Council gives green light to staff-recommended growth alternatives

Councilmember Michelle Dotsch, right, discusses her growth alternatives white paper.

The Edmonds City Council at its Tuesday night meeting voted 4-2 to approve two staff-recommended growth alternatives for the City of Edmonds 2024 Comprehensive Plan, which will guide the next 20 years of development in the city.

Councilmember Neil Tibbott was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

The growth alternatives — drafted with the help of city consultants VIA Perkins Eastman and Herrera — are designed to ensure the city complies with the Washington State Legislature’s recently passed housing bills and the state’s mandatory Comprehensive Plan elements, and to align with multicounty and countywide planning policies.

Under the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA), the City of Edmonds needs to accommodate the expected growth of 13,000 people over the next 20 years. These new residents will require 9,000 new housing units. Edmonds currently has the capacity to add 4,862 units. The city will also need to add 1,642 accessory-dwelling units (ADUs) and 42 single-family homes, bringing the total to 2,454 units that the city needs to fulfill the GMA requirements.

The alternatives approved Tuesday are not the final say in what growth in Edmonds will look like. They set the study parameters for the next step in the Comprehensive Plan update: creating a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In her presentation to the city council prior to the vote, Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin stressed that the draft EIS “is not a decision document.” Rather, the purpose is to provide information on growth impacts of the two alternatives so council can eventually approve a 2024 Comprehensive Plan update, required by the end of the year under state law.

Next steps for the draft Environmental Impact Statement. (Graphic courtesy City of Edmonds)

The alternatives approved Tuesday night — which had been reviewed and recommended by the Edmonds Planning Board — include a “focused” growth option (Alternative A) and “distributed” growth option (Alternative B). Alternative A proposes building neighborhood centers in the Firdale Village, Westgate and Five Corners neighborhoods, while creating neighborhood hubs in the North Edmonds Bowl, Perrinville and Firdale. The city’s Medical District – located near Swedish Edmonds Hospital – would also be expanded to complement medical services and provide temporary housing for medical workers. Housing units would be limited to four stories within neighborhood centers and medical centers, with an incentive for five-story buildings in select centers.

Under Alternative A, additional building height allowances would be granted to developers if they included specific features or amenities such as neighborhood open space, sidewalks (beyond what is required by code), public enhancements, affordable child care and small-scaled retail and cafes.

Alternative B is similar to the focused growth option in terms of growth locations, except that it would limit buildings up to three stories in neighborhood centers and hubs. Growth in the Medical District could be expanded up to 2,000 units. Under this option, no height incentives would be offered.

The council-approved measure Tuesday night included a proposal by Councilmember Will Chen to include in the Alternative B distributed growth option an allowance for two accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on a parcel of land. Chen said he was responding to concerns expressed by residents who didn’t want taller buildings in their neighborhoods, and explained that allowing more ADUs per lot to meet state requirements “opens up the options to lower the density.”

Those approving the staff-recommended growth options included Councilmembers Chen, Susan Paine, Chris Eck and Jenna Nand. Voting no were Council President Vivian Olson and Councilmember Michelle Dotsch.

Earlier in the meeting, Dotsch had shared a white paper she authored that presented two other options for distributed and and focused growth. In the paper, Dotsch recommended an Alternative A that features distributed growth “along three state highways and major arterials, business districts and churches where the following resources currently exist: sidewalks, schools, parks, commercial businesses and services that create a sense of place.” Dotsch’s Alternative B focused growth option placed an emphasis on the city’s existing business centers, and what she described as “a new Uptown Town Center that is based on the council’s strategic decision made in 2017 to site planned growth along the Highway 99 corridor.”

“Let’s place the growth where we have current resources to reduce future costs while Edmonds recovers from this financial crisis we find ourselves in now,” said Dotsch, referring to the city’s current budget difficulties.

Council President Olson had moved to approve a combination of city staff’s recommended Alternative B distributed growth option and Dotsch’s Alternative A distributed growth alternative. However, other councilmembers expressed reservations about that idea — especially since Dotsch’s paper had not yet been subjected to the same planning and public involvement process as the city’s recommended alternatives. Development Director McLaughlin said that considering Dotsch’s option would mean extra time added to an already tight Comprehensive Plan approval schedule and possibly extra pay to the city’s consultants.

In the end, the council rejected Olson’s motion 2-4  — with Dotsch also voting yes and Chen, Eck, Nand and Paine voting no.

Prior to the final vote approving the staff-recommended options, councilmembers heard from about a dozen residents who offered testimony, most of them favoring Dotsch’s approach. Several of those commenters — from Edmonds’ Five Corners neighborhood — stressed that their area doesn’t have the infrastructure to support taller buildings. In addition, “we’re very concerned about our businesses being displaced,” said 32-year resident Kim Riddell.

Councilmember Eck stressed the importance of ensuring that Edmonds’ future growth was equitably distributed across the city. She also noted that growth isn’t going to “happen overnight. No matter what plan we come (up with), we’re are not going to have bulldozers knocking down everything in Edmonds. Please know this is methodical, this is something that will happen over a long period of time and we’ll continue to do the important listening in our community,” she said.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. It is too bad that 4 of the Council Members have decided to do things quickly rather than correctly. It sounds very similar to the approach that has gotten Boeing in trouble. I have read CM Dotsch’s white paper. several times. It was thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written emphasizing protection of our environment. Staff has pushed this project in the way they want it to go from the beginning only asking for Citizen input after Plans A and B were in place. It’s not surprising that they urged the Council to reject the White Paper.
    As I have said several times before, elections have consequences. If you are unhappy with whichever plan is foisted upon us remember that CMs Chen, Eck , Nand, and Paine are responsible for what is coming the next time you have the chance to vote in a council election.

  2. I would like to have clarity on what Councilman Eck is meaning when she uses the word, “equitably,” in the last paragraph of this article.

  3. I want to correct a significant misconception that is repeated in this report. The article states that “ Alternative A proposes building neighborhood centers in….”.

