Council OKs tree code amendments, emergency ordinance on evictions

Councilmember Luke Distelhorst  — at left, middle row — explains the proposed eviction ordinance Tuesday night.

After two public hearings were removed earlier in the day from Tuesday night’s Edmonds City Council agenda, it appeared councilmembers could be in for a shorter meeting. However, a couple of new agenda items took their place, including an emergency ordinance– which passed unanimously — aimed at connecting landlords and tenants with available resources to prevent evictions.

Councilmembers also approved several amendments to the city’s previously passed tree code, including those that focus on tree retention and replacement requirements. The goal of the proposed amendments, said Senior Planner Kernen Lien, is to address what happens if the retention requirements — due to site constraints — can’t be met.

Following a discussion on the tree code issue at the April 13 city council meeting, a council subcommittee met with staff to draft the amendments being considered Tuesday night.

Two councilmembers — Diane Buckshnis and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas — advocated for the idea of spending more time on the amendments and their implications, including the possibility of sending them back to the Edmonds Planning Board for further review.

But the majority of councilmembers were supportive of moving ahead with the changes as proposed, with a few tweaks.

Additionally, in response to public comments received since the tree ordinance was adopted, the council agreed to place a cap on the fee-in-lieu payments and to incentivize tree retention by waiving the fee-in-lieu requirement if a certain amount of trees are retained.

In another matter, councilmembers also spent nearly an hour on a group edit of a resolution proposed by Councilmember Kristiana Johnson condemning Asian American and Pacific Islander hate. Two Edmonds residents — Jenna Nand and John Kim — appeared remotely during the meeting to express their support for the resolution, which noted that since the outbreak of COVID-19 there has been a marked increase in harassment and hate crimes, particularly against Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

However, Councilmember Laura Johnson in particular wasn’t happy with the wording and — with assistance from other councilmembers — made several amendments, which were approved.

Kristiana Johnson expressed frustration with the process, noting that councilmembers had seen the original resolution weeks earlier and could have contacted her personally to suggest amendments prior to Tuesday night’s meeting.

Another item added to Tuesday night’s agenda was a request by Kristiana Johnson to change her vote — made last week — abstaining on a proposal to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for city workers starting in 2022. At the time, Johnson said that while she supported the holiday, she disagreed with the process the city administration followed to bring it to council, noting it had not gone through the council’s Public Safety, Planning and Personnel Committee for discussion.

“I was very concerned about many of the process issues, which is why I abstained,” Johnson said. “Upon further reflection, I can see that this ia very important holiday,” adding she wanted to “change my vote to yes.” The council initially voted to allow it, but then City Attorney Jeff Taraday weighed in that such a change wasn’t allowed under Roberts Rules of Order. A revote was taken based on that new information, and Johnson’s request was denied.

The final item considered Tuesday, which passed unanimously, was an emergency ordinance proposed by Councilmember Luke Distelhorst to address the possible June 30 expiration of Gov. Jay Inslee’s moratorium on residential evictions — which had been passed to address hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally, Distelhorst had drafted an ordinance to put a new eviction moratorium in place in Edmonds, and was working with City Attorney Jeff Taraday on a legal review. The final product was a compromise resolution “that attempts to better connect landlords and tenants with resources that are currently available to them,” Distelhorst said.

“It does not create the liabilities to the city that an eviction moratorium could potentially create,” he said.

The ordinance promotes the use of money available now and in the future — including funds from the county, state and federal government — over the coming months “to reach landlords on the behalf of tenants to prevent potentially unnecessary evictions,” Distelhorst said.

Under the measure, the city’s new human services division would have a form for landlords to fill out — prior to initiating eviction proceedings — indicating they sought rental assitance that is available to them in the county. “It’s really about trying to connect those landords or the tenants with money that is available,” Distelhorst said.

City Attorney Jeff Taraday called it “a fairly minor procedural step we’re asking landlords to take before they commence an eviction proceeeding.” Ultimately, it’s up to the landlord to determine whether those available funding sources are sufficient, he added.

The city council passed its own eviction moratorium in spring 2020 prior to the issuance of a statewide moratorium last year. The emergency ordinance passed Tuesday night would sunset after Sept. 30, 2021 — or sooner if Gov. Inslee decides to extend the state’s moratorium beyond June 30.

As for those public hearings that were suddenly pulled off the council agenda Tuesday afternoon, City Clerk Scott Passey said that it was due the city’s “failure to meet the 14-day public hearing notice requirement.”

The hearings will be rescheduled in July, Passey said.

You can watch a video of the entire meeting at this link.

— By Teresa Wippel


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