Letter to the editor: Council should defer vote on ADU ordinance


The Edmonds Planning and Development (PD) Department is expediting the adoption of updated ADU code by requesting approval of a draft ordinance on June 4, 2024. ACE continues to recommend that council approve only the minimum HB1337 requirements and subsequently plan for evaluation of the successes and shortcomings in the revised ADU/DADU code. As previously stated [Reader view: Let’s establish a two-step process for accessory dwelling unit code revisions – My Edmonds News], these updates exceed the requirements in HB1337 and are therefore discretionary.

The city council public hearing May 21 raised a myriad of wide-ranging related issues that further argue for (1) initially implementing the requirements of HB1337 narrowly and/or (2) postponing implementation to 2025 to allow assessment of additional concerns. These issues require answers prior to the adoption of the ordinance and implementation of the code updates. [Click here to listen to the issues raised:  Video Outline – Edmonds, WA (iqm2.com)]

A resident comment from last year is important food for thought: ADUs will be built in Edmonds for the purpose of short-term rental (AirBnB, VRBO, etc.) unless the code prohibits or restricts them. There are negative consequences of allowing unlimited short-term rentals (STRs) all over town. Please review the STR restrictions recently implemented in Chelan County.

It is not clear why, at this early date, we must implement changes not required by HB 1337. Ask council to defer voting on the ordinance and further consider public input by emailing city council at council@edmondswa.gov and ccing Mike.Rosen@edmondswa.gov

Karen Haase Herrick
Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds (ACE) President

  1. Are the ADU’s to be allowed for vacation rentals? I understood the reasoning for the ADU’s was because we needed housing, not Airbnb’s for rental income.

    1. Based on my interpretation of HB 1337 and (RCW 36.70A.680(5)(a)), the city may restrict the use of ADU’s as short-term rentals (STR’s) or require owner occupancy. As you mentioned, STR’s do not provide a housing unit to the local housing supply. In addition, HB1337 allows requirements for off-street parking which are very important for those ageing in place and for young families. Parking is an equity issue and should be available for all and not just those who have the ability to pay for parking. The state also only requires 1,000 sf GFA maximum GFA (not 1,200 sf as the city is proposing) emphasizing smaller, more affordable housing types.

  2. @Brenda,
    If city code does not limit or define short term rentals, then yes, an ADU/DADU could be used as an Airbnb. I think Karen’s suggestion is well considered and spot on. I urge the City Council to think this through to consider unintended consequences.

  3. Hello, Look at VBRO or Airbnb for rent in Edmonds and you will see for yourself the amount of homes,rooms,ADU’s that are currently on the market even though SFR means Single family only! Properties with SFR zoning designation that already have an ADU are being used for rentals and not there intended use, the city doesn’t have a great way to follow up on building permits once the project is completed or the permit holder pulled a permit to reroof a carport which I don’t believe there would be a onsite Inspection and then enclosed the carport and turn it into a room that’s doesn’t meet the set back requirements, it’s on the property line and becomes a fire hazard to the neighbor it abutts to, neighbors don’t want to turn neighbors in for violation of building codes and shouldn’t have to if the city had enough inspectors to do all the follow-ups that may violate building our codes, yet the city is going mandated to have ADU, DADU’s Built with NO RESTRICTIONS!!! The lawsuits will ruin or neighborhoods that folks have lived in for many years and care about the their community, why can’t the city buy every lot on Hwy 99 and build affordable units? The location would meet all the requirements, then the city could be the landlord???

  4. I regret this issue is on any agenda for Edmonds. Why are not the gargantuan apartments being built enough housing?

  5. The well thought-out position of ACE along with the common sense embedded in the commentary needs to be seen as a guiding light by our decision makers.

  6. Short term rentals, ADU/DADU used as an Airbnb should be prohibitive. Unless you want your mother-in-law to only stay for three days and charge her rent.

