Edmonds Council hears support, dissent related to Sunset Walkway project

Kirsten Foot listens as daughter Elise, 8, speaks to the city council Tuesday night regarding the proposed Sunset Walkway project.

With an artist’ rendering of the project in the background, Kirsten Foot of Edmonds listens as daughter Elise, 8, speaks to the city council Tuesday night regarding the proposed Sunset Walkway.

After gathering testimony from more than 20 local residents — including children and teens — who both praised and criticized a new walkway plan for Sunset Avenue, the Edmonds City Council decided to give city staff more time to address potential council concerns about the project.

Among the worries expressed Tuesday night about renovations for the much-loved scenic walking and sunset-viewing spot above the BNSF railroad tracks: the possibility that the city will incur additional costs related to shoring up the bluff between the walkway and the tracks, and the details of design work proposed once the enhanced walkway heads east from Sunset Avenue onto to Caspers Street.

The project, which has been under discussion for nearly a year, would include a 10-foot-wide promenade on the west side of the street beginning at Bell Street on the south, running north along the bank above the railroad tracks, rounding the dogleg at Caspers Street, and finally meeting the existing sidewalk at Third and Caspers. The project design is being funded by a $159,000 federal grant; construction of the walkway is dependent on additional grant funding.

In a brief presentation prior to the public hearing, Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams reminded councilmembers of the project’s main goals: to maximize views; increase accessibility as the current dirt path is not usable for those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers; and to improve safety, since pedestrians often walk in the street next to the path rather than using the sidewalk on the east side of the street. You can see plans related to the walkway design here.

Those testifying were split about 50-50 for or against the project, with a few speakers stating they hadn’t yet taken a position but wanted to offer ideas to consider.

A concern expressed by several was that the new walkway design would severely reduce the number of parking spaces, hampering the opportunity for those who like to drive to Sunset Avenue so they can watch the view from their cars. Williams said that while the current design does reduce the number of parking spaces from 55 to 43 — for a net loss of 12 spaces — “when we get into design and start fine tuning we could probably add back in most,” to bring the total to 51.

In addition, speakers also raised the issue of building the walkway along a stretch that is a known seismic hazard area. Williams noted that it is possible to build in such areas (much of the development along the Seattle waterfront, including the city’s sports stadiums, is located in seismic zones). “It’s just something you need to pay attention to during the design phase,” he said.

Speaker Kimberly Wade of Edmonds said the current layout of Sunset allows both drivers and walkers to enjoy the view regardless of the weather, noting that when she made a visit to Sunset in her car on that rainy Tuesday, she saw 23 cars and four pedestrians. “Keep it the way it is,” Wade said. “Why allocate resources to an area of Edmonds that seems to be working?”

On the other side were Edmonds residents Kirsten Foot and her 8-year-old daughter Elise. Kirsten recalled that when Elise was a baby, she attempted unsuccessfully to take her for a walk along Sunset in a stroller. Elise then took a brief turn at the microphone. “I would love to have a walkway to go down after dinner,” she told the council.

Councilmember Lora Petso requested that the matter be referred to the council’s Parks, Planning and Public Works committee so staff can share with council a comparison of the project’s advantages and disadvantages, after which more public input will be sought.

Also during the meeting, the council heard the 2013 Municipal Court report from Judge Doug Fair. Among the highlights, Fair reported that the passage of two citizen initiatives in 2011 provided clear evidence of how changes in laws affect the criminal system. With marijuana legalization, Fair said he expected to see a drop in criminal infractions for possession, and that did indeed take place in 2013. However, there was in increase in theft cases due to easier access to alcohol, now that it’s available in a grocery store rather than a state-run liquor store.

“I don’t think when we talked about making liquor more accessible, we thought about making liquor more accessible to criminals,” Fair said. “But that’s kind of what happened; they are just like like everyone else. They wanted their liquor, they just didn’t want to pay for it.”

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. Why not just a normal width sidewalk on the west side of Sunset? Leave the parking as is and eliminate the existing dedicated bicycle lane. Much less expensive, I would think.

  2. More evidence that our council doesn’t have enough meaningful stuff to do. They are spending OUR money on white elephant projects that no one really wants. Purdy little bike path signs, biodegradable plastic single use poop bags, rainbows, unicorns, etc

    Eventually the Council will run out of other people’s money…and the well is dry!

  3. Having lived on Sunset many years this is a great thing for the city that all can enjoy. Not only will the views be great but it will create a cleaner neater feel to that side of Sunset which has pretty much been left undone for 100 years or so. Plus this will just make the whole street so much nicer for the whole city and the outside community to enjoy. This should be passed for it will be an asset to all far and wide.

  4. Look at your taxes brother, it’s not other peoples money.

  5. As I was sitting in my car Friday evening on Sunset I thought about this issue and I do not understand WHY there needs to be a ten foot wide walkway and bike lanes and new this and new that along the West side of the street. The Folks that live along there do NOT want it, The Citizens do NOT want it so why does the Council feel they have the right to foist this on everyone? The main issue as I see it, is that the grassy “path” that abuts the curb on the West side of the street has become worn into a narrow “rut” that is barely wide enough for one person to walk in and creates a safety hazard. This also is not very pedestrian friendly as folks walking both North and South can hardly pass each other. All that is really needed is an actual pathway/walkway that is flat and level as well as wide enough for persons walking both directions to pass each other easily. Four or five feet? Just level out the dirt, put down mulch and call it a day for crying out loud! Or maybe pea gravel. all folks really want is a flat place to walk and enjoy the scenery. No one really wants a big expensive project! It isnt necessary and it truly is a waste of taxpayers money. Use that money to repair some streets or something that the Good People of Edmonds really NEED and WANT.

  6. I walked along the bluff this morning with my dog. I slipped twice in the mud and tripped over uneven paving. I walk that way a lot so I should know better, but it’s worse than I remember this year. I’d like to see something done to make that area more inviting for walkers who could enjoy the views at the same time.

  7. I agree with Joe and Neil. But there may not be room west of the existing curb for an actual walkway. So maybe add a 4-foot sidewalk just east of the existing curb, which is about the width of the existing bike lane on the east side of the street. So eliminate that lane, which nobody seems to use anyway, and the driving lane would be the same width as it is now and no need to eliminate parking.

  8. @Joe – There was a large turnout at the city presentation, see above, and just as many were in support of a new walkway as opposed. I walk Sunset almost every day, in the morning, and I am one of many Edmonds citizens who support the project. @Don S. – I frequently see bicyclists using the bike lane, especially on weekends.

    • I wonder if that section of Sunset could be made to be “shared” for bicycles and cars, like Main Street is between 6th and 5th. I can’t think of any other dedicated bike lanes in the bowl.

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