Reminder: Edmonds City Council to review five housing proposals during June 24 study session 

Five proposals from the Edmonds Citizens Housing Commission will get a first review by the Edmonds City Council during a special study session on Thursday, June 24, starting at 4:30 pm. The study session is viewable on the city’s website here.

The special study session was scheduled because not enough time has been available at regular council meetings for substantive review. The study session will only focus on five of the commission’s 15 housing recommendations and will not include other housing commission recommendations or council business. No action to adopt any of the recommendations will take place.

The five proposed policies that will be reviewed — but not decided on — at the June 24 study session are:

  • Options for allowing detached accessory dwelling units (with parking)
  • Options for allowing cluster/cottage housing in some locations
  • Options for requiring design standards for multifamily development
  • Options for considering community and regional partnerships with the city
  • Options for addressing discriminatory deeds and covenants.

Background about the housing commission’s work is on the city website at www.citizenshousingcommission.org.

  1. Why are the Agenda Cover and the Agenda Packet identical for this June 24, 2021 Meeting?

    Furthermore, how can this be a legal meeting when opportunities for CONTINUOUS public participation are mandated by RCW 36.70A.140? Does a closed meeting with no time set aside for public participation observe the spirit of the program and procedures?

    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. In enacting legislation in response to the board’s decision pursuant to RCW 36.70A.300 declaring part or all of a comprehensive plan or development regulation invalid, the county or city shall provide for public participation that is appropriate and effective under the circumstances presented by the board’s order. Errors in exact compliance with the established program and procedures shall not render the comprehensive land use plan or development regulations invalid if the spirit of the program and procedures is observed.
    [ 1995 c 347 § 107; 1990 1st ex.s. c 17 § 14.]

  2. Excellent comment Ken!
    Mayor Nelson and four of the City Council Members have been the least transparent and most agenda driven Mayor and City Council in the history of Edmonds.
    If past actions like the Police Chief process, Salary Commission and other decisions are any guide, Mayor Nelson and the four Council Members who vote 4-3 on everything are any indication, single family zoning and the unique character of Edmonds are about to be destroyed by this group.
    The citizens of Edmonds will need to unite and come out in force like they did on the Downtown Connector to stop this group from ruining our charming city.

    1. Great, so what do we do? I’m serious…Tell me.
      Do we write letters we have no idea whether they even read? Should we organize a protest? Should we March with signs and call reporters to film? Maybe ABC etc. They’ve come before…?
      I am anxious to see your ideas. Thank You.

      1. Let’s pay extra for council members to read and respond to citizens. We already pay them less that minimum wage and we would get new service if we are willing to pay for it.

        1. On Mr Haug’s comment – free medical is HUGE. Do some research please. And if council member already has insurance (through spouse, etc) they are instead compensated. “…New service if we’re willing to pay for it” – Seriously? Hah! Allowing add-on compensation, similar to ala carte, is silly for these council positions and could be abused.

        2. I thought it was in the council member’s job description to read and respond to their citizens. They’re not doing their job, they need to quit, or be voted out. Not given a raise. Or maybe that’s just the way government jobs work?

    2. Thanks Bill, I am still uncertain about this meeting. I emailed the following question earlier today but have received no response from anybody at the City:

      Is today’s meeting an INTERRUPTION to the continuous public participation and thus a meeting not allowed under RCW 36.70A.040?

      As today’s meeting involves the development of ​ development regulations implementing our comprehensive land use plan, I think the public must be allowed to participate. 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.

      “Continuous” is an important word and I don’t think the state legislature included it by mistake.

  3. It is time for the citizens of Edmonds to get proper legal representation. Perhaps a cooperative of attorneys willing to take on cases for the people. There is money to be made, and the way the City behaves it should be easy pickings. Taraday works for the municipal and in their interests. Unless and until folks can bring lawsuits there is no downside in the administration and council continuing to ignore codes, rules, open public meetings rules, and all of that. Legal challenges are expensive and the City is aware of that and can afford to delay and delay.
    We have many, many talented professionals in Edmonds. Clearly the process in Edmonds has been ignored.

    As an aside, when was Edmonds an affordable place to live? It hasn’t’ the Been in the last 30-40 years. Just the facts. Been here over 30 years, and it was considered expensive when I came here.

