By Rob Butcher
At their March 2 Study Session, the Kirkland City Council briefly discussed the issue of how annexation might affect Kirkland's neighborhoods and how the neighborhoods might be re-partitioned in the post-annexation era. At issue is the size and population of the soon to be annexed neighborhoods of Finn Hill and Kingsgate in relation to Kirkland's existing neighborhoods.
The average acreage of Kirkland’s current neighborhoods is 405 acres. Finn Hill includes 2,605 acres, Kingsgate 1,248 acres, and North Juanita 621 acres (see graph below).
The average population of Kirkland’s current neighborhoods is 3,706 residents. Finn Hill includes 15,200 residents, Kingsgate 11,700 residents, and North Juanita 5,600.source: City of Kirkland
The city has a practice of doling out money in the form of grants to neighborhoods each year. Every few years each neighborhood receives a windfall from the city (due to budget constraints, the amount was recently reduced to $25,000). The grants are given to the designated neighborhood association to spend in their neighborhood more or less as they see fit - past projects have included benches and fences in neighborhood parks, improved pedestrian safety and even the purchase public art.
Some have raised concerns about the discrepancy in population between, for example, the Everest neighborhood with a population of 1,495 and the Finn Hill neighborhood with 15,300 people. Vast differences between neighborhoods may lead to the disproportionate distribution of city resources.
When annexation is enacted, the city will need to sort out these issues. Two possible actions the city might take are to break up the larger neighborhoods into smaller ones or to merge existing Kirkland neighborhoods into larger 'hoods. Another issue to deal with is that Kirkland has two North Juanitas - one within the existing city boundaries and another in the annexation area.
There are differing views as to how Kirkland should proceed. The Kirkland model of strong neighborhoods was envisioned at a time when Kirkland was a bedroom community. We are now on the verge of having a population of over 80,000. Kirkland is no longer a small town.
The prominence of Kirkland's thirteen neighborhoods and the Kirkland Alliance of Neighborhoods has given voice to many who might not otherwise be heard in City Hall. This elevated role of neighborhoods we have in Kirkland is rather unique in the area. Some have argued that the political power of Kirkland's neighborhoods is needed to counterbalance to development interests in City Hall. Others view the current situation as the balkanization of Kirkland and as a source of disunity and division in our city.
Whatever the outcome, the status quo is likely to change. Will neighborhoods become more powerful in Kirkland or will their influence diminish with annexation? Who knows? What we need is more cooperation and less in-fighting amongst ourselves. We have a great many challenges before us.
After the dust has settled, perhaps our neighborhoods will be merged with one another. Norkirk and Market may become Nor-Mark. Perhaps North and South Rose Hill unite. North and South Juanita may become one. Here's a suggestion: If the Moss Bay neighborhood merges with the Lakeview neighborhood, I suggest we call it Moss-View.