Based on some responses I got, the biggest news in Edmonds, at least since the opening of T-ball season, was that I left last week’s Council session, early. At least, that got your attention on a matter that is important for our city.
The code of ethics that Council adopted last week is a watered down, toothless, ineffective version of the code of ethics, Attachment 16, which was on the agenda. Ms. Fraley-Monillas’ version excluded appointive officers (that is, all director-level positions), and contained only general statements from the more substantially defined Shoreline Code of Ethics, which was the model for attachment 16. As anyone knows who’s ever been exposed to the legal system, whether the show business version or the real one, you can drive a truck full of weasel-words through general statements. Have we ever found out what the definition of “is,” is?
Let me ask you a question: Do you believe that the manner in which the code of ethics got adopted last week, managed to break the very code of ethics that was adopted last week?
Let’s see: Be dedicated to the concepts of effective and democratic government.
Hmm… The President of our Council, with the aid of the Mayor, squelched all debate regarding the more robust code of ethics, bypassing Attachment 16, which was on the agenda for discussion, and moving forward on Attachment 13, which was not on the agenda for discussion.
Next Code of Ethics statement: Seek to improve the quality of public service, and confidence of citizens.
In conversation on My Edmonds News, residents stated the following:
- Bad politics. Attachment 16 should have had a robust discussion.
- I find the whole code of ethics situation distressing and I have lost faith in this City Council.
- The stench from something which has been smelling in Edmonds is getting much worse.
And finally: Conduct business of the city in a manner which is not only fair in fact, but also in appearance.
Do you believe that the Code of Ethics was adopted in a fair manner, in fact, or in appearance?
We also have a Code of Conduct, in place, adopted in 2013. Let me ask you if you believe the Code of Conduct was followed?
All group leaders (that would include, in this case, both the Mayor and President of the Council) will
- provide all group members (In this case, Council Members) a fair opportunity to participate.
and all participants, including leaders, will
– respect the individual talents and contributions of others.
I spent three and a half years attempting to get an effective Code of Ethics in place, culminating in Attachment 16, which Council Member Diane Buckshnis also worked on. It was the only Code of Ethics version on the agenda for discussion, last session, and it was not even given a glance.
I will not be running for re-election to the Edmonds City Council; it has never been my intention to go beyond one term. I want to thank the voters of Edmonds who put their trust in me. My goal has been, for current and future generations, to be a good steward of our city. That was my sole reason for running for office, and that’s how I, and I hope others, evaluate my term.
I want to state what I have learned from the experience, what I feel good about, and less good about. My hope is that my thoughts will help both future Council Members, and the decision-making process of those who vote in future elections.
My campaign focused on stewardship: open government; efficient use of taxpayers’ money; affordable living for all generations; and a balance of housing, parks, businesses, and entertainment. How has that played out, so far?
There’s a scene in the movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, where the main characters, played by Steve Martin and John Candy, head onto the freeway via the off ramp. It’s late at night, and the freeway is empty, so there are no cars yet coming at them. As they head down the lane, a couple from another car (on the other side of the concrete barrier, who are going the right way) yell, “Stop! You’re going the wrong way!” So it is with Edmonds. Regarding open government, we’re going the wrong way: we’re becoming more secretive. Your Council is becoming more secretive, with more closed sessions, the results of these sessions never being disclosed, even when they can be, legally. The Mayor and his staff are becoming more secretive, with behind-the-scenes deals, committing tax money, sans Council approval. Their double-secret motto: Ask forgiveness, not permission — hold the ask forgiveness part.
When I began my term, I had pushed for a Council blog, believing that we should be communicating directly with the people of Edmonds. Given the negative response, you’d think I had asked the Council to install webcams in our showers.
With the rejection of a Council blog, we’re left with the same old thing: we depend on the kindness of the Beacon and MyEdmondsNews.com. This has been, and will always be, a bad idea. Our so-called journalistic outlets are not neutral in their interests. They are businesses, which depend on ad income from the business interests of Edmonds — interests that support development that is too often interpreted by how many tons of concrete are poured. Interests that would be happy to see height-limits compromised that would change the character of Edmonds. Our local journals (especially, MyEdmondsNews.com) may be subtle in their pro-development, pro-Mayor bias, but it’s there.