  4. Diane your are right about affordability in Edmonds. When deciding to build a few years back, I had a choice of a lot in Edmonds at $18k or one in Lynnwood for $9k. The builder chosen said to build would be about the same on either lot. With the Edmonds code at that time the cost to build was a bit more. Bottom line is the price if the dirt was the difference in cost for the final home.

    We are all getting our new assessments and when one looks at Edmonds assessments vs MLT, Lynnwood and other South Snohomish County homes it is clear the land value plays a large role in the assessment of a home. One way to build less expensive homes is find cheaper, free, or subsidized dirt. The CHC notion of multiple buildings on a single lot is one way to spread the cost of the dirt but as pointed out so many times, “not if you tear down the old and 2 or more new ones. Final cost really does not go down. So increasing density to create the notion of “cheaper” dirt falls apart.

    Maybe we should put on our Thinking Caps and see if we can find free or subsidized dirt. One example would to to look at land already owned by a pubic entity, city, county, state, federal. One example is Unocal. State will own shortly, have agreed to sell to Edmonds and even gave some seed money for purchase. We can save the Marsh with our existing regulations, increase the fish supply, and use the land for multiple purposes. Things like Employee parking with shuttle to work. Saves 750 employee permits. Build housing above parking. Use the road for emergency access to the WF. The are other public land that could do the same thing, parking below and housing above. Some options are within a block or two of the fountain. Free and subsidized land may help us with the missing middle. Let’s Think About solutions for a change and not just say NO.

    1. Excellent. I know just where you are thinking. There could also be restroom facilities there. I like that idea. As long as we are speaking of parking for customers and not just retail employees in the Bowl. Must do both.

      1. DA, we have limited street parking in the DT area. Residents are allowed to buy passes to park on the street. We have 700 plus residential permits issues allowing on street parking for $.07/day. Pretty good deal for residents. We do have a higher rate for the 700 plus employee permits. They park for $.25 a day. Yes cents for both types. These permit parking spaces could be available for customers by providing parking for employees other than on the streets. Lots of opportunities to think about parking if we just give it some thought.

        1. Wow! You do mean for downtown residents, right? . 0.7 cents a day! .25 for downtown employees to park while working? I don’t think this is fair at all. But it sure proves my points. I am stunned. I thought since they keep saying it that they want out of towners to come to shop…I thought they wanted Edmonds to shop in Edmonds. Just WOW.

    2. Darrol,
      What problem is being solved? The “missing middle” is hiding in plain sight here in the non- view neighborhoods. Upon opening their assessments, they will struggle with affordability. Housing prices are too high to consider purchasing something else in the area. Taxes in Edmonds are very high. Fees on utility’s are getting to nosebleed territory. Wasting tax dollars on the waterfront fiasco, putting in wayside horns because the trains were too loud ( and they were loud when those owners bought their homes too), and all the freebies for the downtown restaurants. None of that is free.
      The housing market will fall again, it always does. But the “missing middle” here is hiding in plain sight. Struggling to pay their taxes, coping with the ravages of a pandemic, and struggling to manage in Edmonds. Some will make it. Some won’t. The solution, if any, is for the City to stop being grandiously bowl centered, realize that it’s folks who live here already are that “missing middle” and to spend accordingly.

      1. Hi Diane, Lots of good points but my point was the land value has a great deal to do with final cost. The building maybe equal but the house will cost more if the land value is 800k vs the same building on dirt that cost 300k. My point is we can build cheaper housing on dirt that is free or subsidized vs dirt that is very expensive. I do not have the numbers for what is the target price for a “missing middle” home but building on free land would be cheaper than building on expensive land. Lots of other costs like water, sewer, electricity, will be the same but property taxes will be less if a home is build on free or subsidized dirt.

        1. remember that the term ‘missing middle’ refers to middle density residential zoning codes. It does not refer to housing for the middle class residents.

        2. T Hollis this is the question on the survey about missing middle.

          “What is your level of support for the proposal to develop incentives that
          apply to “missing middle” housing types citywide that allow home
          ownership for those at or below average median family income?”

          Yes missing middle housing types is somewhat about housing types but the question goes on to say missing middle is for ownership of those at or below median family income. That would be on the lower side of middle class residents.

          I ready the question to be housing types to be purchased by those below median family income. To me that is on the lower end of middle class.

