A proposal by the city of Lake Forest Park to put a total of 62 Park & Ride stalls for bus users in residential neighborhoods along 41st Ave. N.E. and 44th Ave. N.E. is now dead after the LFP City Council meeting Monday evening.
The Council heard a report from city engineer Neil Jensen and a consultant from Otak, a Kirkland-based architecture and engineering firm about the project. Both did not stick around for public comment, which featured oppostion from most residents, not surprising considering the outcry at the Aug. 23 meeting when the controversy first reached a crescendo.
During the discussion, Councilmember Sandy Koeppenol suggested that the Council shelve the Park & Ride plans and task the Local Government Committee with coming up with a different solution. Councilmember Don Fiene drew applause from many of the 60 residents in City Council chambers when he said the Council should address the policy issue of using residential streets for a Park & Ride at its Thursday meeting.
The Council is expected to vote on a resolution Thursday to send the issue back to the Local Government Committee, and find an alternative. The Local Government Committee is chaired by Fiene and includes deputy mayor Catherine Stanford and Councilmember John Wright.
In 2009, the city of Lake Forest Park, under the leadership of then-Mayor Dave Hutchinson, citing high traffic volumes on State Route 522 through LFP, lobbied for and got a $500,000 grant for a Park & Ride from the House Transportation Committee, chaired by Rep. Judy Clibborn.
But since 2009, the Council has been unable to find a way to put the money to use. Two years of negotiation with the Lake City Elks Club stalled and now that property is up for sale. Madison Marquette, which owns and operates Lake Forest Park Towne Centre, never warmed up to the idea of giving up parking spaces for the Park & Ride. And now the latest attempt, which proposed putting 38 spaces on 41st Ave. N.E. and 24 spaces on 44th Ave. N.E., has proven to be immensely unpopular with neighbors.
John Davis, who lives on 41st Ave. N.E., said putting Park & Ride spaces in a residential neighborhood, would be "unprecedented in the Seattle area and the corridor we live in," and "would have very negative impacts."
"Cannibalizing our community is not the answer," he said.
Lorri Bodi, who also lives on 41st Ave. N.E., said she supports the idea of a Park & Ride, but not in a single-family neighborhood. She noted that the proposal the project would only increase the spaces there now by a dozen. Other neighbors said some commuters already park there on the street and they don't have a major problem with that. The city's project would be unsafe for children in the area, disturb existing wetlands and seemed generally unnecessary to most who spoke.
"We've pretty much exhausted," the options in Lake Forest Park, said Deputy Mayor Catherine Stanford, who has worked for three years trying to find a solution. "I'm happy to hear new ideas on it."
Cobbling together spaces somewhere else could be a solution. The city could continue to talk to Windermere, which has offices in Lake Forest Park Towne Centre, and could supply about 25 spaces for Park & Ride users.
The city also could approach the owners of strip club Déja Vu on Bothell Way N.E. which has a large, often mostly unused parking lot. That hasn't happened yet, possibly because it looks unseemly to some to give public money to a strip club and locating the project there.
One proposal, that is not in Lake Forest Park, but appears viable is the Church of the Redeemer in Kenmore. Former city employee, LFP resident and church member Sarah Phillips told the Council the church was not opposed to having a gravel lot there converted into 60 Park & Ride spaces. It's on the 522 Plan as a designated Park & Ride and despite some grading issues, a new traffic light going in at 61st and 182nd makes that a more attractive option.
Whatever happens the city is on borrowed time. The grant has been extended a couple times before but there's no guarantee that the Legislature won't reclaim the money next session because it hasn't been used yet, Stanford said.