LETTER: An Open Letter to the Des Moines City Council

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Waterland Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Des Moines City Council,

I am a resident of Burien and have enjoyed visiting the marina and adjacent park many times over the years with my family. The Des Moines marina is a unique attraction and the primary reason we visit. During our visits we usually frequent downtown restaurants and shops.

I was stunned this weekend to find the new gated parking areas requiring payment. I stopped at the Marina building and read the sign indicating the reasons the council has directed the changes to the parking area. As an occasional visitor, I would like to offer the following observations and comments:

  1. The parking gates are very unfriendly. After paying for marina parking I found that I couldn’t access the park, since this was a separate gated parking area. I couldn’t directly access the marina building, and there were parking spikes installed in this section. This caused serious frustration and we felt very unwelcome by these hostile changes.
  2. I have never had a parking problem while visiting in the past. In the past, we found the marina and park to be very welcoming and inviting.
  3. On my visit over the weekend, the marina area was a ghost-town. I presume I am not the only visitor made to feel unwelcome.
  4. This will certainly impact the visitor spending at downtown establishments. Visiting the marina and park were the primary reasons for our previous visits to local businesses.

I am baffled by the decision to control parking issues and generate revenue by this very poor decision that is unfriendly to local business. The design of the parking controls with multiple confusing gates and parking spikes do not fit the City of Des Moines. I am so disappointed in this that If I were a resident, I would be fighting this hard especially in the next council election.

Finally, I ask that you not respond to this with the rationale for the changes, I have no doubt there were some good reasons. I would instead ask that you respond to the frustration by returning the marina and park to the wonderful attraction they once were and address the original concerns in another way that will not hurt local business.

Erik Utter
Burien, WA

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24 Responses to “LETTER: An Open Letter to the Des Moines City Council”
  1. jm says:

    “Finally, I ask that you not respond to this with the rationale for the changes, I have no doubt there were some good reasons. I would instead ask that you respond to the frustration by returning the marina and park to the wonderful attraction they once were and address the original concerns in another way that will not hurt local business.”

    What a productive, open request! Let’s not talk about it, let’s just go back to the way things were because it was comfy.

    • Mr. T says:

      The new Marina arrangement is a poorly instituted money grab.

    • Rob says:

      I agree with Erik. I am a Des Moines resident and I no longer go to the Des Moines Pier and park area, as I used to on nice spring and summer days, for that reason — it is uninviting and unwelcoming with the gated demand for parking fees, regardless if you are a Des Moines resident or not. To me, this once beautiful area of Des Moines no longer exists. I stay away from the waterfront there.

      The City Council is pushing the marina development, yet it is driving people away from the waterfront with its parking fees. That’s counterproductive, and I imagine the parking revenue will decrease over time as more people stay away.

  2. seatac says:

    i wonder how much parking revenue is generated vs. how much business tax is lost because of this change.

  3. Steve says:

    Wow. What a disingenuous letter.

    You start out listing how surprised you were by the fee, and security spikes, how you had trouble navigating simple parking gates, etc., and then try to close by saying it should be reversed because it’s hurting local business.

    Funny, you don’t discuss the local businesses you patronized after your visit, or your discussion with the business owners on whether they’ve been impacted or not.

    Nope, it’s all about you, and how you feel.

    Speaking of you….there were open public disussions about this that began back in December of 2012, with public notices posted at the Marina, online, and in the paper.

    It was implemented LAST YEAR.

    That’s 6 years you had to voice your concerns.

    You say you’ve visited the Marina “many times over the years”, but I guess that was before 2012.

    And the ‘don’t respond, just do what I want done’ is priceless.

    Many hours of public discourse have been spent on this, as well as thousands of dollars on studies of the situation, and many more thousands on design & implementation.

    But Erik, who doesn’t live in Des Moines, wrote a letter, so we should tear it all down.

    Utterly ridiculous.

