As the planning commissioners get ready to decide the "fate" of Kirkland's BN and MSC2 zoning, or at least their recommendation (which often then leads to City Council adoption), I find myself reflecting on days when I would visit Kirkland before I was a property owner here. What brought me from other areas of King County to walk, to dine, and then to eventually invest in Kirkland with a purchase and then reconstruction of a home? What brings others here for their leisure, for their shopping, for their dining, for location of their business or their home? How does this financially help our community?
An event that stands out in my mind happened several years ago. One of my very best friends from UW and a roommate during/after college was fighting her last days with a recurrence of a particularly aggressive breast cancer. I had just helped her get back over to Swedish Hospital and my mind was filled with deep sorrow and some anger and frustration with the insurance industry that had found a loophole wherein they could get out of helping pay for her medical needs. She had spent her last months not only fighting for her life, but financially broken. Yes the insurance company had found some legal loophole, or thought they had.
So for healing a broken and very frustrated heart, where to go? Where in the King County area would draw one for something of beauty and contemplation? Arguably, we have many such areas around Puget Sound, however, the specialness of Kirkland called me. I recall walking Lake Washington Boulevard/Lake St S and the feeling of reassurance from the lake vistas, but it was much more. It was the character of the area. I marveled at the beautiful fountains and gardens in front of the Water's Edge condominiums. Similarly with Shumway and similarly with almost all of the HOAs and single family homes along the boulevard. I stopped for coffee, then stopped for lunch. I sat at the park and marveled at "life" in general and the time we all have to enjoy life. There was a vibrancy and activity in the park where I sat thinking. There were people and a sense of activity that was positive and vibrant. At the same time I felt a feeling of space since the area was not too crowded for me and my thoughts, or the teens throwing a football and running all over the park lawn.
I later moved to this neighborhood due to it's slightly congested (vibrant) character that welcomes folks in and is energetic, while at the same time a bit of a respite from congested, overly stressed areas.
I wonder if the Planning Commission gets what a gem we have along the boulevard and likely in many other areas where neighborhood plans are in place to preserve their special character. I wonder if our citizen volunteers will honor the decisions that were made during extensive study and the input of hundreds of people over many, many years. Tonight we will see if they will finally implement the work that staff was supposed to do so that these zones are built with some vibrancy, but in step with the neighborhoods.
As a homeowner in this community, I love to hear about those who come to visit for many of the same reasons that I did before actually moving here. I watch joggers and dog walkers, teens and the elderly as they come and enjoy the area. Many will likely dine here or might bring their families or business here, as I did. If we begin allowing overcrowded buildings and monster sized structures to be built and plopped onto the boulevard without setbacks or other landscaping, fountains, art will we loose some of the beauty that currently draws them in? Will those who spend $500 or $2000 a month providing lush gardens and fountains still be willing to add this to our community when others just move in and exploit the properties next door?
I hope my fellow citizens will respect the work that was done by both the citywide Comprehensive Plan and the neighborhood plans. I hope that as we accept growth into our communities that we do it thoughtfully and gracefully and respectful of the decisions that have been made collectively, and that we not sacrifice our quality of life. This is about citywide and neighborhood planning and implementing those decisions. It is not about zoning in a project specific manner to allow a developer to build something where he believes that he found a loophole.
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