Council talks about transportation, sidewalks and building stepbacks during Tuesday meeting

Gateway resident Glenn Douglas speaks to the Edmonds City Council about the green streets proposal for his neighborhood.

Transportation was a major topic of discussion during Tuesday’s Edmonds City Council meeting, as the council held a public hearing on the city’s 2024-2029 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

The TIP is a transportation planning document that identifies projects — with and without funding — that are planned or needed in Edmonds over the next six calendar years. Under state law, the city is required to update its TIP by July 1.

The list of projects presented Tuesday night ranged from annual paving citywide to Highway 99 construction to bicycle lane installations to pedestrian walkways. One project in particular that attracted the council’s attention was inclusion of a future green streets project for the years 2024 and 2025, to be located on 236th Street Southwest from 84th Avenue West to Highway 99.

A green street is a stormwater management approach that incorporates vegetation (such as perennials, shrubs and trees), soil and engineered systems (for example, permeable pavements) to slow, filter and cleanse stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces like streets and sidewalks.

The council had first considered green streets proposals during a special Dec. 10, 2022 meeting on the 2023 budget. Staff had proposed using city American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for two green streets efforts: one downtown at Dayton Street between Highway 104 and 2nd Avenue South and the other in the Gateway neighborhood on 236th Street Southwest.

During that Dec. 10 meeting, councilmembers expressed a desire to delay those projects, stating they didn’t have enough details about city’s plan to support it. Some councilmembers said they were particularly concerned that the 2023 budget proposal — which would allocate approximately $300,000 to complete 10% design on the projects — puts the city on the hook for millions of dollars in future general fund costs for green streets construction, plus ongoing maintenance costs. Susan Paine was the only councilmember speaking in favor of the effort, citing the environmental benefits.

In the end, the council Dec. 10 voted 5-1 to remove the green streets proposals from the 2023 budget, with Paine voting no and Councilmember Jenna Nand absent.

So when the Gateway green streets project appeared on the TIP for the years 2024 and 2025, some councilmembers raised concerns, especially given the estimated $3 million project cost.

Councilmember Vivian Olson said her recollection was that the council “did not commit to spending ARPA funds on the green streets,” and Councilmember Buckshnis said she recalled the same thinking by the council.

Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin responded that she believed “the discussion was to postpone any spending in 2023,” but to keep the ARPA funding for green streets in place for 2024 and 2025. “So it was not eliminated,” she said.

“The discussion was that the council was not interested in pursuing the Dayton Street but they still were interested in 236th,” McLaughlin added.

“Loosely interested,” Olson replied. “I think that the price had really gotten our attention.”

Councilmember Dave Teitzel also weighed in on the green streets issue, comparing the estimated cost of $3 million for the two-block green street project on 236th to the cost of $500,000 estimated for two blocks of sidewalk construction on nearby 84th Avenue — another project in the TIP. “The cost difference is shocking to me,” Teitzel said.

City Engineering Rob English replied that the green street project “has a much larger scope of work” in that it provides stormwater treatment and infiltration, along with other elements.

“The cost of green streets can’t be compared to a sidewalk,” McLauglin said. “It really is a significant utility infrastructure that requires particularly on 236th a whole block reconstruction.” While the project costs could be scaled back, “we really wanted to do the full investment given the lack of public space in this area,” McLaughlin said, adding that “green streets often act as park-like space in areas that are really devoid of that.”

During the public hearing that followed the council discussion, Gateway resident Glenn Douglas — a frequent neighborhood spokesperson on traffic and zoning issues — commented that “as far as I know, my neighbors have no interest in this green street project,” especially when the money could go farther if it were invested in regular sidewalks, he said.

Douglas also mentioned — as did some councilmembers Tuesday night — the importance of adding more funding to the city’s traffic calming program, aimed at discouraging speeders and improving pedestrian safety in various parts of the city. That budget currently stands at $33,000 annually, which is woefully inadequate, he said.