  4. Steve says:

    Actually, I live in Des Moines, and I, too, hate the new parking fees at the Marina.

    My response to Erik was due to the nature of his letter, and false statements he made about going frequently, and how he wanted no dialogue, just change it back because he said so.

    As far as businesses, what business has closed because of this?

    I think the lack of business development has as much to do with crappy landlords and inexperienced restaurant owners, as anything else.

    Look at the main drag….. dilapidated structures with owners wanting too much rent for a run-down space, while sitting on property waiting for a big payday.

    All Star invested & built up the inside, and it’s one of the few places that’s 1/2 decent on the inside.

    The rest of that strip looks like it’s awaiting demolition.

    There are aspects of downtown that just look downright depressing. That has as much to do with a lack of visitors as anything.

  5. M says:

    The paid parking at the Marina is a disgrace. Is it true one has to pay again to visit the park? As I pointed out to City Council members recently, they should take the taxes they are charging the builder for the gigantic warehouse wall with a very short set back from 216th. You know the one. It starts blocking the view shortly after heading from Pac Highway S.


  6. JC Harris says:

    When scanning comments on any Letter To The Editor I now play a little game: how long until someone says that the writer has an ulterior motive or is bust out lying? Personally, I’m sick of trying to figure it out. Most people aren’t professional writers and a lot of letters that seem bogus are really just someone writing too quickly.

    The only thing that matters to me is whether or not the content has merit. And in this case, the writer -does- have merit. The paid parking was (and is) a crummy idea for a whole bunch of reasons, not least of which is that IT DOESN’T MAKE REAL MONEY.

    Paid Parking was instituted at a time when the city was desperate for cash. Apparently the City Council has turned the city’s finances completely around and the balance sheet could not be rosier. Great! Then in that case, the paid parking should be ripped out since it is -not- a big money maker and because it -is- confusing and because it -is- a turn-off to visitors as well as residents.

    In fact pretty much the -only- people who do like it are residents of the waterfront apartments who appreciate that it provides them with a de facto second security system–which I can appreciate, but not at the cost of several hundred thousand dollars!

    The signs around the marina announcing that paid parking will pay for the seawall redo are boooogus. Paid parking won’t come -close- to covering those costs and so its silly to consider paid parking to be a big driver of that campaign.

    The vast majority of DM residents do NOT (and never did) want paid parking and the original impetus for paid parking is no longer there so the city should declare victory and leave the field with honour as soon as possible.

    End paid parking.

  7. Steve says:

    Regardless of whether someone ‘plays a little game’ or not, you miss the point.

    If he, and the hundreds of other people that are now complaining, had shown up in the 5 years this was being debated, and voiced their opinion, pay parking may not have been implemented.

    It worked when Valley Cities wanted to put a rehab facility near a school here.

    My point was he was only concerned when it inconvenienced him.

    You might have caught my point if you hadn’t been “playing a little game.”

    You’re also missing that we’re all in agreement it should go, especially now thatthe Mayor & Council are gloating about a $7 Million surplus.

    • JC Harris says:


      I was at several public meetings expressing outrage at the idea of paid parking. I was interviewed by the Highline Times 5 years ago on this when Kaplan was mayor.

      The council kept bringing the issue back.. over and over. Except that near the end they stopped making the meetings quite so ‘public’, doing what they always do when they want to make something happen… restricting public input to the absolute minimum ‘public comment’ required by law. That’s the DM way… 7 people in a dark room.

      Plenty of people complained. The council was -determined- to have paid parking. It was quite a different situation from the rehab clinics.