  7. The majority of Edmonds residents are not on board with what the council is proposing and what the planning department is trying to push down our throats. Let’s implement what is REQUIRED and let that dust settle before taking any further steps. Owner occupancy on the property, parking requirements, no short term rentals, only square footage required not larger buildings. And please, City follow up on these projects to be sure they are being used as permitted.

  8. What does it take to get the Edmond’s general public to understand the realities of what is coming down here and how things have been done here for years now? The Mayor picks who he/she wants to run all the departments at the Director and Assistant levels and they basically run the city council by giving them pretty much cherry picked information that the Council consumes and and at least nine times out of ten goes along with the staff recommendations to implement. Think Fire Service, Landmark, and development in pristine CARA’s for example. We have Boards and Commissions but they are advisory only and frequently ignored in reality. The last election changed virtually nothing in terms of what we are doing and where we are going here as a town – which is essentially “broke” for lack of a better word. We are going broke because we consistently approve and fund wants ahead of actual needs for an efficient and effective town. Just plan to pay much higher property taxes for years to come and pray that it stays at least sort of livable in the process. It’s all baked in the cake with the people we choose to elect all the time!

  9. The GMA is passed by the legislature and is a mandate on the towns and cities of Washington. I spoke to the mayor and he assured me that Edmonds must comply or we lose state funding. The only way to sidetrack the GMA or make it more palatable is to elect new legislators and, I might add, governor.

    I suggest that our City Council and Mayor do their best to drag their feet, slow down the process and as citizens we should work like hell to replace the overactive, oppressive group currently ruining this once great State. November is critical. If we allow activists e.g. Storm Peterson , Lillian Ortiz-Self and Senator Marco Liias to remain in office we deserve what we get. We need to change direction and elect people who will work for common sense solutions starting with Dave Reichert.

    1. Mr. Victor, if this Mayor and City Council are doing their best to, “drag their feet, slow down the process,” in regards to implementation of the new state mandated housing laws, I’d hate to see what a Mayor and Staff enthused about all the new laws would look and sound like. There is no vacant lot or large lot with a small old house on it in town that these people don’t want turned into Condos, Duplexes, DADU’s or High Rise Apt.s to sell and/or rent. Our city is broke and can’t even afford basic fire services or a sewer system that actually works (we are still hauling our treated poop out of town, rather than cooking it and using it for fertilizer as they were sold by their experts). So far this Mayor’s answer has been to retain all but one of Nelson’s old staff and create a Blue Ribbon commission that has told us nothing except property taxes are going up which we already knew. I mean, celebrate folly if you want, but I’ll take a pass on it.

  10. The City of Kirkland has had their ADU/DADU ordinance in place since 1995. In place for 29 years and only 1% of residential parcels has taken advantage of it and successfully built them. 1%! The rate of “change” over that time is, well, I’ll let you do the math (negligible). It’s an interesting data point when you weigh it with the concerns. Whether you prefer the council delay the vote to a later date or approve now, there’s a very high probability you’re not going to have a sea of ADU/DADUs that are permitted and built over night, even with the increased square footages for larger lots and incentives.

    1. Thank you for reading and responding… Although 1% is a relatively small number, it still represents people that may be further impacted by the proposed code that exceeds the state requirements. Being empathetic, is further impacting 1, 10 or 50 acceptable if it is not necessary? Although a state requirement, a 24′ ADU height will block someone’s precious view (whatever that view may be). A STR may disrupt neighbors – especially with a roof deck on a beautiful day. An ADU with three drivers (ADU’s will be big enough to have three drivers) will fill up street parking quickly. Young families will be loading children into the car street side and older residents will have quite a challenge accessing an ADU from the street – if young families and individuals ageing in place can afford to rent or buy an ADU. HB 1337 (without the city proposed additions) can BOTH provide an affordable type housing AND minimize impacts to existing residents…

    2. Jeremy, If only 1% of residential parcels in Kirkland has taken advantage of their ADU and DADU ordinance, it’s obviously not a major player in solving any housing problems. So why go above and beyond the State mandates? It makes no sense. I urge the City of Edmonds to absorb only what is mandated by the State.

