Tag Archives: Ingraham High School

Ingraham High School Trees to "Scream" on Friday!

NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School  Northwest Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

The Seattle School District is going to cut down 27 trees tomorrow Friday Jan 28, 2011 (about one quarter of the NW Grove) at Ingraham High School. For several days the School District has been assembling equipment and preparing to cut down the trees. Tomorrow students have the day off.

Tonight just before dark I went over to check things out once again and asked a worker in a hardhat when they were going to cut the trees down.  His response was that “tomorrow the trees would be screaming“. It’s strange but I could not think of a more apt response for the trees.

If Seattle Mayor McGinn has his way, no trees in Seattle will be protected from destruction. Ingraham is only a precursor to many more trees being lost because Mayor McGinn is proposing to deregulate all tree protection in the city. Strange that someone who supposedly ran with a label as an environmentalist has no love for protecting Seattle’s green infrastructure. When we tried to talk to McGinn and his staff about saving the Ingraham trees he choose to ignore us and wouldn’t even schedule an opportunity for us to discuss the situation with him.

McGinn instead has signed off on an initial draft proposal by his Department of Planning and Development to literally remove all protections for trees in Seattle, including tree groves and exceptional trees. The proposal claims that it increases tree protection when it would take us back to before we had any laws to protect trees. The proposal says that instead of laws to protect trees we should trust that education and incentives will protect trees. As if that worked to convince the Seattle School District to save the Ingraham trees. Meanwhile other cities like Lake Forest Park and Kirkland and Issaquah have moved to strengthen their tree ordinances in recent years.

Unfortunately, even with current regulations,trees already have no standing in Seattle and no voice because DPD (Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development) gives priority to helping people build whatever they want rather than saving trees and green space. The benefits of trees to clean the air and provide oxygen and reduce storm water runoff and provide habitat to animals and screen noise and pollutants and provide visual delight is given no value when DPD says that trees can be saved except when they limit the development potential of a lot.

DPD has a conflict of interest in both trying to help people develop their lots and save trees. Trees almost always lose because DPD assigns them no economic valve despite the services they provide the city. Trees need a voice of their own and should be protected by assigning tree regulatory authority to another city department like Seattle Public Utilities which sees their value in dealing with storm water runoff. They know that as we lose trees we increase man made infrastructure costs to make up for the lost services of our urban forest trees.

. Neighbors and others who want to keep our city green with trees must become a more vocal advocate for trees. Save the Trees – Seattle is working with a city wide  group of tree advocates called “Save Our Urban Forest Infrastructure” to enact stronger protections for trees and our urban forest so we don’t become the Emerald City in legend only.

Of course the School District has been quiet on specifically when they were going to cut the trees down. At 9:37 PM tonight I got an e-mail from School Board member Sherry Carr in which she said she was just told by facilities that the trees would probably be cut down tomorrow.

One of our members, an arborist, told us that the trees can probably be cut down in 2 hours or so. After 70 years of life and good service to the City of Seattle, it’s weird and sad how quickly it can all so needlessly end.  The Seattle School District had prepared an Ingraham Master Plan showing they could build the addition on the open lawn on the North side without having to remove any of the tree grove.

Yet the School Administration under Superintendent Goodloe Johnson and the Seattle School Board has turned a blind eye to environmental issues, choosing not to help increase Seattle’s tree canopy but instead gouge a chunk out of it by removing some of the city’s oldest trees. What a great lesson for Seattle students about how to live in a world where we are increasing threatened with drastic climate change and environmental degradation as our population and use of the world’s resources increases to have an ever expanding economy based on consumption.

Steve Zemke
Chair, Save the Trees – Seattle

City of Seattle and Seattle School District to End Lives of 29 Trees at Ingraham High School that have Served the City for over 70 Years

NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

It is with sadness that we (Save the Trees – Seattle) announce that we have reached the end of our efforts to save some 29 mature Douglas fir, western red cedar and madrone trees at Ingraham High School. We recently lost our appeal before King County Superior Court Judge Teresa Doyle and are unable to continue with an appeal to the Appellate Court because of the cost and potential liability if we lose on continued appeal.

