Citizen group to advise director on housing strategy

After outcry, City cuts ties with Berk Consultants after $90,000 spent
By Brian Soergel | Nov 15, 2018
Photo by: Brian Soergel New sideways homes coming to 220th Street SW in Edmonds.

One of the top citizen concerns of the embattled City of Edmonds’ draft housing strategy centered on its task force, which included a real estate developer, real estate agent and a consortium of affordable housing groups.

Now, in a move to allow citizens an increased voice, Development Services Director Shane Hope has hand-selected a small citizens group to advise her department on issues and process for reworking the draft housing strategy.

This comes after the City decided to cut ties with Seattle-based Berk Consulting – which has been paid $90,000 so far – from the strategy process, and work internally on the plan’s reboot.

City Councilmember Mike Nelson had called for Berk’s removal.

“Berk Consulting completed the initial work that was asked of them, such as gathering data, assisting with public meetings and preparing an initial draft housing strategy,” Hope said.

“However, we believe the initial draft strategy needs significant reworking and much more public input. Rather than go back with the same consultant, we think that City staff, working with the public – as well as the mayor and City Council – can take on this next phase without having to spend additional funds on a consultant. It seems time to leave that relationship and move on.”

For the new citizens’ group, Hope said she considered the previous task force’s work done, and the new group’s mission is to provide input from local residents.

“I’ve asked a few community residents with different perspectives to provide me advice for developing the next draft housing strategy,” Hope said.

“This is not a formal, appointed group, but they are solid local residents and can be a great source of ideas, and also a sounding board moving forward. Of course, we want lots of other public input, too.”

The group had an introductory meeting Nov. 8 that was not widely publicized, as Hope admitted that she wanted it to be low-key. She had sent out an email memo that same day to those who signed up for email notifications, but the memo did not mention that night’s meeting. It was, however, listed on the housing strategy’s website.

“We have all heard from people with different perspectives on housing, as well as on housing strategies,” Hope said. “In some cases, there have been misunderstandings and inaccurate claims about the July draft housing strategy and next steps. However, overall, a great amount of good public input has been received and will be helpful to move forward.”

The strategy’s purpose, Hope said, is to identify what the City can or wants to do to provide for affordable housing for a range of income levels, and to meet diverse housing needs. She added that it is not about meeting Edmonds’ population growth targets under the Growth Management Act, which she said has been a common misunderstanding.

Here’s a look at the new members of the citizens’ group, all Edmonds residents:

Rob Van Tassell: Van Tassell is the only member on the committee who was also on the task force. He is with Catholic Housing Services of Snohomish County, which develops, owns and manages housing programs for low-income families and individuals.

Bob Throndsen: Throndsen is a former reporter, anchor and manager for KOMO. He said at the meeting that he will be downsizing his residence soon. He also expressed concerns about his daughter and son-in-law, who are in their 30s and face “gigantic odds” in continuing to live in the community without affordable housing.

Alicia Crank: Crank is a member of the Edmonds Planning Board. She said other communities have been successful in responding to a diverse set of housing needs.

Dave Teitzel: The Edmonds City Council member is the council’s liaison on the county’s Affordable Housing Alliance.

Brian Goodnight: Goodnight is a retired condo developer who is interested in rezoning certain areas of Edmonds.

Pat McDevitt: McDevitt is an Edmonds business owner, homeowner and landlord. “My interest is not really monetary,” he said. “It’s to see Edmonds grow in a way that will not allow any blue tents, anything like that. It will ruin us very quickly.”

Treg Camper: Camper said he wants to make sure the housing strategy remains open to the community and receives plenty of feedback.

Lindsey Crawford: Crawford has 15 years of experience as a real estate property manager. “The charm of Edmonds is very important to, but also the affordability,” she said.

Marla Miller: Miller is deputy superintendent of the Shoreline School District and has studied homeless issues in the area. She previously served in the Edmonds School District, and retired as a member of the Public Facilities District, which oversees the Edmonds Center for the Arts, in June.

Diana White: White is in her second term of the Edmonds School District board. She is a founding member of the Edmonds Diversity Commission, and recently announced that she is stepping down from the position at the end of the year. She also is a member of the Hazel Miller Foundation.

City staff on the advisory board include Diane Cunningham and Brad Shipley of the Development Services department’s planning commission.

Draft housing strategy recap

In 2015, the City Council adopted an update of the Citywide Comprehensive Plan under the Housing Element to include the requirement of developing the strategy.

A strategy introduction was presented to City Council on July 24 after going through the normal public process of Planning Board review, public hearings and recommendations.

On Aug. 27, a workshop led by Berk Consultants divided citizens into groups to review and discuss various real-life situations and provide recommendations.

This workshop did not include a lengthy question-and-answer period, and many citizens questioned the validity and timeliness of the data provided, as well as the lack of Berk Consulting in listening to their concerns.

Public outcry regarding the strategy has been prominent during the last few months. Concerns included zoning, the task force structure, poor planning documents, developers’ incentives, affordable housing versus homelessness, statistics not matching data, and the lack of citizen input.

Hundreds of comments have been received from citizens to the council via all forms of media or personal communication, and three town hall meetings were held, with Mayor Dave Earling holding one and Council President Mike Nelson two.

Homelessness

New advisory group members noted that, given that the council is planning to have a separate study and process about homelessness, the new draft probably does not need to do much on the issue.

“Our vision is to make Edmonds the most livable community in the Puget Sound region by protecting the city’s charm and character, environmental stewardship, and ensuring a range of housing options,” Teitzel said, in response to the group’s vision and purpose.

Key issues include zoning, housing diversity, diversity of people and housing, backyard cottages, aging in place, builder incentives, state condo regulations, permitting for developers, and respect for the environment.

Also: Protecting tenant and landlord rights, walkability, property taxes, impact fees, access to services, increased traffic, pedestrian safety, low-barrier housing, parking, creating urban villages, safety, transparency, and public input from all areas of the city.

Hope said that more types of community meetings and events will follow. She also expressed interest in creating focus groups.

“We care about all neighborhoods, and want to find places not only in the Bowl but elsewhere to have public meetings. Ideas are welcome.”

Actual milestones and schedules for the City’s new draft work are still being planned. More information, including the advisory group’s next meeting date, will be posted on the City’s housing website at edmondshousingstrategy.org/.

The website also has a section for questions and answers.

Any suggested action contained in an approved strategy is subject to additional public process and clarification before the council makes a final decision on whether or how to implement the suggested action.

During the Tuesday, Nov. 13, council meeting, six options were considered:

  • Accept the strategy
  • Accept the strategy with amendments
  • Pause the strategy
  • Reject the strategy and remove strategy option from housing element of the City’s comprehensive plan, which is a blueprint for future work
  • Reboot the plan with a hybrid of previous and future elements.
  • Accept a comprehensive rewrite of the housing strategy draft by staff that incorporates robust public input while maintaining a disciplined timeline for completion of the draft. Adopt final housing strategy in November or December 2019.

 

 

 

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