Letter to the editor: Housing policies must honor unique environmental features of Edmonds


We are deeply concerned that the Edmonds Citizen Housing Commission (CHC) recommendation to up-zone all single-family neighborhoods will increase neighborhood density with serious environmental consequences. This one-size-fits-all proposal is the wrong way to address the housing needs of Edmonds. Increasing housing density will harm livability and the quality of life if it is permitted without careful analysis of the various neighborhoods and watersheds in Edmonds. Up-zoning SF neighborhoods will add concrete and expensive (clearly not affordable”) housing, to the detriment of the tree canopy, native vegetation, wildlife and our streams and wetlands used by salmon.

One of the 15 CHC policy recommendations proposes to establish a new zoning type of single-family housing that allows for construction of zero-lot line duplexes, triplexes, and quadruplexes [sic] of only 1- or 2-story height located in specified areas of Edmonds that are:

• Contiguous to or along high-volume transit routes, or

• Sited next to Neighborhood Business (BN) zoning districts, or

• Close to schools or medical complexes

Constructing zero-lot line duplexes, triplexes, and quadruplexes [sic]” would result in zero open space, zero trees, zero vegetation in the specified areas” and increased runoff and flooding.  The destruction of the Perrinville Creek watershed is a prime example of what happens when development exceeds infrastructure capacity.  Edmonds’ stormwater infrastructure is inadequate and antiquated, and the continuing damage to the health of the environment will only get worse with additional development.

It is absolutely critical that our housing policies honor the unique environmental features of Edmonds: steep slopes, tree covered creeks flowing into the Puget Sound, wetlands, the Edmonds Marsh, greenbelts and wildlife, and essential habitats for protecting salmon and recovering killer whales. It is critical that we be committed stewards of our environment and protect it for future generations.

Edmonds’ infrastructure, the environment, and diversity of housing must be dealt with holistically, not in isolated silos as proposed by the CHC. Council and citizen deliberations should focus on identifying pocket forests (as proposed by CHC commissioner Mike McMurray), preserving tree canopy, addressing storm water issues, and maintaining quality of life for current residents and home owners. Any zoning changes must be done carefully and with respect for the environment and for the specific neighborhoods and undefined “specified” areas.

Up-zoning and thereby eliminating single-family neighborhoods would have serious negative repercussions for our tree canopy and wildlife habitat, and for our quality of life. It is possible to develop policies that will protect both. We do not support bringing Seattle-style ticky-tacky townhouses that all look the same to Edmonds. We must preserve the environmental values that Edmonds residents cherish.

The Community Sustainability Element of the Edmonds Comprehensive Plan clearly lays out the value of the environment to the citizens of Edmonds and how environmental consequences must be taken into consideration in any zoning changes in Edmonds. Council and the administration should be required to adhere to the Community Sustainability Element of our Comprehensive Plan before even considering code changes that will seriously impact the environment.

We urge Edmonds’ residents to review the CHC policy recommendations and take an active part in our communitys deliberations.

Dr. Michelle Dotsch on behalf of the Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds (ACE)

Joe Scordino on behalf of Save Our Marsh (SOM)

  1. Edmonds Housing Commission need to leave well enough alone and be disbanded immediately. All members wanting density should be encouraged to leave edmonds by peacefully demonstrating in front of their home with a tent city.

  2. I agree with this opinion. As a resident of just 7 years, I have seen the traffic getting worse. Just getting around to do local errands has increased. Also dodging pedestrians is getting more unsafe as well as being a pedestrian while walking in our Walkable Edmonds. Adding more housing will only add to this increased congestion

  3. Residents including my family moved here for the environment and quality of life in Edmonds. When we moved here from Oregon, we looked at houses in several different cities including living close to each other in Seattle with 0 lot lines, houses next to the street, with apartments, and condos creating high density throughout the city. We must preserve our environment and quality of life in Edmonds. I agree, the members wanting density, those who want to live in a congested city with congested traffic, should be encourage to move to an area that is consistent with the qualify of life they want. The Edmonds Housing Committee should leave well enough alone and be disbanded.

