During Jan. 19 council work session, Lynnwood staff recommend duplexes, townhomes to address housing needs

Senior Planner Kristen Holdsworth, upper right, explains Phase 3 of the city’s Housing Action Plan during the Jan. 19 Lynnwood City Council meeting.

Looking for ways to bring more housing options to Lynnwood, city leaders Tuesday night discussed multiple alternatives, including duplexes, townhomes and secondary dwelling units near or attached to single-family homes.

During the Lynnwood City Council’s Jan. 19 work session — rescheduled due to the Martin Luther King Day holiday — the council reviewed proposed strategies for the city’s future Housing Action Plan. Once completed, the plan will be a strategy and implementation document to comprehensively ensure that a variety of housing is available and affordable for people of all income levels in Lynnwood.

“We need housing for older residents, so that they can age in place,” said Senior Planner Kristen Holdsworth. “We need housing for young students that may be returning from college and want to live near their parents, and we need housing for large families.”

Community members who responded to a recent City of Lynnwood needs assessment survey said they liked that duplexes (and triplexes and fourplexes) are nice starter alternatives to owning a house. Respondents also said more townhomes in the city would be an ideal alternative because they offer affordable home ownership opportunities.

For both options, residents said the structure would fit well in existing neighborhoods and they could see this type of housing throughout residential neighborhoods in Lynnwood, Holdsworth said. However, some community members said they had serious concerns regarding parking and traffic in residential areas. Others were hesitant about Homeowners Association fees and restrictions, Holdsworth added.

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are another alternative to purchasing a home. Sometimes known as mother-in-law apartments, ADUs are small homes added onto or near single-family homes that are sometimes rented out or occupied by family members.

However, homeowners said ADUs are often expensive and difficult to construct. Renters said that privacy and proximity to their landlord are the least desirable traits of ADUs and only 17% of survey takers said they would enjoy living in an ADU.

A final draft of the plan is scheduled to be released around mid-February and early March. After further review, staff will bring the final version to the council in April and a public hearing will be held.

Also during the meeting, the council discussed possibly amending the city’s strategic plan, which is intended to guide the city through 2022.

The strategic plan was adopted in 2018 and has been a major reference tool used to make day-to-day decisions and long term plans for the city, particularly during the city’s budget cycle. It helps staff identify the city’s highest priorities, like where resources should be focused, which municipal services and projects are the most important and how the city’s limited funds can achieve the most good in the community.

The plan has a five-year lifespan and during the Tuesday meeting staff presented ways the council could go about amending it. Senior Manager of Strategic Planning Corbitt Loch said staff are suggesting updating the plan to include priorities the city didn’t have five years ago, such as housing affordability, workplace changes and the numerous ways the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace, society and governance as a whole. 

“We don’t see this as a re-creation…we see this as a clean up,” he said.

However, not all council members agreed now was the best time to update the plan. During the discussion, Councilmember Shannon Sessions said that while she understands why an update might be necessary, she was OK with the current plan.

“I like what’s there,” she said. “It’s classic, thorough and is relevant.”

The council also reviewed the annual legislative priorities city leaders intend to advocate for on behalf of the city to state lawmakers. 

Each year, a delegation of city leaders and elected officials travel to Olympia for the Association of Washington Cities’ (AWC) annual City Action Days conference. While there, they attend conferences and workshops and meet with state lawmakers to lobby on behalf of Lynnwood’s priorities. Due to the pandemic, this year’s conference will take place online Feb. 10-11.

This year, the city is highlighting pandemic relief as one of its top priorities. City spokesperson Julie Moore said Lynnwood officials will be asking lawmakers to provide cities with pandemic relief funds to offset lost revenues as well as additional funding for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Sick Leave. Staff are also seeking for more funding to provide continued support to community members and business owners impacted by the pandemic as well as local food banks.

During the discussion, Council President George Hurst said the city should ask if the state would be willing to use its own savings to help cities during the pandemic. According to Hurst, Gov. Jay Inslee has yet to use any of the state’s reserve funds to assist cities.

“The City of Lynnwood has used some of its rainy day reserve fund and I would like the state to also do that,” he said. 

Additionally, Moore provided an update on work with Snohomish County officials Tuesday morning regarding ways they plan to reach marginalized communities when distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. One issue Moore said that officials will have to overcome is mistrust of the vaccine based on misinformation and barriers to accessing a vaccination. 

“We just want to make sure we’re removing all types of barriers to access,” she said. “Then figuring out how to get the message out that this is a safe vaccine.”

At the start of the meeting, three candidates were interviewed for city boards and commissions positions. The following candidates were interviewed:

  • Planning Commission Position No. 1 candidate Ann Guan
  • Planning Commission Position No. 7 candidate Bob Larsen
  • History & Heritage Board Position No. 3 candidate Kevin Brewer

–Compiled by Cody Sexton

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