        3. Free or subsidized dirt in Edmonds? Darol, you always did have a wicked sense of humor. How about regulating the profits on any building as well. That would lower the price for sure. Gonna take my free lunch and see if I can find some of that free land.

        4. Diane, some cities when using the Multi Family Tax Exemption codes Do regulate profit in a way by auditing how the developer rents the properties. Our council was not made aware of how other cities were using the MFTE codes and with limited time to do their jobs did not have the resources or time to do that research. Our elected reps in Olympia did have the reports but not sure if they shared it with the city. Other communities effectively regulated the profits by how they implemented MFTE.

          If the city already owns some land, is that free if converted to another use? What about the air rights above the land, is that free or at least subsidized? Look at Unocal, 22 acres, public owned. Creative design could make that an interesting place. Same for the current parking lot west of the Public Safety complex. All kinds of options if we just think about it a bit. Hope you had a good lunch.

  5. Mr. Haug’s suggestions seem plausible and should be examined carefully. Unfortunately there is a reason why people are saying “NO”. It is because of the disingenuousness and lack of transparency of the CHC and the city council. The residents of Edmonds do not trust the current process and fear that they will end up with something quite different than promised.

  6. That Medical coverage doubles it. But…I do think our next council once all instated and show us they will be all that we want, we should consider a wage increase. Same for every member. A half way decent one too.

  7. GB is correct, we lack transparency. Not just for this issue but a number of issues. But even when we have a lot of transparency like the connector, thing can get out of wack. Lots of public discussion, inputs, data, and all that. But in the end it took a protest with signs and “pitchforks” to halt the process. That process was very transparent. We even learned the BNSF wanted it raised by 2 ft incase they needed to raise their tracks for a higher tide.

    Civic Park was also very open but when folks (in large numbers) wanted parking, those public ideas and comments were did not make the final work.

    Transparency is interesting until a idea does not meet someone’s perception of a project.

    But for an exercise, let’s Think about some ways to create less expensive housing. If for example we give some thought to the footprint of land that represents the Edmonds School District and think about Parks, Swimming Pools, Beaches, Dog Parks, Fast Food, upscale restaurants, transportation, fire service, police activity and all sorts of businesses we come up with some remarkable ideas about how best to use land we have in So SN County. The answers are quite different if we think in a larger area. Just ask this question and see what comes of it. “What will our wonderful SS County look like in 20 years, and how can we make it better?” We have a special place in Washington and we can shape it with good ideas. Many things are going to happen. Lets think about some and try to plan and not just react.

  8. Council costs. I think the person on the salary commission who gave us a really good set of information pointed out that the assumption is council work is based on the thinkin that it is not a full time job and should take about 25 hours a week. That turns out to be about $12/hr. Yes the medical is about $8k so that works out to less than $700/mo. Many of us pay more than that for our medical. If you add the medical to say total compensation is salary and medical and still assume 25 hours a week, the pay goes up to $18/hr. Many folk pay more than that for yard maintenance.

    I cannot find any job description that includes a requirement to read and answer questions from citizens. My point is we should consider adding work to council members and pay them for that added work. I would bet most council members spend more than 25 hrs/week and some do reply to citizens. Right now it is not part of their job but I would be willing to pay them more to answer letters and email, especially the ones written by citizens who have done the research, asked informed and thoughtful questions.

    I once asked a former council member how much time they spend on city business and it turned out they we making less than $7/hr. That council member regularly answered my email and would even take the time to sit down and discuss issue.

    1. It would be interesting to see what the candidates in the upcoming election think about whether they would be answering or listening to questions from constituents without a substantial pay raise. The pay for the job is even lousier than you described since candidates also have to raise money for the election. One candidate has overall raised almost $30,000 for the opportunity to be paid lousy. Maybe there are other reasons why people want to be Council persons. Not clear why its takes more than a couple hours work since most votes recently are functionary 4 to 3 affirmations regardless of the topic. For these kind of consistent drone like votes I would suggest maybe their overpaid.

      1. As a Council candidate, and a former Councilmember, I consider responding to people part of the job, and to the best of my knowledge always, or very nearly always, responded; I may have missed one or two responses over the years, but probably not intentionally.

        Yes, the pay does not match the service provided by some Councilmembers. Those who don’t even read the packet and just vote as the _______ tell them to vote are, in my opinion, overpaid. Have some fun filling in the blank, there are more options than you might think at first.