    Neither of these alternatives, nor CM Dotsch’s alternatives PROPOSE building anything. They merely propose amending the city building codes to PERMIT such building to occur.

    Some may argue that this is a distinction without a difference but it is significant because, at the end of the day, the market and existing city planning processes will determine the final outcome.

    As it stands, Edmonds has fallen short of the number of residences that were included in its current comp plan and this is partly why the totals assigned to us in the current state driven process are higher.

    1. Great point Niall. “The Market” is figuratively chomping at the bit over this legislation. According to a local R.E. Broker the value of our property has gone up another 400K since the first of the year. There is a reason for that and I think I know what it is.

      1. That there is no other place geographically designed like Edmonds…. therefore the basics of demand and supply come into play. Thanks.

  4. I was at last night’s meeting and appreciate the clarity of your summary. I found it challenging to differentiate the details of the two alternatives presented.
    I think many of us are still trying to figure out why the state can dictate that we must add approx 9000 new dwelling units by 2044..
    I want to thank Michelle Dotsch for her “white paper” which brought up some alternatives of merit to the plans provided by the staff recommended growth plans. It seems to me that the vast majority of the comments from the audience voiced support for Council member Dotsch’s proposed alternatives. However, the CC majority voted to reject incorporating any part of the new proposals based on the urgency to reach our deadline at the end of this year and possible increased cost to thoroughly research the proposal.
    Overall, a good amount of respectful debate with only one CC member becoming indignant when reminded she was straying from the question format to which all council members were held. She stated she was being treated differently ( not true in my opinion) and therefore she would turn off her microphone. I think this behavior is counter productive and hope we can remain more respectful going forward.

  5. CM Dotsch comes up with a plan that would put very tall apartment buildings where some tall buildings already are while trying to preserve the Hwy 99 District businesses and culture as it is currently. Her response from Chin and Nand is a big push back on the concept because they want more tall buildings and density in the ( implicitly speaking) “over served” and “privileged” parts of town. That’s when I stated to gag and left the meeting. You can’t help people who think like CMs Chin and Nand because they just know better. Common sense is dead in Edmonds and the Nelson Administration with the loyal four Dem.s is firmly back in place. Remember, whatever happens in this town’s future is now on them and Mayor Rosen. As to CM Eck,s comment about bulldozers, last week I watched the lower part of Bell Street hill being bulldozed off and a bunch of trucks taking it away. If we are lucky it will be another huge house on a very marginal lot and not a condo. The condos are coming next, probably on the property I’m currently camped out on thanks to these short sighted folks.

  6. Unfortunately, the Council was again misled to believe they had to accept a narrowly contrived Alternative over a broader range of Alternatives (the Dotsch proposal) that would actually reveal the MERITS and IMPACTS of forcing increased housing density in some areas over other areas. The staff’s insistence that broadening the range of Alternatives for the DEIS analysis would require increased contractor funding and delays was a covert way of not admitting that the public process was botched from the beginning, and thus LIMITING the factual information that the Council will need to make a final decision in December.

    One of last night’s public commenters correctly pointed out that increased development in the Five Corners area will affect stormwater into Shell Creek, where salmon occur. Although this issue alone (raised by the public repeatedly) should have necessitated DEIS analysis of additional Alternatives, it was conveniently ignored. This will severely limit the Council’s ability to pick-and-choose the least impactful options for accommodating future growth.

    With the narrow growth Alternative “forced” onto the Council due to excuses about deadlines, the Council will have to struggle in December with limited choices on complying with other applicable law – – WAC Code 365-196-830 – – which requires “development regulations must preserve the existing functions and values of critical areas” (e.g., Shell Creek) and “compensatory mitigation of the harm.”

    1. Joe, it looks to me like protecting our environment is the last thing on the Stom Peterson 4CM Cheer Leading Squad’s agenda. We have solved that big cow fart problem with sea weed extract but Shell, Perrinville and Deer Creeks being plugged up? Forget about it!

  7. The bulldozer comment bothers me. What does that mean? The cynic in me can’t help but read “bulldozers won’t be here tomorrow” as “don’t worry, whatevery happens will be your kid’s problem not yours.” I’m hopeful it means “we’ll have plenty of time to course correct if this goes sideways.” In almost no way does it mean, “this is a good idea and I’m confident it is correct”. This is tough, complicated, and generational topic and I’m not as well versed as the council with the details, but this lenses of decision making makes me nervous.

  8. Niall does make a good point about what will be permitted after the dust settles. I would encourage us to look through the dust at what will be coming next. I anticipate that sometime in the not-too-distant future that the next steps will be to actively “encourage” building development through tax incentives of one variety or another. That’s the other part of the incentives that Dir. McLaughlin fails to discuss in order for developers to gain additional building height and additional profit. Just like the failed Multi-Family Tax Exemption program, the tax paying citizens will be lining the pockets of developers with no tangible benefits to those households which could benefit from lower rents. All the while the city needing to provide services to those residents in these new housing units. And as we’re seeing, the numbers are large.

    I hope our mayor, city council and blue-ribbon panel look at the financial implications of this developing comprehensive plan. If it is indeed to be “comprehensive”, then we must address the elephant in the room. Considering everything I’ve seen lately about our ability to foresee anything with financial implications, I’m not holding my breath.

  9. Public comments and opinions are mostly only heard by officials on election night. No surprises here. The administration’s extortion tactic of saying that if you wanted to look at any other options other than ours it was going to cost you money (Which of course they know the city doesn’t have) was particularly ugly.

  10. I appreciate all the citizens comments at last night’s City Council Meeting. I hope our Council Members listen and really hear what we, the people are saying. I feel Mayor Rosen did a great job keeping people on track during the question and answer session. I was very disappointed when CM Jenna Nand spoke. She gave opinion and critique, she did not ask a question during the Q and A. When Mayor Rosen kindly and professionally reminded her this was a Q and A session, and asked her to save her comments and opinions for the later discussion session, she talked over him, admonishing him for not letting her speak. She said she would turn off her mike as he was singling her out by not allowing her say what she wanted to say. In my opinion, Jenna Nand’s behavior was unprofessional. This is not the first time I have seen this type of behavior from her. How much longer do we have to tolerate this type of unprofessional behavior by this City Council Member?

