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EIS: Potala Village Would Worsen Traffic, Change Lake Street Neighborhood

But the City of Kirkland's draft Environmental Impact Statement, released Thursday, also says the developer of the controversial project could make changes to meet the city's vision for development.

 

The on Kirkland’s upscale Lake Street would change the character of the neighborhood and mean more traffic and delays for motorists, according to a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released by the city Thursday.

However, it also says traffic would still fall within city’s threshold, and that the developer could mitigate the project's impacts to meet the city’s regulations and vision for development.

The proposal by developer Longsang Dargey of Dargey Enterprises for a 143-unit apartment complex with office space on 1.2 acres along scenic Lake Street has been met by fierce opposition from a group of neighbors. They object to the the number of units planned and the project’s impact on traffic, property values and the aesthetics of the scenic lakefront neighborhood, which is marked by some of Kirkland’s signature shoreline parks, , and.

In May, Dargey  and his wife, Tamara Agassi Dargey, along with the company Potala Village Kirkland LLC, filed the suit in King County Superior Court against the city for twice extending a moratorium on development in areas with the site’s zoning category, “BN,” for neighborhood business. The City Council also directed the Planning Commission to review the BN zoning designation after angry neighbors pointed out it allowed unlimited densities, unlike the city’s other zoning designations.

Although the draft EIS anticipates no significant unavoidable impacts if proposed mitigating measures are adopted, city Planning Director Eric Shields said it does not give the developer a green light to proceed.

“There are adverse impacts. One is the bulk and mass of the project, and traffic,” he said. “From a developer’s point of view, could some of the mitigations proposed” affect the viability of the project? “I don’t know.”

The release of the EIS triggers a 43-day comment period that ends Aug 24 and includes an Aug. 14 public hearing, at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. The city anticipates that a final EIS will be issued in October, after which a decision will be made on whether to issue the project a shoreline development permit. The next step would be the issuance of a building permit, pending any appeals to the shoreline permit. The EIS process was triggered by the State Environmental Policy Act due to the project’s proximity to Lake Washington.

Shields said the biggest impacts would be on how the project’s size would change the aesthetics of the neighborhood -- a mix of single-family and multi-unit developments with predominantly lower densities -- and on traffic in the area, which is already considered bad at peak times.

However, the EIS says the impact of the structure’s bulk could be lessened by landscape buffers, a stepped-back upper floor, use of deep balconies, splitting the project into two buildings, reducing its footprint or reducing the number of floors.

On the development's bulk and mass it concludes: “Development on the project site will change its existing character and the long-term relationship of the site to the surrounding area over the long term. However, with implementation of proposed mitigating measures, the proposal is expected to meet the city’s vision for development in the BN zone and no significant unavoidable adverse impacts to aesthetics are anticipated.”

The EIS says traffic impacts would be unavoidable but would "not exceed the city’s adopted thresholds for significance, and thus they would not be considered a significant unavoidable adverse impact.”

Kirkland Patch is attempting to contact the developer and will update this story if he replies.

To see the full EIS, go to the City of Kirkland web pages here. To read all of Kirkland Patch’s coverage of the proposed Potala Village development, which is at 10th Avenue South and Lake Street, click here.

