More from the June 11 city council meeting: Transportation update, police social worker, Juneteenth

L-R: Robin Ullman and Donnie Griffin accept the Juneteenth proclamation as Mayor Mike Rosen looks on.

One of the highlights of the Tuesday, June 11 Edmonds City Council meeting (see other details in our earlier story here) was a proclamation declaring June 19 as Juneteenth Independence Day to celebrate the history, heritage, culture, achievements and contributions of African-American and Black people. 

The proclamation, issued by Mayor Mike Rosen, was accepted by Donnie Griffin, founder and president of Lift Every Voice Legacy, and Robin Ullman, operations and outreach director at Edmonds Waterfront Center.

“On behalf of Edmonds Waterfront Center, we’re very honored to have a partnership with your team, [Community and Economic Development Director] Todd Tatum [and Deputy Parks Director] Shannon Burley,” Ullman told the council. “We foster that relationship.”

Griffin read a text that he had sent to his granddaughter, who was working on a school project. She asked him to reply to the question of what it means to be an American.

“My name is Donnie Griffin and I’m 71 years old and I was born in a small town in California,” he replied. “When I’m asked what it means to be an American, I think of two words: the promise. The promise that we are all created equal endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. And among those are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

Griffin talked about his grandfather, Isaac McDowell Young, who was born in 1855 and became freed – along with his family – with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Young went to college and became an ordained minister before moving from South Carolina to Central California. Young also owned land, raised nine children and taught them – including Griffin’s father – “that promise.”

“Not that he raised himself from slavery to become a landowner, but he knew there was more to it and he passed that on, and my father passed that on to me,” Griffin said. “So when I partnered with members of the community with Robin and others to embrace this notion of the promise thru Juneteenth, and you acknowledged that as a fabric of life in Edmonds, I think of my grandfather…what would he say? Abraham Lincoln himself did not think the day would come that Black people would be sitting among white people and talking about equality and sharing the wealth. He didn’t believe it.”

Abraham Lincoln, Griffin said, “would be surprised in what we’re doing and what you’re doing.”

Among the other topics the council addressed Tuesday night:

ADUs

City Planner Rose Haas (left) and Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin await councilmembers’ questions during a brief discussion regarding the accessory dwelling unit code update.

Councilmembers approved an update to the city’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) code by a 4-2 vote, with Olson and Dotsch opposing it. (Councilmember Jenna Nand was absent due to illness.)

The city council has been discussing ADU regulations for several years, focusing on both attached and detached units. However, the issue was accelerated by the Washington State Legislature’s passage of House Bill 1337 in 2023. Currently, Edmonds only permits attached ADUs, but HB 1337 mandates that by June 2025, the city must allow up to two ADUs per lot – attached or detached. To comply with this requirement, the city aims to implement these regulations as part of the 2024 Comprehensive Plan update.

The ADU update was originally included on the council’s consent agenda but Olson asked for it to be pulled so she could vote against it. She said the reason for her no vote was her opposition to the smaller setbacks included in the proposed update.  

Transportation

Most of the pedestrian and bicycle networks will be focused on the centers and hubs that the Edmonds Planning Board had identified in the 2024 Comprehensive Plan.

City staff and consultants presented an update on upcoming projects aimed at  improving accessibility on multiuse roads, reducing reliance on vehicles and maximizing connectivity in different parts of Edmonds. Under the proposed transportation plan, most of the pedestrian and bicycle networks will be focused on the centers and hubs that the Edmonds Planning Board had identified in the city’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan.

Transportation Engineer Bertrand Hauss said that some of the challenges the engineering team is facing include dealing with different topographies, such as the steep slopes on Highway 99 and 244th Street near Shoreline. 

Senior Project Manager of Transpo Group Paul Sharman said that current pedestrian and transportation updates are based on the successes that 2015 Transportation Plan had accomplished, such as the building of 1,700 feet of sidewalk on Dayton Street, 2nd Avenue South, Walnut Street, Elm Way and Maple Street.

He pointed out some of the secondary pedestrian network routes will be more “comfortable” on quieter streets, although the route may not be as direct as the primary pedestrian routes. 

Hauss added that the city has built 11.5 miles of bike lanes since 2015, including those on 76th Avenue West, 212st Street Southwest, 9th Avenue South and Bowdoin Way. The current plan is to extend the bike route from the north end of 76th Avenue West to Lynnwood, the south end of 76th to 244th/205th Street inShoreline, and to 236th Street Southwest where the new light rail station inMountlake Terrace is located..

