Council considers permanent design standards for downtown zone, recognizes Laura Johnson

Senior Planner Mike Clugston speaks to the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night.

Edmonds city councilmembers and the public had a chance to share their opinions Tuesday night during a public hearing on draft permanent design standards for multifamily buildings in downtown Edmonds’ BD2 zone. While the council won’t make a final decision until Oct. 4 on the standards, they did take action on one element Tuesday night — removing a proposal to allow rooftop deck space.

Prompted by concerns regarding a 24-unit apartment building proposed for the 600 block of Main Street, the council in June unanimously approved an ordinance outlining interim design standards for BD2.

The interim standards were aimed at ensuring multifamily housing units are compatible with the downtown area. They focused on requirements that included building materials to break up massing and strengthen building identity; private amenity space to improve livability of small residential units; a street-side amenity space or pedestrian area; and roof treatment or modulation.

The idea of allowing rooftop decks as an amenity space was considered but rejected during earlier council discussions, due to concerns about safety and privacy. However, Senior Planner Mike Clugston noted that both the Edmonds Planning and Architectural Design Boards had recommended their inclusion in the permanent standards, noting they are sought-after amenities for multifamily residential projects.

During Tuesday night’s public hearing, two residents expressed their opposition to rooftop decks, and after that the council passed motion — made by Councilmember Diane Buckshnis — to remove them from the permanent design standards.

While the council is set to approve permanent standards in two weeks. it’s possible those could be invalidated altogether due to another issue now making its way through the Edmonds Planning Board: an extension of designated street fronts in certain areas of the BD2 zone.

Under city code, new buildings in the BD2 zone located along a designated street front must have a street-level floor with commercial uses at a minimum 12-foot height. New buildings located outside of the designated street front, on the other hand, are not required to have commercial uses on the first floor and may be multifamily residential-only buildings.

The council in May approved an interim extension of designated street fronts in certain areas of the BD2 zone, and the planning board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on permanent standards next week, with a recommendation coming back to the council for final action.

Clugston noted that the interim standards “slightly extended some of the BD2-designated street front areas,” but if the designated street front was extended permanently to all BD2 zone parcels, multifamily-only buildings would not be allowed in that zone. “You’d have to have some sort of commercial in all buildings in BD2,” he told the council. “If your work eventually leads to that, a permanent dedicated streetfront ordinance could repeal the multifamily design standards.”

Given that possibility, Buckshnis said it’s unfortunate that the council couldn’t take up the designated street fronts before approving the design standards. Clugston noted the matter was governed by the timelines of each of the interim ordinances — and the design standards were addressed first.

Former Councilmember Laura Johnson, appearing via Zoom, makes brief remarks after a proclamation honoring her service.

In other business Tuesday night, Councilmember Susan Paine read a proclamation on behalf of the council honoring the contributions of former Councilmember Laura Johnson, who resigned from her Position 7 seat last weekand and is moving out of the area. Paine noted Johnson’s work to support the establishment of the city’s human services program, her efforts to promote redevelopment of Highway 99, her commitment to equity citywide and her development of the council code of conduct, among other accomplishments. Appearing remotely via Zoom, Johnson said she was most proud during her time on the council “of the collective work that was undertaken to assist the most vulnerable residents.”

Related to Johnson’s departure, the council also agreed on a plan for filling the vacant Position 7 seat. This will be a new selection process, rather than a continuation of the process used three weeks ago to fill Position 1 — a vacancy occurred with the death of Councilmember Kristiana Johnson July 18. the council received 17 applications for the Position 1 opening and ended up appointing Dave Teitzel Sept. 6.

Applicants who previously applied for Position 1 are eligible to be considered for Position 7, the agenda memo says, but won’t be required to go through the interview process again. Those applicants may request by email to the council executive assistant that their previous application with attachments of questions, resume and/or cover letter be considered in the process for Position 7. Previous applicants may also submit an updated application if they desire.

There had been a proposal to add a date of birth to the application, but that addition was removed by the council Tuesday night.

The same interview questions will be used again, with newly appointed Councilmember Teitzel asking the question that had been posed by Laura Johnson.

The application is scheduled to be posted to the city website between Sept. 21 and Sept. 23, with an application deadline of noon Wednesday, Oct. 5. Councilmembers will receive the redacted applications as part of the Oct. 11 agenda packet for the Public Safety, Planning, Human Services and Personnel Committee meeting.

All new applicants will be interviewed during a special meeting or meetings conducted set between Oct. 12-15. The selection will be made during a special council meeting scheduled for Monday, Oct. 17.

Also on Tuesday, the council:

– After a lengthy discussion, approved a proposed street vacation of an unopened alley located south of Fir Street in downtown Edmonds. There was a question raised about whether the applicant requesting the street vacation should have to pay the city a fee, based on one-half of the property’s assessed value. Councilmember Will Chen made a motion to waive the $17,500 fee but his motion failed on a 1-5 vote.

– Approved a number of amendments to the September 2022 budget. Among them was allocating $30,000 to convert two offices on the southeast corner of Edmonds City Hall to make it available for the public to watch city meeetings when they are held over Zoom only — access that is required by law. Those meetings had been held at the Edmonds Waterfront Center but the room there is no longer available.

– After a brief staff presentation, awarded a construction contract for the Seaview Park Infiltration Facility Phase 2 project to WSB Excavation & Utilities, LCC, which was the low bidder at $374,000. The project will expand capacity of an existing infiltration facility at Seaview Park.

