Tag Archives: Save the Trees – Seattle

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


Looking for Members to Join the new Seattle Urban Forestry Commission

Yesterday it was announced that the Seattle Mayor and Seattle City Council are seeking members for the newly created Urban Forestry Commission. The press release, a fact sheet, and the ordinance establishing the Commission can be found here:


Anyone interested in serving on the Commission should submit a letter of interest and resume by September 18, 2009. Details about the Commission membership and the selection process can be found in the fact sheet on the link above. The Seattle City Council and Mayor are seeking members with specific areas of expertise so please have a look at the fact sheet to help identify people who you think might be interested. Please help spread the word so we can get qualified people appointed..

The positions on the Urban Forestry Commission are:

The Commission is comprised of nine members:

Position 1: A wildlife biologist, preferably with expertise in ornithology

Position 2: An urban ecologist, preferably with expertise in the field of restoration ecology

Position 3: A representative of a local, state, or federal natural resource agency or an accredited university

Position 4: A hydrologist or similar professional, preferably with expertise in the study of natural drainage, climate or air quality, or a combination thereof

Position 5: An arborist, with one or more of the following qualifications:
• Board Certification as a Master Arborist or Municipal Specialist from the International Society of Arboriculture; or
• Certification by the American Society of Consulting Arborists; or
• Background and experience in Tree Risk Assessment from a credentializing agency or a professional organization.

Position 6: A landscape architect, with certification from the International Society of Arboriculture

Position 7: A representative of a non-profit or non-governmental organization whose mission is to advocate for preservation or enhancement of urban forests, wildlife habitat or similar natural systems

Position 8: A representative of either the development community, including developers, builders, architects, or realtors, with experience in projects developed under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), or a representative from a non-city utility

Position 9: An economist, financial analyst, Washington State licensed real estate broker, or any other similar professional, with expertise preferred in land use planning, environmental planning, or either residential or commercial development.

Creation of the Urban Forestry Commission is an example of how citizen concern and action over the continued loss of Seattle’s trees is effecting change in how our city is functioning. The continued threat of the unnecessary destruction of a conifer/madrone rare plant habitat at Ingraham High School resulted in the formation of a city wide effort called Save the Trees-Seattle to save the 75 year old 100 foot tall trees at Ingraham and help to protect trees across the city..

I am the Chair of the Group and at a meeting of the King County Democrats several months back I suggested to Seattle City Council member Nick Licata that what we needed to help protect Seattle’s Urban Forest was an Urban Forestry Commission like Portland Oregon has.

Nick said he liked the idea and two weeks later he introduced legislation to create an Urban Forestry Commission for Seattle

The bill went through numerous revisions, several public hearings and received comment from many citizens. In the end the Seattle City Council unanimously passed the resolution supporting the creation of the Urban Forestry Commission comprised of technical experts to help advise the Mayor and the Seattle City Council on urban forestry issues.

Council member Licata played a critical role in the process by not just introducing the bill but guiding it through numerous revisions and compromises to finally get the bill enacted.

So now the work begins on getting a functioning commission. Please help spread the word and urge people you know who are qualified to apply to be on the new Urban Forestry Commission.

Seattle City Council Creates Urban Forestry Commission

The Seattle City Council today unamiously passed by 8-0 votes two measures designed to help protect Seattle’s urban forest. The two measures were Resolution 31138 to improve City tree policies sponsored by Councilmember Conlin and Ordinance 116577 to create an Urban Forestry Commission that was sponsored by Nick Licata.

Councilmember Licata sent out the following e-mail:

“I believe we must expand our urban forest canopy. Our urban forest provides benefits to drainage, air quality such as CO2 reduction, as well as aesthetic benefits. It also provides useful shade on the 95+ degree days we had last week.

The Urban Forest Commission can assist the City in meeting the challenge of expanding our tree canopy while increasing residential density, as foreseen in the Seattle Comprehensive Plan, by providing broad-based expertise.

The Urban Forestry Commission passed by the EEMU Committee would have nine members: a wildlife biologist, an urban ecologist, a representative of a local, state, or federal natural resource agency or an accredited university, a hydrologist, an arborist, a landscape architect, representative of a non-profit or NGO whose mission is to advocate for the urban forest, a representative of the development community, and an economist or real estate broker, preferably with expertise in land use or environmental planning.

