Reader view: Reexamine goals of Growth Management Act before expanding housing

Taken from Mountlake Terrace, with Interstate 5 in the foreground, Hall Lake in Lynnwood to the right, Edmonds and Puget Sound at top. (2020 file photo by David Carlos)

Thirty-four years ago, the Washington State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act (GMA), which is the heart and soul of the ADU issue. GMA was passed to limit the rural areas surrounding the cities from intensive development.  It envisioned people living in apartments (or condos) with commercial spaces below. The stated picture in much of the testimony was to create a living environment much like Brooklyn, NY. GMA required all developments within the controlled area of each city to develop at a mimium of four houses per acre.  It also was based on a monumental shift from cars to public transportation. Much was required from all incorporated cities…defining how much growth each city would accept, drawing the line around each city beyond which intensive growth would not be allowed, and other considerable planning for each city.

Each county was given a population goal from the state defining how much growth they would be required to accept. Subsequently, each county then submitted the question to each city on the amount of growth they would plan for. There was a huge gap between the growth allocated by the state and the growth accepted by the cities of Snohomish County. That gap was then accepted by the county by allocated additional land and density for more intensive growth. That’s why when you drive up 220th, the north side of the street (the Edmonds side) has homes built on 8,000 square foot lots while the south side of the street (Esperance) has homes on lots closer to 3,000 square feet with back yards 5-to 10-feet deep. All because of GMA.

A similar drive up Highway 2 beyond Monroe also shows the results of GMA. Little towns like Sultan and Gold Bar also were required to take growth…but they took a lot of it and subsequently experienced a wave of growth with probably the least-expensive new homes in the north metro area. Giving the small towns the growth they asked for was very probably a  mistake as the traffic to and from these cities is best described as a nightmare. To my mind, in South County, it would have been far more logical to alloacate this growth along four-lane roads like Highway 522 and in areas like Maltby, east of Mill Creek and north of Woodinville.

In this era of “unaffordable “ house prices and $2,000-$3,000 apartment rents, has anyone stopped to consider the impact of GMA on housing? If this discussion on ADUs is primarily about the cost of housing, then we need to talk about the supply of land within the GMA boundaries. The answer is not Edmonds as it is mostly already developed. The answer lies with Snohomish County as it has available developable land. Basic economics says that if you limit the supply, the price of the commodity regulated will rise. And it sure has.

So, instead of simply accepting the “wisdom” of the Legislature, and after 34 years of experience with GMA, before we implement massive changes in our city, why not have Edmonds lead the discussion at the Association of Washington Cities to reexamine the goals and policies of GMA first?

— By Mike Echelbarger

Author Mike Echelbarger lives in Edmonds.

  1. Hey Mike, thanks for writing this. The perspective of real estate developers like yourself is often missing from conversations around the policies that shape housing supply (and housing affordability) in our community & region.

    I want to make two points, and ask a question.

    First, vacant land isn’t necessary to build new homes: you can also tear down existing homes, and stack new ones on top of each other. The result is a net increase of homes, with no sprawl needed. This doesn’t have to look like Brooklyn – it can also look like downtown Edmonds.

    Second, I agree with you that restricting the production of housing, while demand grew, inflated its price. However, I believe you are mischaracterizing the degree to which GMA boundaries were responsible for constraining regional housing development. Nearly all of the 35+ cities in the Seattle metropolitan area, including Edmonds, have banned the construction of attached dwellings across 75% (or more) of their residentially zoned land. If we need to liberalize our land use regulations to allow more homes, as you suggest, why not start with repealing our apartment bans?

    Finally, I noticed that your company, Echelbarger Investments, is building new attached dwellings in South Everett (duplexes) and MLT (townhomes). Could you clarify why new multifamily housing development is acceptable within those cities, but not Edmonds?

