Two possible waterfront projects create a stir at Edmonds City Council meeting Monday

sunset avenue walkway

Sunset Avenue Walkway project

Two projects under discussion for the Edmonds waterfront took center stage at the City Council meeting Monday night — a proposed walkway for Sunset Avenue that residents fear will have unintended consequences and the longstanding question of how to ensure emergency vehicles and other vehicle and pedestrian traffic have access around the increasingly congested train tracks that divide waterfront businesses and residences from the rest of downtown.

A sizable contingent of Sunset Avenue North residents made an appearance to express their opinions regarding the walkway project, which is included as a component of the city’s 2014-19 capital facilities plan that was presented to the council and citizens for a public hearing Monday. The estimated $1.88 million plan would build a walkway on the west side of Sunset Avenue North from Bell Street to Caspers to accommodate the large number of walkers, runners and strollers that often crowd the roadway to take in the expansive waterfront views.

The biggest concern for Sunset Avenue residents is the fact that the walkway is close to the railroad, and may raise enough safety concerns for BNSF officials that they will build a fence to keep people off the tracks. Residents recalled an earlier successful fight in 1995 against a proposed fence, and were clear that they didn’t want to revisit that scenario.

“We fought this battle 20 years ago and I don’t think we should have to fight it again,” one citizen said.

Public Works Director Phil Williams assured those testifying that the city did not yet have a finished design for the walkway, but said city staff would share ideas with the public soon. There are no plans by the city to build a fence, Williams said, although he admitted that he couldn’t predict what the railroad would do.

Construction of the walkway is scheduled for 2015, pending grant funding. A federal grant was secured for the design phase.

Also included in the capital facilities plan was a discussion of a multimodal transportation center aimed at addressing ongoing worries about train traffic that has the potential to block emergency vehicles and business traffic from making the trip to and from the waterfront. The topic launched a flurry of discussion among councilmembers and Mayor Dave Earling about a proposed “alternatives analysis” that some counciimembers feared was skewed in favor of a project known as “modified Point Edwards” that could involve an underpass in the same location as the original Edmonds Crossing project. That state-proposed project, which would have involved relocating the Edmonds ferry terminal south of the existing terminal site, is currently on hold due to lack of state funding, and is not likely to be revisited again until the late 2020s, according to city staff.

Councilmember Joan Bloom has been an advocate of a simplified emergency vehicle access overpass project that could solve the problem short-term until the state is ready to again address the bigger Edmonds Crossing project. Bloom and Council President Lora Petso noted they met with State Sen. Paull Shinn –who represents Edmonds — about the idea, which drew charges from Councilmember Strom Peterson that such a move was “undercutting” the efforts of city staff to work on the issue. “It doesn’t seem like a great way to go about it,” Peterson said.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas responded to Peterson that the city administration had done some undercutting of its own by talking to legislators without involving councilmembers until after the fact.

Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling assured the council that there was no hidden agenda behind the alternatives analysis, other than to explore all the options. The bigger issue with the train crossing “is not just the safety issue” of getting emergency vehicles across the tracks,” Earling said. With 80-100 train trips predicted each day within the next 30 years, “we are looking at shutting down the west side of the tracks three to four hours every day if we do not have a solution in mind,” he said. The mayor encouraged councilmembers to look at broad solutions that could attract state, regional and federal funding. “If you want to look at the emergency overpass, fine. Include it in part of the study,” Earling said. “But it’s really a longer-term problem that is not just the overpass…it’s how do we satisfy the businesses, the offices and people who still live on the west side of the tracks.”

In other matters, the council:

– Approved designation of the Charles Larsen residence at 630 Main St. for inclusion on the Edmonds Register of Historic Places.

– Learned from Larry Vogel of the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission that 2014 calendars featuring  photographs of historic homes will available for distribution to citizens starting Tuesday at Edmonds City Hall, the Log Cabin and the Edmonds Historical Museum. The calendars are free this year because the commission received a grant to cover production costs, Vogel added. However, there is a limited supply so get yours as soon as possible.

– Heard a presentation by Economic Development Director Stephen Clifton regarding a proposal to exclude offices from ground floor retail spaces in the core business zones downtown.

Several other items on the council agenda were postponed for future consideration due to other topics running longer than anticipated.