  4. Any up-zoning of Single-family housing areas should be based on the impact to the environment and infrastructure, and should also allow citizens in-person open meetings to discuss those impacts and the impacts to the overall livability of the City.

    There is no logical reason behind this blanket upzoning…it does not result in affordable housing. So why is the City pushing up-zoning and lot line to lot line building? It appears the gain would be increased tax base and the huge permit charges for lot-line to lot-line building/maintenance. The environment and infrastructure are not being considered prior to decisions re up-zoning. In fact, it appears the City Council is attempting to make these decisions without allowing citizens to voice their in-person objections to these changes that will forever change the lifestyle in Edmonds.

    1. Fellow resident, please get yourself up to date on the process that the City’s Planning Dept recommended to the CIty Council. The recordings of past City Council meetings are viewable from the same web site that holds the schedule and agenda of future meetings. In May and June meetings the Council discussed the process they will follow, and they commented on recommendations from the Planning Sept Director. The next meeting on this topic is a study session on June 24th at 4:30 for the Council on the subset of the housing commission recommendations that they decided to review first. The meeting is open to the public.
      There is no one at the city ‘pushing upzoning’. The 2020 volunteer citizens housing commission was the third effort in Edmonds to develop an action plan – or decide that the status quo is good and to do nothing. This topic has been fought over for at least the last 5 years, and there’s the opportunity to continue to fight over it for another 5 years before making any decisions.
      I have followed the citizens commission meetings and the city council meetings on this topic. I have met with a Council member and I have talked to the Director of Planning. I have emailed the Council, and I have made public comments at Council meetings. This is a little city, and our full time staff and part time Council members are accessible and polite listeners to those who want to share their opinions. I encourage you to attend the virtual meeting on June 24th on the housing topic. It’s not hard to participate in the process.

  5. I hear citizen’s concerns about duplexes and triplexes AND I wonder what you think about the fact that our school teachers, police officers and others find it almost impossible to afford a home that would accommodate their families in the town they serve. I hope for a future where everyone who works in Edmonds is able to find a place to live in Edmonds no matter whether they’re retired, teaching in the district, or serving us at the restaurants in town.

    1. I disagree. Have you never commuted to a job? I have, and so have many individuals who work in downtown Seattle, or in other high-cost areas in the region. It is not a hardship to need to commute to one’s job

    2. Finally an honest yet unfortunate assessment of housing in Edmonds and that gone are the days of middle class hard working folks being able to afford residing here. Commuting (Samm J. comment) is hardly the point of feeling disappointed in the fact that for many, finding anywhere to live in Edmonds is a hope far out of reach. I grew up here as a child and I’m back now with my own child and yes, it’s sad I’m resentful knowing that I’m priced out of my own hometown. The small town charm of Edmonds is being paved over and stamped with a ‘new construction only’ seal of approval. Sad to watch this happen. I’m with you Rachel, if only time could return Edmonds to us too. Is there a way to make that happen? I would more than appreciate hearing about it.

      1. Here are some suggestions to make housing more affordable like the “good old days”. Maybe if you’re a homeowner you can sell your house at half it’s market value or less. If you are older person you can let your house become run down and become a fixer, maybe we can have City sponsored seminars on to turn your house into a dump. Maybe we can let the city run rampant with drugs and crime, and so lets weaken police department which will lower the city property values. Maybe we can run the small merchants out of town by killing their weekend business. In this day and age “charming hometown” means expensive.

        1. You have some great ideas Brian. And when our charming hometown goes to crap and the money crowd loses interest, a few of us POOR people will still be here to pick up the pieces and live in OUR paradise turned parking lot again. Thanks for your amazing, constructive input. Seriously, keep the ideas coming.

    3. There are many teachers living in Edmonds. I live downtown and three of my neighbors are couples that are both public school teachers and own their homes. One couple commutes to Everett! I was a teacher in Edmonds when I bought a house here. Before that I lived in Everett and commuted because I couldn’t afford to live here. It didn’t kill me. I took the bus. New duplexes and triplexes are not going to be affordable. Land and building materials are expensive. Cutting down trees and tearing down existing single-family homes to be replaced with multi-family housing is expensive. Developers are going to maximize their profits with oversized, upscale buildings that cater to higher income people. Best to preserve and protect what we have and keep Edmonds charming.

