A City Councillor noted recently that Port Townsend’s favorite exercise is jumping to conclusions.
Salish Coast Elementary School is not, and never was, planned to be a parking-free campus. The newspaper got it wrong and has not corrected its error. In order to maximize learning space and student safety, the decision was made to have distributed parking instead of paving over yet more land for yet another giant parking lot (think Blue Heron).
There is a 28-space staff parking lot on school-owned property where the children’s garden once was, across Grant Street from the school, and the garden is now adjacent to the school. It’s safer for adults to cross a street than little kids. Your school bond tax dollars are also paying for street improvements to provide 36 angle spaces on the west side and 25 parallel spaces on the east side of Grant Street in front of the school. Also, 8 new spaces will be provided on the south end of the property on 16th Street and bus loading zones which comprise 18 spaces when the buses are absent on Discovery Road. All of the safety improvements including sidewalks and cycle track on Discovery are provided by your school bond tax dollars.
During pick-up and drop-off times, the District also has an agreement with the Quaker Church for an additional 22 spaces. By City code, the school is required to have 96 spaces but has provided 119 spaces during pick-up and drop-off and 115 spaces during school hours. Note that Blue Heron only has 89 parking spaces on campus. None of the counted spaces around Salish Coast impact access to neighborhood homes. Street improvements have been made to Sheridan and 16th Streets through Safe Routes to School grants that the City permits the District to include to meet its needs.
There is also a misconception about public right-of-ways. Adjacent homeowners may own the underlying land, but the right-of-way belongs to the public. You don’t own the parking space on the street right-of-way in front of your house. The City controls those right-of-ways and the City makes the decision about what can be used for parking. Unless the City vacates that right-of-way to you, it is public. That said, none of the 119 parking spaces listed above impact access to adjacent neighborhood homes. In addition, a consulting traffic engineer will monitor parking twice yearly to evaluate adequacy.
Neighbors of the school have suffered through a year of construction - intense, invasive and occasionally unpleasant. But it’s a school for our youngest citizens, and it was designed thoughtfully to accomodate them. Soon, the construction workers will quit parking all over the place, the piles of soil and bark will become landscaping and gardens and play areas, and life will get back to something approaching normal. Sometime soon.
Note that ‘soon’ may take a little longer than anticipated, since the crane operators' strike that started on Tuesday affects much of the finishing work on the school grounds. But that is out of District control. Bear with it, please, for the sake of the 500 kids who will benefit from a safe, wonderful, new learning environment.