It took a while to get there, but the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night made decisions on two key proposals Tuesday night that have been under consideration for the past several weeks.
First, the council approved, by a 5-0 vote (with two abstentions) a staff recommendation to proceed with a $1.85 million Sound Transit Access grant to add more bike lanes citywide. Second, it agreed via a 4-3 vote to move ahead with a full recruiting process to fill the permanent police chief position now occupied by Acting Chief Jim Lawless.
The police chief vote was a rejection of efforts by Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson and his administration to amend the current city code requirement for the mayor to bring three candidates before the council for director positions. That proposed change would have paved the way for Nelson to permanently appoint Lawless, who was the mayor’s choice for the permanent police chief job.
Last week, the council had two administration-supported code change options before it: The first was a revised version of an earlier proposal that reduced the time period of an “acting” position from six months to three months. This would allow an acting director’s confirmation “to occur prior to the expiration of the acting appointment,” which can last no longer than six months. The second option would have allowed the mayor to delay active recruiting if he or she was considering the permanent appointment of an acting director.
Even though Nelson had come into the mayor’s office in January announcing he would open up a recruitment process for a police chief, he explained last week that he chose Acting Chief Lawless after watching the long-time Edmonds police veteran in action during the COVID-19 crisis. Nelson also said he was “very doubtful” the city could find candidates “that will fill the need and immediacy during this crisis. He (Lawless) is the best person for the job.”
But some councilmembers were concerned about the concept, noting that the code change would apply not just to Lawless — but to future director appointments as well — and could erode the council’s authority when it comes to the process. To address those concerns, City Attorney Jeff Taraday Tuesday night proposed another option — inserting a sunset clause into the code change so that it would expire after a year.
That idea didn’t gain traction, however, and neither did a proposal by Councilmember Kristiana Johnson to delay the decision until next week so the council could study an appointment process followed by the City of Lynnwood. Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Councilmember Laura Johnson reiterated their earlier stance that it was important to follow council procedures in selecting the new police chief, and they were joined by Councilmembers Susan Paine and Luke Distelhorst in the 4-3 vote to stay the course with a recruiting process. Voting against were Councilmembers Vivian Olson, Diane Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson.
Human Resources Director Jessica Nell-Hoyson said she has already presented a plan to the mayor for police chief hiring, and she estimated it would take two to three months to bring final candidates to the council.
Under the approved Citywide Bicycle Improvements project, bike lanes will be added on both sides of the street along 100th Avenue West from 244th Street Southwest to Walnut Street, Bowdoin Way from 9th Avenue to 84th Avenue West, and 228th Street Southwest from 78th Avenue West to 80th Avenue West. In addition, sharrows (basically bicycle arrow designations that indicate the roadway is shared with bicycles) will be added along 80th Avenue West from 228th Street to 220th Street Southwest.
During a presentation Tuesday night, staff emphasized how the project will improve safety for cyclists by providing a lane separated by vehicles, and will also make motorists more aware of bike activity. Staff promised there would be significant public engagement during the design process for the bicycle lanes, which is expected to last from September 2020 through December 2021. Construction is expected to be complete in 2022.
Public Works Director Phil Williams said one idea would be to hold a public meeting once the design process was at 10 percent, so that citizens could provide their input.
Councilmembers have received close to 100 comments from citizens about the proposal, some of which were generated via a flyer passed out to homeowners in the affected areas. Topping the list of citizens’ concerns was a loss of on-street parking, especially in congested areas such as 100th Avenue West/9th Avenue South and Bowdoin Way near Yost Park. Some also wondered whether the selected routes were the best streets for bike lanes and why other, less-congested streets couldn’t be considered.
Speaking to the concerns about parking, City Transportation Engineer Bertrand Haus assured the council that while the city did parking studies in the bike lane areas in early to mid-July, staff would conduct additional parking studies during the design phase. Williams noted that there is space in the neighborhoods of concern to add more parking, and that installing tick mark guides similar to those used downtown would “pretty dramatically improve the efficiency of parking on the street.”
As for how the routes were selected, both Haus and Williams agreed it was simply a matter of choosing the fastest — and flattest — route for cyclists.
Expressing worries about whether the 100th Avenue and Bowdoin Way routes were the best choice for cyclists’ safety, Councilmember Buckshnis attempted to have those removed from the list of routes, so they could be studied further — but that proposal wasn’t supported by others. Councilmember Vivian Olson asked for more time to talk with citizens about their concerns but that idea was also rejected. The final vote to accept the project was 5-0, with Buckshnis and Olson both abstaining.
Also during the meeting, the council:
– listened as Mayor Nelson declared Aug. 4 as John Reed Day. The late Mr. Reed, who was dedicated to preserving Edmonds’ small-town character, died March 29 due to COVID-19.Many councilmembers also shared their memories of working with Reed.
– heard the city’s second quarter finance report.
– approved an 18-month extension of the city’s wastewater treatment, disposal and transport with the City of Mountlake Terrace and the Olympic View Water and Sewer District and the Ronald Sewer District.
– Received an update on the city’s climate goals project. More information on that, as well as action steps, will be presented at a future council meeting.