    1. I think the conversation onADUs revolves around affordability which is impossible to accomplish for single family homes constructed on tear down lots. Multiple family would work if that is the type of housing one prefers. You mention the concept of sprawl to which I object to the characterization of single family housing as negative influence on a community. One could say the huge apartments currently being constructed are verticals sprawl.but I see very few negatives regarding single family neighborhoods with families enjoying their back yards. And to answer your question, that is exactly what I originally referred to. My sons project(I’m retired) is under county jurisdiction not a cities. Yes cities should allow higher density but affordability revolves around supply of land. Not everyone wants to live in an apartment

      1. I think our local conversation around ADUs began with local consensus that ADUs should be legal, as evidenced by the Citizen’s Housing Commission’s recommendations in early 2021. Relative affordability (due to smaller size & lower land basis) is simply one feature of D/ADU construction: there are plenty of other reasons why folks might want (or not want!) to build ADUs. For what it’s worth, more Edmonds residents voted for the state reps who passed HB1337 than voted for our City councilmembers.

        I appreciate your views on detached (“single family”) housing. I grew up in detached homes, and certainly believe that anyone who wants a home with a yard (or a barn, or a stream, or a pasture…) should be free to pony up for it. With that same principle in mind, I believe that, in the aggregate, freer markets allow households to more closely satisfy their unique preferences. Living in a job center with proximity to parks & green spaces is often just as desired, as evidenced by high relative land values in places like downtown Edmonds.

        Affordability is about homes, not vacant land. Our current apartment/condo ban – which bans attached homes across 87% of our residential land – distorts our housing market by requiring households to consume a minimum amount of land (6,000+ sqft) with their home in most places.

      2. Well said. This assumption that living in a high-rise apartment is the standard for all is simply not true. It is desirable for some for sure, but the reason we moved to Edmonds from Seattle almost a decade ago was precisely because we needed to get OUT of our 3rd floor condo (in this case) with a newborn and no backyard or any natural space that was easily accessible (emphasis on easily). Since then we have added another child as well, and that was due to the fact we felt we had the space and environment to do so. Anyone who has kids knows that it is not feasible to pack up and go to a park – even though that is wonderful when it does happen – in the course of your busy day and to give kids that part of their growth and development. I am making that statement because I can already anticipate the response of, “well, this plan takes into account parks and open spaces in walking distance.” Vilifying SFH areas and families and others who actively seek this, is not beneficial or helpful. I am not suggesting that is specifically called out in this forum, but certainly I have seen that type of language used around SFHs in other venues.

        1. Hey Tom, not sure if you are referring to me: I wasn’t making any assumptions around appropriate living standards. (For the purposes of argumentative clarity, I think it’s most practical to debate each other within the bounds of the discussion explicitly happening here. I’m genuinely sorry that you have felt vilified for your preferences by commenters in other venues, and I feel it would be equivalently irrelevant for me to refer to past incidents where I felt vilified for my preferences: otherwise, we stretch ourselves thin chasing down strawmen.)

          I don’t have kids myself – maybe in 5 years! – so I appreciate your perspective on this as a parent. In the US, detached homes typically do offer much easier access to private outdoor space (via the yard) than attached. That being said, I’ve spent extended time in urban areas in Sweden&Germany, staying in attached homes (in one case, with a family with a 2-year-old) that offered easy access to private outdoor spaces – shared, but private – in addition to extensive local public parks.

          My view is that US building codes (IBC&local) do not facilitate the viable development of attached dwellings in arrangements that preserve private open space. Additionally, attached homes are legal on only 13% of Edmonds’ resi-zoned land. They get squeezed into areas bordering highways, not parks. This is a policy choice.

        2. I wasn’t referring to you in that comment Mackey nor looking for a response from you. I addressed you directly in a comment below, that ironically, highlighted exactly what I was talking about, after the fact.

  2. One of the original goals of the Growth Management Act (GMA), first adopted in 1990, was to encourage the availability of affordable housing to all economic segments of the population of this state, promote a variety of residential densities and housing types, and encourage preservation of existing housing stock.

