City launches engagement aimed at ‘reimagining’ Edmonds neighborhoods and streets

This matrix presented Tuesday describes the considerations involved in activating streets, involving both time and location.

“It’s really about creating community spaces together.”

With that, City of Edmonds Development Services Director Susan McLaughlin launched the city’s “Reimagining Streets + Neighborhoods” initiative, aimed at “envisioning what the streets of tomorrow will look like, what will they feel like, who will they serve.” While Tuesday’s meeting — which drew about 70 people — was virtual, McLaughlin promised there would be six in-person neighborhood meetings plus a separate downtown workshop in June and July, with dates to be announced soon.

Here’s the timeline for the “Reimagining Neighborhoods + Streets” outreach this summer:

The city has hired two consultants — Environmental Works and the Green Futures Research and Design Lab — to work with city staff on the project. The Edmonds City Council will be updated on the effort later this summer.

The goal of the initiative, McLaughlin said, is to look at creative ways that Edmonds can use its public spaces — in particular its streets, sidewalks, alleys and parking stalls — for a range of activities. Examples provided during the presentation include block parties, holiday events, food trucks, beer and wine festivals and concerts. Some of the examples given are ones already familar in downtown Edmonds, where streets are closed for a range of events, including the Edmonds Museum Summer Market, the 4th of July Parade, car show, Halloween and the tree lighting. To offer more outdoor gathering spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city also shut down a portion of Main Street on summer weekends for its Walkable Main program and permitted restaurants to set up streateries in public parking spaces.

While no Walkable Main program has been announced for this summer and all the streateries were removed earlier this month, McLaughlin noted that the “we’ve learned a lot from the pandemic that we want to record into a community conversation to really reimagine how our streets can better serve us, both as social hubs, to foster economic development and toreally steward environmental functionality of our right of way.”

Streets, McLaughlin noted, comprise approximately 77% of the city’s public space. For decades, people have viewed streets as a way of “moving people through our neighborhoods, through our streets, through our cities but really we need to recognize — and the pandemic did a great job of reminding us — that public spaces are really the living rooms as well, they are the gardens, they are the playgrounds of urban and suburban areas throughout our country.”

The meeting included interactive polling questions and breakout rooms. The first question asked of particiipants was, “What excites you most about this meeting?” Responses ranged from community, innovation and curiousity to distrust, apprehension and suspicion. (See below for a some of the responses captured in the poll.)

The second polling question asked: “What do you think of when you hear “public space?” Responses included parks, gathering space, community and public good. (A sample of responses is included below.)

In the third polling questions, participants were asked “What do you think of when you hear ‘Street activities or events’?” Answers ranged from markets to street closure to parades to outdoor dining. (See sample of responses below.)

Consultant Jess Zimbabwe of Environmental Works then offered an explanation of what constitutes a right of way, “that entirety of the space that runs from the outside edge of one sidewalk to the outside edge of the next sidewalk,” which includes planting strips, and parking and travel lanes.

Next, Laure Hedland, project manager of Green Futures, discussed the reasons for activating public spaces. These include supporting community social life, creating more places for enjoyment and making public spaces safer and more livable. She pointed to other cities in the U.S. and worldwide that have developed public space activation programs, from Tampa, Florida to Vancouver, B.C. to Stockholm.

Daquan Proctor of Green Futures then walked participants through public space locations that could be suitable for a range of activities: Non-arterial intersections, for example, could host community art events or block parties. Food trucks, farmers markets and movie nights could be located on streets. Parking stalls could be places for streateries, outdoor retail and public seating. Medians and planting strips could include parklets, tree art and flower festivals. And sidewalks could be a location for a bike hub/repair station, buskers and performers and Little Free Libraries.

Proctor also pointed to the possibility of activating alley space for activities like dining, artistic lighting, murals and parties/mixers.


Next, participants were sent to virtual breakout rooms, where the smaller groups considered a series of questions that included how they have used public spaces as a result of the pandemic; and what street activation strategies might be possible at the neighborhood level.

During a report back to the larger group, representatives of each breakout room shared a summary of their discussions. Among them:

– Edmonds needs more dedicated space to allow everyone — especially children — to walk and bike.

– Before deciding on a specific event for a neighborhood, it’s important to create a master plan that anticipates obstacles for success, along with a map for achieving goals once that plan is established.

