Letter to the Editor – What are Edmonds’ priorities?

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Dear Editor:

Two months ago my wonderful friend Ellie Bonanno was fatally hit by a car on Walnut Street at the crossing where the city paths link the two segments of 8th Avenue. For years, she and I had attempted to get the City to understand the need for pedestrian friendly streets, especially Walnut, so that horrible accidents like this one (which is still under investigation) would not happen.

I am dumbfounded that the City of Edmonds continues to work and spend money on consultants on the Sunset Walkway Project. Drawing after drawing and example after example touting this is the perfect thing for tourism, safety and accessibility… Where are the priorities? What became of the “Traffic Calming” projects? Walnut is not the only unsafe street and why is the focus on this particular walkway? Can you imagine how many traffic calming strips, warning signs and pedestrians walkway striping $2 million can buy?

Anyone knowing the terrain can see that the Sunset Walkway Project is yet another farfetched boondoggle project which reminds me of the Haines Warf park caper. I realize some money has already been spent as a grant was obtained, but does this take priority over keeping pedestrian safe while they walk and cross all the city streets? Anyone that knows the history of Haines Wharf and how much the City spent in cost overruns on that project should really look closely at how this very complex project started. The public never received a final tally of Haines Wharf because of the subsequent lawsuits, etc. but I recall the last total was around $3 million. Sunset bluff and shoring up the BNSF private property is the same formula for disaster as we have no idea what the geo tech study will find and how much it will really costs the City of Edmonds “utility” taxpayers.

So, I strongly suggest that Edmonds City Councilors look at all the “unknowns” in this project and determine if they want to spend the taxpayers’ hard earned money to create this boulevard on the West side of Sunset instead of keeping and enhancing its beautiful natural state. I also urge the Councilors to use their common sense as it will only take one hint of an accident or one child biking off that bluff and being hurt or killed and a fence will be put up immediately by BNSF as they will not want any future liability.

Wouldn’t you rather be known as the City Council which demanded that the leadership of Edmonds ensure pedestrian safety and friendly streets instead of getting itself into yet another expensive boondoggle project unwanted by most of the citizens?

Elisabeth Larman

20 COMMENTS

  1. $2M certainly would pay for an awful lot of plain old sidewalks, rather than one glorified sidewalk to nowhere.

  2. I, as do many people, think that there are many ways the City of Edmonds can improve. Saying that your friend’s life would have been saved if the Sunset Park was not a topic of discussion discounts the intelligence of the community that you live in. Edmonds, in my opinion, spends an inordinate amount of time on planning, controlled growth, beautification, and preservation that makes it the community we all want to live in. Making a passoniate appeal by way of blaming a tragic death on people who are working to improve our community is shameful.

    I agree that the City of Edmonds has many priorities, the safety of its residents are paramount (look at the number of Edmonds Police Officers) – I agree that traffic calming devices are an important strategy. I agree that there are areas that also need attention.

    I do not agree that the City stop multi-tasking and shut down Council to take one issue on the agenda, and focus solely on your desire to halt a progressive, attractive alternative to the entire public versus a selected group who happen to live on Sunset (or close to it).

    Using phrases like “Anyone can see that the terrain” – what does that mean? Having lived in Coastal Florida, anyone there can see that there are hurricanes, but we still live there. From what I understand, at last check, Mt. Rainier was still an active volcano and Tsunami are still an active threat to Edmonds. I would think that I best leave that argument up to the engineers and geologists who can clearly assess the soil quality. Actually, if they find the soil inappropriate and slide prone, the City of Edmonds should purchase every home on Sunset, and demolish them, to protect the countless innocent homeowners who could possibly be harmed in the event a landslide does occur. The townspeople could take a collection, and build a wonderful monument to the people of Oso, and on that monument, extol the virtues of their foresight for saving all of those lives – in advance.

    I was shocked to learn of the death on Walnut, it is a tragedy in any town to have a death of a loved community member. Leveraging that death to make a public comment about a different project is, in my opinion, the wrong priority and wrong memorial to place on that persons life.

  3. What exactly does it mean for a sidewalk to be “progressive”? I’m curious.

    Either the project enhances the use of Sunset or it does not. Personally, all I will ever use that street for is driving down there, often with visitors from out of town, and parking facing the water and watching the sunset. This is a use of the street that has very long precedent and something that can be done year round. It’s not theoretical; it’s done now.

    What’s theoretical is that people will somehow get down there with bicycles and ride bicycles up and down on it (in spite of the fact I believe it’s not legal to ride bicycles on a sidewalk in Edmonds). Or spend all day walking up and down the street, which seems pretty unlikely to me.

    Of course, it would generate some work for whatever contractor gets the job to tear up Sunset and put all this in, and good for them. But they could just as easily be doing something useful.

    And I don’t live anywhere near Sunset.