    Tearing down existing homes is contrary to the preservation of existing housing stock.

    Strong arguments can be made that increased density can harm the environment, and have negative impacts on mental health and physical health.

    Despite the original goals of the GMA, this 2023 article claims the GMA is driving poor regional planning policy driving up the cost of housing, transportation and goods and services:

    https://www.washingtonpolicy.org/library/doclib/Harmsworth-Affordable-Housing.pdf

    The median home price in Washington State has moved from $93,200 in 1990 to $647,900 in 2022.
    I think this alone supports the author’s thought that Edmonds lead the discussion at the Association of Washington Cities to reexamine the goals and policies of GMA first.

  3. I moved here because of the neighborhood suburban environment. If I wanted a dense urban environment I could have chosen Ballard. So, in this grand scheme of all things “affordable”, where do homeowners like me who desire a little bit of space live? Why is our current living environment being usurped for a new apartment next door? When does this social engineering experiment stop?

    1. Hey Jim,

      1. In the US, we are pretty big on using markets to efficiently allocate scarce resources (like land.) Land is scarce in Edmonds, and lots of people want to be here, for a number of reasons: primarily doing business, but also living near friends/family, enjoying natural resources & landscapes, recreational/cultural amenities, etc. High aggregate demand results in the price of land here being bid up: this incents people who use land (mostly for living on or working on.) to do so more efficiently. As a result, stuff gets built closer together.

      2. You are welcome to use that same land market to find a place to live that satisfies your unique preferences. If your budget is fixed and it’s important to you that own a personal slice of empty land, you probably need to move away from the Seattle area (one of the fastest-growing big city in the US, because of innovation & ensuing job creation.) Otherwise, you are welcome to stay here, and enjoy the cultural + economic diversity & vibrancy that make so many people willing to pay the premium to live in cities: the engines of our global economy.

      3. What social engineering are you talking about? If you aren’t enjoying living in a country where markets support efficient land use to unlock opportunity+prosperity for more people, there are others.

      1. Respectfully, Mackey… much in line with my comments above, I think you are confusing the future that you are foreseeing with what people like Jim and myself already have and bought into, and for some like myself and my family, made significant financial plans and outlays to achieve that. Speaking personally, I am not naïve to the fact things change; Edmonds now does not look like Edmonds 100 years ago. That said, the rate of change at this exponential level that is coming down the line shortens that time frame considerably for what Edmonds will look like in another 100 years. I think your comment number 2 comes off pretty dismissive and rude, IMHO. Just telling people to move if they don’t like it any more – essentially – does not foster a both/and type of environment for these conversations, and leads people to dig their heels in. I do not know if you have gone through some of the extensive sacrifices, planning, and work that come with achieving home ownership, but if you have not, I might suggest you take some time to discuss that with folks who have and what is at stake in these type of conversations when it is not as easy as, “[finding another] place to live that satisfies your unique preferences.”

        1. Hey Tom, thanks for your response! My reply to Jim wasn’t really influenced or related to any personal vision of mine, and it certainly meant to challenge any personal vision that Jim, or you, have for your lives and futures in Edmonds. It was meant to outline the practical implications of the institutions and market dynamics – freedom of contract, price signaling, agglomeration effects, etc. – that have shaped urban intensification in regions like Seattle since industrialization began, and are responsible for creating opportunity & prosperity for many here, including in Edmonds.

          Could you clarify how point 2 of my comment was dismissive or rude? My intent was to be helpful: Jim literally asked where homeowners like himself “who desire a little bit of space” can live, and I figured I would outline the options in my reply. The dynamics of land markets can be confusing and counterintuitive, especially with regards to how purchasing power changes with geography, so I wanted to be clear that, all things being equal, homes are cheaper the further one looks from commuting distance of a job center. I never suggested that Jim should leave Edmonds: anyone who wants a yard can pay for it here, too.

