If you drive by the northbound on-ramp to 520 on 51st street, you probably haven’t noticed the small yellow sign posted to a gate announcing plans to develop a 20,000-square foot religious facility and community center. My fellow residents of the adjacent neighborhood north of 51st and East of 520 didn’t notice it either.
But when we did find out, we were concerned. Our neighborhood is purely residential: 51st Street is the natural divider between our homes and Microsoft corporate campus to the South. The proposed 20,000 sq. ft. structure, is ten times the size of the average 2,000 sq. ft. single family homes in our subdivision. Not only would this be the first non-residential addition to our community, but it would also be really, really large. Read More >>
While we struggled to understand how a 20,000 sq. ft. facility with 50 feet high minaret and with 36 parking stalls is even scaled to our neighborhood, we examined the applicant’s traffic study. Despite serving a projected 70 families – none of whom reside in our neighborhood- the study fails to describe how any of those families traveling from Bellevue, Kirkland, or either direction of 520 will ever arrive at the facility.
The site’s only access to a public roadway is between the Metro stop and 520 on 51st. Given the proximity to the 520 northbound onramp, WA-DOT will not allow a left turn into or out of the premises. So how will mosque visitors coming from Bellevue, Kirkland or 520 heading east on 51st turn onto the premises if they cannot turn left – North – into the driveway? We see a handful of possibilities for cars to turn from East to West on 51st: illegal U-turns, use of Microsoft campus for turnabouts, or zipping through our winding subdivision.
Every one of those options sound bad to us. Neighborhood residents and Microsoft employees alike will attest that traffic on 51st is already busy on weekdays, and the intersection at 154th Ave is usually painful for anyone making a left turn. This facility, with its non-resident members, would compound those problems.
Even more troubling, the plans only include 36 parking spaces. To put that in perspective, there’s a 10,000 square foot mosque just East of Marymoor Park that offers over 100 parking spaces, and that’s in an industrial park with overflow parking readily available. This proposed facility is in a residential neighborhood whose street parking already serves Metro commuters and Microsoft overflow on weekdays, and we are talking about adding 20,000 sq. ft. building for congregation of over 70 families.
It is glaringly obvious that 36 parking stalls will not be enough. Although the project applicant offers workarounds such as valet parking on site or leasing a parking lot and providing shuttle service to it, we’re left wondering how such a plan fits a vision of “Sustainable Redmond.” If the project requires overflow parking mitigations from its outset, then what about the future growth?
So more than a dozen of us took our concerns to City Hall, where we learned the applicant has been working with city planners for the past three years to bring the facility’s plans up to code. While we’re still scratching our heads over how these plans meet code, we’re also wondering why we have only just heard about a project of this scale that has been planned for three years.
In residential zones like our neighborhood, residents, guests and area visitors are the priority customers. A facility that serves a congregation whose members are not local to our community – who will therefore increase through-traffic on winding streets where our children play and ride bikes home from school – will neither enhance our neighborhood nor increase our quality of life. This development brings us only nuisance – and yet the applicant appears to expect we will welcome it with open arms.
So from my neighborhood to yours, please consider how this strange development proposal may affect you: do you live or work in the area of 51st and 520? Are you concerned about Redmond’s sustainability? Do you believe large development projects should require more community notification or engagement? Please email city planner at email@example.com before the April 1st 5 PM deadline for public comments.
In addition, please attend the recently announced Information Session to be held April 14th at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers – recently organized in response to the “surprising” number of comments the city has received on this proposal. Anyone who cares about sustainable development of the city in general and the Overlake neighborhood in particular should attend.