Save the Trees – Seattle has succeeded in reducing the trees to be cut in the NW Grove from an initial 70 to less than 30. The 29 trees to be cut down represent about one quarter of the trees in the NW Grove. We also succeed in saving a mixed conifer madrone grove of the trees on the east side of the school that had been protected for 50 years in an agreement with the Parks Department but which the Seattle School District had targeted for a parking lot.

Our efforts to save the NW Tree Grove helped to get the City to pass a stronger interim tree protection law which currently protects tree groves from future development. We also originated the idea and worked to pass legislation to create the current Urban Forestry Commission. And we are working now to fight the proposal by the Mayor and his Department of Planning and Development to deregulate tree protection in the city that would send us back to the roar of chainsaws clearcutting what trees remain in Seattle’s reduced tree canopy which has been reduced by half since the 1970’s.

The time to appeal expires as of Dec 9th so we expect the Seattle School District to rev up their chainsaws and cut the trees down as early as this weekend. We urge you to stop by and say good-by to the 29 trees condemned to die because of the City’s and the Seattle School District’s blindness to environmental and ecological values.

If the trees are gone when you come by, we urge you to pay homage to the 70 plus years of service they provided the city by reducing stormwater runoff, cleaning our city’s air, producing oxygen for us to breathe, providing a park area for the school and the neighborhood, providing habitat for birds and squirrels and insects and other animals and plant life, for being part of the last 50 plus acres of an uncommon plant habitat in Seattle (a conifer madrone forest), and for just being there for their beauty and serenity.

This Sunday (Dec 12, 2010) at 10 AM we will hold a Citizen’s Memorial Service on the North side of the tree grove to honor the trees for their 70 years of service to our neighborhood and city and to say good -by.

The street is N 135th between Ashworth Ave N and Meridian Ave N. Please come by and bring something in writing or a sign or flowers or something to post on the wire fence circling the grove. Bring a poem or words or a picture to share with others as we grieve for this unnecessary loss of part of our city and our neighborhood and our green urban forest infrastructure.

And vow to write to the Mayor and the Seattle City Council, urging them to reject efforts to eliminate all protections for existing trees as the Mayor proposes. Urge that they strengthen our tree laws to protect trees like those being cut down at Ingraham High School.

And if you are able to – please donate to Save the Trees to help pay off our legal bills and support our efforts needed over the next year to get a much stronger tree protection law passed. Contributions can be sent to Save the Trees-Seattle, c/o Steve Zemke, 2131 N 132nd St, Seattle, WA 98133. If you have questions or would like to help in our fight, you can contact us at stevezemke@msn.com or call 206-366-0811.

We want to thank everyone who has helped over the last three years. Your support has keep us going. While we have not saved all of the NW Grove, we have reduced the impact and loss overall. We as a group are dedicating ourselves to strengthening our City’s tree laws so that other trees in our city can avoid the fate facing those trees being cut down at Ingraham High School with taxpayer dollars. On Sunday we will pay homage to those trees that are dying an unnatural death despite their long service of 70 years to our city. We hope you will join us in saying thanks on Sunday.

Steve Zemke
Chair – Save the Trees-Seattle

PS – Come by and see the trees and post something on the fence or leave something when you can. As I noted, there is no guarantee that the trees won’t be cut down before Sunday. The 29 trees to be cut down are those closest to the west side of the Ingraham High School Building.

E-mails for the Seattle City Council are:









Also send a letter to: Mayor McGinn, Seattle City Hall 7th floor, 600 Fourth Avenue, P.O. Box 94749, Seattle, WA 98124-4749

PPS: Please forward this to others as time is short. Let neighbors and others know and come on Sunday.

Ingraham Trees Again Face Chainsaws – End Draws Near for Trees


NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

In a brief decision, King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle recently ruled against the appeal of Save the Trees-Seattle to prevent clear cutting a quarter of a grove of 70 year old, 100 foot tall Douglas fir, western red cedar and western madrone tress in an uncommon plant habitat at Ingraham High School in North Seattle. This was despite the fact that only a few hundred feet away the Seattle School District had identified in a Master Plan a large open lawn area as a future building site.

