The Houghton Community Council, which controls land use and other policies for a large chunk of central Kirkland, is up for renewal in November. We wrote about the HCC (and its sibling, the East Bellevue Community Council) back in 2017, when it was working to water down mixed-use development near the Google campus:
The Kirkland City Council has yet to review the proposal, but can only rubber stamp it (a first study session is scheduled for Tuesday). The undersized zoning changes are the creation of the Houghton Community Council (HCC). The HCC has veto power over land use changes in most of Kirkland south of 68th St, and will block any Kirkland Council action that differs from their proposal.
Community Councils (“municipal corporations” in state law) were authorized by the Legislature in 1967 to ease annexation into larger cities, and were generally viewed as transitional arrangements. There were never many, and most were dissolved over time even though state law does not require a sunset. Just two remain. The Houghton Council dates to the annexation of the city of Houghton to Kirkland in 1968.
It’s worth emphasizing that these CC’s aren’t like the informal advisory boards that exist in Seattle. They have real power, and the ~10,000 residents of Houghton vote every four years to retain that power, inequitable as it may be. This time around, there’s an active campaign against renewal. From the “No on 1” website:
On May 4, 2021, equity consultant Chanin Kelly-Rae presented to the city council a preliminary report on impediments to equity in Kirkland. The HCC’s unique powers were one of the main focuses of her report. It is clearly inequitable for one neighborhood to have a veto power that is not available to any other neighborhood. She is scheduled to present her final report on Oct 19, 2021.
Historically members of Kirkland City Council, who must negotiate with the HCC to avoid its vetoes, have been reluctant to speak out publicly against the HCC while still holding office. However, on September 30 during the Kirkland Alliance of Neighborhoods Candidate Forum, all four City Council members present declared opposition to the continuation of the HCC.
Perhaps change is in the air. The area’s proximity to jobs and transit mean that Houghton is primed for growth if growth were actually permitted. These sorts of issues typically fly way under the radar, so kudos to the campaign for trying to raise the salience.