County Councilmember Strom Peterson: An update on the bridge housing facility in Edmonds

Snohomish County Councilmember Strom Peterson

Publisher’s note: This information was provided by District 3 Snohomish County Councilmember Strom Peterson in a newsletter to constituents and is being republished here with permission. As we reported when the county first announced plans in August 2022 to purchase Edmonds’ America’s Best Value Inn, bridge housing is designed to provide immediate shelter in a stable environment, with 24/7 support services. It is considered a first step toward permanent housing and comes with medical and mental health help, job services and other immediate needs. 

I wanted to give you an update on the Highway 99 Bridge Housing Purchase. My apologies for the length of this email, but there are a number of specific issues that constituents have asked about. This is a critical project to help with our homelessness crisis. I will continue to update you as the process continues. It has been slower than any of us wanted, but we need to make sure we do this right.

The need for additional affordable housing in Snohomish County continues to grow. We have relatively high rates of both homelessness and residents who are rent burdened. The quickest way to bring additional affordable housing units onto the market is to purchased existing structures and convert them into affordable housing. Building from scratch would be more expensive and take significantly longer.

Our use of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to purchase the motel on Highway 99 in Edmonds allows us to deploy those time-limited funds strategically and make an impact as quickly as possible. Of course, as on any project, there can be unanticipated delays and obstacles.

Since the purchase of the motel property in 2022, with the intent of converting them into bridge housing, Human Services Department staff members have been working on soliciting input from key partners to inform the planning and development of these projects. This input has been critical in gaining initial community buy-in as well as the preliminary development of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an entity to provide day to day operations and site management, including the coordination of on-site and referral services. The updated draft RFP will be submitted to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office the week of Feb. 18 for review and finalization.

The agency selected will be required to meet project guidelines and fulfill statements of work as described in the RFP. They will also be required to work collaboratively with the county, host city, surrounding neighborhood and key community partners such as law enforcement and emergency management services. Applications received in response to the RFP will be ranked based on criteria including, but not limited to, cost, agency capacity, experience, staffing plans, service delivery model, safety and security measures, and community collaboration.

The bridge housing offered at this property will serve literally homeless adults (Category 1) as defined by the United States Department of Housing and Community Development in its Defining Homeless Rule. This property will not serve children under the age of 18, and the services offered will be limited to individuals residing there.

This facility will not operate on a drop-in basis. Direct referrals into the facilities will be finalized in collaboration with the selected agency and the city. Referrals will also include pathways from Coordinated Entry, the Snohomish County Diversion Center, law enforcement embedded social workers, and other potential options. Individuals from these pathways have either had time in a program or have been assessed by a navigator to identify that bridge housing environment is the appropriate next step.

Before the facility is opened, submission of a land use application will prompt public notice to the neighbors. To date, the county’s human services department has built relationships with the surrounding community, including door-knocking ahead of the initial purchase and sale agreements and virtual conversations with neighbors following the completed purchases. In addition, the department has worked with the city to resolve neighborhood issues as they relate to encampments, landscaping and security.

The human services department will provide an email update to surrounding neighbors in alignment with the public notice requirements triggered by the land use process and will be available to answer any questions on an as-needed basis.

Human services will continue to provide the surrounding neighborhoods relevant project updates until the selected agency takes over operations of the facility. The agency will then be the primary point of contact for surrounding neighbors per the terms of the good neighbor agreements.

The decontamination process has taken longer than anticipated, and we wanted to provide a brief report of activities related to cleaning the building, preparing it for remodeling and ultimately having it available for our residents who are experiencing homelessness.

In May 2023, AA Decon, a decontamination contractor, performed the first round of decontamination efforts at the Edmonds facility. In July 2023, Abatement and Decontamination Services (ADS), a testing contractor, was requested to provide post-decontamination testing at the facility. ADS informed the county facilities department and the Snohomish County Health Department that they believed the decontamination efforts at the facility were inadequate.

In September 2023, ADS submitted a report for the post-sampling at the Edmonds facility. Results showed most spaces tested higher than during the assessment sampling. AA Decon protested the results. The county contracted with BioClean, an additional testing service, to perform confirmation testing at the Edmonds facility. The health department was on site to observe the entire sampling event. Results showed resilient surfaces have been decontaminated. However, porous surfaces and surfaces adjacent to unsealed ductwork were well above the allowable standards in the testing reports.

In January 2024, the county terminated contracts with both ADS and AA Decon. The facilities department met with Forma, a construction management company, which reviewed the progress at the site. Proposals have been requested to move forward with BioClean and/or other decontamination companies. Once these companies complete the decontamination process, the county will move forward with the next phase, which will be remodeling the building to be more conducive to longer term residency than the original building had been designed for.

— By Snohomish County Councilmember Strom Peterson

  1. “…the department has worked with the city to resolve neighborhood issues as they relate to encampments, landscaping and security.” Seriously? Scofflaw graffiti artists are still prowling the Interurban Trail and it appears that their base camp at the old Funtasia property on 220th is still sporadically occupied. Sure seems like a neighborhood issue that has been getting worse, not resolved, since 2022.

  2. Thank you, CM Peterson, for this insightful update.

    It’s really disappointing that it has taken this much effort to clean up the site. And we’re not done yet. I’m curious what contaminants they’re still finding that are “well above the allowable standards”.

    This certainly begs a number of other questions too. Does the Snohomish County Health Department conduct routine testing of all hotels to assure that they are safe and inhabitable? I would hate to think that an unsuspecting traveler could be exposed to or come in contact with harmful substances just because they needed a place to sleep. And what about the families with small children or infants?

    This story is far from over.

    1. No area should initiate low income housing. Let the market be the guide. For example if one can not afford Woodway, one moves to another area or state.

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