Week 2 of Edmonds’ Comprehensive Plan Visioning Process: Quality of Life

Susan McLaughlin

Planners often discuss the success of cities, towns, districts or neighborhoods relative to “quality of life.” While a fairly ambiguous term, it typically encompasses topics such as public health, economic and social well-being, safety, and community resilience. The World Health Organization defines quality of life as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live.”

This coming week we are asking Edmonds residents: How would you describe your quality of life in Edmonds? And what aspects of Edmonds (amenities, activities, location, affordability, etc.) contribute to that feeling?

The way people will respond to this question will reflect their lived experiences and the values they place on certain aspects of their current life.

In the book Happy City, the author reflects on his conversation with Enrique Peñalosa, the mayor of Bogotá, Colombia in 2007; Enrique described how he transformed Bogotá from a truly horrible place to live to one of the happiest. Peñalosa is quoted as saying:

“If we defined our success just in terms of income per capita, we would have to accept ourselves as second- or third-rate societies – a bunch of losers. No, the City needed a new goal.” Peñalosa promised neither a car in every garage nor a socialist revolution. His promise was simple. He was going to make Bogotans happier.

He went on to be known as the Mayor of Happy.

I visited Bogotá in the fall of 2018 as a speaker at an international conference on Walkable Cities. I was fortunate to hear Gil Peñalosa speak, Bogotá’s former Parks, Sports and Recreation Commissioner and brother of Mayor Peñalosa. Their energy and passion to achieve collective happiness and well-being was infectious, and the result of their work was evident throughout the city. People were liberated by parks, walkways, bike paths and new public spaces. While I did not conduct a sentiment survey during my visit, it did seem that happiness was a way of life in Bogotá, Colombia.

Every good plan starts with a collective vision. Tell us what you think about Edmonds’ quality of life. What makes you happy or would make you even happier in Edmonds. Join us in a citywide conversation that will culminate in a vision statement to guide development of the Edmonds Comprehensive Plan.

Over the next five weeks, we will be focusing on key topics that touch upon various aspects of the Plan. Here is the lineup:

  • Quality of Life: Aug. 15-21
  • Economic Growth: Aug. 22-28
  • Environment: Aug. 29-Sept. 4
  • Culture: Sept. 5-11
  • Livability and Land Use: Sept. 12-18

Please take our mini-survey on Edmonds’ Quality of Life (available at https://bit.ly/quality2024, or by scanning the QR code below) and visit us this week at the following events to share your perspective:

Coffee chat with Susan (Development Services Director) | Wednesday, Aug. 17 | Jaiiya Cafe at 10032 Edmonds Way, Suite 101 | 8-9:30 a.m.

Edmonds Art Walk | Thursday, Aug. 18 | downtown commercial area | Staff available from 5-7 p.m.

Taste Edmonds | FridaySunday, Aug. 19-21 | Frances Anderson Playfield | Taste runs from noon-9 p.m., staff available from 1-5 p.m.

Keep an eye out for more event announcements later this week as we move on to the themed community conversation on Economic Growth the week of Aug. 22.

— By Susan McLaughlin, Edmonds Development Services Director


  1. Bogotá still has a very high crime rate. It’s a city with one of the highest homicide rates in Colombia. The most common crimes are murder, armed robberies, assault, pickpocketing, corruption, drug dealing, and kidnapping. Bogotá—be careful not to walk alone at night.

    Happy times, Edmonds, happy times…

    1. Brian, not sure how viable a comparison of crime rates between Edmonds and Bogota is, given Bogota’s population exceeds that of WA state and 10 times Seattle’s population in a very poor country I doubt the ambition to provide parks and walkability to the people are contributors to that crime rate.

      1. Of course, there is no comparison between the two, Bogota is a mess. The Director makes some kind of weird analogy, about “Happy Talk”. Walkability should be about safety, such as better sidewalks and lighting, instead of mindless grins from public officials, while the place is going to crap.

  2. So, this week’s survey is for Edmonds’ residents to communicate what we think quality of life means. But it looks like this city employee has already given us a peek at the cards she’s holding…four years ago she attended a Walkable City” conference over 4,000 miles away and she would like to put the reinvention of Edmonds on her resume. All these surveys and polls are just to make us feel like we have a voice. We’ve been muted. Happy?

    1. Again, I ask, what business is it of a city employee to be involved in the visioning process for our city? Why are we actually paying someone to do this? Shouldn’t this be an all volunteer effort coming from the grass roots in every neighborhood of our city? Is this a critical and needed action in the process of seeing that our city is functional and safe on a daily basis? Does anyone else recall an op-ed type article in this publication where one of our leading citizens detailed HIS vision for a pedestrian walking mall in the area where our fountain is? Would such a change be advantageous to certain business interests and a detriment to others in our downtown? These visioning efforts are misplaced in my view and should be subject to public referendums, in some cases, before their implementation is allowed. As Jean notes, Ms. McLaughlin has shown her bias in this so called visioning process. Is this a good thing for EVERYONE in Edmonds? A fair question, I think.

