We applaud the Edmonds’ City Council’s decision to create a new Citizens Housing Commission. If fairly and thoughtfully formed, this new commission could help make Edmonds become “the city that did growth right.”
We, as citizens of Edmonds, expect a commission that represents the true stakeholders of Edmonds, those who live here now, pay their taxes and have Edmonds’ best interests at heart, not some predetermined, imagined version of who will live here in the future.
We want a commission whose members fully understand that the “Edmonds’ Comprehensive Plan” is not a legally binding document, but a set of guidelines and recommendations. Moreover, it is a document that may be amended to more accurately align with Edmonds’ citizens’ vision for their city, as has frequently been done, while at the same time meeting any recommendations in referenced growth plans such as the Puget Sound Regional Council’s “Vision 2040” or the “Countywide Planning Policies for Snohomish County.”
We want a commission whose mission is to accurately define the issue to be addressed by following a set of steps: 1) examine Edmonds’ current housing stock, 2) look at future population trends and 3) make recommendations to the city to address specific housing needs based on the actual, verifiable data.
We want to see a commission that is fully supported and judged to be legitimate by the citizens of Edmonds, averting mistakes made in the past. Therefore, it is imperative the commission not be preassigned a mission that will yield a predetermined outcome or inevitable result. To that end, citizens and city officials involved are expected to come to the project with an open mind, willing to start over as needed in developing our future housing picture in Edmonds.
We want a commission made up of citizen representatives who reside in Edmonds’ neighborhoods. Homeowners make up 70 percent of Edmonds’ residents, and Edmonds’ homeowners must have a large say in future housing policy and therefore a presence on the new commission commensurate with their representation in Edmonds’ population. We also encourage the council to direct the commission to consider infrastructure implications of housing policy. Certainly, homeowners would be best suited to assure that all aspects of redevelopment are addressed, including safety, parking, schools, emergency services, transportation access, and neighborhood character.
We want a commission to which the city council has truly given a mandate to serve in an advisory capacity to Edmonds’ government. It should issue reports on a quarterly basis or more as needed to the city council, maintain effective communication with the public, hold regular and well-publicized public meetings, and put updates on the city’s housing website. Chosen members should be willing to hold meetings with their neighbors to gather ideas and concerns and report them back to the commission.
We want a commission on which appointed members will present and champion a variety of views on housing policy, not a commission comprised in large part of those who clearly support one particular view. Specifically, because it is apparent from public engagement that a majority of Edmonds’ citizens have strong concerns about Edmonds’ utilizing growth strategies that are similar to those used in other Washington cities, Seattle being a prime example, the commission should be comprised in part of those who feel that a growth plan here should be measured and restrained, allowing for organic growth. This position was clearly supported by A.C.E., a well-respected citizen group in Edmonds in its January 25th position paper, “Transparency in City Processes Needs Improvement”, when it stated, “The appointing people or body should make a concerted effort to select not only those who would clearly be supportive of a result, but also to select persons who will represent alternative views,” and then listing steps to help make boards accountable said, “These steps will significantly improve public trust and eliminate what now has in many instances led to deterioration of the relationship between the City, task forces, boards, commissions and the citizens.”
We want a commission whose members understand that the “character” of a community is an essential and meaningful concept and one that can and needs to be clearly defined. Both the Puget Sound Regional Council’s “Vision 2040” and the “Countywide Planning Policies for Snohomish County,” which provided the framework for our own “Edmonds Comprehensive Plan,” stress protecting the “character” of a community. Moreover, it should be a consensus of Edmonds’ citizens who define what Edmonds’ charm and character is and how best to promote and protect that character and charm.
We want to see a commission whose members clearly understand that nowhere in the growth plans and policies referenced by city planners and the Edmonds’ Development Services Department (see Puget Sound Regional Council’s “Vision 2040” and the “Countywide Planning Policies for Snohomish County”) is there a requirement or suggestion that a city must either destroy its character or make itself into a copy of what other cities have done.
We expect a commission comprised of Edmonds’ residents who have not served on any other committees, boards, commissions or task forces in the last two years, nor should they have served in any public office in Edmonds or other municipalities. This goes to the appearance of fairness, transparency, and validation of this new commission’s work product.
This is an opportunity for the Edmonds City Council to regain the citizens’ trust and it is our hope that the council will look closely at the points we have made here.