Letter to the Editor: Traffic and parking at Westgate

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Dear Editor:

I have a fondness for the idea of an urban village. I imagine picking up groceries at a series of little specialty shops, pleasantly conversing with each shopkeeper, then walking home to prepare a romantic dinner. It would be like living in Paris. When I first heard about efforts to change Westgate into an urban village, that’s what I pictured. But having looked at what’s planned, I just don’t see that becoming reality.

I once regularly commuted by bicycle from Edmonds to Seattle, so I am not timid when it comes to confronting traffic. But crossing Highway 104 at Westgate on foot scares me. You have fast traffic moving through five lanes, with a lot of traffic turning left or right. The problem is compounded by people racing to catch a ferry before it leaves. To them, a yellow traffic light means speed up. Other than Highway 99, this may be the least pedestrian-friendly place in Edmonds.

Ferry traffic in increasing. This problem is going to get worse. I would imagine that WSDOT is going to be reluctant to approve any measures to slow traffic down and make it safe for pedestrians. Their priority is moving traffic.

Imagine that 5th Ave through downtown Edmonds was a 5 lane road with a speed limit of 40 MPH. Do you think that would affect the walkability of downtown? Of course it would. You can see a little of this effect today between the downtown core and the waterfront. Third Avenue, Highway 104, and the railroad discourage most pedestrians from walking between these areas. It’s not a pleasant experience – I’ve done it hundreds of times.

I admire and respect the work that the council, city staff, and citizen volunteers put into planning for the Westgate area. But I was shocked to learn that no traffic or parking study has been done, and we don’t have details about the precise boundaries of the existing right-of-ways. I have no background or expertise in urban planning, but this seems like critical input into any plan.

People coming to Westgate to shop are going to almost always arrive by car. Walking there is unpleasant at best. There is limited bus service on weekdays, and none whatsoever on weekends. The proposed plan for Westgate requires less parking per square foot of commercial space than we have now. Is that realistic?

Before any plan moves forward, we should do a traffic study (and a parking study). It should measure traffic at all times of the day. It should include weekends and days when the ferry is especially busy. It should measure not just average speeds, but measure the frequency of traffic exceeding 50 MPH. The speed measuring equipment should be installed inconspicuously so that it doesn’t cause traffic to slow down.

I would like to see a long range plan for development at Westgate move forward, but not until we have a solid foundation of facts to evaluate such a plan.

Reid Larson

About me: I have lived in Edmonds for 27 years. I live in the Westgate neighborhood, about a mile from the commercial area. I frequently shop at many of the Westgate businesses and love walking to downtown Edmonds.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I hope that Edmonds does not become a speeding zone for ferry traffic any more than it already is. We live here, this our home and it should be considered so above the needs of passing through ferry traffic. Commercial is needed and used but if it becomes a hassle to get to and from it commercial will suffer the results as we all will.

    Please review and review and study the results. Consider the tax paying citizens input before signing away any undoable options.
    Ingrid Wolsk

  2. Reid your comments are absolutely spot on.
    I wonder if the Mayor and his staff agree with your sound advice. They forget that they should be representing the Edmonds citizens and not just pushing for “others”.

  3. “Urban Village- an Urban development typically characterized by medium density housing, mixed use zoning, good public transit and an emphasis on pedestrianization and public space.” Does anyone really think the Westgate area is the location for this type of development? Good public transit? NO. Pedestrianization? NO. Public space? HA….NO.

  4. 2014 Winter Modern Preservation

    , “And as the butterfly roof and kidney shaped pools of midcentury bungalows are drawing more thirty something hipsters and their DOLLARS into town, city council meetings have become a friendlier place for preservationists. Nostalgia for the days of two martini lunches, happy homemakers, and the perceived safety and sense of community of the homogeneous neighborhoods of the 1950s has been a powerful motivator for modernist preservation”

    This is from the latest issue for Winter 2014……….Once all is torn down like those blocks and blocks got torn down off of 5th in the 1970s,80s, 90s, it is just gone, and to think that those classic structures now had they been left would have been the most desirous and an Edmonds (those “thirty something hipsters”) economic builder, not destroyer. That classic architecture is gone and so is the money they would have generated. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

    So let’s not be deceived by what those in the short term development/construction industry are putting out there that young people want. This is simply not true, unless it is all they can get in NYC, Chicago or Singapore. Edmonds will never be any of those places.