  3. Perhaps the complexities escape me. In the bowl, residential sidewalks are ubiquitous. Outside the bowl, they are not. Please add more residential sidewalks outside the bowl.

    1. In Edmonds, sidewalks are generally governed under Chapter 18.90 ECDC and Chapter 9.20 ECC.

      Chapter 18.90 ECDC adopted a sidewalk plan. A map, which is on file with the office of the city clerk and city engineer, entitled Comprehensive Sidewalk Plan – 1984, was adopted by reference as if set forth in full in this chapter. Changes shall be by ordinance, attested by the mayor and city clerk on the affected map. [Ord. 2477 § 2, 1985].

      Per ECDC 9.20.020, the duty, burden, and expense of constructing or repairing a sidewalk shall be upon the property owner directly abutting the sidewalk zone: When a portion of any city street, not longer than one block in length, is not improved by the construction of a sidewalk thereon, or the sidewalk thereon has become unfit or unsafe for the purposes of public travel, or no longer functions as a stormwater facility as designed, and such street, adjacent to both ends of said portion, is in good repair and the city council of the city finds, by resolution, that the improvement of such portion of such street by the construction or reconstruction or repair of a sidewalk thereon is necessary for the public’s safety, convenience, and/or stormwater management obligation, pursuant to the procedures outlined below in ECC 9.20.030; provided, that such abutting property shall not be charged:

      A. With any costs of construction, reconstruction or repair under this chapter in excess of 50 percent of the valuation of such abutting property, exclusive of improvements thereon, according to the valuation last placed upon it for the purposes of general taxation; or

      B. With costs of reconstruction required to correct deterioration or damage to the sidewalk that is the direct result of actions by the city or its agents or to correct deterioration of or damage to the sidewalk that is the direct result of the failure of the city to enforce its ordinances. [Ord. 4085 § 2 (Exh. A), 2017; Ord. 3101 § 1, 1996].

      For complete information, please refer to the ECC and ECDC found on the City’s website.

  4. Traffic intensity is growing on all our streets. Sidewalk construction has not kept pace with either traffic increases, or with increases in population density and the accompanying increased need for sidewalks. I walk a great deal in Edmonds, and am always discouraged by how few sidewalks we have outside the bowl. Equally, I am dismayed by the lack of upkeep in some areas, where hedges have been allowed to grow out and reduce the usable width of many sidewalks.

    May I suggest that practical needs – sidewalk building and maintenance, pothole filling, general street repair – these are central to the ‘quality of life’ in Edmonds, perhaps even more than some of the more frothy plans to beautify this and that.

    1. Great points Nathanial. We always need to ask just who’s quality of life are we talking about in terms of “visioning” and what works for the greater good, as opposed to what doesn’t. Adding safe sidewalks and fixing roads everywhere, pretty much meets everyone’s needs and chosen lifestyles. Making downtown into a walking mall serves some well and most likely will drive some out of business or force them to move to another location. The same goes for oversized low quality apartments with no set backs and insufficient parking. How is that good for everyone in Edmonds? Just because an idea looks “sexy” or makes someone lots of money doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. We need to once again put function ahead of form. Darrol Haug’s suggestion of budgeting by priorities should be the basis for virtually all actions we take as a town including this so called “visioning process” that’s basically being crammed down our throats right now.

  5. The definition of “quality of life” is highly subjective and should not be limited to the definition provided by the World Health Organization quoted by Ms. McLaughlin. Because of the organization behind the QOL100, i.e., WHO, it is largely focused on a persons’ physical health and psychological state. It also includes measures of level
    of independence, social relationships, personal beliefs and their relationships to salient features of the
    environment. The focus of this measure of QOL is the perceived effects of disease and health interventions on the individual’s quality of life. This is likely a very different way to look at / think about QOL than used by your average, everyday resident of any US city or town.

    Our research and that conducted by other academic and business organizations suggests that residents think about QOL along a number of multidimensions factors that include everything from the extent to which their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) are met, their sense of community and belonging, family, education, wealth, sense of optimism, quality of local services and transport, employment, social relationships, housing, and the general environment in which they live. Residents measure their QOL based on what is important to them and the extent to which government–local, state, federal–meets their needs and expectations on those aspects of QOL that are important to them.

    I took the very brief survey posted and feel that several key measures are lacking. Specifically, the survey and all subsequent engagement on this subject needs to look specifically at what factors residents include when they talk about QOL. Only after we have an inclusive list of these factors can we look at what is important to them. The last thing lacking in the current survey is the extent to which Edmonds provides the QOL residents need and expect. Linking what is important and what is currently existing can go a long way in determining what, if any gaps, exist that should be the focus of the city’s going forward Comprehensive Plan.

    1. “Because of the organization behind the QOL100, i.e., WHO, it is largely focused on a persons’ physical health and psychological state.”

