For more than two hours Tuesday night, Edmonds city councilmembers got an earful from dozens of residents who filled the council chambers to speak their minds on issues ranging from housing density to traffic safety to the city’s reporting system for incidents of bias, discrimination and hate.
It was the second in-person meeting in two weeks for the council, which until last week had been meeting remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, meetings are offered in a hybrid format that accommodates participants either in the council chambers or remotely via Zoom. However, technical difficulties Tuesday night delayed the meeting’s start approximately 40 minutes. And with an estimated 75 people in the council chambers and dozens signed up to speak, the council didn’t get through all of its agenda.
A good portion of the comments were related to traffic safety concerns in the 700 and 800 blocks of Dayton Street, which according to residents has become a speedway of sorts for those looking for the fastest route from 9th Avenue to downtown. Dayton Avenue resident Tom Snyder was among several who told the council that the speeding vehicles — including heavy trucks and Community Transit buses — pose a risk to the children attending preschool and day care at the city-owned Frances Anderson Center (the drop-off and pick-up point is on Dayton) as well as patrons using the Edmonds Library. He and others suggested that the city install stop signs at both 7th and 8th Avenues to slow down drivers.
“Please note that the 700 and 800 block of Dayton Street are unlike any other area in the city,” Snyder said. “It is both a residential street and a pathway for pedestrians to and from our city’s only library and our city’s only community center.” As such, he said, it “requires unique solutions.”
Those attending Tuesday night’s meeting also expressed concerns about housing density in light of recent recommendations from the Edmonds Citizens Housing Commission that include cluster/cottage housing and detached accessory dwelling units. (The council has just started exploring these recommendation to determine next steps,)
“Single-family homeowners have overwhelmingly opposed any up-zoning although their participation has been kept to an absolute minimum in this entire (Housing Commission recommendation) process, ” said Edmonds resident Eric Soll, who urged councilmembers to remember that they were elected to repreent the will of the city’s residents — and not those who would benefit from increasing density, including the construction industry and real estate developers.
“We need to honor Edmonds and protect it from developers and the destruction of our neighborhoods and open space,” added Edmonds resident Kathy Brewer. “We need to preserve our old-fashioned charm and small-town feel and keep Edmonds a tranquil, peaceful place.”
The other topic that generated numerous comments was Edmonds’ new online portal, which the city announced last week would be available to report “non-criminal issues of concern” related to bias, discrimination and hate.
Among those commenting on the portal was resident Judy Hardesty, who described it as “blatant government overreach — a practice you would see in a communist country that infringes on Edmonds citizens’ First Amendment rights.” Such a system could result in defamation of character, leading to lawsuits against the city, she added, and will “raise distrust of city government and neighbors. Instead of uniting the city it will create division.”
Resident Eric Dubbery then read a comment on behalf of Rod Schick, who had to leave the meeting early. Stating that the portal “would create more problems than it will solve,” Schick asked who in the city would define or decide “what bias, discrimination or hate are when incidents are reported?”
During the comments Tuesday night about the new portal, several people were critical of two councilmembers in particular: Luke Distelhorst, the council’s liaison to the Diversity Commission, which had first discussed the idea of having such a reporting tool, and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who said in December 2020 TV interview that then-police chief candidate Sherman Pruitt, who is Black, would be a good pick given “all the racism in Edmonds.”
Immediately after that interview, Fraley-Monillas stressed that she was not stating that Edmonds residents were racist but that the city had experienced incidents of racism over the years. After those TV interview statements were brought up again Tuesday night, Fraley-Monillas addressed the issue during council comments, noting that during the interview “I was asked whether we had racism in Edmonds and we do. Edmonds has racism, every city has levels of racism. It’s not unique to Edmonds.”
Then Fraley-Monillas, who along with Distelhorst is running for election this year, said she believed that much of what was said Tuesday night “has to do with politics.”
Despite the lateness of the hour, the council did end up holding two public hearings — one to make permanent an interim ordinance regarding outdoor dining spaces on existing commercial property and the other to allow unit lot subdivisions in downtown business zones. But since many people had left the meeting and time was short, the council agreed to extend both hearings to a later date so additional public comment could be gathered. The council also postponed a discussion about Edmonds Municipal Court reorganization.
In other business, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson announced that starting Wednesday, all city employees will again be required to wear masks — regardless of vaccination status — to comply with recent health guidance aimed at addressing the latest wave of COVID-19 infections.
— Story and photo by Teresa Wippel