Letter to the editor: Proposed state, local zoning changes will increase Edmonds’ carbon footprint

Editor:

The City of Edmonds consists of a mere 8.9 square miles with a shoreline of 5.2 linear miles. If we eliminate single-family zoning, we will have smaller homes in Edmonds with a smaller carbon footprint per person and per home. Some say this will be good for the environment. Let’s look at this claim carefully.

While it is true that the carbon footprint per home and per person would be smaller, does that mean that the total carbon footprint of the 8.9 square miles of Edmonds would be smaller? The answer is emphatically – No!

Eliminating single-family zoning in Edmonds will create two, three or four homes on a parcel that now has one home. Large swaths of green spaces that remove CO2 from the environment will be eliminated. The updated Tree Canopy Report for the City of Edmonds reinforces the fact that the vast majority of tree canopy is on single-family residential land. The amount of pavement and roof lines will increase. More people will swell Edmonds’ population with more motor vehicles and boats. With more pavement, less green space and fewer trees, temperatures in Edmonds will rise. Edmonds will produce more CO2 for this world (critical location along the Puget Sound), not less. Water runoff into the Puget Sound with pollutants will increase, warming the waters of the sound, threatening marine life.

Edmonds’ (population) housing is over four times denser than King County and over seven times denser than the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area. On average, Snohomish County has 392 people per square mile while Edmonds has 4,778 people per square mile. We are already doing our part well beyond what is being recommended by the Growth Management Act.

Diversity of housing in Edmonds is happening right now, with around 800 new units of a variety of housing types permitted over the last two years, using our current zoning. This is based on information given to council from the last report in 2021 by the previous development director. The residents of Edmonds by a wide majority (78%), replied to a Citizens Housing Commission survey they do not want to change single-family zoning. By a majority of 78%, the people of Edmonds do not want to allow up to three to four housing units citywide in place of single-housed lot neighborhoods as promoted in the equity housing policy put forth and approved by some on the Citizens Housing Commission.

If we in Edmonds really care about the environment, we should keep doing what we have been doing rather than change our zoning to accommodate more high-density housing.

Andrew Morgan
Edmonds

12 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Proposed state, local zoning changes will increase Edmonds’ carbon footprint”

  1. Yup. We need to decide what is more important the environment quality of living or higher population density less quality of life and of course a worse environment? Don’t let them tell you we can have both. No worries though I won’t be around to see the death of Puget sound, the abject poverty associated with the lack of jobs because of AI and robotics. We could attempt to insulate ourselves from the worst of this future but that would take action way beyond Edmonds. It’s not to late but as a society we will need to take action soon and that starts at the local/regional level. I know this goes against conventional thinking of growth at any cost. I am afraid we have reached the point of less is more. Don’t say I didn’t warn you prophecy from the peanut gallery.

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  2. Andrew, thank you for your well researched and presented letter. Too often decisions are made on what feels good rather than on the facts.

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    1. I agree Robert. That is exactly what happened here I think. I agree with Andrew also from an environmental perspective 100%. I want us to have housing for as many as possible because that is what the people want for lower cost housing so I won’t object but I do think taking any more trees on this Hill is going to overwhelm our water filtration system. We have been told about the condition of Yost all of it… the Perrinville situation with no agreement with Lynnwwood to help?? The Marsh will be hard to maintain and keep pristine. I really think some serious thinking should be done and decisions studied very carefully from every angle.

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  3. Andrew,

    Thank you for writing a informed article, as I have said before We had to work hard and set goals to live in Edmonds, The SRF zoning restrictions are part of the reason we chose to live here! As stated by others the ADU that is currently on the books most would agree with, but taking away our life long work of living in a neighborhood that has respectful neighbors that care and enforce the current CCR’S would not be a “Edmonds Kind Of Day” it feels more like greed If the council doesn’t listen to the citizens of Edmonds, does the Counsel really care about preserveing what we have or creating a bigger TAX base by removing or changing lathe current SFR? If 78 % don’t won’t it! Well Your move .

