Guest Commentary | Lake Washington Boulevard: Kirkland's future depends on our crown jewel

I wrote the following letter to Janice Soloff, Senior Planner for the City of Kirkland on July 14, 2010: Janice,

Thanks again to the hard-working folks who are helping plan the vision for the Lakeview neighborhood.

After last night''s ,meeting I realized that of all the Kirkland neighborhoods, Lakeview plays a crucial role in Kirkland's future. Here are my thoughts:

Lakeview defines Kirkland. The stretch of Kirkland between 520 and upper Market Street essentially defines what people love about Kirkland. It's the lakefrront, and it is absolutely critical to Kirkland's future. Lakeview (plus Moss Bay and the CBD) is the neighborhood that gives Kirkland it's "feel." This means that Lake Washington Boulevard and the parks along it must be protected at all costs.

Development exists on the north end already, i.e., the CBD. The views continue on up Market Street (where development also must also be kept to a reasonable scale). Adding a huge development (housing, retail, office, and more transportation) on the SOUTH end will put unacceptable strain on Lake Washington Boulevard. It simply cannot remain or become any more of a commuter thoroughfare than it is at present.

Freeway interchanges like 108th/520 or Lk. Wash Blvd/520 are high-value properties and natural locations for development. Just think of the potential of this location from a developer's perspective. Really, the SR 520 Yarrow Bay interchanges between 108th and LWB would be "ideal" for a Target store or a large scale mall. The traffic density there is "perfect" for that sort of use - but it's not a use the neighbors want.

The reality is that these interchanges are different than say Totem Lake/405 in that they flow directly from the 520 freeway into residential neighborhoods with limited and unexpandable traffic capacity. Thus, limited development in this area is a must if we are to protect the adjacent neighborhoods and the feel of Lake Washington Blvd.

When I think of Kirkland 20+ years from now, I envision a "boutique" town a whole lot more like Sausalito, Carmel and La Jolla than like Bellevue - and the Lakeview neighborhood is critical to that future.

A final point on this... If I were a retailer in the CBD, I would be hugely concerned about retail in the Yarrow Bay area. One of the charms of Kirkland is the pedestrian-friendly, meet and greet ambience of the CBD. Moving any of that retail to the Yarrow Bay area could adversely impact the existing retailers in the CBD and turn the area into little more that a collection of taco stands and T-Shirt shops. Think of the difference between Wailea (Maui) and Kihei (Maui).

A special commendation to Steve Jackson for his out-of-the-box idea to make LWB a toll road. The only alternative I can see is multiple stoplights to make the road undesirable for commuters. But then we have to worry about what happens to Lakeview Drive and 108th.

We have a beautiful and "priceless" location that we need to protect for the good of ALL of Kirkland.

Feel free to circulate my thoughts to the group.

Chuck Pilcher