Edmonds City Council takes a breather on Sunset Walkway Project

sunset_map wiht proposed change
A map of the Sunset Avenue Walkway project as proposed in yellow, with the black box indicating where it would end — at Edmonds Street — under a proposal made Tuesday night.

After many months of angst over what to do about the walkway project proposed for one of Edmonds’ most scenic viewpoints, the Edmonds City Council decided Tuesday night to — in the words of Council President Diane Buckshnis — “take a little breather and figure this out.”

City Attorney Jeff Taraday was directed to look into whether the city would lose approximately $70,000 in grant money spent so far on the project design, if a decision were made to change the scope of the project. One compromise idea suggested by Councilmember Lora Petso would be to only extend the walkway as far as Edmonds Street (see black box in map above),

“That part of the project has a limited number of objections, if any, that I have received from the public and therefore seems to be a good place to begin,” Petso said.

Among the worries by citizens 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.

Petso, Buckshnis and Bloom all expressed concern that the project has ballooned in scope over the years from what was once proposed as simple walkway overlooking Sunset into a multimodal pathway aimed at accommodating — in addition to walkers — bicyclists, strollers and wheelchair users.

Buckshnis noted that the area is mainly used as “a park for cars” — given the number of people who drive to enjoy the view from their vehicles, and noted that the walkway as proposed carries many unknowns — from the stability of the soil to the uncertain reception it would receive from BNSF, which owns much of the property at the northern portion of the project.

Bloom went much further, declaring that she is strongly opposed to the project, given what she described as a lack of public involvement and unresolved concerns about right of way issues. “I have no interest as a councilmember in allocating any citizen funds — whether they are federal, state or City of Edmonds funds — to enhance, develop or improve property that does not belong to us and the BNSF property takes up a big chunk of this,” she said.

Bloom said she may be open to Petso’s idea of extending the project only as far as Edmonds Street, but currently favors returning the $70,000 in grant money spent so far “and if there’s some portion of the project that can be salvaged, bring it back.”

Both Buckshnis and Petso said they were hopeful that the city might be able to hang on to the grant money, but City of Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams was uncertain if that would be possible. Petso also noted that extending the project only to Edmonds Street would not preclude the city from extending the walkway further north at a later date, “if the money is available or the desire is available.”

Mayor Dave Earling said he would discuss the council’s ideas with city staff and see if it would be possible to come up with a revised plan that would be acceptable to the council. Any new concept would be brought back for a public hearing, councilmembers stressed.

The council also:

– Held a public hearing on zoning for marijuana businesses in the City of Edmonds. See related story here.
– Heard an update from City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite about next steps for the Edmonds City Park spray pad. The city canceled its contract with a former vendor and is instead contracting for design work with a new firm, Site Workshop, which has more experience in siting spray pads. The spray pad is scheduled to be installed in the summer of 2015; City Park is scheduled to get new playground equipment this summer, Hite added.
– Delayed for two weeks a decision on a Concession Agreement between the City of Edmonds and Dean Parmenter/Hot Diggity Dog to install a concession stand on the right of way near the Edmonds ferry holding lanes. The reason for the delay was to further research the amount of liability insurance that should be required.


31 Replies to “Edmonds City Council takes a breather on Sunset Walkway Project”

  1. Thank goodness we have a Council that can make sense of this whole project. There are so many uncertainties to the proposed plan, not to mention not owning the land, that the Council has made a wise decision.
    In the meantime can we see the repair made to the sidewalk on the east side of the street, near the new large home, that has remained unfinished for months now?


  2. Yes, we should be all thankful that we have a GREAT city council that is doing a wonderful job on getting it right for our city. We are very lucky in that respect!


  3. I think the statement “The project design is being funded by a $159,000 federal grant . . .” is a little incomplete.

    The project obtained its original funding of $16,000 via the November 15, 2011 budget amendment. Traffic Calming Money was moved to Sunset Avenue.

    The next $50,000 for the project was approved in late 2011 as part of the 2012 budget.

