Edmonds City Council approves 2021 budget and outdoor dining rules, elects new officers

Susan Paine
Laura Johnson

In its final meeting of 2020, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved the city’s 2021 budget and also adopted two ordinances governing the operation of streateries and outdoor dining spaces.

In addition, the council elected Susan Paine as council president for 2021 and Laura Johnson as president pro tem. Paine, who served as council president pro tem this year, was the only candidate nominated for president. Both Laura Johnson and Vivian Olsen were nominated for president pro tem, with Johnson earning the majority vote from Paine, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Luke Distelhorst and herself.

There was no additional discussion on the $118 million city budget, which included several amendments incorporated from last week’s special council meeting.

The final 2021 budget

As for the outdoor dining measures, Edmonds Development Director Shane Hope explained that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Edmonds restaurants have been operating since last summer under a temporary city event permit for curbside dining areas. City staff have been working for months to finalize details of two code updates that would allow restaurants to continue the practice while pandemic-related restrictions continue— with enhanced safety regulations and specific design standards.

Both measures approved Tuesday night were emergency ordinances, meaning they take effect immediately but require council approval later.

The first is related to “streateries” — the term for commercial dining spaces that are in the right-of-way, typically using a vehicle parking space. Under the approved ordinance, the streateries must comply with safety regulations and other standards, and each will need to obtain its own permit. Each will also have to be ADA-accessible, which generally means they will be located on platforms flush with the sidewalk, Hope said.

Curbside dining this summer in downtown Edmonds.

Other requirements for streateries include:

– Meeting state and county health district standards, including COVID-19 protections.

– Providing reflective lights for night time.

– Applicants pay for platforms, safety barriers, liability insurance and cover other costs.

The ordinance, which will be effective for one year, allows for a total of 20 streateries citywide. A public hearing on the ordinance is planned for Feb. 2.

The second ordinance updates city code related to on-site outdoor dining spaces, which are those on commercial property and not in the public right-of-way. Under the new ordinance, such outdoor dining is allowed without  a conditional use permit, as long as certain standards are met.  Currently, Hope said, outdoor dining is allowed only with a conditional use permit, which must go through a hearing examiner process that is more costly and takes much longer than an administrative permit.

The on-site outdoor dining ordinance is an interim measure, meaning it will be in effect no more than 180 days. During that interim period, it will be reviewed by the Edmonds Planning Board, which could recommend a revised set of code amendments for longer-term city council consideration.

In other business, the council:

– Approved the city’s 2021 state legislative agenda. The 2021 legislative session begins Jan. 11 and it will be a long session — 105 days — that will be conducted remotely. City lobbyists will focus on two requests of lawmakers: Moving $6.5. million currently earmarked for the now-defunct Edmonds Waterfront Connector project to the Edmonds Highway 99 transportation improvement program, and earmarking up to $8.175 million for the Edmonds Marsh Estuary Restoration Project. The money would be used to facilitate transfer of the former Unocal site from Washington State Department of Transportation ownership to the appropriate state agency during the 2021-23 biennium — with the goal of completing the marsh restoration project. Work has been underway on the Unocal property — a former fuel terminal — since 2016 to clean up two contaminated areas.

– Approved the 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Program/Capital Improvement Plan.

The decision by Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson earlier Tuesday to not proceed with the controversial appointment of Sherman Pruitt as Edmonds police chief was mentioned at different times during Tuesday night’s meeting. Residents speaking during the public comment period urged the mayor and council to avoid the added expense and emotional angst of doing another police chief search — something the mayor pledged to do in a statement issued Tuesday. Instead, they urged the mayor to appoint the other police chief finalist, Acting Chief Jim Lawless. That sentiment was echoed by Councilmembers Vivian Olson and Diane Buckshnis — both of whom had voted against Pruitt’s confirmation last week. Outgoing Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, however, encouraged the mayor to follow through on his plan to perform another national search and bring back three candidates for council review.

Nelson announced Tuesday that Pruitt would not become Edmonds’ chief because Pruitt had “omitted relevant details from his application.”

— By Teresa Wippel



  1. Nothing against Councilmember Susan Paine, but how is it possible that only one Councilmember was nominated for 2021 City Council President, especially so soon after Council was criticized for pushing forward its Police Chief confirmation from December 15th to December 8th? Should there have been more than one nomination? Should there have been and an open and transparent discussion of who is best suited to lead our Council in 2021? Those making nominations did not even explain why they thought their nomination was a good choice. Did the discussion and related decision get made away from the public eye?

    With so many people noticing the 4-3 divide on our Council, would not it have been wiser to pursue a broader cohesiveness by voting for Councilmember Vivian Olson to serve as Council President Pro Tem? I struggle to understand the reasoning behind these important decisions.