As the basis of democracy, I cannot think of a more important issue than open government, and the one with which elected officials have the most difficulty. As one of our City’s citizens1 has reported, repeatedly, Edmonds’ organizational chart starts with the citizens at the top. That the citizens are at the top of any governing body should be obvious for all democratic governments, local and beyond. Why is that so hard for elected officials and government employees to understand?
Since the tragic events of 9/11, our Federal government (all three branches) has become increasingly contemptuous of our rights to privacy, as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. What does this have to do with local government, with Edmonds? It’s obvious that democracy is not maintained by what’s written on paper. Democracy is maintained by the ongoing expectations of citizens that their rights and interests be honored. I believe that the most important experience a local government can provide for its citizens is the opportunity to develop the habit of democracy. This should not be difficult. It’s largely accomplished by appreciating that elected officials and government staff are not the bosses of their citizens, they are the employees of their citizens.2
What we expect from government can be influenced with great subtlety. For example, why should a process exist such as a “Public Records Request.” If they’re public records, why aren’t they situated like public library items? In the past, where records were recorded on paper, which needed to be secure, it made sense to keep them in a secure place. But now, records stored on computers are easily secured: programmers can give permission to read them, but withhold permission to alter them. There is no longer any rationale for not making city records easily accessible to all on the city website.
Early in my term, the Council turned down a request to record on audio Executive Sessions. These private sessions are allowed, because of issues, such as lawsuits, that have arisen or might arise. Once an issue has expired, and/or legal exposure has passed, the record of these sessions are supposed to be available to the public. But, without an audio recording, there really isn’t a true record.3
Since I took office, three years ago, our City government has become more secretive, and the fault is shared by the Council, the Mayor, and his senior staff.4
Efficient use of taxpayers’ money
While this is primarily the responsibility of the Mayor’s office, the Council holds hearings on, and approves, asks for modifications, or turns down, contracts. During my term, I believe we’ve done a decent job of looking after taxpayers’ money, but we can do better. I think there has been a lot of money wasted on consultants, who were hired to do the impossible or irrelevant,5 and who in one case, the proposed Harbor Square Master Plan, were even hired to feed us propaganda.
I believe we left money on the table in our police contract with Woodway, for some bizarre concept of neighborliness. Why couldn’t Woodway be neighborly, and give us more money?
Regarding the Fire District 1 contract, that’s the Mayor’s responsibility. The ball was dropped in this and prior administrations.
The Mayor’s staff seems to think that money earmarked, for a particular purpose or program, can be turned into a discretionary fund for their preferred projects.6
We lose way too much money in settling lawsuits — money that could be used to buy land for parks, repave roads, and build sidewalks. A major reason for these lawsuits is City code that has been a mess for ages. We have money to settle lawsuits, but not to make a code re-write a priority.
Affordable living for all generations
I believe that affordable housing is something that the entire Council and the Mayor would like to see happen but, either we have very different ideas on the best approach, or very different ideas on the meaning of affordable. For example, there had been a push for affordable housing within the (defeated) Harbor Square plan, but any housing situated in one of the most desirable locations in the area is not going to be on anyone’s budget list. Housing for the newly employed, and for young families, must include rental units and smallish condos; and they must be located outside the costly bowl.7
From Highway 99 to the waterfront, Edmonds has many areas of varying ambience. Some taller residential buildings might work, but it would be unfair to create ugly places in the name of expanding our tax base. People live there. Those in affected neighborhoods should have a strong voice in any building plans, plans which should enhance, not destroy, their quality of life.
Parks and Recreation
I’ve never heard anyone say, “I wish we had fewer parks.” Severe budget constraints come and go, but developed open spaces, and lost opportunities for parks, are forever. Because in the last couple of decades, so many small homes have given way to large homes and multiple dwellings, we need to assure, now more than ever, that we have adequate open spaces.
How I’ve felt about my term so far
Overall, I wish I had spent more time on what I was for, rather than what I’ve opposed. Much of that is due to the nature of the job. Our role, despite the model of national politics, is not to come into office with a major agenda. Our role is to represent the will of the people of Edmonds, and pass laws that make what they want to have happen, happen as smoothly as possible.
Given that, we have two major tasks which are often in conflict: We must use our laws to evaluate projects, and reject projects proposed by staff that go against the will of the Edmonds populace. And we must implement the County’s Growth Management Plan through legislation.