 

 

 

 

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22 Comments

  1. “Undercutting the efforts of city staff….” Wow, that is quit an allegation by Strom Peterson.

    City records document that an action recommended by the Mayor and staff was truly “undercut” by the City Council during the September 16, 2008 City Council Meeting. On November 2, 2009, Councilmember Strom Peterson had an opportunity to support Reconsideration of that true “undercut”. He met behind closed doors in Executive Session for 55 minutes with fellow Councilmembers. The Executive Session ended and then Councilmember Ron Wambolt made a motion to remove the Reconsideration Request from the Council Agenda….denying citizens their best remaining chance for some type of justice. Strom Peterson voted for Ron Wambolt’s motion.

    When Councilmembers make ridiculous accusations of their fellow Councilmembers, it can be a red flag that suggests further research of an issue might be prudent.

  2. Ken:
    One more time, in your continuing not-so-subtle effort to support two other city council candidates, you failed to mention that the action taken back in 2009 was a unanimous vote by city council.

  3. Ron – since you feel the need to respond to my post, please explain to me the relevance of your unanimous vote concept. Was the Council’s action legal under State and City laws? If not, what is the relevance of a unanimous vote?

    A huge point is that you voted to deny a reasonable request for Reconsideration and you did so behind closed doors in Executive Session rather than with transparency in Open Council Session. Is this how City Councilmembers should represent the citizens of Edmonds?

    My opinion is no – it is not. I’ve analyzed this thoroughly and I have every right to use my research as part of my decision making process when voting.

  4. Another question Ron is how do Councilmembers determine that what is represented to them behind closed doors in Executive Session is accurate and complete? Citizens certainly have no ability to observe and monitor these closed meetings.

    Making it even worse is that four (4) years later, the City still refuses to release the related Executive Session Meeting Minutes. Why are the minutes still being hidden from the citizens? If elected, will you support the release of the November 2, 2009 City Council Executive Session Meeting Minutes? If not, why not?

  5. Let’s consider the views of the greater community, and not just those from Sunset Blvd North. Unlike Oregon, too much of the Washington waterfront is unfairly and selfishly obscured by private ownership. Increasing public access to “expansive waterfront views” can only be a good thing. Times, and the people involved, change and whatever happened twenty (20!) years ago is no longer relevant; this deserves a new and fresh examination in favor of the taxpayers at large, and not just the residents of any particular street.

  6. “west side of Sunset Avenue North from Bell Street to Caspers to accommodate the large number of walkers, runners and strollers that often crowd the roadway to take in the expansive waterfront view”…….”often crowd the roadway” being an interesting statement. I have lived here for 4 years and walked this area EVERY day at ALL times (as I live right around the block from Sunset on 2nd), and have yet to ever see anybody CROWDING the roadway………This simply is not true. The story about the crow with the bag of flour on Sunset drawing white lines on the street (according to the city representative last year in regards to hazmat showing up for powder lines on Sunset) comes to mind.
    The citizens of this city did not just fall off the turnip truck. ……..

    We now have a building at the north end of Sunset that is HOTEL like in appearance, and takes up the total lot in three buildings. If those that be at the city permit something like this on Sunset, it is not surprising that nobody trusts what the city says or does behind closed doors.

    This city seems to think “grant” money isn’t REAL $$$, just free money and so goes after it even if not needed. I’m a professional artist and will be watching how the city can SPIN the one percent for ART into this project also.

  7. Regarding the proposed walkway on Sunset Ave North and the safety fence that would need to be built… I don’t think you buy a view that you have across a street. The view belongs to all of us.

  8. it’s – the “system”!

    for those of us that say we want “democracy” – the current system of procedures/rules/laws – precludes “democracy”.

    “democracy”is NOT having 3 minutes to give a “yeah”/”neah” vote on pages and pages of “civic improvements plans”!

    “democracy” starts with open meetings at the beginning of an idea – before ANY time/energy/money is invested in ANY plan!

    with all due respect, and an acknowledgement that the mayor and council memebers all had the public’s best at heart! – last evening’s council meeting was a tribute to the lack of public/citizen input!

    after wasting 15-20 minutes or so of residents/property owners most affected by the sunset “improvements” ALL railing against a fence – finally mr williams had the opporunity to say – he had planned on – no fence!

    what does he have in mind? only AFTER his team prepares “the plan” will taxpayers have an opportunity to – comment.

