Letters to the Editor

Potala Village fails to fulfill first floor zoning requirement | Letter

Kirkland letters - Reporter file art
Kirkland letters
— image credit: Reporter file art

Here's what appears to be a glaring example of a zoning requirement that is not being met. What I'll try to describe is basically a "slice" and "dice" of the building footprint for Potala Village which serves to avoid the letter and the intent of the requirement for restaurants, retail or office on the ground floor and the prohibition of ground floor residential uses except a residential lobby. This is the 2011 zoning that Lobsang Dargey argued for in court.

Five years ago there was intense discussion amongst the planning commissioners about properties zoned for commercial uses and how developers might try to use them for mostly residential, profit producing, uses. Specific to neighborhood business zoned properties, e.g. BN, preserving them as commercial in order to serve residential communities was a very high priority. They wanted to avoid having a developer throw in just a small token of commercial when they really sought to build a residential building.

Available as audio and video records, staff proposed a requirement for 50 percent of the ground floor to be restaurants, retail or office and the ground floor to not allow residential uses except a lobby. The Planning Commission showed a great deal of concern and with staff's guidance made a unanimous decision increasing this to 75 percent. The new zoning was then discussed and approved by City Council.

BN zones must now have 75 percent of the ground floor set aside for use as restaurants, retail or office. No ground floor residential uses except a lobby.

So what's wrong?

I'll use a round number like 10,000 square feet to describe what is essentially happening. For the specifics of Potala Village, please contact the city.

If a building footprint is 10,000 square feet, our city officials have protected 7,500 square feet as restaurants, retail or office to serve the commercial needs.

But what happens if you simply cut the ground floor into two equal pieces? You rename the 5,000 square feet to the west half "ground floor." Call the east half "first floor residential." Now apply 75 percent to only the part named "ground floor" and city officials have only 3,700 square feet of protected uses not 7,500. Also, as many as 15 residential units and residential uses are put into the back half. Done. Genius. Take that Planning Commission, City Council and you whimpering neighbors. If, Dargey Enterprises would like to "vest" to all codes, rules and policies of 2011, as he fought for in court, then the inconvenient truth is that residential uses are not allowed on the ground floor - no matter what title you give that half of the building. Staff should be sharp enough to pick up on this maneuver and disallow.

Karen Levenson, Kirkland

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