Letter to the editor: We should be grateful for the streateries

To the Editor,

The controversy about streateries in Edmonds seems to be an argument between two groups of people.

On one side are those who welcome the streateries because they make it possible to enjoy the many downtown restaurants in Edmonds without sitting indoors with unmasked people during a pandemic. This group can see that the streateries are a key factor in the remarkable survival of so many Edmonds restaurants after almost two years of a pandemic that has decimated restaurants in other places. They also realize that our restaurants, and the customers they bring to our downtown, are perhaps the most important factor in preserving Edmonds as a dynamic place and environment that benefits all retail businesses during an unprecedented crisis.

On the other side is a group of angry people who hate the streateries because they identify them with the mayor and councilmembers who made them possible when COVID-19 first threatened to cripple our downtown. These people are trying to stir up political grievances by repeating bogus arguments about empty streateries, about supposed unfairness to restaurants that don’t need streateries, and about lost parking spaces for seniors and handicapped people who, in fact, are among the most vulnerable members of our community to the ongoing and growing dangers of indoor dining.

I am a senior, and I have taken handicapped friends out to dinner in the streateries. At the worst, I drop them off at the restaurant, park on a side street, and walk a block or two to join them.  All of us should be grateful for the vision and leadership of our mayor and some of our councilmembers, for the streateries and for having done so much to preserve Edmonds as an exciting place to live in and visit.

Bob Hinck

  1. I couldn’t agree more!
    Outdoor dining made it possible for my 2 daughters (who no longer live at home, work retail and are exposed to covid daily) their 2 bf’s and my bf and I to get together safely for Christmas eve dinner. It was wonderful and I felt so safe! ECC please reconsider the very punitive $4000 fee and remember why you voted yes to them in the first place.

    1. I totally agree with the this comment. We should embrace the streateries they help business downtown and a fun atmosphere to Edmonds. I work at small shop downtown I can hear people laughing and having fun when I’m working it sounds so fun and welcoming.

  2. Hey Bob, just out of curiosity, if you were sitting in one of the street shacks and a car hit it going say going 10 to 15 miles an hour while you were sitting in there with your family do you. Think you’d feel safe and grateful? You might think it’s impossible for cars to ever hit anything. You might just be in denial. You might just not have a lot of intelligence. None of the people who like the street shacks ever like to talk about that because that just would end the party real fast. At the end of the day it’s all about the party and not anything to do with safety.

    1. Brian, thank you for those great points and the fact that people who KNOW these streateries have been illegal….well, I guess we can say some don’t care about the laws of Edmonds so they want to ignore safety points as well. I looked at a city code for these, courtesy of Ken Reidy, and there is supposed to be safety barriers that would not allow vehicles to penetrate such streateries. So, Ms. Mclaughlin, (services dirctor) where do I get that complaint form? Not having sturdy barriers on either side violates our city code. Hey Bob, your mischaracterization of people who want fairness and equality for all edmonds businesses is unfair and biased. Pushing for these streateries when it’s freezing cold out is ludicrous and disingenuous. The bottom line is these streateries have enjoyed free extra real estate at the expense of citizens. 34 parking spots taken up by 17 businesses is not a small thing. Bob I’m glad you can walk a block or two but some citizens In this town have bad hips and joints. You are thinking of yourself and your friends that own streateries so consider the greater good.

      1. We are in a pandemic!!! We have had to invent all sorts of things to be able ho continue school, news reporting, save businesses, continue physical therapy, hold graduations, have counseling, continue music programs, be able to attend church services, and feed people at the Food Bank,just to name a few. Edmonds is quickly becoming overrun by a few elitist, overly opinionated, critical people who create problems when a citizen trims their own bush, or businesses try to advertise with a sign boards, cars idle in the ferry line to keep warm, too many bunnies, leaf blowers noisy on the weekends, train whistles are too loud, having to see homeless people downtown, political signs still up after 24 hours, and so much more. Real problems? No! That’s just to name a few.. Many have opinions on absolutely everything even when virtually unimpacted by the topic. May be time to find some hobbies or move. We are just trying to safely see family and friends after two years AND still keep our jobs and income. Positively ridiculous to just expect to walk less than a block to shop in a downtown that’s not a ghost town. You’re not have to walk to get water! Complaint form? It’s like the constant tattle tales I would get in class where we would try to break the habit before they moved on. My mom is 80, has bad knees and is unsteady but has been so grateful to be able to meet with family and have meals together, even birthday parties here. Edmonds, let’s try to get back to being sn accepting, welcoming, generous, respectful place to raise our families. And Cynthia, pick more important and meaningful things to argue. We can always use your extra energy volunteering to feed those in need and helping change the food insecurity and unhoused situation in Edmonds.