The decision clearly says that in Seattle trees have no legal standing. Judge Doyle’s decision in essence says that development of any property in the city trumps tree protection and preservation. The Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s stated policy is that they are all for protecting trees unless it limits the development potential of a lot. In this instance Judge Doyle is saying it does not even matter if there are alternative locations close by on the site that the building could be moved to or even if habitat is uncommon.

Despite Seattle City law saying that priority should be given to protecting uncommon, unique, or rare habitat, the Judge’s decision ignored a Seattle Hearing Examiner’s decision that the NW Grove is an uncommon plant habitat in the city of Seattle. It is a remnant of a conifer madrone forest in the City of which only 52 acres remain elsewhere. The species diversity present at the Ingraham site, some 14 different tree and shrub species, is comparable to that at the other major site where this plant community exists, namely at Seward Park in South Seattle.

What is disturbing about the decision is that it supports DPD’s tacit authority to ignore City tree protection laws and gives more impetus to DPD’s current proposal to actually remove from current city law, all protections for trees outside development. In any given year only 1% of city property is being developed. That means that 99% of the City’s trees in any given year would have no protection.

DPD’s proposal was reviewed by Mayor McGinn before it was released. It would remove all protection for exceptional trees and for tree groves. It is a death warrant for our city’s trees and will make it impossible to reach our goal of increasing the city’s tree canopy over the next 20 years or so.

The proposed clear cutting of the trees at Ingraham High School is just a continuation of the unofficial policy of the City of Seattle to prioritize development by any means over protection of our urban forest infrastructure. And now DPD wants to formally make it City law to prevent citizens from even questioning the misplaced priorities of the City.

Citizens need to speak out against this senseless slaughter of trees and our urban forest infrastructure without regard for the social, environmental and economic costs of this loss and the loss of what citizens value in living and enjoy in a city with trees and a vibrant urban forest.

Send an e-mail to Mayor McGinn and all 9 members of the Seattle City Council and urge they reject DPD’s proposal and instead work to add additional protections to the interim ordinance passed last year by the City Council.

Councilmembers’ e-mail adresses:









Send a letter: Mayor’s Office, Seattle City Hall 7th floor, 600 Fourth Avenue, P.O. Box 94749, Seattle, WA 98124-4749

Chainsaws Again Threaten Old Trees at Ingraham High School

It was a long shot expecting the City of Seattle to come to the defense of the old trees at Ingraham High School. The Seattle School District also only sawthe trees as an impediment to their development plans. Now Seattle Hearing Examiner Ann Watanabe has also chose to ignore the evidence in the Hearing Record and Seattle City law requiring that priority be given to protecting uncommon plant and animal  habitat in the City of Seattle. She has denied the appeal by Save the Trees-Seattle to stop the 70 year old 100 foot tall eveegreen trees from being cut being cut down at Ingraham High School in North Seattle.

The decision is not yet posted on the Hearing Examiner’s website.  When it is I will post a link here.

The environmental review now goes back to the King County Superior Court. We will be appealing the decision and it will  be up to the court to make a final decision. They previously issued a restraining order preventing the Seattle School District from cutting down the 70 year old 100 foot tall Douglas fir, western red cedar and Pacific madrone trees until the environmental review was completed by the City of Seattle. That has now been done.

In her most recent decision Seattle hearing Examiner Ann Watanabe chose to ignore testimony from Save the Trees – Seattle that alternative sites for building the school addition were available on the Ingraham campus and that the Seattle School District padded the cost for other sites by adding in features like an additional 2000 square foot entrance on designs for the North side. Of course this raised the cost for any North side addition. The Seattle School District’s designs and cost estimates for alternative sites lacked credibility when closely examined.

Many of the issues raised were ignored by the Hearing Examiner.  One obvious early sign of the Hearing Examiner’s limiting review of relevant issues was her upholding a preliminary motion by the Seattle School District to exclude testimony on wildlife by one of the witnesses we called, Kirk Prindle, a wildlife biologist who is a member of Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission. This was despite the submitting of new bird studies for the Seattle School District, which were included in DPD’s file.

