After hearing from concerned residents, council moves closer to approving traffic cameras in school zones

Westgate resident Lora Hein holds up a stop sign shape during her remarks Tuesday night supporting school zone safety cameras.

After hearing testimony regarding speeding drivers who pose a safety hazard to students walking to and from Westgate Elementary School, the Edmonds City Council agreed to move forward with a proposal to install automated traffic safety cameras in four school zones.

Councilmembers voted to place a resolution — presented by Assistant Police Chief Rod Sniffen — on the council’s Feb. 21 consent agenda. (The council doesn’t have a business meeting next Tuesday due to regularly scheduled committee work sessions.) The approved resolution adopts a location analysis the police department conducted on the cameras, as required by state law. That resolution will trigger review of an ordinance that will create a new city code section so that vendors can be hired to move forward with the program, Sniffen said.

The cameras would be deployed near four schools — Westgate and Chase Lake elementaries and Edmonds-Woodway and Scriber Lake high schools.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, councilmembers heard passionate comments from a Westgate Elementary parent, a school staff member and two neighborhood residents about the need for the cameras.

Westgate resident Nora Carlson described the onging concerns neighbors have about speeding drivers along 220th Street Southwest, a busy arterial that borders the school.

“It is truly a matter of time before a serious accident at this busy school crossing could injure or kill an adult or a child,” Carlson said. “We urgently need your help to effectively address changes to this school crossing.”

In particular, Carlson noted that the intersection of 220th Street Southwest and 96th Avenue West is considered too dangerous for 6th grade student crossing guards to work there.

“The Westgate staff assigned to the crossing must pay close attention to approaching vehicles before they step out to cross students and parents. Even with their extra-cautious effort, there’ve been many instances of near misses,” Carlson added. “They use whistles and flashlights in addition to their reflective safety vests, and also have posted slow-down signage to try to capture drivers’ attention.”

Michelle Mearns, a paraeducator at Westgate, works daily as an adult crossing guard at 220th and 96th. She said that the school has a large population of neurodiverse students and children with high needs “and there is absolutely nothing stopping them from occasionally being spontaneous and either jumping out or falling in front of a moving vehicle that has not stopped.”

Westgate resident Lora Hein said she heard a recent radio report that during the height of COVID restrictions, drivers got used to seeing fewer drivers on the road as well as schools not being in session, and “many became lax in obeying traffic laws. Perhaps this explains the secondary pandemic sympton of traffic sign blindness,” said Hein, who then held up traffic sign shapes and defined their meaning.

Speaking in opposition to the cameras was Edmonds resident Tom Nicholson, who said he feared that installing such cameras would eventually result in the city expanding its traffic cameras to include those that capture red-light violators. Emphasis patrols by Edmonds police would be a better use of city resources, Nicholson added.

Fielding questions from councilmembers Tuesday night, Sniffen stressed there was no intent by police to expand traffic safety cameras beyond those used in school zones. He also said that the city sets the speed that triggers a ticket, and that’s planned for 6 to 10 mph over the limit.

Amy driver caught exceeding the set speed would be fined $130.

In other business, the council:

– Heard from city planning and development staff regarding a proposal to create a new process for making minor amendments to the city’s development code. Senior Planner Mike Clugston said that currently, even minor code amendments are required to follow a lengthy process, including review by the Edmonds Planning Board. Staff is proposing a streamlined process for “frequent minor code amendments,” with the idea of presenting them to the council on a semiannual basis, via its consent agenda.

Major amendments that affect policy would still go through the regular process, Clugston said. A public hearing on this proposal is scheduled for Feb. 21.

During the discussion, Councilmember Diane Buckshnis asked about the status of updating the overall Edmonds City Code, since the planning and development department only administers the city’s development code. Mayor Mike Nelson replied that staff isn’t prepared to discuss that matter but it can be added to a future agenda

– Agreed to place on the Feb. 21 consent agenda approval of a state Department of Commerce planning grant aimed at assisting the city with its 2024 Comprehensive Plan update. Staff says there are no specific requirements associated with this grant, stressing it is different than a middle housing grant the council rejected several months ago.

The proposed scope of work under the grant — which totals $125,000 over two years — includes a Comprehensive Plan equity and climate gap analysis and an update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan visioning. Since the equity and climate gap analysis is already done, the city can be reimbursed for that work, Planning Manager David Levitan said.

– Received a project update on the carbon recovery project at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The project, which will replace the city’s aging sludge incinerator, is 96% complete, Public Works Director Oscar Antillon says. The cost of the $23 million facility is being shared with other municipalities — including the City of Mountlake Terrace — that send their wastewater to Edmonds for treatment.

During council comments, Council President Neil Tibbott reported that he and Councilmembers Will Chen and Jenna Nand will be traveling to Olympia next week to discuss state housing legislation.”Our message that we are going to be bringing is that there is a better way forward than all of the legislation being proposed,” Tibbott said. “We believe that the better way is to expand the GMA (Growth Management Act) expectations and then leave the determination of how those are worked out…to each individual city.”

