LETTER | Alternatives are higher Density for Potala than Federally Subsidized Seattle Project

Dear Editor:  

I would like to draw citizen of Kirkland attention to the greater intensity of Alternative(s) proposed in Potala EIS (Lake Washington Blvd) vs. Federally Subsidized, Seattle Housing Authority’s Yesler Terrace on southern slope of First Hill.


Range of built alternatives
Potala Only 1 built alternative evaluated by EIS: 118/acre and 80-85% lot coverage (impervious) by building, public/private open space 0%- 0%


Yesler Four built alternatives 41/acre, 81/ac, 81/ac or 109/ac 37% lot coverage by building (impervious), public/private open space 25% and 30%


First of all, while I am using the name of Potala Village to identify the location of the newly begun Environmental Impact Study in Kirkland, the comments would apply to any intense development that is outside of the “Residential Market” definition of the Comprehensive Plan and the LIMITED commercial uses described in the City’s neighborhood plan for Moss Bay. My comments are also about failures of the EIS process that really will not address the impacts and are flawed at the beginning by missing some critical initial steps.


The first step in the EIS process is determining a general statement of "purpose and need" or "objectives." This is not a new concept for any type of study. You first need to know what you are trying to do. Correct? You cannot start a scoping process or choose alternatives that will address the P/N or O without documenting what you are trying to achieve.


At the recent meeting with the public, Kirkland Staff stated that the city did not approve the public's proposed alternative for site development because it didn't meet the "objectives." When asked what the objectives were, and if they were documented, the answer was that they did not exist. So how can the city exclude the proposal that currently fits the Comp Plan and Neighborhood plan? There is simply no basis for ruling it out.


The objective for the property (when it is documented) should be something like "Provide market rate housing and neighborhood oriented retail, office and service businesses." Alternatives then address a RANGE of densities and intensities. Again, the neighbors suggestions include market rate housing, neighborhood oriented retail, office and service businesses. They are just to a lower intensity than the extra high density suggested by the developer.


Why is density beyond that of federal housing the only thing being considered for a prime piece of property in a low-medium density neighborhood? The Yesler Terrace development will provide housing to Students at Seattle University, housing for staff at Harborview Hospital who may have their primary residences elsewhere, or families that may need to locate to the area for awhile. Units, as small as hotels, may be a good fit there. Also the adjacent uses in the Seattle area are built with similar intensity. Not so in Kirkland.


And why do we allow a decision of whether to include lower densities in the EIS “Alternatives” to be made by a one person “planning director” vs. the wishes of the city? Why do we only look at one alternative of 118 units per acre with no required private open space while Federally Subsidized housing looks at much lower intensities such as 41/acre and considers 4 alternatives all with 55% open space? Why do we allow vegetation removal and paving over 80% of a lot next to shorelines when a Downtown Seattle proposal shows their building and driveways will only cover 43%? Something seems askew.


Karen Levenson