      1. Mr, Chaffee, was she elected? She was appointed (why?) and then ran unopposed. Every other CM and Mayor ran a campaign and has been elected by the people of Edmonds.

        1. Tom — both Councilmembers Nand and Olson ran unopposed for their seats in the last election. Ms. Nand was appointed by the council to the Position 7 seat left vacant by the resignation of Councilmember Laura Johnson. She then had to run for election to the seat in November; no one filed to run against her. — Teresa

  11. I appreciate the effort made by CM Dotsch and Olson to bring some fiscal prudence into this planning process. It was obvious that the Planning Director (and I guess by extension the mayor?) would not entertain any deviation from the “money is no object” alternates that were developed before most of the public was aware of what is going on.

    One comment by CM Nand was contrary to the presentation by the planners…she does not want the Hwy 99 corridor to take on more of the “burden” from the Dotsch alternatives. Meanwhile, the Planning Director is selling these big boxes all around town as the opposite of a burden, the only pieces not mentioned are the unicorns and rainbows.

    We are told to wait for the EIS to inform us that the “burden” to the entire City will be increased greatly by adding these hubs and centers to so many neighborhoods that do not have the infrastructure in place to handle them. Road and sewer improvements, attempted “mitigation” of the stormwater impacts, construction impacts for the next 20 years or so, etc. etc. That “burden” is our increased property taxes and utility rates for all of Edmonds to pay for all of this.

  12. Re Edmonds needs to accommodate “expected” 13,000 population growth, which will “require” 9,000 new housing units. I take exception to these numbers. Where’s the evidence that Edmonds will grow this much? Why would Edmonds grow 4.3 times faster over the next 20 years than over the previous 20 years? I could find no answers to those questions.

    I questioned these numbers twice at City Council Public Comment periods. I asked at the Saturday March 23 forum, that packed house in City Hall~ A City consultant told me the number is too high, a verified number would be much lower. I spoke with a technical expert at Snohomish County Tomorrow, the regional agency directing the process from above, and he had no evidence why Edmonds’ growth story would accelerate so dramatically.

    Simply put, there are no drivers pushing such growth in Edmonds. Light rail has been coming for 5 years, and we see large developments around stations in Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, and Shoreline. But none in Edmonds because we have no stations.

    In fact, interim census data show Edmonds is actually shrinking, two or three hundred fewer people than at the 2020 census!

    Those growth numbers are not expectations or predictions, at best they are mere planning horizons. But they do mislead people and distort the civic conversation. I wish we could do better.

    1. Roger:
      All of your comment is precisely right! I’m going to get off an email to our Mayor since my similar comments here have accomplished nothing. This issue is apparently driven by the equity (socialist) party – better known as Democrats.

      1. Ron and Roger, how is contacting Mayor Rosen going to change any of this? He got jumped on and accused of discrimination and silencing of a viewpoint when all he was doing was trying to facilitate and moderate the meeting as is his proper role. Some CMs seem to think money is no object if you live “in the bowl.” Mayor Rosen has kept absolutely all of the Nelson staff and programs virtually unchanged (except the hate portal) so what do you and he expect as a result? Do the same thing, and expect something different to happen? It is now all about righting the social wrongs of American history and putting all us over served old Northern European types (taking all the good stuff) in our place. Maybe we deserve that; I don’t know anymore. I do know Edmonds city government doesn’t work the way it is supposed to and hasn’t for a long time now. It’s basically a rubber stamp system on steroids.

        1. Clinton:
          The staff works for the mayor. He can instruct them to get an answer as to how the 13,000 number was determined.

    2. Roger,
      Your comment on population growth for the city of Edmonds appears to be right on.
      I have not followed the details of the GMA and the options for the mayor and the council.
      My question to the Mayor and CM is, “has the population projection been verified?”
      I am not in the know on all of the GMA rules that are put into motion once the population growth has been met but it would seem to me that if the population growth is overstated, that perhaps our plan as a city could/would be far different than the current options that are being proposed.
      Bottom line did anyone question the how and why of the population projection provided and question its accuracy before moving forward? On a side note, did anyone do a pitch to the appropriate folks on why Edmonds is not any “little ol’ town” with its miles of shoreline, its large population of marine life and all of its other special characteristics. Bottom line, did we do all we could do as representatives in questioning the mandates of the GMA policy for our city prior to moving forward with solutions?

      1. Thanks for your good comments here Ted. I believe the answer to your question is~ No, those population projections for Edmonds have not been verified. I’ve looked hard for it. If any verification existed, I’m certain somebody would have surfaced it by now.

        The truth is, Edmonds cannot and will not grow by 13,000 people over the next 20 years. As noted in my comment above, Edmonds has no drivers of dense development such as light rail. And there’s nothing on the horizon that could boost our growth rate 4.3X higher than it was over the last 20 years.

        So I’ve moved on. I’m more concerned about our zoning code. How can we write code that allows reasonable and attractive redevelopment, in agreeable locations, and still protects the environment and the look and feel of this city we love.

        Personally, I’m an optimist. I know we can do it. Let’s bring more people to the table in honest discussion. Questions and answers flowing in all directions. It’s time to dial up our civic conversation.

        1. Thanks Roger.
          You did bring up a very good point on this topic.
          I too am optimistic that our city officials will get to the bottom of this and hopefully in short order.
          Time is running out.

