Good idea to slow down on the parking study | Guest View

By Michelle Dotsch | Aug 30, 2019

In reviewing the parking study process and the item on the City Council agenda to approve over $100,000 for an outside consultant and staff time to determine current parking capacity issues downtown, I am concerned this process is strangely familiar to previous attempts that have failed to meaningfully involve the public at the outset.

As the council has wisely listened to their local constituents and added downtown parking issues to their concerns, the process to address the issue seems to be following a familiar, rocky path.

Councilmembers Dave Teitzel, Tom Mesaros and others have stated in recent meetings that there needs to be public engagement first.

However, again.

Before any public outreach, before any surveys, before any businesses and residents of the downtown core and beyond were involved, department directors had already decided on a specific company, Framework, which they deemed the one “chosen” to lead this process.

I attended the kickoff public scoping meeting on Aug. 8, put together by Teitzel, Mesaros, and department directors. We were told its intent was to involve the public first to determine the scope of this parking study and not to come up with any solutions yet – everything was on the table.

Unfortunately, the consultant, who should be chosen or not chosen based on the scoping of the public, had already been picked over a month prior, while also knowing full well their price was far over budget.

As those of us who were involved in the Housing Strategy meetings with BERK consulting saw, it seemed the public input was never truly intended to be collected; the consultant and staff led the discussion to what aligned with their own direction to be presented or documented, logically leading to much public frustration.

The results from the first parking meeting and more than 700 survey responses, done on very short notice at the height of summer vacation, was nowhere in the council packet that evening, so how would you know what the public (only 2% are really involved at this point) wants for the scope of this parking study?

Why was it being rushed in the middle of summer, and why did the administration choose this consultant without having any public engagement?

But now that councilmembers decided at its Aug. 20 meeting to table hiring a parking consultant at this time, I respectfully ask the council and administration involved in this parking study for Edmonds: Please slow down, by first continuing with this good process involving the residents and businesses of our town.

Be willing to ask for more comprehensive input from downtown merchants, Ed!, the Chamber of Commerce, the condo associations, and homeowners living in the parking study area itself.

Try to grasp your own bloated parking permitting process (over 1,500 passes!), as well as engage the residents outside this area who cannot walk here and come to Edmonds to spend their valuable time and money.

An idea that could be taken for the rest of this year is to possibly use up to the $40,000 approved budget for in-house staff time to make this study a success – continuing the public scope to define the problem prior to looking at who may be the best to help in finding solutions.

Look at what the last paid parking study had as solutions, see what was used, what worked, and other ideas that could be pursued.

I believe this community is hungry for opportunities to help make Edmonds a gem in our area, for now and into the future. You have the power to combine both the administrative and legislative sides to open that opportunity, to be inviting of your constituents, not just the ones you usually engage with, but keep the lines of communication open and truly listen.

Your public is looking for leadership on this issue, and all of us can agree a good process is vital, so please follow a new path that truly puts your public first.

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