“We’re in the best position to…implement growth in our city and places where there are opportunities for density and opportunities for different kinds of housing and we believe the state should leave that up to the cities to implement,” Tibbott continued.

— By Teresa Wippel


  1. Our kids went to all those schools. These resources would be much better used to build new sidewalks where there are none. Many times walked the kids home dodging cars with none. Red light/speeding cameras are overreach.

  2. If we are serious about safety we will build sidewalks and consistent bike lanes for parents and children to use in their communities.

  3. Thank you Council President Tibbott and Council members Chen and Nand for advocating for local control of growth to our legislators next week. I strongly agree, as I suspect many others do, “that the better way is to expand the GMA (Growth Management Act) expectations and then leave the determination of how those are worked out…to each individual city.”

    Presenting Council Resolution 1510, supporting local control of land use legislation, could be influential. Hopefully, our lobbyist has already presented that to our legislators, but if not the lobbyist should follow up on Council wishes.

  4. Do sidewalks. While the desire for safety is certainly reasonable, perhaps the urge to punish is less reasonable than improving safety. Edmonds is full of streets with no sidewalks.

  5. Install cameras immediately on the main arterials and then develop a sidewalk plan for neighborhoods. Where would the $ come from for sidewalks?
    Traffic safety NOW!

  6. Edmonds has been doing a reasonably good job at promoting safety measures, especially for pedestrians. One tool being used that I find hard to miss while driving is the implementation of the manual blinking lit crosswalks. Three examples are at the intersection of Caspers St and 7th Ave N, Bell St and 3rd Ave N, and midway of the 500 block of Main St. Three spots for this tool that have been neglected, in my opinion, are located on Olympic View Drive – at the intersection of High Street and OVD, the intersection of High Street and OVD, and the intersection of 190th/Cherry and OVD. Outside of OVD, there are no sidewalks on any of these streets (which attract a lot of pedestrians). Is there a street plan to address these dangerous intersections? And what is the effective distance that cameras really have? I don’t see them promoting safety as much as providing revenue. Thank you.

      1. Dear Joan. Thank you for the link. I did check it out. Unfortunately it requires signatures from the particular neighborhood(s) involved. Regarding the one location I cited at South County Park and OVD, there aren’t even 10 homes within probably 300 yards. But there are a lot of pedestrians that cross there (and not from that neighborhood), and it is extremely dark – hence unsafe. There are other areas that are similar in risk. Is there data that show which traffic aids work most effectively and also what each one costs? Couldn’t this data be introduced in order to have the money put to the most efficient use? And where are the real problem spots? If a traffic forum exists , I would love to join. If there isn’t, maybe there should be.
        Regarding school bus stops – are they strategically placed to use existing streetlights? If not, can the school district modify the location? In my neighborhood, there is one streetlight for every 2 power poles.

        1. Richard,

          Excellent questions, which I can’t answer but Bertrand Hauss, the city’s Transportation Engineer is a good contact at the city. Here is a link to Public Works staff contact information:

          There used to be a Transportation Committee. I was on it with former Council member Kristiana Johnson before either of us were Council members. Great committee, which should be re-formed, in my opinion. In the meantime, there is a Transportation element of the Comp Plan. The administration and Council are currently working on updating our Comprehensive Plan.

      2. Great link, Joan. Thanks. But according to the requirements, I would need to live in that particular neighborhood to qualify submitting a proposal. I’m not. Maybe if any neighbors of those 3 dangerous areas on Olympic View Drive I mentioned read this, they can do something about them. It is a great opportunity to make your surroundings safer.

  7. After hearing from commenters last night it is clear that safety at this location is / should be a concern. However, it should be a concern in / around any school in the city as well as many other locations. While sidewalks seem like a logical solution, they are very expensive to build — approximately $400,000 per block or $4 million per mile. There are some alternatives, called cost-effective walkways. These typically use a “curb” like structure to delineate walkways from the street. People either love them or hate them. There are many other cost-effective alternatives including what Richard Majer has suggested — the blinking lights. This should all be part of the city’s master transportation plan rather than being handled as individual projects. While the issue of installing traffic cameras in general is appropriate for Council to address (it is a policy issue), having them focus on traffic cameras at a single location is not a policy issue; rather it should be addressed as part of a larger plan citywide. The city’s current transportation plan (last updated in 2017 and being updated now) provides good examples of showing how a plan provides overall guidance on policy and addresses very specific locations.

  8. I have experience with the main intersection under discussion and agree with the sidewalk proponents. I normally take a detour to get home because traffic is stopped in the afternoon, not speeding. Better lighting would be higher on my list. The children waiting for buses are virtually invisible in the morning.

  9. Woefully, school traffic cameras are probably politically needed to slow down drivers in posted school zones. Additional sidewalks and lighting are a better safety measure in the long run. Using the “Green Streets” allocation for desperately needed safety improvements like sidewalks and lighting seems like a better use of the money than the narcissistic wants of the current city administration.

  10. My Edmnds News should request the city to provide traffice studies of all the proposed camera sites. Subjetive reports of speeding are not reliable. I have seen very little excesssive speed during school zone active hours at either the Westgate or Edminds Woodway sites. Lets have data, please since hat is the basis for all good decisions.