The Urban Forestry Commission has the following duties:
* to provide recommendations regarding City plans, major or significant policy recommendations, and any City department’s recommendations related to urban forestry, arboriculture, and horticulture;

* to provide recommendations on any Urban Forest Management Plan, or similar document designed to provide policy direction on preserving and protecting the City’s urban forest habitat;

* to provide recommendations on legislation concerning urban forest management, sustainability and protection of trees on public or private property;

* to review and comment on any proposal to inventory trees within the City of Seattle;

* Monitor implementation of City plans and policies related to the urban forest, and provide review and comment to the Mayor and City Council

* to educate the public on urban forestry issues;

* to review programs for identifying and maintaining trees with significant historical, cultural, environmental, educational, ecological or aesthetic value; and

* comment on the proposed Office of Sustainability and Environment work program, and any work by any City interdepartmental advisory body relating to the Urban Forest.

In addition, the Urban Forestry Commission will consider making recommendations for items included in the resolution, including incentives for developers to preserve existing trees and/or plant new trees. While I understand some might prefer to not have developers represented on this commission, it would be difficult to carry out this task, and reach practical, sensible incentives that can be used by developers to preserve and add to our urban forest canopy without their being represented.

Resolution 31138 passed tree protection guidelines, with City departments due to report back to the City Council in 2010 on various tree-related policy questions.”

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 Needs an Urban Forestry Commission

Right now eight different Seattle departments deal with trees. There is no overall coordination or vision. While an Urban Forestry Management Plan has been drafted, it has never been approved by the Seattle City Council. A just released Report by the Seattle City Auditor entitled Management of City Trees can be Improved noted that it would help if all the city department tree efforts were consolidated in one place for oversight and coordination.

One way to do this is to establish an Urban Forestry Commission which could review existing plans like the Urban Forestry Management Plan and also new legislation to protect existing trees in Seattle and work to increase trees overall.

Council member Nick Licata has proposed creating just such an Urban Forestry Commission. Places like San Francisco and Portand both have Urban Forestry Commissions.

Here are 4 points I think such legislation needs to include in Seattle:

i. The concept of habitat and green infrastructure should be incorporated into the urban forestry language in the ordinance. The issue is not just about trees. This is where the idea of saving exceptional trees falls short because urban forestry is about saving the green infrastructure, not just individual trees. That means saving habitat for plants and animals which include trees but also vegetation, soil, birds and other animals that live in the habitat. It is about preserving ecosystem functioning which deals with larger concepts like community structure and watersheds. Trees are an important component of these but an urban forest is comprised of more than just a bunch of individual trees.

ii. The makeup of the Urban Forestry Commission should be by areas of expertise rather than organizations. It should be comprised of people with the ability to provide expert opinion and evaluation on urban forestry issues, not just political positions. The development community, for example, already has significant input and influence in departments like DPD. Some other departments seem to lack the expertise in house to evaluate urban forestry issues. Areas of expertise on the Urban Forestry Commission should include ecology, urban planning, arboriculture, landscape architecture, horticulture, and urban forestry.

iii. The Urban Forestry Commission should be an advocate for preserving Seattle’s urban forest. It should not be another tool for development interests or other special interests to exert their influence. The Urban Forestry Commission should be a counterbalance to forces pushing for development at any cost, regardless of the impact on the environment. To do that you have to be sure that the Commission is not stacked with members whose main concern is not sound urban forest management.

iv. The Urban Forestry Commission should represent expertise on urban forestry issues and be able to present scientific and factual information to the Mayor and City Council on legislation. The Urban Forestry Commission can be a place where proposals and projects can be reviewed for sound science, ecological considerations, sustainability and consistency with existing environmental laws, not a place to balance competing political views. It does not and should not have to decide between competing political interests. That is the role of the Mayor and City Council.

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.

More Details on The Ingraham High School Tree Victory by Save the Trees – Seattle

