Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My mom's kick ass letter to the City of Walla Walla

Yeah, my mom pretty much rules. -Sky

February 7, 2007

TO: Walla Walla Comprehensive Planning Steering Committee members

Kim Lyonnais, Director, Walla Walla City Development Services

Walla Walla City Council Members

Peter J. Smith & Company, Consultants

FROM: Judith Cosby, Walla Walla, Washington

IN RESPONSE TO: Your letter of December 28, 2006:

“Dear Neighbor: We need your help in creating the future of Walla Walla. Please join us in January and share your ideas about our city and its future.”

Thank you for your invitation. I took you up on it. I went on two guided walks, two private walks, one private drive, and the trolley tour Saturday, January 27. I attended the Central Historical Neighborhood Public Meeting at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on January 16. I also attended the grassroots community forum, “How Will the Valley Weather the Wave of Change?” at the Central Christian Church.

Dear City of Walla Walla: Your “Dear Neighbor” letter assures me that the City’s Comprehensive Planning process will “guide city government around issues including population, roads, housing, parks, natural resources, business development, locations of public services and safety for the next 20 years.” You promise me that “this plan will build on our community’s core values, its sense of place, and its relationship to the rest of the Valley.” You tell me that “our planning will focus on what we want to retain as well as what we want to improve.”

Thank you for assuring me that my contribution is welcome and that my voice will be heard.

I have lived in Walla Walla for 44 years. I am a homeowner, taxpayer, and voter. I attended Pioneer Junior High and “WA-HI” and graduated from Whitman College. I am a parent and former teacher (Birth to Six and K-12) and for 20 years was a partner in a Main Street family business. I shop almost exclusively at locally owned stores: attended support local cultural events; most of the art in my home is by local artists; the restaurants and coffee shops I go to are also locally-owned. I have a financial and emotional investment in Walla Walla. This is my home, my hometown, my homeland.

Past choices the City has made that I endorse and thank you for: Curbside Recycling, Yard Waste (and Park Waste, Composting, Bicycle Lanes, the Walla Walla Trail Project,

Heritage Park, Farmers’ Market, Historic Preservation—both public and private, Downtown Art, wheelchair (and baby stroller) accessible sidewalks and crossings downtown, Walla Walla’s beautiful parks and trees, the City Urban Forestry Commission.

Many thanks to Walla Walla 2020 for their nearly two decades of advocacy and hard work, without which, much of the above list would not have happened. I especially appreciate Walla Walla 2020’s lovely Xeriscape Demonstration Garden at Rose and Isaacs streets. I am grateful to local taxpayers and the school district for the beautiful restoration and compatible new construction of Sharpstein and Green Park schools. I am very grateful to the City for the two aquifer recharge wells. I agree with John Winter’s article in the Union-Bulletin January 15, 2007 that water for Illahee should be supplied by the City rather than the Port.


1. Street repair and maintenance * * *

2. Affordable entry level housing * * *

3. Sidewalks—especially to and from schools.

4. Trees! Trees! Trees! Saving healthy trees we already have, planting trees to replace cumulative loss, requiring trees for new development—residential, business districts, public spaces and parking lots, any new—and most old—industrial sites.

5. Naturalize Mill Creek as much as possible, even if in patchwork pieces and over the long term. Partner with Whitman College Science Department and with Walla Walla Community College’s new Water and the Environment program.on this and other water issues.

6. Emphasize and encourage Xeriscape landscaping and gardening—both public and private.

7. More native wildflowers, please.

8. I like the idea of extending Mill Creek Trail from Rooks Park to Whitman Mission.

9. Reinstate Board of Adjustment—local citizen representation.

10. I would like to praise the new condos on Eagon Street and recommend them as a model for “In Fill”, new compatible construction within the city limits.

11. Eastgate: A more attractive entrance to town (partially in progress now).

12. Downtown: Encourage window boxes and hanging plants. Encourage murals. Parking garages—I would prefer two or three three-story garages to one or two taller structures. Behind Macy’s would be one excellent site, as would be Rose Street lot and the lot at 2nd and Sumach (across from the Post Office). Encourage roof-top gardens on any tall new buildings.

13. South Side: Streams are an asset! Are meandering sidewalks and bike paths possible? The incorporation of public green spaces for any new developments?

