Thanks for coming and braving the weather and ignoring the State of the Union . Please note that the meeting is usually on the third Monday not the fourth, but due to a conflict we had to move it this week.
Encourage anyone who wants to get involved to send an e-mail. Please get involved. Use neighborhood resources to get information about new projects. Either you can talk to builders to get information or ask Moss Bay Association and we will bring it up.
Current Issues in Kirkland - Mayor Jim Lauinger - Chair of HopeLink, on City Council for two terms and mayor for two terms.
Recognized Councilpersons Bob Sternoff and Jessica Greenway
Wants to make it clear that these are his thoughts on the state of the City
City Finances and what the challenges are in obtaining adequate funding. Reads newspapers in other jurisdictions for ideas. Problems are the same all over. Problems with development and growth and obtaining enough funding. Checked out old book - Megatrends - and looked at the shift between a representative democracy and a participatory democracy. Kirkland has shifted to being a participatory democracy - which is good and bad.
Sales Tax - had a great first half of the year. From both retail and development and even with hospital equipment growth. We were 10% over in July. Then 5 months of tax revenue that was below projections. 0.6% increase over 2006 for 11 months. Food and Drink were up about 4% - which is down from the normal 5%, but still good. Service sector was up 3.3%. Again not bad - slightly below average (only about 10% of total). Development was down about 15% - less happening at the hospital and the I-405 construction. So the drop in contracting is what really pushed us down. Auto sales were still strong - finished up about 10% up for the year overall, but by the end of the year even they were slowing. Sales tax in dollar amounts still doing better than 2003-2005.
Jessica Greenway - we are heading into an economic downturn. Much of the City revenue is dependent on sales tax so there is a growing concern that we will not have enough money to maintain basic city services. Bob concurred.
Mayor indicated that they did not want to adjust the sales tax to adjust for swings in the economy - so it means that we have to plan. This has impacts for long term projects and most projects come in well over budget - mainly due to increases in material costs such as concrete and asphalt. Jessica was making the point that we are competing with building projects all over the country and the City does get competitive bids - the bids are coming back much higher than originally budgeted for.
Bob indicated that overall there are rising costs each year such as wage, health, and general increases and so we need the sales tax to continue to rise to ensure that the city can continue to provide basic services.
Mayor states that there is an increasing demand for more services such as more police and staff. But unwillingness to raise taxes to pay for this - so there is a tension in the budget. Faster rate of expenditure than increases in revenue. City is locked into labor contracts - which means they are locked into wage increases. There is at a minimum of 4-6% increase each year for expenditures and an average of 1% increase in property tax. The sales tax has been making up the difference until now.
Hard to keep hiring people, providing new services, funding annexation, and continuing to develop the city.
Going from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. We have more chorographer then metal casters - etc (from the NYT magazine). So what should Kirkland do to capitalize on this trend? Don't chase sales tax dollars. Look at other sources of revenue. Survey - what is your city going to be doing about improving revenue - answer from most - mixed use retail.
However- of the top 25 jobs in King County about 13 of the top 25 could not afford to live in Kirkland . So we are limiting ourselves as to who can live here.
Meeting the Mayor was in with the other Eastside mayors today he realized that you need to make about $22 an hour to afford to live in a basic apartment here. So this turns Kirkland in to a commuter city. We are looking at transportation issues as people will now live in other cities. Many places you cannot afford to live and work in the same community.
Need to shift thinking to how can we bring in better paying jobs? City is looking to partner with high tech companies.
Want to develop community wealth. Looking to develop Totem Lake and other areas - but carefully so as not to negatively impact close in neighborhoods.
Want young two income families - maybe not Union jobs, but rather high tech jobs as they are going to be the foundation of the growth of the City. Want to save light industrial lands. Make sure it does not go away - allowed Google to come in. They are a good fit - not only office, but commute at off hours. Looking to build a different model for community wealth.
Feb 2002 report on Growth without Growth - Brookings Report - those communities in the 1990's that just wanted jobs - any jobs got hurt. Those that focused on specific high tech jobs did much better as the infrastructure requirements are lower.
Need to stop chasing sales tax revenue and look at alternative forms of growth.
Question and Answers - please note he may not be able to comment on anything specifically in front of the council at the moment
How does the property tax work? As our assessments go up the taxes go up. So has Kirkland profited from the boom? Answer - City really gets most revenue from new units. Do not get much from the appreciation in general. Goes to other areas - not to Kirkland . Most of the property tax revenue is allocated to other areas - Debt allocation, EMT, Schools, King County , Library, Etc. Kirkland has about a 1% increase each year and that is only about $130,000 annually.
