Neighbors Urge Seattle School Board to Redesign Ingraham H.S. Project

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

To: Seattle School Board
Public testimony by Steve Zemke
of Save the Trees!
Re: Ingraham High School Renovation
April 9, 2008
We am here tonight to urge the Seattle School Board to step back from its in house proposal to add new classrooms onto the west side of Ingraham High School that requires the destruction of 66 large Douglas Fir and western Red Cedar trees. The process has proceeded to the design stage and you are considering design modifications tonight to a building addition that did not undergo any public hearings or community input.

We think it is a flawed process that is in fact offending the neighborhood and the taxpayers in the city that voted to provide the $20 million dollars to add new classrooms to replace the portables. If the public had been told upfront before they voted on the bond issue what you intended to do, we don’t believe you ever would have gotten the bonds approved.

And now citizens of Seattle and taxpayers who voted to pay for the new classrooms are outraged. They are incredulous. They are in disbelief. You have lost credibility in the eyes of the public. They can’t believe you are proposing to cut down 100 foot tall trees that are 40 to 50 years old when alternative sites exist to build the new classrooms. In particular there is a large open area on the north side of the school where an addition can be built with a courtyard and probably more lighting available to the classrooms than the proposed addition.

Cutting down 2/3 of the grove of trees goes against what Mayor Nickels is asking the city to do – preserve existing trees and add significantly more new trees to re-green the city. It goes against what the State Legislature just passed in the urban forestry bill which called for preserving existing trees and planting more trees.

While no budget figures have been made available to the public and we’ve asked for the budget and for copies of alternatives that were looked at and their costs and have not gotten them, the school district has quoted to the media a figure of $1 million dollars more to move the building to the north side. For 66 trees that means you have assigned them a value of $15,000 per tree.

Meanwhile the City of Seattle is paying $9 million for 3 ½ acres to buy the North park and ride lot at Northgate and make it a park. They paid $3 million to buy a 39,000 sq foot lot in Ballard for a Park. Have you ever thought of selling the trees to the City of Seattle? They seem to be willing to pay a lot for asphalt parking lots for parks and here you have a mature forested area you’re gung ho to cut down.

Tonight we’re delivering to you signed petitions collected by Ingraham High School neighbors who got other neighbors to sign asking that you develop an alternative design for Ingraham High School that does not require the cutting down of any large old trees in the grove on the west side of the school.

More than 650 citizens and Seattle neighbors signed the petition urging you to save the trees at Ingraham. Signers of the petition include King County Executive Ron Sims; State Senators Ed Murray and Ken Jacobsen; and State Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson and Phyllis Kenney.

Other signers include Estella Leopold, Professor Emeritus in Botany at the University of Washington, Joan Thomas, a former President of the Washington Environmental Council, and Marilyn Knight, a former President of the League of Women Voters of Washington. Also signing were 4 Democratic candidates for the State Legislature – Gerald Pollet and Scott White in the 46th LD, John Burbank in the 36th LD and Tina Orwall in the 33rd LD.

We urge that you set an example for the students the public has entrusted to your care for their education by stepping back and showing wise environmental stewardship. Protect the tress at Ingraham High School and don’t cut them down.

Work with the neighborhood and Seattle taxpayers and Mayor Nickels and the Seattle City Council and the state legislature. Pick another site and design a building we can be proud of and that educates all of us in the possibility of living in harmony with our natural environment without destroying it.

Living in harmony with our environment is a priceless lesson. You can set no better example for students than to show we can do better than those in the past have and that we can live in a sustainable healthy urban environment without cutting down our green heritage.

Steve Zemke for
Save the Trees!
2131 N 132nd St
Seattle, WA 98133

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