  11. If you are an attentive driver who tries to obey speed limits, particularly in school zones, and busy urban areas, then the presence of these cameras should be of little concern to you, I would think. Some years ago I got one of those tickets on Greenwood in Seattle, in a poorly marked school zone, to the tune of $250.00. I was livid, of course, and sent a nasty note with my check, but the fact is, I wasn’t paying attention and was driving too fast. Do you suppose I think about this, every time I see a school zone sign, with or without photo enforced information posted?

    1. Right on, Clinton. Whenever I get a speeding ticket, which these days is rare, I’m unhappy but know that I deserved it. Bring on the cameras.

  12. The road by Chase Lake Elementary was recently totally redone. The city likely has all sorts of data about that area. Traffic calming was installed sidewalks added or refurbished, ADA ramps and cross walks refurbished or added. It is not clear of the city had good information on how the “drop off and pick up kids for school stuff” worked or if any thought was given in this issue when the project was designed and completed. Today parents park on the street and it is not an easy or safe task to get by those cars parked in the street. The parent parking and blocking streets is not unique to Chase Lake but we should consider how to make the streets safer for all. A simple traffic study will give us data on this area. We may already have it as part of the major project in that area.

    Let’s get some data to see when and if people are actually speeding through that area. And we should also see how many cars need to drive on the wrong side of the road.

  13. I sent email to council voicing the need for sidewalks on 96th and 224th. Children and parents are forced to walk in the street, crossing from one side to the other. The patrol is out at Westgate every morning on 96th and 224th for crossing and on 220th. there is a large blinking light for crossing. Are people speeding on 220th? If so why not a light in front of the school to slow people down ? A camera is a band, aid not addressing the issue of an obvious traffic problem, so I could only hope a traffic device will be worked into the budget. Additionally, if the council’s worry is truly the children how about those sidewalks in all School neighborhoods, all children should be safe.

  14. Folks want sidewalks in all parts of the city. They want them repaired for safety and they want new ones in certain areas. Edmonds has a Transportation Benefit charge that can be raised by council vote alone. That would raise funds that could be used for sidewalk issues. We could also have a levy targeted at sidewalks. A $.06/1000 would generate $1m/year. The tax for a $500,000 home would be about $32/yr. Such a levy would allow the fund to be used only for sidewalks.

  15. Council is taking some direct action to protect local decisions on zoning and leaving to us the “how do we add truly affordable housings.” We need to add inventory with rents starting at under $1000/month to match the estimated demand. Traditional market factors are unlikely to produce more affordable housing the MFTE does very little if anything to add to the stock. What may be needed is a new and creative way with some form of public private partnership designed to not only reduce the costs but to increase the supply. We could tax ourselves through a levy to give get things started.
    Just on the rental assistance side we could create 166 $500/month rental assistance vouches with $1m/yr. The tax for a $500k home would be $32/yr. On the building side of things we could use that same $1m and help subsidize the cost of building new units. If we are successful in retaining local zoning control it will then fall upon us to create ways to increase affordable housing

    1. Years ago, when I had more modest means for myself, affordable housing was living with family members, having roommates, living in a more modest neighborhood than Edmonds, or living in a small studio apartment. I guess the political culture was different then. Local Socialists here now want to use other people’s money to subsidize housing. Maybe local governments in an effort to create affordable housing should encourage people to have more roommates or give classes on how to get along with your family so you can live in a multi-generational home. Perhaps, hand out maps showing other areas of the region that have lower costs housing. This idea of an egalitarian utopia society will work fine until you run out of other people’s money.

  16. Regarding sidewalks: when I moved up to Maplewood Drive, the first neighbor I met was holding a petition to the City council for a sidewalk. I don’t remember how many signatures we got, that petition was presented to the council in 1996. Still waiting for that sidewalk 27 years later!

    Regarding affordable housing: Edmonds needs more median income housing. That was one of the main conclusions of the housing commission, at least the way I understood it. Median income housing seems to always get left out of the discussions which are dominated by affordable housing advocates. The supply of median income housing could be increased in Edmonds if more properties allowed adding a DADU. Personally, I’d rather have 50 or 100 median income DADU houses dispersed around Edmonds than a Ballard-like cavern of 6 story apartments lining Hwy 99 and our arterials.
    The consensus opinion seems to be headed in the Ballard-like direction.

  17. I love how people on the extreme political Right label anything they don’t agree with as “Socialism” and people on the extreme political Left label anything they don’t agree with as “Fascism.” The truth is our socioeconomic and political systems have elements of both these “isms.” That really can’t seem to be avoided. We have public water and sewer systems owned in common by everyone because that works so much better than individual wells and outhouses (socialism ?). Our Supreme Court has declared that Corporations are the same as people with the same rights as people (fascism ?). Until we get to the point where we are all discussing ideas only on the basis of whether they are good and work for most people, or not good and don’t work for most people; we are not going to even begin to solve all the messes we are currently trying to deal with. If you do something the same way for 30 years and things just get worse; maybe try something different?

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