The current plan is to extend the bike route from the north side of 76th Avenue West to Lynnwood, the south side of that street to 244th Street to Shoreline, and to 236th Street Southwest to the Mountlake Terrace Station, which opens for light rail service Aug. 30.

Other transportation plan updates include: 

  • Bus stops with quarter-mile buffers that allow more accessibility.
  • New bus route Route 102 from Edmonds to Lynnwood City Center.
  • Bus routes connect major city destinations, such as downtown Edmonds, Edmonds Station and Aurora Village.
  • New bus routes to be launched in September 2024 that align with the new light rail service, including one along 9th Avenue and 100th Avenue from downtown Edmonds to the Mountlake Terrace station.
  • Analysis of corridor travel time in 15 streets to measure the flow of traffic to see where roads and pathways may need an update.

Councilmember Neil Tibbot said he has concerns that the bike draft plan may not take into account the variations of topography, such as steep hills. “It makes more sense to do fewer jobs in the plan so that we can take advantage of [the existing bike lanes] and existing travel routes,” he said. “I would like to see this revised, and I don’t know what the process is, but I think it needs some help.”

Olson favored the multi-level use of the roads and pathways but reminded the transportation team that changes to certain roads may decrease the quality of the user and asked how much of that could users accept. For example, adding a bike lane may make some roads impassable for buses, fire trucks and garbage trucks. 

“I was reading the existing Comp Plan the other day, and I was a little struck by the policy direction, the thought that we shouldn’t care about accommodating the occasional users to our roads, that we should be prioritizing the regular users,” Olson said. 

Instead of hosting an open house, Olson also asked if it would be feasible to put the public on buses to travel around the city and point out where improvements will be made. “Just seeing it on a map, I really don’t get it and an open house isn’t going to help me,” she said. 

Dotsch pointed out that the northern section of Olympic View Drive on all of the maps “are not accessible.” “I don’t know why we’re not looking at that to connect [to the] north because that’s a pretty big access road,” she said.

Hauss said that the northern area “needs to be studied.”

Dotsch also pointed out that another element of the plan – adding a bike lane on Main Street – would reduce parking downtown. 

Social worker

Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett speaks via Zoom.

Councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the Association of Washington Cities grant of $51,000 to fund a full-time social worker who will work alongside the Edmonds Police Department for 4.5 months. Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett said the grant will buy some time until a long-term solution is found.

The nonprofit Compass Health canceled a program in May that provided social workers to assist police officers in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. 

Bennett added that the social worker, Erin Nathan, no longer works for the city as of May 31. “She does desire to stay in her position in social work in the City of Edmonds, which is really beneficial to us,” Bennet said. “The difference is that instead of contracting through Compass Health, it would be FTE (full-time equivalent employee) through a limited term with the city so we would be employing her instead of contracting her. And she does have a full caseload.”

Councilmember Will Chen said he is concerned that Nathan may leave her job if she finds another full-time job with benefits. “She’s taking an uncertainty with us,” he said. 

“There isn’t any money in the general funds to fund the social workers,” Bennett replied, “so our best options currently are the grant money, applying for additional grant, or taking a look at our opioid settlement money. But we have to be careful. According to [human resources,] if you employ a person longer than six months, certain benefits apply so this must be a limited term.”

Due to budget difficulties, the city can’t pay for the social worker. “There are no general funds to fund this position,” Mayor Rosen said. “And we’re looking for additional cuts in the budget. That’s why we’re looking for outside opportunities to fund this, which is this grant. Otherwise the position would not exist. I would not approve it.

Councilmembers also voted 6-0 to amend Ordinance 4344 in the Edmonds Municipal Code, which amends the budgeted full-time equivalent positions and corresponding salary ranges to include the updated position.

— Story and photos by Nick Ng

  1. It’s troubling to me that City transportation staff are basing transportation planning on growth and housing density alternatives which are still being analyzed for environmental impacts. This means they are potentially subject to change based on environmental impacts to the City’s natural areas (for example the eroding streambanks in Yost Park caused by excess stormwater from the Five-Corners area, and likely contamination of the drinking water aquifer in the Firdale and Hickman Park areas).

    Further, according to State Law (SEPA), the City is supposed to be taking environmental impacts (including impacts on current citizens and their health and well-being) into consideration at the onset of any planning effort. Yet, I didn’t hear even one word by City transportation planners about the spread of tire dust (6PPD) on roadways which recent science has shown does have severe environmental impacts.

    The varying environmental impacts of increased housing density as affected by local geography was totally ignored in the City’s development of the growth alternatives – – and here the City goes again with same “avoidance” of
    the facts regarding the Edmonds unique waterfront location and how detrimental ‘uncontrolled’ development can be.

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