        Why serve? Maybe you care about Edmonds. I think you should vote for those folks! They will do the job to their best regardless of the pay, because they care.

        1. Lora – You have the history of doing the research on difficult issues putting in the time to serve all the people of Edmonds first.
          Lora you are on record for going to council meetings prepared having well researched thoughtful information.
          Lora, you didn’t come from how it would benefit you politically or financially.
          Lora, you stuck to very important local issues not regional or national political issues or opinions, but came from what was good for all the citizens of Edmonds.
          Lora, you created an environment of citizens feeling heard.
          Lora, you are the proven local politician – you have no ties that I know of any
          “ Political Machine”.
          Thank you, Lora, for running for Position 2 – Edmonds needs you now more then ever.
          PS Lora is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – a timeless movie that every high school student ought to be required to see before graduating.

    2. Hi Darrol, the following requirement is found in the Code of Ethics, which states we SHALL:

      “Keep the community informed on municipal affairs and encourage
      communications between the citizens and all municipal officers. Emphasize
      friendly and courteous service to the public and each other; seek to improve
      the quality of public service, and confidence of citizens.”

      The Code of Ethics applies to elected officials and appointed citizen volunteers serving in an official
      capacity (i.e. Boards and Commissions).

      Elected officials includes the Mayor.

      Email is one form of communication between a citizen and a municipal officer. Municipal Officers are provided city email addresses which citizens can employ to communicate with municipal officers.

      1. Thanks Ken, I have served on several boards and commissions and have never been told about this code of ethics and how it applies to boards and commissions. For all to see here is the link to the posting on the city web site.

        https://www.edmondswa.gov/UserFiles/Servers/Server_16494932/File/Government/Departments/City%20Council/Mission%20Purpose/CODE_OF_ETHICS.pdf

        The 4 bullet points above the one you cited are quite interesting. Some nice words but written in a way that leaves a whole bunch of questions. The (“) are my additions.
        • Be dedicated to the concepts of “effective and democratic government”.
        • Affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by government and
        maintain a sense of “social responsibility”.
        • Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all “public and
        personal relationships”.
        • Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to “serve
        the best interest of all the people”.

        Related to this thread, the last point, “serve the best interest of all the people”. Does that mean the citizens of Edmonds or other people as well? What many folks are saying about housing is “I am a citizen of Edmonds and my voice and the voices of other citizens should be the driving factor” Or does “all the people” included folks who are not citizens of Edmonds as well?

        The words in the Code of Ethics are “nice” but subject to various interpretations. As a volunteer commission member I find it a bit overreaching to suggest how I think or act in all my public and personal relationships.

        For housing, the code seems to suggest government and our elected officials should follow the will of the people. Reviewing the survey gives us a pretty good idea of what the folks want.

        Thanks Ken for the added research. You always help us to more completely understand the issues.

        I don’t think I violated any of the Code with these comments.

  9. It is beyond disappointing . . . “Outrageous” a more appropriate word. To see unelected employees assigned to decision making positions that seriously affect the quality of life for those in edmonds’ neighborhoods forevermore.

    Many reading these comments are familiar with the 20 housing projects underway now by Select Homes’ owner, Randy Clark. He has permission to CLEAR CUT every one of these properties. That includes what is happening at this very moment at the dead-end of cedar Street in the 900 block.

    four homes well over a million dollars each will take the place of an urban forest and one home. One of these trees is more than a century old, and a very special specimen oak tree. It is 70 ft. tall with a magnificent canopy. Bald Eagles land here and three nests existed (not Eagles’ nests). Those were taken down in early spring.

    This project was posted one year ago and that is how long I have been protesting to everyone including City Council members both individually and collectively, the Mayor and Randy Clark too. I won’t say these words fell on, “Deaf Ears” because they didn’t. They heard it. They didn’t care. They did nothing to stop it.

    If you want to see what could happen in your neighborhood before it too is decimated (if it hasn’t been already) turn east from 9th Avenue (one block south of Walnut) on Cedar Street to the end. Look to the sky to see this tree in all its glory and envision it gone. For It will be in a matter of days or even hours.

    Make your voices heard often and loudly. We must never give up or think it too late. PLEASE . . . I’m begging.

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