More Edmonds Council discussion on Westgate; Clifton takes Bloom to task for saying employees don’t care

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Planning Manager Rob Chave explains how setback options at Westgate could affect the current McDonald's restaurant.
Planning Manager Rob Chave explains to the city council how development options at Westgate could affect the McDonald’s restaurant.

In work session style, the Edmonds City Council moved off the dais and sat around tables in the Council Chambers Tuesday night, with the goal of continuing its discussion about proposed changes to zoning of the Westgate commercial area.

The discussion was fairly predictable, with the two councilmembers who have expressed strong opposition to the current plan — Joan Bloom and Lora Petso — continuing to voice their concerns — not enough parking, residential housing units too close to the street, worries that the plan will de-emphasize or even kill what is now a thriving commercial area.
While one of the proponents’ selling points has been to pursue zoning changes that eventually will make Westgate more walkable, with open space and other amenities, Petso said one of the questions she is receiving from some citizens is, why is the city trying to create a second walkable area when there already is one walkable spot — in downtown Edmonds?
Bloom also emphasized a point she has made in the past about the fact that development plans as proposed would not include affordable housing units –officially defined as taking 30 percent or less of a person’s income. Councilmember Strom Peterson said the development is meant to provide a range of housing that includes lower-cost units based on smaller square footage. This would be affordable to young working singles or retired seniors, Peterson pointed out, but agreed it was important for the council to put more emphasis on how to create more “officially” affordable low-income housing in Edmonds.

For those who have concerns about how Westgate zoning changes may affect traffic, Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said that it was important to note that the city has hired a consultant to conduct a new study on Highway 104 traffic in Edmonds and that those study results will be incorporated into the zoning plan.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas asked Planning Manager Rob Chave, who is providing staff support for the plan, when he would prefer that the council make a decision about next steps on Westgate and Chave replied he was hopeful it would be by Thanksgiving.

In other business, the council also heard a presentation from City Engineer Rob English about the City’s Capital Facilities Plan/Capital Improvement Program, and next steps for council review and approval. Joan Bloom used that presentation as a backdrop for bringing Public Works Director Phil Williams to the podium to further question him about the Highway 104 crosswalk project. As she has in previous meetings, Bloom asked Williams why the city chose to provide money to the Washington State Department of Transportation to help fund a crosswalk near Pine Street, when the project “was never vetted by the council.” Williams pointed out that the project had been removed from the Capital Facilities Plan/Capital Improvement Program because the city believed that the state would fund the $300,000 project. The city’s decision to use $10,000 from the city’s traffic calming project to help the state has drawn ire of some residents who believe that money should have been used for other projects instead.

Bloom found herself under fire during the public comment period of the meeting, when former City Economic Development Director Stephen Clifton, who now works for Snohomish County, criticized Bloom for comments she made in My Edmonds News last week that “none of the directors working on this plan, including the former Acting Development Services Director, live in Edmonds. They will not feel the affect of the Westgate development, personally. This isn’t their city, it’s just their jobs.”

“What you are telling city staff is that they lack integrity,” Clifton said, adding that during his years working for the City of Edmonds, “I have never sensed that any employee was working for a paycheck.”

The council also

– Heard Mayor Dave Earling read a proclamation about Arbor Day and the role of the Edmonds Tree Board in helping the city earn Tree City USA status.

– Received an update on Edmonds Arts Commission temporary art projects on 4th Avenue Cultural Corridor

–Listened to a presentation from Development Director Shane Hope on development projects and activities, including statistics indicating how Edmonds building development has rebounded since the recession. You can see Hope’s information-packed presentation here.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Clifton’s nasty “integrity” comment is totally false and illogical. I am offended. Many people everywhere feel that one should live in the city that employs them. While I personally disagree with that position, I have often observed in my lifetime.

    One might also remind Mr. Clifton is that Ms. Bloom and in fact all of our elected officers are working primarily to serve the best interests of ALL Edmonds citizens, not just one interest group. Employees are of course very important, yet I fail to see how Ms. Bloom is in any way unfair to anyone by her apparent work/live philosophy.

    Now is Mr. Clifton employed or does he work in this city? I don’t know or care where he lives, but either way he has no standing to make the out of line statement he made. All elected officers at a minimum deserve a more respectful approach free of such nonsense.

