Baseball's Opening Day Parade
Look at the Rainbow!

Getting Involved in Kirkland's Future!

Heritagehalldark A few weeks ago I received a letter to attend a "Special Council Meeting" for the Market Neighborhood.  I have not attended many Kirkland City Council meetings, so I thought I would show up, snap a few pics, and see what happens at these things.  I also wanted to get a sense of how the city makes decisions and how it decides to spend our $278 million budget each year.  Seems like a lot of money,  no?  The meeting was held on March 15, 2006 at the Heritage Hall.   Mayor James Lauinger was the master of ceremonies and the goal of the event was to give residents the chance to be heard and to meet/greet the City Council members.   The agenda focused on the following topics:

  • Traffic update
  • Trees (how can we save them)
  • Size of houses relative to lot size (too many mega homes)
  • Cell phone towers (no one likes the T-mobile one on Market St.)
  • Parking (it sucks downtown)

Citycouncilmtg231506 Before the meeting dug into the topics above the Mayor asked if there were any other issues that the audience wanted to add to the list.   Here is where things started to get good.  Several folks brought up the topic of builders buying up lots, cutting down all the trees, building homes that are more like track homes (e.g cookie cutter homes), and in essence stealing the soul of our neighborhood.   At least three of the most vocal critics on this subject mentioned Lux Homes by name and used such terms as "...the Luxification of Kirkland" and "Luxville".    It wasn't pretty.   

Along those same lines folks are generally tired of all the builders and on-going construction in our neighborhood. Points were made that it's impacting the quality of life in Kirkland and that builders/contractors just don't care about the folks living around their projects. They drive too fast, park anywhere they want, work during non-approved hours, and compromise safety on our streets.

After the initial barrage we got back on track and focused on the agenda items.  We went through each one and various City Council members would interject updates on each topic.  Mostly I would say the Council talked much more than the residents.  Overall I was pleased to see a good set of Council members who were passionate about Kirkland and have been working hard to make it a better place.   That said, every one of the 40 or so residents who attended have differing opinions on just about every topic.   The key takeaway for me is that the squeaky wheel gets the most attention.     For this reason the council encourages residents to get involved if they want to influence the long term direction of the city.   They will listen. 

Here are some other interesting notes I took during the meeting:

  • They offered coffee, but only had decaf (major mistake or strategic decision?).  Cookies were marginal. 
  • 405 Expansion--it's only just begun.  Expect years of construction and slow, slow, slow traffic.  During this time traffic will continue to spill on to the city streets. The Council feels once it's done all of our traffic woes will be gone and the side streets in Kirkland will empty out.   Hmmm...can a study really predict the future?  I hope they are right, but I am a little suspect. 
  • Market Street traffic--we did a study that costs 15k and put together an eight person committee to reach some consensus on solutions for how to achieve "Traffic Calming".  What the heck is traffic calming?   They are going to present a "draft" in May that will focus on "reducing and slowing" the traffic.  Slowing?  I can't remember the last time I could drive faster than 5 mph on Market at rush hour.   After all this they better have some damn good solutions!
  • 116th is getting an overhaul to ease the traffic  jams getting  on to the  405 during rush hour.  The Council was pretty proud of this one.  Apparently they fought hard to get funding to make this happen.  Oh, BTW the new intersection (116th/405) will take two years before complete.   
  • Lot's of discussion on building codes.  Some folks want higher average elevations, some folks want larger setbacks, some folks don't like the FAR codes.  The City did concede that the ADU (alternate dwelling unit, otherwise known as mother-in-law apartments above a garage) was a bit of a mistake.  Did you know that these ADUs don't count toward the square footage (FAR codes)?  Yup, it's true.   The Council is working on re-evaluating FAR/lot  coverage, etc.   
  • Lot's of talk about the parking situation downtown.  I didn't get a sense of any brilliant strategies here.   I actually asked them how parking impacts local small businesses and if they met with the business owners to make sure their  input was heard.   This spawned a 15 minute response from the Mayor himself.  He was defensive about the question.  I came away thinking the City isn't very pro business.   I plan to do a separate story on this issue in a later post.  I wonder if the Mayor will give me an interview? I can tell you that local business owners will talk to me about this all day long if given the opportunity.   I will say the Mayor did have a good suggestion for local businesses...."stay open at night when the city is packed full of people".  This made total sense to me.   
  • Cell phone tower on Market--T-mobile has been dragging their feet to change out the tower.   Should we start a Kirkland boycott?   

Overall it was a good meeting and very informative.  If you care about what is going on in the city you should get involved and try to make a difference.   I plan to attend more of these...I will let y'all  know when I do...Steve

Comments encouraged! 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Michelle Crissman

Could't agree more with the T-Mobile Boycott idea... they have always been a dishonest company in doing business, now we see they are a bad neighbor too !

C. Bronson

"I came away thinking the City isn't very pro business." Well NO SHIP! While T-Mobile may not be the best neighbor, they are behaving as you should expect a business to behave. Who isn't, IS the mayor.

"I came away thinking the City isn't very pro business." Just look at how many businesses come and go on the 'downtown' streets. Some turnover is normal, but in a community who's per-capita is so high, the 'planners' are simply failing to invite (and I mean that literally) beneficial businesses into the area. It is NOT abnormal for the city to contact a business that would not only succeed but bring more/new shoppers in by offering them 'expressed permits/licenses/perks.'

Rick T.

I agree about the TMO tower. I noticed a few days ago that another one was going up next to it?

Jason Sanchez

I went to a similar Norkirk meeting a few months ago and heard many of the same complaints re: the Luxification of Kirkland. And yes, they referred to Lux by name then, too.

I don't like what Lux is doing and I think their homes are a terrible value. For $1 million+ you should get a lot more than they offer and at a better build quality.

That being said, its not their fault it's the city's. If we don't like the building codes we need to elect people that will change them. (Lux and the others are simply building to what the codes allow) If we don't like the mayor and council members that aren't pro-business we need to elect better ones. Much easier said than done, I know, but there it is.

I'm definitely annoyed with the Kirkland two-step that businesses do downtown: here today gone tomorrow. We need to find a way to attract a set of businesses that both offer things we want (here's a hint, it ain't more art galleries and furniture stores) and that can survive for more than 6 months.

Something I think we should look into is creating a community meeting spot type area like Crossroads or Redmond Town Center. There was an article in the Seattle Times ( the other week about the developer of Crossroads and his philosophy of building mixed use areas that draw people together and encourage them to meet and mingle. A modern day town square.

I know they were considering building a lid over the current parking area close to the water and putting shops and a park on top. Don't know where this stands or if it's even still being considered. But they could re-do that area to include restaurants and shops and meeting areas in a way that would give some kind of core and anchor to downtown that the rest of the area could feed off of.

My hope is that there will be an area that my family can walk to (or drive down to the library and park and walk) on a Saturday morning for breakfast or in the evening for dinner. There would be an area for the parents to sit and read the paper/socialize while the kids play and run about. In the evenings there could be concerts or other gatherings. We aren't far away from such a setup now but the area needs major tweaking to make it right.

What do yo guys think?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)