Council pushes pause on parking study, additional money for Willow Creek consultant

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After lengthy discussions, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night pushed the pause button on two action items up for their consideration: A contract for a downtown Edmonds parking study and a proposal for more money to fund additional consultant work on the Willow Creek daylighting project.

The council did unanimously approve a recommendation by the Edmonds Historical Preservation Commission to place a home at 560 Bell St. on the Edmonds Register of Historic Places. The 108-year-old home was built in 1911, with some modifications made in 1942. (It was also the subject of a 2012 My Edmonds News story that describes how the home got its brick anchor.)

Tuesday night’s proposal related to the Willow Creek project was a request for $20,000 to fund additional work by long-time city consultant Shannon & Wilson, which has prepared pre-design information on plans to daylight — or open — the waterway. Willow Creek currently flows through the Edmonds Marsh, then enters a 1,600-foot piping system, to Puget Sound. Officials have said that the piping system prevents salmon from being able to return from Puget Sound to Willow Creek to spawn.

Public Works Director Phil Williams told the council that while the consulting firm has completed its report, it has depleted its current budget due to some complicated additional work. The funding would cover Shannon & Wilson’s time to present to the council, but any additional followup research or other information the council might want to receive, Williams said.

Councilmembers Tuesday night reiterated the need — initially expressed by Councilmembers Dave Teitzel and Kristiana Johnson during last week’s Parks and Public Works Committee — to closely coordinate the Shannon & Wilson report findings with a city study of the Edmonds Marsh that is being conducted by Windward Environmental. That study is aimed at providing data to help evaluate the ecological functions of the marsh and its buffers.

The discussion Tuesday night focused on best ways to combine those efforts. Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas suggested that perhaps a third party could review both studies and figure out a way to meld the two sets of findings.

There were also concerns raised about Shannon & Wilson’s approach. Johnson told Williams that the firm’s work appeared to be a hydrology-focused study that does not meet Department of Ecology requirements for buffers to ensure salmon passage through the Edmonds Marsh.

Williams said he disagreed, adding that the report — while focused on hydrology — has been informed “by biologists and good biology through and through. This is not something we’ve short-changed — what salmon need,” Williams said.

Councilmember Teitzel moved to authorize the Shannon & Wilson supplemental agreement for $20,000, but Johnson then moved to table the motion until there was more progress on the Windward report. Johnson’s motion was approved by a 5-2 vote, with Councilmembers Teitzel and Tom Mesaros voting no.

When it came time to discuss the parking study, Williams presented background information that had come before the council’s Parks and Public Works Committee meeting on Aug. 13. He described the city’s Aug. 8 meeting aimed at involving the public in helping to develop the study’s scope. A total of 41 people attended the meeting and 731 people filled out an online survey on the topic, Williams said.

The proposed professional services agreement with Framework would involve tasks that include parking data collection, public engagement, analysis of both city right of way and private property, and recommendations for next steps plus an implementation plan, Williams explained

The city council had approved, as part of its 2019 budget, $40,000 to conduct a downtown parking study but the revised scope of work proposed by Framework would be $79,860, plus a $3,767 management reserve for a total of $83,627 — reduced by $10,000 since last week’s Parks and Public Works presentation. There would also be $20,000 in staff time required to oversee the work, for a total of $103,627. So staff is requesting additional dollars from the general fund to cover the difference, Williams said.

Williams addressed recent concerns from citizens about why the city is moving so quickly to start the parking study. He explained that ideally the study should include at least part of August when good weather draws more visitors to Edmonds and thus increased parking demand. However, other councilmembers said that there is no rush on completing the study since parking has been an issue for many years — and will continue to be one.

Councilmember Dave Teitzel, who has reviewed preliminary survey findings and also participated in the Aug. 8 scoping meeting, noted the difficulty of finding common ground among so many diverging public opinions. “I’ve heard comments about the need for more enforcement of our parking effort, less enforcement because it doesn’t make us a friendly city if we are giving tickets out; I’ve heard comments that we need to move the three-hour parking limitations north and east of the downtown core up to 6th and 7th Avenue, and I’ve heard we don’t want to do that because it creates problems for the residents,” Teitzel said. “I’ve heard we should have a parking structure and should not for any reason have a parking structure, and I’ve heard that we should increase fines and should not increase fines.