    During April of 2012, the City applied for at least two grants that I am aware of, one from the RCO and one from FHWA/CMAQ. The RCO attempt was unsuccessful, but the FHWA/CMAQ effort was rewarded roughly 10 months later, during February of 2013, with the $159,000 Federal Grant.

    Then, on August 26, 2013, The City submitted the PSRC grant application, resulting in another Grant of $90,903.

    I think this is accurate, and the four pieces total to $315,903, $249,903 from 2 separate grants.


  4. This is something most of us did not know. We have been talking about a Federal Grant of $159,000 for months now. How come we were not told about the additional money. The first I heard of $259,000 in design money was at the council meeting on April 1st. I thought I heard it wrong. I guess not. I’m wondering how much of this money has been spent to date. Thank you Ken for shedding some light on this.


  5. You are welcome Thalia. One thing I wonder about is whether the $70,000 spent relates to the $66,000 of City funds, or the $249,903 grant funds, or some combination thereof. Is $70,000 the total spent to date, or is it just the amount of grant money spent?

    I also am trying to find out where the money came from to pay for the plan elements discussed way back during the July 19, 2011 meeting.


  6. I look forward to this project being completed. I appreciate healthy skepticism and keeping an eye on risks as well. The current paths are unusable for some elderly and often force people into the street. For such an amazing view a decent sidewalk is a no brainer.


  7. I wonder how much money has been spent to date. It has to be way more than the $70,000 we keep referring to.


  8. I would like to know WHO is getting the $$$$ from the 1.2 MILLION that is mentioned has ALREADY been spent (what company?, city? etc.). for the Sunset Project……1.2 MILLION and no REAL drawing, plans, soil tests, etc. Just lots of talk. WHO has been PAID 1.2 MILLION already and for what?? This is shocking, and grant money is paid by ALL CITIZEN TAX PAYERS and doesn’t just fall out of the sky

    And also, is it the SAME company that got it so completely WRONG in regards to the area and non-accomodation of the water tank for the Spray Park. working on the Sunset Project??…..HOW much $$$ has already been spent there, with the spray park having to be totally in a different area. The spray area being the main feature of a “spray park”, how could one get it so wrong that the soil wasn’t tested first to accomodate.


    1. Tere:
      You are able to comment on many other topics, so where is your response to this???
      Darrol Haug March 30, 2014, 10:58 am Reply
      Ms Ryder, You mention in your post “It is well known that there are many drug houses at Five Corners…..” If this is so well known are you suggesting our police are not aware or if they are aware are not doing anything about it? Or what are you suggesting with that comment?


  9. Edmonds gets the grant funds and the application of most of these fund seem to be Bowl-centric…why?

    Whose pockets are being lined with these projects anyway,..somone’s brother-in-law’s company?? Are Minority businesses included in the bid process??

    Why are so many of the projects always Edmonds Bowl-centric? Edmonds is much LARGER than just the Bowl! (Round-a-bout Five Corners project based upon City Council circular and circuitous logic doesn’t count….)

    Imagine what else Edmonds can do with all of those enticing $$$$$ emanating from the Govt teat! Edmond is not just the Bowl!


  10. Thank you to all Council members who “saw the light” in stepping back from this possible landslide problem. Can’t you get grant money for an emergency access to be built over the tracks?


  11. Mr. Williams,

    I could not agree with you more. There appears to be three distinct cities in Edmonds- those in the Bowl, those not in the bowl, and those that are on or near 99. Living in the bowl does not entitle you to special priveledges, nor does it preclude you from a responisibility to develop Edmonds into a vibrant self-sustaining community that all enjoy.

    NIMBY rules this council, most of the public comment, and will rule the future of Edmonds.

    I am not a politically active person, I am not a staunch supporter of anything – but with a Council that is functionally paralyzed by ego and an inability to get things done, a city staff that gets unreasonable demands from council, and phrases like “we need to take a breather” on a project that is older than many of the kids that it would benefit, it incites me to become more publicly involved.

