Letter to the editor: We need a parking strategy, not ‘cultural placemaking’

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 Editor:

Beware. The city council is potentially about to make the same mistake it made with the original housing strategy process. Let’s not let this happen again.Tuesday evening, Aug. 20, Council will be voting on whether to hire Framework as Edmonds’ parking study consultant. There are multiple important reasons to delay selection of which consultant to work with:

  1. $84,000 is a lot of money to spend on a consulting firm hired to explore parking options for Edmonds when that firm does not specialize in parking improvements and supply analysis.
  2. The work Framework does is too diversified. We need a firm who specializes in parking issues including managing of current inventory, but more importantly on the supply side. We need a plan to effectively and aesthetically add more parking. There were four possible consultants on the short list. Three of those work exclusively on parking issues and plans: Dixon, Walker and Transpo Group. Framework will be voted on Tuesday evening and on its website lists parking as only one of a list of 18 project types on which it works. Parking is number 16 on that list. In fact, Framework advertises itself as a “multidisciplinary design and planning firm focused on Cultural Placemaking.” We need a firm skilled in parking planning.
  3. Framework, as per its own website, lists BERK Consulting as a collaborator. As we all remember, BERK is a Seattle-style focused firm which was essentially fired after a disastrous process where there was little citizen outreach or input about a housing strategy and where meetings with BERK were run in a frenetic and disrespectful manner, with public input carefully manipulated to support their own agenda.
  4. Because we are in the early stages of planning for future parking needs, all options must be on the table, including a parking structure. Framework does not include “parking structures” as a part of its work. Staff lead on this, Phil Williams even stated publicly at the committee meeting with Councilmembers Teitzel and Johnson on Aug. 13, and Councilmember Johnson pushed, to take a parking garage option “off the table” and not even have it in the scope.
  5. Residents and businesses have responded to the initial survey about parking and the consensus seems to be that we need more parking and/or better management. A firm that can deliver on that request is the one that should be hired.

Perhaps in the long run, Framework will turn out to be the consulting firm that is approved by the city council. However, for such an important project, this selection is being rushed through. Just because city staff want to get one day left of summer to use for a parking count is not a justifiable reason to push this to a vote now. We even have multiple blocks around Dayton Street closed right now, which is a main parking and driving route. Let’s take the initial $20,000 proposed for city staff time to get the data and public outreach prior to jumping the gun on a consultant before we even have the scope that the public wants the city to pursue. Only 2% of the public has gotten involved during this peak of the summer vacation season — we can do better!

I believe an in-house process, involving downtown and waterfront businesses, condo associations, new projects in the pipeline like Civic Park and the Waterfront Center, DEMA, Ed!, Chamber of Commerce at a minimum will give us actionable data that can help to make this process a success. The listed management strategies that Framework put together already are ones that the city is using as solutions. We don’t need an expensive consultant to tell us what we already know. Councilmembers have expressed a desire to change the “business as usual” process to involve their constituents first, so let’s encourage them to vote against this consultant and put that money to better use. E-mail Council now to tell them to vote NO at [email protected].

Michelle Dotsch
Edmonds

29 Replies to “Letter to the editor: We need a parking strategy, not ‘cultural placemaking’”

  1. Honestly this is a absolute laugh. We have had several Paid and not paid parking study’s. (In the last 25 years) We have tried many different parking styles to see what worked and what didn’t. You really want to waste tax payer money again? Look to your old records and see what past parking studies produced. Look and see what worked and didn’t. We have valid studies…I believe the chamber and city worked on one..

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  2. I agree with those expressing concerns about hiring a consulting firm now to develop a parking strategy or plan. It would be prudent and cost saving if city staff would review and summarize past studies as the comment by Joy T. pointed out. Such a review and report would provide important information in evaluating and determining the criteria for next steps. At minimum, such a review would expedite the work of a consulting firm that, in the end, will need to be involved.

