Council considers proposal to address growing graffiti and vandalism in Lynnwood

During its Feb. 21 work session, the Lynnwood City Council heard a plan from the city’s parks and recreation department to hire two temporary employees to counter acts of vandalism and graffiti in Lynnwood. The department reported an uptake in tagging during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and is now seeing a “second wave” of graffiti perpetuated by various gangs. 

Parks, Maintenance and Operations Manager Eric Peterson is requesting $388,432 of Lynnwood’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to hire two full-time employees through 2024 to clean up affected areas and make repairs. The employees would have four major duties.

  1. Remove, document and report graffiti. Peterson stated that quickly removing graffiti discourages taggers, no longer making the risk worth it, a strategy corroborated by Lynnwood Deputy Police Chief Chuck Steichen. The goal is to cover markings within 24 hours.
  2. Report public equipment requiring repair and new parts.
  3. Patrol for homeless encampments. Unpatrolled areas are reporting instances of homeless encampments on public property. Staff would call police to respond to these reports.
  4. Install and manage more camera systems. Many, but not all, of Lynnwood’s parks contain cameras. Funds will be used to install additional camera systems and the new maintenance workers would review the footage.

Peterson went on to say that although his department has tried to address the vandalism, it takes time away from regular maintenance.

An example of gang graffiti.
A public works employee restoring a mural.

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Director Lynn Sordel called the proposal to address vandalism and graffiti “the most important presentation [I’ve made] in a very long time.” 

The City of Lynnwood has $1.15 million in ARPA funds remaining, Finance Director Michelle Meyer said. Meyer compiled a list of previously approved ARPA allocations, which total $9.72 million. The largest expenditures were equipment and personnel for the police department, the Scriber Lake Park Boardwalk, residential street infrastructure and the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center.

In another discussion related to ARPA, City Engineer David Mach reported on the status of a council decision in January 2022 to allocate $2.5 million in ARPA funds for paving residential streets. One of those projects was $500,000 designated for paving the gravel section of 204th Street Southwest, north of College Place Elementary School. 

Conceptual plan for paving a two-way road on 204th street.

Thirty-four residents living nearby were polled to see if they would prefer a one-way or two-way street, Mach said, and the vast majority of those responding said they preferred the two-way option. Both alternatives were significantly more than the budget of $500,000 and would require removing most of the mature trees adjacent to the existing gravel street, though the trees were described as in poor condition. The projected costs are $2.7 million for a one-way road and $3.2 million for a two-way road.

The paving estimate also includes costs for another project located at the intersection of 76th Avenue and 204th Street, which would build a new traffic signal and make other school walkway safety improvements, such as lighting. Since the two projects make improvements to the same road segment, they would be designed and built together, Mach said.

Public Works Director Bill Franz and City Engineer David Mach presenting a plan to pave 204th Street Southwest.

Councilmember Patrick Decker stated that he didn’t envision the project costs would be so high for such a small road segment, a sentiment echoed by other councilmembers. 

The council then discussed how to use Lynnwood’s remaining ARPA funds, with councilmembers presenting their own ideas. Decker said that the money should be used on infrastructure, like improving dangerous roads. Councilmember George Hurst stated that the funds should go to maintain roads and for community outreach programs, such as mental health awareness events in schools. Council President Shannon Sessions suggested that $5,000-$10,000 could be directed to Lynnwood’s Northwest Veteran’s Museum to help cover funds lost during the pandemic. She also proposed that some funds could be used for a possible veterans’ event at the Lynnwood Event Center. 

Sessions said she was unsure if the veterans’ event could be funded with the ARPA grant, but suggested that Lynnwood might be able to utilize a “city use day” to host it without charge. The City of Lynnwood is appropriated four days each calendar year for public events at the Lynnwood Event Center. 

Deputy Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Director Sarah Olson stated that the city used two of its use days while hosting a Day of the Dead Celebration and a community health networking lunch in 2022. It was suggested that the city once again host WAGRO (Washington-Guerrero) Foundation’s Day of the Dead celebration as well as an event on International Women’s Day called “Break the Bias”. 

Celebrate! concept slide from the presentation.

Events Coordinator Ashley Murawski also announced a new event for the city called “Celebrate!” at Alderwood Mall. It will feature live entertainment by local artists, food trucks, a beer/wine garden and stalls for local businesses. While details are not finalized, the event is scheduled for summer 2023.

Unfinalized version of the 2023 events schedule

The parks department also presented a draft of 2023’s event schedule, though its dates are also not final. 

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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