The Edmonds Citizen’s Housing Commission (CHC) recently presented its final recommendations for increasing affordable and missing middle housing in Edmonds.
One of CHC’s recommendations was to upzone all single-family residential areas in Edmonds, and permit a duplex or two townhouses to be developed on any single-family residential parcel.
That recommendation was predicated upon the theory that replacing a single-family residential unit with either a duplex or two townhouses would result in the construction of affordable missing middle housing. The underlying premise was questioned by this author in a prior letter to the editor:
The CHC also recommended that Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs) be permitted to be constructed on all single-family residential parcels in Edmonds. Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit is planning terminology used to describe an additional smaller separate house constructed on a single residential parcel. As a separate and independent housing unit, there is nothing “accessory” about a DADU, and it is another development strategy implemented to increase density in single-family residential areas.
An underlying assumption motivating this entire process is the oft-repeated hypothesis that not only does Edmonds have a responsibility to develop both affordable and missing middle housing, but its development requirement is a regional Puget Sound responsibility. Allegedly, Edmonds must contribute its fair share as a responsible regional community member to achieve that goal.
With a majority of Edmonds residential areas dedicated to single-family homes on generous-size residential parcels, at first blush one naturally assumes Edmonds must dramatically increase its population density throughout Edmonds in order to contribute its fair share to assist in resolving Puget Sound housing issues.
Upon closer inspection, one can only conclude that not only has Edmonds contributed more than its equitable share when it comes to developing housing, but Edmonds is one of the most densely populated cities not only in the Puget Sound area, but in all of Washington state.
Of the hundreds of cities in Washington State, Edmonds is surprisingly always listed near the top of cities with the highest population density per square mile.
There are numerous cities even within the Puget Sound region with population densities less than Edmonds. They include: Woodway, Everett, Redmond, Kenmore, Medina, Kent, Pacific, Tacoma, Mukilteo, Renton, Puyallup, Auburn, Woodinville, Bainbridge Island, Maple Valley, Issaquah, Snohomish, Bellevue, Brier, Arlington, Sea Tac, Monroe, Lake Forest Park, Stanwood, Tukwila, Mercer Island, Sammamish, Carnation, Duval, Mill Creek, Lake Stevens, Granite Falls, Covington, Normandy Park, Bothell, Buckley, Medina, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Enumclaw, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Newcastle, North Bend, Snoqualmie, Clyde Hill, Milton, Hunts Point, Yarrow Point, Beaux Arts Village, Fife and Federal Way.
There are also numerous “census designated areas” in the Puget Sound area with significantly less population densities than Edmonds. A few examples are: Clearview, Cathcart, Maltby, Martha Lake, Silver Firs, Kingston, Vashon Island, Union Hill/Novelty Hill, and Cottage Lake.
Edmonds has already achieved significant population density compared to many Puget Sound cities, let alone most cities in Washington state. Furthermore, Edmonds is dramatically increasing its population density through expanded residential development in the recently created Highway 99 Subarea rezone. This accelerated development is currently transpiring without the added requirement to upzone any single-family residential areas in Edmonds or allow the construction of DADUs. A recent My Edmonds News article revealed the developmental progress that Edmonds is achieving within current zoning guidelines:
As demonstrated in the above-referenced article, there were 64 new residential units in the planning or development stage that appear to be outside of the Highway 99 Subarea, and 635 new residential units in the planning or development stage that appear to be within the Highway 99 Subarea. That is a total of at least 699 residential units currently under construction or in some phase of development that were referenced by the article.
( “An application was submitted for the GRE Apartments, located at 23400 Highway 99. The proposal is for 192 new residential units”. ^pbminut.doc (iqm2.com ).
And development will certainly accelerate as the COVID pandemic is resolved, and there is a return to normal economic development. That accelerated level of development demonstrates that Edmonds has instituted measures to significantly increase the supply of residential units within Edmonds. That development is currently transpiring without the necessity of eliminating single family zoning protections.
Studies prepared by or for the City of Edmonds reveal the recent significant increase of residential development activity in Edmonds as compared to past construction ventures.
The number of Edmonds residential units grew exponentially in earlier years, primarily as a result of Edmonds annexing surrounding communities.
The following information was provided within an informational packet of documents prepared by the City of Edmonds for the Citizens Housing Commission members which explained:
“Key Data – Large growth of housing units between 1980 and 2000 is largely explained by annexations in south and southwest Edmonds that occurred during this time”.
Edmonds Citizen Housing Commission website Resources/Presentations/
CHC Meeting, Oct. 10, 2019 — Review of Comp Plan Housing Element
The City Of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan provides the following statistics gleaned from that study for the following ten years:
Total housing units in Edmonds – year 2000
Single Family Housing Units 11391
Multi Family Housing Units 6038
Mobile Homes 90
Total Number of Housing Units 17519
Total housing units in Edmonds – year 2010
Single Family Housing 11685
Multi Family Housing Units 6664
Mobile Homes 29
Total Number of Housing Units 18378
The City Of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan Adopted Nov. 17, 2020
By the year 2000, Edmonds was both “built out” and was no longer annexing adjacent communities.
In the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, there were 859 residential units added to the Edmonds housing inventory. Over that 10-year period before the Highway 99 Subarea rezone was implemented, there was a net additional average gain of approximately 86 new residential units per year.