The Hearing Examiner ignored basic ecological considerations, as did the DPD and the Seattle School District. Groves of trees, particularly groves with conifers are not common in Seattle.  The particular association at Ingraham of conifers and madrone trees is an uncommon plant habitat in Seattle. The Hearing Examiner in her previous decision agreed with this. There are only about 52 acres total of conifer madrone forest  in all of Seattle, mostly at Seward Park. While there are scatterings of Douglas fir and madrone trees here and there in Seattle what is unique about Ingraham is that it is a 1.2 acre site and a grove of some 130 trees  rather than just a few trees.

The diversity of plants and animals in a grove is directly correlated with patch or grove size size.  The larger the patch size, the more diversity of plants and animals.  Because all of Seattle has been logged over, except for some 50 acres of old growth at Schmidt’s Park, the Ingraham Grove represents some of the oldest trees in Seattle. This older growth and uncommon plant habitat should be saved.   City environmental law gives a priority for doing this.  Yet at Ingraham  High School, given the  viable option of saving the grove in it’s entirety because alternative sites exist,  the Seattle Hearing Examiner has chosen not to.

Unfortunately the so called Emerald City of Seattle has a policy that we will save trees unless they prevent the development potential of a site.  When this was mentioned by an employee of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development at a recent urban forest symposium on saving trees, the whole room broke out in spontaneous laughter. Yes it was said seriously but it is a joke obviously when  the absurdity of the policy sinks in.

Unfortunately the consequence is not a joke.  Seattle continues to lose trees, especially during development. Exceptional trees basically have no protection at any time because the whole process is complaint driven.  By the time you hear the chainsaw, it is too late to stop a tree from being cut down. So DPD’s proposal is that since the current system doesn’t save trees, let’s scrap the law mandating  protection for old trees in the city altogether.  It’s like BP after they weren’t  able to initially stop the oil flow in the Gulf saying,  well this didn’t work so lets just stop trying.

One way the city can get some control over continued tree cutting, especially old trees is to expand its current permit system, to require a permit  to cut down any tree over 6 inches in diameter on public and private property.  The  Seattle Department of Transportation already requires a permit before a tree can be cut down or even pruned if it is on the public right of way. Yet the DPD in their just released proposal for a new tree ordinance for the City of Seattle dismisses tree permits altogether and basically argues that we need to just encourage people to do the right thing and save trees by more public outreach and education.  Like this has worked.

What we need is a change of policy and priorities.  In the past people used to shot songbirds to eat.  Fashion also threatened the very survival of many bird speicies as birds were killed for their feathers to create lavish “fashionable” hats. Yet we changed public policy to end this absurd killing of birds for money and fashion.

Trees are no less valuable living life forms than birds. In fact birds need native trees and shrubs to survive.  Unfortunately trees are not mobile like birds. That makes them even more vulnerable. They are living entities of beauty and its an ecological necessity to protect them  if birds and insects and other species are to survive on our planet. Obviously the DPD’s proposal is ridiculous to eliminate protection for trees, especially exceptional trees.

We require hunting licenses to kill various wildlife and populations are monitored to ensure that overhunting does not occur and a species is wiped out.  It’s time to do the same for trees in our city.  Trusting that people will not cut down trees wantonly and drive species of associated animals and plants to extinction in our city should  not be left to chance and wishful thinking.

The current underegulated and unenforced tree protections are resulting in a continued decline of  our urban forest.  Most tree increases in recent years have been the short lived, small trees that get planted in the parking strips. The large trees and few remaining groves of trees continue to be cut down. Its time to change this. The interim ordinace passed last year limits tree cutting to 3 a year yet even this is not monitored or enforced.  Without permits and tracking of trees cut down we have no idea who is doing what. We see plenty of examples everyday however of trees being cut down.

Save the Trees-Seattle is working to stop trees being cut down in the city and come up with a workable new tree protection ordinance.  You can help support our efforts by making a contribution to Save the Trees-Seattle. Click on the donate button below to make a contribution of  $50 or $100 or or $25 or whatever you can so we can continue our efforts to save the trees in Seattle from the chainsaws.

You can also send a check to Save the Trees-Seattle, 2131 N 132nd St, Seattle, WA 98133.  Thanks.

NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School Before Fence Was Built

Ingraham NW Tree Grove Fight Back Before Seattle Hearing Examiner for Third Time.

