Letter to the editor: Edmonds’ small-town charm


Edmonds is charming! We have been stationed in a number of cities and traveled for work and play and definitely believe this. We have also had out-of-town and local visitors who have lived all over and traveled internationally – they unanimously agree that Edmonds is charming.

Charming is partly the power or quality of giving delight. Small-town charm characteristics include close-knit communities, less traffic and noise, cozy main street, cleanliness, no overcrowding, safety, a slower pace of life and natural beauty. We appreciate returning to Edmonds after being away so we can slow down, relax, leave the hustle and bustle and enjoy the natural beauty. Edmonds is definitely an oasis in the middle of the highly populated Puget Sound area.

Of course, charm is in the eye of the beholder.  I’m certain many people find an area like Ballard charming – amongst the traffic, noise, overcrowding and faster pace are unique places and the beach and views are beautiful.

It is so great living in the Puget Sound area — we can travel to or live in areas that each one of us thinks is charming, or for certain services, job opportunities or the excitement and conveniences of urban living.  Sometimes we all may need to get away to enjoy other experiences while having the luxury of coming back to Edmonds.

We just hope that when the Comprehensive Plan is being drafted, that it passes the basic test – does the plan, as written, reflect “Edmonds Small-Town Charm.”

Jon Milkey

  1. I think the basic tests are whether the sewer and storm water systems work, or do our homes flood in heavy rains and our toilets back up? Do we have clean water? Are our streets pitted with potholes? Is our library filled with mold spores? Are we safe from landslides, wildfires, and air pollution? Do emergency vehicles arrive quickly?

    I like the idea of quiet. Unfortunately, I live in a place of 4-stroke lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Maybe we should apply noise restrictions and get folks to buy electric mowers and blowers.

    I’m surprised to hear about the less traffic of Edmonds. Route 104, 196th street, and even 212th don’t feel like less traffic. I hear Olympic View drive doesn’t feel like less traffic either. Let’s get to less traffic. I would start with the ferry-to-light-rail traffic on 104 — combine those single-driver cars into electric streetcars.

    There is lots to learn from small towns. I like visiting Concrete, Eatonville, Index, and Skykomish. It’s worth asking what is it about those places that we want to keep or bring to Edmonds. I also like having museums, bookshops, the ECA, and lots of choices for restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops. I like being able to choose which pharmacy I go to. And jobs and businesses that create city revenues: those are nice too.

    1. Wow! What an advocate for social controls. You probably would not have liked Concrete, Index and Skykomish when they were brought into existence providing the materials (Concrete) building dams, cutting the forests and otherwise involved in extractive industries. They are all poorer communities today; not necessarily bad, but well of their prime.

  2. The Council needs to keep the phrase “small town feel” in the Vision Statement of Edmonds and the Comprehensive Plan. That feel is the essence of our City, why many of us moved here, and why we stay. The Council needs to do the right thing, maintain this language, then make sure their actions and decisions reflect it!

  3. ” small town feel” it’s the Special Sauce of Edmonds. However for some reason others the vision is to be more like Lynnwood, Shoreline, Burien or Skyway.

  4. Sounds great. The problem is that it’s not clear what “small town feel” means.

    You could help guide Edmonds: What does “small town feel” mean to you? Are you thinking of any actual small towns?

    The Planning Board was told that “small town feel” means more cul-de-sac development. I think “small town feel” means LESS cul-de-sac development. To me, cul-de-sac development seems like “suburban feel”. Then there are the car dealerships on 99. They don’t look like “small town feel” to me. I guess “small town feel” could mean, “the feel of the kind of small town that has car dealerships, WinCo, Ranch 99, Point Edwards, a performance space that hosts shows like the Indigo Girls, a regional theater (with a sold-out show right now), Boo Han market, Whirly Ball, multiple senior assisted living centers, two museums, and a marina.” Except, which small town is that?

    1. Interesting. If you did a survey of what “small town feel” means, I am guessing “more cul-de-sac development” would not make the list. You’d more likely get words like safe, attractive, amenities and services, sense of community . . . Perhaps we could leave the “small town feel” in. If folks also want a ban on new cul-de-sac development, let them propose an ordinance banning new cul-de-sac development, and we can discuss that separately.

      1. Small-town charm (whatever that means) might apply to part of Edmonds but not to the whole. That difference may be one reason why some are beginning to explore if it is possible for an area currently part of the city to no longer be part of Edmonds and get annexed by another city.. if that effort succeeds, Edmonds may more properly be dubbed a city where the entirety exudes small town charm.

    1. Yes Laura,

      Exactly! I had a friend from Chicago stay with me for 3 days and she actually dubbed Edmonds “The Hallmark Town.” She was charmed beyond words!