    I believe the big Goodwill building there on Highway 104 behind QFC may have been one of those post modern buildings……Take away all that paint on those long, huge beams on the ceiling, and I suspect it is possibly a post modern building (sans some of the later embellishments outside, maybe 1970s) maybe built by Safeway?…or something like down at the old Antique Mall post modern building.

    “powerful motivator for modernist preservation” and that is what brings in the dollars now for the “hipsters”

    Regarding Harbor Square, it is shameful that these buildings are barely 35 years old and people are thinking of tearing them down. Why doesn’t someone get creative?…..That is happening all over regarding older architecture…..not tearing down, getting creative. It is bad enough that almost half of the marsh was already destroyed for a few business interests. This is a fragile environment and if anything we need to fix what we destroyed. Young people do not want to live in towns that continue to destroy the environment for short term gain…..That is the difference between our generations and theirs…..They are more interested in the greater good

    I thought we already had stopped development at Harbor Square.

    • Terre, et al: maybe some of us concerned Citizens should do as stated in an earlier “reply” and get some people together to make a difference. I read a reply from another person about “most citizens do not want to take the time” to learn about nor do anything about what the Town “Leaders” try to finagle. I, for one, would be willing to be a part of a Team of Citizens to take back Edmonds. I Love this town and want it to remain a REAL Home Town place for Folks to live and work far into the future.

  5. You’re right, Mr. Henline. Westgate does not yet qualify as an urban village. It’s a mashup of commercial uses that is slowly trending toward the better with some of the new commercial development that has occurred there. It doesn’t have good public transit, isn’t as pedestrian friendly as it could be and can become, and doesn’t have any dedicated public space. The whole point of the Westgate area planning currently underway is to attempt to convert this singularly commercial area to something that more resembles and functions as an urban village. There appears to be work left to do, but the plan that has been proposed and that has been vetted by at least some of Edmonds citizens who care enough to have gotten involved at the outset (thank you, Mr. Tibbott and many others) is a worthy start. And something Ms. Bloom and others have not yet answered is where the future development of Edmonds is to occur. Downtown?…over some councilmembers’ (including Ms. Bloom’s) dead bodies. Harbor Square…been there, done that. The Port was right to pull their excellent and citizen-vetted Harbor Square proposal…why bother when at least a couple of councilmembers’ exceeding lack of vision was in full force. No, Ms. Ryder, “we” did not stop Harbor Square… the Port elected to do so. After all, who needs that aggravation? Firdale Village…really? We haven’t yet even begun to hear from those folks yet. Perrinville? Have you ever seen so many empty storefronts? (although it is improving). Five Corners? A simple roundabout brought down the house. Can you imagine what a comprehensive redevelopment proposal will do? And the SR-99 Corridor (which, as Ms. Ryder rightly suggests, could probably benefit from a name change–what’s wrong with “Aurora Avenue”?)…well, you can only do so much more there, and the Edmonds’ stretch of this vital highway is much more pleasant and less crime-ridden than the stretches in many other cities to the south.

    As for “being afraid” to walk along SR 104, as we heard from several at the recent town hall meeting, or the fear we should all feel crossing SR 104 and 100th at Westgate, to borrow Mr. Page’s word, is “poppycock”. I worked there for 13 years (albeit some years ago) and never felt uncomfortable crossing or walking along either of the arterials, and the traffic light and walk sign cycles have improved since then. I walked the area just the other day, crossing in all directions of the intersection at 5:00 in the evening, and felt no fear or discomfort. Take an objective look at how many pedestrians walk along or cross those arterials every day–many with their heads down and absorbed with their smart phones, and tell me most pedestrians “fear” the intersection or sidewalks. I, and the 50 other people who worked at our company’s Westgate location several years back, certainly never did.