14. Establish, incorporate into the city building code, and enforce community historical and new compatible construction standards for residential, business and public buildings. Especially for the Historic Center, but as much as possible city-wide. Already present eyesores: The huge residential garage at Poplar and Alder (across from the back of Carnegie Center); the downtown Subway Shop sign; the canary yellow tasting room downtown; the atrocious garish green color of the new Public Library addition. (The new apartment/duplex across from Green Park School looks better than I thought it would.) I appreciate the community and volunteer effort that went into the Pioneer Park playground, but the colors of the new playground equipment at Sharpstein School (tan and dark green) would have been much more appropriate to our Victorian gem of a park. Possibly partner with Art Walla and our Historical Society for future projects.

15. I would rather see development to the north (and taller buildings on the north side of Isaacs, for example) and save as much of our eastern and southern view of the Blue Mountains and foothills as possible.

16. An impossible Dream? A car-free Main Street pedestrian and bicycle esplanade park from Boyer Street to Second Street with a small trolley or golf-cart busses for the elderly and for handicapped access. (Boyer Street to Farmers’ Market would be even better!)


Q: A couple of presentations on Floods, Geology and the Walla Walla Valley have been at Whitman College, part of which discussed Mill Creek’s natural channel through town. John Winter (now retired in Hawaii), Kevin Pogue and Bob Carson were among the presenters. Is it possible to get copies of their presentation (especially visuals) and recommendations into the hands of this planning committee, the City, and any consultants that are hired?

Q: Re: Illahee’s golf course. Can the City/County require a chemically free and or Xeriscape golf course? After all, it’s our groundwater.

Q: Why not Blue Mountain Mall and parking lots for a second High School and campus? It would be easy to close off (as fire doors) all entrances but the two main ones, (a major concern of our current campus is security). You’ve got ready-made parking lots and wiring that would accommodate a school cafeteria. A possible partnership with Walla Walla and College Place school districts? If not as a high school, how about a Community Center?

Q: Is an organic community garden possible on top of a parking garage? If not, is it possible somewhere within city limits? Maybe two or three community gardens??

Q: I have read Walla Walla 2020’s White paper on Economic Development and endorse it. Does Walla Walla City Development Services have an economic development policy or mission statement? Please forward me a copy in the enclosed self-addressed envelope.

Q: Is the Port answerable to anyone? Please know I am very enthusiastic about the new rail project! Is there any way for the City to request that the Port focus on the railroad, the airport, and industrial development only and stop all the “promotional” wheeling and dealing”?

Q: I have many questions re: Tourism. One is: I wish fewer advertising dollars were spent trumpeting Walla Walla to the outside world. Is there any way to reallocate the taxpayer dollars portion of these funds to Infrastructure Repair?--at LEAST until we get our streets paved and our bridges replaced??

Q: Outside consultants: Is there any way the City can choose local contractors and consultants instead of the required “lowest Bid”? Investing profits on projects locally re-circulates and helps keep those dollars here at home.

Mistakes outside consultants have brought us in the past:

Walla Walla High School—Energy inefficiency as an art form with its California open campus design totally incompatible with Walla Walla weather realities. (Yes, it’s “pretty”).

Blue Mountain Mall in a Wetlands Area. Don’t even get me started. Yes, it’s pretty , too. (Well, at least inside. But the meadow was prettier and the Mall is practically a ghost-town now.)

Q: Donald Snow is Whitman College’s Environmental Sciences professor. Have City Council members/City Development staff read his article, “Round the next Bend—Economic Opportunity in Rurbia” in the Fall/Winter 2006 journal Oregon Humanities? oregonhum.org

Q: Is it possible to propose a Community Center and/or Homeless Shelter for if/when Wal-Mart, Big 5, ShopKo, Sears, K-Mart or a big-box furniture store move out of town?

Q: The height and size of SUV’s block visibility at many intersections. The Birch Street entrance/exit to St. Mary’s Hospital is a dangerous intersection with very poor visibility due to parking. We need yellow lines, especially eastside of 5th, both sides would be nice. Another example is my own street corner—Juniper at Howard and Park. The southwest corner of Sharpstein (Park and Whitman Streets) needs yellow lines and a four-way stop.

When was the last time these sightlines were assessed by an engineer or a safety inspector?

Q: What are the challenges we encounter in working together to do a better job of Environmental and Natural Resources Protection?