The Mayor and his senior staff typically wish to implement the Growth Management Plan via mega projects. But top-down planning from so-called experts is hit and miss. The problem with mega-projects is that there is no undo. You break it, you bought it. Name one top-down mega-project that our City residents have loved. I’ll wait…
I can’t think of one either. What have residents loved? Bottom-up designed projects. More accurate, undesigned projects, where people vote with their feet. Someone, or a small group has a good idea — people swarm to it. More of it happens. Examples in Edmonds: The Museum garden and summer markets, the Third-Thursday art walk, and restaurant happy hours.
Imagine a version of the Seattle Public Market that serves Snohomish County, and Northern King County, at the Edmonds waterfront. I have for years. The family owners of Salish Crossing began a mid-week Farmer’s market a few years ago, and other than my announcements during Council comments of this new addition to our markets, no City support was apparent. Staff doesn’t seem to like any ideas that originate outside their authority — the not invented here attitude. Instead of getting to focus on great bottom-up ideas, such as a year-round market, I have had to spent my efforts on helping to defeat top-down planned mega-projects, such as the Harbor Square Master Plan.
Defeat of the Harbor Square Master Plan
It’s clear that many on the Port, the City staff, and the Mayor envision the waterfront as a potential tax-base boon, if only the Council would allow condos and raise the height limits. Time and time again, Edmonds voters have voted against Council Members who wished to raise heights, yet such proposals continue to pop up like in a game of Whack-a-Doodle. Most recently, the Port Commissioners and Port staff used expensive marketing tactics to promote a so-called urban village on the waterfront. The Mayor and City staff joined in, by ignoring the significant costs of engineering, parking, and current tenant lease buyout.
The rational for the urban village was dubious. Mixing residential and commercial is not a proven formula for success. And the fantasy that the Sounder train and an urban village will bring young commuters to live in Edmonds is not based on any evidence. And will there even be commuter train service, once light rail expands to Lynnwood in a few years?
Let’s move on to the Council.
Edmonds City Council has two chief roles: the official role of making law, and the unofficial role of being the scapegoat for everything that citizens, local businesses, volunteer committees, department directors, and the Mayor, dislike. My favorite illustration of this is a citizen complaint that the Council did nothing to fix a neighborhood electrical power outage. If we had an earthquake occurrence, I’m sure we’d be blamed for that. If I had the kind of authority many believe I have, I’d make the rain stop when I want to work in my garden.
The favorite clichéd insult directed at Council is that we’re dysfunctional. It’s true, we could get along better. We could do one or more of the following:
- If the Mayor supports something, we could just follow his lead. Many believe that we should. But, then, why have a Council? If we’re just his lackeys, then let’s not bother with all the hassle of elections, Council meetings with public participation, and discomforting disagreements among elected officials. We could even save a bit of money by not paying seven Council Members minimum wage.
We could decide that consensus is more important than representing the various points of view of citizens. We’ll never have to decide anything, we’ll just throw our opinions into a hat, and divide by seven. Half the Council wants to keep building heights at 35 feet, half want to raise it to 45 feet, and one is undecided. Forty feet it is! That was easy.
We could hire more consultants to engage us in family therapy (dysfunctional used in the sense of dysfunctional Council, is a term invented by family therapists). That might work — if our charge was to get along better. But, let’s face it, we’re not raising children together. We operate by rules, and vote on proposals. Whether or not we want to get a beer together, afterwards (and only three of us, at a time, would be allowed to do that) is irrelevant to our responsibilities.
At all times, we could treat each other with respect. The Mayor and City staff, committee volunteers, and each Council Member, could help each other for the good of Edmonds. With that, I’m on board!
How to have a better Council
Council Members are paid $1000 a month, and receive medical and dental insurance. I dedicate 24 to 30 hours a week to Council business, but I’ll be conservative and round to 100 hours per month. If my health insurance is valued at about $700/mo (not the City’s cost, but what I’d have to pay to get the equivalent), I’m making, including benefits, about $17/Hr. That amounts to an annual rate (rate, not total), of $34,000. Remember, that number includes the health insurance. No wonder most Council Members are either retired, semi-retired, or live primarily off a spouse’s income. This does not make for a group that represents the population of Edmonds. We do not have true representation on the Council.
How do we improve the Council?
First, higher pay. It’s absurd that we’re told that we have to pay high salaries to city staff, if we want good people, while the Council Members are paid like interns.
Second, clarify who’s responsible for what. The Council, the Mayor, and City Attorney need to clarify the codified authority of each entity. Who does what sometimes feels like no more than a land grab. After we figure out who’s in charge of what, maybe the public can figure that out as well.