      Well maintained sidewalks, and sidewalks on busy streets that have none, would go a long way toward physical health (no to mention survival!). Not having to dodge cars when you have nowhere to get out of the way would certainly be conducive of mental health.

      Perhaps a survey is needed: one where we could point out where sidewalks are needed, potholes need fixing, and traffic needs taming.

  6. I just spent over an hour writing input for the linked survey, without noticing that the limit for input to each question is 140 characters, not 140 words. It’s clear that our Development Services Director doesn’t want to obtain any substantive input in these surveys. As I type, I see that even this comment now represents fifty-eight words. The first sentence of this comment is more than 140 characters. Even tweets now allow 280 characters. There is no way any significant input can be obtained by limiting comments to 140 characters. What a waste of time.

    1. That is exactly what happened to me. This is why I complained in the open comments. And you are saying exactly what I did. I won’t take anymore surveys and I expect many won’t so an accurate description of what the community wants as a whole will not be represented properly or accurately. Too bad. I tried both of these surveys the short 3 question and the longer 8 question. Gave up and went to post in the open my experience. So glad to see I am not the only one who found this very lacking for a survey. I believe you are correct in your assessment of why this survey was so inadequate and not forthcoming. You can add a blue line that stops people. This was not done. The Edmonds News does it. I believe the Beacon does it. Even tweets everywhere does that. It should be done here too if this is to continue. I think a mail out survey to all citizens with a place to write what you think and care about would be much better myself. Then people of all languages can get help to write a proper response too. SO there ya go.

  7. If it isn’t obvious to most everyone in town that these people have a hidden agenda to revamp downtown into a high density population center and walking mall to benefit influential private interests in the entertainment, travel and food industries, there isn’t much more that can be said here. If someone prints up some “Save Our City” signs; I’ll be happy to volunteer to carry one around downtown and city hall until we put a stop to this unfair and biased “visioning” nonsense being perpetrated by Mayor and Staff. This is a job ONLY for volunteer citizens commissions and unpaid neighborhood association leaders; and the impetus for it should be coming from our City Council, not our City Hall.

    1. Where is the survey that says that Edmonds residents are unhappy and urgently need change due to their feeling of living in a miserable, depressed, city? There isn’t one. Many of the more recent transplants come from Seattle and other cities, whose neighborhoods have been re-imagined (sounds familiar?) to have a more densely populated town, which people are fleeing, in order to end up here. This is pedestrian zone scheme is not sudden: for the past year, our more visionary citizens and city council members, have told us of their walks through Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam etc, and how they can’t wait to shape Edmonds along those lines… nevermind that those are metro areas, their scale, and that their mission is to be a lot of everything for everybody, as large cities are wont to be. They are definitely not bedroom communities of large regional cities, who want to have that “almost on vacation” feeling, and whose residents want to live in houses in the middle of leafy, slightly overgrown gardens that give them some privacy outdoors and fresh air. What most of us want is want is more sidewalks, and smoother roads. No, we’re not trying to imitate Rome or Florence and have fountains or art on every corner. We’re happy with art festivals, foodie events, our theaters, etc and for the rest, we go into Seattle. Also, metro cities with pedestrian centers, have busses, trams, subways and taxis that cross that area, making it easy to go shopping there, and then laden with groceries, etc, to go around the corner and take the tram that will leave us a block from their house. Edmonds does not have that size, does not need that sort of investment. Also, most of Edmonds is hilly, so the idea that you go shopping and then go up Cedar to go home, should make even the best athlete sit and think. Not to pull rank, but if we, The People, don’t want change, you the politicians should stop trying to change our town.

  8. A lot of these grandiose administration visioning plans are going to need Council approval, modification, or cancellation to be more than just a one-time event. It will be interesting to see the political tug of war to fill the vacant seat of K Johnson.

  9. Great point Brian. There will be a huge and inappropriate push to get another Mayor friendly partisan operative back on the Council. This is where we get to decide for sure whether we want Mr. Chen back for another term or not, assuming he runs for the office again. We desperately need apolitical or independent thinking people in the Mayor’s and Council’s chairs to have a properly functioning system with the type of municipal government we are saddled with. Vivian Olsen just made a valiant effort to get the Council focused back on the real issues in town and the partisans shot her down with a bunch of anti-democratic and politically tribal silly rhetoric. We must get adults back in the room if we want to keep Edmonds, Edmonds or what’s left of it anyway.

  10. I received a mailer regarding the Reimagining Neighborhoods and Streets—Pilot Project Survey for Firdale. It asked me to log on and take a survey based on the neighborhood meeting results. The survey asked me 2 questions: 1) Do I support a night market with food trucks in Firdale? and 2) will I help make it happen? I have no words for the arrogance and waste of money represented by this.

  11. Great comment Tracie. You got me thinking about what my mailer will ask me? It will probably go something like:
    1) Do I support turning downtown into an apartment housing development and walking mall?
    2) Would I be in favor of just 5 story buildings or should we go big with a 10+ configuration?
    3) Should the Mall be named European Gardens?

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