          I don’t own, but have had plenty of conversations with folks (with/without kids) who own here. Many wanted more choice & flexibility.

      2. Mackey,

        I noticed in your response that you left out the word “free”. As in free markets. You seem to imply that the government needs to influence how and where we live – social engineering. That’s not my vision of our future.

        And thank you for “welcoming” me into your vision of the future.

        1. Jim: the City of Edmonds, which is a government, currently sets rules (zoning) about how and where Edmonds residents can live, including – across the 87% of residentially zoned land that is reserved for detached, or “single family”, dwellings – the minimum amount of land that any individual must *also* own in order to own a home there.

          This regulatory approach – which popped up across the US in the 1920s as a way to segregate cities by income level – prevents individuals from freely transacting in a manner that satisfies their needs.

          I’m criticizing these rules specifically because I believe government should not be involved in influencing how and where we live to the extent that it is today. Nobody is stopping you from buying as much land as you want, and building whatever kind of detached home you’d like on it, anywhere in Edmonds. However, the government *is* stopping anyone who wants to build two homes next to each other – across 87% of Edmonds’ residential land. That is, by definition, not a free market.

          If you truly believe, like me, that a free market would serve our collective interests better, we should discuss new regulatory approaches to residential land use that actually address the externalities that matter for public health: noise/pollution/etc. What we have today is not a free market.

      3. Incredibly condescending and disrespectful, Mackey. So if one doesn’t agree with your vision of what Edmonds should be: MOVE. You’ve crowned yourself as someone who can “welcome” us to stay in your Edmonds, as long as we fall in line with your vision. If one questions, then leave the country. I would say unbelievable, but these days this attitude appears to be becoming the norm.

    2. Totally agree Jim. This is not why we live here. The state is over running the wishes of the citizens and it needs to let the cities decide their growth not the state and not the Puget Sound Regional Council.

    1. It’s all good, Mackey. We don’t know each other so I’m not taking this personally, since we have no relationship for which to judge or benchmark any consternation on my part. You clearly have aspirational goals around here, so take it as an offer of free advice and wisdom. I’ve learned it the hard way myself at times. Sometimes saying more, despite your best intentions, just makes it worse. I do commend you on your passion around this, but your tone (and sometimes others in this sphere and conversation that I mentioned before, and I want to stress again was not directed at you… until it was) is condescending. And thus, has made me dig my heals in more as a person that feels I need to defend decisions made a decade ago that I now have strong feelings for. If folks want to make me see and understand how their point of view melds with mine… great! I’m all for that. Let’s see both sides and find areas of commonality and work through areas of difference. But… there is none of that going on here.

      1. Tom, I appreciate your wisdom here. I would really like it if we knew each other – please shoot me a text at (206) 915-3925 or email (mackeyguenther@gmail.com), and let’s find a time for coffee.

        I understand how my comments could feel condescending, although they’re not meant that way. There’s a lot of information I want to share in response to the ideas brought up here (both by Mike, and by other commenters, like you), and fitting it all in the comment box is hard. In that 225-word space, I am laser-focused on engaging with others’ ideas, as written.

        Replies here ultimately have two audiences: the original poster & general public. The public visibility of these exchanges makes them structurally different than in-person deliberation, which requires interpersonal connection (to affirm mutual trust and respect) before productive exchange can take place: it’s hard to be intimate and vulnerable in an asynchronous, limited-bandwidth, public forum.

        As I acknowledge that the comment section here has its limitations for productive deliberation, people read it, so I think it’s important that they see the range & interaction of interpretations, backgrounds, and viewpoints that exist within our community.

        That audience is better for our discourse when it’s rigorous. I hope you can see my directness as a reflection of how important that objective is to me: maybe it’s the wrong one.

  4. Hey Ken, thanks for writing this comment. Feel free to make those strong arguments as to how increased density can harm the environment, and have negative impacts on mental health and physical health.

