Parking stays freeResidents speak up, council listens
Mukilteans spoke up and have been heard: No one will have to pay to park at Lighthouse Park or on the waterfront.
After receiving many letters from residents, and continued talks on the issue, Mukilteo City Council voted unanimously against implementing paid parking in the park or on surrounding streets.
Parking at Lighthouse Park will continue to be free and available first come, first served.
“If it wasn’t for the residents writing in to the city, we’d be voting for it tonight,” Councilmember Steve Schmalz said. “The residents get credit for this because they’re the ones that stepped up and made their voices known.”
The council voted to direct city staff to instead work with the Port of Everett to set up a parking lot on the Tank Farm after it transfers and with Sound Transit on its plans to construct a parking garage on the waterfront.
“The council has changed their minds many, many times based on what the residents say,” Mayor Joe Marine said, “and I think this is one of them.”
About 15 residents wrote to the mayor and council that they didn’t want to pay parking fees in addition to taxes that have been used for park development and maintenance. Several said the proposal would essentially be “double taxation.”
Many on the council said that although charging only non-residents to park is possible, it would be costly – in more ways than one.
“I am not comfortable with changing one and not the other,” Councilmember Emily Vanderwielen said. “It would send the wrong message.”
It is estimated that the Tank Farm property will transfer from the U.S. Air Force to the Port of Everett in early 2013, City Administrator Joe Hannan said.
He said the transfer provides the city an opportunity to partner with the port to provide more than 100 additional parking spaces on the waterfront.
Additionally, Hannan said, joint construction of a parking garage with Sound Transit would add parking spaces – but not necessarily for free.
The council had voted Sept. 17 to request bids from parking companies on a proposal that charged visitors to Lighthouse Park $1.50 an hour to park from March through September. All other times, parking would have remained free.
As proposed, residents would have been able to buy an annual $35 parking pass that gave them four hours of free parking per day. An eight-hour parking pass would have cost residents $70. Non-residents would have paid double for the passes.
The plan was to install parking meters and implement paid parking starting March 1, 2013.
Six parking companies had contacted the city about managing the meters, with hourly parking fees ranging from $1 to $3, Hannan said. It was found that keeping residents exempt from fees would not cover the cost of managing parking, he said.
He said several residents had suggested other ways to manage congestion without charging Mukilteans, including parking kiosks, the honor system, using drivers’ licenses or issuing parking stickers so they wouldn’t have to pay.
However, Hannan said, none of the options would have eliminated monitoring costs.
“I don’t think there is enough value for the cost of managing a program that benefits residents,” he said.
City officials had proposed paid parking as a way to relieve traffic and congestion on the waterfront.
Ever since the city renovated Lighthouse Park, it has become very popular. More than 1,000 vehicles go through the park each day on the weekends during spring and summer.
Hannan said it is still a city goal to encourage visitors to start using public transit, shuttles and carpools, or walk to the park.
“I have been interested in managing parking for 2-3 years,” Council President Richard Emery said. “It’s obviously a more complex issue than we ever thought."