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  4. Sorry Andrew, your analysis is incorrect and very misleading. You have focused only on the potential carbon impact related effects from density increases within the Edmonds city limits. However, these types of urban density impacts cannot be accurately done within such a small geographic area (additional greenhouse gases and other heat effects will not be confined to Edmonds – they will quickly spread out). These studies must done at a much larger regional scale. Additional urban density not accommodated within Edmonds and other similar more central communities with good transit service, will inevitably be accommodated at lower density in the outer edges of our urban metro region. This will create much more long distance commuting, greater use of autos, less use of transit, more extension of urban infrastructure etc. I was practicing city planner for almost five decades in our region and have prepared these types of studies and studied many others.

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    1. Mr. Derickson, you apparently are not well informed on where transportation is moving within the next 5-10 years. Gasoline powered vehicles are not long for this earth. Legislation has passed banning the production of gasoline powered vehicles by 2030. This, along with expanded electric public transit will actually drastically reduce auto emissions, making commuting from further out much more feasible and environmentally friendly.

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  5. Sorry Dennis, my analysis is correct and crystal clear. The regional approach you suggest will result in more carbon emissions in Edmonds than would otherwise occur and more damage to the environment in the City of Edmonds than would otherwise occur. The Mayor and City Council of Edmonds have a responsibility to the citizens of the city of Edmonds to do what is in the best interests of the city. The approach you suggest means that Edmonds loses local control over its zoning and destiny. I was involved in Environmental Impact Studies and Environmental Assessments related to various airport infrastructure projects in a number of airports across the U.S. and U.K. and have the background and experience to know that what I stated in the letter to the editor is correct.

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  6. You have looked up some statistics. However, that is not research! Comparing housing density in Edmonds to the Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue metropolitan area is like comparing apples to oranges.
    Thank you Dennis for your comments, which provide a much clearer view of the situation.

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  7. A question I have never heard a answer too is why do we need more people in the Puget sound region? Each person comes with a footprint no matter where it is each person adds to the degradation of our environment. It is estimated a million people coming here in the next ten years why do we need them? What benefit comes from all these people? What benefit comes from higher population density?

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  8. Andrew Morgan, thank you for your excellent, clear synopsis of our present situation. Our state representatives let us know against all science, that living cheek to jowl with others will reduce our carbon footprint, in direct contradiction with extensive literature on the subject, that details how buildings, cars, and paved roads absorb more heat, making cities significantly hotter than smaller towns with healthy canopies and plants and shade trees, parks and lawns. In Edmond’s case, increasing the population density might require the cutting of trees, and increase the need for air conditioning in the summer.

    Research, case studies and subsequent literature spanning decades, have shown that a more homogenous population distribution, interspersed with parks, greenbelts on a community level and shade trees and gardens on a unit by unit level, reduce the carbon footprint, but also the need for cooling homes, in an area like ours. Cities that disregarded these recommendations have built urban canyons: buildings whose aspect ratio and density in relation to the width of the street, create conditions where wind and sunshine patterns are affected, resulting in bad quality air, among other negative effects.

    As to others’ ideas that what we do wrong here is not going to affect us 100%, but will spread to nearby communities, like it’s a good thing: wait…WHAT? How is that responsible or good on any level? Also, let’s acknowledge the fact that of the main reasons why our population has increased, is due to “refugees” from neighboring towns who ran away from the urban sprawl. we have the right to decide the fate of our town.

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  9. The 15 minute to everything plan. This is not Europe this is the United States of America. People
    move out of the City to raise families, to have the American dream of the house, yard and garden. It’s absolutely lovely that Edmonds is creating a vibrant downtown corridor for the residents and visitors. Ask the voters if they want to see the changes the Government is requesting, to turn our neighborhoods into cramped quarters with parking issues. Put any changes to our residential zoning on the ballot. We the people should have the last word. Thank you!

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