    You left out a few explicit policy goals of the GMA that provide more context as to why a development boundary was selected as its central governance mechanism in the first place: to “[m]aintain and enhance natural resource-based industries and encourage the conservation of productive forest and agricultural lands”, and to “[e]ncourage the retention of open space and the development of recreational opportunities”.

    Yes, local & state planning regulations add cost to the provision of homes in the Seattle area. While it doesn’t offer any explanation of what this figure considers, the article you linked cites $144,000 as the average per-home burden of “public policy”.

    How about apartment/condo bans? Let’s look at the average home in Edmonds’ RS-6 zoned area: 29.98% lot coverage, 8083 sqft lot (I just ran the numbers). That’s 5,658 sqft of unused land. The average market land value in RS-6 is $117.30/sqft. The *unused* land of the average RS-6 lot has a market value of $663,683.40.

    Our apartment/condo bans, which prevent land costs from being spread across multiple homes – and therefore lowered, per-unit – are more responsible for changes in affordability than any other body of policy.

    1. Mackey, I feel that you are in over your head and need to realize that other opinions matter. If you like what’s happening in Ballard ( where I grew up ) and Shoreline ( 8000+ new apartments ) then more power to you. But it sucks, not being able to see the sky.

      1. Greg – with love and admiration, the very fact that I’m engaging in discussion on this topic is proof positive of my incredibly strong conviction that the opinions of others matter. That conviction is why I invest my energy into asking questions, making assertions, and critiquing the arguments of others. Our opinions ultimately shape the world we live in: nothing could be more important to me.

        I respond to the comments shared by you and others in our community not only out of respect for the investment made by their authors, but also because I believe that we have the best chance to build an accurate model from which to make future decisions when no stone is left unturned in our aggregation of knowledge about the outcomes of the rules we set for ourselves. Information about these outcomes is unevenly distributed. It has to come together somewhere. That being said, you are free to dislike the things I say and how I say them.

        Finally, yes, I agree with you – it does suck not to be able to see the sky! That’s why I think it’s a mistake that attached dwellings are allowed in just 13% of Edmonds. This regulatory approach incents developers to squeeze in as many homes as possible in this area, instead of incrementally growing via smaller, more distributed buildings.

  5. Mackey, if you want to talk history then let’s start prior to your 1920’s reference. Prior to that and by the late 19th century, single-family housing and ownership was already embedded in the American psyche. Detached houses with a decent amount of land separating them from neighbors was the American dream. A dream that roughly 45% of Americans attained by 1900 (U.S. census data).

    Zoning regulations were born in the late 1910’s to early 1920’s as land use policies. Policies primarily intended to segregate industrial development from increasingly rising residential housing, not as a way to segregate cities by income level as you suggest. But to provide a healthier environment to live and raise a family vs. the somewhat caustic environment associated with industrial complexes. Zoning was used to define locations where various types of development could occur in a planned manner. Residentially zoned areas includes both multi-family and single-family dwellings. Further subdivision of zoning parsed each area with more discrete requirements.

    Within that framework we chose to live in a single-family neighborhood. Why make it unhealthier for us by further densification? You consider “unused land” (green space) as a detriment to society in even an urban environment. I disagree. It’s healthier physically, mentally and emotionally.

    1. Thanks for writing this, Jim. I’d be interested in seeing your source for that 1900 detached home number (I believe you, just curious.)

      I agree with you that the ideal of the detached home was prominent in American national consciousness around the turn of the century. (Industrial cities sucked.) I also agree with you that the earliest zoning regulations, 1890-1900ish – functionally, a combo meal of nuisance laws and building codes – distinguished between residential and industrial zones in the interest of environmental health.

      However, these initial regulations – which made no distinctions between dwelling types, facilitating the development of many beloved American neighborhoods (like downtown Edmonds) – were swapped for “single family” zoning, which explicitly delineated the areas where attached dwellings were legal, and where they weren’t.

