A crowd of about 50 packed Houghton Fire Station 22 Monday night to angrily question representatives of a developer and city staff about a proposed 143-unit apartment/office complex on busy Lake Street South.
Dargey Enterprises is preparing an environmental impact statement in applying for a shoreline permit from the city to build the “Potala Village” complex on two lots south of 10 Avenue South, just across Lake Street from Lake Washington.
Residents at the public meeting questioned the density level of the project and its impact on already congested Lake Street, how the project would affect property values, the noise, dust and other impacts during construction, and whether the project was a proper fit for the largely affluent neighborhood.
“I live dead across the street,” resident Jack Rogers said angrily. “How did we get to this? These are by Kirkland standards pretty much low-cost housing. I object. This means parking problems, density problems. It’s wrong. The zoning of this is wrong.”
Added resident Tom Grimm: “It’s nearly impossible to get out of our driveway now. If we add 200-some cars daily, how are we going to change that? That is one of our huge and biggest concerns, getting around this town.”
The project area is zoned “BN” for neighborhood business, which does not impose density limits, as does residentially zoning. Teresa Swan, senior city planner, said it is zoned BN because the historic use at the site has been for neighborhood businesses, and noted that the BN zoning imposes stringent limits on things such as building height (30 feet) and the square footage of commercial spaces.
Representatives of the developer, Lobsang Dargey, noted that the project had been scaled back from the original proposal for more than 180 apartment units in response to concerns expressed earlier by residents. The representatives insisted that the units would be upscale, not inexpensive, and that the project would blend well with the neighborhood, being no more than 30 feet high and built sustainably.
“The reason we’re here is to talk to you because we care about the neighborhood,” said Justin Stewart, whose company would build the complex. He noted that the building would meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver standards for sustainability, as certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Added Brian Kalab, a representative of the developer: “We meet requirements for all the parking (on site), and we provide for guest parking as well.”
The complex would be built on a lot that currently hosts a small restaurant and a dry cleaners, and a long vacant lot that has been the source of neighbors’ concern for years. In addition to 143 residential units, the building would include 6,200 square feet of ground floor office space and would be four stories, with underground parking.
Some in the crowd brought up a Dargey development in Everett, with one person complaining that it looked like it belonged on Aurora Avenue in Seattle, and asked if that would be the style of building Potala Village would be.
“I want to know because I live across the street from it,” he said. “I wouldn’t want anything like the one in Everett.”
Responded Stewart: “This project is designed for the Kirkland market, not the Everett market. It is a different architect. We are not putting the Everett project in Kirkland.”
A woman who lives nearby asked about impacts during and after construction.
“There are two things that are a concern to me,” she said. “What assurance do I have that the construction will be expeditious and not dusty and dirty, and can you tell us why you think (the complex) will be a good neighbor and put my fears to rest?”
Stewart said the project superintendent would be “knocking on doors” to make contact with neighbors, would be responsive to concerns and that the site would be kept clean, as required by its building permit. He noted that increased scrutiny would be on the project since part of the site is considered contaminated by past uses for fuel storage.
“The fact that we’re near Lake Washington puts a microscope on the project and requires us to be very clean,” he added.
When the complex is complete and operating, there will be an on-site property manger who will be responsive to neighbors, he noted.
None of it alleviated the concerns of many in the audience, including one woman who complained that "the city is shoving this down our throats.”
The city has created web site pages that detail the project and the various steps required before it is ever built. The environmental impact statement for the shoreline permit application is scheduled to be completed by spring of 2012. Find the city web page on the project by clicking here.