A letter to Gov. Inslee regarding housing

The following letter was sent to Washingon Gov. Jay Inslee and published here at the author’s request.

Dear Governor Inslee,

There continues to be a huge flaw in all discussions regarding the Growth Management Act (GMA) and planning: the unintended consequences to the environment.  Your Presidential bid had one major platform of the impacts of Climate Change and yet, your discussions regarding housing do not address geomorphic events as they continue to be explosive and more frequent. So, I am asking you to be conscientious of the knowledge local lawmakers possess when it comes to zoning decisions and veto any bills regarding removing local control.

My common-sense solutions for both of these bills can be a two-pronged approach to ensure appropriate exemptions: 1) Cities on a coastline or with major watershed(s) and the surrounding jurisdictions within a 15-mile radius would be exempt from any state mandate relating to zoning jurisdiction or 2) Cities that meet their GMA goals should be exempt as these local lawmakers have already been proactive in their local zoning to accommodate the stated growth targets.

Proposed HB 1110 and SB 5190 would preempt the ability of local municipalities to determine these very important laws, depriving local community members and elected leaders who have firsthand knowledge of their city’s topography, tree canopy, buildable land, demographics, socio-economic data, and residential characteristics. Edmonds has always met our GMA targets; the passage of these bills would have significant impact on our coastal communities that have sensitive watersheds requiring significant restoration and culvert replacement projects.

In Edmonds, the Puget Sound shoreline provides us with the privilege of fantastic views, coastal recreation and habitat viewing; but it also comes with the responsibility of restoring and protecting our watersheds with updating culverts, protecting tree canopy, restoration of our Marsh near-shore estuary and being conscientious of the impacts of the chemicals we don’t see created from density. All of our watersheds are in distress, dramatically impacted by an increase of forceful weather events. In the case of Perrinville Watershed, our neighboring municipality (Lynnwood) has added significant density on our border. The ecological impact has prioritized this watershed and we have had to initiate a stormwater action plan.

In December 2022, the Edmonds City Council adopted Resolution 1510, which I crafted with the assistance of a citizen from our housing commission.  The resolution strongly supports retaining local legislative control over any zoning decisions. In that resolution, it shows that Edmonds lawmakers have taken GMA targets and affordable housing issues seriously by our past zoning decisions made with our citizens’ valuable input.

Both bills reflect the lack of understand regarding the need for environmental restoration to achieve a net ecological gain as a measure to make up for the “sins of the past in local zoning decisions”? Residential units allowed in floodplains have proven to be costly and time consuming. As example, the Riverbend Mobile Home Park on the Cedar River took over 10 years to purchase, relocate the mobile park, and then demolish existing structures.  This is an excellent example of watershed restoration creating a net ecological gain.

While both state and federal lawmakers budgeted millions of dollars for cleaning up the Sound, assisting in near-shore estuary restoration, working on watershed improvement with updated culverts, etc., these areas do not productively intersect with the topics of transportation, commerce, zoning and density. The Growth Management Act, as well as cities’ Comprehensive Plans, have environmental and climate change sections but lack the critical time urgency of the impacts of climate change and, most importantly, mitigation goals are not specified or cross referenced in the housing and transportation sections.

As a veteran member of both Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) Salmon Recovery Council and Watershed Resource Inventory Area 8 (WRIA 8), I can assure you our scientists, environmentalists and Tribes are concerned about the continued disregard of our environment as we continue to deal with the issues of affordable housing. So, please loop in those groups and hear their voices – many watersheds and our Puget Sound are in need of help now.

Please, think of future generations by balancing the environmental aspect and allow local lawmakers to control zoning and implement changes, as we know our city’s needs best.


Diane Buckshnis
Edmonds City Council #4

  1. Wonderful letter Diane! Thank you for taking the time to address this issue with your letter to Governor Inslee. I appreciate YOU!

  2. Thank you Diane Buckshnis. I hope that our Senator and Representatives read this and take it to heart. It’s hard to believe they could both represent us and support these bills.

    1. Thank you for this thoughtful and well stated letter. The protection of our coasts and waterways determine the health of our entire region, and if these environments continue to be degraded by massive construction projects, we will all suffer in the end.

  3. Great Letter Diane!
    Is there a summary somewhere that provides a high level summary of why the Perrinville watershed was chosen as the priority one to address? I looked through some of the presentations, but they lacked the content that gave the reasoning.

