Opinion

Potala has been like one epic horror flick | Editor's Note

The continuing saga that is Potala Village took a major turn this week. A state appellate court ruled in favor of the city of Kirkland, and in turn the neighbors of the project, that developer Path America cannot build the 88-unit building planned for the site. It is a major win for the city and residents who live in the area, and really anyone who drives on Lake Washington Boulevard in Kirkland.

Just like an old Friday the 13th movie, this saga is not over. But not even that movie franchise, with 12 installments and more bad moves than a four year old playing chess, can compare to the epic nature of this battle.

We have received many phone calls and emails during the past three years covering this story. Some came from residents complaining that “there are other things going on in the city.” But no matter the outcome of this saga, the Potala Village story will have a huge impact on the city of Kirkland and beyond.

The Kirkland Reporter has written 27 stories on Potala Village during the past three years. If that sounds like a lot for one topic, it is. During that time five different journalists have written stories and we only employ two at a time -  an editor and a reporter.

But the impact will be long lasting. The ruling itself, if not challenged again to the State Supreme Court, could set precedent for future development cases state wide.

The impact on Kirkland is immeasurable. The sheer amount of money spent by neighbors to fight this battle is staggering for some of us. Karen Levenson, who helped spearhead the effort, estimates that the 700 or so neighbors collectively spent $150,000 on lawyer fees and court costs alone. You could put multiple kids through college, buy a Ferrari or a summer home for that much money. And if the neighbors spent that much, how much did it cost the residents of Kirkland in tax dollars. The court costs for the city and man hours for the city to fight this battle would probably make that $150,000 look like chump change.

But the result of this ruling goes beyond money. We covered this topic because while there were some who thought it was a waste of ink, many of our readers were passionate about this issue.

Our readers were so passionate that we have received 33 letters to the editor on this topic. And yes, that could be a record for one individual topic for this paper. I have never seen another issue, other than a political race, generate so much interest. And it wasn’t just neighbors writing to proclaim their disdain for the development or how the city was handling the issue. We received many letters chastising the city for using so many resources on one issue. Some even in support of the developer’s rights.

I know for a fact that many of those readers did not like some of our coverage. But when you write 27 stories on one topic, trying to stay unbiased and deal with the facts at your disposal, your bound to make everyone mad at some point.

One entity completely stopped talking to the Reporter - Dargey Enterprises and Path America. I never understood this part. The first rule of public relations is never say “no comment” unless you have no other choice. But then again it probably should not come as a surprise when the developer completely ignores the people his project will impact the most - the residents of Kirkland. I realize that the project is just that for Path America - a project. A business venture where making money is all that matters. That became all too clear.

I hope that this saga comes to a peaceful and tranquil end unlike some of those Friday the 13th movies. That would be poetic for a development named for the palace of the Dalai Lama.

Matt Phelps is the editor of the Kirkland Reporter newspaper.

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