Comment - unrealistic about property taxes - if the valuation is not helping you then need to increase the percentage of taxes. So must raise. Mayor's response is he would rather renew our enthusiasm for the public sector and need to fund a better transportation system and infrastructure. We are not providing amenities. Need a quality of life. The consumer economy is hurting this as we are failing to fund major projects. Need to do this and the funding will come if we get the jobs that will help pay for it. City is also raising utility fees and impact fees.
How will bringing in these jobs help raise revenue? These jobs with people with young families and houses will go shopping in Kirkland (which is why redeveloping Totem Lake is critical) and this will raise the sales tax revenue. Kirkland has great demographics to leverage. But we have strong competition.
Annexation - good jobs in the annexation area? Mayor - we have four more months of study. There will be a lot of strain to the city resources. Some will still be there even without annexation, but that would exacerbate the situation. Need to run the numbers hard - if we cannot figure out how to afford it we will not do it. Some of the advantages would be a bigger tax base for a bigger tax base for capital services.
ParkPlace really bring in 4,000 new jobs? Mayor - appreciative of plans but city is really studying to make sure the floorplate will be correct. It will be designed for high tech companies - needs to be the right mix of retail, infrastructure and services.
What is Kirkland doing to make the city greener? With the development are we changing the building codes and transportation footprints. Mayor - yes - we are taking steps to put together a sustainable committee to address these issues. Need the people with experience to ensure we will be on the cutting edge. Looking at LED lights for the city. Bob added that this is a major issue for the council and everything is being looked at in light of these concerns.
Who owns the Park and Ride? Bellevue and Kirkland . Looking at things to do around that area. Looking at maybe some housing developments.
After Lake and Central stopped it was made clear that the City needed a clear cut vision for Kirkland - what is this vision and is there something coming? Mayor - there was a committee and they did a decent job and they put something out there that needs to be looked at again and talked about.
Eastside Rail Program
The Burlington Northern (BNSF) rail line runs along the east side of the Moss Bay Neighborhood. King County was talking about buying the rail line. That fell through. Port of Seattle is now looking at buying it. Been several proposals - hiking, commuter rail, etc. The Cascadia Center has a plan that want to combined the two. Hiking trails and commuter rails. Bruce Agnew and Tom Jones presenting
The Eastside Trailway Partnership is a 501c4 non-profit created by the Cascadia Center to raise public and private funds for a pilot route between Snohomish and Bellevue on the tracks to be purchased by the Port of Seattle.
The Cascadia Center does not want to build the rail system, but wants to build a consensus and a development plan, create a cost analysis, and do things like pay for a study on the viability of the tracks and hopefully in the future a ridership study. Property cost $103 Million which is a good deal for 42 miles of track.
Sat in on the Puget Sound Transit committee study and the rails and trails program. The report was voted against because it recommended taking up too much of the track. Voted for Ron Sims proposal which kept the rail and incorporated its use. Want to use it for commuter rail.
With the Port taking over, the Center believes that we can get commuter rails and trails sharing the space within our lifetime and by using a Public/Private partnership. For example the cities would raise the money for the stations.
Puget Sound Regional Study - 42 mile corridor - study breaks down the challenges.
Kirkland area is addressed specifically in the presentation. Shows how the North/South line would intersect with trails already here.
Shows the kind of car that would run on the line. Basically like a trolley. Can operate on train tracks or can go offline and operate as a streetcar. Would have bike racks and run on biodiesel.
Tom Jones stressed that the corridor should be kept in the public hands, and be prevented from being sold off into parcels. Agreement on that. Not much else can be agreed upon. Some want to remove all tracks. This group believes there is precedent for having both trails and rails operate effectively together.
Cars for train - no locomotive - operated by an engine under the front. Much quieter and can accelerate faster. Can link two cars together and would have enough capacity.
Some argue there is not enough ridership to warrant the cost. Study has showed that the current rails and ties would need to be replaced. Estimate is that replacing it (as long as the current track is in place) is $800,000 per mile. Cost goes up exponentially if the old track is removed first. New track is much quieter.
Would have park and rides and would be transportation hubs to things like the Microsoft connector. Be real transportation centers and maybe even tie some retail to the areas near the stations.
