Edmonds Planning Board gets first look at 2024 Comprehensive Plan draft

Attendees listen to urban planner Kate Howe during the Wednesday Edmonds Planning Board meeting in city hall.

The Edmonds Planning Board met Wednesday to take a first look at the foundational work for updating the city’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan, also known as Everyone’s Edmonds

The City of Edmonds needs to accommodate the expected growth of 13,000 people over the next 20 years, as required by the state’s Growth Management Act. These new residents will require 9,000 new housing units, and Edmonds currently has the capacity to add only 5,000 units. Also, Edmonds has the capacity for 2,548 jobs, and 510 additional jobs must be added.

The City of Edmonds needs to reach a capacity of 9,000 housing units, with a majority being affordable housing, followed by accessory-dwelling units (ADUs) and middle housing.

The Planning Board presentation highlighted three House Bills – HB 1110, HB 1220, and HB 1337 that the city must comply with as part of the 2024 Edmonds Comprehensive Plan update:

HB 1110:  increase middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing.

HB 1220: Accommodate affordable housing to all economic segments of the population of Washington state. Cities must also promote a variety of housing types and differentiate these housing types to affordability levels.

HB 1337: Permit up to two accessory-dwelling units in all single-family zoning districts.

“Part of the reason why we plan is to do a better job of enabling house choice for more types of people, and really achieving that mix of land use that we want to see in Edmonds,” said Perkins-Eastman Urban Planner Kate Howe. “How can we equitably distribute housing and employment choices? We talk about that a lot when we start to think through housing targets.”

Currently, the average home sale in Edmonds during the past two years has been approximately $720,000 with no sales below $590,000. The high average sale price for a middle housing unit (for example, a duplex, townhome, triplex) is more than 120% of the area mean income (AMI). During Wednesday’s meeting, planning board members mentioned that home sales prices need to be under $400,000 to be considered affordable.

Rowe highlighted a chart that shows three main types of housing units, including 6,814 low-income units, 2,129 ADUs or other apartments and condos, and 126 middle housing and single-family homes.

The City of Edmonds needs to reach a capacity of 9,000 housing units, with a majority being affordable housing, followed by accessory-dwelling units (ADUs) and middle housing.

“We circled all of these units that we’re trying to accommodate in the low-rise or mid-rise apartment/condo types because they fit in the affordability category,” Howe said. “The ADUs in the purple can be in the moderate-income category or in any category to the left. And the same goes for that in red, and that’s your single-family detached or higher-income units. So all of our 9,000 capacity has to fit into these buckets to comply with HB 1220.”

Howe showed a bar graph that indicates the number of required units (blue), existing capacity (yellow) and units that will be added. The red boxes are the additional housing requirements that Edmonds must meet. Currently, the city is meeting the ADU requirements – with 1,642 units – while only 42 middle housing units are needed.

Because Edmonds is already a “high-cost community,” HB 1110 capacity can’t be used for any other housing category, said Howe. 

There is also a possibility that the total capacity could be increased to 2,700, depending on zone downsizing and land use alternatives. “We can always pare back,” said Howe. “During the EIS process, we’re trying to test for impact – where we’re placing the density, where we’re exploring growth. So 2,700 is our target but I don’t think we at this point need to be super precise about this target. This is where we shifted somewhat as we narrowed our strategies.”

The planning board also explored the idea of building neighborhood centers and hubs in Edmonds, which are part of growth alternatives. This includes bonus height incentives, which refers to additional building height allowances granted to developers as an incentive to include specific features or amenities in their projects, such as neighborhood open space, affordable child care and small-scaled retail and cafes.

Edmonds Senior Planner Jeff Levy describes where the neighborhood center and hub would be in Westgate.

Edmonds Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin presented three alternatives to creating centers and hubs: no action, focused growth and distributed growth.

No action indicates that the government continues to operate and maintain the existing conditions with no changes. McLaughlin said that the no-action alternative “is not compliant” with the Washington State Management Act requirements. 

The focused growth alternative proposes building neighborhood centers in the Firdale Village, Westgate and Five Corners neighborhoods, while creating hubs in the North Edmonds Bowl, Perrinville and Firdale. The city’s current Medical District – located near Swedish Edmonds Hospital – would also be expanded to complement medical services and provide temporary housing for medical workers. Housing units are limited to five to six stories within neighborhood centers and medical centers.

The third alternative – distributed growth –  is similar to the focused growth option, except that it does not include the Medical District expansion. It limits building height to five stories in neighborhood centers while adding one extra story if the units are built within a hub. Both alternatives have a “15-minute neighborhood plan” in mind, which means that residents can walk, bike or take public transit to daily necessities and services easily.

(See graphics below regarding “centers and hubs” for more detail.)

“We’re going to be analyzing all aspects of these alternatives and articulating impacts,” McLaughlin said. “From that, we can pick and choose what our preferred alternative is.”

The Edmonds Planning Board will continue to discuss the Comprehensive Plan update during its next meeting, at 7 p.m. March 13. 