    2. It’s remarkable that you’ve just lumped so many people who eat at streateries as in denial or unintelligent and as partiers. I know so many who eat at these and do not fit into these labels at all. Considering they haven’t been hit and hurt people and considering the risk of getting Covid and Omicron is far, far greater, this argument is ridiculous. Have an issue with them? Stay home. But don’t take the option away from those of us first responders who couldn’t eat out otherwise!

    3. Do you never cross the street then? Leave your house? Drive your car? Cook with sharp utensils? Sounds like you should stay home in your bubble wrap and let the rest of the people enjoy a safe alternative to indoor dining. I’m thankful for the streateries and the extra employment they provide for our city.

    4. “None of the people”? We have – and decided the chances were pretty remote.
      “About the party and not safety”? – For us, all about safety, and we’re certainly not partying.
      Where do you get you facts?

      We bundle up, rather enjoy being outside, and are grateful we have the streateries.

  3. Brian-
    Writing “You might just not have a lot of intelligence” is not a winning strategy for swaying people to your point of view.
    Also, setting up imaginary, worst case scenarios; cars mowing down diners as they sit in the streateries (which has not happened) seems like a rather morbid way to end Christmas Day.

    But Merry Christmas anyway!

  4. Hey Brian,
    Streateries just like these are all over the state (and really, worldwide). With their prevalence, it seems like it would be a huge news story if they were constantly being hit by cars. Do you have any evidence of this? I know there have been several awful incidents of cars hitting pedestrians downtown. Perhaps it’s vehicles that are the really the threat and we should talk about closing parts of Main to vehicle traffic if safety is really a concern.

  5. In a year and a half, how many accidents between cars and streateries have resulted in injury to an occupant of a streatery? It’s about time to give up that argument!

  6. Bob, I could not have said it better myself. The streateries have not only made it possible to continue to go to restaurants, they have brought in people from all over who do not have safe options nearby and kept our city thriving instead of dying like so many other areas. Without the customers many of the local businesses would not have survived.

    1. I’ve lived in Edmonds almost 50 years and both with and without streateries, the most dangerous place involving people and cars is and always has been at the fountain. Given the logic of some, we should probably remove the fountain and put in a traffic light. It seems to me that the greatest threat is not the streateries – or the fountain – but rather entitled pedestrians and/ or careless drivers. However, as already noted, this perceived danger has not materialized and not a single streatery has been stuck by a car injuring diners trying to limit Covid exposure. What is the greater threat here? Surprised and saddened at the anger and fear mongering which seem so out of proportion.

      1. Great point, Janis. It is interesting that the anti-streateries contingent changes its argument a lot.

  7. Bob, I totally agree, thank-you for writing this! I and my friends have been very grateful for the many restaurants that built outdoor seating for us to feel protected and warm! Those are the places we meet, and feel safe to eat together. Also thanks to the many servers, who show up for work daily and help serve us outside with their masks on! It’s very appreciated. I’ll never understand why the city of Edmonds would put this high fee of $4000. on restaurants trying to survive the pandemic, and truly hope they reconsider.
    And HEY BRIAN, I haven’t heard of one incident of any car hitting or even bumping one of the streateries, and feel perfectly safe sitting at them!

  8. Thank you Bob for your letter in support of the streateries. I agree they have been a Godsend for those of us who love to eat out but are vulnerable to COVID. The pandemic is not over and I support the streateries continuing. Are there as many people eating out this time of year…of course not, but they provide the opportunity to those of us that wish to eat out and stay safe.
    The argument that a car “could” hit you while eating outside has not happened in 2 years. Yes, it could happen…but not a likely scenario. That “sky is falling” approach to life is a distraction and not helpful in the discussion.