Third, a legislative staff member that’s dedicated to assist Council’s research needs. Seven Council Members currently share a half-time executive assistant. Her responsibilities are extensive.
Fourth, better candidate vetting by the voters.
I understand that government happens, while people are living their lives: they’re trying to get educated, earn a living, stay healthy, raise children, and have a bit of fun. How many citizens have time to dissect the often veiled words of political candidates? At the local level, there’s not enough money to hire professional BS artists to create fully made-up facades. And yet, voters still appear to have little idea what candidates really stand for. During the campaign, candidates (including the current Mayor in the last election) can get away with vague statements during their campaigns, because no one asks for details. For an example, let’s analyze the height-limits slippery slope game:
During the campaign, because they have no chance of being elected otherwise, candidates said that they’re for continued height limits in the downtown corridor. Following being elected, they said they meant that they won’t vote to relax height limits between 6th and 3rd, and Main and Dayton, six whole square blocks. Beyond the “corridor” (a made-up sector), they’ll ignore that protection from tall buildings, if the builder promises amenities.
These amenities end up at the discretion of the builder and (too often) a lenient City official. We get a tall building and, well, nothing really (see the Gregory condos on 5th and Walnut). 8
Dave Earling stated when campaigning for Mayor (in his literature, and web site) that the height-limit issue was settled. After being elected, he supported increased heights at the waterfront.
Fourth, vote out (or against) hobbyists. Sometimes, we get a candidate who enjoys the ego trip of having influence, but doesn’t do his or her homework, and pretty much just votes the way the Mayor wants. These Members don’t appear to have read the large amount of material passed to us, prior to every Council meeting — information assembled to aid our decisions. And it’s obvious that they don’t make any effort to discover information on their own. They offer little or no insight into the important legislation that will affect Edmonds for generations. Their remarks during meetings are glib, at best, totally absent at worst. Their lack of effort is an insult to their fellow Council Members, and more important, to all Edmonds citizens.
Fifth, be wary of the ambitious politician. If a Council Member is using their term(s) as a stepping stone to higher office, they may be less interested in the well-being of Edmonds, and more interested in courting favor with those who can help them get to the next level. At the Council level, party politics is nearly irrelevant, while success at courting higher-level party members is essential for the ambitious politician.
How can voters do a better job of vetting candidates? Do not depend on vague statements you’ll hear in forums, or read in brochures and flyers. In any venue available, hold out for detailed explanations. That requires persistence. For example, ask pointed questions about the candidates stances on open government: (1) Will you legislate easy availability of public records? If yes, then how? (2) Will you legislate the recording of Executive Sessions, and will you legislate the release of these recordings as soon as legally allowed? (3) Will you (as Mayor) order your staff to fully cooperate, by making any information requested by the legislative branch (Council) readily available, during both public and private sessions. (4) Will you (as Mayor) bring the legislative branch (Council) into the loop, at the start of any process on which they’ll have to vote?
I’ve made suggestions on vetting candidates, based on what I find most important. Every voter must figure what matters most to him or her. Democracy is not a thing, it’s a living process.
They don’t want to govern. They want to rule.
-Former State Texas Senator, Gonzalo Barrientos
Soon after I was elected, my husband ran into the Mayor at Starbucks. Mr. Earling took the opportunity to explain to him that now I would have to learn how government really works. Later, Mr. Earling congratulated me, and suggested that behind the scenes he supported my election bid. (I don’t dispute that. My opponent was an ally of the outgoing Mayor.) It was apparent to me that Mayor Earling was attempting to turn me into a political ally. His right, of course, but what he was suggesting to my husband and me was that it was time for me to join the good old boys’ network or, as one of my supporters characterized it, to join the clubhouse.
What Mr. Earling did not realize, apparently, is that I ran for office, not to learn how government really works, but because I didn’t like how it really works. I hope there are many candidates in the upcoming election who aren’t interested in joining the clubhouse, but instead are motivated to become a steward of our city.