  13. I have limited experience with how all of this works (or doesn’t). It seems absurd that the staff in charge of the plan chose to start the process late, investigate select alternatives and then reject additional alternatives for DEIS consideration due to cost (when cost has not been an issue in the recent past) and a tight timeline. This document is a blank check for the future of Edmonds and it is on a fast track…
    Edmonds Crossing had numerous environmental issues and was nearly approved. Thankfully, members from the Tulalip Tribe (in addition to numerous residents gathering), spoke and played their drum and council did not approve the crossing.
    The following is recited prior to some of the city meetings, and after last night’s vote, it seems this may just be lip service or it requires a re-write with exceptions… “We acknowledge the original inhabitants of this place, the Sdohobsh (Snohomish) people and their successors the Tulalip Tribes, who since time immemorial have hunted, fished, gathered, and taken care of these lands. We respect their sovereignty, their right to self-determination, and we honor their sacred spiritual connection with the land and water.” – City Council Land Acknowledgment
    Please email the Mayor, Council and Planning with your input – these positions may not follow MEN…

    1. Jon, you make excellent points about the tight timeline and the late start on this important Comp Plan work. I believe the problem is City priorities and the resulting schedule delays. Other cities were doing this work last year, but our then-mayor instructed his planning staff to instead prioritize the Landmark 99 project.

      But for Landmark, our Comp Plan could be further along, and we wouldn’t be facing these too-tight deadlines~ staff demands “pencils down” on April 13th when citizens just picked them up 3 weeks ago!

  14. It seems that many of the comments in this thread (as with many other threads concerning the way that the city is run), begin from the premise that someone is acting with malice. I prefer to take the opposite approach and assume that all parties are at least trying to act in the best interests of the city, its residents and our environment until proven otherwise.

    I recently saw a detailed presentation by a member of the planning department that outlined how the city arrived at the current proposed alternatives. Far from being a preconceived plot to select certain areas of the city as POTENTIAL areas for future development, what I saw was a very methodical process that started out from a whole city perspective and incrementally added constraints due to things like state mandates, environmental concerns, site availability considerations etc as well as input from the community, to arrive at the current alternative proposals.

    While the proposed alternatives may not be what many residents of the city want, they are the result of a process that is much more methodical and subject to many more constraints than many of the commentators above acknowledge. It is unhelpful to personalize this in attacks on members of the council or the city administration.

    1. I was wondering when somebody would get around to accusing anyone that was against this messy process was victimizing administration staff and or city council. Classic playbook there. You can believe this was done in a straightforward and honest manner if it gives you comfort. Also believe “the checks in the mail”.

        1. Kim, more broadly I think you do bring up an interesting question. How do you enhance and maintain diversity of our neighborhoods especially the International District area on Highway 99? Having Ballard or Shoreline canyon style boxy buildings, which from the developer’s standpoint will be mostly expensive units will surely degrade the neighborhoods. I thought it was ironic, for this reason, that the four basically in effect partisan (systematic) Council members quickly dismissed CM Dotsch’s proposal.-

        2. Kim, thanks for the link to this 2021 article. i read it when it was published. Edmonds’ volunteer citizen housing commission’s report was being debated and fought about. i contacted the publisher in 2021 requesting permission to reprint it , and was told that was OK if i waited a year, and gave attribution. i dropped the ball (actually i lost the link) but you published the link now. Appreciate it!

        3. So tell me where the systemic racism exists with single family zoning? This is opinion (hence the op ed). Single family zoning is a choice – by homeowners of all backgrounds. The only exclusionary hurdle today is money. If you got the money, you got the home. That’s what the market does. Dumping boxes on lots does not mean the market is going to make the homes more affordable – it just means more expensive homes on the market. Admittedly, the history of Snohomish County is not stellar when it comes to exclusionary practices – but the reality of today (and this is reflected throughout King and SnoCo) is that demand has driven prices outside of the reach of large numbers of people across all demographics. Let’s add more. This will have an impact – in my opinion, it will increase the demand in Edmonds, reduce demand in other places, creating reverse urban flight, and making Edmonds just a commuter town of Seattle. It will not reduce the expense of being in a community that is close to downtown, has access to transit, and has (at least right now) access to a large number of parks, recreation, and heavy community involvement. We are just going to create demand that is going to reduce demand somewhere else. Housing typically does not get cheaper over time…

    2. Not malice, but possibly short-sighted “get the job done quickly” mindset or incompetence (respectfully).
      Look, there has been more than enough feedback that people of Edmonds are not satisfied with the limited number of “alternatives” studied and/or being proposed. No matter how much they said that, the planning group and CM (minus a couple) didn’t want to consider that voice. It’s that simple. They saw it as too much work to open up to true, differentiated options so we can have real choice in the future. This is exactly how/why people disengage from the civic process – mismatch between what is said and done.

  15. And a lone CM comes up with a good possible alternate plan from the officially sanctioned two conceived by the city planning staff and board and she gets shot down like a Russian drone over Ukraine. It’s a highly manipulated rubber stamp system with Administrations routinely giving the Councils cherry picked or incomplete information. It is designed to make citizens feel like they have lots of input when they really don’t. That’s why we have a state of the art new sewer system that really doesn’t work the way it is supposed to and won’t stand up to the ill thought out growth alternatives that are coming at us whether we happen to like it or not.

  16. Where are the voices of the other current and future residents of Edmonds…namely some 300+ species of song and raptor birds (including protected migratory), dozens of species of sea and shore birds[ a dozen species of whales, porpoisesa, and other marine mammals[ over 100 species of marine fish (including declining beach-spawning forage fish)[ at least 3 species of salmon; cutthroat trout, perch, catfish; amd terrestrial mammals such as river otter, beaver, deer, racoon, coyotes; aquatic turtles, frogs, salamanders[ severaL hundred species of marine nd aquatic invertebrates ranging from sea stars and octopus, and clams to dragonflies, butterflies and pollinator insects, shall I go on? And of course their habitats such as declling kelp beds, tidal flats, marsh vegetation, Lake Balllinger, retention ponds, a half dozen damaged creeks. declining, heat-abating forest cover and forest connectivity, diverse residential backyards, and on and on. When will these species and habitats get their voices heard in council? How much space aree we planning to give them? Who will speak for them?