      • Stephanie says:

        I completely agree with you, JC. The DM way indeed. The city council has done this in other situations such as closing a public street (they are calling it restricting access) without public hearings, traffic studies or a Resolution. Things that are required under State law. The revenue that the paid marina parking is generating is chump change. How much money could they really be making when the lot is empty a majority of the time? I have lived in Des Moines almost 4 years and never visit or frequent the businesses at the Marina. What appeal is there? I’m certainly not going to pay for parking. The city council caters to the Marina residents, just like when they went to ridiculous means to stop Pokémon Go. However, in Woodmont we had to take our issues with the methadone dispensary facility being located next to the public library and near Woodmont elementary to the media to get the city council behind relocating the project.
        The problems that the Marina had with loitering, drug usage and litter in the now paid parking Marina lot could have been addressed with added uniformed police officers doing what they are paid to do, patrol the city and monitor for illegal activities. If your hanging out in a parking lot at night, you are trespassing. Since the city has been functioning (not very well) for many years with a bare bones police force and relying on Kent and Federal Way PD to supplement their lack adequate patrols, so the city council brainstormed the idea of paid parking. Now that the city of Des Moines appears to be beefing up the police department it’s time to do away with the paid parking. It’s so absurd to charge for parking when it’s not even a nice Marina with much to offer, like Kirkland. I mean spikes… really? It’s not that serious. Is the city of Des Moines that hard up for a couple of dollars? Ridiculous! Speak softly and carry a big stick- let your vote and your wallet speak volumes.

    • John Riley says:

      Steve, there were many folks voicing their opposition to the paid parking.

  8. Egm says:

    I agree as so.many others have said, the parking whether justified or not makes the marina unwelcoming and frankly depressing.

  9. Steve says:

    John…I appreciate the dialogue.

    My point is what if hundreds more, that are complaining now, had been there then? Could there have been a tipping point.

    John, Stephanie, et al., I agree with everything you all are saying.

    My point is juust the letter writer didn’t participate, and now wants it the way he wants it, and doesn’t want dialog.

    None of that is helpful, or leads to change.

    I do have a question for anyone:

    Why is it that Des Moines is run in such a manner, yet these people keep getting re-elected?

    • Michael says:

      The city of Des Monies had and still has sources of revenue for the seawall. Not that many years ago the marina had a crane to launch private boats of trailers. There was a charge for this service. What does the marina do? Take out the boat crane. There goes a source of revenue.

      One question I have is. Where is the revenue from property taxes, boat moorage, storage rentals at the marina etc, etc.?

      People of Des Monies you need to say “You’re Fired!” to all your local leaders at the ballot box. This will include the mayor, city council, the Harbormaster. Just to name a few.

      The paid parking at the Des Moines Marina just turned off any reason for anybody actually to go to the city of Des Moines. Honestly, I really think that the city of Des Moines wanted turn the public marina into a private marina.

  10. JCB says:

    1st of all, the marina/park has never been packed in the dreary, rainy winter months. The gates were put up late last summer if I remember correctly, so we need to wait this out.

    2nd, I don’t think people realize the marina requires extensive repairs to the seawall & other upkeep/maintence. Where should that cash come from?

    3rd. There’s really no buisness presence at the marina or within walking distance, besides Anthony’s. Since they installed the gates, the park has gotten noticable nicer, feels safer & it’s more pleasant experince now. The parks cleaner, & the people that are there – considering they have to pay to park – take pride in the marina & treat the area with respect.

    Hopefully with the marina improvements, the city can draw in some new businesses. Something fresh & exciting. Last time I went to the marina, there where signs posted about new, temporary restaurants or shops in the summer. That’s cool, & it’s defiantly an improvement.

    • JCB says:

      The bigger concern (like Steve says above) is getting some new tenants into the downtown area that offer something. Not the same old garbage. Not anymore espresso, though it is kinda surprising there’s not a Starbucks “downtown”. It’s getting old traveling to Burien, Kent or Federal Way to eat, we need options! I don’t understand why there is empty lots, & old, worn, vacant buildings downtown, when there’s obviously plenty of opportunity for growth in this area. Not sure how to do it, but the CC needs to encourage new investment & development downtown.

