Tag Archives: Seattle School Board

Seattle School District Rev’s Up Chainsaws, Save the Trees – Seattle Files for TRO

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School


A hearing has just been scheduled for 3:00 PM today Wed, August 12, before Judge Erlick of the Superior Court in Rm W 10-60 on the Save the Trees Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the trees at Ingraham High School from being cut down this Friday.

The Seattle School District is further trying to stifle legitimate review of their decisions by asking that a bond of $10,000 be posted because they signed a contact with Weiss Tree Company that money be paid if the trees aren’t cut on Friday. Weiss would pay the Seattle School District $33,000 for the trees.

This contract as viewed by citizens would appear to have been written and signed by the School District to be an impediment to Save the Trees or any other group filing any legitimate appeal of their actions. In addition the School District is asking for a bond of $400,000 for inflation costs for the delay of a project that they just withdrew the building permits on from the city review process.

The TRO is being requested to halt the Seattle School District from cutting down 68 Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and Pacific madrone trees on the west side of Ingraham High School before a hearing can be held in Superior Court to resolve the environmental impacts of the project.

Among other things the tree grove is comprised of a plant habitat that is identified by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources as a rare plant community in King County. The area has also functioned as a school and community park and has been used by Ingraham High School biology and ecology classes for education purposes.

By having withdrawn their construction permits and trying to just cut the grove of trees down, the Seattle School District is trying to avoid any consideration of Washington State and Seattle environmental and land use laws. They are saying the issues will be settled by the chain saw not the rule of law. To date the environmental issues have only been evaluated by the Seattle School District which obviously has a conflict of interest. The appeal before a hearing examiner was before a hearing examiner hired by the Seattle School District. The issues have yet to reach the Superior Court. The Seattle School District is playing the school yard bully and trying to prevent the normal process by which citizen’s have a right to seek redress from actions or decisions of their government which they think are wrong.

Press Advisory
Save the Trees
For More Information Contact:
Steve Zemke
206-999-6095 (cell)
206-366-0811 (home)

Breaking News – Press Advisory

The Seattle School District has just informed Keith Scully, the attorney for Save the Trees, that they will not halt their decision to cut down the trees at Ingraham High School while the environmental issues are being reviewed by the King County Superior Court. A hearing has been set for Sept 2, 2008 but the Seattle School District intends to ignore it and proceed with cutting down the trees this Friday, August 15, 2008.

Keith Scully will be filing a request for a temporary restraining order before the King County Superior Court at 516 Third Ave in Seattle before the Ex Parte division at 11:30 this morning

You can check at the front desk for the location of the hearing.

The Seattle School Board obviously decided last night in their special executive session to ignore the unresolved legal issues and also the position of Mayor Nickels, the Seattle City Council, many Seattle citizens and neighbors opposing cutting down the trees at Ingraham. The School District is opposing letting this issue be resolved on its merits through a court of law and has decided instead to use the chain saw to just get its way!

Lawsuit Filed by Save the Trees against Seattle School District

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School


For Immediate release:
August 12, 2008
Save the Trees Press Release
For More Information Contact:
Steve Zemke

Save the Trees has filed a lawsuit with the King County Superior Court against the Seattle Public School’s proposal to cut down 68 old evergreen trees at Ingraham High School without adequate environmental review.

The King County Court has assigned the case a hearing date of Sept 2nd, 2008 at 1:30 PM. The Case number is 08-2-26887-0SEA. The Case Caption is Save the Trees, et.al. v. Seattle School District No.1, State of Washington.

The lawsuit alleges that the Seattle School District has violated the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), RCW 43.21C and SEPA Rules, WAC 197-11, by deciding to proceed with the Ingraham High School Renovation, Demolition and New Construction Project without adequate environmental review.

Plaintiffs have exhausted all remedies within the Seattle School District including appealing the project through a Seattle Public Schools hearing examiner. In order to avoid further city review of the proposed project, the Seattle School District said last Wednesday that “the District has withdrawn their pending application for a Master Use Permit for the projects, as well as the building permit application and grading permit application”

By this evading of further review by the city as to land use and environmental laws the school district hoped to avoid review of whether building a new addition at Ingraham High School in a large grove of 75 year old, 100 feet tall would violate city environmental laws.

Seattle environmental law under SMC25.05.67N2a states “It is the cities policy to minimize or prevent the loss of wildlife habitat and other vegetation which have substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological and/or economic value.”

Overlooked by the Seattle School District and discovered by the plaintiffs during their review of the project was that the grove of 130 Douglas fir, Madrone and western red cedar trees on the west side of Ingraham High School was a unique environmental habitat. Unknown by the Seattle School District was the fact that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources under their Natural Heritage Program had classified the plant habitat actually present at Ingraham as a rare plant community in King County.

The Seattle School District also had not acknowledged the fact that the tree grove was used as a school and neighborhood park. These and other facts will be part of the appeal by Save the Trees.

