Art Town: What’s up with parking?

One of the hot topics around town is the lack of convenient parking. It’s a somewhat new issue because the Edmonds downtown shopping core has really blossomed in the past few years. For-lease signs have been replaced with vibrant and updated shops coming into their own. Trends show people are turning away from impersonal big box stores, and increasingly seeking out independent stores. Edmonds is very unique in the greater Seattle area, and our locals as well as out-of-towners are starting to take notice. The challenge is providing parking spots for the influx of enthusiastic shoppers who want to enjoy an “Edmonds Kind of Day.”

I opened my store in 2012, and have seen the positive growth of the past five years bringing in more business, but have also started hearing customers complain about lack of parking. When Edmonds was a sleepy little town, you could usually find a parking spot within sight of your destination. Now you may need to search a block or two over. Locals are feeling the pinch and so are the businesses.

Customers are letting us know on a regular basis they want to find parking a bit easier and closer to their destination. Sometimes they give up and leave because they could not find a place to park. When parking frustrations start turning away customers, something needs to be done.

You will be glad to know that business owners and the folks at city hall are coming up with a patchwork of solutions.

Pam Stuller of Walnut Street Coffee is a member of a parking task force made up of directors from the city, police department and two community liaisons. She reports that they have been able to tackle issues like employee parking, better utilization of existing street parking, and 3 hour parking enforcement. They are making a pretty good dent in this problem.

Moving the boundaries that allow employee parking further up the hill in a few areas has opened up 35-40 parking spots for shoppers. Public utilities re-striped around driveways and intersections to add approx 30-40 additional spaces. You may notice newly painted “tick marks” to signify parking spaces along the length of 5th and Main to maximize how cars are parking. Businesses are encouraging the city to continue painting in these dividing lines on more streets. Staying “inside the lines” helps us all to utilize the existing spots better. No one wants to be that guy who takes up two spots, right!?

Another step was coming up with more funding for our local “meter maid.” You may notice cars that stay past the three-hour time limit are now being ticketed more forthrightly. The goal is to discourage people from using prime parking spots for entire days.
The police station is getting some push back from citizens who are unhappy with their parking ticket. It’s a trade-off for sure. It’s not much fun to find a ticket on your car, but I’ve heard in many cases they are making an effort to make the first offense a friendly warning.

There are also plans to convert 14 spaces in the lot behind HouseWares from reserved monthly paid parking to free three-hour parking. That is a prime lot in the heart of the shopping district.

Kimberly Koenig, owner of Rogue and president of Edmonds Downtown Alliance (Ed!), has been very involved in coming up with creative ideas to add parking. “I’m excited about the work that Ed! is doing on this issue,” she said. “We recently launched an After Hours Parking program to incorporate consistent signage so visitors can use private lots outside a business’ regular hours. Harry Ostrander at Bank of Washington is the first business partner in this effort. Initial feedback has been positive and we’re looking forward to adding additional partners to the program. This will be great for the restaurants and the theaters.”

Look for the new signage popping up around town signifying new “After Hours” parking lots. Thank you Bank of Washington for leading the way on this innovative idea.

To keep things in perspective, folks from Seattle aren’t complaining. They see a quaint town with free, three-hour parking as a gift. There are some aspects of Edmonds that we like to keep old-fashioned and that’s one of them. You didn’t have to pay to tie your horse up to the hitching post in 1860 and you don’t have to pay to park your car now.

Mall shoppers don’t seem to have a hard time making the switch to small town shopping either. Think about how far away you are from the actual store when you park at Alderwood Mall. That’s got to be a good distance longer than a one block walk… and Edmonds is more likely to thrill you with a stunning view of the sound while you get a few more steps in.

I hope the city will come around to the realization that a parking structure should be added to their long-term goals and start setting aside some funds for that. Edmonds is on the upswing. We are busy and growing. There’s every likelihood of continuing our small-town traditions with the hope of prosperity, and parking spots, in the future.

— By Tracy Kay Felix

Tracy Felix is currently the President of the Downtown Edmonds Merchant Association, and co-owner of ARTspot.

  1. Parking can be such an incendiary issue, and folks can easily become too inflamed to see the forest for the trees.

    In a past life I was responsible for parking, among numerous other and more consequential things, at a local college campus. A number of times I heard from instructors complaining bitterly how they had arrived around 9-10 a.m. (peak load) and had to park in some of the worst spots on campus.

    At most, that meant a walk of less than two minutes for an adult with no disability to reach a classroom. It was a lost cause to point out that people in downtown Seattle would gladly trade life to park that close to work, and free to boot. It was also not uncommon to see some of the same folks later sweating on a treadmill in the fitness center. That irony was not lost on me either.

