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
District II – Sherry Carr
District III – Harium Martin-Morris
District IV – Michael DeBell
District V – Mary Bass
District VI – Steve Sundquist
District VII – Cheryl Chow

Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson –

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