The Kirkland City Council at its Feb. 4 study session reviewed a draft of the sustainability master plan (SMP).
The plan outlines best practices to improve sustainability-supporting strategies to be implemented and maintained in the community.
The plan is included in the 2019-20 city work program, is identified as a 2019 project in the planning work program and saw the beginning of its development at the beginning of last year.
As noted by Kirkland senior planner David Barnes, who presented at the study session, the plan doesn’t introduce strategies. Instead, it works in conjunction with policies from other city master plans, such as the urban forestry strategic plan, natural resource management plan and the park, recreation and open space plan.
“The sustainability master plan is not designed to create a bunch of new policies — it’s designed to work under existing policies under our existing master plans,” Barnes said.
The SMP is broken up into sections: an executive summary, an introduction, eight “focus areas,” policies supported by existing master plans, implementation actions and an appendix. An example of a focus area is sustainable materials management, which, in the plan, comes with a definition, how it’s measured, where the city currently is in addressing it, why supporting it is a goal and other details.
Barnes emphasized the importance of breaking down focus ideas during development. He noted that because some are more conceptually difficult to understand, it was a priority to make it as easily digestible as possible.
Barnes said that while city staff was working on the plan, it was guided by the ambitions to effectively work in tandem with community and government operations and coordinate and integrate already existing plans. It was additionally key that it be concise and graphically oriented as a document and able to be efficiently implemented.
Barnes also highlighted community outreach in his presentation. He said that during public engagement events — such as a June 2019 forum — residents were asked to bring up topics and ideas they wanted addressed no matter how “bold.” These were then brought to subject matter experts from city entities like parks, planning and building, fire and the police department.
“What we tried to do in the development of the plan is look at working with subject matter experts — is it feasible to even do this action idea? Is it just off the table? Is it possible? Yes, maybe,” Barnes said. “Can we weave it into the plan?…I’m taking that information intelligence and putting it into the plan…We want people to feel like it was really meaningful for them to come to the forums and contribute ideas…It’s going to be in the plan one way or another and if we’re not going to be using their ideas, it will certainly be captured in public outreach in the appendices.”
Other means of in-person outreach included a business round-table interest group meeting, nine focus group meetups, two community meetings (including the 2019 forum) and 13 briefings across several neighborhood associations. City staff estimated that 419 people participated in person. As far as digital outreach, a total of about 49,490 people were reached through entities like Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor and others.
The development of the plan will continue over the next few months. Council will continue to periodically review it at future study sessions.
At the Feb. 4 study session, councilmembers were especially receptive to the organization, synthesis and layout of the plan, though they offered constructive criticism of areas they thought needed further refinement.
“One thing that I didn’t see in the template that I think might be useful for each topic is how that relates to other organizations outside the city of Kirkland,” Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold said. “Especially around sustainability, there’s very little that we do just on our own. It is, even for the sample that’s in [the meeting agenda item], it is working with Metro, working with our waste haulers. Giving some cues to the community, that it’s not just what we do in the city of Kirkland, it’s being active with the county, Puget Sound Regional Council…other organizations that impact this particular topic area. Because our involvement, our partnership and our advocacy have been an important part in our sustainability work.”
Councilmember Amy Falcone said she was excited to see social equity be brought up in the draft but noted that she would like to see more of it.
“I really encourage us to have this in every focus area,” she said. “I think there’s always a way to apply the social equity lens on every aspect of what the city does, particularly on sustainability.”
She added that she didn’t want to see city sustainability efforts put a burden on marginalized residents in the city, and that it was crucial to consider how certain goals might impact folks who don’t have the resources to comply easily. Falcone also voiced an interest in looking into more demographically oriented data concerning outreach to get, for instance, a better understanding of which voices were heard at the table, versus which ones were not.
Councilmember Toby Nixon believes it might be beneficial to incorporate more examples of positive outcomes besides climate change mitigation, which is often highlighted in the plan. Not everyone who lives in the city, as stated by Nixon, is totally familiar with or receptive to the realities of climate change.
“When we start talking about the importance of making it easier for people to use transit or the importance of making it easier for people to deploy solar energy and encouraging them to do that…It would be great if we could provide some reasons why those things are good other than just reversing climate change,” he said, adding, “I hope that as a general principle we would always try to find a variety of reasons to recommend the things we recommend and not depend on climate change alone as the reasoning because I think that way we’ll get more support from a broader part of the community.”
Mayor Penny Sweet said at the end of the update that she’s excited to see what comes next for the plan.
“This work outlines exactly what we’re doing,” she said, adding, “This basically tells the entire story.”