A decision by the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night to remove funding for an informational panel at the old Edmonds High School portico located at the edge of the Salish Crossing parking lot has drawn the ire of Salish Crossing owner Lindsey Echelbarger.
In an effort spearheaded by Councilmember Dave Teitzel, the council voted 5-2 last November to authorize the spending of up to $4,000 for the information panel, with money coming from the council’s contingency fund. Teitzel, who is no longer on the council, said at the time the panel would educate passersby about the significance of the 1909-era portico, which Echelbarger saved from the landfill when the former high school was remodeled to house the Edmonds Center for the Arts.
Echelbarger developed the Salish Crossing complex at 190 Sunset Ave. after purchasing the former Antique Mall property in 2012. He also founded the Cascadia Art Museum, which is located in the complex.
Echelbarger funded construction of a support structure for the portico and placed it at the southeast corner of the Salish Crossing parking lot, with the idea of showcasing it as part of the city’s history. But Councilmember Kristiana Johnson has consistently expressed her opposition to having the portico at Salish Crossing, and also strongly opposed the city’s funding of signage for it.
During the Nov. 19, 2019 meeting when the informational panel was discussed, Johnson called the portico structure “fake history” because of the distance from its original location at 410 4th Ave. N. Council President Fraley-Monillas also opposed the panel signage, stating she didn’t believe the city should provide signage for private property. (At the time of the discussion, city staff indicated there are several examples of the city getting an easement to locate city signage on private property.) Both Johnson and Fraley-Monillas were the two no votes on the proposal.
So on Tuesday night, Johnson had her chance to revisit the portico signage when the council was asked to approve a carryforward budget amendment ordinance — in which the council votes to roll over already-budgeted, but not-yet-spent items from 2019 into 2020. She asked Finance Director Scott James if the council could make changes to budgeted items that had already been approved last year, and James replied the council could. Johnson then proposed an amendment removing the portico signage from the carryforward list. The amendment was seconded by Fraley-Monillas and approved by a vote of 6-1, with Councilmember Diane Buckshnis voting no.
In an email Wednesday night, Echelbarger was livid, stating that “words barely express my anger about the council’s action.”
He noted that the $150,000-plus cost to re-erect the portico “was borne by my family as a tribute to our many relatives and all residents who graduated from that institution and walked through that doorway. Surely it is churlish and short-sighted for the city to refuse to fund a $4,000 historical sign for this landmark,” he added.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Johnson said that she had been approached by members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, who were upset about the way the portico signage decision was made, believing that it should have been an effort they approved and coordinated. But at the time of the November 2019 council discussion, Teitzel said he had taken the matter to that commission and was told the decision was outside their charter — and for that reason they could not take a position for or against the sign. Instead, Teitzel said the commission asked him to take the proposal to the Edmonds Museum Board. Teitzel added he did present it to the museum board, which supported placing the portico signage at Salish Crossing.
— By Teresa Wippel