      1. I wish Edmonds News had a ‘like’ button as Facebook does because there are so many good comments here that I like and with which I agree. Kathy, Helen, Gwen, Carl, Sharron and others.

  6. In addition to the eniveromental concerns, personaly for me, I would hate to see many of these historic charming houses being replaced with zero lot line boxes. I also agree that environmental concerns in light of our global warming is a major justification for not increasing building to a zero lot line clearence and citizens should be able to have a vote on this issue at least.!

  7. This proposal would greatly change the very nature of Edmonds we’re it to be implemented. I thought we didn’t want to be like Kirkland? Like so many of you, we moved here because of the bucolic nature of Edmonds with its tree-lined streets and single family homes in abundance. Sure, wall-to-wall multi-family dwellings would vastly increase the tax base of Edmonds, but is that what citizens really want? And don’t get me started on the tree canopy we enjoy. What happened to all those who were outraged about the tree removal on 9th? This town needs to save itself before going down this treacherous path.

    1. Thank you Michelle Dotsch and your committee. I agree with you and do many others who have responded. Gerry, you and I are on the same page.

    2. It sure does Gerry. We have a duty to ourselves and our community to stop this madness. Its already out of control…they do this and Edmonds is over and that includes the Bowl. Once this decision is made then you are really going to see what effect doing this will have on those who do not want it. Most don’t want it. So odds are things are going to get rough…rough like Edmonds has never experienced. Having lived here 29 years I have been watching. If you think this isn’t going to be political and in a different way than Edmonds is used to also, you are not thinking. We have many different kinds of Dems and Reps these days. The extreme on both sides is just what its called extreme. One extreme violence.. one extreme passivity. The Socialists will lean with the extreme passivity and the extreme R with I don’t think I have to spell it out for you. But I will say I know many in the Midwest and they don’t fool around. We also have many here that are new to WA state. Many have moved here from other states. Not sure about Edmonds how many etc. But many around the state. These people are completely different in nature that life long Washingtonians. Now there is nothing wrong with this. Jobs and money bring people. Not upscaling, fighting in the streets, all night drag races. all of it… That drives people away. Eventually you will hit that mark where the middle class can no longer support you Edmonds with our taxes galore.

  8. Drive through Mount Lake Terrace. In two or three years we could be just like that. Very high density city center. Zero canopy. Not a bird to be heard. And they are still building like crazy. Is that what we really want our city to become?
    Hear your people council members and planning department.

    1. Personally I don’t see much difference between a wall of giant houses and a wall of condos or apartments or duplexes and four plexes. The trees disappear in either case, never to return. Less people with the giant houses as opposed to apts would be a plus I
      guess; but the visual isn’t much different. Also would like to know how density leads to tent cities? Tent cities are the result of not enforcing laws already on the books, for whatever reasons; not the density of homes in Ballard or Mountlake Terrace. Have you priced those houses and apartments lately? Not exactly in homeless territory for affordability.

    2. Yes, and it has been that way since I have lived here 29 years. We had the opportunity to buy in Mt Lake Terrace but knew better… We chose Edmonds for a reason. A reason Edmonds is trying to kill. I did not choose Mount Lake then I would not choose it now. But for some if they really want to live this close it is more affordable for those who can only afford a certain amount. As you may notice this isn’t like when they were begging people to buy everywhere, no down payments, Mort brokers gone amuck. Real estate deals done with arms and a double the monthly pymt increase after 3 years… When they would be luck to get a quarter an hour raise. ALL truths. So what happened to that great idea to get housing for those who were not yet prepared to own…They went bankrupt that’ s what. They lost those homes, many back to the bank. I know as I was selling Real Estate at that time…It was very sad knowing that they were not going to be able to sustain it but a Realtor can’t get involved in a clients financing. I was told we weren’t even supposed to be in the same room. They bleed them dry. I ended up on one as did my Broker giving up a percent of my commission so we could write them a check so they could buy Toilet paper and curtains for the bathroom!! ALL true. That Broker lived in Edmonds.. Nice guy for doing that. And nice of me too. But we just wanted to help them. It wasn’t our fault or responsibility but some people are just like we are and were. This man and I. Just another example of how sometimes we just can’t have everything we want. Now you could sell your homes make a million and go to Tx or FL or CO many places…. They are nice too.