  11. Erik says:

    Original letter writer here…

    It’s true, my letter was written quickly out of lingering frustration over a couple of days. As I pointed out, I am not a resident of Des Moines, I was not aware of any kind of looming public comment or planning for the paid parking. As an occasional visitor from a neighboring community, I don’t expect to be notified of such things, nor do I spend much time looking into the planning activities of other cities. I’m ok with that.

    I am simply stating how the “new to me” parking felt, and gave a reason it could have a negative impact. It may seem silly, but I think it is legitimate and I suspect other out of town visitors may feel the same way. I like visiting Des Moines and I hope the community thrives.

    Finally, I would like to clarify my statement requesting “no response with the rationale”. I poorly conveyed my thoughts on this. Often, when making a complaint to government, we are responded to with all the reasons why things are the way they are. Before sending my letter I did read the reasons listed on the marina administration building, and I did follow-up with reading old blog posts and council meeting minutes etc. I have no doubt the reasons the paid parking were implemented are legitimate. I certainly would encourage a dialog about the costs vs. benefits moving forward.

  12. Eric says:

    I agree with the original writers comments about the paid parking and the gates in particular. I am a Des Moines resident of over 20 years and expressed my opinions and feelings on this particular blog and was attacked by a sitting council member as not knowing what I was talking about. I will discontinue visiting the park and instead patronize facilities in neighboring communities that feel more welcoming.

  13. Pat Nardo says:

    A Memorial Day Celebration like never before is planned for our city of Des Moines Washington! It will be at the Underwood Memorial Park, near the Activity Center and Post Office. To celebrate and honor the fallen, the missing, and veterans, all, there will be a ceremonial flag rising, along with commentary by selected community leaders. Included in this presentation of patriotism, will be Mayor, Matt Pina, Councilman Matt Mahoney, and City Manager, Michael Matthias.
    This is a tightly scheduled event and its idea sprung from or newest Councilman, Matt Mahoney, who has everyone enthusiastically getting on board with this patriotic event, anticipated to become an annual salute to our armed forces, and the fallen. Your respectful presence is sincerely invited.
    The success of this Memorial Day honorarium will depend on as many volunteers, and attendees such as you, who may read this. Volunteers will be needed for seating arrangements, refreshment distribution, informational handouts, and the ceremony of honor to the flag.
    So valued is this, to the city council of Des Moines, that new flags on standards have been ordered , for all services, and one for POW/MIA. You will be greeted by a grateful citizenry to this commemorative event from (08:00 AM – 11:00 AM for volunteers) (10: AM to 11:00 Public) on Monday, May 28th 2018.

  14. Pat Nardo says:

    At first, we were upset with the new parking arrangement at our Marina, and stopped going except to Anthony’s. Then we did notice less graffiti, fewer strange looking groups hanging around, and no more wheel spinning autos. Well, our marina is not self sustaining, and money is direly needed for upkeep, periodic maintenance, and improvements, from time to time. Realizing, my opinion, the wisdom of paid parking, is the only answer to keeping our marina from going extinct. My only negative observation here, is twofold. 1. The fee could be lower, and 2. One entry should allow visitors to travel within the whole marina. I now am a second year owner of a parking pass, and use it often, thank you city council.

  15. P Ham says:

    As a regular visitor to the Marina over the past 17 years, I too was irritated at the pay stalls. I would loved to see them disable the gates during the day and re-able them for the night. There is one benefit for the stalls as I have witnessed. It prevents the hordes of ill doers from parking in the lot after 10 pm. The pier is also safe from the presence of defacers. If parking is needed after 10, one must purchase a parking pass from the Marina and to do so, need to produce a valid fishing license which shows why you request access. Which raised another issue. The fee isn’t pro-rated. Your fee covers three months but the period doesn’t start when you pay…if you show up to pay two months into the current period, you will still need to pay the three months. I don’t profess to visit every weekend but I have and continue to visit regularly.

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