      Empirical research, including that of Troustine (2018), concludes that “most early advocates for single-family zoning viewed separating home-owners and detached houses from renters and apartments as their primary goal. They would have understood – and usually supported – the ways that single-family zoning would also reinforce and expand racial segregation.” (This segregative effect was downstream of the wealth disparity between whites and racialized groups, exacerbated by enslavement, xenophobia, and discriminatory financial practices.) Detached zoning measures usually existed alongside other public+private restrictions on racial integration.

      Describing “single family” zoning as a public-health intervention is inconsistent with historical evidence.

      1. Mackey, for the sake of education, I’m going to continue this thread. Hopefully others will enjoy the discussion as well.

        First, my source for housing statistics: https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/tables/time-series/census-housing-tables/owner.pdf

        I’m dismayed that you’ve brought race into this discussion on zoning. I’ll agree that during the early years of zoning development and regulation numerous attempts were tried to racialize zoning, but ultimately stricken down by the courts, including the Supreme Court in 1917 which unequivocally banned cities from drafting zoning ordinances that mandated where black families could and couldn’t live. From there, well known discriminatory practices, including restrictive covenants and deeds and redlining were used to segregate neighborhoods. These latter practices were neighborhood based, not zone based. Covenants restricting ownership by race were ruled unenforceable by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948. Redlining was a neighborhood based discriminatory practice, not specific to zoning since single family housing resided on each side of “the red line”. My father grew up in a red-lined neighborhood in Detroit. Red-lined because of the 100% Polish immigrant population of factory workers in poor housing stock. Discriminatory indeed, but redlining was not defined by zoning maps or zoning codes.

        Let’s not make single-family zoning a racially divisive issue. Regardless of one’s race, religion, or gender, many still aspire to live in single-family neighborhoods. So why deprive individuals and families of this opportunity?

        1. Jim, thanks for the source. Just to confirm, the statistic you provided in your comment is the percentage of households that owned their dwelling – not the percentage that lived in detached homes. Per the 1940 Census of Housing, nationally, 83.3% of all owner-occupied dwellings were detached dwellings in 1940. In urban areas, that percentage dropped to 73.4%. The rest were attached, which I think is a significant distinction: for many people, the American dream of ownership was – and is – realized in a home that touches another home.

          Liberalizing residential land (allowing attached homes to be built next to detached homes) would not deprive anyone of the opportunity to live in a detached home. (It actually would allow more people to do so, as a matter of geometry: Edmonds’ practice of requiring minimum lot sizes in our “single family” neighborhoods arbitrarily limits the number of homes in them.) This sort of downtown Edmonds-style zoning allows households the dignity and liberty to making unique trade-offs – between location, price, proximity, etc. – that reflect their unique preferences and priorities. For some, that will be a big house with a big yard – for others, it will be a big house, or small one, that touches others. Attempting to plan for the space consumption of these households is a task better suited for markets. (1/3)

        2. I believe that building forms and arrangements should be moderated by regulations that quantitatively protect compelling public interests in public safety and health. That being said, I don’t think those interests are really the focus of our regulations today: we mostly control the spatial geometry, dimensions, and distribution of buildings, in the interest of keeping them mostly small and far apart from each other, rather than comprehensively ensuring that our cities are quiet, energy-efficient, full of green space, and have clean air.

          I totally concur with your synopsis of the judicial history of zoning. I think your analysis of the history of private restrictions on property transfer (and, for a period, public enforcement of them) is spot-on. However, I disagree with your conclusion that exclusionary zoning does not have any basis in discrimination along racialized dimensions.