    Edmonds is not just another Washington town: our 5 miles of marine ecosystems, an estuary, and salmon habitat makes us unique and responsible for the care of thosands of species not common to many other communities.

    1. Malice implies intention harm…that’s not the driver, it’s the $$$. The harm will be realized by the fragile ecosystems and non-human species. We can hope the EIS can mitigate some of that but look how environmental impacts are ignored in the region with the unhomed population creating garbage dumps and toxic areas all around. Humane, right.
      Additionally the City Council has repeatedly ignored the code rewrite it has the responsibility to fix, ignored for such a time as this. What folks are saying is there is intentionality in what the Council is doing. Where are the growth numbers really coming from? The question was asked last night why the revision of people per unit to such a low number, under two, to substantiate the additional units? Many more questions including parking requirements and safe traffic patterns, not to mention ‘affordability’? I don’t anticipate most current residents will like the answers when they’re built.

      1. i am disappointed that the Council never seemed to ‘get it’ in this workshop. The usefulness of broad bookends in the DEIS report is to give Council maximum flexibility in picking and choosing which areas are in the Preferred Alternative, and have info on the mitigations that would be needed. By ignoring the ‘build an Uptown’ bookend that CM Dotsch presented, they are not going to get an analysis of the stress on people and utilities that a small, dense Medical District would entail. And they missed the opportunity to have the EIS consultant describe the benefits of reducing heights in International and Gateway districts. CM Dotsch was not suggesting that an Uptown be put in the landuse map this Dec. The whitepaper was clear on that. What else will this Council sign up for, possibly due to lack of training on this stuff. And why didn’t they challenge staff when the powerpoint slide said FEIS is not a decision document. That’s poppycock!

    2. But hey Alan, how could we possibly take care of our natural environment first and foremost when we have to solve Racism and make sure anyone who just wants to live here, gets to? I get racism and how our history in reality has little to do with history as it has been taught to us but is it really city business to be overwhelmed by solving it and putting people like me in our place for having some benefit because our ancestors were total jerks and abusers of Indigenous People, Black people, Asian people and anyone of the female gender? It sure feels to me like that’s where at least four people on our current City Council are coming from and I have a right to be P. O.ed about it just as much as they have a right to accuse me of it. That goes for you too, Teresa Hollis, because you of all people aught to know better.

  17. I am very disappointed by the City Council’s decision to move the Alternative A and Alternative B forward and to ignore the Alternative option paper written by Council woman Dotsch. The staff conducted a bias survey, but did allow comments for a short period. Council woman Dotsch’s white paper acknowledged and addressed comments submitted by citizens of Edmonds. She provided an opportunity for staff and Council to incorporate the comments of Edmonds citizens into an Alternative. Unfortunately, your Staff and the majority of the Council choose to ignore the citizen concerns by rejecting this alternative. Mayor Rosen please consider working with your staff to assure they work for the citizens of Edmonds. The developers will not consider the environment or our way of life. We need your staff working to address citizens concerns and for the good of our City. Step-up…your actions will determine our future.

    1. The Nelson Administration leadership team is firmly in place, with Mayor Rosen walking submissively three steps behind it seems.

  18. Alan, I have fought the 3 bills that brought this disaster down upon us and the environment since they hit the legislature and became laws with the significant help of our own Strom Peterson , and Marko Liias. In spite of a huge grassroots opposition as well as opposition from the hardly right wing Seattle Times, the legislature voted for it. Now, our own City Council by a 4-2 vote voted for it. Remember the names Nand, Eck, Paine and Chen who really don’t seem to care about beauty or the environment, during the next election. Nand and Chen have even abandoned their Highway 99 constituency in voting against Michelle Dotsch’s White Paper which would have not allowed tall block like buildings to form a wall along 99. Staff, who have no trouble advocating for spending millions and millions on the Landmark/99 project, argue against spending some thousands on consultants to make sure CM Dotsch’s plan complies with state law. That is ironic. Also, should it really take consultants to make that determination? No! I used to have a sign above my desk. “A consultant is someone who is brought in to share the blame”. That is what the powers that be need to move their agenda forward without taking responsibility. I am tempted to give up this fight. The deck has been stacked.

  19. Ron, I know the staff works for the Mayor. The question is, does he? We had the choice of a candidate who was ready to be an effective Mayor for everyone and one who would have to learn. We as a majority (not me as I voted for Diane) chose the guy who had to learn and now we are paying the price of that learning curve. This would not have been a problem with Diane because there would have been some new folks on board in the Management Corps.

  20. Tuesday night’s council meeting was a sheer disappointment (except for the individuals waiting to line theirs and their minions’ pockets). The fact the no citizen who spoke out in the room of via teleconference supported this heinous agenda is also quite telling. Yet, some “online poll” stated that more said “yes” than “no”?

    Some of the council and consultants’ explanations asking the Edmonds’ citizens to “trust them” reminded me of the old frog and scorpion fable, with Edmonds clearly in the frog’s role.

    The rush to pass the “plan”, lack of its clear understanding, transparency, and what is being proposed showed that several in that room have an agenda to push down Edmonds’ throats that will allow the developers to finally break the height limits that Edmonds’ citizens’ have been protecting for so long and that has been keeping Edmonds the pleasant city it has been so far.

    Once more, a few will come out with lined pockets at the expense of many, who will lose their quality of life.

  21. This event also reminded me of an old joke about developers.

    God and the devil decided to bring the Heavens and hell a bit closer with the intention to save some souls, since hell was getting overcrowded (and no, no “high density plan” was allowed, despite many there deserved one – the devil had minimum standards).

    Therefore, God and the devil decided to build a bridge that would connect both realms and enable their plan. Dates and milestones were set and both went back to manage the construction, for witch each realm was responsible for half.

    The big inauguration date came and hell’s side had a magnificent bridge ready. However, Heaven’s side only had a void, nothing even started. The devil was very upset and requested an urgent meeting with God, who, very embarrassed, explained that even after looking everywhere and interviewing millions, they could not find a single developer in Heaven.