    • Taken literally, it means nothing. Taken holistically, it means the view of the Sound has an attractive and useful park available to everyone. Yes, some of us do more than park on Sunset and drive visitors through town. We actually spend time walking, biking, shopping, and living in Edmonds. Let’s discuss useful. A stop sign? Diagonal parking? Curb and gutter projects? People come to a city or town because it is aesthetically pleasing. People return to a town because it offers a pleasant experience. Not only does hanging out in a car with guests seem a little weird, but I doubt that will be the next Edmonds bumper sticker. “Edmonds – come park your car and look out the window”. I do think the point made about accessibility is important. Make that portion of Sunset accessible. I also think that the intended attempt at prioritizing a project because of a tragedy that was unrelated blurs the issue. They are separate and unequal.

      I have yet to see in these posts a list of priorities that are not concurrently being addressed by the City (if any priorities are actually listed at all).

      I see emotional pleas from a group of people who have not presented an alternative, but have, and will continue to complain and second guess.

      So the something useful, I cannot wait until we find something useful that everyone in the community will agree on. Hell, the folks on Sunset and adjoining streets complain now that we use their view. Maybe useful would be as I suggested earlier. Do the geo testing, and if Sunset is that dangerous, buy the houses, level them, and put a a preemptive monument to the brilliance of the foresight of the city councilnfor all the lives they preemptively saved.

      As far as bicycles getting down there, I am neither an engineer nor a scientist, but I am pretty sure that the theory has been proven that you ride them. As far as people walking in Edmonds, I cannot back this with hard traffic counts, but I am almost 100% sure that people using Sunset now are not levitating.

  4. I would like to see a list of the Council’s priorities for the year.
    I would also like the Council president to explain how items get on the Council meeting’s agenda(What is the process?)

  5. At the Council Retreat they spent time discussing a list of “Big Items” to be worked on for 2014. When the minutes are published for that meeting we can all see what they have in mind. Many of the items on the list also were part of the Strategic Plan which is available on the city web site. Looking at what the voters said in the SP should be a good starting point.

  6. Thanks Darrol, The DRAFT City Council Retreat Meeting Minutes have been posted to the City’s website and can be found at the following link:

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/City_Council/Minutes/2014/March_2014_Draft_Council_Retreat_Minutes.pdf

    The Strategic Action Plan adopted April 2, 2013 can be found at:

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/Departments/Economic_Development/Strategic_plan/2013_04_03_ApprovedStrategic_Action_Plan_April_2_2013_copy.pdf

    Following is a link to Traffic Calming Priorities list:

    http://agenda.ci.edmonds.wa.us/docs/2011/CCOUNCIL/20111206_598/4349_Priority%20list%20of%20stretches%20%282%29.pdf

    Finally, following is a link to Bikeway information. Sunset Avenue is one of the very few locations in Edmonds that already has an existing Bike Lane.

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Visiting/transportation/pdf/Existing_Recommended_Bikeway_Plan_November2009_small.pdf

    • Looks like they are pretty transparent. All of these items, and the presentation, plus the draft meeting minutes were available yesterday. I read them. Walnut has nothing to do with Sunset. It was a tragic accident that is wholly unrelated to Sunset. That the point I was making. Leveraging it as a way to speak against Sunset, in my opinion, discounts that tragedy.

  7. Thank you Elisabeth for having the courage to write this letter to the Editor. It is unfortunate that in doing so you are accused of doing something shameful.

    I am very sorry for the painful, sudden loss of your dear friend, Ellie Bonanno.

    The Strategic Action Plan’s Objective 5 is to: Provide responsible, accountable, and responsive government. 5c states: Ensure a safe and secure environment for residents, businesses, and visitors.

    On January 27, 2014, you wrote a letter to the Editor documenting your repeated efforts to get the City to improve safety at that dangerous location.

    Your January 27, 2014 letter can be found at the following link:

    http://myedmondsnews.com/2014/01/letter-edmonds-city-council-mayor-dave-earling-ellie-bonannos-death-tragic-preventable/

    I have visited the exact location of the accident several times since reading your January 27th letter. I just visited it again minutes ago. Each time as I approach the area, I hope and expect to see that the City had taken traffic calming measures to try and provide a safer environment. At a minimum, I hope to see a painted crosswalk. Sadly, nothing appears to have been done. There are some paint markings on the south side of Walnut that state something like “Locate south of here”, but I have no idea what that relates to. It appears that private citizens have placed small yellow and orange signs just to the east of the crossing, one in the shape of a child kicking a soccer ball, in an attempt to slow traffic.

    Let’s hope that Mayor Earling addresses this situation very soon, preferably early next week. It is alarming that nothing has been done already.

    I also think it is reasonable for citizens to desire an explanation related to why Sunset Avenue was allocated $16,000 that had been originally designated for Traffic Calming, including the 23 items on the Traffic Calming list. The related November 15, 2011 budget amendment agenda item did not provide opportunity for public comment.

