LETTER | City Council, It's not your fault, but you can fix it

The following letter was sent to the City of Kirkland on July 10th

Re:  ZON11-00042 BN-Res Market

Dear City Leaders:
For nearly a year and a half, the organization that has come to be known as "STOP", has been lobbying on behalf of the future of Kirkland to rationalize residential development on our Commercial zones, especially the BN zones. Your predecessor city fathers and mothers developed our Comprehensive Plan with a lot of thought and planning. STOP and the "red shirt folks" simply want that vision and foresight implemented in our Zoning Code. That's why it's called "STOP: Support The Ordinances and Plans.
It appears to those of us who have watched this drama play out that no one on either the Planning Commission or the Council has found any reason to strongly support the type of ultra-high density proposed development that current zoning oversights appear to allow. What support there may be is that of "Well, we made our bed and now we have to lie in it," or "I don't like the situation, but I don't like the alternatives either." Not a soul on the PC or Council is a cheerleader for where we're headed with this. We commend you for that. And we recognize the difficult position in which this places the City.
  • We are entitled to be "project specific" because the BN zone on Lake Street was the only available BN zone in the City at the time a specific developer proposal was submitted to the City. Pre-annexation, that proposal and BN zones were synonymous. Post-annexation, a wider application is appropriate, but has not yet been addressed.
  • We have emphasized the incompatibility with the surrounding zoning and existing development.
  • We have lobbied for the rights of existing property owners for predictability and the stability of the neighborhood that the Comp Plan promises.
  • We have argued that overly intense development is a traffic safety issue, especially with Lake Washington Boulevard being Kirkland's most-used pedestrian and bicycle venue.
  • We have shown that, with regard to the Lake Street proposal, the developer was adequately forewarned of a likely residential density limit of 12 units per acre, and competing language in the Comp Plan and Zoning Code, and that "the  most restrictive provision applies."
  • We have pointed out that the more recently implemented Lakeview Neighborhood Plan foresaw a similar problem on the Kidd Valley block and addressed it with a residential density cap, on a block in an already more commercialized area.
  • We have asked for "Neighborhood Business" to mean what it says, and not mean "build as many apartments as you can squeeze on the property." (Or to acknowledge that this is a farcical anachronism in Zoning due to decades old prior uses, and make the entire parcel residential.)
  • We have supported increased density IN THE PROPER LOCATIONS, and have given examples of where this has been done appropriately and well here in Kirkland.
Also, were we having our City's zoning challenged by a local, well-known and respected developer with a track record in Kirkland (or anywhere, for that matter!), we would likely be a bit more understanding. But that's not the case. And since there are hundreds of Kirkland citizens - local, well-known, and hopefully respected - who have signed on to protect our Boulevard, their position deserves high level, preferential consideration.
We fully understand how tough this issue is for everyone charged with making these decisions, but that's one of the challenges of being a civic leader. Please don't be swayed by developer threats. We made a mistake. It's not your fault. But you can fix it. Please do.
Chuck Pilcher