    After this Tuesday’s night meeting, my guess is that it would also be very difficult to find consultants and planners.

  22. I was relieved to observe members of council struggling with the content of the two proposals (A&B). I thought I was the only one trying to navigate the maze. It would be helpful to have information for consideration by the general public written with them in mind. For all the city’s kudos for public input, it seems a bit hollow. The earlier ill-timed open meeting (4-6 on a weekday) kept a vast portion of residents from voicing their opinions. Before completing the online survey, I had a question and contacted Everyone’s Edmonds. No one got back to me. I tried a second time, and received a response after the survey had closed. It’s amazing the survey (288 responses) was even recognized as valid by the City Planner since it reflected less than 1% of Edmonds residents. Other than the A or B, options, the meeting’s public response voiced overwhelming support for the White Paper option authored by CM Dotsch. Read it and you’ll see why. She deserves thanks for her research and sincere public outreach. Change is exciting, but if you’re not willing to consider options, outside of your own, why pretend? To our detriment, the city’s compliance process is being rushed. Yes, there are deadlines, but let’s stretch them on the front end so we don’t later regret assumption-based decisions made in haste.

  23. Does anyone know what it takes (is there a process) for appealing or canceling a CC decision? Is there a petition or a number of signatures that could reopen the decision to actually consider the voice of the people?

  24. Whilst Developers are needed to a point they have destroyed many cities, Natural areas, Yellowstone park…too many others to mention. Cities sinking and flooding Infrastructure? NY as an example. High rises built on permeable surfaces now known to sink as they compress. Developers WILL get tax breaks Its already suggested in Seattle? Will Chen’s wants for the International District for housing will ultimately be giant boxes and the shorter ones wanted will be unaffordable to many he may be telling will have a place to move from Seattle?? I of course do object to the adoption of A and B. I also am so tired of hearing “affordable” I know that for so many people they will never be able to afford even the super tall buildings. The Mona Lisa smile I see with a presumed win is making me quite sick to my stomach. There will be push back in areas that do not have the infrastructure, proper streets to accommodate this huge influx in what 2 areas. I liked the White Paper approach too. I believe that while only 288 responded 4800 read those comments and by the comments it was not even close to a yes. Quit letting the smoke and mirrors and word tricks fool you Edmonds. And you 4 this won’t help the people a true liberal wants to help.

  25. Now. When all else fails let’s put the heat on the County and the State! There should be Jack Masters. No video of most of the Planning Div local meetings! And some PB meetings were delayed it seemed by a week before being viewable on the Gov site. Absolutely rushed and the money for Consultants? Should not be a consideration for something this important for our entire city. Yes, all the time spent on visualizing streets, plants, parklets ha and yeah the Landmark Visualization (which I don’t really object to BTW. I did but I can see the value in that if it also has housing, is why these things were not put before the public sooner. A wide walkable concrete sidewalk around part of our city?? Birds and wildlife and all the rest (water) with no place to go. Permeable surfaces destroyed by taking out SFH etc. This is not eco-friendly at all. This is BS and last point sorry Ron, I know more Democrats around the country MN NY MO TX and more that 90% are not Socialists. They do not want Socialism. Independents (Many now and not Socialists. I am not a Socialist. I know that system will fail and the next step after a Marxist Gov is Communism. Health care system will fail even more than they are now for ALL.

  26. Could a citizen group, those who oppose the massive growth planned for Edmonds, take their concerns to environmental groups and environmental law firms that specialize in fighting this sort of man-made natural disaster that will destroy so much of our beautiful and valuable ecosystem.

    1. The problem they’d run into is that many environmental groups support concentrated, well planned development vs spread and encroaching on more natural, untouched land. More homes that are walkable to close to work and services create less traffic and pollution. We cut down less trees when we build on land that’s been previously developed. The issue here is environmentalism vs preservation, which is quite different in reality. One strives to keep our natural systems as intact as possible, the other strives to keep the status quo and the neighborhoods the same for people who’ve lived there for a long time.

      1. That is a huge oversimplification of the issue. Take my family for instance, where we have lived in our house for about 8 years and spent the better part of our entire life savings to move our young family to Edmonds because we value the community, what it had/has to offer, and the type of environment we want to raise our kids in. Our lot and many others in our neighborhood could accommodate townhouse style homes, and in fact, some have and are going up on lots closer to 99 (238/99 is a good example). I am no idiot – I know change and growth are inevitable. But, questioning the growth numbers and some of the philosophy about the way this is unfolding is not me “[striving] to keep the status quo in [my] neighborhood…” Sure – we could probably financially benefit greatly from a sale and just go somewhere else and restart, but I sure would like to keep the community we have built somewhat intact and welcome new people as well with smart growth targets. Problem is, right now as the plans are built, does not look very smart. I am also wondering where all these new kids are going to go to school. Don’t see a lot of comments on that point, so perhaps everyone pro-unmitigated growth can answer that.

  27. Regarding time, who’s controlling the clock?
    Since we’re moving in good faith, is it possible for the Planning Dept to take a breath and give us an extension to explore rational alternatives? Or should we be petitioning the state?
    There’s trouble in our Wonderland and this local Mad Hatter approach is destined to result in “off with their heads.”

  28. Tom K. I completely agree with what you have said. The problem is that there an agenda being pushed by the State, through Snohomish County to four of our city council members all of whom are supported by Strom Peterson, and the City administration. Inspite of the story they push, this agenda ignores the environment, livability and even homelessness. A recent article in the Seattle Times Sunday edition tells of how similar zoning changes forced upon Ballard and it’s subsequent development directly resulted in homelessness there.

  29. Tom,

    Heather consistently oversimplifies because she supports our Legislators’ agenda to upzone WA cities, regardless of the negative environmental and infrastructure impacts. It’s disturbing that the well-off will continue to benefit from wilderness areas which the poor can’t even afford entrance fees to, much less travel and lodging expenses. I don’t see how anyone can believe this is equitable. Edmonds has a wealth of environmental resources which ALL should benefit from, in their own neighborhoods and at the Edmonds Marsh and waterfront. That is if we don’t continue to destroy our environment with this level of over development.

