Op Ed - Working Together For Kirkland’s Future

joanmcbride-300x420 By Mayor Joan McBride, City of Kirkland


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead


Change is inevitable. The world doesn’t stay the same and neither will Kirkland. People will come and go, the natural and physical environment will change and the way we live our lives will change. Kirkland’s ability to adapt gracefully to change over the years is what has shaped the community we have today—one that we are rightfully proud of and one that we all want to preserve. The Kirkland of today is no accident. It is the product of both an engaged citizenry and elected officials’ foresight and commitment to community values.


The residents of Kirkland have always been at the heart of changes in our town and right now we once again have a unique opportunity to influence the way our community manages the growth that will most certainly occur. City leaders have embarked on an ambitious and unprecedented public outreach effort to involve Kirkland residents in the process of shaping how and where growth will be accommodated over the next twenty years. “Kirkland 2035: Your Voice. Your Vision. Your Future.” Kirkland 2035 is a concerted effort to mobilize grassroots involvement in decisions today that will influence growth patterns in the future.


But is growth really inevitable? Yes. Not only because Kirkland is an attractive place to live, work and play, but because state law and sound planning principles demand that growth be concentrated in urban areas like Kirkland. King County is expected to accommodate 233,077 new housing units and 428,068 new jobs by 2031. The Puget Sound Regional Council has set Kirkland’s share of that growth at 8,570 new housing units and 20,850 jobs. To accommodate that amount of growth, it is likely that small buildings will redevelop into larger buildings that can house more people and jobs. It will also require us to rethink how we situate new development relative to transportation and, generally, how we get around Kirkland. It will require that we be able to reconcile competing interests in a fair and balanced manner. It will require that we maintain Kirkland's commitment to its most basic values—retaining Kirkland’s small town feel, walkability and exceptional quality of life.


City Planners have already identified that existing zoning can accommodate the amount of growth assigned to Kirkland. The question now is whether the current zoning, largely put in place through the last Comprehensive Plan update some ten years ago, still reflects the community values, transportation options and realities of today. With the addition of seven square miles and 30,000 people through the 2011 annexation, it is time for us to reconsider how and where patterns of growth should occur and to either reaffirm earlier decisions or make new ones. All of this is done through the Comprehensive Plan update process which looks at land use patterns, transportation systems, parks services, utility capacity, community character and more. Over the next eighteen months, residents, businesses and City leaders will be working together to update all elements of the Comprehensive Plan.


Everyone has a job in this effort. The City staff must use their professional expertise to present balanced, factual information that is the basis for informed decisions and to provide our customers the best service possible. Citizen boards and commissions provide important advice to the City Council that reflects what the community wants. The City Council enacts laws and makes decisions that are consistent with local, state and national laws and with the desires of the public. Community members are responsible for making their voices heard at the right times and in the right places so that elected and appointed officials have the widest and most comprehensive understanding of their interests and hopes for the future.


We understand that Kirkland residents lead busy lives and that time to get involved is limited. That is why we are providing many opportunities to be involved.


Members of the community may:

  • Attend one of the many community-wide meetings, neighborhood association meetings, community planning days (next one is October 19—mark your calendar!) or simply attend or watch City Council and Planning Commission meetings.
  • Join an on-line community dialog at Kirkland Ideas Forum and respond to questions and share your ideas about important issues such as how business districts should develop, how the Cross Kirkland Corridor should be used now and in the future and how transportation systems should meet the needs of the community.
  • Stay up to date through the Kirkland 2035 website or through the “Suggest a Project” web page where you can find out what’s being built in Kirkland and share your ideas about needed capital projects.

We also understand that community members are not urban planners and that, in order to participate effectively, there is a need for information that is timely, understandable and relevant. That is why the City is investing in the creation of print materials, videos and other learning opportunities that provide a variety of venues and ways to be informed:

  • Read “About Growth,” a new series of brief articles that talk about community planning principles in terms that relate to everyone.
  • Watch the video version of “Neighborhood U” and learn more about the basic principles and rules of the Growth Management Act and how they apply to Kirkland.
  • Watch the “Kirkland Works” series of videos to understand what our City government is doing to preserve the outstanding quality of life in Kirkland.

All of these resources are available on the City’s website at www.kirklandwa.gov/kirkland2035.


Finally, we understand that our community has high expectations for its city government and expect the City staff to be knowledgeable, helpful and objective.

  • Look for the results of the recent Development Services Study that evaluates our Planning, Public Works Development and Building permit process and helps us identify ways to improve customer service.
  • Let us know how we’re doing by providing feedback on a customer feedback form, sending an email or by making a phone call.
  • Let us know how we can best serve you.


Kirkland residents care deeply about our community and want to retain and continue to improve the qualities we love about Kirkland. We know that Kirkland residents want to be involved now—in small and large ways—to help shape our future. Getting involved can range from volunteering for one of Kirkland’s many advisory committees to simply staying informed and sending in a comment by email. Now is the time to help shape the vision for Kirkland’s future.


Although we cannot stop growth or prevent change, we can determine how our community will accept growth and adjust to change. In twenty years, Kirkland will undoubtedly look different. But, by working together, Kirkland will always be a welcoming community that honors and reflects the shared values that have made it what it is today.


Related Information and Links

Kirkland 2035 website:  www.kirklandwa.gov/kirkland2035

Kirkland Ideas Forum:  www.ideasforum.kirklandwa.gov

Suggest a Project: http://www.kirklandwa.gov/depart/Public_Works/Capital_Improvements/Suggest_a_CIP_Project.htm.

Development Services Study: http://www.kirklandwa.gov/depart/Development_Services/developmentservicesreport.htm