Calling the Plymouth Housing project an inside job, the community is demanding Redmond City Council rescind the public land transfer decision, start an open RFP, engage the community, and allow public input.

REDMOND, WA, March 14, 2024 /24-7PressRelease/ — Public records reveal that the decision to transfer public land to Plymouth Housing for a homeless project was made many days before Redmond City Council held a public meeting and cast the votes. Calling the hastened decision an insider job, the community is demanding transparency and a say on the project.

On February 13, 2024, Redmond City Council rushed to approve the transfer of public land at 16725 Cleveland Street in downtown Redmond to Plymouth Housing for the development of a 5-story, 100-unit, low barrier homeless building. From when City staff first introduced the project to Mayor Angela Birney on January 22, 2024, to when the Council authorized the land transfer on February 13, 2024, it only took officials of the City of Redmond 22 days to give away the public land that the City purchased for $5.5 million in 2019 using taxpayer money. The public was not informed about this project at all, not even the owner of the computer repair shop right next to the site. No public comment was allowed before the Council took the vote.

Redmond City Council held a 30 minute closed door meeting on February 6, 2024, to discuss the land transfer. After the meeting, Councilmember Jeralee Anderson said, “…we have not had adequate time to consider, as the council, the outcomes of what this would look like. This is sort of like a surprise decision and action. I do not believe we should step in and be the hero.”

Public records show that a weekly update email dated February 10, 2024, from OneRedmond, Redmond’s Chamber of Commerce, said, “Council will approve the transfer of land at 16725 Cleveland St. to Plymouth Housing Development for the creation of supportive housing.” at the Special Meeting (Tuesday, February 13, 2024, 6:30 p.m.). Redmond Mayor Birney and Director of Planning, Carol Helland, were on that OneRedmond email. Clearly, the Council’s vote on February 13th was just a show for the public to watch.

Councilmember Anderson was the only one who voted no on the 13th. Before casting her vote, she said, ” I am uncomfortable with this vote…this is a significant value of land transfer without the same consideration of providers that Kenmore had for both the project regarding both public input and public safety.”

Anderson was correct. Director Helland and other city staff from the mayor’s office wanted fast approval from the council with no tough questions asked. And they do not want public input either.

Redmond COO, Malisa Files asked Director Helland on January 31, 2024, “… does Plymouth need us to adopt a resolution committing the land or are they good with Council making a motion to allow the Mayor to transfer the land contingent on covenants and revisionary interest for the City? I ask because I was hoping that I could get Council to go ahead and give the Mayor the authority to complete the land transfer and not go back to Council.” On February 13th, the Council gave the Mayor the authority to complete the land transfer and ceded all control over the Plymouth project.

In an email on February 7, 2024, to Director Helland and Deputy Director Seraphie Allen, ARCH Executive Director Lindsay Masters said, “I know Plymouth will ask what kinds of questions to prepare for – they had to bring in a whole bunch of staff to Kenmore because the questions were all over and got way into the weeds of compliance, tenant screening, Plymouth’s application process, etc. I am not expecting that here, but based on their experience they would rather be over-prepared.” And it turned out, none of those tough questions were asked at the meeting on the 13th. 

In her email on February 3, 2024, Director Helland said, “The state permitting requirements mandate public notice and engagement and that has been used effectively by opponents of these types of projects to derail them. Redmond wants to help the ARCH coalition.” The City of Redmond has never held a public hearing on the Plymouth project. And the city maintains that it has no obligation to hold public hearings on the Plymouth project in the future either. It is worth noting that Helland also serves as Chair of ARCH (A Regional Coalition for Housing).

Community members feel angered and caught off guard by the sudden introduction of this low barrier homeless project at the heart of downtown Redmond, across from a popular park, and only 0.5 miles away from Redmond Elementary School. People feel frustrated and disenfranchised by the lack of communication and opportunity to provide input on the matter. “Low barrier” means that individuals who are typically ineligible for other subsidized or unsubsidized rental housing due to factors such as rental history, criminal history, or personal behaviors are eligible to live there.

Yard signs saying “Demand a Say on Low Barrier Homeless Building in Downtown Redmond” are showing up in downtown and neighborhoods throughout Redmond. Someone clearly dislikes these signs. All yard signs near Redmond City Hall have disappeared. Community members are vowing to put up more yard signs in Redmond to alert its residents. More actions are being planned to put pressure on the City Council to rescind the land transfer decision, start an open RFP, engage the community, and allow public input.

For the original version of this press release, please visit here