  5. I just heard a new idea: an example of “small town feel” is Washington D.C.

    How does this work for you? Should we aim to be more like Washington D.C.

    (And, no, I am not joking. Washington, D.C. was provided as an example of “small town feel”.)

    Maybe I can get more clarification and find out what it is about Washington D.C. that people want for Edmonds.

  6. We have so many people celebrating that Edmonds is no longer “Deadmonds,” while longing for Edmonds to retain it’s small town charm and appeal at the same time. Can’t have it both ways folks. McMansions and three story buildings filled with 800 sq. ft. apartments will never contribute to a small town feel again. That ship sailed out of Edmonds years ago; along with most of our big trees. There are still a couple neat little cottages in our Bell St, Neighborhood, just in case you want to see what our town used to look like. Yost Park is essentially our town tree museum. We better start protecting and taking care of what we have left because it is disappearing at an alarming rate in the name of some sort of progress.

  7. Small town feel is just that a feeling whether it is a small town or not is a matter of individual perception. I look at Edmonds as a small town and the downtown core certainly feels the part. For planning purposes I think most would like to maintain that, what the words used to describe it are could be different but still have the same feel like, charming little town on the salish sea.

  8. Edmonds’ most distinguishing characteristic, and the one that provides the “small town feel” we know and love, is we have a real Downtown. None of our nearby suburban cities have one. They are mostly anonymous conglomerations of shopping centers, subdivisions, and strip malls. The word “charm” rarely comes to mind there.

    I worry when people, many well-meaning, want to delete language about small-town feel or charm. What do they want to accomplish? Would they rather Edmonds be redeveloped more like Ballard? Or maybe charmless walls of 7-story apartments like across from Sky nursery in Shoreline?

    If those were the only ways to deal with the housing crisis and accommodate expected growth, they might have a point. But that’s not the only way. It’s entirely possible to meet 2044 growth targets AND preserve Edmonds’ look and feel, the charm we know and love.

    Edmonds is beginning the process to update its Comprehensive Plan, the document that will guide the city into the future. People need to be involved in the process to make sure we get it right.

    In a few weeks we will have a new mayor, one with long experience on the city’s Planning Board. I expect Mayor Rosen will steward an open and transparent planning process. I hope people get involved and express themselves. There could be unfortunate results if you don’t.

    1. I’m seeing a vision like, “a small town feel in the downtown core”. I’m not seeing that we feel that the rest of Edmonds has a “small town feel” or should have a “small town feel.”

      Maybe Perrinville, Westgate, Five Corners, Firdale Village, and 99 should all have a “small town feel” as well. For that to happen, we need to specify what makes a “small town feel.” My guess is that we start by supporting development of those acres of parking lot with no more than three stories — creating centers of community that neighbors walk to and walk around in, with restaurants, pubs, bookstores, and small coffee-shop-style performance/gathering spaces. Parking lots and seven-story apartment blocs don’t feel like small town to me.

      How would you bring the small town feel of the downtown core to those other commercial locations?

      1. I got it here it is. “Mid sized urban town”. It is factual leaves nothing to the imitation and if executed properly will appeal to nobody and Edmonds becomes ununique to the world. So much for those tourists dollars that are key to Edmonds long term viability as a city because our vision is to be just another city with nothing special to offer except high rents. Sad day if you ask me. But hey let’s go with it so the young will inherit the Deadmonds of old. Pride is what makes a person and a place without it caring will stop and outside influences will have their way leading to a town much like Ballard has become where it has largely lost its unique identity and pretty much just become a community without a identity. Bring it on if that is what the youth want problem is youth rarely know/understand the longterm consequences of their actions. Change the words but don’t change the vision otherwise our youth will end up with something they really didn’t want but thought they did at the time.

      2. Thanks for your thoughtful followup, Nick. You basically nailed it with your suggestions of how to make other neighborhood centers more “small-town feel.” Pedestrian orientation is fundamental, along with small independent businesses, especially gathering places like coffee shops, cafes, and pubs. Modest density increases of a scale no greater than in downtown.

        As I indicqted above, I’m advocating subarea planning (Neighborhood Planning) in all areas of Edmonds~ with neighborhood stakeholders at the table. We should aspire to bring “small-town feel” to most all of Edmonds. As a Planning Board member Nick, you can help make it happen!

  9. Judging from the various comments in MENS regarding Edmonds “small-town feel”, I believe the Edmonds Planning Board was correct in listening to their student representative, who urged removal of the term. Those who think the phrase has too many misleading connotations are now satisfied. Those who wished it to remain still have the pleasure of living in a town that for them has this feel. And those with a youthful perspective about the city’s future are pleased that the Board responded to their concern. A win-win situation!.