  9. WA state Growth Management Act rules state: RCW 36.70A.140 Comprehensive plans—Ensure public participation. Each county and city that is required or chooses to plan under RCW 36.70A.040 shall establish and broadly disseminate to the public a public participation program identifying procedures providing for early and continuous public participation in the development and amendment of comprehensive land use plans and development regulations implementing such plans. The procedures shall provide for broad dissemination of proposals and alternatives, opportunity for written comments, public meetings after effective notice, provision for open discussion, communication programs, information services, and consideration of and response to public comments.

    There has been no public in-person participation allowed specifically on the housing commission policy proposal process since February of 2020. Our current Mayor, as Councilmember Nelson, himself delayed the previous Administration’s housing policy process by holding his own community meetings.

    The “study session” this Thursday would have been better served to wait to include in-person participation. Then citizens all hear the same presentation together and there should be a real opportunity to learn more about these policy ideas, ask questions that would get answered in public and not ignored by most of our current Councilmembers and our Mayor via email silence. This is not how a public process, as clearly defined above, is to be done. There are no alternatives to be presented either, as the CHC policy ideas were allowed a simple majority vote to be advanced. The opposition or alternative ideas were not included in the package.

    WA defines detached dwelling unit (DADU) as a SECOND housing unit per SF lot. They can each also be added to any townhouse, duplex or triplex, upzoning in density and population: “Detached accessory dwelling unit means an accessory dwelling unit that consists partly or entirely of a building that is separate and detached from a single-family housing unit, duplex, triplex, townhome, or other housing unit.” This is upzoning. See this article from San Diego as a warning for this DADU policy in Edmonds and do get involved: https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/granny-flat-eyesore-complaints-about-oversize-backyard-projects/2634052/

  10. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/18/upshot/cities-across-america-question-single-family-zoning.html

    I’m more than happy to compare Edmonds to any one of these cities. If we are still following Seattle’s lead, we deserve to look just like them. It’s not as if we haven’t been sufficiently warned what not to do. This is part of the “restructuring of America”, it actually has very little to do with our town. We are just part of a bigger agenda and we have leaders more loyal to a cause than their town. Keep up the pressure and vote your conscience.

  11. The original concept of this housing study was to do it by input from seven distinct geographical districts of the town with public input from each area as it progressed. The City Council President (then the well known AFM) had the job of assigning C.P.s to districts. Of course she gave herself the downtown bow/waterfrontl district even though she doesn’t live there. All that aside, somehow (maybe Covid related) the whole district thing seems to have gone by the wayside. To me, looking at this in relation to the types of housing already in each given district and trying to maintain that general type zoning is the only way to achieve anything good with this.

    At the personal level, I’ve tried to play defense by attempting to make my own property somewhat City interference proof. Our only addition in size has been a modest deck (all per code) and we recently made more on site parking by leveling and graveling a good portion of our North side lawn where we can park our travel trailer and other vehicles as needed. I’m very much in favor of the concept of people being allowed to do what they please with their private property, with as little City interference as possible. Protecting property values beyond sanitation, safety and basic good housekeeping (junk cars, etc.) should not be the business of any city. If you want HOA’s, you need to move to a community that already has them.

  12. I want to add to my original comment. 45 years ago my husband and I were house hunting. We had decided we would like to live in Edmonds. After looking at a few houses in the area we realized we couldn’t afford a house there so we bought one in Lake Forest Park. We happily lived there for 37 years, visiting Edmonds often. Seven years ago we downsized and bought a fixer-upper condo at a greater price. Bottom line: you buy where and when you can afford to

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