    And I agree that the current plans aren’t smart.


    Council, our legislative body, “controls the clock.” You can write to them at: to express your point of view.

    1. In a single party State where our State Representatives cannot understand or explain the math to get to the numbers, our Council is somewhat powerless to change the State Representatives chosen numbers, and the population continues to elect State Representatives that vote against the wishes of the population, what do you expect? We get what we voted for. It is not a surprise. Ask your State Representatives to EXPLAIN the math. I got an answer, not an explanation or validation. (Basically a lot of really smart people did some cipherin and figurin and we got to do our stuff to be equitable and all because we red lined everyone out of a chance to have a home and are all guilty of being biased and systemically racist). The math is done by smart, intelligent folks, it’s the assumptions that are added by State Representatives that don’t hold water. Go ahead, ask your elected State Representatives to break down the math so that it makes sense. If they refer you to the report, that should show you how much sense it makes to them (the answer being “because”). I am not saying the Representatives are biased, but I don’t see their neighborhoods in the Hub Zones or getting mass transit lines and 5 story buildings.

      1. It has become an article of faith in “progressive” political circles that housing problems are really just zoning problems, and the fix is to enable more and denser development everywhere in cities. You ask what cities have solved housing problems via up-zoning, made housing more affordable and more plentiful? The truthful answer is none, but lack of evidence doesn’t dissuade the true believers. Faith-based zoning is a powerful force.

        1. This is so true with faith based zoning. Data and facts are irrelevant. Believers are on a divine mission and so rationalize any negative outcomes as necessary spiritual sacrifices by the community for true salvation.

    2. I don’t feel I am oversimplifying at all. My intent is more to make things less frightening, because honestly, a lot of the housing talk has become very hyperbolic and over the top with little room for compromise or actual understanding of the issue. It seems from the outset the goal has been to get everybody really terrified of growth and it has worked really well, so well that we’re here and the state has to step in and make us do the right things. If we had done a good faith job of meeting growth standards, the state legislature wouldn’t be stepping in.
      The fact of the matter is, even if – sorry WHEN- zoning is adjusted, there will still be plenty of single family homes. There will still be plenty of neighborhoods with that exclusive feeling so many of you crave. So I am not simplifying – I’m being realistic.
      By the way, Joan – you seem very familiar with me. Have we met? I do not recall.

      1. Heather, the people of Edmonds are not “terrified” of growth, we just believe that the City can do a better job planning for it than legislators in Olympia. Their one-size-fits-all approach (literally writing zoning code) does a disservice to the citizens of our city.

        The City of Edmonds has always met its grown obligations under the state Growth Management Act. Our planning and zoning have always accommodated our share of regional growth in population and jobs. We have never been sanctioned for failure to meet any growth expectations or targets.

        So Heather, what evidence do you have that now, this year, “the state has to step in and make us do the right things”? Why could Edmonds not be trusted to do the right things again, as we’ve always done in past years?

        1. Thanks Roger – I was going to write something similar. We have never been in trouble before. What concerns me more is that our State Representative chairs the Housing Committee – and knows what the historic numbers were and what we were signed up for. It comes down to density. He wanted more (and presumably the SnoCo Regional Council wanted more) so that is what we got signed up for. I am sure these decisions were not made in a vacuum – but growth is not what I am afraid of. I am afraid of centralized decision making by a Wizard of Edmonds behind a green curtain whilst we scratch our heads and try to figure out where the math is going. We have some good things that have come down from our Representatives – but this is not one of them. I do not think it does any good for me to bitch about it anymore – the horse has left the barn, no one is going to argue the numbers, we have two alternatives that seem to be written in stone, and voila – we let the market do the rest. I suppose we just need to fight every tax incentive and zoning change/ordinance that comes up via public commentary, but even then, I doubt we have much say. Cynical but true.

  30. George,

    The math they did (incorrectly) use was based on a worst-case population scenario, not the most-likely scenario. The Office of Financial Management (OFM) provided the counties a RANGE of population outcomes by 2044 to be used for comprehensive planning. Snohomish County and the region chose to allocate population targets to the cities based on the higher end of that range. They used a worst-case scenario and now have us jumping through hoops to meet this unprecedented mandate. Using the “most-likely” population scenario provided by the OFM would still have satisfied all the recent housing legislation passed by the State and would make our targets more manageable.

    Just try to ask ANY of our elected officials to show you the math. Or for that matter, any of our city staff or their consultants. They can’t. They have blindly accepted the “requirements” without understanding the basics.

    1. Agreed. I received an answer to a question, just not the question I asked. What’s good for the gander is good for the goose. If density is what is required, then density is good for every neighborhood. I don’t buy into the logic that hubs are the way to go. Hubs are convenient ways to target growth AWAY from areas. It’s not very equitable for the people near or within the hub, but is damn sure convenient for those picturesque view lots that market forces will always keep expensive and single family. At the end of the day, the power lies in the personal choices of our elected representatives. We voted, they chose which way to vote, we foot the bill. I hate to be so cynical about it, but the reality is clear that we are being managed by Regional and State central demands and local wants are not important when the party speaks. Make a mad dash for every grant under the sun, redistribute that wealth to consultants to study, create plans in the sand to appear to have met some arbitrary requirement, and we can all feel better because apparently it’s the right thing to do. It does not address failing sewers, sidewalks, streets, or access, it just makes another book that politicians can say they tried to do nice equitable stuff.

  31. Roger and Brian,

    “Faith based zoning” is an excellent analogy. However, it’s the poorly informed who are the “Believers” “on a divine mission.” Our legislators knew their housing bills would result in market rate housing, not “affordable housing.”