– Smaller events like block parties would provide an opportunity for people to gather in a more intimate way and get to know each other better.

– When it comes to street activation strategies, neighborhoods need more attention than downtown.

– The vast majority of Edmonds is suburban in scale so we need more strategies that are responsive to that, such as block parties arranged by neighbors.

– Because so many of the neighbohood businesses have parking lots, that might be a good location for events.

– Parking is a problem in downtown Edmonds, so closing streets and taking away parking may not be the best idea.

– Improving sidewalks outside the downtown core is key; so are improvements to Edmonds’ Highway 99 area.

– While the downtown streateries were popular with many, they should be better designed and permanent structures.

– It’s important to have anough sidewalk and public space to ensure people can get through the neighborhoods and safely get to where they are going.

– Too much success could be a problem, if an event became too touristy or overcrowded, taking away from Edmonds’ existing charm.

At the end of the presentation, McLaughlin noted a theme running through much of the discussion: That neighborhoods need basic infrastructure, such as sidwalks and street lighting, to fully take advantage of many of the activities mentioned. “We hear that,” she said. “That is something that I take very seriously and part of this work is creating street design with standard infrastructure. Just because we are talking about activation does not mean we’re not giving attention to that permanent infrastructure, which is critical for livability within all of your neighborhoods.”

You can learn more about the project on the city’s webpage or you can email

— By Teresa Wippel



  1. Initiative? I don’t recall citizens or City Council initiating this so-called project.

    Have Edmonds citizens asked our City Council to vote to have staff expend resources on this when City Staff has been unable to do things such as execute the budget for the Code Rewrite for over 15 years?

    Former City Attorney Scott Snyder stated in his November, 2007 City Attorney annual report that the Code Rewrite was approximately a year behind schedule as of November, 2007.

    Streets are not living rooms.

    We have a Comprehensive Street Plan (ECDC 15.40). Its purpose is to facilitate the provision of utilities and transportation.

    Along with that, we adopted Ordinance 3824 requiring “Complete Streets” effective July 1, 2011. Under our Complete Streets laws the city of Edmonds will plan for, design and construct all new transportation projects to provide appropriate accommodation for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and persons of ALL abilities.

    We have laws governing our Street Standards and we have laws prohibiting street obstructions.

    The City of Edmonds has argued Municipalities have a duty to remove obstructions in the public ways and liability if they fail to do so, referencing a 1928 case Lund v. City of Seattle, as well as a 1967 case Turner v. City of Tacoma.

    The City of Edmonds has also cited RCW 7.48.140(4) which states it is a public nuisance to obstruct or encroach upon public highway, private ways, streets, alleys, commons, landing places, and ways to burying places or to unlawfully obstruct or impede the flow of municipal transit vehicles as defined in RCW 46.04.355 or passenger traffic, access to municipal transit vehicles or stations as defined in *RCW 9.91.025(2)(a), or otherwise interfere with the provision or use of public transportation services, or obstruct or impede a municipal transit driver, operator, or supervisor in the performance of that individual’s duties.

    For many reasons, I hope City Council will take steps to halt the Reimagining Streets project immediately.

  2. It would also be nice if they would reimagine Edmonds main streets and neighborhood streets without potholes

  3. Plan away…. But Should be way more careful Spending city funds for planning and then never executing a plan. A good example…spent maybe $200,000 on sunset walkway plan and still waiting for execution.

  4. I couldn’t agree with Ken and Ed more!! Spoken from two longtime residents who love Edmonds as it is. The city has so several important issues to address before they spend money and efforts on attempting to turn our beautiful beach community a wide open street fair. I agree with Ken, WHAT INITIATIVE?? Why is Susan McLaughlin spear heading the “reimagining of Edmonds streets and neighborhoods”? The Edmonds community should be making these decisions not the city of Edmonds development services employee.
    Attention needs to be spent on redirecting traffic in and out of Edmonds using State Route 104 and 196th. All of the tourism that you are so excited about promoting is making our Edmonds Bowl streets for kids and pedestrians more unsafe than they already were! Accounting for the influx of traffic due to your promotion of our community should include traffic control patterns in and out of our community to protect the residents.
    The Dayton Street group continues to request a stop sign at 8th and Dayton Street to slow down traffic and save children’s lives in front of the Frances Anderson Center (which is owned and operated by the City of Edmonds). PLEASE address and resolve these more important Edmonds Critical Safety issues for the safety of our community before you spend your time and our money trying to recreate Edmond’s. It’s beautiful as it is, that’s what attracts people to want to visit and live here.