- By consistently pointing out when officials don’t follow the law, Ken Reidy annoys many in Edmonds government. ↩
- Which does not mean that government employees (or any employees) should be treated with contempt. ↩
- On several occasions, I have had to make corrections to the written record. ↩
- Here’s a 10-point transparency checklist, used by the state of Illinois. ↩
- Council, and the Council and Mayor do not have a communication problem. We know what each other thinks; we often just disagree. Our job is not to reach a consensus; our job is to vote according to what we believe the citizens of Edmonds desire. ↩
- Specifically, money earmarked for neighborhood traffic calming was transferred to the dubiously needed $586,434 crosswalk that serves the Point Edwards condos. Oh, and the original estimate was $310,000. ↩
- There have been no affordable (roughly, one-third of income) housing in proposed developments. ↩
- For further adventures of the erosion of height limits, let’s return to several years ago. To avoid a bunch of flat-roofed buildings, Council votes to allow an extra 5 feet for a modulated roof line. We’re now at 25 feet plus 5 feet for the better-looking roof line. Later, Council changes roof provisions to step back provisions, which is soon seen as useless. However, rather then return to 25 feet, Council votes to do away with the any 5-foot provisions, by making the new height limit 30 feet. Thirty feet is the new 25 feet. ↩
I couldn’t sleep. After two weeks of respite from Council, I awaken at 4am, with the stark realization that tonight Council will likely vote on a development plan for Westgate. The press (MyEdmondsNews and the Beacon) has been promoting that the Westgate plan has been before Council for five years. Not true — as we began our review in August, 2014, that’s an exaggeration of four years, three months; over 650 percent. Guess I’m splitting hairs.
Undoubtably, Mayor Earling and his staff want the residents of Edmonds to believe that Council has been dragging its feet in approving a plan, a plan that they claim has been vetted in innumerable meetings. They fail to mention that only two of those meetings comprised public hearings during Council sessions. That residents of Edmonds have endured meetings and finger-pointing is not because Council is dragging its feet, it’s that the plan before Council tonight is not right for our city.
We’re working backwards
The development plan before Council allows changes in what we’ve previously allowed in the Westgate area: we’d allow taller buildings( up to 45 feet), mixed residential and commercial in the entire development, setbacks of only12 feet from SR104, and from 100th Ave W, and lesser parking requirement ratios for both commercial and residential use. If built, as proposed, this equates to buildings much closer to the street, with much higher density, and more traffic in the already congested Westgate neighborhood. Council has to work backwards to achieve a more reasonable balance of height, setbacks, uses, and parking by adding amendments to the plan.
To approve this plan, Council must accept the premise that (1) allowing the property owner/developer a variety of choices and trade-offs, and (2) giving staff the authority to approve development within the prescribed form, is the best way to achieve results that are consistent with the values of the community. I accept neither of these premises.
If Council approves the Westgate plan, as is, three and four stories will be allowed along most of SR 104, and 100th Ave W, with setbacks of only 12 feet from these roads.
Wonky plan details:
The southwest quadrant (Bartell) allows heights of four stories along most of the corner of SR104, and 100th Ave W., tapering to three stories as you go west towards McDonalds. As you go south towards Firdale Village, it tapers from four to three, then two stories.
The northeast quadrant (PCC) allows three stories along all of SR 104, and 100th Ave W, with one small parcel of two stories to the north as you head to downtown.
The northwest quadrant (QFC) allows four stories everywhere, except for a small parcel of two stories in the far west corner.
The southeast quadrant (Key Bank, Ivar’s) allows three stories on the entire quadrant, except for a small parcel to the far south.
The building types
One of the purposes for the Westgate Mixed Use (WMU) zone is to “Encourage the development of a variety of housing choices available to residents of all economic and age segments.” However, instead of requiring specific housing choices, we are allowing the developer to choose between seven different building types, only one of which, Rowhouse, is residential, only. Six of the building types are allowed on specific parcels of the WMU zone. Only one building type — Commercial Mixed Use, which was initially called Commercial Block Use, for obvious reasons — is allowed on all of the parcels in the WMU zone.
If we encourage rather than require specific building types, we leave housing choices, which supposedly will be available to “residents of all economic and age segments,” to the discretion of the developer. How often do developers make the lower-profit choice?
It’s a crap shoot
We’re betting that the developers will choose the full range of options, which will result in a well designed mix of residential and commercial. This gamble is unlikely to pay off. Why would a developer choose to build a “Rowhouse,” the only option that is residential only, when they could fill their entire parcel with “Commercial mixed use”, which allows retail on the first floor and as many condos or apartments as they can squeeze into the upper floors? To repeat: how often do developers make the lower-profit choice?
If we want residential, only, in some areas of Westgate, why not decide where, and require it in those locations?