    “democracy” demands interested individuals be a part OF the planning!

    only AFTER i had an opportunity to put in my comments regarding the waterfront – major study vs emergency access did i have an opportunity from a disgruntled mayor – his true intentions.

    but then – i was not permitted to comment!

    another 1/2 hour or so was wasted regarding emergency vehicle access in while a train is passing thru.

    again – a CLOSED discussion.

    only AFTER the CLOSED discussion was i able to present to mr williams – a solution!

    Emergency access can EASILY, INEXPENSIVELY happen in short time!

    it’s called an elevator with stairs on either sides of the tracks connected with a covered bridge.

    the patient/victim can easily be placed on a gurney, with wheels, and wheeled into the elevator, across the bridge and down the other side to a waiting vehicle.

    a covered, electic “golf” cart can easily be stored on the west side of the tracks to get up and down the corridor.

    with this in place, the larger picture of the waterfront can now be discussed: focusing on – what is the end RESULTS! NOT STRATEGIES!

    but that’s what “democracy” is about! dialogue and deliberation – with everyone who wishes being heard.

    until then, i recommend bringing the jumbo size box of popcorn to the next council meeting.

  9. I’ve noted before that Sunset Ave. should be left alone. I’ve seen nothing from the City to point to such a critical problem that this time and money (if not even ours) is needed. We walk there often enough, throughout the 4 seasons, to know that no critical problem exists about seeing the Sound, walking, meeting friends, watching a sunset or waves crash during a storm. I’ve not heard of people falling onto the tracks, etc. In general, those using Sunset Ave are a nice group who work well to ensure safe movement, opportunity to see views, sit @ the picnic tables and all of those nice things. Best to leave it along, keep the grass cut and garbage emptied and Edmonds will be happy.

    • I agree. We have seen city projects that seem driven more by availability of “free” grant money than by true need. Of course, grants really aren’t free and these projects always have extended costs beyond what the grant will pay for, which add short/ long term obligations from the city budget. Then when the council is presented these granted projects, the case is made that we can’t possibly not do the project because it would jeopardize receiving the grant money or future grant money for a project we might actually need.

  10. “The estimated $1.88 million plan would build a walkway on the west side of Sunset Avenue North from Bell Street to Caspers to accommodate the large number of walkers, runners and strollers that often crowd the roadway to take in the expansive waterfront views.”
    I’ve walked this stretch so many times over many years and have not observed or experienced OVERCROWDING. Who and when was data collected for this proposal?

  11. We live on Sunset south of Bell Street and walk it everyday, mornings and evenings. There is no crowding on Sunset. It is one of the few places where people can sit in their cars and enjoy the view, and people can walk and do the same. A walkway and fence will spoil everything. Just because you CAN do something (because the money is available) doesn’t mean you have to. The CROWDING on Sunset is about as bad as the TRAFFIC JAMS at Five Corners. Sunset in its present state is a great compromise between private owners on the east side, and the public on the west. It works. Please don’t “fix” it.

  12. Dean I agree as far as 5 corners goes Ive never ever had a problem there I think building a roundabout is a waste of money i personally hate roundabouts anyways and think there more danger than a stop,If people knew that the car on the right had the rightaway we would never have a problem, drivers ed 101. and when was the last time a emt got stuck at the railroad tracks. If there is an emergency im sure the trains can be radioed and stopped, go ahead do your study for your 20million dollar bridge, where you going to get the money to build something like that . do you all ever think about just making the train stop?

  13. I would like to add something this
    Here is approximately how Sunset Avenue looks now: http://goo.gl/x5aybJ

    Here is what I heard the city staff suggest at the meeting: http://goo.gl/3Tcnqo

  14. Excellent work Nathan! Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

  15. Good job nathan the city should not do that project sunset is fine the way it is you can park look at the water eat lunch look at a sunset and leave they have the same type thing in ballard, this public works director sure puts a lot of effort into trying to get free money, the people that live down there don’t want this there will be way to many people no place to park etc etc its just fine the way it is, You know the city can’t even pave the roads why are they trying to do all these jobs like this

  16. have you heard the term “job security”?