    So, where is our future and GMA-mandated growth going to occur? Well, let’s see–we don’t want to be another Singapore, NYC, or Chicago and never will be (what a lame, tortured, and inappropriate comparison that is, and that was not what was suggested by anyone…some on this thread need a reading comprehension course). We don’t want to be another Ballard or Kirkland, although I have several friends who live happily in both communities, are ecstatic with their accelerating property values, and have no intention of moving. We can’t be a Norman Rockwell “town” as some in the town hall meeting suggest, because we are a city (not a town) of 41,000 located in the middle of a metropolitan area of 3.6 million. If you want “Norman Rockwell”, you’ll need to look to towns like LaConner, Langley, or Lynden.

    This isn’t to say we can’t retain elements of our small town charm as we grow–and we should. Our city has many fine qualities, including a quaint downtown, healthy residential areas, and lively commerce–in at least some areas. But to suggest that we shouldn’t change is naive. As one very smart contributor to another thread suggested (and I paraphrase), we either plan for new development or let new development just occur. It’s time to put on our grownup pants and make some hard decisions about what we want Edmonds to become, not just for for us but for future generations. We need vision, and less division–our city’s future is at stake.

    And, Mr. Henline, to address your comment below about taking back our Edmonds–we apparently share a common interest in doing so, and I (and most of the people I know) greatly look forward to the prospect of moving Edmonds forward. The months leading up to the local elections in November 2015 are going to be fun, wouldn’t you agree?

  6. Yes, Mr. Henline. Edmonds needs this. The old (old, used ideas) guard needs to step aside. ……..I think we have seen in the last 30+ years that I have researched, what can be done when everything is always about what is “trending”, and nothing is for the future. Built to be torn down and new $$$ made for the select few………Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, it has been the same for a very long time for certain factors of the building industry……I would like to add not all

    Yes, time for a major groundswell and there are many out there that are ready to look at new, fresh ideas and have already begun. It is about saving Edmonds from the people that only care about what is “trending” in the moment…………..It doesn’t take much to wipe out small towns by developers and those in the industry these days. When everything is a hurry up and most of the public has not known about it, one should ask all the important questions, and if not answered, stop the runaway train. Alarm bells should go off when those working on development plans here blame it on the public why they don’t know…….. Great tactic, but most of us are not falling for this …..and we can easily see the pattern

    There are many excellent new ideas for thoughtful planning in Westgate and other areas of Edmonds. Let’s not make all roads leading into our town look like 5th Avenue, condo-row, tunnels, same buildings that have quickly spread across the country with no aesthetic thoughts in mind, etc……This will not bring anyone to our town
    . We will look just like Kirkland and Ballard……and I have no doubt that there are already people in the background trying to figure out how to get our beach!

    And! I finally figured out how on 5th Avenue and surrounding blocks developers were able to wipe out whole blocks of classic architecture (first thing I noticed that was odd when I moved here 5 years ago) in the last 35 years. This was recently done not too far from where I live and at a residence in Ballard…….I finally figured it out after 5 years! The developer, and I’m speaking about the ones that only care about the short term wind fall, builds a very tall house right at the 5′ mark of a property right adjacent to a quaint classic rambler or other classic small home. Nobody that lives in a classic house would originally choose that classic house next door to a huge box looming over it, cutting out all light, etc. Then, low and behold, the developer makes an offer to buy that little classic house that has now been ruined, and no one will want it anyway now. I have a friend that lived in one of those little classic houses in Ballard and now she has moved to Edmonds, after living in her classic house for 40 years…….Her property was destroyed by that looming structure and the developer knew that and made her an offer. Anyone interested in seeing this in progress can just go to Ballard and look up 24th N.W…..some fine examples …..Simply put, THAT is how it is done. A lot of companies making money off of Edmonds, only to turn around 30 years later, tear down and start over…….That would be my thought on Harbor Square….. like it wasn’t enough to destroy about half of our fragile marsh in the first place, let’s do more pounding, tearing down, building, etc. We know better now, and it is about the long term on our planet not the short, quick money thoughts of the past. Again, why not be creative on those not very old buildings and why not help save the planet and not cause more global warming……And for those that don’t believe in global warming, I say, what if you are wrong?…..and I am assuming you are as most all Nobel scientists believe in global warming and the destruction of the planet

    It is a good idea to be wary of anything that is “trending”…….It is not about long term, only in the moment and that word is never used for those working in the industry of the art of fine architecture/building , meant to last for 100 years………not this 30-40 year “trending”

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