Letter to the editor: Let’s end the political theater by ending the streateries

(The following letter was published here at the author’s request.)

Dear Mr. Mayor and City Councilmembers,

You have the power to end this painful-to-watch political Kabuki Theater now playing on the Edmonds stage.

Stop the play!

No more city council votes in 2021 need to be taken! Not even for “Emergency Ordinance 4209” that created the streateries. The State of Washington COVID-19 restrictions imposed on many businesses, including restaurants, were lifted on June 30, 2021. Since July 1, 2021, all restaurants and bars have been able to operate at 100% pre-COVID-19 capacities. In addition, the streatery permit holders have had six months to prepare for the sun setting (Dec. 31, 2021) of “Emergency Ordinance 4209”.

“Emergency Ordinance 4209” sunsets Dec. 31, 2021. There is no evidence in the public records (letters to city councilmembers or testimony at the public hearing) supporting or documenting any need to extend “Emergency Ordinance 4209”; to reduce economic hardship created by any current government COVID-19 restrictions. None!! The “Emergency” is over! Moreover, the record supports observations of limited streatery use. The lack of government restrictions on indoor-outdoor-patio-deck-sidewalk dining, and the cold, wet winter weather may be contributing factors reducing the current market demand for Streateries. Near-term prospects, January thru June 2022, are for more of the same — limited demand and use of the streateries, no government restrictions on restaurant dining and cold, wet winter and early spring weather.

Voting on extending “Emergency Ordinance 4209” that created the streateries will only add fuel to, and fan the flames of, an existing political wildfire that has already scorched the civic landscape of our beautiful city. Let “Emergency Ordinance 4209” sunset! Do not needlessly poison the well for those seeking future opportunities to dialogue on the streateries issues.

In closing, let us move forward together, creating “An Edmonds Kind of Day” never-ending story; beautiful from sunrise to sunset; and respecting the interests of all our stakeholders. Let us: listen to each other; separate people from the problems; focus on interests rather than positions; generate a variety of options before settling on an agreement; and insisting the process be based on objective criteria — see Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

Thank you for your public service. May you enjoy a memorable Holiday Season. May 2022, following a brief intermission between acts in the public political play, bring the next act tying up loose ends and resolving the unneeded and unwanted drama, moving toward…and they lived happily ever after.

I have lived in Edmonds for over 60 years. I have enjoyed raising my family in the city and seeing most of my grandchildren live, go to school, and enjoy the bounties of our beautiful city. Finally, I have had the pleasure and honor to coach little league sports, help build the community and serve the City of Edmonds in three public capacities: four years as chairperson of the first City of Edmonds Citizens Commission on Compensation of Elected Officials; five years on the City of Edmonds Planning Board; and, as an interim advisory board member, Edmonds Downtown Business Improvement District (EDBID).

Respectfully submitted by,

Kevin B. Clarke, Edmonds

12 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Let’s end the political theater by ending the streateries”

  1. really are the streetaries in use now—very few people =only a few restaurants are benefiting from them. How about a little research? Are they needed? When we are on top of the virus will they be needed–or will the cruise ships and tourist groups start taking over soon and that will justify them and so much more. What happen to the cruise ship idea? Charcoal and the complex on main street up by the Rug shop–sorry for got its name–Edmonds Commons I think are nearing completion–also another large complex going up on 5th, retail and condos. Where is the parking going to be? Thank you Kevin for you well thought out letter–Hope it is taken seriously–I am throwing in some of my concerns as well.

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  2. Kevin, thank you for a well written article advocating in the direction that favors ALL of Edmonds! I just learned from Mr. KEN Reidy that the streateries actually violate rights of way for citizens access to sidewalks. If you want all the details please reach out to him for much more info. on this. I believe our city would fare better by simply having government officials follow the laws of our city and state. I have my own pictures of streateries last night largely empty with the exception of 3, two-somes. That’s it!! Just a waste of space and the de-charm of our once adorable city. Lastly, I do not consider the voices of the biased restaurant business owners advocating for them to be sincere. For them it’s not about the greater good, it’s about self-interest at the expense of others. I hardly consider this altruistic. Again, thank you for this piece.