“So it’s conflicting data,” he continued. ‘It’s difficult to sort through all that and I don’t think we in the city have the bandwidth to do that. It does require expert help.” Teitzel then added he would like to see the city proceed with the study.

Councilmember Neil Tibbott suggested it would be worthwhile to implement two to three action items that came out of Aug. 8 citizen scoping meeting — and then see how those work during the next six to eight months before conducting a parking study. He also recommended engaging the Citizens Economic Development Commission’s Parking Subcommittee to work on the issue, with involvement from citizens and local business groups.

Councilmember Mike Nelson addressed an issue expressed by some citizens that current consultant Frameworks didn’t have enough experience conducting parking studies. Nelson pointed out that Frameworks has proposed partnering with Rick Williams Consulting, which has extensive parking management experience. However, Nelson said he is concerned about the study’s cost, and suggested that the city find ways to trim the consultant’s budget — perhaps by having city staff run some of the meetings and do public engagement.

“It’s clear our citizens want us to prioritize, and I think we should,” Nelson said.

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis said she was also uncomfortable with the increased cost of the parking contract. She added that she would like to explore the idea of a “boutique” (boutique was later defined as small) parking structure and find creative ways to fund it.

Councilmember Tom Mesaros agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to take another look at the parking scope of work and analyze it to see if there are ways to reduce costs before making a final decision on how to proceed.

The council also Tuesday night unanimously approved the following items:

– the city’s 2018 Transportation Benefit District Report.

– adoption of a resolution of intent to implement HB 140, which authorizes a participating city or county to receive a small portion (0.0073%) of the state’s current sales tax revenue for certain housing purposes, including affordable housing.

–  a construction bid from A&M Contractors for $810,227 for the 84th Avenue overlay project.

— By Teresa Wippel

11 Replies to “Council pushes pause on parking study, additional money for Willow Creek consultant”

  1. Surprise, surprise, surprise! The budget for a “parking study” was set at $40,000 at the beginning and, what do you know! It’s now $103,067! How on earth did this happen?! Well, let’s think…you propose a study, then you state a low-ball unrealistic price on it. Then, as it gets some approval, you advise that, well, it’s not quite accurate considering this and that, ( all nonsense), then your project cost rises a bit as time goes along and then bingo, it nearly triples in cost. Such is the way things are done in the public sector because, hey, why be honest about the cost in the beginning when you can lie about it and there is no accountability because, well, somehow we didn’t foresee this and didn’t foresee that so the taxpayers can just pay for our “mistake” in budgeting..
    And how about this study of parking in Edmonds for $103,067? Will the cost continue to rise as it gets closer to getting approved? Of course it will! And what do we get for this study, what is the purpose and what will be done with it? Answer= More study and taxpayer’s money needed to determine if we need more public parking!
    So I have a cost-saving option. Hire me to do the job. I’ll hire a bunch of high school kids to go around Edmonds with a clipboard with maps of every street and make notes of what parking is currently available, the no-parking and handicap spaces available,what private lots are available and how many spaces are currently in private parking lots. In a week I’ll compile it all and present it to the city council in a notebook with all the information they need. My “consultant” charge-$5,000. By the way, I can provide you with the main conclusion of the study right now: Edmonds does need more public parking. There, you just saved $103,067!
    But I will provide all the numbers and facts if you still require it. Only $5,000.
    How about it? I’m retired so I can start immediately.

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  2. Spot on Mark Volpe! We often joke, when watching the weather repor,t that they’d be more accurate if they’d just look out of the window. Do we need more parking in Edmonds? Of course we do. Anyone who spends 5 minutes in town can see that. I like your common-sense solution. I hope our next mayor will be less of a bureaucrat. In government, they are the biggest wasters of the taxpayer’s money, and rarely do what the majority of people actually want. We need to stop having meetings to discuss whether or not we need to have a meeting.

