Council learns about loss of council meeting recordings, discusses Lynnwood housing growth

IT Director Will Cena explains how 42 city council recordings were lost.

At its April 4 work session, the Lynnwood City Council received presentations about the aging sewer system’s infrastructure, Lynnwood’s Housing Action Plan and lost recordings from virtual meetings in 2020 and 2021. 

Director of Information Technology Will Cena spoke about the erasure of 42 Lynnwood City Council meeting recordings. During the COVID-19 pandemic’s first year, councilmembers met virtually in accordance with social-distancing recommendations using the Zoom platform. Zoom doesn’t archive the meetings and the records were never moved to the city website for backup. As a result, 36 meetings from 2020 and six from 2021 were erased. 

Councilmember Jim Smith asked why the IT department had not taken steps to avoid this. Cena replied that the department worked to facilitate the use of technology, not maintain records. The duty fell to the clerk’s office and the individual in charge of the task no longer works for the city, he said. 

To address the issue, in-person meetings are now stored on the city website — a practiced followed prior to the pandemic when Zoom wasn’t used for recordings. While on the topic, councilmembers asked about the cost for also archiving committee and board meetings. Options for keeping those meetings archived would cost the city $10,000-15,000 per year.

Bill Franz and Ehsan Shirkhani from public works talking about the inevitability of repairs or replacements within infrastructure.

The Public Works Department presented next with a request that the council approve an ordinance adopting the Lynnwood Sewer Comprehensive Plan for 2023-2028. The plan is designed to consider the current state of the sewer system and accommodate incoming population growth. 

Lynnwood’s sewage infrastructure is constructed of materials designed to last between 40-50 years, such as concrete pipes and PVC (polyvinyl chloride). The current system is 30-40 years old and does not work optimally, reducing sewer flow so less water is being processed at a higher energy cost. The problem compounds and causes additional damage to the pipes.

Lynnwood expects to see a 74.3% increase in residential sewer use and 70.3% increase in business sewer use. 

City Project Manager Ehsan Shirkhani said that the plan is to rehabilitate old lines and improve sewer flow. He also asked for additional staffing, though it would be added incrementally so as not to radically change the rates.

“The Comprehensive Plan recommends 10.6 FTE (full-time employees) to operate and maintain the sewer system,” Shirkhani said. “The city now is only able to dedicate 5.5 FTE, which is not sufficient to provide the optimal level of service. Currently, the city provides adequate service and meets the minimum requirements of the state. 

Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby asked what the worst-case scenario was if the city did not act on the approximately $300 million plan. 

Shirkhani said that this was a high-level estimate and was therefore subject to higher or lower costs but reminded the council that the cost would be spread over the next 20 years. 

Public Works Director William Franz added that the plan also included improvements to the wastewater treatment plant that the council heard about in February.

Data collected by Lynnwood planners about resident preferences.

In other business, the council was invited to have a conversation about Lynnwood’s Housing Action Plan and its implementation, with Community Planning Manager Karl Almgren and consultant Jeff Arango presenting. 

“Missing middle” housing refers to a diversity of residential housing options that transition between single-family homes and high-rise apartments, such as accessory dwelling units, duplexes, cottage courts and townhomes.

Poll respondents from Lynnwood indicated many community members had an interest in a variety of housing types and a majority liked duplexes, triplexes and townhomes because they were more affordable than single-family homes.

Almgren talked about the implementation of low-rise dwellings that would blend in with single-family housing as well as other considerations made for the implementation of middle housing such as distance to public transit, vegetation, displacement and street design. Details about what planners are considering can be found here

Pending state legislation (HB1110, SB 5466) that focuses on providing middle housing, particularly those near transit stations, were considered likely to pass and so they were considered as part of the Housing Action plan. 

“The legislation is going to have such an impact on what we’re going to look at that, as far as trying to tackle what our future is, as far as zone policies and all that,” Hurst said. “We almost have to wait until the end of the month to see what comes up.” Director of Development and Business Services David Kleitsch agreed, adding that ideas in the Housing Action plan were offered for council consideration as the city waits for the end of the 2023 legislative session. Hurst also stated it was a priority that Lynnwood preserve the low-income housing it already has, namely the city’s 16 manufactured home parks.

Councilmember Decker said that shorter trips have a more negative impact on the environment than longer ones.

Decker then expressed his disapproval of current proposed legislation and the legislators who introduced those bills. 

“There is housing at all affordability levels,” Decker continued, saying that the idea of “missing middle housing” was a concept pushed by mortgage and developers lobbyists that would destroy single-family neighborhoods. Those advocating for such legislation would be the only people benefiting from developing middle housing, he added.

Decker also raised concerns about traffic and parking, stating that additional density would exacerbate traffic issues and that roads would degrade faster. He said that Lynnwood is already unable to maintain its roads and that adding more people would not bring more revenue to the city. A lack of parking would bring parking wars such as those in Seattle, he predicted.

“Do you think people from single-family neighborhoods are going to walk half an hour to a transit center, bus or light rail?” he asked. “They’re going to drive. This is bad for the environment. More houses, more cars, more pollution, more CO2 emissions. Cars pollute the most within the few minutes after they’re started up. Short trips from a home to a transit center produces more carbon dioxide than longer trips that you might take during a commute.” He followed up by stating that higher-density cities have higher murder and assault rates.

Councilmember Hurst said that one essential part of the housing action plan should be to maintain currently affordable housing in Lynnwood.

“We can argue and complain but I think what we’ve got to do is plan,” Hurst replied. “To say that we have affordable, middle housing here, if you look at the report here, it says as of 2020, 49% of the city’s housing stock is single-family homes and 44% are multi-family units in buildings of 20 units or more. This leaves a small portion, 7%, of middle housing. Meaning that residents must typically must choose between single-family homes, unaffordable for many households, and smaller units in apartment complexes.”

Councilmember Josh Binda says he isn’t resigning.

During the section of the meeting reserved for council comments, Councilmember Josh Binda responded to last week’s calls for his resignation, stating he would not be resigning. 

“I’m not going anywhere. I don’t know who or what has anything to say about that, but the people chose me to be here and represent a voice in our community,” Binda said. 

Also during council comments, Councilmember Patrick Decker covered four topics over the course of seven minutes, prompting a warning about a rule to limit comments to two minutes each. Decker began by mentioning the upcoming powwow hosted by First Nations at the University of Washington this weekend and that an unspecified service organization in Lynnwood recently lost their meeting space and are looking for another to use for an hour every day.

He then spoke about individuals who he said have previously made false accusations and vitriolic attacks against councilmembers. 

“I remind those who speak at council meetings that we have a wide audience, including elementary, middle school and high school students viewing our discussions on a frequent basis. Please consider your language and demeanor in civil discourse,” Decker said. 

Finally, he talked about state legislation under consideration to ban assault rifles, calling it unconstitutional. Decker said that taking away guns from law-abiding citizens would not lower crime and that disadvantaged communities would be the most negatively affected. 

The ban, he said, “is a violation of our city council oath of office to uphold the constitution,” He continued until Councilmember George Hurst interjected by saying that council comments were limited to two minutes each. Mayor Christine Frizzell confirmed that Hurst was correct about the rule but that it has not been enforced in years. Frizzell requested that Decker finish his comments. He spoke for another minute, during which he was asked once more to conclude his comments. 

Frizzell asked a member of city staff to enforce the two-minute rule at the next meeting. 

The council also interviewed the manager of the Lynnwood Dave and Buster’s, Anthony Angel, for position six on the Tourism Advisory Committee. 

–By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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