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  3. Kabuki is the best word for this. It’s political, almost entirely. The Mayor, Feedme Hospitality, Rick Steves have all taken a position on closed streets, eating in parking spots, anti-parking. It’s the weirdest wedge issue. All three parking spots in front of my business yesterday were occupied by restaurant workers. They parked there the whole day. God Speed to the servant class for serving maskless people all day on your feet and behind a mask.

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  4. Thanks for this great LTE Mr. Clarke. Like you I’ve been hanging around this great little town and living here for more years than seems even possible at this point. Edmonds became my adopted “home town” after my parents moved me all over the country during my early teens

    I was here when Edmonds kind of discovered itself and the powers that be at the time had to prevent the waterfront from becoming a row of giant view blocking high rise buildings. That required public outcry and a little polite outrage, but the job got done. It’s been like that ever after, with the public finally having enough of one thing or another and making the power structures finally do the right thing for everyone instead of a special few. We have a history of politicians supporting special interests, making bad choices, and then having to mitigate those choices somehow. We live, but we don’t seem to learn I’m afraid.

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  5. I read an article in The Seattle Times today about the continuing high covid mortality rate among those over 65 as the U.S. closes in on 800,000 deaths. The rate is one in one hundred and persists even among the vaccinated. The mortality rate among younger age groups is one in fourteen hundred. We are still in a surge of delta cases and continue to await the impact of the omicron variant. We know both of these variants to be highly transmissible. Most U.S. buildings do not have ventilation systems that can effectively neutralize aerosols of the virus so indoor eating remains highly risky for many. These include older people and those with compromised immune systems who don’t benefit as much from the vaccines. These groups have some of the most isolated members in this pandemic. Continued outdoor eating shelters make it possible for the most at risk to occasionally share a meal with friends or family. I have spent several evenings walking the downtown streets. I have not passed one outdoor restaurant shelter that impedes wheelchair access on a sidewalk. I am sensitive to that issue because I assisted a family member for many years who required a wheelchair. Granted, most of these outdoor shelters required navigating a curb for access and the picnic tables that many use will not permit a wheelchair to pull up to them, but the sidewalks are quite navigable. I have read all of the comments that have been posted, both for and against the continuation of these outdoor dining shelters. Overall, given the persistence of the pandemic and the need for the most vulnerable to remain cautious, I fail to comprehend the intensity of the opposition to them. We live in extraordinary times. I consider the willingness of Edmonds government to let these shelters continue to be an act of kindness and regard for the most vulnerable. Obviously the use of such outdoor dining venues tapers off during our coldest and wettest weather. But the pandemic is not through with us.

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    1. If you’re so really concerned about eating indoors why don’t you explore the many restaurant venues they have outdoor patios in Edmonds. What a wonderful way of extending your act of kindness and regard for the vulnerable. I fail to comprehend why shacks in the middle of the street are the only solution. If a car, truck or bus, God forbid hits one of these shacks, the proponents are going to have blood on their hands, and the patrons compromised immune systems are going to be the least of their problems

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      1. Well said, Brian, and thanks for the excellent, honest letter, Kevin! It’s time to end the streateries and the falsehood that we need them for our health. As Brian said there are numerous restaurants with their own outdoor patios that we should support. Also most of the restaurants with streateries already had existing dining in front of their restaurants or behind them or both! The streateries allow the restaurants to increase their profits at the expense of the public. Several of these restaurant owners are doing so well they have opened new restaurants. If you’re worried about your health and the health of the vulnerable, I would recommend not sitting in the street in the cold, wet weather breathing in toxic propane and exhaust fumes in danger of being hit by a vehicle. Dining inside with Covid protocols is the safer, more comfortable option, which explains why the restaurants are full and the sheds are sitting empty most of the time. It’s time to stop private business occupying public property. Let the streateries sunset. Return our sidewalks and streets, and give us back our charming downtown.

