The Edmonds City Council’s Planning, Public Safety and Personnel Committee took a closer look Tuesday night at an issue that has ramifications for Edmonds residents living in more than 20 condominium properties that no longer conform to city code.
The problem, as explained by Development Services Director Shane Hope, is this: During the 1960s and 1970s, a number of condominium buildings were constructed under a code that allowed for a greater number of units than is currently permitted under current city code.
So far, 23 sites have been identified as being in noncompliance. Each of them has from one to 19 more units than would be permitted under the city’s current code if the development were to be rebuilt.
If disaster struck — such as a major fire or earthquake — and one of these buildings lost 75 percent or more of its replacement cost at the time of destruction or severe damage, it would have be rebuilt to conform to the new code with fewer units, Hope noted.
Windermere Realtor Wendy Kondo discovered the issue while working with an Edmonds condo owner to sell a unit in such a building. The bank declined to finance the sale because of the risk involved if the building were severely damaged.
Kondo, who attended Tuesday night’s meeting, did her own research and came up with a list of 23 such properties that are not in compliance. The list was verified by the city as being accurate.
Hope also noted that city staff have heard about this issue in the past. It “has become a concern with some local condo owners, particular when they go to try to sell their unit,” she said.
When it comes to real estate financing, lenders “are not going to take a risk” that the unit could be rebuilt, given the code nonconformance, Hope said. “The banking world has become more strict on these kinds of things.”
Staff analyzed the current code to see if there was any “wiggle room” but found none, Hope explained to the council committee Tuesday night. So staff is proposing that the council review the matter for possible resolution.
One option would be to send the issue to the Edmonds Planning Board to see if a “very narrow code amendment” would be possible, Hope said.
Such an amendment could focus on grandfathering in the existing units, providing all other code provisions are met, she added.
The council could also take no action and wait until the city addresses the issue later as part of other code amendments. A third option would be for the city to wait until a current condo owner initiated an application for a public hearing to change the requirement, which would cost the applicant several thousand dollars.
After some discussion, the two councilmembers on the Planning, Public Safety and Personnel Committee — Mike Nelson and Neil Tibbott — decided to send the matter to the full council at a future business meeting for a discussion of various options.
— By Teresa Wippel