Nagging questions about Sunset Walkway delays City Council vote on capital planning documents

For years, the Edmonds City Council has been discussing Sunset Avenue and various plans for the improving the pathway — or  not — that runs along one of the city’s most scenic viewpoints.

The council by a 4-3 vote in August 2014 agreed to add temporary striping to the current pathway indicating shared use between pedestrians and those on wheels (bicyclists, strollers or skateboarders, for example) and to redistribute some parking spaces, which included some angled parking. Then, the city could evaluate users’ feedback before pursuing additional grant money for a permanent configuration.

The issue at Tuesday night’s city council meeting was not about making the project permanent — there has been no grant money identified for that. It was whether to include it — along with dozens of other capital projects — in two sets of documents used to guide capital facilities planning and programming for the next six years or longer.

Councilmember Joan Bloom said the council needed more time to discuss the pros and cons of the project, separate from its inclusion in both the Proposed 2015-2020 Capital Facilities Plan/Capital Improvement Program. “I think this project is very controversial and we have a lot of strong feelings on either side,” Bloom said.

Councilmember Lora Petso added that she was ready to declare the multi-use pathway test a failure, given her observance of both near-miss accidents she has seen from cars backing out of angled parking spaces and walkers’ efforts to avoid sharing the pathway with bicyclists.

City of Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams noted that when the city applied for grant funding, it indicated the intention to make the Sunset trail a multi-use path. He recommended that the city complete a full year of data gathering during the trial before going back to the granting agency with a change of plans.

If observations indicate the temporary configuration isn’t working, the city may be able to work with the grantor to get the multi-use designation removed, Williams said. By removing the multi-use configuration now, the city runs the risk of appearing as though “we just changed our minds rather than having documented reasons,” he added. “I think we have to have information to convince them that it would not work.”

Council President Diane Buckshnis expressed a desire to keep the project in the capital planning documents, but to remove the $2 million budget amount associated with it, so that the council could maintain better control over the initiative.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who supported keeping both the project and the dollar amount in the documents, said she saw no point in continuing to discuss the issue, as both sides are entrenched in their opinions and no additional debate will change anyone’s minds.

Councilmembers Strom Peterson and Thomas Mesaros noted that retaining the Sunset project in the planning documents only means the project can be considered for funding should grant money become available, and that the city council still has final say over the project’s final scope, design and costs.

When the final vote was taken after much discussion, the council voted 4-3 (Councilmembers Fraley-Monillas, Peterson and Mesaros opposed) to continue discussing the issue at the council’s Nov. 25 study session.

The council also approved — after a public hearing that drew no comments — a 1 percent increase in the city’s property tax and an 11 percent increase in the Emergency Medical Services Property Tax Levy. (Finance Director Scott James explained that the EMS levy is a continuation of a measure approved by voters in 2008, which allows an ongoing assessment of 50 cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. As for the property tax increase, last year, the city council chose not to assess the 1 percent increase.This year, however, councilmembers unanimously voted in favor of it after James went over the list of “financial challenges” facing the city, including $1.2 million in new ongoing expenses for 2015 that include $978,000 for Fire District 1 services.

The council was supposed to discuss the 2015 budget but delayed that discussion to another meeting given the lateness of the hour.

However, it did address several other key issues:

– After holding a public hearing on amendments to the City’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan, which nobody provided testimony on, the council unanimously approved it.

– The council also unanimously agreed to notify the state Department of Ecology of its intent to approve a Shoreline Master Program for Edmonds, the first step in a several-month process that involves the Ecology Department’s review of the plan. The council agreed to include some adjustments to the plan that would allow for buffer adjustments to ensure adequate parking at the Edmonds Senior Center, an important component of the senior center’s plan to remodel its existing building on the waterfront.

– And councilmembers approved an updated Right-of-Way Tree Management Policy.

Also of note was Councilmember Bloom’s criticism of downtown business owners who came to provide a report on their 2015 workplan for Edmonds Business Improvement District (BID), a special assessment area established under state law that allows businesses to assess themselves to fund programs such as marketing or beautification. The Edmonds City Council approved creation of the Edmonds BID in January 2013; the group has since changed its name to the Edmonds Downtown Alliance — or ED! for short.