    1. Reminder that the biggest source of pollution in the Sound comes from cars and all the miles driven due to sprawl and bad urban design. Higher density buildup, more efficiency, less sprawl is a net gain for the environment.

      Please keep up the good work of environmental management, but using it as a front to oppose BADLY needed upzoning is wrong, both ethically and factually.

      1. Sam Patera,

        “Ethically and factually?” Please provide facts that prove up-zoning in Seattle has reduced carbon burden on the environment. And in doing so, please factor in “embodied carbon.”

        “Embodied carbon is the sum of all greenhouse gas emissions (mostly carbon) resulting from the construction lifecycle of a building. This includes emissions from material extraction and transportation, the construction phase, keeping the building operational (such as refurbishment) activities, and ultimately the end of life stage through demolition and material disposal or processing.” 


        “If this one study is representative, the message for the construction industry is clear. Investment in the very highest levels of energy-efficiency for new homes is, even at its best, an extremely costly way of saving carbon. Investing in improvements to existing homes is dramatically more cost-effective.”

        Increasing density can reduce miles driven, in the long term. In the short and long term, increasing density will add enormous carbon burden to Edmonds fragile ecosystems, and the ecosystems of other WA cities.

        And “ethically?” If you want to dive into the ethics of America’s obsession with automobiles, you better be squeaky green before doing so.

      2. Sam Patera, sprawl is already controlled by the state’s Growth Management Act. We no longer allow random subdivisions sprawled across farm and forest lands. The GMA already mandates population increases in existing cities, but it allows those cities to determine where and how the additional people are accommodated. That process is working. Growth is being channeled into areas already zoned for multi-family redevelopment where urban infrastructure can serve it.

        I don’t understand the obsession with diverting growth into existing single-family neighborhoods. Many Edmonds neighborhoods were developed under county standards before being incorporated into the city, neighborhoods still served by two-lane county roads with no shoulders, no curbs, no sidewalks, and with open ditch drainage~ places where higher densities are least appropriate.

    2. It was selected by Council last year; and there will soon be zoom call this month with update. You need to go to City website and sign up.

  4. Thank you, Council-member Buckshnis, for speaking up for our vulnerable Edmonds watershed, waterfront, and the health of Puget Sound. As you point out, we need to not only prevent further environmental damage, we need to set a goal of net gain if we want to protect these live-giving resources for our children and grandchildren. Disregarding local environmental conditions is a recipe for disaster down the road, so we need to ensure that housing development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand.

  5. Diane, thank you for succinctly outlining the environmental concern aspects surrounding these bills. One would think the Governor strong on climate and legislator Strom Peterson in particular, as an Edmonds resident, would certainly speak up, understand and value these concerns and be fighting for them on behalf of the citizens he represents.

  6. Well done Diane and kudos to you for putting Gov. Inslee on the spot a little bit regarding this critical housing issue. From my own past experience with involvement in the affordable housing issue and personally observing the Governor’s extreme ties to the affordable housing lobby; I doubt very much that he will listen to us on this. It is very crucial that you have called him out on the matter so publicly. I suspect these bills will pass and that they will be tested in the Courts as our last resort for maintaining some reason on ll city zoning matters. I hope I’m wrong.

    Proof that maintaining local control is crucial for us is demonstrated by our own past history of the Ebb Tide Apartment and then Condos. If not for local zoning control, when that was built, our town would have developed in a totally different manor with our waterfront and downtown containing ever taller buildings marching right up the hillside. Personally, I think willingly giving up local control of just about anything is a mistake. Nobody cares more about where you live and how things get done than you do.

  7. Thank you, Council member Buckshnis. As you have stated so clearly, it is critically important that all potential future development is viewed through an environmental lens. The development proposed by HB1110 / SB5190 would have disastrous consequences for our valuable environmental resources. We should be focusing on restoration of our already degraded critical areas. We owe it to our community, and to future generations.

  8. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that the Master Builders Association is a political heavy-weight with one agenda- to bring all its financial and legislative power to bear on communities in order to maximize profits for their members. They have a long history of changing the character of a community and then moving on to the next vulnerable locale, leaving the local population to figure out how to cope with a new reality. They care nothing about environmental preservation.

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