  2. I apologize to Councilmember Bloom for alleging that she had incorrectly stated that Mr. Clifton was not a resident of Edmonds. She actually correctly said that the former Acting Development Services Director was not a resident of Edmonds. My mistake.

  3. Clifton’s petulant little tantrum was uncalled for. The fact is that Edmonds residents deserve to have a larger voice in this issue. I have talked to dozens of local residents since learning of the plans for Westgate and no one feels that 4 story buildings are a good idea. Council member Bloom has requested that a city wide town hall be held to address concerns about Westgate. Why are the mayor and council president dragging their feet when it comes to involving the public in this process?

  4. Lora Petso’s comment questioning why we need another walking area near Westgate when we have walking space in downtown Edmonds initially left me speechless. What about the people who don’t live in downtown Edmonds? We don’t have sidewalks in most of our neighborhoods near Westgate. Families have to push strollers on the street. Older people have to push walkers or use their canes in the road. What if the older people do not drive and want a pleasant place to be able to walk? To suggest limiting a nice walking area to only the downtown area while leaving the Westgate area as a strip mall type of area seems to be exhibiting a narrow vision for Edmonds. As has been pointed out many times in the past, Edmonds is far more than just the bowl.

    • This Westgate Plan is not about having nice sidewalks……….Unless, of course you think you are safe on a sidewalk on a state highway within 5 feet of cars traveling up to 50 miles per hour. There are plenty of areas in all Edmonds that have either no sidewalks or cracked, dangerous sidewalks, rotten infrastructure. Please let’s not pit different neighborhoods against each other.. The public/citizens, we’re all in this together here…..I live in the “Bowl” on 2nd North, and every day when we do our walk, we must walk IN the street for half a block up Sunset….Very dangerous when cars coming at us do not yield to us at all. This is in the “Bowl”

      The Westgate Plan is not about those that be in power in this city wanting to give people nice, safe sidewalks. Don’t be fooled…….A town government that does not care if elderly or vulnerable people literally die on unsafe streets, do not give a you know what whether there are sidewalks for our neighbors in Westgate. or even whether it is safe.

  5. Posse Comitatus……There are plenty of examples in this town of people bullying people and it is shameful…..And this is what we are trying to teach our children, grandchildren, etc. not to do ……..This is what they learn from these supposed grown-up bullies!

    Edmonds needs to have a code of ethics and the citizens of this town need to get rid of these bullies that appear to me to be a part of a bigger picture here of authorities starting at the top.

    Posse Comitatus

    Etymology

    ………..”While the original meaning refers to a group of citizens assembled by the authorities to deal with an emergency (such as suppressing a riot or pursuing felons), the term posse is also used for any force or band”………………………….Wikipedia

    Everything starts at the top here and the citizens of Edmonds need to make sure that they are at the TOP of our government………..not those that do not have the best interests of the citizens in mind.

    Trying to suppress citizens and Town Council members that ask the questions they were voted in to do for the citizens on the citizens behalf!……………..

    Edmonds Spring

  6. I would like to address Council member Peterson’s comment regarding the need for affordable housing in Edmonds.

    If you were listening to NPR this morning, you heard the report that rents have risen by almost 9% in Seattle in a one year period.

    As you know, the city’s planning department is currently working on an update of the comprehensive plan. One of the elements of the aforementioned plan is housing. I would recommend that the housing element cite the need to address affordable housing on a city-wide basis.

  7. Council member Bloom has at least started an open conversation about the project,instead of sitting behind the dias listening to 3 minutes of citizen input without comment. She has thought about the process, refused to accept the status quo, has questioned the basics, and has listened to her constituents and their concerns. She has been trying to open a discussion and been getting rolled eyes, and dismissive treatment for her efforts. She had a town hall meeting, she encouraged the Council to do so (and was dismissed summarily) and has really tried to bring in the citizens to the process. There have been many meetings about the Westgate plan, but they have not been held in the Westgate area, hers was. She has been the one who questioned the diversion of the “traffic calming’ fund to the crosswalk project.
    Regardless of what you may think of her ideas, she is really trying to make a difference and involve the citizenry. By all the comments to her editorials and postings, she is indeed doing just that. Isn’t that what we want from our elected officials whether or not we agree with them all the time? Having a council member who challenges the status quo is not a bad thing, it is what any democratic process relies on.