Noise is a concern and the trains that would run within the cities can operate quieter. Uses technology to improve crossings so that there does not need to be a whistle when the train is crossing.
Might connect to Sound Transit and Everett and the Sounder trains and Amtrak. Could connect to the Airport or even up to Vancouver .
Dedicate to putting a trail in along with the trains. Snohomish to Bellevue is likely the first place to start. Then down to Renton . 405 construction is the sticking point.
Costs - new track would be $37 million for the track $35 million for trains $200,000 per station. About $55 for the trails. Total cost would be about $200-250 million. Might be some additional environmental impact costs.
Single track? Yes. can operate in both directions and does not need to turn around. Trains would probably operate once an hour. About 10 stations. Takes about 3-5 minutes at each station.
What happens when you get to Renton ? Where do I go? Answer it would connect to Sound Transit and the airport. What happens in Bellevue ? How do I get to the mall? Talking about running a bus or even these trains can operate like streetcars and can run into some of the cities.
What about hitting traffic crossings? Cannot keep stopping traffic that frequently. So maybe needs to put in some overpasses.
How do they operate - on biodiesel. Somewhat green. People want to know if it could be electric. Reply is that it would be too expensive. Reply is that current diesel is cleaning burning. Carries 180 people. Less cars on the 405. Will explore other greener options too.
5 train sets - train one way or the other every 45 minutes.
Will be community hearings to figure out what they want. Where they want their stations. What do they want for connections, etc. Get local community groups involved for some of the funding and also developers to help fund construction of park and rides, retail, etc. Each community would be different and could determine what it looks like in their area.
Point made that it would be a crime to lose this opportunity as once the rails go away it is dead. Suggested that everyone call the Port Commission and recommend that they pass the deal.
One suggestion was made to turn it into a paved bus corridor. Answer - no train carries more people and they are planning on working with the regional bus providers to tie to those services.
Looking at places for taxis and also plug in places for electric cars. Would allow private shuttle buses to run into the transit centers.
Starting community meetings in Bellevue to determine what the local communities want and to make sure the right questions are asked. This will be held on the 19th of Feb at 6:30 at the Bellevue Public Libraries. Visit their website at http://www.eastsiderailnow.org/ Encourage people to come to that meeting.
Because Prop 1 was voted down there will be a $2 billion excess by 2020 that must be spent on the Eastside. Some of the funds are there. Need to take an affirmative action with the Port to ensure that the Eastside gets what they need. Port wants to get some freight redundancy.
Encourages the development of a local Kirkland committee to start exploring how the rail would interact with the city.
Not saying that no houses will need to be taken, but this is one way to limit the impact.
Are others using these cars and where are they built? Yes, other communities ( Portland , San Diego , Austin ) are implementing these cars and the cars are built near Sacramento and Golden, Co.
Operating costs- these operate at lower costs per Sounder or Amtrak. Claim that they are almost self sufficient at ridership loads of 60%. Due to lower operating costs.
Need to increase capacity - answer is that there will be passing sitings and also can link more cars together. With the GPS's in place these can effectively control the tracks.
Kari Page - Neighborhood Action Program - started the process of what projects to get voted on for the community. Been around for 9 years. Had 41 requests. Some were taken off because the city could do them, some cost too much. Have the list and we can now do everything on the list for $25,900
New street lights on Lake Washington Blvd
Signs on Lake Washington showing the whole walk
Putting in a bench and more pots for Downtown
Question - are we going to be environmentally friendly with the new lights. Kari will check that out.
Andy Luce - doing several projects including Google and they are on schedule for the summer. Building on 2nd ave South - on the market and has a buyer. Project going in should be a two story office development. Still up in the air so if you hear anything let us know. Merrill Gardens is underway. B of A project is 5 stories with setbacks. At the Design Review and has passed. Is at the appeal phase. This project is 55 feet tall. The McCloud project is 4 stories and 54 feet. Difference is because B of A is residential and Cloud is office. Camwest is going to be 25 homes. Not sure when that will be put underway.
Bea Nahon spoke about getting involved with Downtown developments and learning more. If you want to get involved and keep up with downtown projects in general e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or to participate in the appeal to the Design Review Board on the Bank of America/Merrill Gardens project contact Citizens for a Vibrant Kirkland at email@example.com
Collected donations for Hopelink
Next Meeting - Monday March 17th 7 pm at Heritage Hall