Q: How do we sustain a 20-year plan, or any vision for the future, through repeated staff changes, both elected and hired employees ??

Q: Tell me again why the local Catholic Church had to file an Environmental Impact Statement to tear down and rebuild one building—and yet a 365-acre proposal (resort, hotel, golf course, and 300 houses is exempt ? ? ?

Please know I don’t believe that we can discuss our local economy without also addressing Environmental and Natural Resources Protection, Community Infrastructure (maintenance, repair and replacement), and Social Justice and Fairness. I would strongly encourage active partnerships with Whitman College, Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla University science departments on all issues pertaining to water and environmental and natural resources protection.

Again and again at your January events I heard people say they wanted neighborhoods with three-lined streets, entry level housing, infrastructure—especially street repair. Many people asked for neighborhoods that reflect our diversity, old-fashioned human-scale houses, protecting our old trees and planting many more trees, more family-owned businesses, locally-owned businesses, protected farmland, value-added crops, more organic farms, a sustainable homegrown economy.

I’d also like to submit the following for your deliberation: “Cut Up the World” from the book Earthsearch, by John Cassidy:

"Cut an apple into quarters.

Put aside three of the quarters. What do these represent? THe oceans of our world, the Blue Planet.

The fraction left is 1/4. Slice it in half. Set aside one of the halves. This is the part that people can't live or work on. The poles, deserts, swamps, high mountains, etc.

What's left? 1/8. This is where the humans live, but not necessarily where they grow their food.

Slice your 1/8th piece into four sections. Put aside three of them. What's left? 1/32.

The three pieces you set aside represent the places wher the soil is too poor to farm - where it's too rocky, wet, cold or steep to produce food. They also represent the cities, houses highways, shopping malls, schools, parks, factories, parking lots, and miniture golf courses where people live, play and work - but do not grow any food.

Take your 1/32 piece that's left. Carefully peel it. Look at this scrap of apple peel. It represents the farmable surface topsoil of the planet, the thin skin of the thin skin of the Earth's crust upon which humankind totally depends. It is less than 5 feet deep and it is quite a fixed amount of food-producing land.

You may now eat the rest of the apple, but carefully save this tiny piece of apple skin. Treat it as if your life depends on it."

This may be a “County” issue rather than “City”—but please, do whatever you can with local citizen groups and our County officials to protect our countryside and fertile fields.

Thank you for your time and your consideration in these matters.

Judith Cosby


About a dozen years ago I was on one of four committees working on just what you are asking for now: citizen input on a 20-year plan for our community. Growth Management Act Planning Committees devoted hours and hours to debate, research, fact-finding, discussion, compromise and consensus-building. (For details, contact Darcy Fugman-Small) The committees consisted of farmers, homeowners, environ-mentalists, real estate agents, fishermen, County Planning Commission and Port of Walla Walla.

We had a 20 year plan. After 10 to 15 years and mostly behind our backs, all of that changed with a wink and a handshake; our (formerly) mutually-agreed-upon Urban Growth Boundary was ignored and completely redrawn to accommodate the Illahee resort/luxury homes/golf course development by Bend, Oregon’s Pennbrook Homes.

Also, Michael Murr’s luxurious vacation home/retirement home and vineyard are all welcome in our agriculture-exclusive area, but our “Community Leaders” should have insisted that at least his tasting room belonged downtown. Michael Murr knew what the zoning was on that parcel when he bought it, but he gambled that his wealth, power, and prestige would buy him a variance.

Turns out he was right.

The 2007 Public Meeting coordinators remind me that “that was then, this is now” and “that was the County, this is the City”—but you need to understand that hundreds of loyal long-term residents and citizens feel betrayed by the actions of the Port and our elected officials.

I have a simple request: that all committee members and hired consultants read Walla Walla 2020’s White Paper on Economic Development and WW2020’s list of major accomplishments. Please listen.

Not only to Walla Walla 2020, but also to our Citizens for Good Governance, the Grandmothers’ Roundtable, our Children’s Forum, and Walla Walla Watershed Alliance.

All along we’ve been giving you citizen input . . . What we need now are decision-makers who pay attention.

Thank you for your publicity about these on-going events and for encouraging greater community involvement.

cc: Citizens for Good Governance, Grandmothers’ Roundtable, WW2020, Riding the Wave

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