Publisher’s note: This letter was written and submitted last week, and I missed it in my inbox. Since it was submitted prior to my post published today stating our new 250-word limit on letters to the editor, I’m publishing this one as written.
My fellow citizens of Edmonds:
I am writing to alert you to concerns around the ongoing Comprehensive Plan Visioning Mini-Surveys recently offered by the Edmonds Development Services Department.
I am concerned about the surveys’ inability to elicit meaningful input on the elements in the Comprehensive Plan. I also want to offer a caveat about responding to an especially problematic question posed in the survey.
Each of the six weekly mini-surveys asks a question or two about a theme generally relating to Comprehensive Plan elements. The survey asks forced-choice questions requiring specific answers on narrow subjects. The survey doesn’t allow feedback “outside of the box” on the full range of issues or subjects in the plan element. The responses to the questions must be no more than 140 characters, or about one and one-half lines of text. It is impossible to speak to a plan element in such a short reply.
Let’s look at this week’s survey on the theme of Economic Growth, or Economic Development, element 4 in the Comprehensive Plan, which many tell me is very important. I am asked if I work in Edmonds and the neighborhood I live in. The only additional query on the survey this week that I can speak to is this:
What types of businesses (goods/services) do you travel outside the city for? (Again, 140 characters.)
I travel outside – and also inside – the city for some of the same services, such as restaurants. I travel outside the city for medical services, not because they are unavailable in Edmonds, but because I have long-standing relationships with providers outside Edmonds. I don’t know what conclusions you can draw from my answer here.
Does my input on this question, 140 characters or less, give the city substantive feedback on this economic development element? I don’t think so. Is my answer a thoughtful contribution to the decennial update of the Edmonds Comprehensive Plan, looking out to 2050? Again, I doubt it. Can my brief chance encounter with city staff at a market or on a street corner enhance my contribution here? Again, I am skeptical that it will.
I want to draw readers’ attention to another question in the survey for the final week, Sept. 12-18, on the theme of Livability and Land Use. It is:
- What types of housing could you see fitting into your neighborhood? Select all that apply. (Fourteen housing types are listed with check boxes).
My neighborhood is RS – single-family residential, which makes up 64% of Edmonds housing. Currently, the only housing type that fits into my neighborhood is single-family homes.
In this leading question, Development Services is inviting – and encouraging – nearly two-thirds of Edmonds homeowners to blithely indicate a willingness to see a plethora of additional housing types allowed in their RS neighborhoods.
If I were to answer this question rather conservatively, I could respond that I would welcome duplexes in my neighborhood. By so doing, I would thus be stating that I approve the Edmonds Citizens Housing Commission’s (ECHC) proposal on Missing Middle Housing in Single Family Neighborhoods. That would allow duplexes or two-unit townhouses on every/any lot in Edmonds, theoretically doubling living unit capacity from 11,685 to 23,370. That would be an extreme action, and only one of the 14 options on the survey. Selecting multiple options would invite opening up Edmonds through rezoning to unplanned and unlimited growth!
Additionally, the survey does not elicit enough information about the respondent’s location to give the input meaning.
I would like to caution and encourage citizens responding to these surveys to be circumspect and careful. The question above, for one, has insidious implications for upzoning. This is a leading question, like several in the previous ECHC surveys.
In the ECHC surveys past, four of five Edmonds residents (78%) did not favor rampant growth in rezoned single-family neighborhoods. Four of five Mukilteo residents (82%) similarly voted late in 2021 against helter-skelter growth in their residential neighborhoods. Some have tried to discount these survey findings, saying they are not scientific surveys, the samples are too small, the survey questions were unclearly defined. But as general assessments of citizen feelings in these communities, these surveys clearly reflect opposition to radical changes to residential neighborhoods.
The full survey is available at: https://bit.ly/2024CompPlanVision
Thank you, and please approach these Development Services surveys thoughtfully,