Changes are coming to Highway 99. That’s the bottom line after the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved the subarea plan that covers the two-mile stretch of state highway running through Edmonds, plus adjacent multi-family and commercial areas.
The meeting, which lasted until 11:30 p.m., was standing-room only for the first 90 minutes as citizens waited their turn to comment on a range of projects under council consideration for another city initiative — Sunset Avenue.
The majority of those attending offered their thoughts in three areas:
– What’s working and what isn’t along Sunset Avenue.
– Ways to discourage wrong-way driving at the Caspers Street/2nd Avenue North interchange. A contingent of 2nd Avenue residents made it clear that they oppose an idea — raised by Public Works Director Phil Williams during an Aug. 8 council committee meeting — to allow drivers to turn left on 2nd once they realize they are headed the wrong way on Caspers Street.
– What the city should do about the lighting project on Pine Street at the bottom of Point Edwards, which has been on hold since late May following concerns about impacts to a nearby demonstration garden.
Approval of the Highway 99 project Tuesday night came one-and- a-half years after the city began a series of public meetings on the topic, followed by numerous city council presentations and plan refinements. The result is a plan that will do the following:
– Consolidate most of the zoning categories for the Highway 99 Corridor into one designation: CG (General Commercial) instead of CG and CG2 and multifamily.
· Update both parking and pedestrian standards for the area to be more consistent with current and future needs, including for mixed use; and
· Add new design standards to ensure a more pedestrian- and transit-friendly environment, with additional consideration for adjacent single-family zones.
To ensure that Highway 99 redevelopment includes affordable housing, the council also agreed to designate it as a Multifamily Residential Targeted Area. Such a designation allows the city to implement the multifamily tax exemption program for developers who include 20 percent affordable housing units in future Highway 99 developments.
In a twist unique to Edmonds, the Highway 99 designation specifies that the 20 percent affordable housing designation be split at 10 percent each between units for low and moderate incomes. In addition, the designation will be based on the median family income for Snohomish County, which is a lower threshold than the definition included in the state statute, explained City Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty.
The next step for Highway 99 is to begin detailed design work for future improvements, which are expected to take years to complete as the city acquires funding for various components of development.
Many people turned out to offer their thoughts on next steps for Sunset Avenue, including thank yous to the city for removing the controversial angled parking spaces and ongoing worries about driveway access and lack of parking enforcement. But a group of residents from 2nd Avenue North — located one block east of Sunset — stole the spotlight with their concerns about keeping their quiet street just the way it is.
“We have an abundance of children on that street,” noted 2nd Avenue resident Francois Madath, who was accompanied to the podium by youngsters displaying signs and petitions. “A lot of people on 2nd Avenue are very concerned about what has transpired on Sunset Avenue and the back and forth that has happened there.
“If you open up a left turn lane or a right turn lane onto our street, that is definitely going to create a lot of problems for us,” he said. “We’re here to say please, before you move on doing anything, please listen to the citizens both on 2nd Avenue and on Sunset.”
Lena Maul said she and her family, which includes three children, moved to 2nd Avenue five years ago “and one of the things that attracted us to that street was the one-way traffic.”
Removing one-way-in access would minimize safety not only for the residents but for “the many, many citizens who walk on our street on a daily basis,” Maul said.
In the end, the council voted to make no changes to 2nd Avenue, but encouraged Public Works Director Phil Williams to add more signage to clarify driving restrictions in the area. And councilmembers agreed to add nine additional parallel parking spaces to Sunset Avenue as well as conduct miscellaneous restriping on the street and improve driveway access. Voting against the Sunset changes was Councilmember Mike Nelson, who said he couldn’t approve it since it didn’t include a raised curb along the walkway’s edge to separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Williams recommended that project be delayed until a series of utility construction projects are completed on during the next several years.
Councilmembers also heard from people both for and against restarting a street lighting project on Pine Street that was requested by Point Edwards residents. The project has been on hold since late May following concerns about impacts to wildlife at the nearby demonstration garden.
The city council in November 2016 approved the $20,000 lighting project after hearing from residents who said they didn’t feel safe walking in the area of Pine Street and Highway 104 — located at the bottom of the Point Edwards development — after dark, due to lack of street lighting.
Two members of the Snohomish County Audubon Society, which operates the garden, requested more time to review the project. But several Point Edwards residents countered that human safety was just as important as the safety of nearby wildlife.
Public Works Director Williams explained that he reviewed two options for lighting. First was a proposal from Snohomish County Public Utility District that would includes three fiberglass poles with a 35-foot mounting height, topped with a 50 watt Type II LED. This light includes a shielding option designed to minimize light spillage into the demo garden, Williams said.
Under the PUD proposal, the city would install the buried conduit and the PUD would install the poles. The PUD would then operate and maintain all three of the lights at a cost of $6-$8 per light per month.
The second choice, know as the Sternberg option, reflected an earlier suggestion from some councilmembers that the city’s Pine Street project try to match the look of existing streetlights within the Point Edwards development. This option would include five poles, at a 13.5 foot mounting height, spaced 82 feet apart. The light itself would be a lower-intensity 32 watt Type 4 LED. This type of light doesn’t offer shielding options to address spillage concerns, Williams said. In addition, the city would be responsible for operations and maintenance.
The council voted 5-1, with 1 abstention, to approve the PUD lighting. Voting against was Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, who had argued for more time to study the matter. Abstaining was Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who expressed concerns that the project was being rushed through the council.
In other actions, the council:
– Approved a resolution supporting the merger of SNOCOM and SNOPAC 911 emergency call centers. See background in our previous story here.
– Approved amendments to the city code governing the downtown Edmonds Business Improvement District, otherwise known as the Edmonds Downtown Alliance or ED!. The amendments were OK’d by the alliance board at its July 13 meeting, and include: Modification of boundaries to recognize the potential for BID expansion; recognition of a second, lower-dues-paying “by appointment” business classification to include “and/or office-based” and adds new examples such as professional service firms, assembly or production of goods and corporate offices; and clarification that assessments for members in newly expanded areas of downtown BID will pay their dues after the first full quarter they are included.
– Heard a report by state lobbyist Jennifer Ziegler summarizing the key state legislation passed this year, as well as work yet to be done. For Edmonds, a positive outcome of the state budget was the acceleration of $1 million to the city to fund initial work on Highway 99 redevelopment. In addition, Edmonds received $700,000 for the Waterfront Crossing Project analysis.
But other major city projects — such as the Edmonds Waterfront Center and waterfront redevelopment project — are in limbo because the Legislature has yet to pass a capital budget, said Ziegler, who said there’s a chance that lawmakers will return to Olympia for a fourth special session this fall.
— By Teresa Wippel