During that time frame, a majority of those 859 residential units were multi-family units.
Currently there are more than 700 residential units in some phase of development when other projects not included in the My Edmonds News article are accounted for. One can easily observe that in the year 2021 there will be almost as many new residential units slated to be added to the Edmonds housing supply within a short period of time as were added in the ten years between 2000 and 2010. And it is anticipated that even more residential projects will be proposed and developed over the next few years. Edmonds is a city that is exponentially developing and increasing its housing inventory, and is a city that does not need to transform single family residential areas through upzoning to continue to achieve significant residential development.
Far from being a city of only single-family residential units, multi-family housing units in Edmonds currently comprise 36.3% of all residential units. With the anticipated expansion of development in the Highway 99 Subarea, as well as future anticipated multi-family development in locations such as Westgate and Five Corners, expect the percentage of multi-family residential units to increase to 40% and more. Obviously Edmonds is much more than a city of single-family residential areas.
Or to quote another study that succinctly summed up the type of residential construction Edmonds has experienced in the past 20 years:
“As shown in Figure 2.4, newly permitted units in Edmonds since 2001 have primarily consisted of multifamily units”. (Emphasis added)
Housing Profile City of Edmonds Prepared for the City of Edmonds by the Alliance for Housing Affordability May 2015 Page 16
That the City of Edmonds is achieving its required housing objectives has been documented to the CHC by the City itself.
“Performance Measure 1: Report the number of residential units permitted each year with a goal of reaching 21,168 units by 2035, or approximately 112 additional dwelling units per year.”
Edmonds Citizen Housing Commission website Resources/ Presentations/
Furthermore, the City of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan states:
“With these adjustments, the City estimates a total capacity of 3,039 additional housing units by the year 2035. The projected housing need to accommodate the targeted population growth is 2,790 housing units as determined by the Countywide Planning Policies. This represents an increase of 15 percent from the estimate of 18,396 housing units in 2011.The land capacity analysis, combined with the goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan, indicate that the 2035 targets for population and Land Use 42 employment can be accommodated by the City.” (Emphasis added)
The City Of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan Adopted November 17, 2020
Pages 41 -42.
Although the area is experiencing a major pandemic, which has reduced significant residential development, currently there are more than 700 residential units in the Edmonds development pipeline. That current development alone would satisfy Edmonds residential growth objectives for the next six years, and that number doesn’t include other ongoing residential projects in Edmonds or new developments that will be forthcoming. Furthermore, that level of residential development is more intensive than in recent years as demonstrated by past development statistics. And with the further development of the Highway 99 Subarea, as well as other residential projects slated for Edmonds, there will be no difficulty for Edmonds to easily achieve its desired 2035 residential development target in but a few short years. The four development ventures in the Highway 99 Subarea alone will account for over five years of desired Edmonds residential growth. And be assured, if the demand for housing continues, there will be significant increased residential development in that area, which will significantly increase population density in Edmonds.
There is no imperative to eliminate single family residential zoning in Edmonds. Edmonds is already one of the most densely populated cities in both the Puget Sound area as well as Washington State. If there is an overwhelming exigency for increased housing opportunities, and this issue is a Puget Sound regional concern, let those cities with less density develop their residential resources so they can achieve population density parity with Edmonds. There is currently accelerated extensive residential development in Edmonds, and Edmonds will continue to provide new residential units and increase its own population density without requiring the upzoning of any single-family residential areas. Development in Edmonds will only intensify when the pandemic terminates in a city that already has more population density than many cities in Puget Sound, as well as Washington State.
There is no demonstrable justification to eliminate single-family zoning and allow construction of duplexes and townhouses in single family residential areas. It has been demonstrated that developing two townhouses or a duplex in Edmonds single family residential areas will not achieve the stated goal of providing the elusive missing middle affordable housing. Eliminating single-family zoning will only increase density for density’s sake within those residential areas, as well as in all of Edmonds.
There is a growing movement in certain jurisdictions that not only oppose single-family residential zoning, but desire to eliminate it completely. That movement has begun to gain momentum, and a few jurisdictions have either eliminated single-family residential zoning, or are contemplating doing just that.
Single-family residential owners who have demonstrated an overwhelming opposition to upzoning and eliminating single-family residential zoning, historically have not had any official organizational representation in most jurisdictions. As a result, there have been a number of grassroots organizations that have been established to oppose legislation to eliminate single-family zoning in jurisdictions throughout the United States. But in Edmonds, as in most jurisdictions, it is crucial that single-family homeowners safeguard single-family residential zoning themselves through direct political involvement. You only have yourselves to protect what is probably your largest investment, and the way of life you specifically selected and hold dear.
If Edmonds single-family residential owners don’t participate in this process, there is a reasonable possibility that single-family housing zoning with its protections for single-family residential areas will be eliminated by the Edmonds City Council. After all, that is what the citizens’ housing commission has recommended. The end result will be that Edmonds will contain one of the densest residential populations of any city in both the Puget Sound area, as well as Washington state. The small-town environment that makes Edmonds so appealing will have disappeared forever. It is up to the single-family residential homeowners of Edmonds to ensure that does not happen.