Tag Archives: Ann Watanabe

Seattle School District Continues Fight to Cut Down Trees at Ingraham High School

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

Despite a clear ruling by Seattle Hearing Examiner Ann Watanabe that the NW Forest at Ingraham High School was a rare and uncommon plant habitat and should be protected according to Seattle’s environmental laws, the Seattle School District is continuing its campaign to try to cut down 72 conifer and madrone trees in the grove.
The Seattle School District, obviously with the full agreement of the Seattle School Board and Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson, are choosing continued legal action and delaying construction of the Project by thumbing their noses at the taxpayers of Seattle and now the City of Seattle. They have filed a motion for reconsideration of the Seattle Hearing Examiner’s May 4, 2009 decision against the Project being built as proposed by the Seattle School district that unecessarily required cutting down the trees.

The Hearing Examiner ruled that the Ingraham High School Project

would reduce by half an uncommon habitat that the City’s SEPA policy says must be protected. Given the difficulty or impossibility of replacing this amount of habitat on the site, avoidance or reduction of impacts on the grove is required if such measures are reasonable and capable of being accomplished. In this case, DPD did not require and apparently did not evaluate whether the location or the structure footprint could be altered to avoid or minimize impacts on the northwest grove, and this was an error in light of SMC 25.05.675.N.2.

“… the use of other areas on this 28 acre campus, or at least the reduction of the proposed building footprint, would not be unreasonable or unworkable. Therefore the decision will be remanded to DPD to require additional mitigation in the form of relocation outside of the grove, or at least reduction of the addition’s intrusion into the northwest grove.”

Longtime Seattle School District Attorney G Richard Hill of McCullough Hill argues for the Seattle School District that the Northwest Grove is not an uncommon habitat despite correcting previous testimony presented for the Seattle School District by ESA Adolfson that ignored the presence of numerous native plant species found and documented by experts for Save the Trees – Seattle.

The Madrone conifer forest classification found at Ingraham High School comprises only about 2% of Seattle’s total forested public lands. Seattle Urban Nature in their report entitled “The State of Seattle’s Madrone Forest” noted that madrone forests are “rare” and “Because of their limited distribution on public lands and high ecological value, it is important to preserve and protect these areas as well as look for opportunities to acquire and protect remaining intact madrone forests”. SUN states in their conclusion that “unless we begin to actively manage these forests to reduce the impact of habitat loss, invasive species and other urban pressures; we stand to lose an incredibly valuable cultural and ecological resource.”

Rather than view the fact that Ingraham High School has an environmental treasure on its large 28 acre campus by virtue of the NW Forest area being a rare plant habitat that has both educational and ecological value, the School District argues that if they can’t build in the grove they will continue to cut down the understory rather than restore the area. In other words if they can’t have their way, don’t expect them to do anything to protect the rare plant habitat. What a great example of “my way or no way” bullying to teach our students how the real world works.

During the latest Hearing Examiner process, evidence was entered into the record that pointed to the Seattle School District saying one thing to the public and another thing internally. E-mails obtained through public records from the school showed that at the same time the District said they couldn’t build elsewhere on the campus, they were proceeding with planning for a future addition on the North side of the school on the open lawn area. This is one location Save the Trees argued they could build on now to save the NW Forest from being cut down.

One argument they publicly made was that a North side addition could only be a one story building. Yet in their internal e-mails they said the future addition would be a two story addition on the North side. Don Gilmore overseeing the BEX Projects confirmed under oath that it was a two story addition on the north side they were planning for. I guess he just forgot this when he wasn’t under oath and was speaking to the public.

Funny thing how the Seattle School District has been posting on their BEX website the progress on the Ingraham Project but are not posting all the facts. Now that they have received an unfavorable ruling, they have stopped updating the site to include a copy of this ruling. So much for keeping the public informed about the project.

A Building Excellence Hotline that claims to be the latest construction information refers only to the Project starting construction in spring of 2009 and mentions nothing about their adverse Hearing Examiner decision,

This is despite several hundred thousand dollars being added in Oct 2008 to cover “enhanced community outreach services”- part of $650,000 approved for Ingraham, Nathan Hale and Denny Sealth BEX projects. Looks like they only want to let the community know about what’s happening when it’s positive for them. It sure is good to see our taxpayer dollars selectively being spent to keep the public informed of only the School District’s favorable rulings.