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  3. Parking is what it is. More parking will only allow more people to come to Edmonds. More people is more traffic. Instead of the city advertising, Come to Edmonds for the day,” how about the slogan, “Come visit Washington’s little secret, the town of Edmonds, stay for three hours.”

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  4. I agree 100% with Michelle Dotsch. Everything about this seems like a big rush to get something done but not in a methodical, analytical way. Parking survey in summer–really with Dayton closed, traffic rerouted. Certainly not going to get the “real story/count”. Let’s slow down, investigate the firms considered, AND get more public input. One meeting with 40 people (my husband attended) certainly does not appear to be transparency at its best.
    I will send my concerns to the city council.

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  5. Thank you for this letter.
    boondoggle
    [ˈbo͞onˌdäɡəl]

    NOUN
    “work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.”

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  6. Commissioning consultants is often a way for those who are supposed to be in charge to pass their job on to someone outside, and thus look as if they are doing something. But the outsiders don’t need to live with the results. Parking is an issue for Edmonds residents – people who live here and need to park. It should be handled in-house, in the community.

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  7. If I had a heart issue, I would go to a Cardiologist, not a general physician? Why would we not use this same logic on Choosing a specialized consulting firm? Great letter backed up by factual concerns.

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  8. There was a study done in 2003 that could probably be used as a template by already on salary city employees to update with current information plugged in next to the old information. Why do we need to pay an outside source to do this? If we are going to pay people, why not give our loyal and able city employees the overtime to do this study, if it can’t be done during regular work hours? These outside “studies” tend to produce information that interest groups want them to produce. Darroll Haug, concerned citizen and not part of any particular interest group, has been studying this parking issue for months now and could be called in as a paid consultant to help the city employees do a good study for way less than $100,000 which is what it will end up costing. On top of that we are now functioning with several lame duck city pol.s who won’t even be officially around to act on the expensive study they are approving here. I’ll just figure the council people will probably be reading these comments prior to tonight’s meeting.

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    1. Clint, there you go again. Just want me to earn some money so you can rent me that RV!!
      I have been privileged to work on some of the parking issues for the last few years as a volunteer with the Economic Development Commission and other official reviews of parking. The latest public meeting and parking survey was very interesting. 40 folks live, and 700+ answering the survey. I have read most of the survey responses, not just summary data and the citizens of Edmonds are taking advantage of the Council and Staffs plan to gather focused public input right from the get go.

      For those of you who have not read the 2003 report it serves as a great starting point for any new data gathering. Many things have change in the last 16 years but many sets of stakeholders have not changed. The current “scoping team” also has access to a study for Hong Kong. You say, what does HK have to do with Edmonds, it isn’t even our sister city. A read of the HK study shows many of the same forces at work, residents, employees, employers, and visitors. This study has some interesting insights on how to balance the needs of all these competing interests. Edmonds had a parking team for a number of years who did a bunch of work as well. Not been able to find that data yet but it is another point of some work done locally by folks who live and work here. Not sure what it will bring but it may well be worth a look.

      This current effort is interesting because it is following a model that represents good government. Define the problem we are trying to solve, get the stakeholders who are impacted at the table, evaluate alternatives considering some sort of cost benefit analysis, move the best ideas forward, launch and evaluate impact and be prepared to adjust and improve. The 2003 study did make some recommendations that have made it better and now we are trying to do some added evaluations and adjustments with all the current stake holders.

      Ultimately Council, either this one or the next with 3-5 new members will have to sort out all the inputs and authorized some money for what ever will be implemented for change. Parking garages, parking lots, enforcement methods, and paint (more tick marks!) all cost money and if council does nothing in this budget cycle to set aside some placeholder money we will not move anything forward the near term fixes that will emerge from further data gathering and analysis.

      This is little doubt the citizens are interested in making parking improvements. The public engagement stuff so far has been great. We need to work toward improved data and a careful review of the alternatives. How we get that data will be up to council to decide.

      If they vote to proceed with the current plan then they need to put in place a way to implement new ideas. If they vote no on the current plan then they need to chart a course to get us the needed information to make more data driven solutions not just kick the can down the road.

