Citizens flex collective muscle on housing strategy | Our View

Nov 08, 2018

If you think your voice is ignored in the corridors of power in Edmonds, you haven’t been paying attention.

Edmonds citizens are among the most engaged in Snohomish County.

Exhibit A came during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The City’s draft housing strategy – controversial, even in draft form – was not on the agenda. But citizens lined up to have their say anyway.

According to the City, the housing strategy will consider housing needs, taking into account available data, and recommend actions it can take to increase the housing supply and meet diverse needs, including those for the homeless, seniors and veterans.

That it may.

But many citizens, at least the most vocal, see the strategy as nothing more than sprouting stacked housing – usually boxy condos and apartments – in a city just about built out and already suffering increased traffic and a glaring lack of parking downtown during busy hours.

An empty lot is viewed with suspicion. Units are built sideways – neighbors staring down neighbors – to take advantage of space. Developers pocket the profit, as does the City with more taxes.

But as housing prices get out of reach and rents are just too damn high, more than a few have noted that Edmonds’ desirability plays a key role, and that not everybody can afford to live here.

Harsh, for sure.

Many, too, are concerned about the City’s focus on low-income housing, which they feel might bring unwanted problems. Read: Drugs, the homeless element, crime.

But the City wants to ensure there is more affordable housing in the near future for a wide range of citizens, even if “affordable” is an iffy proposition, with “affordable” rents expected to be over $1,300 – at least – for a one-bedroom apartment.

On Tuesday, some citizens indeed spoke of the need for housing for all people, for all levels of income. All agreed more public input was necessary.

Others were more succinct.

“It’s not the vision I want for Edmonds,” said Rebecca Anderson, who – along with others – called for a “reboot” of the draft strategy. “Please remember that you are stewards of the City of Edmonds. We are counting on you to do the best, not just for the short term, but in the long term.”

“Honestly, I get the feeling that you’re kind of royalty,” said Gail Court. “I’m sure that’s well deserved at home, but here in the public, you are public servants and we are speaking to you, saying please let us in a little bit more. Include the average citizen more.”

The City's paying attention.

Councilmember Mike Nelson has called for that reboot. Councilmember Neil Tibbott, in today’s Guest View in the Beacon, calls for a removal of homelessness strategies from the draft, as the City is already paying for a study.

Development Services Director Shane Hope says more public input is being considered, and there will be ample opportunities for comment.

That’s all good.

But as more than a few citizens have mentioned, the City needs to be more aggressive in informing the public about the process and why it’s necessary. Unfortunately, too many residents do not regularly read local media or scan the City’s website for news.

One citizen on Tuesday proposed a mass mailing to all residents.

Another option to consider: Bring back the City’s “Update on Edmonds” newsletter, formerly mailed to all residents but now online only, where no one reads it.

It would be a good use of taxpayer money.

Voices are being heard, and the City Council – four of its members who are up for re-election next year – is listening.

 

 

 

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