Here are a few observations on Kirkland's grand Aquatics / Recreation / Community Center (ARC) plans.
Strike 1. The Lake Washington School District will soon abandon the pool at Juanita High School. They have expressed little interest in helping fund Kirkland's ARC.
Strike 2. The city has met with neighboring cities to see if they would like to partner but it seems those discussions were not as fruitful as hoped.
So, should Kirkland go it alone, to fund this project which is appears to be confused in its purpose and lost without a long-term vision?
The answer seems to be a resounding YES!
Does it make sense to anyone outside of City Hall, that we are planning a $40-$60 million recreation facility yet we don't have a long-term vision as to where this major amenity should be located, what transportation and complimentary facilities should be located nearby? The chosen location for ARC was to be Juanita Beach... until the community spoke up loudly against that plan. Now the city trying to find an alternative location.
Here is a silly idea: why not have a vision of what our future should be like (I don't know, call it Kirkland 2035, if you like) and actually have a plan rather than the current, seemingly ad hoc method of siting and funding ARC? Let's pick Totem Lake, since we dump everything in Totem Lake when we don't know where it should go. One could imagine ARC being accessible to the Cross Kirkland Corridor, I-405 and bus routes, accessible to shopping, dining and multifamily dwellings as part of a purposeful, integrated development plan. Kinda like what Redmond is doing. But no. Not in Kirkland. We are looking to shoehorn ARC anywhere we can.
What guides ARC siting today? Available land is a good guess. There are few parcels in Kirkland that would be suitable -- one being near Totem Lake (adjacent to the lake, itself) and another near Jaspers Off Leash Dog Park. The Totem Lake parcel could satisfy many criteria. The other location is across the street from the new Police Department and Municipal Court. Is this the best imaginable location for an aquatics center? Not likely.
We are trying to find a place to put an expensive new facility but we seem to be willing to plunk it down in any location large enough just for the sake of getting it done. PUT IT SOMEPLACE. ANYPLACE SO WE CAN PUT IT ON THE BALLOT!
This is not looking like an ideal way to go about finding funding partners and finding the best location.
I have been a vocal critic of ARC as I see this as an expensive boondoggle, justified by good-intentions and well-meaning folks but without funding partners and without a location that makes any sense. Selecting the right location should be a top priority for such a major project but it seems Kirkland has no real future vision and ARC seems lost.
Undaunted, we charge ahead, ignoring naysayers and stingy tax payers. We just want to find someplace, ANYPLACE, to put this thing so we can get it built.
This project has been frustrating to watch. It seems rudderless. Without a clear need, funding or location.
We sought funding partners for this regional facility but none were willing to share the load. So, what do we do? WE FUND IT OURSELVES, OF COURSE!
I find this process disturbing to say the least. Let's reset this mess before we make a mistake that can't be reversed: Strike three.
The following is a news release from the City of Kirkland:
Kirkland City Council removes Juanita Beach Park as aquatics/recreation center site; Requests options for 2015 ballot measure
Staff to evaluate Metropolitan Park District to fund the ARC
At its April 21, 2015 meeting, the Kirkland City Council unanimously approved Resolution R-5124 (PDF) formally removing Juanita Beach Park as a potential site for the proposed Aquatics/Recreation/Community (ARC) Center and authorizing the next steps to place a ballot measure before Kirkland voters as early as November 2015. The ballot measure would propose that a Municipal Park District (MPD) be created as a means to fund the project through property tax collection.
In order to place the MPD measure on the November 3, 2015 General Election ballot, the City could need to file the measure with the King County Elections Office by August 4, 2015. The City Council requested that staff return with the legal and financial analysis necessary for the City Council to make a final decision. The City Council also seeks additional public outreach and education to the community on both the proposed ARC and a MPD.
As a result of extensive public outreach and feedback, a comprehensive evaluation of the City’s existing recreation programs and facilities, and an assessment of market conditions, the proposed recommended facility components include:
· 13-lane competition/lap pool
· Recreation pool
· 250-person community hall/banquet facility
· Child watch area
· Classrooms, party room, activity and art rooms
· Wood floor studios
· Single-court gymnasium
· Fitness room
· Community spaces
· Administrative offices and other support spaces
The need for indoor recreation facilities for Kirkland’s growing population has been identified by residents for many years and confirmed by recent surveys. In 2014 and 2015, citizen surveys rated an indoor recreation and aquatics center as a high priority. In 2013, the City of Kirkland initiated a siting study for an aquatics center when the Lake Washington School District announced it would not fund the renovation or replacement of the Juanita Aquatics Center (Juanita High School indoor pool).
For project background and to receive project updates via email, go to www.kirklandwa.gov/kirklandarc.
About a Metropolitan Park District:
Washington State law (RCW 35.61) allows cities and counties (or a combination of them) to create a Metropolitan Park District (MPD) for the management, control, improvement, maintenance, and acquisition of parks, parkways, boulevards, and recreational facilities. An MPD may include territory located in portions or in all of one or more cities or counties, or in one or more cities and counties. The formation of an MPD may be made by (citizen) petition or by a resolution of the governing body or bodies within which the district is to be located. The petition or resolution submitting the ballot proposition must designate the composition of the board of metropolitan park commissioners. A MPD requires a 50 percent voter approval. If approved, the MPD must be created as a municipal corporation effective immediately upon certification of the election results.