Lynnwood City Council reviews draft Housing Action Plan, ‘critical’ transportation projects

Lynnwood City Councilmember Christine Frizzell asks city staff a question during a presentation. (Image via Zoom)

Lynnwood city staff have spent more than a year developing a draft Housing Action Plan to address the growing need for more housing options in the Lynnwood, and on Monday they presented their final briefing to the Lynnwood City Council.

During the council’s April 5 work session, staff provided an overview of the draft plan before it is officially released to the public. Later in the briefing, staff also provided an update on the preliminary Buildable Lands Report (BLR) information prepared by Snohomish County. The BLR will help estimate the potential for new housing units within Lynnwood for the time period ending in 2044. 

After much staff (and council) discussion about what would be labeled as affordable housing, Senior Planner Kristen Holdsworth said the plan proposes using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition, which describes affordable housing as that which requires no more than 30% of a family’s gross income. She added that affordable housing does not mean subsidized housing.

“If a family makes $100,000 per year, they shouldn’t spend more than 30%, or $30,000 (on housing),” she said.

The draft was created with input from several community stakeholders, city staff and community members. After the city presented an earlier draft to the public in February, Holdsworth said many expressed concerns about how a housing policy would impact current residents.

“A lot of people said, ‘We understand that Lynnwood is growing but please don’t mess up where I live, right now in my single-family neighborhood,’” she said.

Many comments from community members asked staff to clarify how removing barriers to more housing production will address affordability challenges. Holdsworth said some residents believed that if changes are made to zoning or development requirements, it would only benefit developers. Based on feedback, she also said there was a need in the city to accommodate the “missing middle” between single family and high rise.

One solution the city has recently discussed exploring is allowing for development of more townhouses and duplexes in Lynnwood.

“We had some really great suggestions and ways where some of the community members and stakeholders are already saying ‘let’s get this plan adopted and here’s some ideas for how to implement it’ and so some of the ideas are really great and they were more specific than what this plan is,” she said.

According to Holdsworth, the plan provides a five-year strategy to help guide city efforts when addressing housing, while seeking additional research, analysis and community input. She also acknowledged that the plan may require an additional legislative process if changes to development standards are required.

“The draft plan incorporated a lot of these comments or highlighted areas where we’ve already addressed them,” she said. “I would say, most of what we heard through the community is reflected already in the plan.”

The draft plan will be reviewed by the city’s planning commission before being returned to the council on April 19 for the official briefing. A public hearing will be held on May 10 and the council is set to vote on the plan May 24.

Holdsworth then provided an update on the Snohomish County Buildable Lands Report. According to staff, the report will help estimate the potential for new housing units in Lynnwood through 2044. 

A buildable lands report is required by state law and reviews urban densities that have occurred to determine urban growth area capacity to accommodate growth through 2035. The effort is coordinated through Snohomish County Tomorrow — a cooperative forum consisting of representatives from Snohomish County and each of its cities as well as from the Tulalip Tribes whose primary function is to oversee the countywide planning policies – written policies on growth management from which the county’s and cities’ comprehensive plans are developed.

Initially, staff forecast more than 54,000 people will live in Lynnwood by 2035. Now, they are looking further and are anticipating 65,000 residents by 2044. However, Holdsworth added that the latter projection is a rough estimate. 

Currently, Lynnwood has a population capacity of 58,167. That means the city needs to provide housing for an additional 6,833 residents to be prepared for 2044, Holdsworth said.

“Right now, all of these numbers are preliminary and we’re just starting to get a feel for what we need,” she said. 

In terms of household size, that translates to about 2.67 people per household, meaning the city would require an additional 2,500 housing units, Holdsworth said. Though the number may seem large, she said it’s only about 250 units per year more from 2035 to 2044.

Holdsworth repeated that much of the information is based on preliminary data and subject to change.

In other business, the council received an update from staff regarding major transportation capital projects and their impact on the city. The update is part of a series of briefings provided by staff on the city’s transportation system and what improvements need to be made to accommodate future growth. In previous briefings, staff discussed transportation capital projects and the paving program. 

During the briefing, staff reviewed projects that included the recently constructed 36th Avenue West redevelopment and the 196th Street Southwest widening project now underway. Public Works Director Bill Franz said that these and other transportation projects are necessary to protect the huge investment that has been made both in transportation and its infrastructure.

“It’s critical for the safety of all the users of our system that we have a system that’s well maintained and kept well connected,” he said. “It also provides for the capacity that supports all the growth that we have planned.”

Also during the meeting, the council briefly discussed next steps in the process for finding a replacement for Councilmember Ian Cotton, who recently announced he would be leaving office effective April 13.

Under council rules, the remaining Lynnwood councilmembers will be responsible for choosing a candidate to fill the vacant post. The city will advertise that applications are being accepted and councilmembers — after reviewing applications — will select no more than eight prospective candidates. Following a background check on the three or four finalists, the council will cast their vote for a replacement.

Nominations, voting, selection and appointment of a person to fill the vacant seat will occur in an open public meeting. During the discussion Monday night, Council President George Hurst said the council is looking to hold two special meetings on May 12 and 13 to conduct interviews.

Councilmember Ruth Ross suggested the council ask candidates whether they intend to run for re-election when the term ends.

In response, Council Vice President Jim Smith said he would prefer a candidate who would not seek re-election after taking over the seat. Instead, he said he would rather have someone step in who had experience with the city and “not trying to get…a leg up on anybody else.”

–By Cody Sexton

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