Letter to the editor: The bigger picture behind the ADU increases


Ms. Dotsch’s Monday letter to the rditor misses the culprit behind the 3 ADU/lot discussion.  Peterson and Lilas are simply following the path the state legislators have been on for 30 years. Most citizens don’t have a clue as to why this is/maybe happening.

State SB6617 and HB2570 are simple further implementation of the Growth Management Act (GMA) first passed in 1990. In and of themselves, the addition of the wording “may” rather than “shall” should take all of the concerns expressed with Monday’s discussion away.  This Edmonds Council is not going to pass a requirement that allows triplexes next to single-family homes in all areas of the city. How can I be so sure?  Because a previous Edmonds Council also refused to do it after the implementation of GMA in the early ’90s.  But GMA is still with us and we should all expect to see similar sorts of legislation in the future.

The concept behind GMA is density in urban area like Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace which, by definition, are within the Urban Growth Area. The original 1990 law envisioned all cities to essentially look like Brooklyn. The concept of four houses per acre (8,000-9,600 SF  lots) was deemed “Urban Sprawl” and to be avoided in future planning efforts. Instead of driving your car to the grocery store or to work, GMA envisioned us getting on a bus or train to perform these daily functions. And since the 1990s other state departments worked to implement this concept in their own plans for the future. For instance, WSDOT put less emphasis on adding new capacity to existing highways. More WSDOT funding went to buses , bike lanes, sound walls, HOV lanes etc.

At its core, GMA envisioned the existing cities taking most of the density proposed in the plan and gave Snohomish County a quota of how much additional population they were REQUIRED to accept.  The cities and county then met to “divvy” up that population. The South County cities, in my words, took what was easily melded into their existing land use plans. Typical were Woodway, which still wanted 1- and 2-acre zoning, and Lynnwood, which wanted 8,400 SF lots but, as I recall,  did add some apartment house zoning. Snohomish County then had to accept all the population density remaining. And the county began aggressively up-zoning much of the zoning in the Urban Areas outside of the cities.  The best nearby example is Esperance, which is still under county jurisdiction.  Drive down 220th. The south side of the street are new homes on 3,000-4,000SF lots. The north side is Edmonds…8,000 SF lots.

So the problem I see with these two bills is not with them, but with a change to them next year, or the following year, or in five years… that change “May” to “Must.” Like boiling a frog…start with cold water  and bring it to a boil and the frog will never know what happened.

Mike Echelbarger


12 Replies to “Letter to the editor: The bigger picture behind the ADU increases”

  1. “Peterson and Lilas are simply following the path the state legislators have been on for 30 years.”

    Can’t Peterson and Lilas just say ‘NO’ … no reason to continue the Social Justice vomit…it might impact their re-election.


  2. Why has Edmonds not tried to annex these county pockets, one of which I live in, in over 15 years? When I first moved here in 1993 we voted almost every few years on this. The people across the street live in Edmonds, I don’t. That’s silly. South Snohomish county lives on the edge of a very fast growing Seattle and we will not be spared the need for housing and what that brings. I lived in apartments for many years before buying a house. I was and am a good citizen and so are they. I’m okay with some density. I just want to be part of the Edmonds discussion not stuck in the county.


  3. Why don’t you move into Edmonds if that’s where you wish to live? Why should the City of Edmonds keep going thru the work to annex Esperance when the voters there decline to be annexed?


  4. Mike Echelbarger,

    Thank you for the informative and bigger picture information with details and references regarding housing legislation at the state level. The more people who provide clarity on the issue, the better. Cheers.


  5. Thanks for the information Mike. As you point out the GMA is primarily concerned about population growth. There are target numbers for Edmonds and we are current ahead of the growth rate necessary to achieve the population goal. What GMA also goes on to say is that cities should have a housing strategy. It does not require that strategy to build homes with target pricing in mind. It was our council who made that suggestion. In Edmonds we have a large share of home that have empty bedrooms. Family homes that were once occupied with kids may now be occupied by only 1 or 2 people. As these people downsize, families typically move in and the population goes up without building anything.


  6. We need to remember the GMO was advertised as a means of preventing urban sprawl. Urban growth boundaries were drawn and rules established for growth. As happens when you keep adding things to a confined space pressure grows. In an urban environment that means higher density. Higher density means closer, taller housing. We are seeing the results of more people in a constrained space. Washington has been reluctant to ease the urban growth boundaries so density can only increase. Our mistake is to think that only others will experience this result. Edmonds is not isolated from the surrounding urban environment.


    1. I would highly recommend every one view this 15 minute discussion of land use, growth, and all that is discussed. But before you click on the video get comfortable. (beverage of preference at hand) and please do not bring your own opinions along and just look for supporting data to say “I told you so”. Listen and watch with and open mind.

      Some of the things mentioned in this video remind me of the “connector” issues. When people want to block something they can. It would also be interesting what people could do if they actually band together, and want to actually “do” something.

      Please watch, think, think, and think some more and then choose to act.


      1. The bit about Houston having no zoning and no growth boundaries is compelling. Sometimes it’s hard to find contrast when all cities are doing mostly the same thing. All countries ban the sale of human organs, except Iran. There is no waiting list for organs in Iran.

        Seattle had an urban growth boundary that’s unavoidable, it’s called water. However, we should completely do away with zoning. Services for homeless, healthcare, affordable housing, should all be moved to the urban edge of King County.


  7. There are so many aspects to this subject, that it is almost impossible to wrap one’s head around it. My over all take away is that there are just too damn many people trying to occupy the more desirable spaces. In the end, mother nature rules with things like war, drought, genocide and ever evolving diseases that tend to weed out the weak and infirm among us. We really don’t have much control over population of the earth with just shear huge numbers of human beings. Mankind’s attempts to resolve issues of population and distribution of what we all need often devolve into things like the holocaust, race riots and lynchings of “the other, more inferior beings.” We try to solve our problems based on good vs. evil propositions but the problem is who we select to define “good” and “evil.” This is kind of the abstract and “macro” view of the housing issue.

    At the “micro” level in good ‘ol Edmonds here, the issue kind of strikes me as “I’ve got mine, you probably don’t deserve yours.” I kind of agree with the theme in the video that we should perhaps look at doing away with many of the zoning laws we have saddled ourselves with. I don’t see any difference in the concept of community covenants and city zoning. The results end up pretty much the same.

    Here we just love to tell each other what is good for us. Of course what is often deemed good for us, is really what is good for me. It’s all pretty nuts, when I really think about it. My two year old Honda won’t start so I guess I better go deal with that. Something I can wrap my head around.


  8. I was in the 9th. grade at EJHS when the Ebb Tide Condo on the waterfront was in the planning stages. I don’t remember the exact plan but it was going to be at least twice as high as it ended up being in the end. The red flags went up around town and the discussion about the plans became the hot topic at the city council meetings of the time. We’ve argued and fought about building heights ever since. All I know for sure is, if we hadn’t had that argument 50 some years ago, our skyline would be a whole lot different and the town would have developed a whole lot different. Highrise apt./condos would have been the Edmond’s norm and our population density would have been much greater now than it is. Darrol in his comments above is right. When an idea is bad enough the people band together and get it stopped. In the end that is the only thing that really works to the benefit of all. Short of that, it’s mostly just people looking out for No. 1.


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