Potala Village developers to begin site cleanup in Kirkland

A rendering of the Potala Village project on Lake Washington Boulevard. The entrance has since been moved to the center as opposed to the south where it
A rendering of the Potala Village project on Lake Washington Boulevard. The entrance has since been moved to the center as opposed to the south where it's currently depicted.
— image credit: Courtesy of the city of Kirkland

After several years of controversy, city-imposed moratoria and legal battles, the developers of the Potala Village project are making headway on their proposed 88 unit apartment complex on Lake Washington Boulevard.

After demolishing the previous buildings and submitting a revised building permit application in December 2013, developers with Path America have acquired several cleanup permits.

Independent contractor Kane Environmental and the Department of Ecology are working with the city and developer Lobsang Dargey to implement the cleanup action plan, which was created in September 2013 by Earth Solutions NW, LLC.

“Testing to date indicates low-levels of dry-cleaning solvents in a small area to the northwest corner of the Potala Village property,” said city of Kirkland senior planner Angela Ruggeri in an email. “Also, motor fuel/oil exists in the west central area of the property.”

The 1.2 acre lot once encompassed a dry cleaner and gas station, among other businesses, and a residential home that was heated by a pressure oil burning furnace that used an underground heating fuel storage tank.

Ruggeri said that since the contamination is not present at the ground surface, it’s unlikely to be harmful to human health since ingestion and skin contact are the only human exposure pathways “of primary concerns at this time,” citing information from David Rankin of Kane Environmental.

Gasoline-range hydrocarbons, lube oil hydrocarbons and lead exist in the soil at the former gasoline service station site, but PCE - tetrachloroethene or perchloroethylene, found in dry-cleaning fluid - is present in the ground water in some areas, according to Donna Musa with the Department of Ecology.

Musa said perchloreothylene can affect human health depending on the health of each person.

“Breathing [perchloreothylene] for short periods of time can adversely affect the human nervous system,” she wrote in an email. “Effects range from dizziness, fatigue, headaches and sweating to incoordination and unconsciousness.”

However, she added that these effects would likely not occur at the levels that are normally found in the environment.

Other contamination present, such as gasoline and diesel, can cause skin irritation, damaged nervous systems or lungs, severe poisoning if ingested and cancer, if exposed to benzene - the main chemical in both - for long periods of time.

Musa said the site’s PCE level is detected at 10 micrograms per liter and needs to be cut in half, according to the Model Toxics Control Act.

Gasoline was detected in one part of soil at 340 milligrams per kilogram and another at 750 milligrams per kilogram which needs to be reduced to 100 milligrams per kilogram. Diesel, or lube oil hydrocarbons, levels are expected to be above the legal level, which is 2,000 milligrams per kilogram, but are at 7,400 milligrams per kilogram, according to Ruggeri.

Lead was also reported to be at 1,600 milligrams per kilogram, but needs to be taken down to a cleanup threshold of 250 milligrams per kilogram.

“Additionally, a 300-gallon underground tank has been identified,” Ruggeri said. “The applicant thinks that there are two to three tanks, which will all be removed.”

Cleanup must be complete before the building permit can be approved, Ruggeri said. She expects once it’s started, it shouldn’t take more than a month or two, unless something unexpected occurs.

While cleanup hasn’t officially begun, Musa said excavation and removing landfill is generally recommended for soil cleanups with further ground water testing.

The amount of soil needing to be removed can’t be estimated at this time but will be determined during the soil removal process, Ruggeri said.

Once site cleanup is complete, an unknown date, the city will issue a building permit.

Dargey has proposed the construction of a four-story, 88 residential units with 4,802 square feet of commercial space.

A two level, 26,170 square feet underground parking garage will also be constructed, which will incorporate 183 parking spaces.

Dargey originally proposed a 143 residential unit apartment complex in 2011 in the unlimited density neighborhood business zone.

Neither the Dargey’s nor any spokespeople for Path America would talk to the Reporter about the vision or plan for the Kirkland Potala Village project.

After a judge ruled that the city had to process the building permit per city zoning code at the time Dargey first submitted his shoreline permit application, he reapplied in September but put the permit process on hold until December.

City officials filed an appeal on that ruling and are currently in litigation but must process the permit according to law in the mean time.

For more information on the status of the development, visit


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