State of the City of Issaquah
February 19, 2001
This year I’m going to divert a little bit from some of the comments that I typically present during the State of the City and talk about some things that are more essential to the nature of the city and the way in which we determine if the city is in a state of good health or bad health. Sustainability means that our natural environment and our resources are conserved in such a way that those resources are available in the future to provide for basic needs. A broader definition of sustainability includes environmental, social, and economic well-being. Essentially those things that make the city a place in which we want to live and in which future generations of residents will want to live. Each year, during the State of the City address, I’ve spoken about commitments and about our form of government which is built on pledges, on trust, and on the knowledge that any power that government has derives from its people. This is a government of the people, and not one in which the City has any powers that haven’t been granted to it by the people. I want to reaffirm that this is still the case, I’m not diverting from that message, but tonight I want to explain more thoroughly the connection between community vision, community needs, and the general work of the city. Those of us who spend time close to the issues may not take enough time to explain how interrelated city planning, policy making, and implementation or administration are, and how much thought and effort go into realizing our community vision and our community sustainability. In addition to talking about those things, those connections, I’m going list a number of indicators of community sustainability, or health, that are either continuing into 2001, or more especially are beginning in 2001 and in what way those indicators are part of Issaquah’s Comprehensive Plan. And I will have more to say about the Comprehensive Plan shortly.
To begin with, what is the source of the way in which our community measures its self and tells how healthy our city is. Nine years and eleven months ago, the fifty-second legislature of the State of Washington enacted into law, that which we know as the Growth Management Act. I have a copy of it with me if anyone wants to peruse it, in the form of Engrossed Substitute Housebill 1025. In that it said that local plans, regulations, and actions shall conform to or support the following goals which are not listed in the order of priority. The first goal is that of urban growth areas, and it says that urban development shall occur in urban growth areas where adequate public facilities exist or can be provided in an efficient manner. The second goal says that there will be a reduction of sprawl: that we will reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling low-density developments. Then it has an element or a goal about transportation. It says that we link transportation systems and land-use to maintain acceptable levels of transportation service, coordinate the development of transportation facilities between jurisdictions and based on regional priorities, and develop efficient multi-modal transportation systems that include alternatives to single automotive travel and preserve the operational and structural integrity of the transportations system. It asks that we ensure housing for all economic segments of the population of the state be provided for. It says that we shall participate in making available a fair share of affordable housing, which is then further defined. We will promote zoning classifications which allow a variety of residential densities and housing types and encourage the preservation of existing housing stock. Another goal is that of economic development. It asks that jurisdictions, that is cities and counties which are listed as local jurisdictions, encourage economic development throughout the state that is consistent with adopted Comprehensive Plans. So it gets back to the comprehensive planning process yet again. It says that property rights shall not be taken; private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation having been made. It says that the permitting process should be streamlined, which in fact has happened. Applications for both state and local government permits should be processed in a timely and fair manner to ensure predictability. Then it talks about natural resource industries. Maintain and enhance natural resource based industries including productive timber, agricultural land, and fisheries industries.
At this point, at Open Space, we’re almost halfway through the list. We are to encourage the retention of open space and the development of recreational opportunities. The environment—protect the environment, including critical areas, natural resources of statewide significance, and air and water quality. There are elaborations on each one of these. Another point that it makes, and which I believe is a high priority, although they said it was not listed in any particular order, is that of citizen participation and coordination. It asks that jurisdictions ensure the involvement of citizens in the planning process and ensure coordination between communities and jurisdiction to reconcile conflicts. This is the rock on which the countywide planning policies and community planning are founded. It talks about public facilities and services. We are to ensure that the public facilities and services necessary to support development shall be adequate at the time development is available for occupancy and use, without decreasing current service levels below locally established minimum standards. It talks about historic preservation, which it identifies as, and encourages historic preservation of historic lands, districts and sites. Then it talks about water resources, another very important one. Land use planning and all permit decisions should both protect water quality and quantity, and if there is a demand for additional water resources, that demand must be compatible with water resource plans. The air quality section says that land use planning and permit decisions must recognize their effect on air quality and mitigate these effects to the extent possible. Then it talks about provisions for public utilities and says that locations will be within transportation corridors so efficient, reliable, and cost-effective utility service can be provided. It has another one that doesn’t particularly apply to us in Issaquah, but that’s one having to do with the support of public institutions, and the assurance that state trust lands could be managed for the support of those public institutions in accordance with federal and state law. Although the legislature, in enacting this bill, used the word ‘sustainable’ only to describe economic development, the Growth Management Act in spirit and fact serves as the bedrock for community sustainability in all of its forms. Our City’s version of the Growth Management Act is our Comprehensive Plan and other plans which are attached to or in the Plan by reference. Our Comprehensive Plan is a living document, which is amendable once a year and which is crafted by one of our citizen’s advisory commissions, in concert with other boards and commissions who advise them. It is done in a very thorough and deliberative public process. Embodied within the Comprehensive Plan, either directly or by reference, are other plans that serve as maps to keep us on the path to community sustainability and health and by which we measure how we’re doing. So the Comprehensive Plan embodies our community vision and also gives us something by which to measure ourselves.