          Single-family zoning effectuated segregation by denying lower-income households – disproportionately, racialized minorities – the possibility of living in most areas of cities, old & new (suburbs.) You are right that “single family” zoning filtered by income, not race, but income was (and is) not evenly distributed by race: early advocates were fully aware of this. The first neighborhoods zoned single-family had been previously segregated by racially restrictive private covenants. At the very least, single-family zoning was adapted from racist components, and tended to reinforce segregation. (2/3)

        3. Edmonds leaders, in fact, were well aware of the functional implications of zoning on race. Here’s Gordon Maxwell – 10 year mayor, 9 year councilmember, planning commissioner – interviewed in a 1971 Seattle Times piece, “Edmonds shuns the growth-happy syndrome” : “Economics probably keeps minorities out. Our land and homes are more expensive. Yet single-family residences are what is desired in Edmonds, expensive as they are.” His words describe the racial consequences of Edmonds’ zoning laws: functionally, they kept Edmonds white – or, rather, they kept non-white people out. Residents with public influence and political power were fully cognizant of the racial implications of this facially race-blind policy. (3/3)

  6. I am friends with four of the commenters on this thread, authors of 16 of the 20 comments. This is a complicated subject, and there are limits to what can be accomplished in a MEN comment thread. Rather than me plunging in here, I suggest we sit down for coffee sometime and talk this through, or maybe beer would be better. I’m a former chair of the Edmonds Planning Board, and I closely follow current planning stuff. Jim, Ken, Tom, and Mackey, you all have my personal email. Let me know if you’re game to get together.

  7. A family I known in Seattle had their living environment impacted by a detached accessory dwelling unit built close to their property line. The DADU greatly reduced light and eliminated a tiny view of the sky that brought a little happiness. They were not compensated for the impairment to part of what made their property special.

    They also have only one travel lane in the middle of streets because bumper to bumper parking on both sides of the streets eliminates much of the portion of the street that can actually be used for travel.

    Density is a very complex issue.

    The research paper titled Systematic review and comparison of densification effects and planning motivations concludes:
    “The strong dichotomy is striking between, on the one hand, the positive effects of density on public infrastructure, transport and economics and, on the other, the negative environmental, social and health impacts.”
    The paper is easy to find via internet search. The paper also refers to “the positive impact of higher density on public ridership and the negative impact of a higher density on the microclimate.”

  8. One thing we are really good at is telling each other how we should be living our lives, what we should want for a home, what kind of vehicle we should all be driving or furnace to own so as not to be a climate criminal, what trees we can and cannot cut down and whether or not we are allowed to rent out our house or sublet a bedroom or build a spare house on our lot. Our city government is really good at doing this too. No shortage of “my way or the highway” from either the extreme Left or Right in this Burg. I don’t understand why two people need 5000+ sq. ft. to live comfortably when we are quite comfortable with 800 sq. ft. a piece but I don’t fault the people who do feel they need the big house and can afford it. More power to them. On the other hand if people want to pay 1200/mo. for a Studio to say they live in Edmonds, I’m all for that approach too. Just don’t build the “affordable” places on top of a valuable drinking water aquifer that may well hurt the town next door and get us sued again. What we really need here is more just living comfortably together and a lot less “planning” by so called experts.

  9. This comment thread has gotten way too complicated. Better we just get together and discuss this stuff.
    I’ll be at the window table at Churchkey this Friday when they open at 4:00, if anybody wants to join in.

  10. MEN

    I see that without explanation, my response to a previous comment was not posted. Was I politically incorrect in some manner?

    1. Hi Jim — there are no comments pending from you and nothing deleted. Could you resubmit? — Teresa

  11. Mackey,

    Good conversation, although I do take issue with a few of your comments. You seem to keep circling around and coming back to a race-based discussion on zoning. So, one question. Do you believe that the current Edmonds zoning code is racially discriminatory?

    1. I would appreciate you spelling out the specific deficiencies you’re seeing in my argumentation: it would help me understand your position and refine my own! I appreciate you sharing the evidence, context, and anecdotes you have so far.