  8. REAL affordable housing is when housing is not more than 30 percent……The town of Edmonds should be open to all income levels……Yes, we need real affordable housing all over this city………. Five people crammed into a small apartment is not real “affordable” housing. ……and putting low income people on Highway 99 always, I would not consider necessarily humane housing or even thoughtful housing…….just sticking them over there……the other Edmonds a reference some make

  9. I am glad that Ms. Bloom raised the questions regarding the proposed development of Westgate. It isn’t about sidewalks in Westgate, only about putting higher density in the general area of the 4 corners intersected by two very busy roadways. Now it is dangerous to try to cross them, how will it be in the future if they go ahead with these plans?
    Recently the parking lot around Bartells was closed for repaving and re-striping. A complete mess! Parking was limited and the congestion just by Bartells was horrid. What would it be like if these parking areas are shared by dwellings? Many of these fine businesses will lose customers. I live in the bowl but shop more in Westgate than in downtown Edmonds.
    Yes, affordable housing is needed in Edmonds but not in such a confined area that is shared by so many businesses! The two grocery stores need more parking than they already have.
    I get the impression that there is a very vocal faction in Edmonds who want our city to appeal to the young affluent people. That is fine, but remember, a variety of ages, income levels and family as well as singles make for a more interesting, diverse city. PLEASE, keep that in mind when you are making decisions when it comes to our beautiful still friendly city.
    One more point: think too before you spend $$$ on consultants! Instead, canvas the people in the areas that will be affected by these changes. Many people, not just a few.
    I love Edmonds! Pat Sherwood

  10. Much of Edmonds remains ‘stuck in time’ with single-family neighborhoods that require frequent use of autos to make even short trips. Edmonds’ population has also grown, and must continue to grow to meet the population target set for our City. When commenting on car traffic, folks are talking about the result of more residents using more cars to travel around our small town. It’s not like these cars and traffic all come from Lynnwood or Tacoma; it’s us. So how much longer can we allow us to create the problems we complain about daily? Look in the mirror to see the problem and the solution.

    As to form design and development, let’s get a grip and please visit communities that live with such design features. What you’ll often see is nice, creative design that is not a ‘canyon’ but an effort to make communities ‘pleasing to the eye’ while functioning more efficiently. When I hear, repeatedly, that Westgate will become a dangerous canyon of cars, tall buildings blocking the sun and deadly sidewalks and crossing, I know these folks know not what the say. Please educate yourselves to know what opportunity would be missed if change does not occur. Many communities have gone in this direction, and their success is clear.

    I live several blocks off the 99 and for 18 years, have walked along side the Highway, crossed over the lanes, used my bike and available bus service (SWIFT), to shop and attend appointments. I see the assets we have over here and wish other neighborhoods were similarly supported, thus leaving cars behind.

    A community-focused business called Walk Score examines neighborhoods to see how ‘walkable’ they are, or not. Our neighborhood is seen as being ‘very walkable’ to conduct much of our daily business; even with Hwy. 99 nearby. In many ways Westgate is no different from our neighborhood encircled by Hwy 99, 220th, 76th and 212th (talk about traffic!). I’d encourage these neighbors to quit barking @ opportunity and grab the chance to improve their community, while becoming safer and less auto dependent in the end.

  11. That’s fine and very well Mr. Underhill if you wish to walk a state Highway…..Most people do not do that unless they are forced to……That is why housing is cheaper at and around highways for obvious reasons………..People do not choose to just live close to highways. That is just plain baloney about Highway 99 being a pleasant area to walk……Only if you have to or it is part of your neighborhood. There is also a reason all of the crime across the country is off of highways……Check the FBI chart regarding crimes off highways and interstates……property values, etc.

    We’ve lived in communities that have been totally ruined and changed by this new development speak and what has been destroyed in a very short period of time can’t be changed once it is done……This is not progress or forward looking…..Just short term gains for those that throw these structures quickly and cheaply up ……That is the reason a lot of people have moved to Edmonds. ………..

    Yes, I know well this area you speak of, (76th & 212th) and simply put, it is baloney saying Westgate similar……You can’t even compare. I’m surprised that a high school was put there.

  12. Creating more affordable-housing is undoubtedly a worthy goal. I can think of three ways to accomplish that goal: 1) Build more smaller-units that are less costly for people to rent. 2) Allow taller buildings that will enable the building of more units on a given footprint, thus reducing the cost of construction for each unit. 3) Recruit non-profit organizations to subsidize rents for low income citizens. Perhaps there are methods that I’ve missed.

