LETTER: Potala Project Needs Design Changes


During the past week, the attorney for Lobsang Dargey and Path America called the City of Kirkland and left a message seeming to indicate that her client had already gone through Design Review and thus should not have to go through Design Review Hearing again. 

Here’s the link to the Design Review meetings – No Potala Village DRB that I can see.  After all this time did she think citizens wouldn’t check this claim?

Why is Design review so important?

1)     The EIS consultant commented on the proposed ground floor elevation where the building was set below the sidewalk in order to achieve an additional story.  This made the building about 33% bigger than it would have been at only 3 stories.  Their comment “Proposed Ground Floor Elevation would be below grade along Lake Street South and is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood.”  The consultant also notes “inconsistencies exist with [Comprehensive Plan] policies LU 1.3 and LU 5.9 which seek to ensure that development is compatible in scale and character with the surrounding area..”  Additionally, city council clarified with Eric Shields earlier in the year that requiring a building to be at sidewalk grade was within the purview of the Design Review Board.  A building submerged below grade is by itself bad design, but when it further exacerbates other problems of size, scale and massing, it becomes a hugely negative design flaw.

2)     The EIS consultant also stated that “Proposed building size and mass appear to be larger and out of scale, compared with surrounding development.”  This is another design flaw that makes the building proposal in conflict with the Comprehensive Plan and City policies. 

3)     The EIS consultant’s comment about the building footprint was similar “Proposed building footprint is larger and lot coverage higher than much of the development in the surrounding area.”  Of interest is the fact that the building footprint was so large that there was no place but the curb of Lake Washington Blvd/Lake Street South for garbage and recycle pick up.  That pickup seemed scheduled for 4-5 days a week and depends on someone to roll trash in and out.  Then, to make matters worse, sometime after the EIS evaluated the project, the developer submitted plans for a footprint that was NOT smaller, but more than 10% LARGER than the footprint that EIS consultants say they evaluated!!!  DRB …. Please pay special attention to these issues!!!  This is not good design!!

4)     More from EIS Consultants… remember… these are not citizens, as a matter of fact they are paid for by the developer.  “Visual prominence of the proposed parking garage entrance is generally out of character with surrounding development.”  Early on we noted a courtyard that had a fountain, sitting area and other “community gathering space” that was aligned with the premise of Residential Markets and Neighborhood Businesses.  But then, because the developer wanted to put the driveway on Lake St rather than 10th, the driveway ended up cutting the courtyard in two.  There no longer appears to be a plan for a fountain or the seating.  Garbage pick up locations are now in a large portion of this area – not great to look at.   This is all bad design. 

5)     EIS consultants state that perimeter retaining walls are out of character with the surrounding area.

6)     Finally, citizens have noted that City Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Codes identify functional uses for our city streets and specify what each may be used for.  When a development is done where there is both a neighborhood access street (appropriate for ingress and egress) or a principal arterial (not appropriate for ingress and egress), a design that uses the wrong street is bad design.

We welcome Design Review.  Please help Mr Dargey provide a development that is designed appropriately for the surrounding area as required by LU 1.3 and LU 5.9.

I’ve tried to sum up the Design Review Concerns that were put forward by independent reviewer as well as the driveway concerns and loss of common open space. 

I’d love to hear your comments or other things to bring before Design Review Board.  Please email me your thoughts and I’ll include them in citizen responses to the Design Review Board uwkkg@aol.com

Karen Levenson