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

For the past 16 months a group of dedicated people working under the umbrella of Save the Trees – Seattle has been working to save the NW Forest Area at Ingraham High School. While a final resolution has not been reached, the end to the Seattle School District’s intransigence is much closer.
The Seattle Hearing Examiner’s ruling released last week on Ingraham noted that the NW Forest is a rare plant habitat and that it should be protected under Seattle City environmental law. Because DPD did not consider proper conditioning for the loss of rare plant habitat, the Seattle Hearing Examiner reversed and remanded that part of DPD’s decision.
We are not in the woods yet because the Seattle School District has 21 days to appeal the decision to the King County Superior Court. And while the decision says one way to mitigate the impact is to move the project out of the NW forest area, the hearing Examiner also suggests that a smaller footprint for the project in the grove could be considered. We do not believe that the project can be further downsized but we need to be prepared to take further legal action if necessary to save the trees.
Through the support of many citizens across the city we have paid off our legal bills for getting to where we are. We are in a much stronger position now with the evidence in the Seattle Hearing Examiner’s record and the decision. We will continue the legal battle if the Seattle School District does not end its misguided and senseless effort to destroy the NW Forest area at Ingraham when viable alternative building sites exist.
We have on tap Keith Scully of Gendler and Mann ready to represent Save the Trees – Seattle. Keith successfully secured the Injunction to prevent cutting down the trees last year when the Seattle School District withdrew their construction permits for Ingraham, trying to use a loophole in city law avoid further environmental review of the project.
This loophole in city law has now been repealed by the Seattle City Council and a stronger tree protection law has been put in place that will prevent tree groves like Ingraham’s NW Forest area from being cut down in the future.
The Seattle Hearing Examiner confirmed that the NW Forest area at Ingraham is a rare plant habitat comprised of a conifer/madrone/salal association. Seattle Urban Nature has assessed that only 52 acres exist in Seattle.

The decision starts with consideration of SMC 25.05.675.N.2 which states
a. It is the City’s policy’s policy to minimize or prevent loss of wildlife habitat and other vegetation which have substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological and/or economic value. A high priority shall be given to the preservation and protection of special habitat types…
b. For projects which are proposed within an identified plant or wildlife habitat or travelway, the decision maker shall assess the extent of the adverse impacts and the need for mitigation.
c. When the decisionmaker finds that a proposed project would reduce or damage rare, uncommon, unique, or exceptional plant or wildlife habitat, wildlife travelways or habitat diversity for species (plants or animals) of substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological and/or economic value, the decisionmaker may condition or deny the project to mitigate its adverse impacts…
d Mitigating measures may include but are not limited to:
i. relocation of the project on the site;
ii Reducing the size or scale of the project; …

The Seattle Hearing Examiner noted that her “review in this case is limited to whether the Director committed a clear error in her decision on the SEPA conditioning for the project.”
The Hearing Examiner stated,

Appellants have argued that DPD erred by failing to treat the NW grove as a rare or uncommon habitat under SMC 25.05.675.N.2. It is not clear whether DPD considered the grove to be rare or uncommon, but the northwest grove is an uncommon plant habitat under the SEPA policy. … The northwest grove is uncommon on account of the conifer/madrone/salal plant association which is present, and the relative scarcity of that association.
The proposal 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 evaluate whether the location or the structure footprint could be altered to avoid or minimize impacts on the NW grove, and this was an error in light of SMC 25.05.675.N.2.
The record is limited since no alternatives were required to be analyzed in the DNS, and the project was not subject to the City’s design review process, where designs are typically scrutinized for reasonableness. Appellants point to the alternatives rejected by the District as mitigation measures: building a second story on the existing LMC building; placing the addition in the north lawn area; or moving it to the south where the portables are located. Appellants also note that the planned courtyard area places the addition further into the grove”….

“… on the record here, 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.”

Save the Trees- Seattle believes the only reasonable and viable alternative is to relocate the building outside the grove, like on the open north lawn area. DOT Arborist Bill Ames suggested in an e-mail early on that “Tree removal in the NW corner of the site (the new addition) seems excessive and can be modified in favor of the existing trees. One option would be to site the addition nearer to the existing building and creating a walkway, as opposed to the proposed courtyard, between the new and existing building.”

The Seattle School District said this was not possible as current fire code regulations say any new building must be separated from the existing building by the width they made the courtyard. They do not want to add the building directly onto the existing building because this will block existing classroom windows.

In addition a number of the madrone trees are currently on the east side of the NW Forest area and would be cut down no matter how close the addition is to the existing structure.

The reality is there is no need to cut down any of the NW Forest. The Seattle School District asked Integrus Architecture to draw up an Ingraham Master Plan for how the school could expand in the future. They picked the north lawn site as a preferred site to put a future two story building and e-mails.

We discovered through a public records request to the Seattle School District e-mails confirming placing utilities on the North Lawn area so as to be prepared for this option. The current proposed building should be moved to this site now. The school can have both its new classrooms and save the trees at the same time.

There is of course no guarantee that the Seattle School District will take this easy solution to the problem. That is why Save the Trees –Seattle urges people to contact the Seattle School Board and Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and urge that they end this battle now by moving the building site to the north lawn or some other location.
Here is Superintendent Goodloe Johnson’s email: superintendent@seattleschools.com
Steve Zemke
Save the Trees – Seattle