  13. If we want a developer to create “affordable” housing it will likely need a subsidy from non profit groups or from the developer by allowing more density for the development.

  14. If you think there’s congestion in Edmonds now, cram 1600 residents along narrow, busy Hwy 104 at Westgate and watch what happens. I can hear the sirens now.

    Mr. Underwood vaguely alludes to suburban communities where high density has been a success. I’d like to see some comparable specific examples because his vision sounds a bit dystopian to me as compared with the quaint suburban small town oasis that we have in Edmonds.

    Where can one find another, idyllic little beach town, loaded with charm and personality and situated a stone’s throw away from one of America’s most beautiful cities? No wonder the developers are rubbing their hands together, but look what they’ve done on the East side! Is Kirkland an example of Mr. Underwood’s vision? It is not mine!

    Westgate’s future should complement the feel in the downtown area instead of sucking it into the urban fray. The southern area along Hwy 99, which is screaming for redevelopment, seems much better suited to the urban village concept.

  15. I’m wondering if anyone has taken the school situation into mind, Currently Westgate Elementary and Sherwood Elementary are at overload status. This means that in some grades they are at capacity or over. When this happens kids are forced to go to other schools in the district which have room. If we have more dwellings built at Westgate where will we school the children?

  16. Wow… the arrogance of telling the families who already live here that they are “stuck in time… complainers” for not wanting developers to increase traffic and decrease safety where they live.

    Yes, I bet most of us would like to stay stuck in a time where we didn’t have to wait through three traffic light signals to make a turn, where we could get a parking spot at our local grocery store without several cycles through the parking lot where everybody else is stressed out from the crowding, where people could walk along a road that didn’t have more and more traffic.

    The past? Heck, we just want to live in the present without making things worse just to line the pockets of a very few rich developers.

    If you really want to make the Westgate area better then decrease population density, decrease traffic, increase building setbacks to create wider, landscaped sidewalks and trails where people don’t have to walk a foot away from giant trucks going 50-plus mph on Edmonds Way.

    That’s how you get people out of their cars.

    • “Heck, we just want to live in the present without making things worse just to line the pockets of a very few rich developers.” Statements about developers ripping us all off are no more than urban legends. Undoubtedly that sometimes happens, but in my many decades of experience that is the exception rather than the rule. If it was true, how do you explain the fact that all developers, except one, of multi-family and mixed-use projects in Edmonds have gone bankrupt!

  17. In the past number of years Seattle (and development) has increased the population by huge amounts of people, traffic, congestion, canyon/tunnel creating buildings, dark passage-ways, etc. and made the developers and that whole industry wealthy while destroying (I was a lifelong Seattle resident from Ballard and Wedgwood) the very fabric of Seattle. A wonderful city destroyed……practically over-night……That is how fast it happens, and once started, there is no stopping these people because there only interest is making $$$$$, and not really about how we live.

    Seattle (years ago, the most livable city in the country!) is now second only to Tacoma with the most violent of crimes with cities in the Pacific Northwest……Just read this fact this morning.

    Violent Crimes…….That’s what you get when you pack people together like sardines and create living spaces that are not on a human level……That’s when the real bad crime starts.

    Some development at Westgate ok, and paritcularily with the Bartell family who wishes to do some apartments there, and perhaps some REAL affordable housing around also….not on 99

  18. The root cause of increased density in our cities has not been developers; the cause is Olympia’s Growth Management Act (GMA). The GMA is achieving its objective – it is limiting urban sprawl by increasing population density in our cities. If you don’t like increased density you need to talk to the politicians in Olympia.

    • Yes, somebody made those developers tear down those classic, lovely old buildings in Seattle! “talk to the politicians”…….Is that a joke or what. The general population did not just fall off the turnip truck, Mr. Wambolt. Let’s not insult our intelligence……Most people know exactly what is happening and happening fast. Easy trails to follow and who is connected to who. I believe the new president of the Puget Sound Regional Council was in real estate for 5 years…….How convenient…..

      THAT is what it is about now and we’re just trying to stop a small part of this runaway train before our community of Edmonds is ruined for good by those who only care about making profits off of our town while infrastructure continues to disintergrate. Everything starts at the top. Edmonds Spring

    • Mr. Wambolt is correct.