As for next steps on the TIP, Council President Neil Tibbott said he would do some research on “the ARPA funding statements that were made last year around the green street initiative.” He said he would also look at proposing additional money for the traffic calming program as part of the 2024 budget process.

Tibbott also poiinted out that the council was scheduled later in the meeting to approve a professional services agreement with the Transpo Group for the city’s Transportation Plan Update, and asked staff why the TIP was being approved prior to that plan being completed. English replied that by law, the city had to approve TIP by July 1, but that it can be updated after the Transpo Group completes its work.

The council did unanimously approve the Transpo group agreement during Tuesday’s meeting.

The council also held a public hearing on 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.

Architectural rendering of Terrace Place project at 236th Street Southwest and 84th Avenue West in Edmonds’ Gateway neighborhood.\

The proposed standards — discussed at the May 2 city council meeting — would replace those contained in an emergency interim ordinance approved by the council Dec. 10. The council ordinance was aimed at addressing concerns voiced by Gateway neighborhood residents regarding the planned 261-unit Terrace Place apartment building there.

The council is considering a planning board recommendation to revise the interim ordinance so that it requires 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 an Architectural Design Board review for such projects — now required in the interim ordinance — to comply with the state Legislature’s recently approved House Bill 1293, aimed at streamlining development regulations.

During the public hearing, Gateway neighborhood resident Theresa Hollis said that after doing extensive research on the city’s development code, along with various planning and design review documents for both Edmonds and nearby cities, she recommends the council approve the planning board’s proposed new code language for stepbacks.” The council should then “prepare for the next body of work, which is significantly larger and more complex,” Hollis said. This includes changing budget priorities “to fund more sidewalks and a park” that will create a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood; “fine-tune zoning” during the city’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan update to produce development that creates jobs; develop regulations out of a planned supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that will address displacement of residents; and provide better incentives for affordable housing, she said.

The council isn’t scheduled to take action on the proposed standards until next week, and Tibbott raised a question that had also been discussed by the planning board: the required distance from any particular development project that would receive public notice. It is now 300 feet, but Tibbott said he thought it should be a much larger radius. Planning Manager David Levitan said staff can create sample maps using both a 400-foot and 500-foot radius so the council can see what that looks like.

Councilmembers also complimented staff, citizen planning and architectural design board members and residents who shared their perspectives and expertise to come up with solutions to what is a very complicated issue. “Unfortunately, this process is under attack in our state Legislature and there’s a posture that this is a waste of time,” Councilmember Jenna Nand said. “I just think that this shows the strength of our community.”

The council also:

– Approved a resolution declaring an emergency and waiving competitive bidding requirements to complete a repair on a portion of the steel rake arm structure in the wastewater treatment plant’s primary clarifier. In late 2022, the structure had corroded to the point of failure and broke apart, rendering the clarifier unusable. Staff were able to repair it temporarily for emergency use, but it is in a state of imminent failure and must be fixed. The rake arm is the part of the treatment plant’s original equipment and is probably 30 years old, Public Works and Utilities Director Oscar Antillon said.

– Discussed a citizen-initiated code amendment that would allow day care businesses as a primary permitted use in the neighborhood business (BN) zone, meaning they would not have to obtain a conditional use permit. The application involves Great Kids Academy. It would like to establish a new day care center at 24200 76th Ave. W. to the north of its existing center at 24310 76th Ave. W., which is a permitted primary use in the adjacent community business (BC) zone. While the proposed code amendment would benefit the applicant directly, the changes would apply to all BN-zoned properties in Edmonds. These include neighborhood commercial centers such as Perrinville, Five Corners and Holmes Corners (212th and 76th). A public hearing on the code amendment is planned for June 6.

– Heard proclamations regarding Public Works Week and National Police Week.

– Approved by a 6-1 vote an ordinance to move the city from an annual to a biennial budget process. Councilmember Buckshnis objected to the ordinance, stating the topic hadn’t been fully vetted. Other councilmembers disagreed, stating it the topic of a detailed discussion at the council’s recent budget retreat.

The council voted to remove from the agenda a resolution expressing support of state legislation prohibiting public use of controlled substances, since the state Legislature passed a bill on that topic Tuesday.