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

Save the Trees-Seattle is commencing another full blown hearing today on trying to save the old conifer and madrone trees in the NW grove at Ingraham High School in North Seattle. Last year we seemingly won our appeal before the Seattle Hearing Examiner– she agreed with us that the NW Grove was an uncommon habitat in Seattle and that city environmental law said it should be protected.

Unfortunately the Hearing Examiner gave the Seattle School District the option of moving the project or reducing the footprint and the Seattle School District  choose to just reduce the footprint. Trees be damned. The Seattle school District reduced the footprint of the project from a previous 44% of the grove to 38% and then started playing additional games.

They said the impact was much less because they now claimed the grove didn’t start at the edge of the school but 30 feet out. Problem is 30 feet out is where the tree trunks are and groves start where their roots and canopy drip lines are, not where tree trunks actually are.

And of course the Seattle School District  claimed that all the alternative building sites they looked at cost more. Originally they claimed that a 2 story building on the north side would destroy 4 classrooms in the existing building. Then in the second Addendum to their Environmental Checklist they claimed 2 classrooms were lost. They of course had to replace these classrooms so the alternative site would have to have a larger building and cost more.

The only problem is that the Architects finally agreed with Save the Trees-Seattle that no classrooms would be lost with a two story building on the north side. So the Seattle School district now claims that they must build a 2000 square foot entrance way for any North side building. In other words the fix is on. They have added extra study rooms and more utilities, you name it, to each of the other sites besides the west addition in the NW Grove grove to jack up the price.

This is the public’s taxpayer dollars at work, ignoring what is good environmental policy and setting out to destroy more of an uncommon plant habitat in Seattle that also has significant canopy – these are 75 year old, 100 foot tall Douglas fir, western red cedar and Pacific Madrone trees – part of the last 50 acres of this habitat in Seattle according to a report done by Seattle Urban Nature. on the State of Seattle’s Madrone Forests.

The Hearing process starts at 9 AM on the 40th Floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave. The Hearing is today, Wednesday June 23, 2010. The public is welcome to attend. The appellants go first and then the Seattle School District and Seattle Department of Planning and Development.

Send Mayor McGinn an Earth Day Message to Save the Trees at Ingraham High School

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

Today is Earth Day. For over two years the Seattle School District has been trying to add an addition to Ingraham High School by cutting down over 50 trees in the conifer madrone grove in the above picture. What a great environmental message this sends our children. The City of Seattle has twice approved the permit for the project despite the Seattle Hearing Examiner ruling in favor of the neighbors and Save the Trees-Seattle trying to save the 70 year old 100 foot tall Douglas fir, western red cedar and Pacific madrone trees in the grove.

The Seattle Hearing Examiner ruled that the grove comprised an uncommon and rare plant association in the City of Seattle that city law says should be protected. The Seattle School District in written documents and e-mails discovered during the Hearing process has selected the open North lawn in the picture above as the building site for a future addition but refuses to move the current project to that site.  The Seattle School District has re-filed a slightly revised plan to build in the grove despite the negative ruling by the Seattle Hearing Examiner.

The latest project proposal to cut down the trees has been before the city’s Department of Planning and Development since last September. It’s time to quit wasting the taxpayers’ dollars, ignoring the city’s mandate to increase the city’s tree canopy, and city law to protect our urban forest.  Cutting down mature trees for no good reason except not wanting to listen to the public is not being a good neighbor or a partner in preserving our city’s environmental health and our quality of life.

Please e-mail Mayor Michael McGinn and tell him to deny the School District’s current proposed building site.  Under current city law requiring the city to protect rare and uncommon plant and animal habitat, he has the authority to tell DPD to require the School District to save and protect the uncommon plant habitat on their grounds and to build elsewhere on the campus, like the open North lawn.

For Pete’s sake, it’s Earth Day and isn’t McGinn an environmentalist?

Click on this link to send your comments to Mayor McGinn. Thanks


Ingraham High School Remand to DPD Victory for Public Process

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School


Save the Trees-Seattle scored another victory in their battle to stop the Seattle School District from needlesssly destroying part of an uncommon plant habitat at Ingraham High. In their second appeal hearing before the Seattle Hearing Examiner, they again got a remand of the project proposal back to the Seattle Department of Planning and Development.