      The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that cities and towns within urban growth areas absorb population growth. Each jurisdictions is assigned a given number of new residents to accommodate. The GMA also asks cities to identify areas such as urban forests, wetlands, lands with steep terrain and so forth that should not be developed. Ideally, new development within cities should occur along arterial roads with good public transportation service.

      Our state has agricultural lands that need preservation. That can only happen if growth is contained in existing developed area.

  19. Triad Development’s Point Edwards illegal tree cutting: http://seattletimes.com/html/snohomishcountynews/2001951192_trees09n.html

    Whoever developed the awful Edmonds Compass apartments so close to Edmonds Way they appear to loom over it: http://myedmondsnews.com/2013/09/edmonds-city-council-considers-zoning-changes-edmonds-way-sewer-rate-increase/

    Yep, no developers ripping us off in Edmonds…. just urban legends. They’re all humanitarians and philanthropists who want nothing more than to improve our lives and not make a penny.

    Go to Highway 99 to do your philanthropizing where the roads and zoning are already in place. We’re not dumb enough to buy it in Westgate.

  20. There is no logic in speculating that the worst of everything is going to happen. The run-on negativity and ranting is very unproductive and is getting old. Let’s keep this forum user friendly.

    Mr. Wambolt is exactly right in regards to the GMA and developers and builders, there are a few culprits but for the most part they just love to develop and build. We have excellent professionals working in our city offices to help protect the citizens here from shoddy folk, they know what they are doing. Also, we have a concerned and diligent city council and a very competent mayors office. Yes, there is likely to be some accidents, some break-ins and some thievery, that is part of the bargain. We have police too.

    Good question regarding the schools. The good news is that they respond in advance to demands as best they can. Projecting and estimating needs is something they do constantly. I would guess they are always on the lookout for developments in the works that affect their interests. I know people who work for large school districts and I know there is a significant science to it all.

    Hyping SR 104 as a huge highway is silly. Edmonds Way is posted 35mph thru Westgate, so if people are speeding thru there @ 50mph, then let’s call the cops and get it handled. My experience is that the sidewalks are safe and the intersection is reliable and easy to cross in all directions. Before Westgate came to the front burner, there was no discussion about how unsafe it is, or how “scary” the sidewalks are. I travel from Lake Ballinger to Harbor Square several times each week. I see people walking and crossing all over the place. There are places where egress is random and more difficult to navigate, like at the gas station/car wash area where there’s a lot of egress. Also, west of Taco Bell there is brush and ivy growing onto the sidewalk from the adjacent residence, and it diminishes the width of the sidewalk there. But these are very easily remedied problems, not significant challenges.

    Council member Buchshnis – I was thinking Sky-Bridges too! Really cool idea.

  21. “The run-on negativity and ranting is very unproductive and is getting old. Let’s keep this forum user friendly.”

    Yes. Any opinion that doesn’t agree with yours is “negative, unproductive, old” and not “user friendly”.

    We should never question our “excellent city professionals, mayor and council” (who happen to work for us citizens) because they only do what’s best– whether we like it or not.

    … Wonder if some will make the same argument when the anti development millenials are in charge and elect their own mayor and council.

  22. “excellent city professionals, mayor and council”, “who happen to work for us”……

    The citizens of Edmonds would not be ranting if they actually believed for a moment that our government works for us the citizens of our town.

    The citizens are at the top and if we have questions, we expect them to be answered and particularily not getting answers that are reminiscent of some slick used car salesmen spinning their stories…….. Many stories spun about Sunset, and look what we have, a very dangerous area…….and that, from the “professionals”…..We know, we see, we live here. Again, we did not just fall off the turnip truck! Not allowing citizen participation tells us everything about how our government is operating……and for special select people. And spending this much $$$$$ in a very wealthy area of Edmonds! How about spending $$$$ for actual need in areas that need it, and there are plenty of those…..streets, actual sidewalks! hey what a concept

    And I would also like to add that we are a country of laws, and those breaking our laws will eventually be punished…..Cronyism I believe is against the law and so is telling a lie on a Federal Need Based Grant form…….no matter who says it is done all the time and is ok…….It is against the law

    .”we should never question our “excellent city professionals, mayor and council”……………..I guess you haven’t heard of Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush, etc. ….

    “never question”……this day and age, all I have to say is WOW! This isn’t about “opinions”, it is about questions the citizens have and are entitled to answers before any project moves forward.

    Our government works for us, not the other way around Edmonds Spring

    Thank gawd the young millinials are mostly for the GREAT GOOD!

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