EDMONDS — Voters will soon decide who will fill three positions on the Edmonds City Council.
The Daily Herald spoke with the candidates separately about the issues they view as the most pressing in Edmonds, including potential zoning changes, the city’s tree code and homelessness. The council member positions are at-large, meaning every Edmonds voter can vote for every position.
Candidate Alicia Crank is trying to unseat incumbent Kristiana Johnson for Position 1. Candidates Janelle Cass and Will Chen are vying for Position 2, after defeating the incumbent in the primary. Neil Tibbott is challenging incumbent Adrienne Fraley-Monillas for Position 3.
These interviews were edited and condensed for clarity.
Which issues do you think Edmonds voters care most about right now?
Crank: One that kind of encompasses everything is civility on the council. The second and third are actually emails I’ve been answering all day, centered around housing and the tree canopy.
Johnson: Lack of transparency, especially around the city’s budget process and timeline. Lack of civility on the council, the city’s tree code and recommendations from the Citizens’ Housing Commission.
Cass: Drug addiction, homelessness and public safety issues. Housing is a really big issue and I hear concerns about if there is going to be densification in single-family zones.
Chen: Public safety, housing, transparency and accountability of our city government.
Fraley-Monillas: What we’re going to do with housing is right up there. Homelessness is also an issue with the Edmonds citizens right now, because there are a lot of people experiencing housing instability.
Tibbott: Transparency, listening to citizens’ comments and including their priorities in whatever decision the council is making (especially the budget). Citizens are losing trust in the way our government is run. (Tibbott added residents are interested in housing issues.)
Which issues in Edmonds are most important to you?
Crank: Housing affordability, being able to create different entry points of home renter and ownership within Edmonds.
Johnson: We need to protect single-family neighborhoods. I want to protect the environment, but I think we need to use incentives to encourage people to retain trees instead of a proposal that would punish people.
Cass: Public safety and protecting single-family zoning.
Chen: Public safety is the most important issue. (Chen said with community input and approval he would like to pursue police substations on Highway 99 and increase the law enforcement presence.)
Tibbott: I want to fix the transparency problems and I want to work on housing options that set us up well for the future.
Fraley-Monillas: Managing or determining the development of Highway 99 is a big issue for me.
The city council recently approved changes to its tree code to preserve the tree canopy. How would you address the cost this places on homeowners?
Crank: One of the things that I would entertain having a conversation about is the fact that in-lieu fees could be collected from any homeowner or a developer who doesn’t plant or maintain “X” amount of trees on a new development. Maybe these funds could offset some of the costs property owners have to clean and maintain their property, due to the trees from another person’s property in the name of preserving the tree canopy.
Johnson: I would like to make a proposal that encourages people to take care of landmark trees. We could have a map of the landmark trees, remove the fees and do something to incentivize people. My proposal would direct the staff to come back with a proposal on how to accomplish that.
Cass: I would be in favor of making sure that preserving the trees is incentive-driven, because I believe that at its core it can be an equity issue. I would look at maybe even some kind of tax incentive for maintaining that tree. The whole community benefits when we have more trees, so we have to do something to help offset the burden on the property versus punishing people.
Chen: I would like to revisit the tree code and add certain provisions to ensure it’s equitable, both from an environmental perspective and also from the homeowners’ perspective. I would like to get more public input. I have heard a lot of people are concerned about trees on their private property and I want to find a balance.
Tibbott: We need to incentivize keeping trees. We also need to work with builders more to keep more trees on their properties they’re developing.
Fraley-Monillas: I voted against moving forward with the tree code. I think we need to pull together property owners, business owners and developers to talk about it. Until we do that, it’s going to continue to be a very divisive issue in the city.
What zoning changes, if any, would you support in Edmonds?
Crank: Right now, if someone wanted to build a detached accessory dwelling unit, or mother-in-law unit on their property, they would not be permitted to do it at all. I think that needs to change. Being able to allow a detached ADU to be built — if it’s appropriate and makes sense in that space and in that neighborhood — should be allowed.
Johnson: I’m going to recommend in the budget that the city does a subarea plan, take Perrinville and Meadowdale areas and look at land use, zoning, transportation, the environment and maybe utilities. We would put together a plan that involves citizens and see what housing types are appropriate. I think that would be a better approach than doing it citywide. Then each year we could pick another couple areas.
Cass: I don’t think we need to change any zoning areas. We still have plenty of areas that are zoned for multi-family. We’re actually due for a master plan update, so I think getting everybody’s input on that is going to be really important. If you make zoning changes before we have a plan, then it won’t be a congruent way of looking at the whole city.
Chen: We need to maintain our single-family zoning in Edmonds. At the same time, we have to look for housing solutions, including affordable housing, to meet the diverse housing needs. People have different opinions about the detached accessory dwelling unit policy, so I’d like to explore that. I’d like to put that to a vote for the entire city to get a feel for what people think.
Tibbott: There’s been too much of an attempt to change our single-family zoning and not enough attention paid to the transition zones in our city. There are parcels where people did ad hoc multi-family approaches. If we can upzone in some of those areas, we can do much better types of housing, potentially townhomes, potentially better-quality multifamily housing.
Fraley-Monillas: The upzoning of our single-family neighborhoods is a mistake. I also won’t support increasing height anywhere except along Highway 99. If there were projects that came to us that had real emphasis on low-income housing and affordable housing along Highway 99, I would be willing to take a look at whatever they present to us.
What actions or policies would you support at the city level to address homelessness?
Crank: What I would completely support is the city partnering with existing organizations that have a greater wealth of knowledge and experience in this area. Housing insecurity and homelessness is not a city issue, it’s regional. I believe being able to do things where we partner and provide resources for the organization to serve our community members will be much more beneficial than trying to start something from scratch here.
Johnson: We have to think about what we want to provide in terms of services. We have to tailor the right programs, which would probably involve hiring more social workers. (Johnson said she wants to hear more from the mayor’s task force, before supporting a specific policy or action. However, Johnson would advocate for hiring more social workers.)
Cass: We need to work with local nonprofits and countywide programs that have worked. I would definitely support working with some of the Snohomish Health District resources and some of the other county resources. I would support using emergency motel vouchers for people experiencing homelessness, as long as there is oversight.
Chen: We have to work with our neighboring cities in south Snohomish County and put together a task force with members from each city who meet on a regular basis. One of the things I would like to consider is to create a regional fund to pool not only financial resources, but also human services resources together, so we can direct people with different needs to different services.
Tibbott: I am supportive of, and will work toward, an ordinance that prohibits public camping. We need an ordinance that gives police the authority to move people along. We have treatment programs available in Snohomish County now. We want to take advantage of those and move people toward that.
Fraley-Monillas: I’ve been working on the city’s Human Services program for about six years now. We have a program manager and now we’re bringing in a social worker through Compass Health. I think it’s going to be important to have wraparound services, so some way for our social workers to refer people to different services they might need. I think the city has a huge role to play in this process, but we need to be working with our neighboring cities too.
Katie Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.