Letter to the editor: Questions, confusion about ordinance that allowed streateries


I’ve heard it represented that streateries are allowed by individual permits made possible under a temporary ordinance (Ordinance 4209) enacted by the Edmonds City Council last winter. I’ve also heard it represented that this temporary ordinance is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2021, but councilmembers can extend the ordinance upon request. I’m not convinced any of this is true.

In late 2020, Edmonds City Council was told there was an emergency. The special event permit allowing streatery dining was set to expire Dec. 31, 2020.

This “emergency” provides a great example of the many challenges facing a city council. It is difficult to perform well the duty to represent all constituents. It has been mentioned around Edmonds that the streateries have helped some while harming others.

Edmonds City Council was told that any uncertainty in the ability of the city’s restaurants to continue offering streatery dining could further jeopardize an already struggling restaurant industry.

Immediate adoption of an emergency ordinance was recommended.

State law allows a public emergency ordinance necessary for the protection of public health, public safety, public property or the public peace to be made effective immediately upon adoption. In Edmonds, the adoption of an emergency ordinance requires a unanimous vote.

City council was convinced there was an emergency. The streatery dining ordinance passed unanimously and became known as Ordinance 4209.

Was it really an emergency? One reason I ask is because Ordinance 4209 does not claim it was effective immediately. Ordinance 4209 claims it was effective Dec. 23, 2020, even though it was adopted Dec. 15, 2020. If Ordinance 4209 wasn’t effective immediately, did it need to be an emergency ordinance? Could the public and other businesses impacted by streateries been provided more opportunity for participation in the legislative process? Could harm have been mitigated or prevented? Why such confusion?

Again, was it really an emergency?  How can permitting 20 streateries in the small BD zone be necessary for the protection of public health, public safety, public property or the public peace?

Prior to voting unanimously to pass Ordinance 4209, city council was told that a public hearing was required within 60 days of adoption. Feb. 2, 2021 was mentioned as a possible public hearing date.

Emergency ordinances don’t require public hearings after adoption. The 2020 city council was very aware of this. For example, Emergency Ordinance 4176 was adopted on March 17, 2020, and made effective March 17, 2020. Ordinance 4176 was adopted without any mention of the need for a public hearing within 60 days of adoption. The March 17, 2020, city council meeting minutes even document the following city council discussion: “As this is an emergency ordinance and there is no opportunity for a public hearing….”

But something about Ordinance 4209 was different. It was stressed to the 2020 city council that a public hearing was required within 60 days of adoption.

So, what was going on?

When all else fails, I believe it best to read the details found in the ordinance itself. Ordinances passed by city council are approved as to form by the city attorney. As such, I believe citizens should be able to rely on the details found in ordinances.

The 2020 Edmonds City Council declared the following in Ordinance 4209:

“Without an immediate adoption of this interim zoning ordinance, streateries would need to continue to operate under a special event permit, but that permit was supposed to expire on Dec. 31, 2020.”

There was the answer! The 2020 city council had declared the streatery dining crdinance to be an interim zoning ordinance.

Interim zoning ordinances are a unique tool available to a city council. State law allows such to be adopted if a public hearing is held within at least 60 days of adoption.

Edmonds City Council declared in Ordinance 4209 that it was using this unique tool. On Dec. 15, 2020, Edmonds City Council voted to allow up to 20 streateries to be permitted in the BD Zone. The permits are for a period of no more than one year but may be extended. The provision for extension of permits is yet another confusing part of Ordinance 4209.

Interim zoning ordinance or not, there is no arguing the fact that city council voted under the representation that a public hearing must be held within 60 days of adoption.

No public hearing was ever held.

What was the status of the individual permits for streateries once 60 days passed without city council holding a public hearing? Were those permits null and void? Can Ordinance 4209 really be extended upon request even though a public hearing was never held? Who can make a request to extend Ordinance 4209? How is such a request made?

Much confusion and many questions. Hopefully, city officials will answer all questions in an open and transparent fashion.

Ken Reidy

  1. Thanks to Ken for pulling this apart and succinctly sharing it. It’s such a (needlessly) complicated issue (almost as if by design).

  2. Ken, Thanks for that clear and well laid out explanation! Based on your information, I see how this has been botched up by our city government. You understand how government is “supposed” to work better than all council, the mayor,, City Staff and city attorney! Don’t let up on letting citizens know what’s being violated! Where’s our public hearing???

