LETTER | Design Review Board – Thanks for Public/Developer Balance – Please Don’t Stymie Public Comment

Thank you Design Review Board for your increasing attention to whether projects designated for the greater scrutiny of DRB approval are actually being built as conditioned into Building Permits.

One would think that once approved, the construction would have city oversight to ensure compliance with the permit “as issued.”  Recent discussion by you and by the Houghton Community Council was focused on how some recent projects were built much differently than anticipated and then issued certificate of occupancy without fulfilling the issued building permit conditions.  We appreciate your heightened awareness and hope to see a renewed sense of vigilance by the city.

DRB (approx last 5-10 minutes) http://media01.granicus.com:443/ondemand/kirkland/kirkland_7c971980-5b7d-42b8-8832-9f40bb38e686.mp3

HCC  http://media-01.granicus.com:443/ondemand/kirkland/kirkland_c549d9f1-987d-45f6-ad29-7edbe60fc525.mp3

Thank you also for your attentiveness to recent irregularities when, in your opinion, two recent applicants did not submit 3 different building concepts aligned with zoning.   It seems that you commented that Potala really only submitted one and Main Street submitted 3 that seemed too similar to qualify and move on to Design Response Conference

Potala  http://media-01.granicus.com:443/ondemand/kirkland/kirkland_7c971980-5b7d-42b8-8832-9f40bb38e686.mp3

Main Street  http://media01.granicus.com:443/ondemand/kirkland/kirkland_6416e8eb-a187-4fbb-ba96-785adcd5df5a.mp3  .

Finally, thank you for your June 1, 2015 discussions about designs and proposals appearing to meet only developer goals and not the public goals for the property.  Public goals are clearly hashed out and decided upon through the Comprehensive Planning process.  Zoning Charts (maximum buildable height and maximum lot coverage, etc) would result in ugly square box buildings and would do nothing to ensure the public’s documented goal for the character of the each neighborhood.  It would do nothing to achieve the city’s goals of locating appropriate retail, restaurants and other commercial uses where they can be of most benefit.  Areas prime for little restaurants would go without so that developers could avoid the cost of the parking We would end up with all our commercial zones having only offices or retail… or better yet… Medical offices for the lowest of any parking ratio.

There was only one concern raised by those listening to the June 1, 2015 Design Review Board meeting and those sitting down to discuss concerns about the process.

3 MINUTE PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD??   

Why this new change??

We have listened back to past meetings and we do not find this to be standard for the way DRB has operated.  We also cannot find a single instance where the overall public comment took more than half an hour and usually only 5-10 minutes.  This change does not appear to have been discussed by your group, but is something that we believe appeared recently (and suddenly) in materials provided to you by city staff.

The question is this. 

If public goals should be considered as well as developer goals, why would the developer get as much time as needed and the public be limited to 3 minutes?  This timeframe is too short to explain even one concern about a project.  What if a citizen had a few different concerns. What about the citizen who wants to point out city goals that no one has seemed to notice?

It seems that the governance of the DRB clearly states that public input is ENCOURAGED.  Past practice has allowed sufficient time for citizens to clearly articulate their list of concerns and allowed time if the board needed clarification from that citizen.  Yes, there is opportunity to send written comments but one could argue that in-person discussion is really the only way of clearly outlining ones points.

We urge you to return to the untimed citizen comment period.  We feel that without this opportunity to present input in a reasonable manner we will end up with mistakes that could have been prevented. 

The result of not getting citizen input at an early stage could mean that you go without some insights that might have kept errors from happening.  This could end up with time-sucking and costly appeals, lawsuits, or other delays later in project.  That would not likely be good for anyone. 

Again, as citizens, we are not wanting to burden your time.  We value your time and how you are helping Kirkland become the place that we’ve all envisioned and planned for it to become.  We don’t want to be redundant with our concerns.  We simply ask for sufficient time to give you a “heads up” to things you may not know.  As neighbors to a project, we can give you some close-in perspective that could easily go unrecognized. 

Karen Levenson