SOS rally promotes a more business-friendly Walkable Main Street

A group of downtown business owners and citizens have banded together to form Save Our Saturdays (SOS), which advocates boosting local businesses by making a critical modification to the City of Edmonds’ Walkable Main Street program: limiting the street closure to Sundays only. And on Saturday afternoon, supporters took to the downtown streets to carry signs, distribute flyers and engage citizens about their proposal.

Edmonds embarked on the Walkable Main Street program last year to bring a much-needed economic boost to downtown restaurants and businesses after the COVID shutdown forced many to shut doors, lay off staff, and endure crushing economic losses. Walkable Main Street aimed to address this by closing Main Street to traffic each weekend from Saturday morning to Sunday evening, thereby creating a pedestrian-only zone that would encourage people to return to downtown in a COVID-safe manner. Restaurants were the first to benefit, as they pivoted to overcome social distancing requirements and restrictions on indoor dining with appropriately placed outdoor seating and a wide range of take-out food choices.

SOS supporters maintain that while this helped restaurants, many retail businesses — already reeling from COVID — were hit yet again by Walkable Main Street as loss of downtown parking meant fewer shoppers in their stores.

“The effect on us was direct and quick,” says Phyllis Carlton of Treasures and Teas, located a stone’s throw from the downtown fountain. “When Walkable Main Street began, our numbers dropped immediately. Sure, the atmosphere was fun and cool, but our customers simply couldn’t access our business. It needs to be good for all of us. It’s time to lift everybody up.”

Jenny Murphy has operated Sound Styles at Fifth and Main for the past 35 years.

“Our business immediately fell off by at least 50%,” she said. “After the Farmers Market closed on Saturday afternoons, downtown was a dead zone. You could literally roll a bowling ball through here.”

Andy Cline of Cline Jewelers echoed this.

“Last year many clients told us that they simply would not come downtown on weekends,” he said. “Lack of parking was their number-one reason.”

According to Murphy, SOS is looking forward to gaining support for their proposal through more council testimony (see My Edmonds News coverage of last week’s Council meeting here), more public outreach, and more people to sign on to their petition.

“We want to work together,” Murphy stressed.  “We’ve built this town by working together, but recently there’s been a disturbing divide. We want it to work for everybody. We are a community and want to stay a community. This is not about restaurants pitted against retailers – that’s not what it’s all about – it’s about making it work for all of us.”

“Last year it was the right time to help our restaurants,” added Cline. “They had been hit really hard. But now it’s the right time to compromise and make downtown more accessible [on Saturdays] for customers to come and shop, and leave Sunday as ‘fun day.’ Remember, this is our livelihood. These are legitimate concerns, and we’re proposing this compromise to address these.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

33 Replies to “SOS rally promotes a more business-friendly Walkable Main Street”

  1. This is the mayor and political friends program .E mail the mayor Patrick Daughtery his economic development director.

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    1. Don Patrick Doherty told me that businesses I represent should move to Lynnwood if they dont like his projects. This was in a discussion about how the businesses who are forced to pay dues to his Downtown Aliance arent allowed to participate in meetings.

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  2. Hello

    We sell glass out of Garden Gear and Gallery. The shut down of the streets keeps our buyers away. Business on Sat is so bad that being open is a money hole. Now with all the parking gone with outside food it is a struggle to make it in Edmonds as a retailer. Please please do not shut the streets during business hours. I live in Edmonds for the last 30 years. Keep the street open please for auto traffic and parking.

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    1. I’m sorry Lilly. I have always loved your store and found you to be a very nice person.. Beautiful things, many still in my garden. I’ll be in soon. I am totally vaxed and waiting periods. I think I need some new beauties for the gardens. Deb.

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  3. I’m all in on this idea and am grateful the business owners came forward with this compromise idea and the awareness campaign efforts.

    My question is about what the real action item is for me as a citizen? I saw the city (was it the council or the city staff?) doing a survey about walkable Main Street a bit ago but I’m not sure where they are in their process. Who’s desk/agenda is this on right now? Which policy makers should I be targeting with this request? How do I even begin to find out?

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  4. This proposal sounds like a workable compromise and offers to support to all. Thanks for citizen and business input to the Council who represents all.

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  5. when leftist are in position of power this is what a community gets, get rid of the mayor and his political hacks. the divide is the result of folks in edmonds voting for a partisan hack for mayor.

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    1. This leftist – whatever that is – is all in favor of SOS, as are my leftie friends. Perhaps rightists need to put away their broad brush and their black and white picture. The problem is not one party over another, but a dictatorial mayor and council – and that can happen on the left or the right.

      My leftist friends favor compromise (go SOS!) and listening to all sides of an argument in order to arrive at a consensus. Time-consuming and laborious – but that’s democracy! And it avoids the absolutist blame-game as well as dictatorial decisions.

      It all works so much better if we avoid name-calling and actually listen to our fellow citizens’ ideas and proposals. The mayor and council have failed at this. Let’s not do the same thing.

      Go SOS!

