Council hears recommendations for Hwy 99-area design standards

Planning Manager David Levitan, right, answers a question at the Edmonds City Council meetingTuesday night while Senior Planner Mike Clugton listens.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night heard recommendations from the Edmonds Architectural Design Board and Planning Board for permanent standards for certain projects zoned general commercial as part of the Highway 99 subarea plan.

The proposed standards discussed Tuesday would replace those contained in an emergency interim ordinance approved during a Dec. 10 Edmonds City Council meeting. The council ordinance was aimed at addressing concerns voiced by residents of Edmonds’ Gateway neighborhood, just west of Highway 99, regarding the planned 261-unit Terrace Place apartment building there.

The interim ordinance was sent to the architectural design and planning boards for further study and recommended permanent standards.

Senior Planner Mike Clugston and Planning Manager David Levitan recapped the history of the interim ordinance, which would require a two-phase public hearing and a decision by the Architectural Design Board (ADB) for projects above 35 feet in height. Buildings less than 35 feet would still be subject to a staff design review process that had been in effect since 2007

The interim ordinance also requires an additional building stepback when the project is across the street from a single-family residential zone, unless it is deemed unnecessary by the ADB.

The ADB had several recommendations: maintain the required two-phase public hearing for buildings taller than 35 feet that are adjacent/across from single-family zones; create a new process — involving a staff decision after public notice — for projects greater than 35 feet not across from or next to single-family zones and maintain the stepback requirement for projects across the street from those zones, unless the ADB deems it unnecessary.

The planning board, meanwhile, recommended revising the ordinance to require a 10-foot stepback at 25 feet and a 30-foot stepback for buildings over 55 feet when adjacent to or across the street from single-family zones. Buildings 55 feet and under would be exempt from stepback requirements. The planning board also recommended eliminating the ADB review for such projects but to instead require a public notice and/or meeting.

One thing complicating the matter, staff noted, was the passage of House Bill 1293, one of many housing bills considered by the state Legislature during its 2023 session. HB 1293 is aimed at streamlining development regulations and requires design standards to be “fair and objective,” Senior Planner Mike Clugston said. “That led the planning board to take a look at the discretion that was in the interim ordinance and they felt that wasn’t…going to be in keeping with 1293.”

Councilmember Dave Teitzel pointed to a table prepared by the planning board indicating the four goals the permanent standards should be working to achieve. These include, as indicated in the chart below:

– Provide better transition between the general commercial (CG) and single-family residential (RS) zones.

– Keep in the spirit of the Highway 99 subarea plan.

– Certainty for builders.

– Compliance with HB 1239.

The option the planning board landed on — requiring stepbacks of 10 feet and 30 feet for buildings over 55 feet with no architectural design board review — is the only one that satisfies all four goals, Teitzel noted.

Councilmembers offered their thanks to staff and ADB and planning board members for working through the complex issue. The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter at its May 16 meeting and make a final decision on May 23.

Councilmember Jenna Nand asked if the council could provide “voluntary guidance requesting that developers engage in a second public process meeting even if it isn’t mandated by ordinance.” Levitan replied that the city can’t require more than one public meeting under the new legislation, but said there could be a required neighborhood meeting “for projects of a certain size and scale” when they are first introduced.

“That is something that we could look at doing,” he added.

A graphic describing a multimodal transportation system.

In other business Tuesday, the council also heard a presentation outlining the reasons for transitioning to a multimodal level of service as part of the city’s transportation plan update.

Traditionally, levels of service have focused on vehicles and how quickly they move through intersections, rather than other transportation modes such as walking, biking and public transit. City staff have noted in past council meetings that shifting to a multimodal level of service that estimates not only vehicles but buses, bicycles and pedestrians would allow the city to use transportation impact fees from developers to build sidewalks, a need that several councilmembers noted Tuesday night was a plus for the idea.

Consultants from Transpo Group also said that shifting to this type of approach also makes the city more competitive for future grant opportunities.

Staff is preparing to begin the update to the city’s transportation plan in coordination with Edmonds’ upcoming Comprehensive Plan update. The council is scheduled to consider at its May 16 meeting whether to approve a professional services agreement with Transpo Group to complete the plan update.

In addition, the council:

– Approved a recommendation from staff to reject all bids for the citywide bicycle improvements and Elm Way walkway projects and send the projects out for rebid. That’s because the city’s consultant didn’t include as part of the bidding process a state requirement to describe steel and rebar requirements.