      Yes or No, we already know the public interest is gaining strength and the public input is huge! My read of that the current input is very thoughtful and future input based on added data will help craft improvements that we can all support.

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  9. As stated, in the article and comments, the issue is bigger than just one study. The problem is systemic. Council Members have the power to vote on what is presented. Yes, write to Council and…

    Communications also need to go to the Mayor (current and next), Human Resource Director and other appropriate department heads. They have the power to create and embed a thorough overall change to improve systematic processes regarding studies, including staff reviewing internal work first.

    Perhaps it is time for the City to conduct a cost analysis for some level of internal research position in order to preview return on Investment.

    Certainly the researcher wouldn’t be able to do all the heavy lifting. However, he or she would know methodology and how to compare, analyze and present. He or she would know how to work with departments, citizens, potential consultants, and how to recommend research consultants.

    How many 100ks or more are spent annually by departments internally plus consultants. And then look at how many have been scratched or stopped and began again?

    Might it be worth reviewing if an internal researcher could reduce tax dollar spending, aid in better decisions and improve citizen satisfaction?

    This could reduce the weight of research-related work off those who are less skilled, experienced or educated in methodology and analysis.

    It is time for improvement.

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  10. I wholeheartedly agree with Michelle’s letter, and echo the sentiments of Nathaniel Brown (in house/community) and Clinton (using the last study as a baseline). a six-figure study/consultancy doesn’t sound like the best option presented. What has been the results from the last study to today?

    The parking problem, for a number of different reasons, will always be one. One person’s satisfaction (visitor) will be another person’s (resident) nuisance. I believe we should explore options to mitigate (shared parking, ‘enforced’ timed parking, shuttles/trolleys to and from downtown) rather than permanent solutions that may encroachment of property or create density.

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  11. Didn’t the marketing study we did about or around 2003, (when we paid around $100k I think we split the cost with The Port or Chamber…) they had FABULOUS ideas that we didn’t implement. QI believe ideas with parking were in there too. Letting the restaurants eat outside was one of their ideas that the city did pass. They had a huge notebook full of ideas we didn’t do, and I think parking was one of them.

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  12. Before we spend the money on another parking study, let’s put funds back into paving 80th PL W…which was scheduled…and then cut. Love to hear why…

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    1. The real reason we do not have enough money for 80th or any street is Edmonds is Council has never pursued the item in the Strategic Plan they approved in 2013 and again in 2015. One of the most supported ideas the Citizens wanted was a permanent funding method for Streets. Such a plan would repair every street according to their life cycle. Residential streets are good for around 30 years and Arterials are good for about 18 years. At that time of the SAP the estimate was $1.4m/year and all streets would be done on a regular schedule based on their condition. The recent Pavement Study has upped the estimate to around $2m/year. We have catch up to do and costs have gone up. Council has budget tools to address this issue but has not. So unless and until we do what was requested in the SAP we will all just hope the city finds spare money some where to do a few streets here and there.

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    1. Great question Tia, I am not looking at the study at this moment but I recall employee permits to be 300 or so at a cost of $25 per year. Today we have 700 plus at a cost of $50 per year if purchased before July 1 and $25/year after. In 2003 the inventory for available public parking was something like 900 to 1000. We would have to make sure we are looking at the same geography but basically we have not added on street parking since 2003 but the demands have increased. We have 834 DT residential permits and 700+ employee permits. The plan for the now delayed study was to gather all the supply number… on street, public lots, private lots and together with the actual usage data we would see if we still have excess. Unlikely we have excess except during certain times of the day.

