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City council set March 28 to discuss Edmonds housing growth targets, document guiding Unocal property purchase

An aerial of Unocal property now undergoing cleanup. (File photo)

Among the items on the Tuesday, March 28 Edmonds City Council meeting agenda: a discussion of 2044 Edmonds population and housing growth targets to be recommended to the Snohomish County Council, and consideration of a document to guide acquisition of the Unocal property next to the Edmonds Marsh,

The council is also scheduled to hear an annual report from the city hearing examiner and an update from the Edmonds Planning Board.

Finally, the agenda includes an update on the Highway 99 Revitalization Project Stage 3 and 4 design work and the city’s efforts to increase access for bicyclists on Highway 99 as required by state legislation passed in 2022.

As for the Edmonds Marsh, acquiring the 22-acre property adjacent to the marsh has been a topic of discussion among city leaders for many years. Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson sent out a press release Friday announcing that the city and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have developed a memorandum of understanding to guide potential purchase of the land.

WSDOT had previously entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement with Unocal in 2005, which set conditions for transferring ownership of the property. The primary condition was remediation of the existing environmental contamination on the property, work that the Chevron Environmental Management Company began in August 2005. At the time, WSDOT intended to use the site for a new ferry terminal but the agency has since determined that the project is no longer viable. This decision opened the doors to a sale of the marsh property to the City of Edmonds once WSDOT and Chevron close escrow.

Ecology is preparing a draft cleanup action plan and consent decree, the city said, and these documents will govern any contingency cleanup efforts required at the conclusion of current work in December 2023. These documents, and any work associated with them, are the primary driver of a timeline for the property sale.

The memorandum of understanding coming before the council for approval March 28 “is a crucial step for the city to help protect the Edmonds Marsh,” Nelson said. “We must ensure this land is restored and expanded as a critical salmon and wildlife refuge. Keeping this land free from development and under public stewardship is essential. Edmonds has a long history of conservation and our residents have spoken clearly that the Edmonds Marsh is a priority for them,” he added.

“WSDOT is pleased to formalize its commitment to a public process deciding the future of Edmonds Marsh when environmental issues are addressed and the property is available for sale,” said Nicole McIntosh, Washington State Ferries chief of staff.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, Public Safety Complex, 250 5th Ave. N. You can view teh meeting remotely at:
Or comment by phone: US: +1 253 215 8782 Webinar ID: 957 9848 4261

Regular council meetings beginning at 7 p.m.  are streamed live on the Council Meeting webpage (where you can also find the full agenda), Comcast channel 21 and Ziply channel 39.


  1. This ‘final’ MOU with WSDOT on purchase of the Unocal property is very, very strange. The Mayor’s Press Release says it is for the Edmonds Marsh, but the Marsh is not even mentioned in the MOU. The quote from WSDOT in the Press Release references a public process, but no public process is mentioned in the MOU. Neither the MOU, the Press Release, or the Council agenda item provide a clear purpose or need for this MOU. The Capital Budget currently under consideration by the State Legislature will give Edmonds first right of refusal on purchase of the Unocal property, so why this MOU now?

    The City’s Comprehensive Plan currently states the Unocal property is for a multi-modal transportation center and City staff have advised there is NO City position on what the future land use will be until 2024 when the Comp Plan is updated. Further, the agenda item says the MOU is non-binding??? So, what is “behind” the Council being asked to approve this very questionable MOU right now?

  2. My guess is campaign season has started and the mayor is doing things to try and make it look like he is doing something whether it has any meaning at all is of no importance so long as he can point to it on campaign flyers.

  3. Sounds like it might be a way for someone to say, ” I proposed a Memorandum of Understanding with WSDOT that assured we get the Unocal property for our city.” Works good in a debate or campaign advertising. Personally, I’ll be impressed ONLY if the MOU says we get the property for one dollar or some other really really small amount. The state ferry system is pretty broke. I’ll believe we get it on the cheap when I see it.

  4. The City Council should require three changes to the WSDOT MOU to ensure it protects the interests of taxpayers in Edmonds.

    1st – WSDOT’s contaminant clean-up negotiations with Chevron and Dept of Ecology on what constitutes “satisfactorily performed” remediation MUST include Edmonds’ intended use of the property for Marsh restoration and other uses stipulated in the 2024 update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. (Edmonds taxpayers need to be assured that we won’t be saddled with additional remediation costs.)

    2nd – Section 4.3 of the Agreement which states Edmonds is willing to pay fair market value MUST state that the “fair market value” will be based on the allowable uses of the property stipulated in the 2024 update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. (If the 2024 update results in the Unocal property being zoned as Open Space, the fair market value of the property would be considerably less than if it is based on commercial/residential use – -which could be double-digit millions.)

    3rd – Section 2.8 MUST stipulate that the City’s interest in the property is for enhancing the Edmonds Marsh and uses stipulated in the 2024 update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. (Otherwise City interest could be defined as low income housing.)

    1. Joe’s suggested amendments are worthy of consideration and can help clarify the MOU and unify the City’s support for the Marsh. A common vision for our waterfront is needed and consistent plan and zone designations are long overdue. The Unocal land, Marina Beach and Willow Creek Parks are all planned and zoned for development inconsistent with the Open Space designation for the Marsh and the City’s stated intention to protect and restore the Marsh with the addition of the Unocal land.

    2. It’s amazing how someone with some actual “smarts” can bring more meaning and focus to what we should be doing in any given situation to actually protect and enhance our city. I suspect the valuation of this critical piece of property will become a matter of great contention between the city and the state before this is ever resolved. With our own state representatives basically attacking us in terms of zoning, this could be a real free for all for Edmonds taxpayers; if we aren’t careful.

    3. Great work Joe. When the city was doing the neighborhood visits to create the “vision” stuff, the city mentioned they had a reason to not rezone Unocal as open space but they did not tell us why. May we will find out now.

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