Council considers environmental impact statement options for Comprehensive Plan; OKs Boys and Girls Club schematic design

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis

In October 2022, the Edmonds City Council was inundated with concerns from residents worried about the impact of development on their Highway 99-area neighborhood. In response, Councilmembers voted to conduct a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the area. But during its Wednesday night business meeting, councilmembers considered a proposal from city staff not to do that supplemental EIS after all — but to instead perform a citywide EIS as part of Edmonds’ required 2024 Comprehensive Plan update.

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis noted that the council specifically agreed to conduct the supplemental EIS in response to requests from Gateway residents, who wanted to know what impacts future growth could have on a range of issues, from infrastructure to the environment.

Lindsey Amtmann, a consultant with Herrera Environmental — one of the firms that will be working on the city’s Comprehensive Plan update — responded that “doing two EISs, either concurrently or sequentially, will take far longer than doing one EIS that looks at the city as a whole.”

One EIS is also “a prudent expenditure of public dollars,” she added. “One EIS is going to get you a lot more bang for your buck than two…and it would have the same public involvement level, the same types of outreach.”

If residents have particular concerns, it’s possible those could be addressed during the public outreach process as part of the Comprehensive Plan update, she added.

L-R: Susan McLaughlin and David Levitan

Edmonds Planning Manager David Levitan explained the preference for one EIS this way: A citywide Comprehensive Plan EIS would give city planners — and the council — a more holistic view of the growth and planning for all neighborhoods. For example, if there is the concern that too much growth is concentrated into Highway 99 neighborhoods, a citywide EIS could look at reducing the number of housing units assumed in that area and ensure they are distributed more equitably.

Councilmember Jenna Nand suggested the council hold a public hearing on the idea of just one EIS process, to ensure those Gateway residents whose concerns prompted approval of the supplemental EIS in the first place could have their say.

The discussion at Wednesday’s special meeting — held a day later than usual due to the July 4 holiday — was part of a broader report from Levitan and Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin on staff’s work to hire a consultant to manage the 2024 Comprehensive Plan update.

McLaughlin started by providing an overview of the city’s work last summer to develop a draft vision statement following months of work by staff and residents as part of the Reimagining Neighborhoods and Streets: Creating Community Spaces Together effort. The goal was to collect comments, opinions and wish lists from a cross section of Edmonds citizens that will shape Edmonds’ 2024 Comprehensive Plan update. That vision statement serves as the framework for updating the plan, she added.

Explaining the significance of the 2024 update, Levitan noted: “We haven’t done a full Comp Plan EIS since 1995. That’s because over the last several planning cycles, the city hasn’t had to increase its zoned capacity to meet its population growth targets, as required by state law. We’ve always just been able to do an addendum.

“That’s not the case now,” he added. “We do have this massive increase in zoned capacity that we are going to need to accommodate. We’re going to need to change land-use designations, or at least zoning designations to meet those growth targets.”

The city issued a request for proposals for a consultant to manage the Comprehensive Plan process — a council-approved allocation in the city’s 2023 budget. Four responses were received, and after interviews staff selected Seattle-based Via Architects, which wil be working with two subconsultants — Herrera Environmental and  Stepherson and Associates. The latter consultant has extensive experience in public outreach, which is a key component of the city’s effort to reach underserved communities.

One of those efforts will include involving “Community Champions,” those who have not traditionally been involved in government activities. The plan is to compensate those participants in some way, but McLaughlin said the specifics of that hadn’t yet been determined.

The consultants’ draft scope of work will be shared with the Edmonds Planning Board next week. There will also be several other touch points between the consultant and the council and city boards and commissions as the process moves forward, Levitan said.

In other business Wednesday, the council:

– Removed from the agenda a proposal to use up to $8 million of the City of Edmonds’ 2023 allotment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for South County Fire services. Council President Pro Tem Vivian Olson noted that Administrative Services Director Dave Turley requested that the item be pulled, and “there were reservations from some councilmembers as well.” Councilmember Buckshnis suggested the proposal be sent to the planning board for review.