Earlier this year, Save the Trees-Seattle forced a remand of the Ingraham High School Addition back to the city because they had not looked at the impact of building the addition in an uncommon plant habitat, a conifer madrone forest habitat that the city law says should be protected. Specifically SMC 25.05.675 directs that “It is the city’s policy to minimize or prevent the loss of wildlife habitat or other vegetation which have substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological,and or economic value”.

The Seattle School District, rather than moving the project out of the conifer madrone rare plant association, instead slightly reduced the size of the project by removing an open courtyard and resubmitted the project to the city. DPD again approved the Project despite lacking any printed rules or guidelines as to evaluating its impact on the uncommon conifer madrone forest habitat.

Save the Trees-Seattle appealed the decision to the Seattle Hearing Examiner.

Save the Trees-Seattle in prehearing motions before Seattle Hearing Examiner Anne Watanabe argued that “DPD erred because it did not issue public notice of the revised School District application or provide a public comment period on the application, as required by SMC 23.76.012.”

In a quick ruling yesterday Watanabe noted that “It is undisputed that DPD did not provide notice or a public comment period on the revised application.”

Anne Watanabe’s ruling also noted that “The Code provides no exemption from the notice and public comment period requirements, even if the new application and resulting decision are in response to a Hearing Examiner decision.”

In conclusion Watanabe stated, “While it is regrettable to postpone resolution of issues raised in these appeals, the matter must be remanded to DPD to provide the required notice and comment period. “
Below is the relevant part of Keith Scully’s brief. Scully is a member of the Gendler Mann law firm and represented Save the Trees-Seattle.

While SMC 23.76 does not spell out the requirements for public notice upon a remand and then redesign, SMC 23.76’s mandate to provide “notice of application and an opportunity for public comment” to the public with the intent to “promote informed public participation in discretionary land use decisions ” mandates a new public comment period on the District’s new design. Were the Examiner to hold otherwise, a project proponent could submit some outlandish proposal (a heliport in a residential zone, for instance), have it remanded, and then come up with a radically different design without any public comment on the new proposal. The new design and new decision in this case mandated a new notice of appeal and filing fee: it also mandates a new public comment period so other members of the public besides the appellants can have “informed public participation” in the discretionary review of the District’s new proposal”

Seattle School District Refiles Construction Proposal to Build in Rare Plant Habitat

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School


Despite the Seattle Hearing Examiner’s decision that the NW Forest area at Ingraham High School is a rare plant habitat, the Seattle School District has resubmitted plans to build there anyway. Their concession is to remove a proposed courtyard which still will force cutting down 30 old conifer trees that are 75 years old and about 100 foot tall.

The frustrating thing here is that under current law, as interpreted by Director’s Rule 16-2008 on Designation of Exceptional Trees, the Seattle School District would not be able to build in this grove of trees. Unfortunately the Seattle School District, rather than bowing to current public policy, would rather just bully its way forward and cut the trees because it filed its application before the new Director’s Rule went into effect.

The Seattle Hearing Examiner noted that their previous “proposal would reduce by half an uncommon habitat that the City’s SEPA policy says should 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.”

The Seattle School District’s refiled application is full of very questionable and subjective interpretation of why an addition in the NW Grove of trees is their best option. One of these is an evaluation by Don Gilmore, the person who oversees the BEX Program and who has the most to lose if he were to admit he made a mistake in selecting the proposed site.

Another is the Ingraham High School Principal Martin Floe who states this is the best location after having been part of a closed door design review process that excluded the public and neighbors from having input before the site was selected. He also threatened a teacher who tried to get students to save the trees by writing letters by saying this was political and not part of her job. He then rallied students to cut the trees down in a DPD public meeting held at the school and called neighbors NIMBY’s. He of course forgot that neighbors are also taxpayers that foot the bill to operate and build public schools.

You can view the documents on the School District’s website regarding their revised proposal. Of course, the adverse decision by the Seattle Hearing Examiner is not included in their public documents.

