Summer 2012
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by Jen Machuga, Associate Planner

City development codes and regulations can be rather opaque: both difficult to understand, but even more difficult to keep track of as they evolve over time. We thought you would be interested in a summary of some of the changes in the zoning code that have occurred in recent years.

  • Outdoor Dining (Ordinance 3871) – In an effort to streamline the process for installing outdoor dining areas associated with Edmonds restaurants, the outdoor dining regulations were revised in early 2011. The goal is to lower the permitting barrier so that these additions to active street life can be encouraged.
  • Home Occupations (Ordinance 3840) – Significant changes were made to the city’s home occupation regulations in early 2011 in order to accommodate and encourage certain limited business activities in residential zones. The rules were updated and clarified so that non-intrusive home businesses would be less difficult to establish, while at the same time the chance of an incompatible business operating out of a home was reduced.
  • Solar Energy Upgrades (Ordinance 3866) – In an effort to encourage energy efficient upgrades to existing buildings, the City Council adopted an ordinance in late 2011 that provides exceptions to the standard height limitations for roof-mounted solar installations and for Energy Star roof-mounted HVAC equipment. This enables building owners to fit solar panels on the roof or upgrade existing HVAC equipment while otherwise meeting the city’s height restrictions.
  • Urban Farming (Ordinance 3889) – Earlier this year, the City Council approved specific rules for urban farming. The new rules are designed to encourage this neighborhood resource, removing potential permitting obstacles and fees.
  • Increase in Penalties for Unauthorized Tree Cutting (Ordinance 3828) – Recognizing the value of the city’s character and its urban forest resource, the City Council passed an ordinance in late 2010 increasing the monetary penalties for unauthorized tree cutting. The new monetary penalties are up to $3,000 per tree for trees over three inches in caliper, which is tripled for trees cut within critical areas, critical area buffers, or the public right-of-way. Citizens (and tree companies!) are strongly encouraged to contact the Planning Division at (425) 771-0220 or prior to any tree cutting activity.
  • Designated Street Fronts in Downtown Business Zones (Ordinance 3865) – In late 2011, the City Council passed an ordinance amending the zoning regulations of the Downtown Business (BD) zones. This code change revised the requirements related to the minimum depth of commercial space within the BD zones in order to provide requirements that make more logical sense with how a mixed-use building might be constructed. Downtown zoning has seen a number of changes in recent years, including changing and clarifying the rules for ground floors and store entrances and removing on-site parking requirements for most business uses. All these changes are designed to encourage and preserve a pedestrian-friendly downtown.
  • Wireless (Ordinance 3845) – This amendment, adopted in 2011, included a complete rewrite of code language which dated from 1996. The updated code incorporates new development standards and review processes based on updated wireless technologies and FCC rules.
  • Bed and Breakfasts (ordinance pending) – Bed and breakfasts have been an allowed use in all zones in Edmonds for years but the applicable regulations were not easy to find, understand or apply. This 2012 rewrite sought to clarify the code by defining what a bed and breakfast is and developing standards for their establishment and operation. The new standards are intended to reflect industry practices while enabling them to be compatible with Edmonds neighborhoods.

In addition to the above code changes, additional code changes that are currently under review include:
  • Mobile Vendors – Updating the regulations related to mobile vendors (i.e. food trucks) to make it clear that mobile vendors are an allowed use in certain areas of Edmonds. A public hearing on the proposed code change will be held before the City Council on August 6th.
  • Shoreline Master Program Update – State law requires that the City of Edmonds update its Shoreline Master Program (SMP) to be consistent with new guidelines and changes to the Washington State Shoreline Management Act. The Shoreline Master Program applies to shorelines within the city and establishes development standards for shoreline development (areas within 200 feet of the shoreline). The shoreline areas within the City of Edmonds jurisdiction include Puget Sound, LakeBallinger and tidally influenced portions of the Edmonds Marsh. A complex and multi-year process, the City is approaching the end of this update with public hearings before the City Council likely to occur this fall. More information on the SMP update can be found by following a link on the Planning Division webpage.

You can find links to each of the ordinances listed above on the city’s website. If you have questions on any of the recent or pending code changes, feel free to contact the Planning Division for further information at (425) 771-0220 or via email at

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