  9. I am concerned about safety. Here is an article about a crash into an outdoor dining area in San Jose that caused injury and one death. The article states “The restaurant’s tented outdoor seating area, it turns out, lacked proper barriers around it and was not officially permitted by the city, as KPIX reports. The city provides these barriers, often for free, which could have prevented some of these injuries from occurring.” I encourage our city council to carefully study this issue and assure the maximum safety possible should the streateries be allowed to continue. Perhaps safety barriers need to be on the street-side of the streateries as well, not just on the ends? With cars driving so close to the units, a car swerving to avoid a car, person or obstacle could easily hit the street-side of the unit. While the San Jose setup was different, the safety issue is the same. Here is the link to the article: https://sfist.com/2020/10/13/woman-dies-after-car-plows-into-outdoor-dining-area-in-san-jose/

    1. We could find a story somewhere in the works to support or refute anything. It’s not happened. We assume the risk and trust our citizens will drive safely. We can’t live in fear of an unlikely possible scenario constantly ir we would be constantly paranoid. If fast moving cars are the problem, that needs to be addressed as pedestrians do get hit. This argument no longer holds water

  10. A car can also mount the sidewalk and mow you down. Or am airplane could crash into the restaurant. But as these things don’t seem to happen with much regularity, and as covid cases are up 69% in the last 14 days (NYT, Dec 26) , the pandemic seems a much more realistic and present danger. Don’t like streateries? Fine – eat inside. But leave them for those of us who prefer them and don’t embrace fear of careening cars, plane crashes, etc.

  11. Excellent letter and finally, someone pointing out the pettiness of what’s really going on. If it were a different administration that had come up with and implemented the idea of streeteries, this story would have a completely different arc. It’s frankly an embarrassment to be making headlines outside of Edmonds that really shine a light on the gatekeeping and elitism, the scrambling to show a parking issue that is pretty much non-existent, putting a monetary value on parking spots that are currently valued at $0.00, the weak attempts to show a conjured up safety issue, the flat out ignoring of a compromise put together by retailers & restauranteurs.
    We have real issues. We have unhoused people who are outside and in danger because it is so cold. Areas outside the bowl need attention. People can’t afford to stay in their homes. We’re staring down the barrel of another Covid surge.
    The lack of perspective should be shocking – but it’s not. This is an Edmonds kind of drama – politically driven and privileged.
    If you’re worried about pedestrian safety, close the street.
    If you’re worried about parking for people with mobility issues, and are able bodied – park a few blocks out to save spaces for those who may need them. #walktheblocks
    If you believe parking spots are worth money, time for paid parking downtown.
    If you’re worried about retailers – shop in their stores.
    Be solution driven rather than harping on the same points but only having one way – killing streeteries – to fix the issues.

    1. oh come on you can come up with more insults and attacks for people who have different opinions than you than just petty, elite, conjuring and dramatic. Hey does the mayor know you think he’s a victim?

    2. Heather, for sure every merchant and restaurant, when evaluating where to put their business, has factored into the equation what the availability of parking is. Do you really think parking spots are worth $0.00? That’s the same price of the COVID vaccines. The drug companies must be having a horrible year giving all those vaccines away. You comment is my favorite comment yet on streateries.

  12. My sympathy to the servers who have to work in these streeteries in the winter weather, it must be difficult for them. I hope this whole issue gets resolved soon because it now has jumped the shark and is just a circular argument on perpetual repeat, everyone is entrenched in their viewpoint and no minds are going to be changed one way or another. Reminds me of the “debate” over Covid vaccination. I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays and the beautiful snow!

    1. According to one article, those poor servers are working at minimum wage (Salish Sea article) which the owner lamented is going up the first of the year. He says he’ll pay them (like he has a choice) but he gave that as a reason to continue Streateries. Unknown what their health insurance and sick leave look like. Social justice folks? Where are you?
      Servers show up so they can eat and pay rent not because they have a yen for an Al fresco steak and a beer. No vaccine requirement for diners, no limits on capacity, and those server folks have to wear masks all shift long for minimum wage. Why didn’t the mayor insist on vaccination proof or order that these front line workers get hazard pay, say $4.00 like my grocery person gets? Hard job, low pay.
      Social justice folks? Where are you? Where have you been?

  13. I recently talked to a friend that has lived in Edmonds for many, many years and they just recently realized that there four way stop signs at the fountain and not just yield signs. There are all kinds of dangers out there.

  14. Let’s try building on a possible solution for those seeking safe outdoor dining options.

    First, we need to acknowledge the abundance of outdoor dining options currently in place in the city, without the Streateries. The Streateries need to sunset now. The “win- lose spot zoning like” needs to end and all stakeholder interests need to be honored and valued.

    Second, we need a temporary short term policy; a long term ordinance could be adopted later through use of the standards used for creating public policy, code changes and new ordinances. The city council will establish policies governing a variety of issues, such as term ( length, maybe one year to start) and other conditions for effective governance, including liability insurance— like what insures our park system.