    Myedmondsnews report on our legislators’ town hall on March 18, 2023 references Strom Peterson:

    “Peterson then jumped in to address the issue of local control of zoning, pointing out that “local building codes will always trump zoning.” He then added that “we’ve never claimed that HB 1110 will make housing more affordable, and it won’t stop anyone from building a single-family home. What it will do is help folks struggling to afford a home; it will help a nurse find a home closer to work.”

    Nurses are decently paid. Nurses’ aides, especially those working in home care, make minimum wage, or slightly above. The Department of Revenue requires that ALL income levels are supported with “affordable housing.” HB1110 targets those earning less than 80% AMI and ignores those earning less than 30% AMI.

    Strom Peterson, Marko Liias, and Lillian Ortiz-Self knew exactly what they were doing. Eliminating SFH zoning will spur development and increase property tax income, which will then be used to fund state and county programs.

    1. Joan,

      I agree. I have argued that the missing middle fallacy and zoning laws were a problem created by developers that play to the tax base that politicians love to have. They were tax bills under the guise of equity. Demand has a funny way of setting prices. Unless money started pouring into public housing projects, the only way developers.were going to continue to make cash was to lobby for massive increases in density. They did a good job of creating an argument that, to date, has few, if any success stories. Cities did give away massive tax incentives and gained some taxes, but developers built condos and apartments that are not affordable…with the exception of a small percentage of the units. It’s a tax bill, plain and simple. Sort of like the carbon tax on gas that so far has been used to buy GAS vehicles for public transit….go figure.

  32. Roger Pence’s answer is correct. Rezoning is part of the Progressive agenda, and to them facts don’t matter. We can’t change things by debating with them. They won’t honestly engage. The only answer is for enough of our Citizens to wake up and vote them out. Remember one definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

  33. Roger,
    Thanks for bringing factual information to Heather’s attention.
    We’ve not met. I’ve followed your comments through Nelson’s term to the present. Your comments consistently contain no factual information and have been sprinkled with attacks on groups of people, without discernment of individual points of view. One example is found following Dave Teitzel’s commentary 11-23:

    Your comment:
    My response, and our back and forth:

    You wrote: “The Landmark Property” is “being cast as an irresponsible project because it’s not in the Bowl.” When I suggested you were pitting neighborhoods against each other, you replied “I am not pitting neighborhoods against each other – this is an argument trotted out whenever someone points out the Bowl/Talbot/wealthy precincts have been historically favored.”

    Another example is your response to my 2-23 Reader View:

    Your comment:

    My response:

    Roger Pence also responded to you in that exchange. There are many more examples, but hopefully this will refresh your memory.

  34. Joan, I don’t know Heather so I looked her up and discovered she ran Mike Nelson’s Mayoral campaign in 2019. This may shed some light as to the nature of the comments she writes. To your point on facts vs emotional opinion, factual information is desperately needed in the fight to save our city; however, it appears too many citizens choose to ignore facts and just blindly follow our state legislators no matter how crazy their mandates may be. Because Edmonds has 4 city council members strongly associated (and supported) by the democratic party suggests they will not veer from the herd; even though they hold a non-partisan position. Now is the time for those who are upset with where this all headed to make your voice heard. Otherwise, start coming up with a new tagline for Edmonds as it will be “just another day in Ballard”.

  35. Thanks, Kim. I knew Heather Damron was Nelson’s campaign manager. I’ve observed how she blindly supports our legislators’ agenda, dismissively lumps anyone who disagrees with her into a group, and fails to provide any facts to back up her statements.

    I can’t say I’m surprised that Heather couldn’t figure out how I knew so much about her. Her failure to remember our exchanges demonstrates her pattern of ignoring all points of view that don’t conform to her severely limited partisan perspective.

  36. It’s a shame we did not elect Keven Fagerstrom and Roger Pence as our Council would have had an entirely different and much less partisan vibe. It’s going to be four more years of the same old, same old, in terms of our Council being pro Democratic Party initiatives. We are already seeing critical 4 to 2 and 4 to 3 votes in relation to the same programs that former Mayor Nelson fostered. Mayor Rosen needs to start bringing in his own team to dampen and balance out this ideological power grab on our Council. Some Council members simply don’t understand that they are elected at large and should be governing to the best interests of the whole and not settling accounts or seeing that one neighborhood gets even with another some how. CM Dotsch had a great alternative proposal that may well have benefited the very people opposing her so pointedly because they saw it as some sort of unfair assault on where they live. Our natural environment and infrastructure are being sacrificed on the alter of political partisanship and that is the real sad part of all this.

  37. Kim, I divide those who continue to vote for our current State legislators, Strom Peterson and Marko Liias into ,:1 those who are totally ignorant of what is going on in politics; 2.those who don’t vote;3. vote from habit;4; vote on the advice of a friend; 6. the Progressive ideologues.
    The City Council has suffered the same fate, and the “Four” has been reconstituted with the same ideology but somewhat different names:Paine, Eck, Nand and Chen.
    We are fortunate to have My Edmonds News, The Beacon, and The Seattle Times which do a good job of following politics. The information is there if people want to make use of it. Without a knowledgeable electorate, political decisions will be made by the few.

  38. Very interesting and revealing discussion. Just to add some more background into it, WA has been nominated the most corrupt state in the Union ( Not a surprise, is it?

    It’s also the state with the worst potholes ( This is easy to see by the “great” job being done in 9th Ave and 100th St at the guise of “building a bicycle lane”, which, like this high-density program, does not positively impact the city, only takes it closer to being a banana-republic typical city.

    It’s not surprising, since in those “socialist” banana republics, graft is common place and their government only raise taxes and do nothing in return. This “high-density” program is just an excuse to allow developers to build high-rise buildings and profit more (and, of course, pay back those enabling it) and collect more taxes.

    So, it does not come as a surprise that Edmonds has been also festering with ineptitude and corruption. If the “bicycle lane project” in 9th and 100th is a preview of what’s coming, we all better be ready for some really bad times. The city is already at the verge of bankruptcy and we will likely see taxes rising like crazy to fill the hole and fund “social programs”, which seem to the the favorite of corrupt politicians for their graft through taxation.

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