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