Fresh from its retreat in La Conner, the City Council met for its April 1 meeting facing a full agenda of development and environmental issues.
Beginning with a joint meeting with the city’s Transportation Commission, council members tried to assess Kirkland’s “Level Of Service” (LOS) method of managing and anticipating the increased traffic associated with large new office, shopping and residential developments going up in the city.
“If a development exceeds the LOS, how can we get past that?” Deputy Mayor Joan McBride asked.
With a particular focus on a problem intersection at the Totem Lake Mall and traffic challenges the Everest neighborhood will face after the completion of the Google campus at Sixth Street South, City Manager David Ramsay, Planning Director Eric Shields and staff recommended a better measure to gauge traffic impacts in the future. While the council was encouraged by the commission’s efforts and accepted their recommendation, a number expressed reservations about the changes. They also brought up a list of ideas concerning additional transportation projects, such as red-light cameras, pedestrian right-of-way trails through developments, highway tolling, the BSNF trail and possibly adding ferry service.
Councilman Dave Asher confided with the commission after he had spoken, wishing he had more time for questions.
“I’d just love to sit down with you guys, open a six-pack of wine and really talk about this,” he said.
During the council’s regular session, Mayor Jim Lauinger welcomed members from the Downtown Rotary Club for a scholarship presentation of $1,100 to deserving youths for the city’s Recreation Scholarship Fund, recognized the city’s records and information management efforts and issued a proclamation naming the month of April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month.” He also introduced the city’s new urban forester, Deborah Powers.
“Trees are one of our top, top, top assets in this town,” Lauinger said.
A “Leadership City”
The Council committed to joining the Cascade Land Conservancy as a “Leadership City.” Already a member of the Conservancy’s Green Cities program, the additional designation will help the city plan for balancing its natural environment with sustainable development. The designation comes with a $5,000 annual membership fee.
Councilman Bob Sternoff reported back on meetings with the Jail Advisory Group, an ad hoc committee seeking a regional solution to jail facility needs in King County. He said several members of the group are looking for additional space and are considering building an entirely new facility for Eastside prisoners only.
The second decision was how to cope with the end of funding for increased service on King County Metro’s popular Route 255, which runs through Kirkland’s downtown. Currently, left-over funding from WSDOT’s I-405 widening project supports rush-hour service on the 255 every 15 minutes. City staff offered several solutions to save the additional buses, including slashing service on Rose Hill’s route 277.
After listening to the pleas of three Rose Hill-area residents not to take more buses out of the neighborhood, however, some on the Council took the occasion to criticize Metro for its poor commitment to serving the Eastside area.
“I hate being put in this position of taking from one group and giving to another,” councilwoman Jessica Greenway said.
The Council rejected service cuts and recommended working with Metro to find additional money.
“We have a second-rate service level on the Eastside,” Lauinger said. “We have to improve this.”
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