– Discussed a proposal to extend the city’s current contract with Lighthouse Law Group — which expires Dec. 31, 2022 — for one year to allow additional time to review the firm’s work and whether it continues to be the best choice for the city. Lighthouse is putting together a one-year contract extension for the council’s consideration, and on Tuesday night the council authorized up to $1,000 to hire another law firm to independently review the contract proposal.

– Heard an update from Parks and Recreation Director Angie Feser on the city’s efforts to acquire parkland. Feser said the city is continuing to look at a range of options for park space across the city, including the possiblity of transferring the ownership of South County Park — located in Edmonds — from Snohomish County to the city. While the county wouldn’t charge for the transfer, the city would have to absorb costs associated with parks maintenance and security.

– An agenda item outlining a work plan for rewriting the city’s development code was postponed due to lack of time.

— By Teresa Wippel



  1. Charging citizens to vacate unopened alley easements is backwards and wrong headed.

    The fundamental issue is whether the City sees its citizens as profit centers to be maximized or as customers to be served.

    Process wise, a few years back the planning board made a recommendation that the city should cede unused property rights back to the property owners for as little as possible (while still protecting plausible future city interests) but City staff didn’t like it. At the presentation to council, the staff did not cleanly pass along the planning board’s recommendation, instead including it as an option along with their original recommendation. It was one of the only times I had seen that done and it was a factor in my decision to leave the planning baord.

    Ultimately, the entire issue was back burnered under the “city code update” and no action was taken.

  2. Rooftop decks are overrated . Because of weather 6 to 8 months a year they’re worthless, then who wants to live on a party going on above you? The decks might be a sought-after amenities in Ballard or parts of West Seattle, maybe Lakewood or even Yakima, but would hardly fit into the downtown character. The Edmonds Planning and Architectural Design Boards tried to add them possibly in an effort to add their two cents. Wisely Council remove them from the permanent design standards. If residents want to party it up in the summer outdoors, why not go to one of the local brew pubs or wine bars and support local downtown businesses.

  3. Our condominium residents absolutely LOVE our rooftop deck. We eat meals up there, sunbathe with a good book, snuggle under a furry blanket when it’s cold, and watch the stars at night.
    Life is about the simple things that brings you joy. The rooftop deck provides just that for our residents at Daley Place Condominiums.

    1. I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to enjoy your deck in such a low key and intimate manner. I still suggest that unique lifestyle would be the exception for large multi-unit buildings that some have suggested for the business core downtown.

  4. I think rooftop decks are a great benefit to people living in condos. It affords them a larger space to enjoy being outdoors at home and is a way for the residents of a building to gather as a community. I don’t get the opposition to them as the current rooftop decks don’t seem to be a source of complaints. The noise from a rooftop deck wouldn’t be any more disruptive to people below it than people partying in an upstairs unit. It’s a benefit not a detriment to a condo or apartment building.

  5. Not particularly wanting to see L.J. declared some sort of Edmonds City Saint for putting old fuddy-duddy troublemakers like me in our place and defending our most vulnerable “residents” whether they were actually “residents” or not; I switched over to the Mariners game and watched them blow an early lead. I then switched back to the council meeting where I see CM Chen try to give away the farm of vacated city property while CM Olsen tries to get more money from the farm into the city coffers. Both ideas were shot down by the full Council in the end. Then I see the Council have to once again veto the concept of rooftop decks being allowed on the mostly unwanted huge apartment building being proposed for approval by the city staff in what is supposed to be a BD2 zone. Somehow this design feature just keeps showing up in the plan even though the council keeps voting it down. Then I listen to a real estate agent advocating turning former downtown office buildings into residential downtown apartments. Just another modern Edmonds Kind of Day. Nothing to see here folks, just big money to be made.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Nathan and thanks for your service on Planning Board. The Illinois Supreme Court has expressed the following opinion:

    “It would be a novel proposition to hold that the city as a condition precedent to the exercise of its lawful power and authority to vacate a street or alley no longer needed for public use could demand and receive from private parties a sum of money for its action. Such a holding would be dangerous in principle, contrary to good morals and against public policy.”

    City Council can require compensation, but it is also legal to NOT charge compensation.

    City Staff’s recommendation to do something different than Planning Board’s recommendation in 2019 was very ugly:

    As part of this failure, City Staff did not do what the 2019 City Council voted on October 15, 2019.

    The 2019 City Council voted to initiate a two-step process to resolve the differences between the Planning Board and the Staff recommendations and to add a second public hearing. The City Attorney was asked to help City Staff with drafting the related Ordinance.

    Council’s vote wasn’t honored and here we sit years later.

  7. Ok. All I have to say is this. IF the tax payers in Edmonds, the other 75% of home owners of all types, are not responsible for any accidents occurring, on or below, or pedestrians and or vehicles of any type, on the street from roof tops, then whatever. Go look for your alien spacecraft, party hardy if you choose. As long as who ever owns or lives in these building is responsible for what could happen I don’t care at all. BUT the liability issue needs to be clear.
    As far as the rest of the article is concerned I fear for the Bowl. Over building in an area will devastate the charm, a fire in the Bowl with so many trying to escape could be a disaster. Building more, close to a water table that may very well be compromised is not a great idea for the homes or the sound or the salmon and also the Marsh or our water filtration system. I am obviously not an expert but I am pretty logical in most instances.
    Inflation, wait 2 years before doing anything at all.
    Teresa is there an eyeroll button available for us here. HAHA

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