    1. “The city has hired two consultants — Environmental Works and the Green Futures Research and Design Lab — to work with city staff on the project.” Who decided to spend taxpayer monies on this? We have important projects that need staff attention…Code Rewrite and our basic infrastructure. Let’s get on those project that need completion instead of fluff projects. My guess is this project is tied to high-density housing. I am reimagining Mayor Mike with any job outside of Edmonds.

      1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I have lived here for years and college place middle school is in desperate need of renovation, bricks are falling off, concrete is cracked everywhere, roof falling apart. They have not addressed this school at all. Instead paid millions refelting turf at edmonds baseball fields. Priority is a little messed up right now.

  5. I applaud the city for its forward thinking and I hope we have another summer of Walkable Main Street!

    Elected officials would be wise to ignore the naysayers on this page.

  6. I just reviewed the 2022 budget and the 2022 budget decision packages. I was unable to find any evidence that Council budgeted funds for this “Initiative”.

    Had Council done so, it might be easier to understand the launching of this engagement.

    Another cause for alarm is the absence of any discussion of our “Complete Streets” laws that have been in place since 2011.

    Following are some of the street related items budgeted for 2022:

    Storm Fund:
    -2022 Street Pavement Overlays -$60,000
    -Green Street and Rain Gardens -$400,000

    Street Capital Projects:
    -2022 Pavement Overlay Program -$2,000,000
    -76th Ave. W Overlay from 196th to Olympic View Drive -$1,663,723
    -Citywide Improvements to Bicycle Transportation -$1,562,390
    -Stage 2 Hwy 99 Revitalization & Gateway Project -$7,660,000
    -Stage 3 Hwy 99 Revitalization & Gateway Project -$640,000
    -Stage 4 Hwy 99 Revitalization & Gateway Project -$400,000
    -76th Ave. W @ 220th St. SW Improvements -$346,127
    -84th Ave. W Overlay from 220th to 212th -$5,780
    -Citywide Pedestrian Crossing Enhancements -$10,000
    -SR-104 Traffic Signal Upgrades and Synchronization -$150,000
    -2022 Pedestrian Safety Program -$20,185
    -2022 Traffic Signal Upgrades -$30,280
    -Design Assistance for Concrete Crews $20,000
    -Elm Way Walkway (8th Ave. S to 9th Ave. S) -$901,780
    -2022 Traffic Calming Program -$15,130
    -2022 Guardrail Program -$20,180

    2022 Budget Decision Package #96 budgeted $45,000 for Land Acquisition Consulting Services to support ongoing costs of evaluations and support services of acquiring potential land for the City. I can find no similar decision package to hire two consultants — Environmental Works and the Green Futures Research and Design Lab — to work with city staff on a “reimaging” project.

    7 of our 8 elected officials are City Councilmembers. It would be easier to have an open mind about this if City Council had voted to initiate this, budgeted for such, and asked our Planning Board to research, investigate, arrange for public participation, organize its findings and advise elected officials.

    1. Thanks Ken, great research on budget issues. What would be useful for the public is some form of tracking each of these items in a way that the public has more visibility to what each of these items are and what we have spent do date and are we on target both for competition and budget.

      The city of Redmond has a great system on their website to show details and progress to all major public works projects. We would do well to do the same for our citizen.

  7. Well, that pretty much sums it up. Ignore the naysayers? What a way to govern? That explains our current political situation perfectly. It’s also why we are moving from a republic to a mob rule system of democracy. Censorship and tyranny always follow right behind.

    1. The mayor was elected (hired) by the people to run the city. He’s doing just that.

      When elections don’t go your way, is that tyranny?

      1. No Dan, tyranny is government by despotic types who want their own way on everything and will do, say or manipulate anything to get it. Just as I voted for this Mayor, next time I will vote against him (although I doubt he runs for Mayor as I think he has a bigger office on his agenda based on his governance so far here). He has totally played the Democratic Party line as our Mayor which was inappropriate to the office in my view. I will now vote Independent in all elections, local, state and national.