Now I’m going to talk about indicators that I believe are indicators of community health in the City of Issaquah. Most, if not all, of these are things that we’re doing in 2001, and which may be continued into future years, as we need, but these are things that show what kind of health we have. I’ll start out with our natural environment and I’ll list again some of the plans and documents that we use to guide the care of the natural environment:
All of these plans must be compatible with and related to the Comprehensive Plan. Now these are some, I don’t think all, of the things we’re doing this year, or which we’ve already done this year, and I’ve tried to put next to them the plan or the document that is the link between them and the Comprehensive Plan if it isn’t the Plan itself.
We just purchased 12+ acres of property along Issaquah Creek, which help benefit our Parks and Recreation Plan, and which was essentially done under implementation of the Issaquah Creek Basin Plan. We are this year monitoring the Gilman Channel of Issaquah Creek. This is a means of keeping up flood conveyance, removing invasive vegetation and making sure its replaced with native vegetation, and also reducing stream erosion and stream temperatures which are in support of something new that’s come before the City of Issaquah and everyone else in the Puget Sound area, and that is the Endangered Species Act and the listing of wild native Chinook Salmon. We’re working on the Tibbetts Creek Greenway, which is part of the Basin Plan, and I’ll have more about it somewhat later on. That is something that we’re working on to reduce sedimentation into Lake Sammamish, which makes that lake healthier and preserves water quality. We or have acquired just recently, property on Cherry Street, which again implements the Basin Plan. We are this year starting more intense work on the Shoreline Management Program, which of course, is something that is statutory; state law tells us we have to do that. This is essentially a shoreline health inventory. This also supports our need to plan under the Endangered Species Act. Then we have a Stormwater Resources Action Plan that is being implemented this year. It helps again with the Issaquah Creek Basin Plan, the Non-Point Action Plan which is a pollution reduction plan, and the Water Resource Action Plan. This includes stewardship and education through our Resource Conservation Office here in the City of Issaquah, regional planning under Endangered Species Act Watershed planning rules, Water Resource Inventory Area 8 in the Sammamish Watershed that helps us to coordinate with other jurisdictions for regional surface and stormwater programs and to respond to Endangered Species Act listings—again for the wild Salmon.
There are other property acquisitions that we hope will take place this year. We are applying for state grants so that we can do further implementation of the Basin Plan which basically tells us that where there are flood-prone properties that have been built upon, it’s best to remove those properties and let the creek meander and do as it wishes—it’s better for all of us. We have been working on flood plane mapping; this is a protection of public safety and property by more accurate mapping. It also prevents inappropriate development in flood-prone areas.
We are supporting the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, mostly through our assistance in having an executive director be there. This is important to us because the naturally spawning fish, the fish that pass upstream of the hatchery, and even those which spawn before the hatchery, are part of what is called an evolutionary significant unit—and so this again is in support of the Endangered Species Act and its provisions.
Even such a small thing as a detention pond expansion is something that improves water quality; it supports improvements to Tibbetts Creek in the case of this one, which is the Woods Detention Pond, through reducing sediment, and again it makes Lake Sammamish’s health better. We have the Issaquah Creek Channel Improvement at the Pickering Reach, which will involve monitoring for wetlands, native vegetation, fish and fish habitat, work on stream erosion reduction and stream hydrology. This one is linked to the Shoreline Management Program, Endangered Species Act, and our Basin Plan, among other things.
Then I will move on to a more elaborate description of the Tibbetts Greenway project. This involves flood control and habitat enhancement for the Tibbetts Creek Basin, a small and sediment-laden basin. Improved fish habitat and passage for two species of salmon that are not yet listed as endangered or threatened but very well may be—those are Coho and Kokanee. It is a smaller stream, and it would sustain those kinds fish in a way that it doesn’t manage to sustain Chinook. Again it reduces sedimentation and provides for better water quality in Lake Sammamish. Another indicator is one I’ve just added this afternoon in thinking about it. We’ve started a national pilot project program on Eco Teams in the workplace. As a result, we have people generating some very lively and good ideas on energy conservation—something that I think is serving the City and everyone in the community well in terms of reducing energy consumption at this time when we are faced with at least an electricity shortage potentially and perhaps problems with natural gas as well.
I then move on to the financial environment. This relates to our 2001 Budget, the Capital Improvement Plan and fund, and our Comprehensive Plan again. Indicators of financial health within Issaquah are that we did not need to increase the tax rates. I’m going to be very careful to distinguish between that and saying that people’s taxes may not rise because as valuation goes up, it is possible that taxes will rise, but we did not increase the rates this year so if all things stayed steady, people’s taxes would go down. We have a balanced budget, which is a sign of good health. Increased sales tax income reduces our dependency on, or our need for, use of other funding sources, such as property tax. We have what looks like will be a good job to housing ratio. Our 20-year forecast from 1995, which is the time when we adopted our Comp Plan, is on target for jobs, actually above target for housing, and so it appears we will have more housing than jobs, proportionally, which is not the case for a considerable portion of Puget Sound. So we are ahead there and in good shape there.