Ben Rowland July 12, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Those things look hideous. Can't we spend a little more money and actually build something with some aesthetic value? Where is the architecture? Hey, I know, let's make Lake Street look like Lake City Way.
Greg Johnston (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 09:12 PM
That illustration came right out of the draft EIS, and there are a few more. I won't comment on the aesthetics, but will say it really allows a person to visualize what could be.
Charles Greene July 12, 2012 at 10:52 PM
The EIS study does say "The EIS says traffic impacts would be unavoidable but would "not exceed the city’s adopted thresholds for significance, and thus they would not be considered a significant unavoidable adverse impact.” What you left out was: The EIS study also says numerous affected intersections operate at the levels listed below BEFORE the proposed project is built. Level "D" 35.1 – 55.0 seconds 25.1 – 35.0 seconds. Approaching unstable flow (tolerable delay) Level "E" 55.1 – 80.0 seconds 35.1 – 50.0 seconds. Unstable flow (approaching intolerable delay) Level "F" > 80.0 seconds > 50.0 seconds. Forced flow (jammed) How can we accept the reasoning proposed here? What are "the city’s adopted thresholds for significance". Clearly they are not in concurrence with mine or the majority of the residents living and commuting in Kirkland! We are being sold a "bill of goods" not based on "traffic reality" but driven by other forces present (fear of litigation from the developer). Simply put The City of Kirkland failed to implement required zoning changes directed by the Comp Plan and the result is this mess. Potala Village is nothing more than a sharp developer who found the resultant aforementioned loop hole in the system and is trying to take financial advantage of it. The residents of Kirkland will be left with "to many rats in a cage" living conditions.
Greg Johnston (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Charles, your issue is with the city and the developer. The story is accurate and we did provide a link to the entire EIS for those such as yourself who want to read it all. But we very much appreciate hearing your thoughts.
Karen Levenson July 13, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Regarding the EIS... Neighbors have pointed out numerous problems that will occur as the result of ultra high density and we have repeatedly reinforced the fact that these are independent of building size. In spite of public comments made during the appropriate comment period (which the EIS folks are supposed to address), the EIS team instead goes on to beat the same worn out drum. They state that density is a "proxy" for other issues like buiding size.... READ OUR COLLECTIVE 600 lips (actully that would be 1200 assuming that we each have two). Noise, light, glare, stress, anxiety of crowdedness in an area where folks self selected for lower impact etc.... none of these are just due to building size. Also as to traffic, sad that the traffic intersections looked at were none of those even close to the subject intersection. I haven't had the chance to look at the study fully but don't think I saw anything about the ingress and egress over the driveway. How is this driveway any different than those to the north and south where it was determined that no more than 24 cars per acre could traverse or the ingress/egress was too dangerous. Can you spell SPOT ZONE. It looks like the city is just begging to have citizens bring on their lawsuit. Karen Levenson
Chuck Pilcher July 13, 2012 at 03:33 PM
"Hideous!" That was the EXACT word used by a friend of mine when I showed her the image. A common thread? The thing that's worst about this is the lack of setbacks similar to surrounding properties. And the lack of facade modulation. At least the EIS suggest that Design Review would be appropriate, even if not required on these parcels.
Greg Johnston (Editor) July 13, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Thanks for offering your thoughts Karen and Chuck -- Chuck, we wondered if the illustration would draw any responses, one way or the other.
Chuck Pilcher July 13, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Greg, Thanks for a great review of the EIS... thanks even for apparently reading much of it. I haven't finished, but section 3.3 on "Aesthetics" appears to be the key section. Chuck Greene is definitely not criticizing your reporting, but is stating the facts of traffic concurrency. It's a very flawed system that says that our major INTERSECTIONS are ok (if you define ok as Chuck points out) but says nothing about the actual traffic on the streets. Anyone notice that both Lake Street/LWB and Lakeview were backed up to Carillon Point last night?
Chuck Pilcher July 13, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Oh, and I just realized that Potala will have to have a SECURITY GATE across the single driveway used by the 315 (?316) cars (current proposal). How long does it take a security gate to open? What if more than one car wants in or out of the garage at a time? Residents would have to add 15 minutes to their commute just to get in or out of the garage. Backup on Lake Street/LWB? And getting into the garage requires crossing a sidewalk and bicycle lane? Sight lines southward while exiting the garage are horrible. Road rage anyone?
Chuck Pilcher July 13, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Based on the paragraph quoted below from the EIS, dump trucks would be staged and loading (i.e., one way traffic) on Lake Street/LWB for a minimum of 6 weeks. Probably need to double that since they can only operate between about 9:00 AM and 3:30 PM. And there's no alternative except State St./Lakeview or 6th/108th or the freeway. EIS EXCERPT: The most noticeable construction-related traffic impacts are likely to occur during demolition of existing uses and excavation of subterranean parking. The amount of material to be excavated is estimated at a maximum of 50,000 cubic yards (cy). In addition, a maximum of 5,000 cubic yards of fill is proposed to brought on-site, resulting in a total of 55,000 cubic yards of fill to be moved on and off site. Assuming that each dump truck with trailer can carry about 20 cy of material, the excavation would generate a total of approximately 2,750 truck-loads or 5,500 truck round-trips. It is expected that the loading rate would be 8 to 12 trucks per hour, or up to 24 truck trips (12 in and 12 out) per hour.