      1. The state just outlines the floor, but Commerce based on it’s guidance also leaves it up to cities to determine what that floor could be above the minimum based on providing opportunities for housing types that aren’t too restrictive that may pose design or use limitations. The extra 200 s.f. for larger RS zones can go a long way for some housing types based on what demand property owners are trying to fulfill. It’s an additional bedroom for a small family, or additional space for accommodating accessibility for someone in a wheelchair (not required by any means, just an example). The ADU/DADU can’t be more restrictive than the principal residence, so a lot of concerns regarding needing to restrict roof top decks cannot be done unless you change the zoning for the principal unit. Additionally, if people want just the baseline state requirements and nothing more, then you wouldn’t have the opportunity to incentivize for single story structures and height was a fairly large concern amongst the community.

  11. Prior to the city passing this ordinance so quickly, the council and city officials including the mayor need to look at what other cities have done and what other states have done such as California. Our governor and legislators somehow thinks Washington needs to be just like California. In the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, the 28th, there was a long article titled “California Plan to Add Housing Falls Short”. Even in that huge state fewer with millions and millions parcels of land, fewer than 500 owners sought to subdivide land under the law. It states the average cost for a hours in April was $904,210. So even with that much higher housing price, the ADU’s have not been applied , approved, and built. The recommendation was to go slow implementing changes such as ADU’s, study the impact, and the unintended consequences. Now, a company has sprung up to help homeowners building an ADU with $400,000 handle with applications and permits before selling the plot to a developer who can build on it. Edmonds City Council and Staff including Susan McAughlin need to take the recommendation from ACE and go SLOW/. We do not want our city to be like Ballard or Kirkland!!!

  12. I agree with you Gwen. Some DADA is o. No restrictions and no credit for housing numbers is not a good thing at all. I just did a search of Kirkland WA. I used to spend a big of time in Kirkland and it is a shell of its former self. The high rises are everywhere. DT Kirkland is full of it everywhere. I looked too at photos of before…That may explain why the low percentage of DADU ADU. I think slowing down is a good idea. I do not agree with 5 ft set backs from a home on the other side of the fence at all. I think that should not be allowed. I think going over the amount we need to do is ridiculous we have time…And another comment here its possible that the GMA may be overturned if say a new person with more moderate thinking is elected as Governor etc etc. I love WA state but we have huge issues and I would love to see it be a state where we can all live together. Every economic group should have a place to live and to work from or go to work from. I just don’t want anything built with no restrictions etc.

  13. I truly don’t understand why Edmonds is going beyond the minimum requirements needed to satisfy the new laws. For what purpose? Staff have continuously shown concepts with DADUs on only one lot with various configurations of setbacks. What about the adjacent lot, either on the side or back, with a DADU at the new proposed minimum setback requirements? The two DADUs on adjacent lots get really close to one another. This is just one example of the unintended consequences of what is being proposed.

    This isn’t well thought out. We can do better. We must do better!

  14. Edmonds property ownership has gone beyond crazy in it’s upside down and convoluted concept of property values. The County says our dirt is worth 1M. but our house is only worth $233,000 (last assessment – may have changed). With the new state controlled municipal zoning laws, basically our property would be worth considerably more if our house would burn to the ground. (Opps, if that happens I’ll now be charged with Insurance fraud). The irony is we will soon be paying around $1000 more a year for fire service to protect what’s keeping our land less valuable than it could be. On top of that we will most likely be paying another extra $500 to $1000 more a year for Landmark purchase and maybe even basic sewer/water service that is supposed to be covered by user fees. Staying here much longer (as we live now anyway) is getting more problematical every year and our city government’s apparent priorities for spending don’t look good. We really do have a very badly run city in terms of what a city’s PRIORITIES should be. Our municipal meetings are little more than Kubuki Theatre and almost appear scripted at this point. There is no question on how at least four CMs will always vote and Directors really run the city, not the Mayor.

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