Letter | Well meaning ended up meaningless

By Robert Style

By the end of December last year, the Planning Department submitted their recommendations regarding updating the SMP (Shoreline Master Plan). The update took the better part of the year. Many meeting invited the public to express their concerns. The Department wanted to give the impression that public concerns would be taken into consideration. After taking all the public input, their suggestions were ignored. It was all for naught.

When the Planning Commission presented their recommendations to the Council, almost none of the concerns that came out at the public meetings or in the correspondence sent to the Commission were included in their recommendation. The whole process became a farce. The Planning Commission presented what staff had recommended ignoring the concerns of the citizens. I’m afraid it’s happening again.

Neighborhoods are being asked for the city’s help in formulating a comprehensive plan that includes their concerns. The problem is how to make sure those concerns become law starting with the recommendations from the Planning Commission. It’s one thing to take public input; however, if their input is white-washed by the Planning Commission in order to present what they think is more appropriate than us for the city is a problem.

Outside agencies feel they know what’s best when proposed by the agency. They use staff to do the dirty work. In the case of the SMP update, the agency was the State’s DOE. Now we are considering the desires of METRO that thinks they know more than us what is needed at the South Kirkland Park & Ride. How do we know if staff is not doing it again?

Here are my concerns:

1. A plan was presented that shows two 4-story buildings housing 200 more units that may or may not blend in with the surroundings. The location and design of those buildings are not certain and when the plans are submitted, they should be subject to the Design Review Board and the Houghton Community Council. Stipulations should be made to insure a similar process is used for future development.

2. Development of land controlled by Bellevue should be subject to approval by the City and the Houghton Community Council. We cannot control what Bellevue does. But a joint agreement is possible regarding the park and ride.

3. If the so called affordable units are similar to the units in Redmond, they are on the upper end of what I would consider almost unaffordable. To be affordable would require a greater subsidy by the builder or the public.

4. On page 22 of the current Lakeview Neighborhood, 2nd paragraph in the first column under Planned Area 4 South Kirkland Park & Ride, the statement that reads “… a key affordable housing strategyd" should be eliminated.

5. On the same page in column 2, “Provide for affordable housing,”, the entire paragraph should be eliminated. If not, at least eliminate all references to low income households. The South Kirkland Park & Ride property is out of their category.

6. The number of affordable moderate income units in the South Kirkland Park & Ride should be reduced to 10%.

7. The proposed units are rental units. It means pride of ownership is diminished and may not be enough to maintain the units especially if the renters expect the tab to be picked up by someone other than themselves. A condo would be better than rentals.

8. If located on the site, the “affordable” units should only be available to the moderate income or higher.

9. If a similar application for one of units is equivalent to Redmond, the information is not sufficient to determine the ability to pay. In addition to income, expenditures need to be analyzed and if needed, financial counseling should be documented. Our economy is overwhelmed with underwater mortgages (25% being at least 2 payments behind on their mortgage) that will get worse (maybe double) for at least 2 more years.

10. Our neighborhood is only one of 13, now 16 including annexation, that need to protect what we have. Our neighborhood is not appropriate for low income affordable housing. It’s our job to plan for our neighborhood. We need to protect what we have.

11. With 25% of Kirkland already in the affordable housing category, we don’t need any more. It’s up to the county to determine distributions. If Hunts Point, Medina, Beaux Arts Village can say no to affordable housing, so can Kirkland. Kirkland’s commercial centers are the drivers for affordable housing. That should mean that affordable housing and mass transit should be located within their proximity. All that needs to be done is to put it in writing. We should not allow the city to degrade our neighborhood.

I’m looking forward to the next meeting.

Bob Style