In a recent article, Edmonds City Council member Lora Petso asked citizens to share their visions for the Westgate neighborhood with the city council. Mrs. Petso challenged us to determine whether the proposed municipal code would align with our visions for the area.
Most of us agree that change is coming to Westgate. Demographically, we are an aging community. We have an opportunity to attract younger people to our community by building relatively small apartments with restaurants, shops and specialized grocery stores on the first floor.
Westgate serves as a “gateway” to the City of Edmonds. A vibrant, well designed neighborhood would most likely be a magnet for visitors from nearby jurisdictions. A newer and hipper Westgate would also catch the attention of Edmonds residents from other neighborhoods. The incorporation of green building practices into this project would appeal to those of us who are passionate about the environment.
Slightly taller buildings, in my opinion, would be acceptable as I would expect that ample public spaces would be an integral part of this project. Theoretically if you build a bit higher, more open space would be available for public use. Places for hanging out with friends and for sharing healthy meals; tables for playing checkers and chess; plazas for people attending mini-concerts, poetry readings, or lectures; raising vegetables in pea patches; walkways and more!
Yet my vision for Westgate is at odds with parts of the proposed municipal code for the Westgate area.
First of all, I have a problem with the concept to divide the Westgate project into four separate self-sufficient areas.
That goes against the way that city planners view the workings of a city. The state’s Growth Management Act speaks of a city’s Comprehensive Plan composed many required Elements including but not limited to land use, housing, capital facilities, utilities, utilities, transportation, and parks and recreation. The Act stresses the need for compatibility among the various Elements of the Comprehensive Plan. In other words, the Act views a city as a complex, integrated, interrelated entity.
As an example, I and many other residents shop at QFC, PCC and Bartells. As you undoubtedly know, it is difficult to navigate through the area – as a driver or pedestrian. Can you imagine how it will be with more people living, visiting and shopping at Westgate? The Westgate project should take into consideration how pedestrians, cyclists, cars and trucks move through the entire area.
Second, Mrs. Petso is correct about the proposed required percentage – 15 percent – of open space. My interpretation is in accord with Mrs. Petso’s reading of the code. Private and public spaces both count towards the fifteen percent. It is possible that the great majority of the open space will be private. Nothing in the code prohibits that from happening.
Third, while I am an advocate of public transportation, the parking space requirement is not adequate for a suburban community like Edmonds.
In the last several years, condos and apartments have been built in my old neighborhood, Greenlake, in Seattle. A parking space requirement of 1.2 spaces per unit is appropriate for a city with excellent public transportation. One parking space per 500 square feet of commercial space is appropriate in Seattle where we can walk or ride the bus to a wide variety of stores and restaurants.
Insufficient parking will frustrate tourists and deter visitors from shopping and / or attending events at Westgate thus negating the area as being labeled a valid destination.
Fourth, Mrs. Petso points out that the code would allow for massive building virtually lining State Route 104 and 9th Avenue. As Westgate is seen as a “gateway” to Edmonds, I would rather see a grand entrance welcoming people to our city. Wouldn’t you?