Speed limits will be slowing down on Bainbridge Island, but work on the city’s Housing Action Plan is revving up.
The City Council Jan. 24 approved a measure that will drop the speed limit 5 miles per hour on arterials and to 20 mph on city streets and residential areas.
During a public hearing, Nina Miller said the change is not needed on streets that don’t have problems with accidents. “That should be a consideration,” she said, otherwise the city is trying to “fix a problem that doesn’t exist.” She said driving at an unnaturally slow speed can create anxiety. She said Bainbridge drivers are very good at driving as the situation dictates—whether it be weather or road conditions, traffic congestion, people at the side of the road, etc. She said making everyone slow down all the time does not show faith in people’s intelligence.
But Bob Russell and Joe Edell said they don’t have a problem with the slower speed limits—they just want them enforced. Russell said the best lesson he ever learned as a driver was getting a ticket. Edell said BI police don’t enforce current speed limits so lowering them won’t do any good. He said he was almost hit in a crosswalk, and there was an officer right there, but the culprit wasn’t pulled over. He also said even though the city isn’t in charge that the speed limit on state Highway 305 on BI should be lowered. Finally, he said public hearings should take place at the start of meetings or be scheduled for an exact time because he had to wait three hours to testify.
During the presentation on speed limits, Public Works director Chris Wierzbicki said the change was done to standardize speeds on BI. A consultant was hired, and 20 mph was picked for many areas, with places with faster speed limits being dropped 5 mph. An exception was Lynwood Center Road, as 20 mph is too drastic a change from the present 35 mph. The speed limit there will drop to 30 mph. He said community input showed some like the speed limits where they are, and others wanted them to drop even further. The plan is a balance that will be looked at every five years. But if there are specific problem areas those can be addressed.
BI police chief Joe Clark says in a memo that his department will favor education over tickets at first to educate the public about the changes. There will be mobile trailers, change speed-limit signs will be flagged, and there will be emphasis patrols.
Morgan Shook and Jennifer Cannon of ECONorthwest explained the framework for the city’s Housing Action Plan. It heard through public input that more affordable and diverse types of housing are needed as people who work on BI can’t afford to live here, and commuting increases greenhouse gases, which is against climate goals of city leaders. It also heard that more diversity is desired on BI, there are fewer families and young adults, and renting is difficult and home ownership is out of reach.
Single-family homes aren’t enough anymore, it says. Seniors, in particular, need smaller, more affordable housing. People of color and low-income folks also need different types of housing. That would also help businesses with recruiting and retaining employees. The plan says the city needs to adjust its policies and regulations to make that happen. It needs to partner with others and provide incentives for housing production, removing barriers, waving or reducing fees, allocating funds and more.
The plan, which is nearing draft form, includes 4-8 guiding principals with 8-16 strategies and 16-32 actions. Cannon said the guiding principles, along with some strategies and actions are:
•Diverse housing: Smaller housing for low-income folks. Examples include duplexes, triplexes, tiny homes, cottage housing and accessory dwelling units.
•More affordable: Provide incentives, funding and shared ownership opportunities.
•Displacement: People are leaving due to rising costs. Develop short-term rental strategies so off-island employees can work here.
•Senior housing: Seniors have doubled since 2000. They need housing that is accessible, takes subsidies and is near services. The city needs to streamline tenant and ownership support.
•Increase rental and homeownership for workforce: Rentals have dwindled the past few decades. The city needs to strengthen ferry-oriented development and promote housing for workers.
•Sustainble development: To reduce greenhouse gas emissions the city needs to support pilot projects, encourage use of existing buildings and develop in designated areas.
Next steps include refining the draft, publishing it and getting planning commission review and public comment.
But that’s when two councilmembers spoke up. Kirsten Hytopoulos said the draft needed to be delayed until the council had a chance to weigh in. Jon Quitslund agreed. He said the housing needs assessment had some great ideas that were not included, such as percentages for income-level housing needed to meet regional allocation population obligations. “This whole thing ought to be purpose-driven.”
The council agreed to delay the draft until after Feb. 14, when it will discuss it further.
National Community Survey
Affordability is a major concern of BI residents, a National Community Survey taken last summer says. And that’s not just housing, but other things such as cost of living, food and childcare, along with health and mental health care. It’s the fifth time the city has been involved in the survey but the first since 2017.
Of the 2,800 random surveys sent out, 811 responded, a 30% rate. Also, 402 more people responded in open participation. Of the 123 items listed in the survey, 35 were rated higher than the national average by local respondents, with 71 similar and 17 lower. Results show that BI parks and recreation and the natural environment are highly valued. Trending up are water, government, mobility and the economy also rank high. At the other end of the scale were: utilities, housing costs, health care, preventive health services and mental health care. Trending down are education, arts and culture, along with community design.
Blakely Award Certificates were presented to: Jim McNett, for his role in creating the Pickleball Founders Tournament; Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki, for his part in creating the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial; and Katy Curtis, for historic education and outreach and preservation of BI cultural diversity. Also honored with a Project of Excellence Award is the new interpretive art on the Departure Deck at the memorial. The awards have been given out since 2011 for historic preservation.