While acknowledging that the volunteer group had put a lot of work into developing the BID, Bloom said she has heard complaints from BID members that range from how the assessments are calculated and collected to how the decisions are made to spend BID money.

“There is a lot of conflict and there are a lot of people who are unhappy,” Bloom said.  She proposed several modifications to the BID work plan, all of which failed to gain council support. Councilmember Petso then proposed her own amendment requiring that any grant money awards allocated by the BID to its members are first reviewed by city staff to ensure compliance with city laws.

In the end, the council approved the BID work plan, as amended.



  1. Regarding the Sunset walkway – which is on my usual walk: I love it, never observed any problems. Anecdotal evidence is just that, non-scientific observations. I hope you can get better information to make a decision about how to best serve the city. A small fraction of those who use or live by this experiment ever give you their opinion or observations.

    My opinion is just that – discussing the issue isn’t research.
    A difficult, complex issue, hope you do the right thing.
    Thanks council for trying.

    1. Vi – my thoughts exactly – I love terms like “a lot of complaints” and “near misses I have witnessed” – it’s sort of like getting abducted by aliens – I have heard “a lot of complaints” and of “near abductions I have witnessed” – but it all amounts to the same thing – nothing.

      One of my favorite quotes by JFK – “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” – there are plenty of myths in the quotes above, but inevitably, the council has to decide to stop using terms like “a lot” and “I have witnessed” and put some concrete statistics that can be relied upon as a solid basis of fact out there. 20 vocal residents does not amount to 40,000 residents, Near misses witnessed by council does not amount to a common occurence or issue, and random complaints to one council member about the BID (only one was posted to council meeting minutes) does not amount to “a lot”.

      I don’t think City Government is being dishonest – I just think the ability of some to propagate myths and what if’s has become the rule of this particular council. It’s yes or no – it will come up again – and eventually, in my humble opinion, Sunset Avenue will be a yes.

      Respectfully –

      1. George – where did the “20 vocal residents” data come from? Can you support this figure of 20 and explain how that number of 20 relates to the 40,000 residents? I hope that number of 20 isn’t a myth.

        What is your opinion of the following two representations made during the grant application process?:

        Representation A made to the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) via Resolution #1273 on April 17, 2012: “We provided appropriate opportunity for public comment on this application.” Was that an accurate representation to the RCO?

        Representation B was made sixteen (16) months later, on Aug. 26, 2013. The City of Edmonds submitted another grant application, which represented the following to the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC):

        “Public comment was received at a meeting held on April 11, 2012, and followed up with written survey results that were collected April 25, 2012. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with all respondents supporting the concept of a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian facility in this corridor.”

        1. Ken,

          I always appreciate your responses – I cannot substantiate that more than 20 people disagree with the direction of Sunset, but then again, it is not my job to pass legislation that effects the approximately 39,709 residents of Edmonds (2010 survey, so I am guessing that 40+k is probably the right number). Council is not there to “opine” – they are there to govern – in an intelligent, and well thought manner. These message boards are for us to share opinions and come to or not come to an agreement. City Council is to decide the future of the City of Edmonds.

          Given that council wields an extreme amount of power in Edmonds (as you are well aware) – it is irresponsible of council to use “a lot” as justification, or “I have witnessed” as justification to spend, or not spend our collectively contributed funds.

          I know we disagreed on the 5 Corners project, but I do respect your approach to sound government – come with facts, make decisions based on rules (and if the rules are in violation, decisions are in violation, or process has not been followed, correct that action) – and when a project is approved, move forward and use the capacity of council to assist the staff at the City in delivering projects on time and on budget.

          Robust discussion (these message boards) is different from robust study, portions of the Edmonds Council really like robust discussion. I can get that at Starbucks, or the Channel Marker, or Engall’s or anywhere else for that matter. Make City Staff responsible, and ultimately, make Council decide. Democratic Government is an experiment, but not one that has to be taken on by stating a hypothesis, and refusing to test or study to come to a result. (A reasonable test is not “I have witnessed” or “a lot”).

  2. One has to remember we have an election coming up next Nov. for many of our council members. It is never to soon to start politicing.