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    2. In “very civil” rebuttal to Ms. Riddlell:

      1. The vast majority of people actually dying from Covid are the not vaccinated, morbidly obese, diabetic, very elderly, and immune system compromised. Are these the type of people actually using the Streateries regularly?

      2. Streateries are basically ugly and frail structures, not built to codes, that encroach on what are supposed to be sidewalks for the use of pedestrians and parking places that are supposed to be used for people in cars visiting our city for many different reasons beyond dining and drinking.

      3. Point well taken that the pandemic is going to be with us for many years but does that justify the continued almost free use of public property for private gain for as long as any aspect of the pandemic persists in our lives? If we are going to allow these structures to remain until there is no more evidence of their preventing the spread of disease, should they not be required to pay a reasonable amount of their profits back to the city with some of that money going to adversely effected non-culinary businesses near by?

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    3. The omicron variant has over 3 times as many ACE-2 receptors as the previous versions.

      What this means is if you have anything like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, CVD, or are overweight or obese, this new variant could absolutely CLOBBER you, especially if you’re unvaccinated.

      This means that the majority – at least 2/3 – of Americans are at risk. Also, for many people, even mild symptoms could cause them to become long-haulers, possibly with permanent effects. It just means they won’t end up in an ICU or dead.

      Also, over 3 billion people on this planet haven’t had their FIRST covid shots, much less their boosters. This provides ample opportunities for more covid variants to be produced, some of which could be different enough where the current vaccines won’t be able to protect us.

      Covid is nowhere NEAR done with us yet.

      We’re going to need to vaccinate 95% of the population to reach herd immunity, not 60-70% as experts previously believed. The US is only 60% fully vaccinated. We’re DEAD LAST compared to other Western countries and we’re behind countries like Japan and South Korea and we’re WAY behind Singapore and the UAE.

      Like it or not, we’re still in a full-blown national public health emergency situation and will likely be for a long time to come.

      Regarding the streateries, the answer is for more effective rules, regulations, and laws on what they can do and what they can’t.

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  6. Such a good letter Kevin and others who replied. I really like your reply to Carol, Brian. There are options without the streateries and those restaurants who have permanent outside dining, and pay for it, deserve our support.

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  7. Thank you, Carol Riddell, for pointing out some overlooked points. I have been downtown recently and found at some times some streateries are not occupied and at other times they are fully occupied, even within an hour of observing. To those claiming to have found they are not used, it may be you were there at a time they were not. A more scientific survey needs to be conducted: which eateries are used and at what times of day, which days of the week.
    As for Brian’s plea: “Let us: listen to each other; separate people from the problems; focus on interests rather than positions; generate a variety of options before settling on an agreement”
    I concur.
    Listen to each other instead of reinforcing one chosen view over another.
    Separate people from problems, less finger pointing, naming and shaming and more facts, please.
    Focus on interests. Hmmm I would hope everyone values health and safety. The citing of dangerous unsteady barricades is a red herring. I checked many of the barriers and found most of the water filled ones full of water, the planter boxes filled with soil and plants and impossible to move with full body press. Unlikely to be budged by someone navigating their way in or out of a parking space. A Solution: Enforce proper use of barriers.
    Health: The pandemic is not over; many of us are still vulnerable and would like to eat out without being restricted to establishments with the wherewithal to have their own private off street outside dining space.
    Finally, generate a variety of options before settling on an agreement:
    There are adjustments that could reduce the number or size of streateries and increase parking spaces. Let’s put energy towards making those changes before tossing the entire solution that is working for many.
    I see few responses here that appear willing to find a common ground or compromise. Opinions appear to be all or nothing, you are with “us” or against “us,” whichever “us” claims to be.
    Time for more civil discourse and less rancor.
    Peace!

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  8. Well, stated!
    Let us all move on to the new year, “2022” together and with a beautiful City we all love to walk through!

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