By Zoe Buchli
The Bellingham City Council met to hear a presentation on homeless shelter operations and for a public hearing to discuss the possible removal of on-street parking on Roeder Avenue.
The meeting took place on Monday, Feb. 12 and began with the swearing in of the new Police Chief David Doll and was followed by a presentation from Lighthouse Mission Executive Director Hans Erchinger-Davis.
He updated the City Council on the temporary low-barrier shelter that is located on West Holly Street and talked about the scale of how many people there are in Bellingham who need the shelter’s services during winter months.
There are about 120 to 160 people on an average night who stay at the shelter, Erchinger-Davis said.
Erchinger-Davis also talked about the Lighthouse Mission’s partnership with Fountain Community Church, which has been taking in women during these colder months, allowing the mission to take in more men.
“If we didn’t have that partnership, we’d be turning people away because we’d have just not enough beds to be able to host everybody,” Erchinger-Davis said.
The mission’s drop-in center currently has 190 beds, Erchinger-Davis said.
Erchinger-Davis’s briefing comes at a time when the city is still looking for a new site for a 200-bed shelter, which has faced several setbacks.
“Our goal is to create a motivational space for people to take the next steps in life recovery,” Erchinger-Davis said.
In addition to the shelter briefing, the council held a public hearing to consider removing on-street parking on Roeder Avenue and installing bike lanes in its place.
Director of Public Works Ted Carlson gave a presentation on why Roeder Avenue is a possible site for new bike lanes.
“Whenever we’re resurfacing a street we look to the Bicycle Master Plan to see if there’s an opportunity to provide some sort of bike facility,” Carlson said.
The Bicycle Master Plan was approved in 2014 and aims to create a safe and connected bike system throughout the city, according to the City of Bellingham’s website.
The plan outlines design strategies for potential new bikeways, and differentiates between multiple types of bike facilities that can be installed, including buffered bike lanes, bicycle boulevards, shared lane markings and cycle tracks.
The city determined that it is possible to fit bike lanes on Roeder at the cost of the existing on-street parking.
Local residents were largely in favor of the removal of parking and building of bike lanes, and said they will improve the safety of bikers who travel on Roeder Avenue.
Bellingham resident Galen Herz spent several years biking most places, but now drives.
“As a motorist I support protected bike lanes because I don’t want to kill other human beings with my car,” Herz said.
Residents also talked about how incorporating Roeder Avenue into the Bicycle Master Plan will help open up the waterfront to the public and encourage people to attend events that take place there.
Kristin Noreen is a Cordata resident who rides her bike almost everywhere around town.
“If we’re going to make our waterfront an international showpiece, let’s do it right. The time to make this change is now, before it’s already been done and it becomes a big deal to change it. Let’s do it right the first time,” Noreen said.