MUKILTEO, Wash., June 9, 2021 – The Mukilteo City Council passed its Housing Action Plan (HAP) with a vote of 4-3 during its four-and-a-half hour contentious Business Meeting on June 7.
Councilmembers Sarah Kneller, Elisabeth Crawford, Richard Emery and Councilman Louis Harris voted for the adoption of the HAP. Councilmen Joe Marine, Bob Champion and Riaz Khan voted against.
Concerns arose that the City may lose a $30,000 reimbursement from the state to pay BERK Consulting if the HAP didn’t pass. However, the three strategies adopted by the council are sufficient to meet Commerce’s requirements to receive the reimbursement.
In a surprising twist of events, Councilman Joe Marine, introduced a motion that passed 6-1 to place on the November ballot an advisory measure for residents to share their preference on housing options for Mukilteo.
All councilmembers voted yes to place the Advisory Measure on the ballot with Councilman Emery voting against.
The next steps for the three HAP strategies approved by Council will be:
- Comprehensive Plan language will be updated through the 2024 update process. Staff work will begin next year, with public outreach, Planning Commission and Council meetings occurring from 2022-2024.
- Educate the public about programs to help residents stay in their homes: The council will undertake an effort in the next 3 years to identify resources to make them more available to residents.
- Improve senior housing options: this will take further analysis on what types of methods are preferred, Gregerson identifies a 3-7 year timeline, pending other priorities and legal obligations.
“The council will have to finish the Comprehensive Plan update, and that will be a big workload requirement. So we’ll balance this, which could include code updates, with that effort,” Gregerson said.
Click here to view the adopted Resolution.
What in the HAP passed?
The adopted HAP passed on Monday night is a shell of its original 13 strategies to address housing needs in Mukilteo. The three strategy categories presented by newly-appointed Councilman Harris and seconded by Councilwoman Crawford, appears to focus on amending housing and land use policies in Mukilteo’s existing Comprehensive Plan.
The three strategy categories adopted are:
- Strategy 1: Review Comprehensive Plan Language;
- Strategy 2: Educate About Programs to Help Residents Stay in Their Homes; and
- Strategy 3: Expand Senior Housing Options.
According to the Housing Action Plan prepared by BERK Consulting, Strategy 2 recommends that the city considers “additional assistance and education to residents” of homebuyer, landlord-tenant, and roommate programs. Strategy 3 focuses on expanding “housing choice” in the form of multi-family residential dwellings and/or incentivizing “ADA accessibility and senior-friendly features.”
Strategy 1, “Review Comprehensive Plan Language,” solely focuses on considering changes to Mukilteo’s existing Comprehensive Plan. Since the plan’s adoption on October 5, 2015, the Comprehensive Plan has been amended three times, with the last two on February 1, 2021.
The Comprehensive Plan is “a strategic vision of what Mukilteo’s guiding land use document should look like” and to serve as guidelines for the “City of Mukilteo Comprehensive Plan 2035 – Moving Mukilteo Forward.”
Mukilteo’s existing Comprehensive Plan states there is “very little undeveloped land left in the City,” therefore its focus is “sustaining what we have” by “managing redevelopment and preserving and improving the existing quality of life” for residents.
The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan to manage population growth. According to the city’s website, its current plan meets the state’s GMA requirements. The next major periodic Comprehensive Plan update is scheduled for June 2024.
In 2015, the adopted city of Mukilteo Comprehensive Plan, won the Comprehensive Planning for Small Cities & Counties Award by the American Planning Association and Planning Association of Washington. The plan was described as “a compelling and easy-to-read plan that contains a clear ‘intent statement’ at the beginning of the document.”
According to the adopted HAP, Strategy 1 recommends that the existing Comprehensive Plan updates its “language and policies” by identifying metrics, impact of fees, redefining the plan’s intent, and impacts between diverse housing units that affect the following policies: H04, H05, H06, LU2, LU6, and LU11.
The document titled, “Attachment 2: Mukilteo Housing Policy Review and Recommendations” of the HAP, calls for evaluating sections of the City’s Comprehensive Plan and land use regulations for routine policy and regulation updates.
Below are the policy considerations specified in the Mukilteo Housing Policy Review and Recommendations document:
- Policy HO4: To identify actions and metrics to acknowledge that there is an undersupply of affordable homes for lower income persons
- Policy HO5: To identify actions and metrics for diverse housing options – Duplexes, triplexes, condominiums, townhouses, accessory dwelling units and cottage housing – for residential and mixed-use zoning districts
- Policy HO6: Calls for identifying methods to consider the impact of fees on those needing rental housing who earn less than 50% Area Median Income (AMI) which is $54,268, according to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau
- Policy LU2: To redefine the intent of the City’s land use policy to no longer prioritize single-family residential dwellings by adopting policies that balance the “housing needs of all economic segments” at more attainable price points than low-density single-family homes by considering the following dwellings: duplexes, triplexes, condominiums, townhouses, accessory dwelling units and cottage housing
- Policy LU6: To amend code regulations to open up the potential for higher density mixed use projects throughout the city of Mukilteo
- Policy LU11: Develop policies that spur a redevelopment of a pedestrian-centric Downtown Business District by offering housing bonus densities for condos or senior housing
Mukilteo Planning Department HAP Presentation
During the Business meeting, Lauren Balisky, Planning Manager for the City of Mukilteo shared a PowerPoint presentation that recapped the HAP’s process, strategies, and Planning Commission recommendations. According to the slides, the Planning commission recommends all HAP strategies less the following: completing the Midtown Mukilteo Overlay between 88th and 76th streets on Mukilteo Speedway, review Zoning Framework, and considering Annexation.