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  13. We already know what is needed for the foreseeable future in Edmonds without another expensive study that will simply point out the obvious. Downtown needs additional parking for business visitors, tourists and employees of our businesses. Frequent walk on ferry users are also in the mix. We have two options or a combination of two. Build a downtown or very close to downtown parking lot or build a parking lot east of downtown and bus or trolley people in. Or, maybe do a combo of both? The businesses want the public to pay for the parking and transportation for all, and the public would just as soon the businesses pay for the parking and transportation that supports their business ventures. On top of that the public wants to be able to park a maximum of 15 or so feet from where they are going to do business even if they are healthy and could or should walk up to several blocks or more. I heard a rumor that some of the businesses in town with major corporate backing don’t even buy permits for their employees to park their entire shift so the employees end up gaming the 3hr. system downtown. The world is full of people who want to have their cake and eat it too, and Edmonds is no exception to the rule.

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  14. Parking meter Main and 5th. I think there are companies that will even consign us the meters for x years for a cut of the $. All done.

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  15. Consultants generally say what the government hiring them wants them to say. Just cancel the whole idea of a parking study, and save the money. Put in an additional free lot in the vicinity of the Bowl, so people can park. Easy peasy.

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  16. I was talking to a coworker this morning, who grew up in Edmonds but doesn’t live there now. She asked why, considering the 99 corridor is so neglected in terms of sidewalks, infrastructure, etc., is the city spending so much money and effort on gilding the lily of the downtown area? It made me think. Maybe we just let parking take its course downtown for a few years and spend the $80k from this, plus whatever else is bowl-centered, and work on areas outside the bowl.

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  17. Every few years our city looks at the parking issue which is very real. And each time the real result is nothing. I recall one vaguely, an “expert” from Portland who was hired for about $100K, also a total waste of time and money. How much more will be wasted on this new “study” now?

    What is needed is a major project of a large multi level parking garage somewhere in town, perhaps a really big deal involving eminent domain. It would be a major undertaking similar to the ill fated bridge to the waterfront. Not likely to happen any time soon.

    Yet I believe pressure will gradually increase until it is likely to happen, maybe 30 years from now.

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    1. I agree, stop wasting money to study parking. I think Ray is showing us an example of British humor, call sarcasm. There is nothing more beautiful than a square block parking garage. How about going up 20 levels to the sky. Can you imagine all the cars that can park there? Artists in town would have something to paint. It would be a heavenly sight. Can you imagine all the large number of cars young children can try to guess the year and make of, as they enter Edmonds? We then could build bridges to replace all crosswalks. Can you imagine, we could all walk across every street with eyes on our cell phone, no need to look up while crossing any more? Then we could raise the heights of all buildings to ten stories. We would not need to worry about having to walk in the sun anymore. From the garage we could have a moving sidewalk, no need to walk again. Now that I am 66 years old, I am sad that in 20 years I will no longer be able to enjoy the wonderful growth of Edmonds. I think it is time to go to our beloved bakery and order a few cookies. ” Do not build a garage.”

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        1. Not a problem, Darrol. Our so called traffic engineer says that tick marks for marking spaces only reduces the number of vehicles that can be acomodated.

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  18. Unless all this technological advancement in personal transport is a hoax, the average person 30 years from now won’t even own a car/truck except maybe for amusement. In the short term (say 10 years), I suspect you couldn’t build any parking facility downtown that would keep up with the demand of additional cars and drivers coming to DT Edmonds especially trying to accommodate the various festivals. We, being human, often spend a lot of money solving “urgent” problems and then live to regret it. A big example of this was tearing out the Interurban RR between Bellingham and Tacoma mid 20th century because roads and cars were making it obsolete. “Smooth Move” in retrospect. A big parking facility in Edmonds will likely have a similar result, but man is uniquely unable to learn from past history it seems. Sort of like knowing tariffs and trade wars don’t work but we just have to give them a shot every so many years just in case the economic rules and principles have changed.

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    1. Good points to consider some of the trends of transportation as we consider parking. In many European cities they have pedestrian only areas and they are often served by parking out side of “old town” and one walks or is shuttled go the town square. Edmonds has a “plus sign” with the center as a fountain. It would be fun to dream a bit and see if we could think about a preservation zone radiating out from the fountain that is a no car zone except deliveries after hours.

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