    I am going to propose we make the bowl a gated community. Instead of wasting tax payer dollars on trying to improve the downtown district, five corners, westgate, and the 99 corridor – spend that money on what the folks in the bowl want – a 25 foot high iron fence, decorated by local artisans, that keeps the rest of us up the hill.

    I applaud the Council for hiring a counselor to help them work with respect towards one another – but I have a better fix – those of us who lose out because of dysfunctional council members need to vote those council members out of office – the best way to create effective communication is to fire those who don’t communicate well. I can assure you in private sector – that’s what would happen. Tax payer dollars on team building exercises, maybe they should return that money, and realize they have to stop chasing off talent.

    Just my two cents.


    1. Mr. Bennett,

      You are spot on with your observations. I have become frustrated over the years with the actions, or lack thereof, of the council and have pulled back in my participation with the City. NIMBY does rule the council. If develoment like the “Edmonds Preserve” in north Edmonds had been proposed anywhere else, the out cry would have been very vocal, yet when it is placed out of sight , out of mind, there are no complaints. I truly care for the future of our City but fear that the current course leads us down a path to failure.

      As I have said before there needs to be a change in the culture of thought that goes into decision making and your ideas carry merit.

      David Thorpe


  12. Nathan and George, If you do get together contact me to join in. Nathan knows how to reach me. George, another place you could be heard is at the Economic Development Commission. We meet on the 3rd Wed at City Hall, at 6-8pm and public comment is very welcomed.


  13. Abort that project take the $70000 pay it back and forget the whole thing. Phil Williams and his grant money is just a great big pain. he Phil Williams needs to quit trying to reinvent the wheel and just do his job, if he would just fix the things that need fixing improve the things that need improving and if the city could bring do projects on time and under budget maybe grant money jobs would be ok, but in my mind the city of edmonds continually gets in over there head in both cost and management, they let the guy building haines warf pour sidewalks in the rain and he spent about 2 months triing to fix them, the guy from edmonds should have never let them pour and hes on the job everyday,and this was during the summer, now keep in mind these are not just sidewalks on dirt there on top of a retaining wall it was a complete mess I know cause i went down and looked at it, Thats just part of it that i saw the whole job was like that from the start, Now the city doesn’t like to talk about this stuff when I went to a council meeting and busted them on it they all gave me a blank look like how dare you pick on me well too bad. Listen very carefully with what joan Bloom had to say about sunset pay the $70 grand back and forget the whole thing she is a plus right on and hit the nail squarely on the head game set match.. Sunset is another haines warf What a 2 block bike path for 1 and a half million give me a break


  14. Nathan, Darrol,

    I would welcome a visit. I believe it is high time that folks who contribute to the success of Edmonds in a silent way have more of a vehicle and a voice to make sure that their City moves forward. After four or five years of watching 13 people (I count them on the Tuesday night replays and three of them are on council) complain, contest, badger, and pencil whip the rest of us, that a difference and an undercurrent of grass roots change begin to happen. My grandfather always told me – Diplomacy is crap, but it works – and I am finding that diplomacy and dialogue do not work in Edmonds. What works is a public voice.

    I am on the road 85% of the year. I travel to cities that are successful, beautiful, and wonderful. Unfortunately, I travel to cities that are not so great as well. Most of the not so great cities – they chose to “keep things like they have always been”. Change is scary, but change is necessary. I want a vibrant Edmonds, I want a successful and respectful Council that is the model for the rest of the Country. I want a place where children, parents, grand parents, great grandparents, and business interests can enjoy a happy and open life and success. That does not happen in gridlock, and it does not happen in the vacuum that has been created and named “the council”.

    There are going to be naysayers, and much like the Council website says, the vocal minority is getting the benefit of being vocal – how many ideas are right? How many ideas are bad? How many projects are too many? I cannot answer those questions for Edmonds – no one can – because we, as a town, are paralyzed by the inability to intelligently review options, explore risk, and respectfully move forward.