What do we want?
When I think about what the residents of Edmonds want for Westgate, I think of what has been expressed historically about development in our city. I think of what the residents of the Westgate area have said. And I think of what I would feel comfortable recommending, as a place to live, to someone that I know and care about.
What I come up with is the following:
- Heights no higher than two stories, in all parcels right next to SR104 and 100th Ave, with a minimum setback of 20 feet. Consideration of commercial, only, buildings there. (Would you really want to live in a building that is right at the intersection of SR104 and 100th Ave West?)
Three stories of residential, only, in designated parcels, for example, against the hillside in the Bartell quadrant. Or two or three stories (dependent upon public vetting) of residential, only, backing the cemetery.
Residential, only, in parcels that approach the far edges of each quadrant.
Mixed residential and commercial in designated areas, again, based on public input.
How to get there
I have, repeatedly, requested that we approach this development, section by section (i.e., quadrant by quadrant). Planning Staff have informed Council that the owners of the Bartell quadrant are ready to develop, while PCC and QFC are unlikely to develop anytime soon. Why can’t we focus on the Bartell quadrant?
I believe the way to achieve the best future Westgate development is to review what the community has consistently both supported and opposed. We should hold several more, public hearings in front of Council, and these hearings should be highly publicized by the city. Let’s get away from the mentality of slipping through a plan, while people aren’t looking. Focus on what the residents of Edmonds would like to see at Westgate. Draw out ideas, creatively, with several open, transparent, conversations with the public.
Finally, Council should consider holding their own Town Hall meeting, specific to Westgate, to draw out our creative thinking. All input gathered from these meetings should be reviewed, prior to a final decision regarding the Westgate area.
Do you wish to make your opinion known regarding the future of the Edmonds marsh? Tomorrow, Friday, March 27 at 5 PM, is the deadline to submit comments to the Department of Ecology. This concerns the proposed Edmonds Shoreline Master Program (SMP), interim 50-foot riparian buffer, and 100-foot setback, measured from the ordinary high water mark (OHWM). As the buffer and setback are being combined, this is a total of 100 feet of separation of the Marsh, from any development.
The Edmonds Port commissioners have allocated $25,000, of Port taxpayer money, to appeal the Council’s recommendation of a 100-foot setback/buffer from the Marsh. The Port Commissioners are asking the Department of Ecology to retain the current 25-foot setback.
As Council Member Diane Buckshnis has noted: One-hundred feet is the minimum that’s required to obtain federal funds to restore the marsh. Keeley O’Connell, Friends of the Marsh, and Val Stewart, current Planning Board member and environmental activist, support a 100-foot buffer.
Here is a link to the Department of Ecology about the Edmonds SMP:
Please express your support to restore the marsh, by retaining the 100- foot buffer/setback: Send your comments to David.Pater@ecy.wa.gov.
I want to apologize to the voters of Edmonds: I should have abstained from the Council vote last night to support the firearms related initiative 594. I have abstained from voting on State initiatives brought to Edmonds City Council in the past, because I do not believe that the voters of Edmonds elected their Council Members to advise them as to how to vote on initiatives, or on issues that are not, and will never be, under the legislative authority of Edmonds City Council.
I do not recall an election when a Council candidate ran on State legislative issues, or when Council candidates were asked their opinions on these issues. To me, that says it all. I think the use of my elected office, in an attempt to influence Washington State voter initiatives, suggests that my opinion should hold more weight than that of others. It should not.
In an August 25, 2014, article in the Herald Business Journal (Westgate wants to be more walkable, green, diverse), Mayor Dave Earling is quoted: “What’s the missing piece [of Westgate]? A walkable neighborhood.” The Westgate plan is being promoted by Mayor Earling and his staff as creating a walkable urban village. As the plan is currently configured, with commercial mixed-use allowed in all four sections of Westgate, it will have the opposite effect. It will create a nightmare of pedestrian, traffic, and parking problems for those who shop at the many large commercial spaces: QFC, PCC, Bartell, Goodwill, Walgreens, and the smaller shops.
From the Herald Business Journal:
Pedestrians trying to cross from one of the four corners to another can face an intimating amount of traffic. Some 13,000 vehicles each day use eastbound Highway 104. A total of 14,000 cars use northbound and southbound 100th Avenue W. daily.
