Second Edmonds Comprehensive Plan meeting looks at transportation, urban design, environment

Attendees listen to the presentation on transportation elements.

The City of Edmonds Planning and Development Department held the second of two public meetings at Edmonds-Woodway High School Thursday – part of the 2024 Edmonds Comprehensive Plan Update, also known as Everyone’s Edmonds. The presentation, which followed Tuesday’s meeting on land use, housing and economic development elements, was divided into three sections: transportation, urban design and environment.

The City of Edmonds must comply with new state housing legislation and accommodate an anticipated population increase of 13,000 people over the next 20 years, as mandated by Washington State’s Growth Management Act (GMA). The GMA projects that these new residents will need 9,069 new housing units, but Edmonds can currently only add 5,000 units. Additionally, Edmonds has capacity for 2,548 jobs, but needs to create 510 more. 

With this projected growth, the city must change in how it structures and runs its transportation systems and urban design. The presentation also provided insight into the work of the Edmonds Planning Board,which will be reviewing elements of the Comprehensive Plan draft and providing recommendations to the Edmonds City Council.

Transportation

Susan McLaughlin speaks during Thursday’s meeting regarding the 2024 Edmonds Comprehensive Plan update.

Edmonds Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin said that the Comprehensive Plan has two growth alternatives – focused growth and distributed growth – that are being studied as part of a required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Both alternatives include regional transit as part of the growth plan.

“The goal is to create a complete and connected system that offers effective transportation options,” McLaughlin said. 

Goals in the transportation element include:

  • Participating in land use and transportation planning with the Puget Sound Regional Council, Snohomish County and Regional Growth Strategy in Vision 2050.
  • Prioritizing different investments in centers and hubs.
  • Developing shared use paths that connect to parks, schools, and other major destinations.
  • Prioritizing pedestrian and community spaces.
  • Supporting transportation needs of underserved neighborhoods and vulnerable populations.
  • Planning and designing facilities for all ages and abilities.

McLaughlin said that the transportation element is placing strong emphasis on pedestrian facilities, such as sidewalks and crossings, because of the 75% increase in pedestrian deaths from 2010 to 2022 nationwide. Furthermore, she addressed the loneliness epidemic that the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy had pointed out when he visited Seattle on Wednesday.

“It’s really about how we need to reconnect with people in social settings, and this is the way in social spaces in our neighborhoods,” McLaughlin said. “Policy assistance can substantiate that goal.”

Planning Board Chair Jeremy Mitchell takes notes during the meeting.

To accommodate “all ages and abilities” in building pedestrian facilities, McLaughlin said that changing signal timing is one option. “Think about the way we design signals,” she said. “What kind of walking speed are we using? Is it based on someone walking with a cane? Should we know where our seniors reside? These are some ways our policies can support our actions.”

Other goals include: 

One attendee asked if the City of Edmonds is considering having a pedestrian overpass or some sort of pedestrian access that connects the east and west of Edmonds along Highway 99. McLaughlin replied that these options will be part of the upcoming planning board discussions and part of the Comprehensive Plan update. 

Urban design

Attendees examine the posters of urban design as part of the 2024 Comprehensive Plan.

McLaughlin said that the planning board has been focusing on centers and hubs in their discussions about urban growth development. These areas include Perrinville, Five Corners, Firdale and Westgate.

“So focusing on growth in areas that already have stores and amenities, community, transit access,” she said. “But we often heard ‘We want more public spaces.’ Places for people to gather. For any of you who are involved in our reimagining neighborhoods and streets, you know people were hungry to come out and mingle with their neighbors. One of them was the Perrinville Palooza. Thousands of people came to that event.”

The urban design is based on the Gehl’s Twelve Quality Criteria for public urban spaces. These 12 criteria are divided into three primary categories: protection, comfort and enjoyment.

“We know from research that women have a low threshold for safety standards,” McLaughlin said. “If there’s low lighting and dark corners, women are less likely to linger in those spaces than men.”

Some of the goals in urban design include:

  • Creating a “Public Life Action Plan” for each center and hub
  • Applying the Equitable Engagement Framework, which ensures inclusive participation in city planning and decision-making processes by actively involving underrepresented and marginalized communities
  • Supporting diverse cultural resources to contribute to the city’s sense of place and neighborhood pride
  • Involving Indigenous tribes in deciding what historical buildings or land should be preserved
  • Encouraging alternatives to demolition and maintaining a Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) Strategic Plan

“If there’s a private development that has a blank wall on the entire block, we likely would not put a new public plaza in front of it,” McLaughlin said. “We know that blank wall will create a dead space and is not going to energize that public space.”

Environment

A young attendee commented about how much she and her mother like the beach, referring to the preservation of clean beaches and natural landscapes.

HB 1181 was adopted by the Washington State Legislature in 2023 to include policies and government preparedness for climate change and resiliency. These include greenhouse gas emissions reduction and resilience – living and adapting to climate change.

Goals include:

  • Designating and protecting critical areas, such as wetlands and creeks, and to protect and restore Edmonds Marsh Estuary
  • Preserving natural characteristics of soil and land while enabling suitable development where it can be mitigated and permitted;
  • Minimizing deforestation
  • Preventing siltation of drainage ways
  • Improving water quality, fisheries habitat, salmon habitat
  • Using native plants in landscape on public properties and preventing introduction of invasive plants and animals
  • Expanding and preserve Edmonds urban forest and prioritizing tree planting investments in areas of climate vulnerability
  • Developing an adaptation plan that protects coastal areas, infrastructure and people from sea level rise
  • Promoting “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”
  • Ensuring the city sets an example through sustainable practices in every organized event

Details of the goals can be found here.

An image presented during the presentation regarding ways to capture stormwater runoff.

The presentation stated that planting 402 trees per year could grow Edmonds’ tree canopy cover to 36% by 2044. The current canopy coverage is about 27%.

“We have to assume some tree canopy loss on private property,” McLaughlin said. “This means we can plant some trees on public property. We know that the state highway infrastructure didn’t think much about tree planting on Highway 99, and parts of our city lack tree canopy. This needs to be a citywide discussion around how we replant trees.”

To address and prioritize these changes, McLaughlin said that everyone needs to be able to access information about climate change and opportunities for taking action. This includes creating a centralized resource providing information and updates, creating programs to alleviate health and environmental disparities on vulnerable populations resulting from climate change, and adopting a Climate Equity Strategic Plan.

Edmonds City Councilmember Michelle Dotsch listens to the discussion.

“We have materials and opportunities for all Edmonds residents to get involved, particularly residents who feel the greatest impacts [of climate change],” McLaughlin said. “One-stop shops and workshops in different languages – these are some of what we heard from folks [addressing] the climate crisis.”

You can submit comments to Everyone’s Edmonds by June 7.  

A third Comprehensive Plan workshop on Waterfront Vision Conceptual Design is set for 3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 in the Edmonds Waterfront Center Main Banquet Room, 220 Railroad Ave. Learn more about that meeting here.

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

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