  17. The main suggestion I would make is to upgrade the sidewalk so that it is all new and wider then make the bike lane bidirectional this may mean making it wider.

  18. When you consider that there are only two ways to get to the waterfront( Main and Dayton St)… this should have been completed yesterday. Lets face it studies take to long, and are expensive. There have been many incidents on the other side of the tracks recently there have been many diving related emergencies. ( http://myedmondsnews.com/2011/05/edmonds-police-release-more-details-on-divers-death/ ) The chances of an individual in cardiac arrest to recover revolves around the time it takes EMS crews to provide care. If crossings are blocked this person will not make it. I believe that is our fault as a City to not be prepared to provide care to that person. This is just one of the possible tragedies that could occur with our current railroad crossings.

  19. As mentioned on my most recent post here is the article that may be a good place to discuss the issues of crossing the tracks. Some of the above comment actually relate to the track crossing issue others just used it to vent about other things but that is their right in a free society.

  20. The City Council has an extremely busy meeting scheduled for this Tuesday, December 3rd. There are Executive Sessions both before and after the regular meeting.

    I hope many citizens will check out the Agenda and related attachments available on the City’s website.

    After Audience Comments, there will be discussion and potential action related to Point Edwards’ Building 10. The related agenda item has a 41 page Verbatim Transcript of the November 12th Council Deliberation – I don’t know if I have ever seen such a lengthy Verbatim Transcript attached to an agenda item.

    Following Building 10 will be Public Comment and Discussion of the Sunset Ave Walkway Project.

    Next will be Public Comment and Discussion on the SR-104/Railroad Crossing Alternatives Analysis.

    These two items have nothing attached to the Agenda, making it more challenging for the public to get up to speed and possibly prepare public comments.

    Next up is Public Comment and Potential Action on the 2014-2019 Capital Improvement Program. The CIP is a budgeting tool that includes capital and maintenance projects, tying those projects to the various City funds and revenues. The draft CIP is 62 pages long and relates to what looks like over $123,000,000 of potential projects for 2014-2019 – plus an UNKNOWN amount for the Edmonds Crossing WSDOT Ferry/Multimodal Facility.

    Then, the Council hears public comment and potentially takes action on a Proposed Ordinance Adopting Amendments to the Capital Facilities Plan Element of the Comprehensive Plan. The Washington State Growth Management Act requires fully planning jurisdictions to include a Capital Facilities Plan Element in their Comprehensive Plans. The Capital Facilities Plan is a six or more year plan of capital projects with estimated costs and proposed methods of financing that is updated annually. The CFP also includes the Edmonds Crossing WSDOT Ferry/Multimodal Facility with an ESTIMATED PROJECT COST: Unknown.

    The Council meeting includes the critical adoption of the City’s 2014 BUDGET, approval of a Resolution related to the Burnstead/Woodvale Plat and finishes with three very important items:

    1. Discussion and Potential Action for a Code of Conduct.

    2. Discussion and potential action on ECC Chapter 2.10 regarding Confirmation and Duties of City Officers.

    3. Discussion and potential action on resolution adopting policy regarding Councilmember participation by speaker phone or other technology.

    These last three items do not appear to involve public comment, so I guess any related comments will need to be made during general audience comments.

    I imagine each Councilmember will need to spend significant time to be properly prepared for such an important, wide-ranging meeting.

  21. Without giving this a lot of thought, I think the City should strongly consider educating the public on the significance of projects getting added to the CIP, CFP and TIP. We see many disputes related to projects that were added to these programs/plans while the public may not have been paying close attention – even if there was a public hearing. For example, the following is found in the July 19, 2011 City Council Meeting Minutes:

    “Council President Pro Tem Petso asked whether a public hearing had been held regarding the roundabout. Mr. Williams answered there has not been a public hearing where the roundabout was the only topic. The roundabout has been included in the TIP for several years and a public hearing is held on the TIP each year.”

    Perhaps public notices sent to citizens living within certain distances of these proposed projects would help get the public more involved BEFORE the projects are added to the CIP, CFP and TIP.

    Maybe all that is necessary is an understanding that just because an item is in the CIP, CFP and TIP, it doesn’t mean the public favors the project. Much to learn about how this process works.

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