    Next, here is one, of many, possibilities, to solve the problem:

    Convert the parking lot adjacent City Hall (121 5th Ave N. ), on the south, to a city/private partnership outdoor dining area that meets all health and social distancing standards and provides a “third” place for those seeking a healthy outdoor dining option in downtown Edmonds. This place will allow patrons to bring and enjoy their own food, or food purchased by take out, wherever it is purchased. Alcohol controls will be set by city policies.

    City restroom facilities are already in place. The city could provide electricity to the temporary structures— proposed to be large outdoor canopy party/ wedding event like tents; like those on-site at the Salish Crossings Center in downtown Edmonds.

    The Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association and the Edmonds Business Improvement District shall fund, through their budgets, the cost of acquiring and maintaining the dining structures; the dining structures can be furnished from the furniture, fixtures and equipment donated by the restaurants, from the existing Streateries; which may or may not be tax deductible.

    This location and possible solution solves the public safety issues raised by many—- the site is protected from street traffic from 5th Ave N., and the site is accessible from a side walk or alleyway—- both ADA compliant.

    Your thoughts? Let’s share positive insights.

    1. Mandated assessments to the Edmonds BID, Ed!, are forced from business owners by an illegal Ordinance.
      Your proposal is to make all business owners pay for the strategies, their cost and assessment.
      First, it would most likely be illegal, but never stopped Ed!
      Second, if resturants want them, they can pay, no other business owner should be expected to pay for the support of another business…

  15. First off, I don’t particularly appreciate people telling me what I should or shouldn’t be grateful for. Seems like kind of a personal thing to me.

    Next I’m not angry at the Restaurants or opposed to their success in bad times. I don’t eat out in restaurants a whole lot because the food is mostly too full of salt and too full of fat to be healthy for anyone, especially an old goat with a mild heart condition. I do go out for beers (in great moderation) pretty regularly with my friends and I think very highly of the Salish Sea and it’s owners. Don’t necessarily agree with them on this issue, but I’m not the guy who has to come up with the 4k.

    I don’t like the Streateries in terms of looks or potential for a serious accident but, if people feel safe and comfortable in them, so be it. My Nieces and Nephews all view Edmonds as Party City USA and love the Streateries and Walkable Main Street. They don’t come to buy much else, but that certainly doesn’t prove anything.

    I don’t hate anyone in this town including the politicians and government officials I criticize so often. I simply think they are narrow minded and serve only a portion of the people they are supposed to serve. I admire people like Vivian Olson, and Will Chen who correctly realize we need to operate based on obeying laws and having proper legal meetings where all views can be heard and there is some attempt at fairness in City Government.

    I’m grateful for this chance to respond to Mr. Hinck’s LTE and very much respect his rights to his views of it all. Respect always has to be a two way street, with or without Streateries.

  16. Nathaniel, FYI if a car hits a street shack while you are in it, you will need some new x-rays. Cheers.

  17. I like that we are now two groups. Those who hate councilpersons and are petty and those who like eating outside.

    I am guessing there is probably a group of is that has a general disdain for polarized decisions, faulty logic, derogatory statements to paint a blurry picture, and just wants good plain transparency and fiscal responsibility in local government.

    I don’t hate anyone who has the guts to serve on City Council. I admire their willingness to serve. I don’t hate the street dining. I do have a hard time with how this process and many others have been intentionally hand jammed through.

    I am still waiting for it to be okay to open a lemonade stand on my cul-de-sac without a permit.

  18. It can be argued that public policy that sharply divides citizens is poor policy. The last thing we need is reasons to not like our fellow citizens, to the point a group of people exercising freedom of speech are labeled as “a group of angry people”.

    This has been a poorly executed program from the start. The City Attorney has admitted publicly that he made a copy and paste error. The related Ordinance has also not been complied with. All can see some of the streateries attached to the ground within our sidewalks.

    Our Zoning laws do not allow this use in the BD Zone. This can easily be confirmed by reading our City Code, ECDC 16.43.040 – Operating Requirements. City Council missed this and failed to establish a new exception when Ordinance 4209 was passed on December 15, 2020. Such was needed on an interim basis – that is what Interim Zoning Ordinances are designed for.

    My hope is that much is learned from this experience and that improvements are made in the public policy area. I hope policies adopted in the future are, in general, happily supported by a larger percentage of our citizens.

