Kirkland boldly facing its future

Cleaner beaches, more affordable housing, a razed and rebuilt downtown, a better city hall and more businesses are just some of the ideas Kirkland residents came up with yesterday when asked what changes they would like to see in their city by 2022.

The question will be on many lips over coming weeks as the city prepares to launch at least 30 "community conversations" with everyone from artists to schoolchildren to find out what needs improving and what needs preserving in Kirkland.

In a departure from the traditionally staid planning process, the city is contracting local futurist Glen Hiemstra to help orchestrate what will become a 20-year vision. The conversations will begin next week.

City staff will not even attend the meetings, said senior planner Teresa Swan. The idea is to get a wide range of views and ideas from the community by conducting small gatherings in which everyone gets a chance to speak.

Community Conversations

"Community Conversations" is a citywide public participation event starting next week that explores how residents envision Kirkland in 20 years. Community meetings will be held in Houghton (Wednesday), South Rose Hill (Sept. 10), North Rose Hill (Sept. 16), Highlands (Sept. 19), Norkirk (Sept. 19) and South Juanita (Sept. 25). Other meetings will be held with schools, hospitals and other specialized groups.

The city will summarize and discuss the responses at a final, citywide meeting which will be held 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Ave. For information on meeting times or to fill out a "community conversations" questionnaire, log on to and click on "Imagine Kirkland."

The city is providing a list of questions, which ask people to describe their ideal housing, businesses, workplaces, shops and schools. It asks what transportation improvements are needed, how city services can be improved, and how the environment should be protected.

The ideas will be boiled down and presented in a November report and citywide meeting, Swan said. Some of those will be incorporated into the city's 20-year comprehensive plan, scheduled to be completed next year.

Hiemstra, who travels the country as a sort of modern-day, practical soothsayer, said there are three basic questions a good futurist should ask: what is possible; what is probable; and what is preferred. To stimulate Kirklanders, he came up with the idea of a 10-minute video.

"It starts by looking 20 years back, showing how much has changed," he said. For instance, the winding, downtown Park Lane with its shops and sculptures was, back in 1982, a "plain, ugly, two-lane city street," he said.

The futurist said people usually want similar things in a community. They prefer a place where they can work, shop and play without needing to travel far. They want a safe place to raise children and good schools. And they want economic vitality.

Hiemstra is predicting two major changes over the next two decades. The first is the demise of gas-powered cars, which will be replaced by cars powered with hydrogen or other fuels, he said. The second is a substantial aging of the population.

Enjoying the sunshine at Marina Park yesterday, 11-year-old Shaaden Shadman said she thinks the beaches and swimming areas in Kirkland need ridding of garbage and pollution. "We are in the middle of a beautiful area, and it is too dirty," she said.

Friend Tanya Mostafa, also 11, said she does not like City Hall and believes Kirkland needs a "really old building" like the Heritage Center — a distinctive former church — to house its mayor and council.

Another resident, Gayle Kelly, said rent and living costs are so high in Kirkland that there needs to be more affordable housing.

Swan said the city is spending about $10,000 on the video and meetings. From Wednesday, the video will be shown at least four times a day on the city's cable broadcast on Channel 21. People can fill out questionnaires at meetings or on the city's Web site.

Cost will always be a factor in implementing any change, Swan said, although she hopes some of the ideas will be acted upon quickly.

"This is the beginning," she said.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or