Development Services Director Susan McLaughlin, Senior Planner Jeff Levy and Acting Planning Manager Mike Clugston conclude the meeting.

You can see the full presentation at this link. Details about the Comprehensive Plan are available here.

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

  1. Edmonds really needs to focus on housing ‘creation’ as a central/main strategy. The concept of ‘mixed use’/retail ‘services’ on the ground floor of taller apartment/multi-family housing does not work for 2 reasons:
    1. People living ‘above’ these retail spaces does not necessarily guarantee their use of such spaces– people shop where they can get what they need or want– not just by ‘what’s downstairs on the first floor’ of their building unit, and
    2. Residents in general cannot afford to utilize ‘local’/first floor retail vendors because their ‘goods’ are priced too high for their shopping needs/wants, due largely to high retail space rental rates brought on by currently high (and growing higher!) cost of construction.
    Instead of the above, focus should be on residential units with good transportation options , parking, open/public spaces, and ‘green’ outside play areas for use by all residents. Neighborhood hub concept is still a good option for future development.

    1. Thanks, Phil. I agree with what you said, but regarding #2, why are the construction and rental rates priced that high (at least in Edmonds) that squeezes people’s budgets? I’ve seen a lot of the first-floor retails with residents on top in many cities nationwide and worldwide, and many seem to be faring well.

      I remember my grandparents in Hong Kong in the 1980s were able to take the elevator to the street, buy live chickens and fresh veggies at a stall at the base of the high-rise apartment. If they want McDonald’s and coffee for a “Western” meal or have dim sum, they would walk two blocks from their home.

      In my recent trip to Dortmund, Madrid, and London, the shops, bakeries, cafes, and bookstores do not have exorberant prices. In fact, they’re much more affordable than what I’ve experienced in Seattle, NYC, and Southern California. That was a (mild) culture shock for me. €2-3 for a ham croissant or €0.60-0.70 for an empanada? €1-1.60 for a European-sized coffee? I can just stroll down the block or downstairs from my AirBnb to get meals or groceries. Even London was a little more affordable, despite the exchange rate.

      So why the difference? #UrbanPlanning101

      1. Nick – I hope you really do not expect a reply to your question of ‘why the difference?’ There are texts books full of answers. But this neighborhood online newspaper forum is probably not the most effective way to get your info. (Have you bought beer from a corner shop in Hamburg Germany? It’s cheaper than the water. The reason why is a long story)

        1. Theresa, these are questions I’ve had for a long time since I started traveling abroad since 2016. Perhaps not on this platform, but it does jog my brain on where to start looking to understand the “why.”

          Beer in Germany: Nope! Not a beer fan here, but as a regular coffee/espresso drinker, it’s more affordable in Germany and Spain than in the U.S., except anything from Starbucks or Tim Hortons. But my cousins did Germany did tell me that. 🙂

  2. The presentation of projected growth of housing units seems to be saying there are already enough ADUs in Edmonds to comply with these detailed rules about the distribution of planned new housing. How many of those ADUs are or will be short term rentals, Airbnb or Vrbo? Short term rentals take units out of the housing supply and reduce the supply of “long term rentals”. There are plenty of good reasons to include a prohibition on short term ADU rentals in single family neighborhoods and I hope the City seriously considers doing so.

    Second comment: The cost of construction (including City costs such as permit fees, sewer and water hookups, etc.) has gone stratospherically high lately, as well as the cost of owning/maintaining a house (property taxes, utility bills, hiring contractors for maintenance, etc. ). Will the City address these costs to encourage current residents to stay in Edmonds and (maybe) add an ADU to their house? As things stand today, there is no way an ADU in Edmonds will cover these costs at a reasonable rent.

  3. This bunch of planners won’t be happy until Edmonds looks something like Hong Kong or Beijing with high rises and throngs of pedestrians and bicycles all over the place. The pack ’em in tight school of roads and habitat. With the new state mandates, the next thing we are going to see here are lots of upscale accessory dwelling units and they won’t be selling in the $400,000 range, except in the planners’ dreams.

  4. I don’t understand why the prevailing view is always that growth is both inevitable and good. But that’s a discussion for another day. Meanwhile, we already have plenty of examples of what not to do from an aesthetic and livability standpoint: Anthology on 212th, the no-set back buildings on Edmonds Way, and much of what one now sees in Shoreline. Even at only 6 floors or so these structures are oppressive, creating canyon-like passageways that block out the sky and horizon. There seems to have been no imagination or creativity deployed in the architecture. They are just ugly blocks with superficial variation on the facades, purely utilitarian. Were entire classes of architect enjoying an extended Spring break in Florida when they covered some of the fundamentals of aesthetics?

  5. Trendy upzoning by planning gurus to create an egalitarian utopia locally AKA: “Everyone’s Edmonds” may be political feel good-ism, countering regional affordable housing panic. Likely, economic and financial reality will rear its commonsense head. These plans seem to be based mostly on using other people’s money to subsidize lifestyle through housing and transportation and unfortunately eventually you run out of other people’s money to spend, as usually the case.