    1. Perhaps show good policy and practice in conjunction with retaining healthier food and beverage environments for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated? Perhaps waive the streateries fee and removal if a food and beverage establishment is able to demonstrate the courage by requiring full vaccination of customers prior to removal of ones mask indoors. This creates a safer indoor environment for both employees and customers. I know of only one establishment downtown Edmonds (Maize and Barley) which has demonstrated this courage by requiring proof of vaccination prior to dining indoors. This would help to provide constructive encouragement and benefit to everyone’s efforts to end this pandemic. This should not be about parking stalls.

  19. Requiring proof of vaccination seems like a no-brainer and should have been required months ago but that ship sailed. Best hope now-the Omicron variant will have burnt through the population by the end of January and we will again experience some kind of normalcy in our lives. The streeteries issue will continue to fester, and in some cases, rage on, until some kind of definitive solution from city leadership, which will undoubtedly leave many feeling less than thrilled. Personally, I would like to discuss some other topic(s) for a while because I know Edmonds is faced with an explosion in growth, which brings challenges of many kinds to our community-parking, housing,the views of longtime residents vs. newcomers, and most important of all, what kind of city does Edmonds want to be? Because the days of our sleepy, quaint and quiet secret little gem on Puget Sound are now over, and it’s pointless to pretend otherwise. I moved here in 1976 at the age of 27 and have watched it change so profoundly that it is sometime uncomfortable and sometimes delightful. But it is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped.

  20. I have a question for the author of this Letter. Mr. Hinck, you state:

    “All of us should be grateful for the vision and leadership of our mayor and some of our councilmembers, for the streateries and for having done so much to preserve Edmonds as an exciting place to live in and visit.”

    My question is: Are you aware that the original City Council vote on Streateries was unanimous? I ask because you refer to “some of our councilmembers”.

    Following are a couple of excerpts from the December 15, 2020 City Council Meeting minutes. Both took place shortly before the unanimous vote to approve the Streateries ordinance, Ordinance 4209:

    Councilmember K. Johnson said one issue that was discussed previously but was not addressed tonight was the use of gas heaters and their impact on the environment. She asked what staff had learned. Ms. Hope answered in general gas heaters will not be used due to fire protection concerns with the flames and because few propane heaters are available. The preferred option will be electric heaters.

    Councilmember Paine observed restaurants providing onsite dining did not need to restore parking spaces. If on-street parking is constrained by streateries, she envisioned in 6-8 months there would be a lot of congestion and not a lot of parking and the City would be in the same place it was in the summer of 2019. She requested parking be monitored particularly when the weather gets warmer and people feel safer to come outside. Ms. Hope assured there will be monitoring and adjustments made as needed.

  21. I am providing more excerpts from the December 15, 2020 City Council Meeting. This is the City Council meeting during which seven Councilmembers voted unanimously to approve Streateries. Ordinance 4209 was described as an Emergency Ordinance effective for one year.

    -If adopted as emergency, public hearing proposed for Feb. 2.

    -Councilmember L. Johnson expressed concern about impacts on businesses, for example Glazed and Amazed that has one parking space and streateries on either each side. She asked if Glazed and Amazed could do the same thing, allow patrons to do art projects outside. Ms. Hope it is just for restaurant-type businesses who are closed to indoor customers. If the governor’s orders change, staff will come back to Council to discuss options for other businesses.

    -Ms. Hope said another issue that came up is whether the parking spaces between streateries are too narrow so the ordinance requires a one foot setback on each side of the available parking space to provide some additional space.

    -Councilmember L. Johnson wanted to ensure other businesses were kept in mind and it was not too difficult for them.

    -Council President Fraley-Monillas suggested if the Council really wanted to protect businesses, they would not have streateries in the summer because that is when downtown businesses experience the majority of the crowds. They have crowds around the holidays but only for a few days.

    A Motion to Amend the Main Motion to shorten the period from one year to ten months was made. That motion failed 2-5. The two who voted for the October 31st end date were Councilmember Kristiana Johnson and Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas.

  22. This continues to be a fruitless debate. This issue needs to be a referendum on the next ballot. Once the people have spoken in an official manner, the council will be required to follow what the majority of voters have required.

    1. I think it is wonderful to see new.voices, hear new ideas, and have respectful dialog. People really live Edmonds for many reasons, and it’s nice to see the public involvement. 7 people make the decisions for now, and any way that fellow residents and councilpersons can hear the diverse views is awesome public involvement. It makes.”the great experiment ” work!!!

  23. Amen and thank you, Bob. Nice to see a voice of reason among the cacophony of hysterics.

    The streateries are a godsend.

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