Dear Editor: After much more than a year of researching the proposed TOD, digging into major research documents on TODs, and evaluating comparisons with other transit oriented development, the Lakeview Neighborhood Advisory Council re-confirmed it's prior position regarding a change of zoning for TOD at our most recent meeting.
Most of us live too far from the proposed TOD to be even remotely considered NIMBY opponents. So, here's where the trouble lies. We are not willing to give up one of the most needed and oversubscribed Park and Rides in order to make it a site for extremely dense housing. The two uses do not appear compatible. Parking spaces planned for the TOD are well below similar TOD projects and will rob necessary Park and Ride spaces or further exacerbate the parking that occurs on neighborhood streets.
Since we were having a hard time getting some information from the City of Kirkland or Metro, we did our own. The idea that housing is a requirement of the Urban Partnership Grant didn't seem to align with what we uncovered. There were 4 T's required: Tolling and Telecommuting (congestion pricing on 520), Technology (real time information signs), and Transit improvements at S. Kirkland and Overlake P&R which were to improve passenger shelters and lighting. We could find no housing requirement built into the approval criterion of the grant, but continue to be open to seeing this information if someone would supply us with documentation.
Now with respect to parking. The S Kirkland Park and Ride has been at 107% of capacity for years and in 2005 was earmarked for a parking garage with 250 additional spaces dedicated to P&R users alone. Now a Transit oriented development is proposed with a projected 1.08 parking spaces per unit. This provided parking is well below CalTrans / University of California Berkeley research that indicates that only a 20% reduction in parking spaces may be achieved with TOD. It is well below the 1.41 spaces per unit on average as detailed in research by California Polytechnic University. So where will the residents park a second car, or a guest? Likely they will pirate P&R spaces. The history of S. Kirkland Park and Ride would also indicate that the overflow will fill neighboring streets. The TOD proposal seems destined to provide even more overflow parking. Smartgrowthplanning.org comments on conversion of station area parking to TOD "Elimination or reduction of parking at these stations best suited to park-and-ride activity can generate unacceptable impacts."
The city has proposed a "shared" parking example that doesn't seem recognize that TODs aim to have residents who use transit to get to their work locations during the day (thus leaving their car at home). In "A Transit Cooperative Research Program," sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration there is the citation that "Shared parking between transit agencies and adjoining development is often seen as one way to shrink the footprint of TOD parking. However, this does not always work in practice." John Gosling, a designer of mixed-use TODs, says "shared-parking reductions in mixed-use settings are not what they are cracked up to be."
"Further complicating the mixed use challenge is the lack of comparables. The "comps" that do exist do not always have distinguished track records. Mixed-use TODs, such as Palm Court...in Long Beach, California, fell into arrears, forcing banks to take it over. Often it has been the ground-floor retail component of TODs that have suffered the most." Retail must be market and destination driven, and not transit driven.
At this time there appears insufficient evidence that this project will blend with the neighborhoods, provide adequate parking, be economically sustainable or be an asset to Kirkland. It is concerning that this could turn into something similar to a project cited by the Transportation Research Board "after six years, areas around stations remain ... forsaken and decaying - denying planners dreams of transit villages."
We are planning for a parcel that welcomes folks into Kirkland and gives them the first impression of our community. Let's not greet visitors with a project that is overbuilt, double density and perhaps an economic failure.