      I don’t think that “circling around and coming back to race” is a totally fair synopsis of my previous comments regarding the relationship between race and zoning policy in our conversation: you disagreed with my assertion that “single-family” zoning tended to effectuate segregation and was implemented by advocates who were fully aware of its racially disparate impacts, and I provided additional evidence and context to support my assertion. In my view, it was a continuation of our exchange.

      To your question – yes, I believe that a preponderance of the evidence supports the conclusion that Edmonds’ predominately “single family” zoning regime has effectuated racial segregation in its provision of opportunities for homeownership in Edmonds since first implemented here in the 1940s. These opportunities have been largely restricted to those able to afford detached homes on>6000sqft of land.

      To be clear, “single family” zoning’s segregatory mechanism is via disparate impact (discrimination on the basis of income), not disparate treatment (discrimination that explicitly considered race). Given the differences in income distributions along racialized dimensions that I mentioned in my previous comments, zoning has a downstream effect on racial integration.

  12. Interesting. I’m not so sure I would categorize your arguments as “deficient”, but rather stereotyping our current situation with past injustices. Single-family zoning is not one of those injustices. Previously I provided the case law which struck down all racially motivated zoning codes – over 75 years ago.

    I’m not sure I’ve heard of “discrimination on the basis of income” before. What does that mean? Everyone is entitled to anything they want regardless of their ability to pay? I would agree that there is an increase in the disparity of income due to the eroding middle class. I trace this back to three factors occurring during my lifetime. Jack Welch with the GE business model, Ronald Regan undermining unions and Bill Clinton enacting NAFTA. These practices accelerated the transition to a lower pay scale “service economy” (whatever that means). Zoning had nothing to do with it.

    The simple truth is that there always has been and ALWAYS will be households below any arbitrary AMI “affordability” level. It’s just math. Trying to fix this with carte blanche zoning changes is not getting at the root cause, and is counterproductive, IMHO. I believe that Edmonds’ current zoning code is flexible enough to enable growth in a manner which preserves the single-family neighborhoods.

  13. Jim,

    Thanks for your attempts to expand Mackey Guenther’s understanding of the complexity of up-zoning single family zones, and for adding a historical perspective. Your efforts are appreciated.

    I stopped engaging with Mackey over a year ago when state legislators were debating the housing bills. Mackey’s focus is from a real estate equity perspective, and he adheres to the “filtering down” theory, which he believes will reduce housing costs over a period of 20 years, or perhaps as little as 10 years, according to Mackey.

    For more about “filtering down,” see Judy Bendich’s 2/2023 Reader View, where she explains “The theory is the more you build, the lower the prices will be,”:
    https://myedmondsnews.com/2023/02/reader-view-who-will-benefit-from-house-and-senate-housing-bills-follow-the-money/

    You said “Trying to fix this with carte blanche zoning changes is not getting at the root cause, and is counterproductive, IMHO.” The comments following Bendich’s RV show that many engaged Edmonds’ residents agree with you.

    1. Hey Joan – nice to hear from you! It certainly feels to me like Jim and I are learning a lot about each other’s perspectives on this topic by sharing with each other. I’m glad you feel the same.

      Talking with those who don’t share the same views as us can be difficult. It takes effort to reconcile new perspectives with our own. I personally believe we owe it to our community to continuously exchange our views in the rigorous pursuit of truth, and hope you feel compelled to re-engage with my ideas someday.

      I wrote you more than 1400 words (1472, to be exact!) in response to your request last March for more detail on my views on housing policies affecting Washington. I’m a little disappointed that you’ve summarized my views as coming from a “real estate equity perspective” (unsure what you mean) centered on filtration of housing supply. I feel you overlooked my discussion of the importance of policies related to housing subsidy and stability, in addition to supply. I was very explicit about that.

      I believe it’s important to pay close attention to detail and use good faith when attempting to express the views held by others, to ensure clarity. In that interest, here’s a PDF of our full conversation, so that readers can evaluate our perspectives from the actual text: https://pdfupload.io/docs/bd1c4a01

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