination. Specifically, through the HUD program called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), the agency is taking legal action against communities that use “discriminating zoning ordinances that discourage the development of affordable, multifamily housing…”. The suits are becoming a widely used enforcement tool for the agency.

    To enforce its social engineering policies HUD demands the following from communities that have applied for or taken HUD grants:

    First, HUD forces the community to complete an “Assessment of Fair Housing” to identify all “contributing factors” to discrimination. These include a complete breakdown of race, income levels, religion, and national origin of every single person living there. They use this information to determine if the neighborhood meets a preset “balance,” determined by HUD.
    Second, HUD demands a detailed plan showing how the community intends to eliminate the “contributing factors” to this “imbalance.”
    Once the plan is prepared, then the community is required to sign an agreement to take no actions that are “materially inconsistent with its obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.”
    Americans who have grown up experiencing private home ownership as the root to personal prosperity must quickly learn of the threat of the HUD/AFFH program. They must fully understand why cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Baltimore and states like Oregon have suddenly announced actions to eliminate single-family home zoning. These cities have already taken the grant poison and must now comply. The ultimate government game is to reorganize our cities into massive urban areas where single-family neighborhoods are replaced by the Sustainable/Smart Growth model of “Stack and Pack,” wall-to-wall apartment buildings.

    To the frustration of those Sustainablists determined to change our entire economic system, the legal protection of private property rights and ownership have proven to be a roadblock for implementation. New York Mayor William DeBlasio best expressed the frustration of those driving to control community development when he was quoted in New York Magazine saying, “What’s been hardest is the way our legal system is structured to favor private property. I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it and what the rent will be.”

    Most importantly, HUD and its social engineering advocates have sold these so-called sustainable policies using the well-worn excuse that such programs are simply to help lower income families to succeed. In fact, these programs are actually at the very root of why many of them are NOT succeeding.

    The immediate result of eliminating single-family homes and in turn, destroying private property rights, is to degrade the property values of the homes so many have worked to build. It used to be called the American dream. Now it’s labeled racism, discrimination, and social injustice.

    Eradicating poverty is the most popular excuse for the expansion of government power. Yet, it’s interesting to note that not a single government program, from the federal to the local level, offers any plan for eradicating poverty except the well-worn and unworkable scheme of wealth redistribution. After decades of following such a failed policy the only result is that we have more poor.

    Today, as demonstrated in Oregon, Minneapolis, Baltimore and Chicago, we hear the claims that there is a “housing crisis” and so government must take a dramatic step to solve the very crisis is has created. As economist Thomas Sowell has said, “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

    It is interesting to note that, as private property ownership shrinks under these misguided policies, so too does the nation’s wealth. Sustainable policies are at the root of nearly every local, state, and federal program. Each step diminishes individual freedom, personal and national prosperity, and the destruction of the hopes and dream of every American. The American Policy Center is determined to lead the fight to end this misnamed and disastrous ‘Sustainable’ course for our country.”

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