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By Kevin Stolz
Former councilmember 

Old Town parking ... The never-ending story l Guest View


Last updated 10/2/2019 at 1:19pm

This month, we’ll be discussing parking in the Old Town area.

Because my intent is to include many issues that have an impact on this topic, my approach is a fact-based analysis in a rapid-fire format.

As time and space allow, I’ll dig down into contributing factors or additional information in a future article.

For this topic, I’ll be breaking it into three parts.

This week will look at where we are and more importantly, how we got here.

The following weeks will look at where we’re likely heading in the future and a detailed discussion of the rise and fall of Mukilteo’s (almost) park and ride, and whether a park and ride is in Mukilteo’s future.

Parking today

All of Mukilteo’s waterfront north of the train tracks is paid parking with a four-hour maximum.

This includes Lighthouse Park and along Front Street, Park, and First Street.

The fee is $2.25 per hour and, with the exception of Lighthouse Park, is charged between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. all year. The fee at Lighthouse Park is charged from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. from May 1 through Sept. 30th and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 1 and April 30. The four-hour maximum applies at all times.

Most areas within a reasonable walking distance to the waterfront/ferry/Sounder and south of the tracks don’t have paid parking but are limited to a maximum of four hours. This includes the neighborhoods north of Sixth Street and the commercial district in Old Town.

Residents in the areas where there is a four-hour limitation are provided residential passes on request from the City that include a guest parking pass and two permanent parking passes for specific vehicles.

All residents receive two parking passes (each can have up to two vehicles listed), which allows unlimited (not overnight) parking in the waterfront area north of the railroad tracks without charge. If you have an electric car, Lighthouse Park has four free charging stations.

The city has 99 permit spots behind Diamond Knot along with a handful of additional spots on First Street adjacent to the Sounder lot and some spots in the Third Street/Rosehill lot. All these overnight permit spots are used almost exclusively for ferry commuter parking.

Lighthouse Park has about 250 paid parking spots, not including an additional 33 boat launch spots. If a car parks in a boat launch spot, they’ll get a ticket, but boat launch customers can park in two adjacent spots without penalty.

The Sounder area contains 63 spots for Sounder patrons and there’s no charge. On a typical day there can be between 15 and 25 patrons parked in the paid areas on Park and First Street using resident passes.

A few scenarios regarding who is using the resident passes for Sounder parking:

1: Realizing Sounder parking is insufficient, Mukilteo residents riding the Sounder park outside the Sounder lot to free up space for non-residents.

2: Mukilteo residents don’t have to worry about getting to the Sounder lot early because if it’s full, they can park anywhere close with their resident pass.

3: Mukilteo residents sell or give away resident parking passes to Sounder riders.

4: There’s at least one commercial permit parking lot next to the Arnie’s lot and some additional parking areas used for commuter parking around the area south of the railroad tracks (I’m not sure if any of the additional “lots” are legal). All the legal commercial lots near the waterfront are subject to a 25 percent additional city tax on parking revenue.

5: There’s a significant amount of commuter parking in surrounding neighborhoods.

6: Some residents rent out their driveways, and some sell their permits.

How did we get here?

Fifteen years ago when we moved from mid-Mukilteo to Old Town, there was more accessible parking in Old Town/waterfront than there is today.

Lighthouse Park had 120 spots for paid/permit parking. Paid parking could be as long as 24 hours. Because these spots were assigned to permit holders and hourly paid parking, a permit holder who couldn’t find an available spot in the designated paid/permit area could park in any available free spot in Lighthouse Park.

The subtle additional benefit of this strategy was there could easily be many more than the designated 120 paid/permit parking spots used. This also allowed anyone to come down to the waterfront, pay to park, and hop on the ferry for a day (or longer) to Whidbey Island.

In addition to the paid/permit parking at Lighthouse Park, there was also a similar parking area behind the old Rosehill Community Center. There were 131 spots for paid/permit parking. There was also one commercial lot behind Buzz Inn that had 45 spots.

The transition from 15 years ago to today isn’t an obvious one, so I’ll digress a bit to tie it together. There are two parts that had a major impact and both were political.

Part One (we spent a lot of money)

During the eight years I was on the council (2006-2013), we took the tens of millions of dollars saved by the previous councils to avoid a repeat of the City almost going bankrupt after the annexation of Harbour Pointe and spent (or obligated) most of it.

We built a new City Hall, renovated Lighthouse Park, and built a new Rosehill Community Center.

Back then, the mayor and a majority on the council held the view that ferry commuters just passed through, didn’t spend money in Mukilteo, and created all our traffic problems so why should we be providing them our much-needed parking? Many people believe the same thing today.

In reality, the facts don’t support the perceptions, but often in Mukilteo government, perception is mistaken for reality and facts tend to get in the way.

With the renovation of Lighthouse Park, the 120 spot paid/permit spots transitioned into 99 for permit parking only. Similarly, when the new Rosehill was built, the 131 paid/permit parking spots transitioned into eight spots of permit only parking.

Prior to that, as a councilmember, I made a motion to the effect that with the new construction at Lighthouse Park and Rosehill, the parking revenue to the City as well as the number of paid parking spaces shouldn’t decrease. After the amendments, what we ended up with was only that the revenue would remain the same.

As a result of this decision and the “temporary” lease of the Buzz Inn property to WSF for the widening of the ferry holding lanes, the 251 paid/permit parking spaces between Lighthouse Park and Rosehill were reduced to the current 99 permit-only spaces behind Diamond Knot (plus the few permit spaces at Rosehill and First Street near the Sounder). Paid parking that allowed visitors to Whidbey Island to park and walk on the ferry, including Mukilteo residents, was eliminated.

The reduction of permit parking and the elimination of paid parking resulted in an increase of commuter parking in surrounding neighborhoods and an increase in residents renting spaces to commuters. I remember receiving notes on my doorstep from commuters asking if I’d be willing to rent out parking. It’s not legal for residents to rent out parking space, or to sell their parking passes.

Part Two (The Waterfront Paid Parking Program)

In June 2015, the City implemented paid parking for all of the waterfront areas north of the tracks with the exception of Edgewater Beach and the Sounder lot.

Fortunately for residents, we can thank Councilmember Steve Schmalz for his efforts to implement the resident parking passes that allows residents to park at the waterfront for as long as we want (but not overnight).

As one might expect, paid parking would also drive people up into the surrounding neighborhoods to park for free.

It did and finally the City changed the previous limitation of no parking between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. in the residential area to also include a four-hour limit.


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