  6. Agreed, Vince. Hopefully Edmonds will not allow the planners to copy Ballard and Shoreline with their grandiose ideas for 6 story boxes towering over the sidewalks at Hwy 99, Five Corners, Perrinville, etc.

    One other thing about this plan and the direction its headed: The State already said the entire town must be rezoned at 2+ units per lot. Doesn’t that by itself add the “required” thousands of units of new residential capacity? Meaning all this other upzoning would not be required once the ADU rezone is completed. I would like to see the City include the state mandated city wide ADU rezone in the Comp Plan and leave out all the rest of this upzoning, then see how it goes far the next 10-20 years and revisit the big upzones later.

    1. John, look at the existing conditions analysis that outlines the housing stock age and existing real estate values and the Snohomish County Tomorrow Housing Characteristics and Needs Report (you can find it in prior Council and Planning Board packets or through the County). Edmonds is considered a high cost area. The ADU/DADU and 1110 alone in existing RS zones within Edmonds won’t erase the high cost classification and therefore won’t meet the growth requirements because the majority of the growth allocated to us comes with the requirement that those housing types needs to be available to lower incomes, hence the proposed multistory housing types in neighborhood cores.

      1. Jeremy, Yes that is what the planners have concluded but I call it a self fulfilling speculation. I think most residents will hate it if our neighborhood centers are clogged up with Ballard style boxes looming over the narrow sidewalks. More missing middle and fewer 6 story boxes would probably work out better.

        Has the Planning board or anybody thought about ways to ensure that the state mandated new ADU units will not be “high cost” but will be affordable. I think a prohibition on short term rentals would be a start. Plus maybe a break on permit fees, utility bills, sales tax, property tax on the construction, etc in return for an owner limiting the rent. Just like the developers get on their box buildings.

        1. Hi John, yes those items you bring up are being vetted for the ADU/DADU code. There’s a public hearing on the 28th and hope you can make it or patch in to provide your comments. The neighborhood core density boundaries and building heights is in development and should see more information regarding what this looks like on March 6th given the suggestions by board members.

  7. Apparently the latest planning theory is that the shrinking middle class must finance low cost to free housing for the poverty class and anyone living pay check to pay check or in a tent down at the city park. We must protect our rich class at all costs as they are the ones who make us such a successful economic power by spreading our great wealth around (the trickle down myth). I don’t know what the answers are but I just saw with my own eyes, on a train trip from Seattle to Tucson, that we have a bigger than huge problem with home grown refugees living in tents, while illegal immigrants are flocking into the country to do the jobs that our domestic refugees can’t or won’t do for some reason. Just too damn many people everywhere is the only conclusion I can draw.

  8. The population of our city has grown from 39,310 to 42,027 in the last 20 years. The Growth Management Act says it will be 13,000 higher in the next 20 years. Obviously that would not be natural growth. It must represent a requirement for us to accommodate illegal immigrants. I have no interest in doing that.

  9. I wish we could manage to elect some city leadership with the intestinal fortitude to tell the state to “buzz off” with all their unfunded and mostly unwise and not needed mandates to study and take the analysis paralysis approach to everything under the sun. Our Dept. Heads are afraid to do the real work that needs to be done because they are bending over backwards to not violate one State requirement or another that, dollars to donuts, won’t ever be enforced anyway. As Diane Buckshnis recently pointed out our Planning dept. has recently spent something like 1.6 million dollars on expert consultants that has done nothing in the way of actual city work that needs to get done. To hell with the growth plans and predictions, let’s just fix the bridges and remove the stream obstructions in Yost Park for example.

  10. Dear City of Edmonds Planning Board,

    Subject: Redevelopment at Five Corners and City Dry Cleaners

    We are writing to you today as the owner of City Dry Cleaners, a business we have proudly operated at Five Corners for the past 25 years. We at City Dry Cleaners appreciate the City’s overall development goals to improve the quality of life for Edmonds residents.

    We understand that the City is considering redevelopment in the Five Corners area. While we support long-term improvements to our city, we also urge the City to consider the impact on established businesses like ours.

    City Dry Cleaners represents a significant investment of time and resources. It is not only our livelihood but also a key contributor to the Five Corners community. We are concerned that redevelopment could negatively impact our business and the future of other small businesses in the area.

    Therefore, we respectfully request the City to explore ways to mitigate the impact of redevelopment on small businesses. This could include:

    Providing relocation assistance: If relocation becomes necessary, we request assistance with finding a suitable new location and covering associated costs.
    Offering fair compensation: In the event businesses cannot relocate, we request fair compensation for the value of our established businesses.
    We believe a successful redevelopment plan should consider the needs of both the community and existing businesses. We are confident that by working together, we can achieve a positive outcome for all.

    Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss this further.

    Sincerely,

    Kyoung Je Um & Jung Rye Um

    City Dry Cleaners

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