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    2. Who knows….this is a big part of the problem all citizens are having here. Until I find out I am going go to stores who support WM on Sundays only. Until streets cleared etc. I will shop on weekdays. Three of my of my favorites are on the list.
      Please let others know who you find for transparency. Thanks Deb.

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    3. Name calling is not going to help any situation Ray. I’m a Leftist, whatever your definition is of a Leftist, I support SOS and am not in favor of our current mayor and his policies. Wouldn’t it be better to engage without all of the political name calling?

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    4. This is why we need moderates and representation from both sides. Then these divides will be workable with ALL citizens involved.

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  6. Yes this is a wonderful fair suggestion to all involved we have to help retail to survive to keep Edmonds town for the future thriving

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  7. I originally asked when Rick Steves came out with this…has anyone asked the businesses??? Nope. This isn’t the first time this has happened to downtown Edmonds. Through the years there has been many events held downtown. Most events were relocated because merchants pay a lot of money in rent in Edmonds and events take away parking. Downtown rent is Every bit as much $$ as downtown Seattle, in most cases. Saturday events take away the parking space. Which includes closing downtown. ( With the exception of the market, because it’s on a side street.) but even that limits parking. The businesses in downtown Edmonds have begged for a high rise multi lever parking lot for years. City has the property but never happened. For Years Old Milltown was the only bathroom in the downtown city. The merchants in Old Milltown picked up that tab in the thousands monthly.
    The best thing for businesses in downtown would be a new large pArking lot. Move event to Sunday but give them a parking lot.

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    1. Totally agree. I think this shows compromise. That is essential too in Edmonds. I have been to Saturdays market days. I have tried to go and would probably go every week but couldn’t find parking…so I went to another produce market. For me alone I can’t walk or carry that much produce more than a short distance.
      So essentially they already have a bit if a walkable Sat too. That is fine.
      Saturdays are a bigger retail shopping day especially for those who have jobs. They work M-F…So, of course Saturdays are shopping days. This is important for the shoppers and the merchants. Sundays many woman especially in Edmonds I imagine they are preparing children for schooling etc.
      So yes, I approve of this because it’s fair enough.

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  8. Let’s not forget that the city did not renew its lease on the parking lot behind chanterelles and that the Bank of America that used to allow public parking in their lot on Saturdays and Sundays has sold the lots to Hui LLC of Seattle which has leased them to Diamond parking.
    They had planned to charge $5.00 for two hours. Not all of the retailers were notified of this transaction as the city planning dept. only notified property owners that paid property tax. Since most of the store owners are lease holders they were not notified and did not know they could have some input not this. Also if you did not own property within 300 feet of the proposed change you were not notified.
    If I remember this all correctly the change was then somehow put on hold for six months.
    BTW I think that planning and permit people were acting strictly within their understanding of the city’s CCRs.
    Anyhow that takes away a lot more parking then the WMS project. I think the merchants might do better by refocusing their energy on trying to help the city come up with a way to expand parking rather then losing it.
    So when the city had a Zoom meeting about this only two of us who were not city officers or employees attended. I wondered why so few folks cared.
    Perhaps we should all write the council unless we really don’t see the benefit for the retailers of this big change is parking availability in the core
    Who knew???

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  9. A parking structure would solve so many problems for downtown businesses and those who attend our many events.
    This suggestion was made when the new city park was being planned, but attention focused on amenities rather than practicalities.
    It doesn’t have to be ugly. We are a creative city.
    It would be a big investment monetarily, but the dividends would benefit our town’s future immensely.
    Parking availability needs to be addressed. The problem impacts those who work here, those who live here and those who visit. It’s not going to correct itself.

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  10. I am very sorry, but this seems like a very poor idea to me. As an elderly and disabled individual, I find it less and less likely that I will venture to downtown Main street. There is not enough parking within a distance that allows me to comfortably walk, which has gotten worse with the COVID19 and the parking going to the outside dinning. For a while I could go to Taki Teki since they had a pickup parking, but even that has now disappeared.

    I have to agree with some of the other comments. The current mayor and council is trying to turn Edmonds into a little Seattle. Just look at how well that has worked for Seattle. I for one moved here because of the life style. I cannot say that I would repeat that move today.

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  11. I strongly suspect the tavern and night life business interests want the WMS to include Friday and Saturday nights and they will fight or try to ignore this really fair compromise proposal. They will probably get the the Mayor’s support for Friday and Sat nights. This will be an interesting test of just how much this Mayor controls this City Council.

    Personally, I’d like to know just how much this never ending re-make of the downtown costs the taxpayers every time they close and re-open the streets. I assume city employees have to put up and take down the signs and assure that the cars are off the streets by any given time. Since almost all of this activity occurs on the week ends I suspect some O.T. pay comes into the equation for employees. How much time and cost does this represent for the Police Dept. too?