    I think that the steps taken by the City and Ed! to address this problem so far have been the right ones to enhance the ability of local business to provide customers with convenient access. It is a enormous jump to a parking structure. Given the infrastructure needs the City already faces, the administrative measures need to be pretty much exhausted before exploring that option too seriously.

    1. A very good post. But I’d like to underline “with no disability” – I am, thank goodness, only temporarily disabled, but the number of times I have been unable to find any place to park, let alone a disabled space, is discouraging. Too often I’ve simply had to give up and come home. As the city does good work to increase parking spaces, I hope some thought will be given to a proportionate increase in disabled spaces.

  2. Well if most of Edmonds shoppers were college aged I might agree with Jim but they are not. Parking in Edmonds off of main street often requires the skill to park and walk on a steep hilll. Perhaps a parking structure for the commuters would be helpful and Edmonds wouldn’t have to foot the entire bill. As a business owner I have watched my local parking for my clients disappear. They do have to park a few blocks away in the residential areas taking up space for the residents of that area. The extra long search for parking can make them late for their sessions. The inconvenience is extra challenging when my clients are often dealing with injuries and in the middle of rehabilitation. Just a good idea to remember that there are a lot of functioning businesses that need their clients to have access to their offices with appointments and schedules not just leisure shoppers and diners.
    I appreciate the steps that have been taken but it makes a small dent in a growing problem.

  3. Thank you for all your hard work on this issue. How about opening up all the parking under city hall. Has that been discussed?

  4. Years ago I went to the parking board and said that 3rd Avenue was infested with Friday night to Monday morning ferry commuters cars and that local residents couldn’t park near the city park on 3rd. They pondered this and then decided after months to ask the residents on 3rd avenue. So they enforced parking with 3 hour limits and also on 4th Avenue. Now we have those same cars and vans on 6th Avenue, right near the summer market. They block shopping for weekend shoppers, ALL weekend. Go and look at the Electric Company van and others. I called the Electric Company van (who previously has parked on 3rd Avenue all weekend), and he said he will park his vans wherever he can, and leave them there, “it’s free” he said. But we all know it isn’t free to us when we, as locals and visitors want to park. Also the Library is parked all day with some visitors cars and ferry riders, hey it’s convenient! They used to have signs but the Librarians complained they couldn’t park, so the signs went away. Can’t they provide some parking for Librarians and the rest of use move after 1-2 hours? Up Main street, past 6th avenue you can park all day with no signs.We have to address this issue if we want to avoid parking meters (ugg), so let’s zone more areas. And why can’t this City, with higher revenues, pay for full time parking meter officers??

  5. I used to own a therapeutic massage practice in downtown Edmonds. My office was located above Chanterelle’s. Parking wasn’t too bad at that time but even 2 blocks could be too far for some of my clients to walk comfortably. The other issue was the very long set of stairs they had to climb to get to my office. I was very happy with my location and especially my office in that lovely building but had to make the best decision for my clients by finding a location that catered to their needs.
    I don’t fault the city for the ‘parking issue’. It is a small town that wants to keep it’s small town feel and has to balance how to please everyone. I too get annoyed sometimes when I can’t find a parking space close to my destination but relatively speaking, everything is close in downtown Edmonds.
    I spent 15 minutes driving around in loops in Seattle last week trying to find ANY parking within 10 blocks of my destination.

  6. A parking structure? Why would we pay millions of dollars to directly add more traffic on our streets? If building parking makes sense, let a private developer do it.

  7. How about we forget the funding for meter maid addition and build a two story parking lot that has been needed for YEARS. It wasn’t easy to find parking ten years Ago let alone now. We built the long over do bathrooms let’s look to the future (finally) and really put in two story parking lots before the costs go way too high. (Land and builders).

  8. I appreciate the community’s efforts to improve the efficiency and availability of existing parking within downtown Edmonds. In my six years of living here, I have never experienced a parking crisis–but I have had to walk 1-2 blocks to my destination. Merchants would be wise to remember that a 2-block walk by customers affords new exposure (compared to customers parking onsite or parking at the destination’s entrance). Edmonds may have some parking congestion at peak times, but that is a strong indicator of a vibrant and successful downtown. Economically-depressed downtowns have plenty of parking available. Parking management is important, and it is great that the community is doing just that.

  9. it really angers me that between 6th and 7th on any given street near main the weekend ferry people park all weekend long. I have one renter who simply can not even park in front of his unit on most days and never on a weekend. Why not think about the few bigger churches renting out spaces during the week? Helps fund missions and what not of the church.

    Why not have the ECA parking lot utilized ,getting the ferry people off my street? Not to mention more parking for the farmers market!

    Really, something needs to be done before we are a traffic jam like I~5 currently is because nothing was done in time when they knew it was causing problems.

    Just my thought and opinions

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