– Heard a wrap-up report from lobbyist Debora Munguia regarding the 2023 session of the Washington State Legislature. Bills that were introduced last session but didn’t pass will be introduced again in 2024, including housing bills related to transit-oriented development, lot-splitting and  minimal parking requirements. She advised city officials to start contacting lawmakers now to express their opinions on any legislation of interest for the 2024 session.

Rendering of the Edmonds Boys and Girls Club building planned for Civic Center Playfield.

– Approved the schematic design for the Edmonds Boys and Girls Club’s new building planned for Civic Center Playfield. The 16,000-square-foot LEED Silver building will be three times bigger than the current facility, which will be razed for the new structure. The motion proposed by Councilmember Olson and approved by the council noted that there are some discrepancies between the Boys and Girls Club design and the park’s design guidelines. The idea is that those can be reviewed as the building moves further along in the city approval process, Olson said.

– Approved by a 4-2 vote (Councilmembers Will Chen and Susan Paine opposed and Council President Neil Tibbott absent) — a letter from the city council to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) informing them of the council’s desire to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee, WSDOT officials and salmon recovery councils to explore the option of the state retaining ownership of the Unocal property next to the Edmonds Marsh.

The council on May 23 approved a Memorandum of Understading (MOU) with WSDOT  regarding potential purchase of the Unocal property. The letter okayed Wednesday night requests another meeting to discuss a separate alternative — in which the state would retain ownership of the property and work in partnership with the City of Edmonds to achieve mutual objectives for restoration and maintenance.

— By Teresa Wippel






  1. It is hard to let go of the original charm of so many of our Edmonds buildings. Demolition and rebuilding are often controversial, I know. Having safe and updated buildings are important. Why does the new Boys & Girls Club have to look so sterile? The rendering looks like a blah design lacking any charm or character. Why not build something that looks more inviting to kids adding some historical flair rather than something that looks so serious and uninspiring?

    The use of the “new & improved” Civic Field is not turning out how many of us envisioned. I recall the vote many years back stating the design would be more conducive for the Taste OF Edmonds & the now non-existent Fireworks show. The Taste was bigger and had more variety at the Civic Field. The Fireworks show including live music, dancing, food trucks & vendors was always so much fun for families & friends as well.

    Let’s keep the Edmonds charm alive through our buildings and by bringing our amazing community together in a beautiful new park. Please bring these amazing events back to the Civic Field.

  2. The rendering of the building is a souless, bland, culturally devoid, and lazy. It could be any building, anywhere. Why do we have to put up with these ugly blights fouling our towns and cities?

  3. That was an amazing meeting last night. The Mayor actually let Council Persons ask staff members some pointed and tough questions about the visioning process and study that the Planning and Development Director and Staff have conducted. In another refreshing turn of events, Council Person Paine actually criticized Staff for not presenting statistically quantifiable studies to back up their claims for strong public support of all their plans for the Hwy 99 area. Vivian Olson also presented her view (paraphrasing) that 51% in favor and 49% opposed to the results and some of the methodology of their visioning studies was not exactly a great result or indicative of Community wide consensus. Please correct me, Vivian and Susan, if this is what I heard and not what you said or meant. I’m all in to constructive criticism and don’t exclude myself from being on the receiving end of it. Good job all of you last night, in my opinion.

  4. My question is, why does there need to be a new building 3 times larger than what they have? As a Facilities Professional, I am here to tell you that unless there is a major structural failure, older buildings can be totally renovated and brought up to current codes for far less than building some ugly box. I also know from my years in Edmonds that Edmonds could not bring a project in on time or on budget if their lives depended on it. The Civic Field is a debacle that came in $6m over budget. If I completed a project that 40% over budget, I would never work again.

  5. The problem with the new park beyond going over budget, not making good use of a valuable wetland (a pond perhaps replacing year round mushy ground) and being a watering and staff time sucking albatross of real grass fields, is we lost at least half of it’s past function as a good venue for the events so many here loved – easy, big space for taste of Edmonds, parking for vendors at the art show and a good place for the official fireworks display. Great planning.

