The Edmonds Planning Board this Wednesday, Nov. 18 will hold a public hearing on possible changes to the city code that governs parking in residential neighborhoods. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers.
At issue are various situations around the city where residents keep multiple vehicles in their driveways and parked in the public right-of-way. One of these is in the Maplewood neighborhood, where a resident living in the 20300 block of Maplewood Drive has raised neighborhood concerns by maintaining between 12 and 15 vehicles in various states of repair parked on his property and in the public rights-of-way on both Maplewood Drive and Sierra Street.
Neighbor John Espinola has lived in his home for more than eight years, has two young children and is concerned about pedestrian safety, toxic runoff and fumes, and neighborhood aesthetics.
“It’s definitely gotten worse in the time I’ve lived here,” Espinola said. “When we first moved in, there were a few cars in the front yard, but it’s really deteriorated in the last year or two. Now they spill out onto Maplewood Drive and around the corner onto Sierra Street, where five or six are routinely parked. It really looks junky.”
Maplewood Drive is a main thoroughfare, heavily used by vehicles and pedestrians. With vehicles closely parked on both sides of the street, pedestrians are forced to walk a hazardous gauntlet as they share a narrow space with passing cars and trucks. Espinola describes it as “an accident waiting to happen.”
In addition, Espinola expressed concerns about toxic fumes from chemicals used during car repairs conducted at the residence, relating numerous situations where he “had to shut his windows” to avoid chemical fumes coming into his home. “I’m also concerned about this getting into our stormwater runoff and having adverse effects on salmon and other Puget Sound life,” he added.
My Edmonds News attempted to contact the owner of these vehicles by phone and left a message with a member of the household, but didn’t receive a return phone call.
Below are several key concerns about the existing code, and suggested solutions proposed in the draft code:
Number of vehicles:
Many households depend on some vehicle parking on their front driveway. However, when too many vehicles are parked or stored in the front yard of a single-family residence, the area looks like a parking lot.
• The existing code prohibits the parking of more than five vehicles in the front yards of single-family lots with certain exceptions, but does not specify whether that would apply only to vehicles parked outdoors or would include vehicles parked in a garage.
• The proposed code amendment would prohibit the parking of more than four vehicles in the front yards of single-family lots with certain exceptions, but would specify that the restriction applies only outdoors.
Amount of impervious surface:
Impervious surfaces—especially impervious surfaces used by motor vehicles—cause stormwater runoff problems.
• The existing code does not limit the area of impervious surface for outdoor parking on single-family lots.
• The proposed code amendment would restrict the amount of impervious surface for outdoor parking in the front yards of single-family lots. It would do so by not allowing impervious parking surfaces to take up more than 50 percent of the front yard. Also single-family driveways would be limited to 24 feet wide for two-car garages or 30 feet wide for three-car garages, with certain exceptions. This restriction would not preclude additional stormwater management measures from a more comprehensive stormwater code update process in 2016.
For most households, occasional vehicle repair in the front yard does not constitute a neighborhood problem. But in a few neighborhoods, car repair activities can look like a business, even when there is no evidence of a business, and operate many hours of the day.
• The existing code limits outdoor car repairs on single-family residential lots but is not clear about some details.
• The proposed code amendment would add the following limits:
(a) Outdoor car repair would be only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
(b) The storage of vehicle parts must be either in an enclosed structure or screened from public view.
Note that these concerns relate to vehicles parked in driveways and yards, and not on residential streets.
Shane Hope, Edmonds Development Services Director, says she is “aware of the street parking problem,” in the Maplewood neighborhood. She points out that current statutes allow vehicles to be parked on residential streets for a maximum of 72 hours, and “while police have ticketed these cars on occasion,” the owner keeps moving them just enough to stay within the letter of the law. According to city officials, the street parking issue is expected to be addressed soon by a “different proposal from the police department.”
After the Nov. 18 public hearing, the Planning Board hopes to make a recommendation to the Edmonds City Council.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel