Resolution of the battle to save the Ingraham Tree Grove is moving forward. On Friday, King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle turned down the Seattle School District’s petition to remove the Court Injunction put in place by Judge Erlick two years ago to prevent the Seattle School District from cutting 70 trees in the grove to end further environmental review.
Judge Doyle also denied the Seattle School District’s request for a $187,000 bond. It should be noted that Save the Trees-Seattle has in fact lowered the cost of whatever is built at Ingraham, not increased the cost. The bid, eg, for the compressed west addition came in at $6.5 million dollars. That’s $3.5 million less than the original estimated cost by the Seattle School District.
Save the Trees-Seattle agreed to consolidate the two cases before the court. The original case was an appeal of the School District’s Hearing Examiner process arguing that an EIS should have been performed and that a DNS was not appropriate.
The second case was an appeal of the City of Seattle inadequate mitigation of the Project. City law calls for giving a priority to protecting rare and uncommon plant and animal habitat. The City Hearing Examiner agreed the NW Tree Grove was an uncommon plant habitat in Seattle but did not require the Seattle School District to move the Project to another site on the campus.
Save the Trees- Seattle argued that moving the project to save the NW Tree Grove was one of the legal mitigation options the City had but did not exercise, despite the fact that the School District’s BEX Project manager agreed under oath that the Seattle School District could build the Project on the open North Lawn and not have to cut down any mature trees.
The Seattle School District continued to deny that the North Lawn was feasible to build on until forced to acknowledge while under oath the existence of an internal e-mail obtained through public records disclosure that the North Lawn Area was actually considered a future building site for a 2 story addition to the school. Save the Trees – Seattle argues that the School District should build there now and save the NW Grove from being cut down or diminished in size needlessly.
The consolidated case is now scheduled to be heard before King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle on Nov.5, 2010 at 11 AM. Save the Trees- Seattle has been working now for almost 3 years, trying to save the NW Grove.
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
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”
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!
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.
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.
Save the Trees – Seattle
In a decision dated last Friday and first available today, Seattle Hearing Examiner Ann Watanabe, “reversed and remanded in part” the DPD’s January decision to allow the Seattle School District to cut down the trees.Watanabe noted that “The Northwest Grove is uncommon on account of the conifer/madrone/salal association which is present and the relative scarcity of that association”.
She adds “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 or capable of being accomplished. 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 additions intrusion into the northwest grove.”
Save the Trees – Seattle has supported the upgrading of Ingraham High School and believes that the school can build the addition without cutting down any trees in the NW Forest area. We can have both trees and new classrooms.
In a master plan for Ingraham the Seattle School District has proposed building a future 2 story addition on the North Lawn area. We believe the Seattle School District can stop further delay of the Project by moving the current project to that location now. Other sites are also available like on the South side of the school where the portables are being removed.
The Seattle School District met for almost 4 hours on Tues night discussing their preliminary Capacity Management & Building Closure Recommendations. After the meeting Superintendent Goodloe – Johnson said her power point presentation and summary of actions and appendices would be posted on the Seattle School Board website but when I got home I could find nothing. I guess it was too much to ask that it be posted right away so that parents and kids concerned about the possible fate of their schools could find out what is being proposed.
So here is the summary list of school closures proposed by the Seattle School District at the 11/25/2008 School Board Workshop.
Lowell Elementary – houses APP
TT Minor Elementary
Pinehurst – Alternative School #1
Van Asselt Elementary
Programs proposed to be relocated:
Lowell APP to Hawthorne and Thurgood Marshall
NOVA to Meany
Pathfinder K-8 to Arbor Heights
SBOC to Meany
Summit K-12 to Rainier Beach
Thornton Creek to ADDams
TT MinorK-3 Montessori to Leshi
Thurgood Marshall EBOC to Bailey Gatzert
Van Asselt to AAA
New K-5 at Decatur
Thornton Creek K-5 expands to K-8
African American Academy
Click on this link to find the location of the schools mentioned.
The closure of Lowell Elementary which currently houses the APP Program and splitting the students in half and sending them to Hawthorne and Thurgood Marshall does not make a lot of sense when you look at the location of the two schools. Both Hawthorne and Thurgood Marshall are further south than Lowell and not that far apart. Most APP students now come from the north end. So why move the students even further South and make it more difficult for parent involvement?
If the goal is to have a viable APP program at two schools then a geographic split would make sense, with one school in the north end and one in the south end. But that is not what is happening. And there was no talk of expanding the APP program to more kids. Splitting the program in half seems more like a way to weaken a good program than helping meet the needs of gifted students. There is strength in keeping the program intact and concentrating resources with more student interaction and teacher and parent interaction.
Slog has posted some possible school closings to be announced tonight at a Seattle School Board workshop tonight.
Schools mentioned as possible closures include:
TT Minor Elementary
Alternative School #1
African American Academy
Summit is proposed to be moved to Rainier Beach and Thornton Creek Elementary moved to the Jane Addams Building which has housed Summit. There is a discussion thread on Slog.
You can also track various discussions of what is happening at these websites:
West Seattle Blog which has a post on “Arbor Heights Elementary reportedly on the school closure list” , will be live blogging the meeting tonight.
Does it sound to you like the Seattle School District really has this figured out? That’s quite a range – closing 3 schools up to triple that at 9 schools. It doesn’t inspire me to visualize that they are on top of this. One would think the numbers would be a little more precise. Of course a projected $24 million shortfall in their budget doesn’t help to calm anyone’s nerves and maybe they’re having trouble figuring out the numbers. Numbers have something to do with math.
As the Seattle PI notes:
“…the district’s longtime enrollment imbalances — largely a result of the district’s school-choice policy — have led to overcrowded schools in North Seattle and some underenrolled South End schools.
Even with the School Board’s 2006 decision to close seven school buildings, the district has 18 percent more classroom space than it needs for its students, according to a recent audit of the state’s 10 largest school districts.
District officials were already considering whether to close more schools when they learned that the district faces at least a $24 million shortfall in the 2009-10 budget. That deficit could grow to more than $44 million if the state withholds Initiative 728 money or cost-of-living increases because of the economic downturn. The initiative, aimed at reducing class size, was passed in 2000.
As a result, the School Board unanimously voted two weeks ago to authorize Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson to immediately begin the process of closing schools.”
On Tuesday night, November 25, 2008 , the Seattle School District is going to announce their plans. As noted on the Seattle Public Schools website for Tuesday night:
“Preliminary recommendations presented by the Superintendent, and discussed by the Board at a School Board workshop at 6:00 p.m., John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence, 2445 3rd Avenue South. This workshop will be videotaped for later streaming on our Web site.”
The Seattle School District will then hold two public workshops on the preliminary sites chosen for closure and also will hold public hearings at the schools to be closed.
Thursday, December 4th, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence, Auditorium 2445 – 3rd Avenue South, Seattle, Washington
Saturday, December 6th, 9:30 – 11:30 AM Filipino Community Center, Main Ballroom 5740 Martin Luther King Way, Seattle, Washington
Public hearings will be held at buildings proposed for closure on Monday, December 15, Tuesday, December 16 and Thursday, December 18. Times and locations will be advertised and posted on the Seattle School district website. This link also has other dates and meetings that are relevant to the proposed school closures and is the best place to follow the process.
The school district site also notes that “Feedback related to capacity management and building closure is welcome. Comments may be emailed to email@example.com, to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to School Board, PO Box 34165, MS 11-010, Seattle, WA, 98124-1165. The School Board office phone number is 206 252 0040.”
There is at least one excellent community source to help track public reaction to the proposed closures and voicie your opinion. that is the Seattle Public Schools community blog
Another blog that posted information on the proposed school closures is the West Seattle Blog.
As they note “…South and West Seattle have the most likelihood of finding schools on this list, since the north end has been dealing with overcrowding,”
And then there’s this illuminating comment by westello on the West Seattle Blog post that rightly points out:
“…if you look at this schedule, the initial announcements are two days before Thanksgiving. The public hearings for each site are the days before the Winter Break right about the time most elementaries have their holiday concerts.
And the final list is to be announced right after the Winter Break. This is a lot to absorb and carry during Thanksgiving and the holidays. I know the district
didn’t mean to be cruel but the timing is harsh.
I appreciate the West Seattle blog keeping up with this but I think between the timing of the meetings and the economic realities overwhelming many, that this will not be on many people’s radar.”
Why is it again and again that the public seems to be at the tail end of each current crisis in the Seattle School District’s process? Doing all of this during the holiday season seems the least likely time to engage the public. But maybe that’s part of their plan.
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