Letter | Density of Potala Village causes concern over possible code and policy conflicts


Dear Editor:

Attention Moss Bay and Lakeview Neighborhoods

The Potala Village apartment proposal needs neighborhood feedback sent ASAP to planners and city council as it appears to conflict with numerous city policies, codes, etc and may dramatically change our neighborhoods.


Moss Bay and Lakeview neighborhoods know dense housing.  We know the benefits of compact housing, but also the consequences.  When negative impacts threatened to detract from the quality of life in our neighborhoods, the appropriate public process and testimony was conducted and both the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning were changed. Residents took the proper steps to decrease the densification.


Parcels that had previously been zoned for 24 units per acre were "down-zoned" to a maximum of 12 per acre in order to preserve the community character.  During this down-zone, explanations and descriptions were added to the Comprehensive Plan so that there could be no misunderstanding of what would be allowed, both for residential and commercial development.


So with all this so well documented, how would anyone envision building 143 apartments on approximately 1.4 acres (~100 units per acre) on LWB and Lake Street?

If you go online and pull up the Comprehensive Plan (Land use section), there is a big circle around this specific property in the Land Use Map LU-2 (2010).  The constraints on that property are also discussed in detail  (Comprehensive Plan pgs VI-14 & VI-15).


If you are a parcel owner, or a developer, or a planner, this map and these descriptions of allowed uses would appear to be hard to miss and/or mis-interpret.  There is a large amount of description of that commercial area.


Quoted: "The Land Use Element sets forth the development pattern for the City’s commercial areas (Comp Plan pg VIII-3)...  Economic development should conform to the goals, policies and development standards established by the Comprehensive Plan and City codes (pg VIII-7)...  Commercial areas can range in size and function from small residential markets serving the immediate neighborhood to regional draws such as in Totem Lake and Downtown (pg VI-4)....Currently, a hierarchy of “commercial development areas” exists in the City, based primarily on size and relationship to the regional market and transportation system (pg VI-14 & Map VI-15)."


The commercial property at 10th/Lake & LWB is designated as "Residential Market" and there are comments about "very small" and under "uses" there is no residential or housing mentioned.

Quoted:  "A residential market is an individual store or very small, mixed-use building/center focused on local pedestrian traffic...Uses may include corner grocery stores, small service businesses (social service outlets, daycares), laundromats, and small coffee shops or community gathering places."


The Moss Bay Neighborhood plan states

Quoted: "The southeast quadrant of the 10th Street S and Lake St intersection, however, is developed with a market which serves as a convenience to the surrounding residences.  Limited commercial use of this location, therefore, should be allowed to remain (pg XV.D-24)"


It is not until the next commercial designation "Neighborhood Center" where slightly larger commercial uses are allowed and QUOTED "Residential uses may be located on upper stories of commercial buildings in the center." The Potala site was NOT planned for this "Neighborhood Center" and there is no similar mention of "upper story residential"


Further, according to the Shoreline Master Plan, this parcel would not seem to qualify for 83.140 Urban Mixed designation.  This appears provided only for "urban growth areas if they currently support high-intensity use related to commerce, transportation or navigation; or are suitable and planned for high-intensity water-oriented uses."  This site did not support high-intensity use at the time of SMP approval and also was not "suitable AND planned for high-intensity use" since the plan as documented in Comp Plan and LU-2 map dated 2010 was for Residential Market use.


One other mis-understanding may be around the BN Zone (Neighborhood Business). While Kirkland's Chart of BN use is silent regarding an amount of residential density, it would seem incorrect to interpret this as permission for "unlimited" density.  There is sufficient evidence that BN Zone is a often used term throughout the country as well as in Washington. It does have a plain or literal meaning and the focus of this designation is the business aspect and the services provided to neighbors.  Housing, where allowed, seems secondary.  It is often disallowed, or allowed only for the business owner  or employee (above the store).  One of the greatest densities uncovered is in Federal Way where they allow density the same as the surrounding residential zones. In our county (King) there is narrative describing the limits on Neighborhood Business residential "21A.04.090. The purpose of the neighborhood business zone is to provide convenient daily retail and personal services for a limited service area and to minimize impacts of commercial activities on nearby properties and in urban areas on properties with the land use designation of commercial outside of center, to provide for limited residential development."


The surrounding Moss Bay and Lakeview neighborhoods have clearly restricted residential to 12 units per acre and the Moss Bay neighborhood plan describes "Lands on the east side of Lake Washington Boulevard, south of 7th Avenue South and west of the midblock between First and Second Streets South, are also appropriate for multifamily uses at a density of 12 dwelling units per acre. This designation is consistent with permitted densities to the north and south along Lake Washington Boulevard.(pg XV.D-23)"


The take away from all these citations is that this proposed project appears in conflict with numerous policies of the existing Comprehensive Plan, Zoning and Shoreline Master Plan.  Many folks also expect  horrific SEPA (environmental, traffic, etc) impacts that will be seen by 280 cars being added to LWB at the point of it's greatest congestion.


It is very important that residents insist that the City and the developer go through the proper channels to change (or attempt to change) the Comprehensive Plan if they intend to allow this ultra dense housing.  It is not OK to pretend that the current restrictions don't exist.  At the time this is considered, it will be important for local residents to voice their concerns at a public hearing.


It is also very important that residents know that their letters to the city are very important!!!  And the letters should be sent within the next few days!!! And the city requires certain information and statements on the letter.  (This may be different than the instructions that some have received from the planners, but consider that it is safer to write than to hold off and not get your thoughts into the record.  If a hearing, or rezone, or comprehensive plan change is considered, sometimes comments are limited only to those who qualified as "Party of Record."  This designation is generally only given to those who have written within 30 days of the application.  The completed application is believed to be on record for 2-3 weeks at this time).



1) TIMING is urgent since the application has already been filed and letters must be received within 30 days

2) Teresa Swan of the planning department stated that Snail Mail or Email both are OK

3) Petitions can be impactful but letters are a MUST since they are needed to make you a "party of record"

4) Letters should be sent to Teresa Swan tswan@ci.kirkland.wa.us or 425-587-3258 and Thang Nguyen, tnguyen@ci.kirkland.wa.us the city council citycouncil@ci.kirkland.wa.us It is also helpful to ask that letters be forwarded to the other planners, the planning commission and the city manager.

5) In your letter, there are specific requirements that were explained by the city.

A letter must state that it is "A Formal Request to be a Party of Record for the development that is currently being called Potala Village (or any future name) for parcels #082505-9233, 935490-0220 and 935490-0240.

6) You need to explain whether your concerns are the conflicts with the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning, the Shoreline Master Plan or the SEPA (traffic, parking, environmental).  The more detail the better, but getting the letter sent in is the most important thing.


Karen Levenson