Kirkland city manager Kurt Triplett gave an overview of the city’s two-year work plan at a meeting of business leaders last week.
The city’s 2019-20 work plan focuses heavily on dealing with and managing growth in the city and especially its urban areas. Some 5,300 housing units are in the construction pipeline and if completed, could accommodate around 7,600 people in the city. Despite the growth, Triplett said it is happening in the areas the city wants it to.
“This growth is happening in the way we want it to happen,” he said.
One of the major issues the city is dealing with is traffic congestion brought on by growth. However, the city cannot realistically build new or larger roads, Triplett said. Instead it is partnering with the Washington state Department of Transportation and Sound Transit to increase transit options like a new Bus Rapid Transit station at Northeast 85th Street and I-405.
Other transportation projects the city will be working on include finishing the Totem Lake Connector bridge, the I-405 and Northeast 132nd Street interchange and making intersection improvements on 124th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 116th Street to help traffic flow more easily through existing streets.
“In Kirkland we don’t have a lot of capacity solutions,” Triplett said of transportation.
Zoning code will also be examined to see if the city should allow duplexes and triplexes in more areas of the city as well as codifying regulations allowing accessory dwelling units to help alleviate the housing crunch.
Improving public safety through both the fire and police departments will also be a priority for the city. This includes implementing sales tax funding from Proposition 1, which was approved by voters last November. The proposition increased sales tax in the city by .01 percent to help fund police services, school resources officers, mental health programs and firearm safety outreach and education.
Funding would be put toward hiring four full-time officers and one support position to focus on property and drug crime, the city’s portion of costs for four full-time school resource officers in Kirkland middle schools, a neighborhood resource officer focused on community policing and mental health emergency support and one full-time mental health professional. The city estimated it would increase its net revenue by $1.8 million annually.
For fire services, Triplett said the city will focus on constructing a new Station 24 and siting Station 27. Staff will additionally be looking at drafting a 2020 ballot measure to put before voters asking for funding to modernize fire stations.
Another priority for the city will be developing safe school route plans for every school in Kirkland. These will be tailored to each school and look at potential changes to speed zones, pickup times and circulation and sidewalks in the area.
These improvements are all set against a backdrop of annexation money from the state ending in 2021, which has provided roughly $4 million to the city’s coffers each year. The city annexed the Finn Hill, Kingsgate and North Juanita neighborhoods in 2011, nearly doubling its population from around 48,000 to 81,000.
When the state funding expires, the city will have to find ways to balance its budget.
“We’ve been planning for this expiration for a long time,” Triplett said.