  6. I’m curious why we continue to show the rendering of the proposed building without the two large garage doors on the front of the building. The elevation views shown at the Council meeting clearly illustrates two garage doors on the leftmost part of the building. To me it makes it look like a fire station.

    While I’m no architect, I would have expected a little better aesthetic tie-in with the new pavilion at the entrance to Civic Park. After all, it’s directly adjacent to this new proposed building. Maybe the Architectural Design Board may have a few better ideas.

    1. I don’t have that latest rendering to share. There were some questions raised last night about those doors too so who knows if they will make it into the final design.

    2. Jim, I had asked a few Councilmembers to propose sending this project to the Architectural Design Board for their early review. But for reasons unknown, that did not happen. I expect the ADB will have another opportunity to weigh in later in the permitting process when the design is more complete, more detailed, and thus more difficult to change.

      This building, 3 times the size of the current clubhouse, will dominate the whole west side of Edmonds’ newest and grandest park. It’s important that it be the best that it can be within a realistic budget. We need to follow the process in detail, and stay vigilant.

      1. I hear you, Roger. Hindsight would say we should have included the Boys and Girls club when we developed the new park. Maybe we would have relocated it on the site so as to not to be as prominent and dominating of the landscape.

  7. Has anyone looked into saving the existing Boys’ and Girls’ Club and moving it? Nickel Brothers Movers from B.C. might be able to move it somewhere in Edmonds and it could be repurposed either for a public purpose or a private one. I hate to see a place where so many happy Edmonds memories were made just be demolished.

    On another note, in an earlier article, I read one of the issues not dealt with in the prior EIS was a traffic study, analyzing the effect so many housing units (is it 1,000?) in a short, two mile strip will have on traffic. Already, cars back up and wait in one through lane while waiting to turn, leaving only one lane for all of the other traffic on 99 to pass through. . How does a local EIS differ from a state EIS and will the area 99 residents be short changed by not having a state level EIS done?

  8. I have to wonder why we are so married to the idea of having the Boys and Girls Club remain in this location to begin with? It seems like a Boys and Girls Club should be located more toward the actual geographic center of town and in closer proximity to some of the less affluent people who are in more dire need of it’s use. I see the County is assigning a million dollars in ARPA funds to B&G Club for child care purposes at the site. Walking distance to the club for the most users should have been part of the decision process perhaps. Plus we are overlooking the possibility of rebuilding and keeping the old structure for city park headquarters offices or some other more appropriate to the location use in terms of preservation and functionality of the asset.

  9. This is a 100 year old building. Historical landmark buildings are very expensive to maintain. The B&G’s club is appropriate in putting their money (largely donations) into programming – not building preservation – in my opinion. It does not sit in a historical district. I agree with Clint Wright’s comment about the value of a recreation center that kids can walk to. Hopefully the City will have the money (and willing residents vote for tax increases) to build a new Rec Center in the Hwy 99 area. That area will be a 2nd “Edmonds City Center” in 10 years. For example, the Funtasia site is planned as a 400 unit apartment complex. Yikes!

  10. I agree that the B&G Club should not be restoring Historical landmark buildings. They would have to have some sort of just compensation for the current building to build elsewhere. I disagree about the building not being in a historical district. It was part of the original EHS then EJHS campus’, so there really is a lot of history here and the ECA building was preserved because of it’s history; with an excellent auditorium acoustically speaking. It was a good repurpose.

    I think it might be time to think about moving all the major city functions and the B&G Club out 0f downtown to less valuable dirt that’s more easily accessible to more people. Downtown was the center of town when the population was 14,000. At pop. 42,000, that is no longer the case. The old building could make a very nice little satellite Town Hall and Police Station with a real touristy and historically correct look and feel. The current public safety complex property might be a good place for an upscale hotel or luxury condominiums (with underground parking) and some more retail frontage on 6th. Three stories might even fly in that location.

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