Dori: Lawyer for Kirkland neighbors calls King County’s homeless hotel purchase ‘absurd’

Apr 13, 2022, 2:29 PM | Updated: 4:13 pm
Kirkland hotel, La Quinta Inn...
A vacant La Quinta Inn in Kirkland. (King County)
(King County)

Sometime next year, King County hopes to open subsidized housing in a former La Quinta Inn & Suites in Kirkland near the Bellevue border – just 75 feet from Eastside Preparatory School’s more than 500 students.

But documents shared with The Dori Monson Show by Gary Horcher of KIRO 7 News reveal King County paid at least $28.3 million for the 121-room building – even though the 1.83-acre property’s assessed value is barely 40 percent of that at $12.7 million.

That just adds fuel to the fire for attorney Mark Lamb, who represents the parent/neighbor group Keep Kids Safe. The group is fighting the shelter plans, claiming the City of Kirkland and King County violated the state’s Opening Meetings Act by securing this property last year while denying local residents any voice in the matter.

“This news is incredibly critical to our case,” Lamb told Dori and his listeners Wednesday. “They are trying to use a loophole to deny the public any role in the process.”

The loophole? Shutting the public out of talks regarding this site would protect the purchase price. King County’s argument, according to Lamb, “is that if it got out, the price would skyrocket.”

“But clearly,” Lamb said, “if you’re paying more than double the assessed value – over $30 million in all – that argument falls apart. The idea that they needed to conceal this for as long as they did is absurd.”

Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet declined an invitation to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

When Keep Kids Safe organized to fight the deal, Lamb said, officials were holding behind-closed-doors talks with no notice to local neighbors and parents for more than a year. By keeping the talks “secret, they were able to avoid robust discussions” about more effective site locations for homeless people,” he added.

“There are a number of amazing non-profits doing wonderful work with the homeless on a deeper level” – including treatment programs, Lamb said.

Locals become frustrated, even angry, when loosely managed shelters are “foisted” on them, Dori pointed out. Locally, tens of millions of dollars are being spent on homelessness – more than $100,000 per homeless person. And yet, Dori said, when “wet” shelters allow drug- and alcohol-abusing vagrants to continue their behaviors, it brings with it the theft needed to sustain the drug use.

Lamb and Dori also questioned another aspect of the seemingly excessive price for the La Quinta Inn & Suites.

“If King County is paying double the assessed value, who is getting this money?” Dori asked. “Does this become a gift of public funds – which is 100 percent illegal?”

Records show the seller is CPLG Properties, LLC, a corporation registered in Delaware with a Texas mailing address. CPLG Properties is active in hospitality businesses.

Dori told listeners he doesn’t blame CPLG Properties if they can get someone to pay way more than double the value of their property. “I do blame Dow Constantine and King County government because it’s their job to protect taxpayers,” he said.

However, Lamb and Dori questioned another aspect of the seemingly excessive price.

“If King County is paying double the assessed value, who is getting this money?” Dori asked. “Does this become a gift of public funds – which is 100 percent illegal?”

“Both the Council and City staff, at our direction, have been transparent in this process and will continue to be,” Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet wrote in a statement. “As we have stated from the outset, we will conduct additional, robust public outreach to help ensure that community concerns are addressed in the agreements between the City and the County.”

Editor’s note: KIRO Newsradio has reached out to the Kirkland mayor and council for comment on the sale price of the La Quinta Inn & Suites property. 

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Lawyer for Kirkland neighbors calls King County’s homeless hotel purchase ‘absurd’