— By Teresa Wippel



  1. We’ve been told the following in the past about what Green Streets are, from an article dated February 17, 2022:

    Council President Vivian Olson said she believes both the council and the community need more information about the green streets concept before moving forward, and Councilmember Laura Johnson asked Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin to provide more details. McLaughlin explained that green streets is a generalized term that “could literally mean an abundance of landscape that’s intentional on a particular street — whether that’s to improve the pedestrian experience or an actual engineered bioretention facility.” The city is starting to map areas in the city that are suitable for biorention and creating a green streets network, she added.

    However, McLaughlin added, “Green streets can literally mean planting trees, depaving and getting rid of as much impermeable surface as we can on our streets that tend to have excessive width in some areas.”

  2. I am very encouraged by the cooperative spirit of the Edmonds City Council recently. Personally, I would like to pursue proposals in regard to the City’s “traffic calming program.” This will include creation of a signaled crosswalk at 243rd Place SW and Firdale Avenue [Firdale Village area]. There is much new business development in this area; including the Kid’s Academy at Firdale Village.

  3. Great reporting Teresa. Very thorough and accurate as always. Hoping for a positive outcome from all of these important issues.

  4. Glenn, very much agreed about Teresa’s extreme ability to report these meetings with utter accuracy and completeness. I’m in awe of her talent.

    I very much agree with the statements you made last night during the hearing. The next city election can’t come soon enough in my view. The current city Administration seems to have very little consideration for what the citizens in this town need and want in terms of a livable city. This is top down government at it’s worst.

    In Dec. ’22 the Council voted no ARPA funds for Greenstreets, yet that is still the only sure funding source for Greenstreets in our official city planning document. The Council might as well not exist if this is allowed to stand. I totally agree with Diane Buckshnis on the need to get back to basics in Edmonds and start figuring out how to get the most bang for our tax bucks. She’s my choice for the next Mayor. Anybody can walk around town shaking hands and kissing babies; but it takes someone with proven experience on Council and a track record of reaching out to the people to do things right.

  5. Our objection, speaking of behalf of my Gateway neighborhood residents, is that the ARPA funds would be better spent on street safety improvements than a “Parklike atmosphere” on a busy street like 236th.
    I understand the environmental benefits of a green street, but we have much more important infrastructure issues to be addressed assuming the Terrace Place project is constructed with 261 apartments on 84th Avenue W and 236th Street SW.

  6. A multi-million dollar “green streets” project seems like a complete waste of money when there are many more pressing street and sidewalk issues to be addressed. Especially ironic since the administration is asking for the doubling of the car tab fees for basic maintenance. Director McLaughlin seems confused, hopefully the elected City Council will give direction on this issue and assert what the priorities for the city are.

  7. I watched the meeting when it was decided not to set aside money or make plans for green streets. They said something like Vivian did here and last night. It was a maybe consider later and that was that. There was no confusion at all about what that meant. I was surprised to see it brought up again last night. I think the point was made pretty clear this time. AND now the point is clear for sure. I say lets fix things first everywhere in the town and then focus on the fluff. I expect by the 2040? cut off we will have proper infrastructure, a sustainable energy country wide and hopefully more self control in general. Lets see all of those minutes so there is no question about the truth in this particular situation.

  8. For heavens sake, let’s ditch all these professional city planners and their expensive drone like consultants who just parrot back to them what they want to hear and then pass DOWN to us peons. Vote for people who actually get out in the community and listen to the ordinary people and actual citizens with various areas of expertise, willingness to volunteer and have some common sense.

    Here’s a start, don’t vote for any candidate who is openly supported by the Snohomish County Democratic Party in terms of either endorsements or funding. These are the folks that have brought us no more single family zoning, except for rich donors (and people who might fight back in Woodway, Broadmore and Mercer Island). I used to be a loyal donating supporter of the Democratic Party but these local activists with their absurd policies and interference in city politics have turned me into an Independent and I won’t vote before I vote for any of them again.

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