Are there negotiated approvals between Potala Village and city? | Letter

Letter to the editor - Reporter file art
Letter to the editor
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The city of Kirkland has stated that they are not in negotiations with the developer, yet numerous emails and letters are being exchanged. While the Environmental Impact Study was done and provided conclusions as to Potala Village, there are numerous areas where the developer is trying to get the city to not enforce the letter of the law but rather accept a twisted view of what might "meet the intent of the EIS."

We can find no place in the EIS that states that the economic benefit of the developer is reason to disregard the direction of the EIS.

Yet, here is one very absurd example where the developer does not appreciate the findings of the EIS consultant. Instead, he worsens the conflict with EIS and then somehow states that this meets the intent. Really bizarre! Even more bizarre is that his architect claims, in writing, that the city has approved this!

Let's take a moment and glimpse back at earlier discussion of submerging the ground floor of the building in order to squeeze in an additional floor. Citizens likely recall one or more planning commissioners commenting that this was "gaming the system."

The EIS consultants then commented on this very unusual step down to the ground floor level and creating a poor "building-street relationship." Their comment was "match the first floor elevation to the elevation of the street frontage along Lake Street South as shown in Alternative Development Scenarios 2 and 3." They were aware that this would no longer allow for four stories as they had all the zoning regulations at their disposal.

Did the developer appeal the EIS? Did he comment publicly? Instead, at this much later time, in meetings that do not include the public, his team has a one-on-one discussion with the city. In a Nov. 4 letter, the architect states, "in order to comply to both the height limit, the requirement for a 13-foot tall ground floor height, and this measure, an entire level of residential would need to be removed which renders the project financially unfeasible. The proposed design meets the intent of improving the building-street relationship through the implementation of the following: A roughly three foot, modified to five feet, drop in elevation from the street frontage along Lake Street South to the entry level finish floor."

So I pose these questions to the citizens, city staff, city manager, city attorney, and city council:

1. If submerging a building was seen as objectionable, how does the developer "correct" the problem by submerging the building even further? How does this now meet the intent of having the entrance of the building occur at street level?

2. Why is the objection to the EIS response now being considered behind closed doors with the city and the developer?

3. As the overall impact of the maximum height and ground level requirements were fully considered by the EIS consultant, why is this issue being reopened? Is it the city's duty to make a project feasible? What if a developer were to overpay for the property or promise investors unrealistic rates of return? Is it the city's duty to help cover the unusual and extreme cost of a project?

4. Mostly, if the city is indeed processing the building permit as if it was frozen in February 2011, why are there nearly 12 areas of discussion that seem to be bringing in new fangled ideas like unique tandem parking, allowance of parking columns within the widths of the stall, ground level "work arounds" that avoid providing 13-foot ceilings for the entire floor and avoid the 75 percent commercial with no residential uses?

I guess, the question overall is how these types of new proposals and discussions are not seen as "negotiating with the developer." If these exchanges of new ideas, all brought forward after 2011, are not negotiations, can someone provide us a description of what is?

Karen Levenson, Kirkland

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