  3. I walk Sunset pathway several times a week and absolutely love it. It is important that this is now ADA compliant and includes all people … wheelchairs, double-dog walkers and strollers, seniors walking slowly and kids having space and not being in the traffic. The old use was dangerous and did not allow anybody to truly enjoy the Sound and Island views. Many conversations with walkers supports this pathway … from Edmonds residents to visitors who are “wowed” with this pathway.

    Salish Crossing with be renovated in 2015 and the art museum will be attracting visitors who will want to stroll the boardwalk, Sunset pathway, spend $ at our businesses, etc. A vision to the future is needed.

    A speed limit of 15 mph should be mandated with the speed limit painted on the street asphalt (i.e. bike logo). People are not seeing the signs, but they will see the speed limit when it’s painted on the street in front of their driving eyes. This one-way street is not an arterial and needs a slower speed limit. Police need to enforce this one-way to the bicyclists.

  4. I hear from friends who love the walkway, so I’m incline to support it. But what I DON’T like is the angle parking, which reduces the drivable road to a dauntingly narrow strip, with the added dangers of backing out blind, or having someone else back out in front of you.

    Can we have the path and get rid of the angle parking?

  5. I support the comments of Vi Walls, George Bennett, Don Hall and CL Koch. I, also, walk Sunset daily and love the west side location, configuration and new landscaping.

    It seems to me that the most prevalent concern is parking and related traffic issues. Although I have yet to see a “near miss”, I believe that others have, so I support a speed limit of 15 and, perhaps, the addition of a speed bump to be placed on Sunset immediately to the north of Edmonds Street. Furthermore, the diagonal parking could be replaced with parallel parking. This simple change would reduce the current diagonal parking places from 20 to 10. But, an additional five or six parallel parking places could be added further north.


  6. I am a walker in complete agreement with Vi Walls on the Sunset project which opens the stunning water view to more than the few homes along that road. Joan Hollowell

  7. Thanks George. I believe that the divisiveness related to this issue indicates far more than 20 people disagree with the direction of Sunset.

    I have heard little to no support for the angled parking situation, or the lack of parallel parking spots to the north. Parking changes are a big part of this project and I hope our City Council will remember to represent those who do not appreciate the parking changes.

  8. Put the Sunset project on the next ballot for a non-binding advisory vote…find out what the voters really want…

  9. I wanted to give a shout-out to our city staff, especially Phil Williams … that I appreciate your patience, poise and intellect. Your ability to communicate with our elected officials, even when they become as tedious as they do, demonstrates your professionalism. Edmonds is fortunate that you are on our team.

  10. I, too, like the new concept. But I believe that the angle parking should be eliminated and replaced with parallel parking. I’d also like to see the parking on the right, with a low concrete barrier separating the cars (15 mph is a great idea, too) and the walkway.

  11. Angle parking needs to go as it does not provide a full view of what’s behind and around; it’s not safe. An example is the angle parking @ Value Village. One cannot clearly see the on-coming traffic nor the pedestrians walking behind the parked cars. It’s not a safe management of cars, parking and pedestrians. Being of that neighborhood, the problems with this design, and near misses, are seen routinely. If you want to scare yourself one day, park in the angled spots on a Saturday, and pray you get out safely. So this feature needs to be removed, from Sunset Ave., to improve the safe use of the street. Value Village is addressing their issue.

  12. I agree with the comments on the need for more parking on the north, but relative to the angle parking, remember what we see out there today simply utilized the existing right of way. With the ultimate design there is more of the unpaved ROW that can be utilized which will give us a wider driving lane. I do agree that it still will be more difficult when those cars are backing out, but this design gives us far more parking opportunities. It parks about twice the amount of cars as parallel parking.

  13. I went slightly out of my way today to take a drive on Sunset, and it was lovely with a calm sea and lots of people out n’ about. I specifically wanted to take another look at the angle parking and spacial relationships. I tested the only open slot by pulling in and then pulling out, and was easily on my way. A car had stopped behind me blocking my exit, but they moved in reverse and took the spot as I left, there was no collision. In addition to utilizing the space maximally, the angle-parked vehicles provoke a sense of caution, slowing (traffic calming?) and also there is kind of a feel of an entrance to something great.

    Like G. Bennett above, I too find the un-supported comments tiring. This approach to governance is insulting to the intelligence of the citizens. It’s ok and natural to have a bias, but as George states propagating mis-information and myths is not productive.

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