    Okay, much like Council, I need to take a breather on this – but my email is [email protected] – feel free to shoot a date out, and I would be more than happy to meet up. (For the rest of you, please, no more life insurance offers, car sales, or offers of low interest long term loans)…


  15. We do not know how much money has been spent to date on design. I’m sure it is a lot more than $70,000. That was the number quite a while ago.


  16. Thalia,

    It is public record. Ask. Research. It is out there. You can review every check that has been written on the council website.



  17. The City Council Committee Meeting Agendas are available on the City’s website for next Tuesday, April 8th.

    The following mentions several items of interest:

    1. The City Attorney Annual Report containing City Attorney Stats for October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013. Lighthouse produced 3,104 hours at an average of $124 per hour during that time. I believe a strong argument can be made that Jeff Taraday and Lighthouse have provided solid service at a very reasonable rate. Of interest, almost 30% of total time has been spent on the following:
    A. Precision Earthworks (I believe related to Haines Wharf) – 339 hours.
    B. Locke v. Edmonds – 310 hours.
    C. Humann v. Edmonds – 278 hours.
    I believe there is much of interest in the Attorney’s Annual Report document available on the City’s website.

    2. After the fact, the Mayor is requesting Council to approve an additional period to the appointment of Acting Director for Development Services for Rob Chave to include Jan 1, 2014-March 31, 2014, and the corresponding out of class pay. My point has nothing to do with Mr. Chave, who I believe has worked very hard to fill multiple roles. I view his work as Acting Director for several years as a sacrificial effort that I do not believe Mr. Chave ever pursued. My point is simply why did Mayor Earling not request such up front, especially after I asked many questions about this same tardy appointment a year ago.

    3. Edmonds appears to be seeking State grants related to the acquisition of Civic Center. This site was the stadium for Edmonds High School back in the 1960’s. The City currently leases this property from the Edmonds School District.

    4. The Quarterly Public Works Project Report. Among many other items, this report includes a total budget of $1,878,000 for Sunset Walkway Improvements. I cannot tell if this includes funds for retaining wall improvements which may be proposed on BNSF property.

    5. A Resolution proposal regarding transport of Petroleum by Rail through Edmonds and the State of Washington. This Resolution urges the adoption of State and Federal Regulations to assess the risk of petroleum transport.

    I encourage citizens to attend Committee Meetings once in a while. It is a great way to observe and learn more about City government.


  18. You have my vote if you choose to run for Mayor Mr. Reidy! We can do a WRITE IN you know! All your research and work is so appreciated by many, many Edmonds citizens. Thank you for staying on top of things.


    1. Ms. Ryder – Please, can you provide an answer for all the folks asking you to provide some clarity with regards to the supposed drug houses at five corners? I am not sure why you would make such a statement and then choose to ignore all the subsequent requests for info.?


  19. Maybe Ms Ryder will share her information about the drug houses at 5 corners so he can add it to his research information.


  20. Thank you Tere for your kind and very generous comment.

    Please know that I greatly respect those willing to serve in public office. They have made heavy sacrifices to serve others while I have chosen to sit back in the comfort of my home picking and choosing what I want to research and comment on. Elected officials often have to react in real time, and/or they get a several hundred page long agenda packet on a late Friday afternoon to study before the following Tuesday’s City Council meeting. That is a very tough challenge.

    In short, I believe our 7 City Council Members are underpaid and receive far too much blame when things don’t go well at the City.

    All that being said, please know that your comment is greatly appreciated.

    Regarding my point #2 about the Mayor requesting Council to RETROACTIVELY approve an additional period to the appointment of Acting Director for Development Services, I wrote a related guest column back in January of 2012:


    I believe the Comments to my guest column contain helpful and/or interesting information.
    I am thankful that the City was able to update Chapter 2.10 two years later (in January of 2014) via Ordinance 3959.

    Now I see Mayor Earling is requesting Council RETROACTIVELY approve an additional period of the appointment of acting Director for Development Services to include Jan 1, 2014-March 31, 2014, and the corresponding out of class pay.