Peggy Fly July 13, 2012 at 06:50 PM
More greed and blight. Haven't we polluted our environment to the extreme, as evidenced by global warming and hideous traffic????? Shoot this down and build a park.
Chuck Pilcher July 13, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Agree, but we need at least $4 million to buy the property for a park. Hope you plan to join me in voting for the Parks Levy in November. :-) Oh, and the Roads Levy too.
Karen Levenson July 14, 2012 at 01:21 AM
One additional comment... As one begins to read the document you'll see things where it seems that the consultants "get" the issue. They identify numerous incompatibilities and, if you are like me, you hold out hope. Then they proposed "mitigation measures" that... I guess... are supposed to fix the incompatibilties. But the mitigation is basically in name only, at least it looks that way. Here's what I see... It is as if someone points out a problem like the fact that you live in a earthquake prone area and you have no food or water on hand. You go out and purchase one small bottled watter and a bag of chips. Yes you have food and water, but will that really "fix" things? Will you be ready to fend for yourself for 3-10 days? Not a chance. To me the mitigations suggestions are just one small water and a bag of chips and they don't really do a thing to actually mitigate. My two cents.... Karen Levenson
Doug Close July 14, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Anyone involved in this fiasco actually walked this property and looked at the CURRENT traffic on Lake WA? Nobody with common sense could think the size of this planned development would reasonably "fit" the neighborhood and have only reasonable impact on the existing traffic. Reasonable people would expect this property to be developed...........only irresponsible people could think it makes sense for this property to be developed at such a higher density than the surrounding properties! Kirkland residents have a right to be concerned with out of control development that will adversely affect our city.
Chuck Pilcher July 14, 2012 at 05:09 AM
Comments like this from names I don't recognize among the 500+ we are working with are greatly appreciated. Stay involved, Doug, and a big thanks.
Vashti Key July 15, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I live directly across the street from the proposed Portala Village. I must back out of my garage. I find it a difficult situation when traffic is heavy and can not imagine it with 143 units (with a potential of 286 cars trying to come out across the street. Vashti Key
Greg Johnston (Editor) July 15, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Thanks for the comments Doug and Vashti and all. I think everyone in Kirkland has waited in traffic along Lake Washington Boulevard and Lake Street, there is just no doubt about it, it's a choke point.
Laura Loomis August 11, 2012 at 11:55 PM
I think most everyone agrees we don't want a building with 143 apartments or condos on it and the EIS as written is filled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations. What I would like to see are what citizens of Kirkland think should be built on this property. Do we want it to have commercial retail businesses on it like a hardware/garden store, a coffee shop, restaurants, delis, hairdressers etc. Does it want to include parking for people that want to enjoy the lake or walk the boulevard? Or, should it only be a residential building that matches the density and scale of surrounding development? Because I have lived near this property for a long time, I don't think both can coexist successfully at this site. What do you think?
Wreckless Development August 21, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Potala Village - Property defined as a "VERY small mixed use building" Potala project to cover 80% of a 3 lot parcel vs. neighbor buildings cover 18% of a lot Potala project to have a facade length of 265 feet vs. biggest neighbor buildings 104 ft Potala project 118 dwellings per acre vs. neighbor density is an average of 11 un/acre Potala project 4 story building vs. neighbor buildings 50% 2 story bldgs 20% 3 story The EIS consultants had previously said that they would be giving the approved designation of Residential Market - Commercial and the definition of "Very Small mixed use building" a thorough study and would document this in the EIS. I do not find any study of alignment with Residential Market definition in the EIS. Could it be that the comparisons above make it impossible to state that Potala is a small mixed use building?
A Bit Too Cozy August 22, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Past Kirkland Planning Director, Joseph Tovar and EIS review. Fair? Able to perform the required "hard look" at the review already done by the current Kirkland planning director and his team? Citizens asked for selection of EIS consultant to be someone that was clearly fresh and unbiased regarding what had been done, yet it feels like the Current Planning Director hired someone to rubberstamp things. If you look at the inaccuracies (i.e. claimed 5 story buildings in study area .... not) the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the required, "deep review" and "hard look" into the facts has not happened. Is the EIS company sloppy or just going along with work buddies so as to not call out the mistakes made by friends....I can tell you the conclusion I've made.

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