We are this year going to have an Affordable Housing Summit, or conference, which is something that I could also put under our Human and Social Environment Indications of Health. This one is perhaps not so much an indication of good health, as an attempt to improve our health. Nonetheless, it is something that we will be doing that is valuable to the community.
Then in at looking at physical facilities within the community and how we are doing there in terms of health and sustainability, we have opened the Police and Jail facility which is part of our City Facilities Master Plan, which also contributes to public safety. We are going to be doing, we hope, some seismic upgrades to City Hall Northwest, again something that enhances public safety, and some other things that have to do more with building codes and ways in which we’ve improved our facilities environment. Tibbetts Creek Manner has a Certificate of Occupancy after 12 years. We have a Certificate of Occupancy essentially for the Pickering Barn—the roof is going to be completed soon, which is part of code compliance, part of our planning process. We are starting on a new City Shop, which to some people doesn’t sound like a very glamorous issue, unless they are people who are in Public Works Operations or other portions of the city, but this provides services better and the services in particular are ones that are beneficial to the community and provide for community health in the form of our utilities, the provision of drinking water, the conveyance away from the city of sewage, stormwater conveyance, and then the maintenance of those particular utilities.
We have long-range planning that is being met for the housing of city staff, again, part of the City Facilities Master Plan and other planning processes. We think some day more city staff may be back downtown where people seem to want to see them. We have the expansion of something that is a benefit to the economic development and to tourism and to general community well-being in the Alexander House expansion. We have Parks, we hope, about to be happening soon in Issaquah Highlands, which is part of our Parks & Recreation Master Plan (an element of the Comprehensive Plan). We have the fire station in the Highlands, which is Comprehensive Plan related, Capital Improvement Plan related and, of course, provides for greater community safety. Then we have the communications environment, which essentially is the public involvement portion of the city’s health. This enhances public involvement, and in part this has a great deal to do with additional access to government services which we are calling e-GOV and which we are participating with other jurisdictions. We have an improved City Web site, improved “City News”, and a rebuilt TV Channel 21 station, which has improved the quality of programming here. Local production of some things will be taking place in 2001 in addition to the filming of council meetings and boards and commission meetings. Some citizens in Issaquah are now able to choose between cable companies—in Issaquah we’re one of two cities that have that kind of choice. Again, we’re doing studies on e-government, technology, and strategic planning so that when people have questions at any time of day or night, they can get answers to them and they won’t have to call up and get a live human being if they don’t wish to get one, they can find out information all on their own.
Our cultural environment is healthy. We have public art that will be added to in the year 2001. We have “The Valiant Effort” –the eagle which is across the street [at the Police Station], which was added in the year 2000. We have had increased attendance at Concerts on the Green and other events and increased events—Summer Music Festival, Shakespeare at the Pickering Place Amphitheatre, and continued City support of the Village Theatre.
In terms of our traffic environment, this is one in which I think that we are obviously not as healthy as we would like to be—and we hear about it from everybody who happens to come to or through Issaquah—but we do have some things that are indicators of a degree of health and certainly of improved health and these relate to the Transportation Improvement Plan, our Comprehensive Plan, concurrency requirements of Growth Management Act including the reduction of dependency on single-occupant vehicles, and goals which we have set for ourselves through participation in the Puget Sound Regional Council and their regional planning requirements. I think everyone knows that SR900, the corridor from I-90, across I-90 actually from SE 56th Street and down past Newport Way, is being improved through a coordinated project between the developers of East Village, the State Department of Transportation, and the Sound Transit Authority. The Sunset Interchange is being built. We are going to be this year studying an additional crossing of I90, which will help aid in concurrency. We have Rainier Avenue bridge design and construction, which is perhaps a slight enhancement of concurrency but mostly a safety improvement. We also have the safety improvements on Klein Hill Road and the improvement of traffic flows in the Newport corridor. Signal coordination on the Front Street corridor, which is something that people have often expressed as a desire to have, is actually now taking place. We have a continuation of Newport Way temporary improvements, and then something that we will do this year, although we hadn’t anticipated it, is trying to do a transit route study or plan, because we try to attract more transit to our community and have some difficulty in getting, particularly Metro, to understand that there would be a greater ridership here if only the services were available.
In terms of our human and social environment, which is reflected in our Comprehensive Plan, the Human Services Element, and in our Affordable Housing Strategies, we have indications of health in our increased support of local human service organizations, moving forward on our new Senior Center; some reorganization which is taking place in regional coordination for human service, the Human Services Roundtable, and ways in which we are going to be able to deal with the issues that it used to deal with; and a commitment to affordable housing, which I think will be met by the Affordable Housing Summit that we will be working on this year.
Once again, I have every confidence that with creativity, and continuous public involvement from our community—which we have and value very much—respect for one another, trust in one another, and continuing to work together for the benefit of the community, Issaquah will remain a city we are proud to call home and which we know will be healthy and a legacy to future generations.