The letter to the editor written on December 27 entitled “Council members stand up for common sense and Kirkland’s future” offered a somewhat-rosy and overly-laudatory view of what has been, in truth, a long and painful process in the re-zoning of our neighborhood’s little shopping centers.
Members of both the Houghton and Everest neighborhoods who turned out by the hundreds to city council, planning commission and community meetings to protest the re-zone might also take issue with that letter, as may the Houghton Community Council who denied the re-zone’s additional height and density within their jurisdiction.
Never has an issue come before a neighborhood so many times and been so widely opposed to and stil passed in spite of near-unanimous community resistance. While the council members may have been well-intentioned, they did not stand up for common sense, or a widely shared vision of our neighborhood’s future. They acted precipitously and recklessly, unilaterally imposing additional density, height and traffic on a neighborhood both choking on current volumes and fearful of the oncoming flood soon to pour forth from Kirkland Urban.
A neighborhood shopping center served by two narrow streets and a single intersection (already at Level of Service “F”) cannot possibly be improved by a nine-fold increase in density and traffic originating from that very intersection.
Based on a process defined by the city, the planning commission developed recommendations of a three-story height limit and many other community considerations. The city council decided that this fully considered recommendation didn’t align with their own views, and at the end of a grueling public planning process, where options and alternatives were discussed and evaluated, the council chose to override their commission’s recommendations.
The council heard, but elected to not listen to, the repeated testimony of transportation engineers, educators fearful of impacts to the schools served by these two streets, business and community leaders and hundreds of residents speaking in favor of patience and wisdom. We wanted the council to simply wait – until the impacts of several large developments currently under construction could be fairly understood.
The council and the city’s planning staff wanted additional density for these property owners very badly, and has wanted it for some time now. Over the past six years they’ve offered higher-density rezone options as “technical corrections,” “simple updates” to the zoning language, (a nine-fold increase in density is not a simple update), and as the inevitable path of progress. Well, it appears that it was inevitable – but we’re not sure it’s progress. And it’s sure not common sense.
Steve and Lisa Cox,