        1. Edmonds is a liberal, Democratic town – overwhelmingly voted for Biden in 2020.

          The Mayor’s politics reflects the people he serves.

          Stop with the hysterics.

  8. I’ve had two comments moderated on this (which is fine and acceptable, I’m not complaining; it’s the owners paper and not mine and she has to live in this town too) so I will try one last time and keep it short. This is nothing but top down government based on financial power and cronyism at it’s worst. There has been no groundswell demand by the public to reimagine anything here. This is a false narrative being put out by the Mayor and one of his hand picked directors.

  9. “For decades, people have viewed streets as a way of ‘moving people through our neighborhoods, through our streets, through our cities.'” Wow! What a concept. I say it’s a good one. Let’s stick with it and stop the reimagining nonsense. Our streets, sidewalks, alleys and parking stalls don’t need to be our living rooms, and we definitely don’t need to be paying consultants to figure out creative uses for them. We have enough community events downtown and don’t need any more of the traffic, parking problems and street closures that come with them. The City has enough on its plate and needs to work on the important, necessary and long overdue projects — Code Rewrite, infrastructure, pedestrian safety, traffic control, potholes, sidewalks, street lighting and all of our various on-going projects.

  10. Before the mayor and his director are done spending money on expensive consultants try to create a hip-hop breakout session in some downtown alley way, how about trying to “reimagine” painting the street crosswalks near Westgate Elementary and other local schools which have been worn out for years.

  11. Dan, you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how municipal governments are constituted – they are non-partisan by statute. All Nelson has brought to town is his political bias’s which you are defending, and that’s fine; absolutely your right. I just think you have an unfortunate take on what Edmonds is and isn’t. I suspect you will be surprised by the results of the next elections for Mayor and Council. Personally, I’m voting for people who don’t engage in group think and promote grassroots movements that don’t exist in reality. Fundamentally our Mayors are way too powerful and our Councils are way too weak, but so far I haven’t convinced enough people of that to make any real change for the greater good happen. Peace my friend.

  12. This Initiative appears to have been also called the “People Streets & Public Spaces project”. The change to the project name made it hard to research the history that exists.

    Minutes for the Planning Board Retreat held March 9, 2022, contain the following:

    “Key (Development Services Department) projects for 2022 include: creating an equitable engagement framework; People Streets & Public Spaces project; Highway 99 Community Renewal Plan; Climate Action Plan; Multi-family Design Standards/Interim Design Standards; Comprehensive Plan Update 2022-2024; Urban Forestry efforts; code rewrite/updates; and processing permit applications.”

    “Vice Chair Pence requested a briefing on People Streets and Public Spaces on March 23. Director McLaughlin indicated that would be a little early, but they could come with more information in April. Board Member Gladstone recommended having several briefings on this throughout the process, including an early look at the scope of work. Board Member Kuehn agreed that having more information in all parts of the process would be helpful for everyone.”

    On March 23, 2022, Planning Board was told that staff could not talk in detail about the scope of work as that is being negotiated.

    I watched the March 23rd presentation to Planning Board this morning. It was mentioned that they are tackling an ambitious scope of work.

    As the scope of work is ambitious and could not even be disclosed to Planning Board on March 23rd, how could Council possibly have budgeted for this?

    I encourage those interested to watch the video of the related discussion during the March 23rd Planning Board Meeting.

    Also, who will pay for the improvements and maintenance? What will this cost abutting property owners in the years ahead?

    I hope this will be halted so City Council and Planning board can vet the public to see if this ambitious scope of work is desired by our citizens.

  13. It’s obvious our various citizen advisory boards and city council have little control over what our too powerful Mayors and their subservient employees decide to present to us as good planning and good ideas. It seems to be government by the fad and theory of what is most popular today; and not the grassroots wishes of the average citizens for a well run everyday normal town. Hopefully our independent minded non-partisan four C.M.s will hold the line until we can de-politicize our elected city officials at the next election

  14. I am reimagining our Edmonds city streets without POTHOLEs; and true to most reimagining…

    there are still LOTs of unfilled potholes…sigh!!!

  15. I’m imagining an Edmonds with sidewalks where they’re needed…

    And an Olympic View Drive that’s not a race track…

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