Save the Trees Press Release:
August 9, 2008

Seattle School District Uses Developer Loophole to Avoid Environmental Laws.

The Seattle School District is attempting to avoid Washington State and Seattle Environmental Protection laws and Land Use Regulations using an unscrupulous developer loophole. In the process they are about to destroy an urban forest tree grove at Ingraham High School in North Seattle that has unique environmental value.

The Seattle School District yesterday notified the city of Seattle and neighbors that they “have withdrawn its pending application for a Master Use Permit (MUP) for the project, as well as the building permit application and grading permit application. So long as these applications are not pending, no city permits are required for removal of these trees….”

The forested area is classified as a rare plant community in King County by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources under its Natural Heritage Program because of its unique combination of Douglas fir, western madrone trees and salal understory.

The Seattle School District’s action is the same as loggers killing spotted owls or developers filling in wetlands prior to applying for permits, so they can avoid environmental laws. In this instance the Seattle School District’s bringing out the chainsaws is adopting the worst environmental practices to evade environmental protection laws to end a legal appeal process.

They seem to have decided that allowing citizens the right to appeal their decisions is something they don’t have time for or that they need to do. This is not a single action here. Last week they did a similar destructive bullying tactic at Denny Sealth School in West Seattle. They bulldozed down the trees there that were part of a DNS appeal hearing while the hearing was still going on – ending any effective appeal. They apologized for their “mistake” but the trees were gone.

Here at Ingraham they are also playing the same school yard bully. We are in the middle of an appeal process to save the Ingraham tree grove and the school district is again picking up the chain saw and saying the game is over. At stake are over 68 evergreen trees that are 75 years old and over 100 feet tall.

We have warned the school district that if the trees are cut down because they want to end the public legal appeal process that they are facing a recall effort of the entire school board for their dereliction of their responsibility to allow the legal public appeal process to continue.

They have made a mistake by locating the proposed school addition in a unique and rare environmental habitat – a rare plant community. They made their decision without involving the public in the planning process.

Their argument that it will cost them to move the building addition to another location is the same argument polluters make when they asked to clear up toxic waste or air pollution or a developer is told they can’t build on a wetland. Yes it may cost them more but they need to do the right thing and follow the law.

The Seattle Public School District is in charge of educating our city’s children. They need to teach and lead by example. You can not teach our children we are a nation of laws and then seek to evade the law applying to you.

We urge the School District to rescind their order to cut the trees down on Aug 15 and 16 and continue with the legal process. If not we will be pursing our legal options to stop them.

Under city environmental law SMC 25.05.67N2a it states “It is the cities policy to minimize or prevent the loss of wildlife habitat and other vegetation which have substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological and/or economic value.

Under SEPA regulation SMC 25.05.675N.2c if a city “finds that a proposed project would reduce or damage

1. Rare uncommon or exceptional plant or wildlife habitat

2. Wildlife trail ways or

3. Habitat diversity of species (plants or animals) of substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological or economic value

The decision maker may condition or deny the project to mitigate its adverse impacts.”

The Seattle School District is seeking to avoid the project being evaluated under these regulations and is instead seeking to destroy the environmental habitat so that it can do what it wants without environmental oversight or mittigation.

end press release///////

This action could be reversed by the Seattle School Board but no one wants to break ranks and admit they made a mistake. Arrogance, not reason rules at this point.

Contact the Seattle School Board and urge them to abandom their wild west cowboy gunslinger attitude and move the proposed addition to the north side of the school where an open lawn area would allow a new building addition to be placed without cutting down any old trees.

This issue is not education versus trees as the Seattle School Board suggests. We can have both. The Ingraham campus is the largest Seattle School District campus at 28 acres. The west grove of trees is only 1.2 acres in size and is a unique asset to the campus and the neighborhood.

One Response to Seattle School District Seeks to Avoid State and City SEPA and Land Use Laws.

  1. WS says:

    Hi – I would have rather e-mailed you directly about this but cannot find an e-mail contact link on your site. Do you have more specifics about the trees allegedly cut as part of the Sealth/Denny project? We have covered that project fairly extensively, as West Seattle’s only daily news source, and this is the first I’ve heard of a tree controversy at this stage of the project, so I’d love to know what we missed, how and when so we can catch up. I have checked the Hearing Examiner’s schedule for recent weeks as well as future weeks and cannot find anything that seems to have been obviously related to the Denny/Sealth project. Thank you. We’re at:
    editor@westseattleblog.com (or if you’d rather answer it in comments here I will check back)

    thank you,
    Tracy Record
    editor/co-publisher, West Seattle Blog

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