The City of Seattle still has the authority under SMC 25.05.675 to prohibit the Seattle School District from cutting down the trees. The problem is that the DPD approved the original design, ignoring input that the site was a rare plant habitat that city law said should be protected. The same people are now reviewing the new design. DPD has a mission to approve building projects and gives tree protection only a fleeting glance.

Diane Sugimura, DPD’s Director is an appointee of Mayor Nickels. Maybe it’s time for Mayor Nickel’s to assert some green power and stop this unnecessary loss of trees. If the trees are cut it is under Mayor Nickel’s watch. So far Nickels has talked the talk a lot but the real action of saving trees is lagging far behind. Under Nickels watch the last 8 years we have continued to lose our trees. Much more action is needed!

Seattle School District Loses a Third Time on Cutting Down Trees at Ingraham High School

Threatened 70 Year Old Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

The Seattle School District has lost a third time in their effort to clearcut trees in the Northwest Forest area at Ingraham High School. The first time the Seattle School District lost was an attempt to use a loophole in Seattle City law to clearcut the forest area in August of 2008, when they withdrew their construction permits. This attempt was stopped by an Injunction issued by the King County Superior Court.

They lost a second time before the Seattle Hearing Examiner in a May 4, 2009 decision. In that decision, Ann Watanabe– the Seattle Hearing Examiner , ruled that the northwest forest area was “uncommon on account of the conifer/madrone/salal plant association which is present, and the relative scarcity of that association … 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….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 building’s intrusion into the grove.”

On May 13, 2009 the School District filed a Motion with the Hearing Examiner asking for Reconsideration of her decision. They argued that the Northwest Grove is not an uncommon plant habitat; that the city is foreclosed from mitigating the impacts to the Grove under the SEPA policy of SMC 25.05.675.N.2 because the impacts were not shown to be more than moderate and that DPD did mitigate the adverse impacts to the Grove.

Their third loss came on May 27, 2009 when Ann Watanabe, the Seattle Hearing Examiner denied the motion, noting that The District’s motion disputes the findings and conclusions of the decision, but does not identify mistakes as to material facts. The motion is denied”

What the Seattle School District will do next in unclear. The Seattle Hearing Examiner stated in her May 4, 2009 decision that “Any request for judicial review must be commenced with 21 days of issuance of this decision in accordance with RCW 36.70C.040″

The Hearing Examiner Rules of Practice and procedure effective March 24, 2008 states that “Unless otherwise provided by applicable law, the filing of a motion for reconsideration does not stop or alter the running of the period provided to appeal the hearing Examiner’s decision.”

RCW 26.70C.040 states “

A land use petition is barred, and the court may not grant review, unless the petition is timely filed with the court and timely served on the following persons who shall be parties to the review of the land use petition” and (3) “The petition is timely if it is filed and served on all parties listed in subsection (2) of this section within twenty-one days of the issuance of the land use decision.”

Unless I am missing something here it appears that they have missed their deadline to appeal the Hearing Examiner’s May 4, 2009 decision in King County Superior Court.

Of course we do not know what kind of deals that are trying to work out with DPD, but considering that they have previously on numerous occasions said that they have reduced their footprint for the project the maximum amount, it is hard to see what other option they have except to move the project to another area like the open lawn area on the North side of the school.

Curiouslythis whole effort to save the trees may save the Seattle School District several million dollars even considering new architectural plans, because the latest bid to build the proposed project came in over 30% under their projected costs due to the local economy being so bad.

Certainly e-mails to Seattle School Board members and Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson would be a welcome reminder to them that moving the Project to another location on the campus like the North Lawn area is what the public prefers rather than their continued efforts to cut down the trees.

Here is their contact information:

District I – Peter Maier peter.maier@seattleschools.org
District II – Sherry Carr sherry.carr@seattleschools.org
District III – Harium Martin-Morris harium.martin-morris@seattleschools.org
District IV – Michael DeBell michael.debell@seattleschools.org
District V – Mary Bass mary.bass@seattleschools.org
District VI – Steve Sundquist steve.sundquist@seattleschools.org
District VII – Cheryl Chow cheryl.chow@seattleschools.org

Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson – superintendent@seattleschools.org

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.