    In a sane world you would either make downtown a normal traffic system with normal roads and parking (no artsy fountain) or you would permanently turn the whole downtown into a walking mall and build a large parking facility on the edge somewhere with some form of helpful pedestrian conveyances. Like, people or electric powered rickshaws of some sort. Give some kids some jobs in the process. Nope, Edmonds just has to try to have it both ways – business as usual.

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    1. Clint, I asked the city 3 or 4 times and never got a real answer. Public works was putting up the barriers and I would assume they were keeping track of who to charge there time to. I wonder how much the city is subsidizing the restaurants .

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  12. The merchants’ proposal to scale back Walkable Main Street certainly has merit. Doing it Saturday evenings and all day Sundays is quite a reasonable compromise. Maybe even extend it year-round, not just our few fair-weather months.

    But I do believe claims of parking problems in downtown Edmonds are at least a little exaggerated. No matter what the occasion~ WMS, the Saturday markets, the fairs and festivals~ we have always been able to find street parking within a block or two of Main Street; worst case maybe going around the block a time or two. The resulting walks are far shorter than what shoppers endure at the mall.

    That said, the City does need a few more strategically located loading zones and handicapped parking spots downtown (even without WMS). Not everyone can walk even a couple blocks to their downtown destination.

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    1. I like some of this.Sat after 6 pm only and Sunday. I also like the year round idea…we shop year round.

      However , we do need a parking garage. Close. Remember all these ideas for more housing. Code changes..if they succeed or have..who can tell. We will have many more people living in Edmonds. So we need parking plain and simple. Unless the plan is only for their tax money…Not there retail ha.But city, property, schools…think about this. Let me know what you think.

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      1. Deborah, before anybody proposes a parking garage in downtown Edmonds, I suggest they do some math~ urban parking structures are very expensive projects. Given our very high land values and construction costs, the price would almost certainly exceed $50K per parking stall. Sound Transit routinely spends over $100K per stall for its commuter parking structures.

        Where would the money come from to build such a structure in our downtown? Would we tax the businesses that would (presumably) benefit from that investment? Would businesses and property owners willingly pay the costs?

        I just don’t see this happening. A downtown parking garage doesn’t “pencil”, as they say.

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        1. Roger…Hi just a question. I just went to downtown Edmonds my first day of total freedom.. it was glorious. I saw something, having been in my home for a year, for the first time. On main at about 6th where the fabric shop used to be, a giant building size with about a 2 story deep hole, being dug and looks about as deep as its going. Now we gonna fill up that whole with plastic bubble balls, are we building a pool? Or are we going to fill it with concrete? If not filling it what are you doing with it? I just want to know. I will be asking many questions. Much new building…is that our hotel west around 3rd or so. The corner.? What is this? I mean the new one.? I think some major communication is necessary. Looking forward to meeting you, I think. Haha.

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        2. Deborah, that hole in the ground is part of Mike McMurray’s Main Street Commons project. Learn more about it at http://mainstreetcommons.us. I think it’s a cool project, and in keeping with the spirit of Edmonds.

          I’m still a member of the Edmonds Planning Board and always interested in meeting with thoughtful people like you. Teresa can give you my contact information. I often stop for coffee at Cafe Louvre.

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        3. Hi, I will look up the site..and yes I look forward to meeting you also. You have been very polite to me and indulgent. We will do that coffee. Thank you.

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  13. As the former retail store owner of The Savvy Traveler, this program was detrimental to my business. It cut business in half on the weekend in a very tough and trying time for retail. It may have benefitted restaurants. The decision was made unilaterally by the mayor and the Economic Director, Patrick without input from any business. The survey conducted by the city was biased and slanted to make it look positive. Blocking 5th Ave. N for the Saturday market is enough and the restaurants already have Parklets.

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    1. We miss The Savvy Traveler for your merchandise, knowledge about travel, and you took great Passport Photos! I support the downtown merchants! Enough of the mayor and his band-of-four making the rules. We need to support retail in Edmonds in a big way.
      I hope The Savvy Traveler comes back.

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  14. Savvy Traveler is missed. I have wondered if it will ever return. Emergency measures should not become .permanent fixtures in Edmonds. Let’s listen to those long time business owners which benefit Edmonds.

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  15. The downtown city streets need be shared by both the retail establishments and the restaurants. They also should be shared by the able body as well as mobility challenged citizens. Let’s see if the current city leadership is mature enough to understand or do they pander to some one-sided constituency.

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  16. I have a novel idea. Let’s just go back to the streets being streets for cars and parking spaces as soon as possible. They were built for the model T and never really designed to be fountain parks and walking malls. WMS is just generally a bad idea period. It seemed to me like plenty of people were coming to Edmonds prior to the pandemic without the WMS plan. We’d all be better off if certain people smoked more dope, enjoyed the pedestrian protection light show, and made less great plans for the rest of us mere mortals.

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    1. Hahahaha. Frustrated…Nah this is kids play Clint. I do agree really but they got a taste of it, and they spoil easily. Ha. So I’m gonna work with that compromise AS IS And expect it to stay that way Mayor.
      I don’t think you and I exactly March to the same drummer but I do sppreciate your diligence, and humor.

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