“The focus of the Housing Action Plan is in areas the city does have control over… What we do have control over are policies, development regulations and our processes. And all of those influence the ability of the market to provide housing to moderate income households,” said Balisky.
Balisky in her presentation emphasized strongly to the council that the HAP is not a plan to rezone Mukilteo for high-density and multi-family development.
However, this appears to be misleading and contradicts the strategies outlined in the HAP and the recommended policy changes from “Attachment 2,” to the City’s Comprehensive Plan to “encourage” affordable housing, multi-family housing, and code regulations “to open up the potential for higher density mixed use projects.”
Councilman Marine raised his concern to this and possible changes to existing zoning policies.
“I think maybe we will agree to disagree on that. It seems like double-speak,” Marine told Balisky.
Councilman Khan dubious of the HAP, criticized Balisky on the plan.
“It is an uncooked plan. It’s not low income…it’s not assistance…What is it? I’ve been asking this question every slide you put up. I think Mukilteo should be preserved, not destroyed. People have been asking us constantly,” said Councilman Khan. “It is not for the people of Mukilteo!”
Dawn Couch, of BERK consulting shared that Mukilteo is a diverse city without the racial segregation issues of urban centers.
“When we first compiled this, I was surprised of how diverse Mukilteo was in the data. So that was good to see,” said Couch. “We were not able to distill out any severe [racial] disproportionality in the community.”
According to Couch, if the city had not met the obligations of the Growth Management Act, there would be consequence that could include ineligibility for grant funding, fines, and possible revenue freeze by the state to disburse sale taxes.
Since the city’s existing Comprehensive Plan currently meets the state’s GMA requirements, there would be no consequences for not adopting the HAP itself.
Champion asked how much staff hours have been spent on the preparation of HAP but Lauren Balitsky could not answer, leading to some council members concerns of both the transparency and organization of the final product.
Baritsky could not provide how many hours went into the project.
According to Baritsky the city of Mukilteo is currently prepared to absorb its current growth target through 2035, but what is not known is the growth target for 2044 and what needs to be done to absorb future growth.
According to the Growth Management Act, Mukilteo’s current growth target for 2035 is 21,812 or an increase of 371 residents within eleven years. Roughly 98% of buildable land in Mukilteo is developed.
Mukilteo HAP Vote Recap
After lengthy public comments, Councilman Harris made the motion to pass Resolution 2021-01 to adopt the HAP in its partiality, before hearing from the rest of the council for debate. Harris’ motion was seconded by Councilwoman Crawford opting to add improved permit processing which itself was seconded by Councilwoman Kneller.
“We cannot put walls around Mukilteo,” Kneller said.
Councilman Khan attempted to amend the motion, albeit it out-of-order, in favor of rejecting the HAP in whole and return any reimbursement grants to the state, which was seconded by Councilman Champion.
City Attorney Daniel Kenny advised the council that Khan’s motion was invalid and redirected the council to the original motion, made by Harris, explaining that a motion cannot be made while a motion is on the table.
Councilman Marine offered the idea to put the HAP on the ballot, highlighting that he has never seen an issue with this much community involvement in his many years in government.
Champion added, in his seven years in government, he has never seen an issue that has gained as much contention.
Marine’s motion passed 6-1 allowing “density” and “low income housing” options to be voted upon by the public. Marine believes that the Council should have voted on adopting a HAP after an advisory measure was voted upon by residents in November.
However, Harris’ preemptive motion had already been presented and passed.
Mayor Jennifer Gregerson shared with the public that the advisory measure is not a regular proposition and is, hence, non-binding.
“It’s not a right of the voters to vote on it, it’s a legislative right; it cannot be a regular proposition,” Gregerson said. “The council retains their legislative authority.”
At its peak, 106 attended the remote council meeting between Facebook and Zoom platforms, eager to hear the resolution of the plan which has grown controversial since its inception leading to petitions, protests, and mostly disapproving public comments.
While comments were much more divided than the public hearing May 17, there were six public comments who were in favor of adopting the HAP, and 19 in opposition.
“I’m opposed to the Housing Action Plan as it currently stands. It’s overwhelmingly clear that the residents do not want to change the character or the density,” Sharon Damoff, resident of Mukilteo of over ten years, said.
“Mukilteo is already economically and racially diverse. Mukilteo residents, like my family, have stated they do not want the HAP. City Council would be very wise to vote along the wishes of its citizens. Don’t tell us what we get. We tell you what we want. It’s a representative government,” said Paul Ellis.
Peter Zieve, who moved his business to Mukilteo in 1993 and moved his family to Mukilteo in 2003 thought what was presented was “very duplicitous” and made a vow that he, along with local businessmen, will come up with a plan to cover the loss of $30,000 if the HAP were to be rejected.
However, Mukilteo resident Lani O’Conner and five others were in favor of the council voting to approve the HAP.
“I think opposing it is actually selfish, in a way. It is selfish to not give an opportunity for other people to join us in this beautiful community….I am in Mukilteo because some people believed that I, also, belonged in Mukilteo. I am support of this,” said Caroline.
Elizabeth Wilson, a new Mukilteo home-owner and Karl Almgren, a fourth-generation Mukilteo resident, Lani O’Connor, and Jon Waters all shared similar sentiments.
Mukilteo HAP Ballot Measure
The Council will begin discussions about the advisory ballot measure at the July 6 city council meeting. According to Mayor Gregerson, It may require 2-3 meetings to identify the actual ballot measure concept, and approve both the ballot language as well as the pro/con voters pamphlet statement committees.
Council will need to debate whether they want to meet the August 3 deadline for the November General Election, or if they want to wait until a 2022 election.
Gregerson shared that Council will have to take action to approve the costs related to this effort, which would be between $10,000-30,000 for election costs and informational materials.