    I am having a hard time seeing how such a retroactive step is allowed under the brand new Chapter 2.10. I’m also not sure that retroactive confirmation was an option available to the City under the old code, yet it was done last year late in April of 2013.


  21. Darrol, I also wish Ms.. Ryder would provide facts to back up her comments on drug houses at five corners .


  22. Darrol & Don:
    We can only assume that Ms.Ryder has no facts to back up her claim that there are drug houses operating in the Five Corners area.


  23. Ron why are you talking about so called drug houses here I thought that this article was about the sunset project, maybe there no other place to discuss 5 corners drug houses.just asking ,speaking about drug houses you know you can assume or presume anything you want but unless you have first hand seen it I would suggest to ms Ryder to be real careful in accusing someone of having a drug house or doing anything against the law,


    1. I, too, am guilty of speaking off topic in my response to the recent comments.

      I would like to recommend that Ms. Rider observe and keep a record of suspicious behavior occurring at the “drug” house(s) mentioned in her comment. Especially note license plate numbers. When Mr. Rider has gathered enough information, the next step would be to call the Edmonds Police Department.

      Years ago, there was a “drug” house operating around from the corner from us in Greenlake. Yes – these houses can even pop up in nice neighborhoods. My friends living on Corliss Avenue North kept very good records, and the Seattle Police Department took the appropriate steps to resolve the situation.


  24. Great suggestions Ms Tipton. It takes all of us to do actions to make our town better not just talk about it. When we had the citizen meetings about 5 corners and the U of W study of the area I do not recall anyone coming forward to suggest issues in the area?


  25. So I watched the City Council meeting from last Tuesday on the tele yesterday evening, and want to applaude Ms. Petso for presenting an alternative – albeit a slightly misguided alternative, it was nice to hear an alternative. Hear is what I continue to gather from this project:

    1. Supposition seems to rule the day – The questions and reasons for not moving forward are answered typically in the design phase of a project. The City appears to be in the planning phase.

    ROW acquisition, negotiation, geotech, detailed design, etc are all elements that are handled during the design phase.

    2. Allowing the project to move to design does NOTHING to moving the project further to completion but to allow council’s questions to be answered, allow the public to see the implications, and allow the City staff to more intelligently answer questions. It also allows the City to manage a “staged” approach – if we decided to design three separate phases (south end, north end, and east side improvements for instance) each could be tackled separately as Capital was available from any fund. I cannot tell you how many projects (in a past life) that were designed and the “shelved” by the governing agency for future development.

    3. Negotiating or improving Railroad ROW is the least of the worries here – if I remember correctly, there is plenty of ROW for the BNSF to triple track with clearances in the land already below the bluff. Having worked for a Class I railroad, we made every attempt to contribute to the goodwill in communities – why you might ask – because we went through THOUSANDS of communities, and the last thing you wanted was 10% of them raising cane about ROW issues.

    I understand the concern of some of the councilmembers and having it balloon like other projects did, but looking back, it appears that the same council members were there at the time of the last project bust – to say “no” to this project because you screwed up last time is akin to saying “no” to driving after you got a speeding ticket. It is a learning experience, and now council should be better prepared to assist City staff in the proper direction of the project.

    Finally, one council member made, in my opinion, a pretty offensive statement regarding the City Staff “running off” and doing work – from what I see, the council does a pretty good job of atomizing everything, and I suspect that City Staff pretty much are limited in the amount of time that they have to run off and do things – because the list grows for them every other Tuesday.

    Once again, I applaud the council for considering an option – but why not move forward with a phased design – that does nothing to change the bluff other than to have something in place that can be “shelved” if the townspeople desire it to be shelved – instead of guessing about land stability, BNSF, Blue Clovers, Yellow Moons, Purple Hearts…


  26. George, you are so right lets cut the speculation and allow the design phase to begin to answer the questions. It seems like we have a lot of engineers and geologist on the council.There is way to much speculation and not enough scientific answers. When was the last time there a slide on the tracks inside the city limits


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