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  3. Mark and Maret, not to debate but it is useful to know what some of the number we at the beginning and what they are now. 1. Original request for study was around $75k, Council reduced the budget to $40k. The study request now is $83k, up $8k above estimate created about a year ago. The $103k includes an estimate of staff time and that estimate was not in the original request to council. So it really is not a low ball and gouge strategy as suggested.
    City budgeting is a messy sport. Estimates, cuts, final study parameters, revised bids, and then council review. What would be helpful for this “sport” is greater public input during the budgeting process in a way that prioritizes what the citizens would like the city to do with the tax dollars.
    Hope that helps with the numbers.

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    1. Well Darrol, your explanation does a fine job explaining the ridiculessness, that was my point. First it was this, then it was that, and then it was some other. We’re SO busy on the council weeding all of this out. WHY? I spent years working in corporate America. This kind of time-wasting stuff if why corporations fail, and why governments waste taxpayers’ money. If I ran my household the way the city runs itself, we would be broke and my children would be wandering about in the middle of the streets with no apparent purpose, rather than being the focused, hardworking young people that they are. This entire situation is silliness at it’s best.

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      1. Glad to help support the notion of explaining the ridiculousness with some numbers. In this next budget cycle when council allocates some funding for roads I will try to find some numbers to show if it is way to much to spend or about right.

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  4. While I’m not convinced that it wasn’t based on the possible repercussions in the coming election, I congratulate the council for having the good sense to hold back on funding this study right now. It looks to me like there may be a big sea change in the make up and general governing philosophy of the Mayor/Council in Edmonds after this election. My sense is that the people of greater Edmonds (not just the Bowl area) have had it with business as usual in this town. The housing issue and the beach issue have brought out a lot of pent up irritation about how things have gone down the past 20 odd years here. It has been too much about “selling” Edmonds and not enough about making Edmonds livable for all the residents, i.e. fixing the roads, policing the streets, patching and installing the sidewalks, city building codes and ordinances administered fairly and honestly – just regular mundane city stuff. We’ve had an administration and downtown city cabal making mountains out of mole hills for years (deathtrap waterfront, dangerous buildings in earthquakes, not enough parking, no houses for the homeless, making a really great park out of an already great park, ban plastic to save the world). The voters are just saying it’s time to get real I think.

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    1. Some good observations Clint. A review of the Strategic Action Plan shows the public had some really good ideas to explore and several ideas that basically said “let’s do the basics of money management, budgeting, and providing for basic services for all of Edmonds.” Some basics like “create funding models for roads and parks” have not been discussed in a way to accomplish what the citizens seemed to want. The wish list for claims on budgets grows and grows without first doing the basics. Our wish list of projects is often larger than our willingness to pay. What is happening in Edmonds is more and more citizens are becoming involved and engaged in public dialog. To date the masses have mobilized to stop things. It would be great if we could get the masses to mobilize to start or create things that are good for the city. This election with have a new mayor and 3-5 new council members. It will be interesting and exciting to see what if anything changes on how we prioritize the use of our tax dollars or if we have more of the same going forward. Let’s find way to do the basics we want and if we have money left over if if we can find grant money or if we vote to raise taxes we can then to some of the non basic issues. Good points Clint.

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  5. Okay, I provided the answer to what the City of Edmonds leadership is going to spend the $103,067 to find out. I’ll repeat it here: Yes, the City of Edmonds does in fact need more public parking.
    So, I have saved the city the $103,076. No need for the study now.
    However, my offer still stands if they need a big fat multi-page report with charts, diagrams and maps with all sorts of worthless statistics that no one will ever use, as is typical of government. Again, my consultant fee for this: $5,000. I stand at the ready with my clipboards to count the parking spaces in the city and will begin lining up the high school students to commence the “study”.

    Ignored

  6. Lots, if not most, younger people just call Uber or a similar company when they want to go into congested areas like most of Seattle, sports events, or Edmonds for dining and liquid entertainment. Many don’t even choose to own a car. Car sharing is probably going to become more and more of a thing as well. A couple years ago when I returned to Edmonds from Tucson I took light rail into Seattle, then rapid transit to Shoreline and Community transit home. The trip cost me about $2.00 total due to some senior citizen perks. Under 62 would have spent about $8.00 max. I had to walk a block and a half from Main to 8th. and Bell home. More parking places is not the long term answer, any more than more roads will solve Seattle /Tacoma metropolitan traffic problems.

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