    1. FYI – The first real attack on Edmond’s “small town feel” was the original plans for the Ebb Tide Apt.s (their Condo phase came later). The developer wanted to build at least 10 stories high on the beach which would have probably kicked off a march of high rise buildings right up the hillside, changing downtown (and beyond) Edmonds forever. The people in my parent’s generation were smart enough to put a stop to this with building heights. The tax generating car dealerships that are now in Hwy 99 neighborhood were right downtown. That is the Ford and GM dealerships were. Those dealerships moved to the highway and have become mostly other brand oriented now. Things change and not always for the better necessarily. The only way to have preservation is to practice it. Woodway Town figured that out early on and Edmonds is still trying to figure it out.

  10. Seriously. Does anyone truly think that the 99 neighborhood has small town charm? I live there and I would not live in any other Edmonds neighborhood, but it doesn’t meet the same metrics you all believe constitute small town charm. And this is why many of us feel like the “other Edmonds” vibe still lingers. Could there be a vision statement that includes us? I see that as the goal. Otherwise, as someone (who lives in the Bowl) told me at the recent Landmark 99 meeting, we are just people who live in “nowheresville.”

    1. Kiim, the hub of the International District is one of our prime opportunities for expanding the charm in our City. The installation of the red lantern light posts a few years back was a good first step, and the Edmonds Arts Commission has a call to artists for designs for metal art enhancements for those light posts as we speak. There are many popular and successful businesses in the International District, and community renewal or business improvement district tools could add that “placemaking” element. These are the kinds of things that could come out of a comp plan process guided by a vision of small town feel and charm.

  11. “small town” – the mythological turn of the 19th century “Main Street, USA” at Disneyland

    The street (singular) is clean, mostly 1-story, with occasional 2-story buildings, no bars, only small, mom and pop stores and ice cream parlors

    and – nobody lives there (although) Walt did have an apartment over “city hall” where he did at times, stay

    1. Victor, “Main St USA!” Disneyland! Yes, we have a form of that described in my post about the fountain and the points of the compass stuff. Appears below.

      A few years ago council grappled with building height DT. 30ft? 25+5 with set backs? and more. They kind of agreed to stay under 30 but did so in a strange way. When the Economic Development Commission was asked to review and make some recommendations to add jobs and city revenue (primary function of the EDC) they recommended lowering the first-floor ceiling height. That would have allowed some DT re-development to stay within the 30 ft and make the building 3 stories. It was rejected without much discussion. Why? It was council’s way to “preserve” the current buildings. If true why would council not want to explore the idea of a DT preservation zone?

      All too often our elected officials do things for a stated reason but really are doing so for an unstated reason. Not very Transparent, we need to do better.

  12. What is often talked about is the area that extends in each direction of the fountain. Primarily the old building. Basically 1 block north, east and west and 2 blocks south. There are other old buildings that add to the that inventory.

    A look at the ownership of that area sets up some unpredictable futures. The costs to keep some of these spaces viable will likely grow faster than the rents to support those costs.

    Over time some Boards and Commissions have recommended we “explore” some notion of a “preservation zone”. The ownership of these buildings will change over time and without a complete discussion of all the puts and takes of the area may get haphazard development.

    The Comp plan work may give us that opportunity, but we are already seeing the skirmishes driven by all sort of issues, arguments and counter arguments.

  13. Kim, there is no question that areas that are, Not The Bowl, have gotten short shrift from Edmond’s city government for years now. It’s probably not much satisfaction for you, but I can assure you all of the over hype and over spending on upgrading and glorifying The Bowl has not been all that great for those of us living in the upper part of it either. The glorious new Civic Field Park is no longer used to store Vendor Trailers and Trucks for the Art Festival at FAC so we now have Trucks parked in our neighborhood with some vendors living in them for the duration. New business’s downtown have taken up already scarce parking spaces while increasing the pressure to have a place for their customers to park. So much of it just does not make good sense. Our whole city needs better and fairer government planning and decisions; not designed to break the bank and ball up the works. Start putting function over form for a change. We’d all be better off.

  14. Perinville back in the day wasn’t very successful except for the little store but it seems that it has finally found its footing. Problem for Edmonds is there is no room for development now Lynnwood on the side of the street still has some room. So is perinville development a Edmonds issue? I don’t think you can really bring that small town feel to the hwy 99 area cause at the end of the day you still have a major hwy running through it maybe the long term plan should be to turn it into a dence urban area with high population density and connections to transit and the interurban trail strange to me but some people like to live in small apartments in the sky and walk or ride transit to their nearby destinations. Problem is the area was never ment to be what downtown is and to think we can duplicate it in that area isn’t realistic. Just like firdale is different Westgate different perinville different. I do know it is going to be a area that changes over the coming decades maybe annexing into to shoreline or mountlake terrace will suit you better go look what they have done cause it is likely you will get the same.

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