– In what was described as a “housekeeping measure” by City Attorney Sharon Cates, voted to authorize Mayor Mike Nelson to sign a quit claim deed from the Edmonds School District for the Edmonds Library property. The property was formerly owned by the district and the county still showed the district as the property owner. The city worked with the school district to obtain the deed, which the city can file with the county auditor to demonstrate that the city is the owner of the library property and that the school district makes no claims to it.

– Related to previous discussions regarding repairs to the Edmonds Library, which was damaged nearly a year ago when a pipe burst, approved an interlocal agreement with Sno-Isle Libraries to transfer funds city received from its insurance for the damage. The $408,179 amount represents the estimated insurance settlement amount ($840,000, less city deductible) and expenses incurred as part of Edmonds’ responsibility in mitigating flood damages and restoring the building to pre-flood conditions.

— By Teresa Wippel


  1. This 261 unit apartment building project slated for construction at 84th Avenue W and 236th Street SW has been ongoing for many months and reviewed by quite a number of people. I would urge the City Council members whose decision is coming up on the 23rd to take a short drive south on Highway 99 to the west parking lot of Sky Nursery and look west at the construction projects. Then take that vision back to 84th Avenue W where this huge building is to be erected. Then look west at all the homes that will be in the early morning shadow during the coldest months of fall winter and spring. I live in one of those homes. Step backs may help aesthetically to make the fascia impact less foreboding, but the better solution is to deny permitting construction totally and allow a much smaller building or individual residential homes on this property more suited to our neighborhood.

  2. It’s been noted on many occasions to the City Council members that we do not have the infrastructure to support up to 600 more adults and children in this property. There are traffic violations consistently on 84th, no curbs, no sidewalks, no crosswalks, no parks, lots of crime nearby, etc. In summary I strongly object to the rezoning of this property as commercial and do not agree that it should be included in the Highway 99 project.

  3. I compliment CM Nand for her comment to city planning personnel that they (and all of us by inference) need to keep in mind what we all want Edmonds to look like 50 years from now and do we want to maintain our unique character; or just look like all the other municipalities in our area? I think I paraphrased Ms. Nand’s comments accurately and my apologies in advance, if I did not.

  4. I did not attend the Planning Board where they made the recommendation to eliminate the ADB Review; therefore, I do not have the context as to why they would do this. The ADB should absolutely be involved with reviewing design standards on these very tall buildings. City Council – please do not eliminate the ADB review process.

    1. Kim, state legislation passed this month (and waiting for the governor to sign) says cities can have a maximum of one public design review for housing projects. Edmonds currently defines the ADB process as 2 public meetings. Although the city has until summer of 2025 to be compliant with the new legislation, the Planning Board wanted the CG code changes to be compliant now.

  5. I’ve read that over 1,000 units are planned to be approved in the 2 mile Edmonds stretch of Hwy 99. Apparently, the buildings will not be required to provide parking. As the legislature passed Bill 1100 that allows most single family lots to double their density, why do we need to approve 1,000 units on Hwy 99 now? Why not incorporate the anticipated increase in density into our Comp Plan planning and wait to see how many more units we need before compressing thousands of people into the 2 mile stretch? Also, as our society is transitioning to electric cars, why are we planning buildings with no parking? Where will those thousands of cars park? On the streets closest to Hwy 99, in all likelihood. That will make living in the “Uptown” or “Hwy 99” neighborhood miserable for everyone.

  6. While out and about this morning I drove by where that 261 Unit Apt. building is planned and I totally sympathize with Mr. Douglas and all his neighbors. Such a structure is totally out of balance with the nice single family residential area on the other side of the road. It will bring untold issues for those people in terms of traffic and parking as well as completely overwhelming the feeling of open space that they now enjoy.

    What really needs to happen in our whole town, is a hold put on all current development schemes until all this new legislation sorts itself out. I just don’t see how those draconian state takeaways of what has been considered municipal rights for ages is going to stand in the Courts in relation to Constitutionality. The reality is that this is a pretty big state land grab to benefit a certain class of people and should be challenged on the basis of discrimination of some sort I would think .

  7. If you want a preview of the future for Edmonds drive down Hwy. 99 through Shoreline you can see lots of huge boxy apartment buildings filled with 500 square foot apartments for 2000 a month and no parking. OK, let’s shut down ADB process reviews ASAP right?

  8. Master Builders Institute of Washington already has an add out depicting the demolition of a single family residence with one big tree in it’s yard; replaced by a side to side duplex with two trees at each end of the yard suggesting that they are solving both the housing shortage/affordability problem and bringing back needed tree canopy for the environment. Pure unabashed propaganda B.S. enabled by our own local legislators. I’m voting against all these fools at the earliest opportunity, even if I have to hold my nose and vote Republican for the first time in my ancient life.

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