    1. I always worry about the safety of street-side dining. Having people seated right next to moving traffic sounds like an accident waiting to happen.

      1. Oh it is and if I read that correctly if someone is hurt in one of these little makeshift what ever they are dining areas by a car or even a person trying to get to a store.. How do you get to a store when their are chairs and tables and people and dogs and strollers everywhere. Soon somone will trip. IT will be slick and icy soon. The PI attorneys are probably salivating by now!

    2. Ken, there’s a 4-person majority caucus on City Council. They stick together and vote together on every matter of importance; they have no interest in your “broader cohesiveness.” Big-city politics has come to Edmonds, and that’s too bad.

      That said, I do have hopes for better, more mature leadership from incoming council president Susan Paine. Her communication skills are a vast improvement in that office.

      1. Good luck with Susan Paine. She was complacent in this toxic mess and has shown no remorse. Her loyalty is to the quartet, not to the citizens of Edmonds.

      2. Thanks Roger. One reason I spend more time on local government than any other level of government is that it is supposed to be nonpartisan. I love that people with different federal government beliefs can work together for good at the local level. I hope that will not diminish as time goes on.

        In all my years of following City Government, I have never observed leadership chosen almost concurrently with citizens requesting that five elected officials resign.

        Again, I wish those making nominations would have explained why they thought their nomination was a good choice. I wish there had been and an open and transparent discussion of who is best suited to lead our Council in 2021.

  2. The arrogance and stupidity of Mayor Nelson and Council President Fraley-Monillas with the police chief selection is impossible to understand. Nobody has challenged the impeccable credentials of Jim Lawless. AFM says that the 3-candidate process needs to be followed. When there’s a fully qualified in-house candidate that process makes zero sense – following it is nothing more than bureaucracy at its finest. That’s to be expected coming from AFM since she spent her career with the state’s Department of Social & Health Services; the agency that’s constantly paying out millions in our tax dollars to settle lawsuits caused by their competence.

    It is time that Mayor Nelson ceased being subservient to Fraley-Monillas and got on and did his job. Bring this farce to and end today and name Jim Lawless as our permanent Police Chief.

    1. Council president said the three candidate process needs to be followed. Wrong. Reminder that the existing process is being followed as allowed by council decision last summer. Nobody has answered why the existing in-work process can’t just be completed with picking Lawless.

      If they decide to start over instead of finishing what is already done, I’d like to see the Mayor pay for all costs directly out of his salary. Why should we, the taxpayers, have to pay for this un-needed “start over”?

    2. Jim Lawless may indeed be a good cop, but his relations with the public, and his support of good community in Edmonds can reasonably be questioned. In a phone call that I reported to both the City Council and to our former mayor back in 2017, he said that agreeing with the others in on the special permit applications to allow a special event permit for a low-impact event that had been welcomed by Art Walk organizers to tie into their event would “just be a big hassle.” In this case, “big hassle” is another way of saying “his job.” His response showed laziness and a disregard for a sense of community, and the value of the arts in Edmonds. I think we can do better for a police chief here.

  3. Theresa: can you find out how much the police chief recruitment cost? How much was the recruiter paid, how much was the company that did the background check paid? How much in legal costs because of the way the mayor did it? that would be really good for taxpayers to know.

  4. Mayor the council president does not run the city. I implore you to do the right thing and appoint Jim Lawless today to help heal the horrible division created in this community. At a time when many are exhausted from all the negativity and uncertainty in the last year and frankly not in the mood for more. This city needs it’s Chief now.

    Can you do this for your community?

  5. I should be appalled that either Paine or Johnson has the audacity to take office like this, after they knowing voted the way they did on the police chief process – not just to approve a disqualified candidate, but to prohibit discussion of the disqualifications in executive session. I say I should be, but if they were willing to ignore disqualifying factors for that, why should we expect any sort of conscience or ethics from them? If they had any ethics or sense of responsibility, they would have resigned instead. I am disgusted.

  6. Once again, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. And well said Ron Wambolt and as mentioned, who pays for all this “recruitment” ?
    Lets get on with life…we don’t need more uncertainty, now of all times.

  7. I watched the budget meetings, and have to say, that it was long and pretty boring. Can someone explain the $16M shortfall – I remember hearing several times that the funding to make up the difference came from other sources (such as grants etc), but am extremely confused.

    On another note, I am willing to give Paine the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she learned her lesson from the ill fated alignment (in my opinion, somewhat blindly) with the lopsided council. This is not the House of Representatives or the Senate where crossing the aisle is a mortal sin, it is Edmonds, and in local politics, crossing the aisle is and should be a way of life.

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