Reader view: A step up for Edmonds

A recent city council meeting included a decision to defer the review of downtown building heights and maintain a building height limit of 30 feet for downtown including mixed-use BD2 zoning. Mixed use is the term associated with a building containing a mix of commercial and residential occupancy. The planning department representatives informed council that the building height of 30 feet for new mixed-use buildings often means the first floor commercial of most downtown new-construction, BD2-zoned properties would need to be built a bit below grade (subterranean). The Gregory Building at 5th and Walnut Street was referenced as an example.

The building height topic is a decades-old discussion that usually leads to much public discourse; however the discussion for commercial space within all the mixed use BD2 zone is more recent. The need for future downtown commercial space to be built with residential is the primary issue. City council could simply choose to retain in part the pre-existing BD2 zoning guidelines that allowed some downtown properties to be constructed entirely residential, but this would limit downtown opportunities for more goods and services, public parking, and public space/amenities to be included with new residential construction in the downtown. A synergy of these elements provide a truly sustainable and walkable downtown community. Our growing population requires more housing and commercial space to fulfill and sustain our needs. Population growth is not likely to change and we seek diversity. Diversity of community, employment, housing, cultural arts, recreation and business opportunities all create a sustainable path for our city. Requiring all future development of downtown BD2 parcels to incorporate commercial space with residential takes a big step towards a diverse and walkable downtown community.

We should urge the city council to incorporate the updated downtown mixed use BD2 guidelines by providing a mix of residential and commercial buildings at all downtown BD2 properties while maintaining the downtown maximum building height of 30 feet. This would be a big step up for our community and reserve the building heights discussion for another day.

— By Will Magnuson

Will Magnuson lives in Edmonds

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