Redmond City Council candidates seeking Pos. 5 are Vanessa Kritzer and Eugene Zakhareyev. Kritzer currently serves on the city’s planning commission and works at Microsoft, where she focuses on public sector technology. Zakhareyev is an engineering manager and community volunteer.
How will you keep Redmond affordable to live in?
Vanessa Kritzer: Keeping our city affordable and making sure there are housing options for people of all income levels is a core area I would focus on if elected to city council. This means not only providing housing for our lowest-income population, but also keeping rent reasonable, ensuring there are single-family homes at a price younger families can purchase, and making sure our long-time residents can afford to stay in their homes. I currently serve on Redmond’s planning commission, where I have encouraged city staff and the council to take more robust steps to address housing affordability through our planning and zoning laws. In the upcoming year, the city will begin a major update to its comprehensive plan for growth management. This is one of our biggest opportunities to influence the incentives the city creates for developers to build more affordable units within new developments, create more sustainable buildings, and build more affordable houses and condos for purchase. We should also plan to strategically partner with groups like A Regional Coalition for Housing and other housing nonprofits to achieve our goals. Given my experience on the planning commission, I can be a key voice on the council to review this plan and prioritize housing affordability.
Eugene Zakhareyev: Redmond is home to Microsoft and other tech companies and with traffic in the area, many workers are looking to buy homes close by. Number of high-tech jobs available in Redmond grow much faster than our inventory of housing, and we need to be realistic in what we can achieve based on budget available to our city. When we speak of affordability, it means many different things to different people, so I will set few specific goals.
My first priority will be helping existing residents who may no longer be able to afford living in Redmond, in the areas the city can help, such as utility bills.
My second priority would be diversifying new construction in our city. Today the majority of new developments are rental apartment complexes, and to have accommodations in different price ranges our city needs to have range of options available such as condos, duplexes, and town homes.
And finally, affordable means much more than housing. I will focus on improving transportation so that Redmond is more accessible, be it by car, bike or public transit. Inclusive traffic planning would enable local businesses to be more accessible and draw work force from wider employment pool.
What are some solutions for controlling/bettering traffic? Especially in higher traffic areas like Avondale or Red-Wood Road?
Kritzer: Traffic is an issue that should be at the top of any city councilmember’s list. Addressing our traffic problems can not only improve quality of life for all of us who spend too much time sitting in our cars that we could be spending with our families, but it is also an important issue for our environment since idling cars create more pollution. Having worked on smart city technology in my career at Microsoft, I could bring unique ideas to the council on how to leverage IoT (the Internet of things) and other technologies to address problems like traffic. We can use technology in our streetlights and roads to map where we see the most congestion happening and find specific solutions to fix it. We can also use the insights from that technology to make our intersections and roadways safer for cars, bikes, and pedestrians, especially in areas where accidents are most common. When you look at areas like Red- Wood Road or Avondale, part of the reason they have so much traffic is that they are the major connecting roads to other cities like Woodinville. I would work to build more regional collaboration to establish better public transit options and ensure we are doing transit-oriented development in our urban centers.
Zakhareyev: Today our transportation planning is reactive and frequently it takes years for improvements to be implemented. When new developments are complete, we do not verify the assumptions made during the permit approval as well as cumulative effects of multiple projects. Using today’s technology, we can implement real-time monitoring solutions for major arterials. That way we can review our traffic forecasts on time and adjust our planning as needed.
For regional thoroughfares such as Avondale or Bel-Red Road, I will work together with the council to set measurable goals to guide our collaboration with King County and neighboring cities. We will use fresh traffic data as inputs to our city and regional projects to ensure the optimal impact of those improvements, and will work with local employers to find potential solutions auxiliary to public transit.
What would be your budget priorities and why?
Kritzer: One thing I love about Redmond is that we do Budgeting by Priorities, in which the community can decide what are the most important initiatives, services, and infrastructure to fund. So, I would first want to listen to what the community has to say before pursuing any of my personal passions. However, I do hope to make progress in a few areas. I would prioritize protecting our environment and identifying innovative ways to fight climate change at the local level. I would also focus on reducing traffic and providing transportation options that meet our community’s needs. If we want to improve mobility, we need to invest in making our city more walkable, bikeable, connected, and safe. I would focus on addressing housing affordability to ensure people from all walks of life can call Redmond home. We also need to fund social services that support the neediest among us and that provide great programming for all our families. Finally, I would invest in efforts to make our city government more accessible, using technology to better communicate with residents about the decisions that are being made and how they can have a voice in the process.
Zakhareyev: Redmond residents have repeatedly indicated that they value parks and green spaces, transportation and public safety as major priorities for our budget. Those would be my priorities in budgeting and I would work to ensure that capital investment projects include all areas of our city, both new urban centers and established neighborhoods. Our green spaces are decreasing in our urban centers, and setting tree canopy goals per neighborhood would allow us to address it where most needed. Parks in urban centers are needed and the newly opened Downtown Park is a step in the right direction but we can do much better on budget, park space and amenities.
Transportation improvements cannot concentrate on single mode of transportation. The residents in a large part of Redmond will not be able to take advantage of light rail unless they are able to get to the station/park there. Thus our investments in infrastructure need to include all citizens of Redmond, whatever they use to commute and wherever they live, and budget should reflect that.
And as the city grows, public safety is one of the major areas where we should be proactive with our spending to maintain the high level of service we experience today from Redmond police and fire departments.
How do you balance development and growth against maintaining the town’s current character?
Kritzer: I am running for city council because I want to ensure that as Redmond grows it can continue to be a sustainable, accessible, and inclusive community that maintains the quality of life that we all love. I was raised in the Bridle Trails neighborhood, so I have seen how much it has changed and understand concerns around preserving the character of our communities. This led me to study community economic development as I earned an MPA/MBA at the University of Washington. One approach I support to create a vibrant city involves not just focusing on the economic “bottom-line” of attracting business and development to our city in a vacuum. Instead, we balance four bottom-lines in any decision about our city’s development — the economic, social, environmental, and cultural/historical impacts. To make sure we’re really taking all these factors into account, we need to be clear about what success looks like and define metrics to track progress. This will mean gathering community input because we cannot define the “character” of our city without hearing from a diverse group of residents. I would be excited to do this outreach as a city councilmember and bring these ideas into our decision making.
Zakhareyev: I strongly believe that the best way to incorporate the new development in existing city environment is to include the community in local and city-wide planning decisions. The city staff works for all city residents, and I want to ensure the existing processes provide value to the residents and change the processes where value is missing. I will work on making Redmond design standards enforceable and reflecting the community spirit when shaping our urban centers, and for our zoning code to reflect our city long-term vision.
Community involvement was a recurring theme during the last few elections, yet the current city processes still put the residents at a distinct disadvantage. The community’s feedback is garnered late in the process when the projects are well under way and the staff is at no obligation to address it. I will work to foster an environment where the city helps citizens organize and collaborate in their neighborhoods, an environment where councilmembers do not speak with their constituents only from the dais but are approachable and all points of view are represented and addressed by the city staff.
City council is instrumental in ensuring all residents are properly represented in city planning and when elected, I will make it my foremost priority. Together, we will make growth work for all of us.
General election day is Nov. 5.