Westgate is not now, nor will it ever be, a walkable urban village. Westgate is divided into four quadrants, by SR 104 and by 9th/100th Ave. Thousands of cars travel on SR 104 daily, going east to Interstate 5, and west to the ferry, waterfront, and downtown. Because of narrow sidewalks and their close proximity to SR 104, and because cars enter and exit onto the highway, it’s not comfortable to walk along that road. In many places, it is downright unpleasant, if not scary. Crossing the intersection, from PCC to Bartell, for example, is a fun game of don’t get hit by cars turning right. Same game of chance walking on 9th/100th at Westgate. The development as proposed will make pedestrian crossing worse, far worse. How is that “a walkable neighborhood.”
I urge everyone who cares about the future of Westgate to walk the area, cross the roads, and experience the fun for yourself. While you are doing so, please think about what it would be like to walk the same highway and roads with three- or four-story buildings within 18 feet. That is about how close they would be to you with the current proposal.
In his editorial in the Edmonds Beacon (September 4, 2014 Perfection vs. good), Earling referenced Voltaire as saying “perfect is the enemy of good.” Mayor Earling goes on to ask, “What should we do at Westgate? Change it or leave it the same?” I don’t recall any plan that has been presented that is good, let alone perfect: bad is the enemy of acceptable.
Apparently, Mayor Earling is unaware of another of Voltaire’s famous sayings: “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” To the Mayor, staff, and fellow Council Members, who are critical of questions, critical of concern over mega-developments that will affect our city, forever: indifference is the enemy of good.
I agree that change is needed. I also agree that, carefully planned, residential at Westgate could enhance the area. I don’t agree that the proposed plan for Westgate is anything more than a ploy to increase residential density by adding mixed-use buildings, without consideration for the many concerns posed by residents who live and/or shop in the Westgate area. As soon as a good plan is presented to Council for review with the public, I will be happy to discuss. I will be happy to consider. I will be happy to talk compromise.
Some claim that “we” have been working on this plan for four years. They will review how many public hearings have been held at the planning board, and talk about the public meetings and work by the UW architecture students. Contending that an extensive public process has occurred, contradicts that only a single public hearing has been held in front of City Council. The public discourse should begin, not end, with the participation of Council, where by the time it reaches a vote, all that’s left to compromise on are the details of bad design. No thanks. In his editorial, Mayor Earling references Carol Sandford speaking about “Deliberative dialog for development of full understanding and respect.” I agree with Mayor Earling: let the deliberative dialog begin!
I am sponsoring a Town Hall meeting at Faith Community Church, 10220 238th St SW, Edmonds, on Monday, September 15, from 7- 8:30 PM. Please join the deliberative dialog. To make your voice heard, do the following: Comment, here (on My Edmonds News). Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to request additional public hearings to consider the Westgate plan.
In Calvinball, the game played by Calvin and his stuffed tiger in the Calvin and Hobbs comic strip, rules are created and changed on the whim of the players. Mayor Earling is playing Calvinball with our traffic-calming dollars.
The Traffic Calming Program is clearly described in our 2009 Transportation Comprehensive Plan. (Appendix B, p.193-211)
It has three phases:
- Residents petition for local street traffic concerns.
- Staff and residents develop education and enforcement solutions.
- Staff reviews traffic calming devices for funding, priority, technical feasibility.
Despite this carefully defined process, the following item showed up on the 8/14/2014 Public Works Quarterly Project Report:
“Residential Neighborhood Traffic Calming, $10,000. (100 percent of the funds). The 2014 funds for this program are being allocated to the construction phase of the mid-block pedestrian crossing along SR-104 (directly north of Pine St./ WSDOT project).”
Old rule: Local street traffic concerns.
Calvinball rule: State highway enhancement.
Old rule: Require a petition, with signatures from no less than eight households, to initiate the Traffic Calming Program in your neighborhood.
Calvinball rule: In lieu of a signed petition, substitute supporting phone calls.
Old rule: Involve residents in developing education and enforcement solutions.
Calvinball rule: Forget phase 2, public involvement. (Public involvement is a pain, anyway.)
Old rule: Review funding, priority, and feasibility.
Calvinball rule: Go straight to the state and advocate for the pedestrian crossing along the highway, promise funds to the state, slip it into the Public Works Quarterly Project Report, and you’re good to go. If any Edmonds residents question this $10,000 allocation of traffic calming funds, tout this as an exceptional opportunity and suggest that it’s too late because the 2014 dollars have already been promised to the state for the “construction phase.”