    1. Thank you Ken for your well thought out insightful, researched comments.

      I am in complete agreement with all replies to Ken’s LTE from my fellow residents as well.
      These streateries are an eyesore and have outlived their purpose. They are a nuisance and threat to public safety.

  3. Excellent job Ken Reidy. Looks like time to dismantle now. No meetings about it no more wasted time…lets get them out and gone and start shopping… It is going to rain this winter a thing we have had a bit of a respite with for the last few years really. But this year no no no haha. Its coming in buckets so we need that parking desperately in front of our retail stores and restaurants. SO lets get them down.
    Keeping them at this point is just being mean and defiant in my opinion of course.

  4. Every time I drive up Main St. from the ferry I am struck by how unsightly the out door dining areas look. If they aren’t necessary then it’s time to get rid of them.

  5. Thank you so much, Ken, and I agree, Deborah. People wanted to support the restaurants who had been shut down and then got to run at only half capacity. But it has been to the detriment of our stores and tourism. Edmonds used to be a beautiful town and really enjoyable to walk through, visit with people, enjoy all the lovely plantings. Now it’s plastic shacks everywhere. In several of them one has to walk through the extended restaurant to continue down the sidewalk! Restaurants were given public parking spaces not only for these shacks but also for food pick up. The sidewalks and the parking and the streets are PUBLIC, not just restaurant expansions. It’s time for them to go. It’s time to support retail and strollers.

  6. Very interesting research, Ken. You have done the work of an investigative reporter! Wonder what the mayor and council will say? City attorney?

  7. An another example (and I support the restaurants) is the added loss of parking space by the notices of “parking for pick up food” therefore creating an issue that nobody can park and walk the the restaurants for their order?
    this causes less parking, and assumes that a person ordering can not be dropped off to pick up food and their companion can drive around the block?

  8. Thank you Ken, for pointing out the failure of the Council President Susan Paine in scheduling the two future required public hearings. The City’s violation of state law squarely rests on the duty of our City Attorney. Why are taxpayers paying this law firm over 1/2 million dollars a year for this unlawful and sloppy behavior.

    I’ve asked during public comments and by email, “who is responsible to ensure city code and state law is followed?”. With no response from the City Council President or the Mayor!

    1. Ty Sue. Agree….because of parking I often just keep driving by…..and the weather ….well we all know whats in front for several months…more blowing wet wind

  9. Since restaurants are now seating fully vaccinated parties as usual, I see no reason for the streateries to continue to be allowed. I have dined in several locales and there is no longer social distancing between tables. It has, in effect, added square-footage to restaurants free of charge, and I believe they are selfishly taking full advantage of the City Council’s heavily-biased generosity, to the detriment of other businesses in the community. Don’t get me wrong, I love our fabulous dining spots, but I also love the shops and businesses who also share the downtown corridors.

    However, as we are still in a pandemic and many people are not comfortable dining in, so I do still see the value in one 15-minute pick-up spot per restaurant, or a shared space as appropriate. I say it’s time to pull down the shacks and return our downtown to its former accessible popularity.

  10. Ken,

    Thank you for your research. This is the first time I’ve understood clearly what a mess Mayor Nelson and his staff made of this ordinance. This is concerning for many reasons, but especially liability issues. Also, despite the many times you have asked the COE to answer questions about this ordinance, no answers have been forthcoming to reassure the public. The administration of this city should be as concerned as you are and provide the answers to your questions immediately.

  11. Thanks to all who have commented on this Letter to the Editor!

    For anybody interested in more, please know that the following is found on Page 22 of the approved City Council Meeting Minutes for December 15, 2020:

    “Councilmember K. Johnson said one issue that was discussed previously but was not addressed tonight was the use of gas heaters and their impact on the environment. She asked what staff had learned. Ms. Hope answered in general gas heaters will not be used due to fire protection concerns with the flames and because few propane heaters are available. The preferred option will be electric heaters.”

    I walked through downtown this morning and it appears that many gas heaters are being used. Gas heaters may be the primary source of heat.

    I am still waiting for City Officials to answer all questions in an open and transparent fashion. My questions include:

    Was it really an emergency?

    What was the status of the individual permits for streateries once 60 days passed without city council holding a public hearing? Were those permits null and void? Can Ordinance 4209 really be extended upon request even though a public hearing was never held? Who can make a request to extend Ordinance 4209? How is such a request made?

    [Ordinance 4210 related to “Other Outdoor Dining” was also passed on December 15, 2020 under representation that a public hearing was required to be held within sixty (60) days. That public hearing was never held.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.