    Finally, I join you in respectfully requesting that the small path between Alder and Walnut be named THE ELLIE BONANNO PATHWAY in her honor and that a prominent sign be affixed to the existing signs on Alder and Walnut!

  8. My wife and I have been walking Walnut from 9th to 5th two to three times each week for more than 10 years. And we walk many other areas of the city on the other days of the week. There is speeding everyplace that we walk. Traffic moves too fast on Walnut, but it generally moves even faster elsewhere. The Police have very limited resources, so they must prioritize the allocation of those resources. This speeding problem will not be alleviated until our Police have more officers dedicated to traffic enforcement. And the Police will not have the ability to do that until the city has more revenue. Hopefully increased revenue will come from economic development, but an increase in property taxes is also likely needed.

    • Great point Mr. Wombolt. Perhaps modern facilities and attractive recreational areas will attract additional residents, visitors, and businesses to Edmonds.

  9. Perhaps it would help to contrast the status of Traffic Calming and the Sunset Avenue Overlook/Walkway on November 15, 2011, the day the Sunset Avenue project was awarded its ORIGINAL funding.

    As of November 15, 2011, Traffic Calming had been allocated $50,000 in the 2011 budget. Traffic Calming had been prioritized, was active and budgeted for, not merely prospective.

    As of November 15, 2011, I believe that only two steps had been completed related to Sunset Avenue project:

    Step 1: May of 2008, the Sunset Avenue Overlook was added to the City of Edmonds Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Comprehensive Plan. The planned improvements were annual maintenance and a VIEWING SCOPE.

    Step 2: A public hearing for the Six-Year (2012-2017) Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) was held on July 19, 2011. The related City Council-approved minutes include a Council member comment that there had been a lot of staff work done on the Sunset Avenue project. The minutes include comments by the Public Works Director that the Sunset Avenue project includes a 12.5-foot-wide sidewalk and an adjacent 5-foot-wide bicycle facility. One thing that remains uncertain is why staff had done a lot of work on a project that had yet to be added to the TIP.

    Steps 1 and 2 related to the Sunset Avenue Project were prospective items only, to the best of my knowledge. The July 19, 2011 City Council meeting Minutes include the following:

    Councilmember Bernheim recognized there were gaps in funding but viewed the TIP as a list of projects for which a need has been identified and it was not intended to be an action plan.

    An attempt was made to increase the priority of the Sunset Avenue Project during the July 19, 2011 City Council Meeting, but that attempt was voted down as follows:
    UPON ROLL CALL, THE VOTE ON THE AMENDMENT FAILED (2-3-1), COUNCILMEMBERS PLUNKETT AND WILSON VOTING YES; COUNCILMEMBERS PETSO, FRALEY-MONILLAS AND BUCKSHNIS VOTING NO, AND COUNCILMEMBER BERNHEIM ABSTAINED.

    Hence, Additional public process may have had to take place before the Sunset Avenue Walkway became an action item that was eligible for funding.

    Please consider the fact that Step 2, the Six-Year (2012-2017) Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) clearly designated that providing a sidewalk on the west side of Sunset Avenue was FINANCIALLY CONSTRAINED for three years. The related Meeting Minutes state that this is City Policy.

    On Nov. 15, 2011, Traffic Calming had been prioritized via its inclusion in the 2011 budget. I don’t believe the Sunset Avenue sidewalk had any such priority.

    Despite this, on Nov. 15, 2011, the original funding for the Sunset Walkway Project ($16,000) was drawn from the Traffic Calming Program via an amendment to the 2011 Budget. The budget amendment agenda item passed unanimously with no opportunity for public comment.

    Was this an APPROPRIATE ALLOCATION of public funds?

  10. Ken,
    It is my understanding that there is some additional liability issues with the pathway which is the right of way for 8th Ave. Could you look into that and report back your findings?

    Public works recently did some improvements to the south side of that pathway. The new in earth steps leading to 8th Ave.

  11. Hi Nathan, I just spent 10 minutes looking and found nothing. Any additional info would help me focus my search. For example, are you talking about a specific liability with another party, or just potential city liability in general? Thanks.

  12. Ken,
    My understanding is that the path may be on private property and who has the liability the home owners or the city.
    Thanks

    • Hi Nathan. The entire pathway on both sides of Walnut is on public land on actually what would have been 8th Avenue if it had been put through. Both driveways of the houses on Alder at the entrance of the pathway are on public land and can be used by the public if the path is difficult because of mud, etc… or if you need flat land to walk on.

  13. I think I know what you may be talking about – 7th and Fir. That situation is an incredible story that goes back many, many years. I’m watching the basketball game – I’ll try to figure out how to get the story to you…probably tomorrow.

  14. Another consideration is whether or not any of Chapter 9.20 of the City’s Code applies to the situation along Sunset Avenue. The Title of Chapter 9.20 is Sidewalk Construction and Maintenance.

    Nathan – I tried to email you the 7th and Fir info a couple days ago. Hopefully you received.

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