Letter to the editor: A better approach for considering Edmonds Housing Commission recommendations

Dear Edmonds City Councilmembers:

My wife and I are Edmonds citizens, residing in a Westgate neighborhood for 45 years. After we became aware of Edmonds Citizens Housing Commission activities, we have watched with interest all ECHC and relevant council meetings over the following 11 months. We understand the council will start discussing the six ECHC housing policy recommendations that would involve rezoning this week.

Shane Hope, firector of development services, announced that council will begin with the recommendations around detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs) and cluster/cottage housing.  Discussion on the four remaining rezoning policy recommendations will continue next year.

The thinking is, apparently, that the DADU proposal is comparatively simple and could serve as a stand-alone item to initiate deliberations.

I am concerned with an approach where council may consider these six rezone recommendations one by one, in isolation, over time, possibly adopting them sequentially, without fully working through the total effect several approved policies may have together.

Adopting the DADU proposal can add another structure on any/every lot in Edmonds. But the Missing Middle Housing proposal, to be considered next year, can also double the number of living units on any/every lot in Edmonds. If both units in a new duplex can also install a DADU, then the density on a single-family lot increases from one unit to four.

It seems far better to consider the six proposals as a group over time, not implementing any rezone changes until a coordinated and coherent overall policy recommendation can be arrived at, one that considers the ramifications of all of the individual proposals acting together.

A better approach could be to use the Medium-Density Single Family Housing proposal as a starting point, fleshing it out with attributes from other recommendations, such as the Neighborhood Village and Cluster/Cottage Housing proposals.

The Medium-Density option is a more circumspect and prudent proposal, suggesting increased density in appropriate areas, along high-volume transit routes, sited next to business districts, or close to schools or medical complexes. But I think these siting criteria should be applied carefully and narrowly, allowing increased density near college and hospital locations, for example, but not close to any school or medical office in Edmonds.

I think council should avoid adoption of the Missing Middle Housing and DADU proposals that would open any/every lot in Edmonds to increased density. I think these two proposals represent what 78% of Edmonds residents disapprove. The rationale for these is enhanced affordability/accessibility, but with DADU costs around $400,000 and duplex prices above that, these goals will not be realized. The subcommittee for Missing Middle Housing never acknowledged nor addressed ECHC concerns about affordability and increased density.

Larry Williamson

  1. Larry, I think you should run for an Edmonds City Council position! Your ideas are sound and it appears you have done your research- perhaps more so than some current city council members!
    Please continue to speak up . You are correct when you say that the majority of residents in Edmonds are concerned about density. We have such a lovely, small town and do not want that charm eroded.
    Trudy Dana
    Seaview resident since 1972

  2. This is a very excellent suggestion. The Housing/zoning proposals need to be reviewed in a comprehensive fashion so the ramifications can be fully understood. Also the specific areas where any MDSF up zoning can be applied need to be identified and designated first so that everyone knows where the increased density will be. This provides certainty for all homeowners and developers. The application of any new zoning designation should not be subject to case-by-case application and decisions in the future. This just kicks the decision making can down the road, and create more controversy over the application of each rezone or townhouse approval. Comprehensive planning must be done in a comprehensive manner and not in an ad hoc arbitrary decision making process.

  3. Thank you Larry. This is a well thought out and easy letter for all to understand the cumulative density impact of the housing proposals. I agree the City and citizens should consider the proposals as a “group over time, not implementing any rezone changes until a coordinated and coherent overall policy recommendation can be arrived at, one that considers the ramifications of all of the individual proposals acting together”.
    I agree that the majority are open to medium density, but certainly not the high density that the Mayor and Council seem to be pushing forward.
    Thank you for your approach. It the type of logical thinking our City needs.

    1. Thanks Helen. You are right as you usually are. I think. Have a wonderful summer weekend. Deb

  4. Thank you Larry,
    I encourage you to send your letter to Shane Hope; Shane.hope@edmondswa.gov
    Does Edmonds remember “ Save our Beach movement “ .
    We need to all join with a strong message that our Current city council, housing commission and Mayor will hear .
    M-M Linder

  5. Thank you Larry for your excellent comments.
    The Mayor and 4 City Council Members are taking an ad-hoc approach to everything – tree policy, housing options with no clear vision for what we want the city to be. There is not a strategic bone in any of their bodies.
    What ever is done needs to be done with a long term vision and clear strategic priorities to achieve that vision.
    This current group is trying to create a mini-Seattle here which will not result in anything the Citizens of Edmonds want.

    1. Absolutely true. We as a city need to stop them now. Let’s see how the big multi plex on 99 does before we do anymore. Stop now.
      She/He shacks are one thing..the rest not a good idea. Constant control will be needed watching how these new landlords use these…rental homes…you can’t kick them out…if you choose poorly. Big disaster coming with those. You build it you live in it…
      No cluster…cheap, ugly, will not be something you like. Also extra policing will be needed.
      Just stop now.

  6. Larry – thank you for this excellent letter. It underscores so well what other pieces have also put forward – a holistic approach to “items on the table” across topics – climate, trees, housing affordability, transit needs, etc. Please stay involved and do submit your letter to council and the mayor via publiccomment@edmondswa.gov.

  7. A voice of reason! – Larry, that is just what the City needs in considering housing policy, along with the voice of the people, of course.

    For those of us not fluent in the Edmonds planning process, could you please point us to the Medium-Density Single Family Housing proposal you mentioned? I haven’t seen it, and can’t locate it online.

    I can only imagine … Higher density housing where people need it, near businesses, hospitals, light rail and Highway 99. What could be more practical, while preserving the quiet, quaint residential character of our city?

    1. Bob: Please look up the fifteen recommendations by the Edmonds Citizens Housing Commission. The Medium-Density Single Family Housing (SR-MD) proposal should appear as number three on the list, just after Equity Housing Incentives and just before Neighborhood Village Subarea Planning. Thanks.

  8. Larry, I could not agree with your view and statements more. Saturation of Edmonds with multiple density lots with minimal trees and outdoor spaces is out of character for our town. I cannot see that has served Seattle or Shoreline well and is not what most residents want. Good to look at big picture and go slow with proposals because will totally change character of Edmonds. Megan Carlson

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