Lynnwood City Council holds public hearing on South Lynnwood Neighborhood plan

The Lynnwood City Council discusses the South Lynnwood Neighborhood Plan with city staff on Nov. 22.

The Lynnwood City Council plowed through a full agenda Monday night that included two public hearings regarding a draft plan aimed at revitalizing the South Lynnwood neighborhood and authorizing changes to the city’s 2021-22 biennium budget.

At its Nov. 22 business meeting, the council held a public hearing regarding the draft South Lynnwood Neighborhood Plan — an effort by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department to address social inequality in South Lynnwood, including income and language barriers.

South Lynnwood includes the areas east of Highway 99 between 196th Street Southwest and 212th Street Southwest, reaching the city limits near both Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. The neighborhood extends east to 44th Avenue West near Lynnwood’s City Center district.

The concept is part of the city’s Park, Arts, Recreation and Conservation (PARC) Plan adopted in 2016. Through that plan, city staff created equity composite maps that identified areas in the city by income, race, household language and poverty to locate areas in need. According to the proposal, the plan aims “to address neighborhood conditions, development pressures and traffic from the coming Sound Transit Lynnwood Link light rail station, a complicated mix of land uses including important light-industrial businesses and the needs of Lynnwood’s most vulnerable populations.”

The city’s the Latino population in South Lynnwood is almost half the population in the rest of the city, and one-third of the neighborhood’s population identifies as foreign born. During the public hearing, South Lynnwood resident Derica Escamilla — who served on the co-design committee that worked with city staff to develop the plan — said it was important when drafting the proposal to make sure communities of color felt empowered in their neighborhood.

“They don’t (always) know that they have a voice, but they have wants and they have needs,” she said.

Additionally, Escamill — who has lived in South Lynnwood for about 10 years — said the plan gives Lynnwood the opportunity to help the neighborhood establish an identity. Escamilla pointed out that there are few “quirky” local businesses left in the neighborhood, like Big E Ales, which closed permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To me this is a door to give us an identity and give us a future for Lynnwood,” she said. “This is the path to get there.”

Plans to revitalize the neighborhood came after the city began redeveloping the South Lynnwood Neighborhood Park. Planned improvements include expanding the playground and adding new equipment, relocating the basketball court, resurfacing the tennis court and installing a new artificial turf soccer field. Improvements will also be made to the 4.2-acre park’s drainage system around lawns and natural areas, and a new picnic shelter and seating will be added.

The city commissioned Seattle artist Gabrielle Abbott to paint a mural on the back of the newly renovated park restroom building. The mural, titled “Grateful Steward,” was inspired by and depicts native plant and animal life that is considered sacred to local Indigenous tribes. During the hearing, South Lynnwood resident Lisa Peterson — who also served on the co-design committee — suggested hiring more local artists for projects like utility box wraps. 

The plan also proposes reviewing zoning codes in the area to allow for more mixed-use developments, ensuring no housing units are lost if a residential complex needs to be redeveloped and permitting more street parking. During recent discussions, some councilmembers have voiced concerns about the possible changes to the city’s zoning codes in the neighborhood.

However, Escamilla said language in the draft regarding zoning code changes would correct errors they found while drafting the plan. She pointed out that the neighborhood is the only area in the city designated for light industrial zoning and the co-design team wanted to protect that.

“The intent of the language of the code…is just to make it fair and equitable and protect what we need to,” she said.

Lynnwood Project Manager Ashley Winchell displays a composite map that identified areas in South Lynnwood by income, race, household language and poverty to locate areas in need.

To make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly, the plan proposes reducing the number of parking lots in the future and allowing for more street parking. Last week, Council Vice President Jim Smith said he was concerned that people would abuse street parking and said the city needed to address the issue before allowing more vehicles to be parked on streets.

During the hearing, Lynnwood resident Ted Hikel said changes to zoning would be detrimental to the neighborhood and that the draft left too much up to city staff. In response, city Project Manager Ashley Winchell clarified that no zoning changes were included in the draft and that if there was a need to rezone an area it would be a separate process.

“The ultimate decision comes down to (the council) about what goes into that zoning code,” she said.

The council is set to adopt the draft plan at its Dec. 13 business meeting.

The council also held a public hearing for proposed changes to the city’s 2021-22 biennium budget. Washington state law requires cities with a two-year budget to hold a mid-biennium review to make significant budgeting changes that couldn’t be anticipated when the budget was passed. The council previously discussed the proposed budget changes during its Nov. 1 work session.

No one spoke during the budget hearing. 

In other business, the council voted 5-2 to adopt an ordinance establishing a city clerk position for the City of Lynnwood. 

In 2019, the council approved a city clerk pilot program with the goal of improving record management efficiency. Per the proposal, the city clerk assists in managing and retrieving public records requests and is necessary to provide transparency and openness to the public.

“This position has unique responsibilities and we have been massaging it and working through it for three years,” said Councilmember Shannon Sessions.

Prior to the vote, Council Vice President Smith said he wasn’t convinced that the city needed a clerk position and made a motion — which failed by a 5-2 vote — to delay approving the position until next year. According to Smith, the information provided by staff was one sided and the council didn’t hear why they shouldn’t have a clerk. Councilmember Patrick Decker also voted to postpone.

“We need to look at the other side of this and see what other cities are doing,” Smith said.

Also during the meeting, the council voted 6-0 — with Smith abstaining — three amendments to the city’s 2021 Comprehensive Plan. All of the amendments prioritized developing affordable housing in Lynnwood. Two are amendments to subarea plans and were submitted by staff. The three are:

– College District Subarea Plan: The proposed amendment will add language to the subarea plan to increase competitiveness for projects seeking funding through low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC). According to staff, the proposed text amendment serves as an incentive and financing tool to help implement the city’s Housing Action Plan and promotes housing options that serve households at 80% of average median income or below. Since the College District Subarea already allows multifamily housing, this proposal is not an expansion of permitted uses.

– Highway 99 Subarea Plan: Like the College District, the proposed amendment will add language to the subarea plan to increase competitiveness for projects seeking funding through low-income housing tax credits. This district also already allows multifamily housing.

– An amendment proposed by Housing Hope and Edmonds School District to change the future land-use designation for a portion of the Cedar Valley Community School site — known as the triangle ballfield area — located at 19200 56th Ave. W. The property is owned by the school district and would be used to develop a 40- to-50-unit affordable housing complex to house homeless students and their families. The site is currently designated as a public facility and public use and needs to be changed to accommodate housing.

The council also unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance levying a property tax levy of $4.5 million for 2022. The amount was included in the city’s 2021-22 budget. Last year, the city levied $4.3 million, which equates to 54 cents per $1,000 of assessed evaluation. For 2022, the city budgeted $4.5 million in property tax revenue, which staff said would drop the rate to 53 cents per $1,000 of assessed evaluation. During the discussion, Council Vice President Smith said he was glad that property taxes in Lynnwood would not be going up.

“Although…some of us are always looking to see about lowering taxes, I think this is a great case of where we’re just saying level and I can appreciate that,” he said.

–By Cody Sexton

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