Meanwhile the question remains as to whether the Seattle School District will agree to put their proposed tree cutting and removal scheduled on August 15th and 16th on hold.

The School District has incurred tremendous public outrage from both Seattle public officials and citizens for this blatant attempt to get around existing land use and environmental laws.

The Seattle School Board has called a special executive committee meeting for this evening (Tuesday August 12, 2008) from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM to discuss their response to the law suit.

It is hoped by Save the Trees that the Seattle School District will withdraw their threat of cutting down the trees this Friday and Saturday and allow the environmental review process to proceed as normal and delay any action to cut the trees until the case is properly reviewed by the Courts.

Ron English, an attorney for the Seattle School District has written an e-mail to Keith Scully of Gendler and Mann who is representing the plaintiffs, noting that he did not have the authority to stop the tree cutting and that the decision was up to the School Board. That is one of the issues they are discussing tonight.

If the Seattle School District decides not to cancel the tree cutting, Ron English said that the plaintiffs would have time to go to King County Superior Court to request a restraining order as the District had no intent of cutting the trees down before Friday.

Of course with the construction permits withdrawn, the Seattle School Board also has the option of dropping the proposal to build the addition in the grove of trees and move it to another site, like the open lawn area on the North side of the school.

This would remove any further delay from the project, as litigation regarding the trees is expected to take 6 months or more and the School District has no certainty they would prevail with a full review of the project and alternatives if the Court rules an EIS is needed.


Urgent Update -Help Needed to Save the Trees at Ingraham High School –

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

It’s been a hectic couple of day here in Seattle battling to save the old trees at Ingraham High School! A somewhat ordinary environmental review process has turned into a battle to stop the chain saws as the Seattle School District has resorted to dirty developer tactics and an all out attempt to bully their way over the public by just cutting down the trees. On Thursday they withdrew their building permit applications with the City of Seattle, claiming that without the pending land use applications they could just cut down the trees. Neighbors and Seattle be damned they said! The School District said they plan to cut down the trees on August 15th and 16th .

Once the trees are cut down the Seattle School District plans to resubmit its plans to again add the building addition where the trees once were. Oh and don’t despair. They said you’ll be able to comment on their proposal again at that time. But this time there won’t be any trees in the way for angry neighbors and tree lovers and park lovers to complain about losing.

We urgently need the help of the public to stop them. This blatant evasion of the normal planning process is outrageous and a callous attempt to avoid environmental protection and land use laws. One might expect such arrogant bullying from a private developer but the Seattle Public Schools are owned by the taxpayers. Its our money and our schools. Please help now to save the trees at Ingraham.

Please note: It’s not a question of trees versus school renovation. It never has been. Save the Trees supports replacing the decaying portables with new classrooms. We support putting the new addition on the North side of the school on an open lawn area where no large trees have to be cut down. The Seattle School District, without seeking public input from neighbors and the community, chose to build the addition in a grove of 75 year old 100 foot tall Douglas fir, Pacific madrone and western red cedar trees. Some 68 trees would be unnecessarily cut down. They have long been are a neighborhood park. They also constitute a rare plant community in King County under the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Program.

You can read our press release here on MajorityRulesBlog: http://www.majorityrules.org/blog/2008/08/seattle-school-district-seeks-to-avoid.html

There has been major coverage in both the print and broadcast media.

In the Seattle Times by Susan Gilmore http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008101880_ingraham09m.html

And a post by Lisa Stiffler. http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/environment/archives/145622.asp

A link to the KOMO site http://www.komonews.com/news/26442089.html

A link to the King 5 news story is here: http://www.king5.com/education/stories/NW_080808WAB_seattle_school_tree_controversy_TP.2a35ef0b.html#

Great Blog Post – http://smarterneighbors.com/2008/08/09/seattle-school-districts-bad-faith-decision-to-fell-trees-at-ingraham-high-angering-neighbors-and-mayor-nickels/

Also you can find a series of blog posts on the Ingraham battle as it has evolved over the last several months at www.MajorityRules.org/blog

We need people to email or call Seattle City Council members, the Mayor’s office and Seattle School Board and the Seattle School’s Superintendent expressing outrage at the Seattle School District’s decision to evade environmental scrutiny by a developer’s loophole.

Urge the School District and Superintendent to continue the environmental review process in the Courts or just move the proposed addition to the North side of Ingraham High School where they could build without cutting down any large trees. Urge specifically they not cut down the trees.



Urge the Seattle City Council and Mayor to pass now a strong tree preservation ordinance to close this and other loopholes and give protection to saving and expanding tree cover in the city! Urge action now, not next year. If you are outraged by this slimy trick to evade environmental review tell the city council and mayor to end these developer loopholes.



Send a contribution made out to Save the Trees! to help pay legal expenses. Initial costs are several thousand dollars. More costs are anticipated if the School District digs in further. Send as generous a check as you can to “Save the Trees!” c/o Steve Zemke, 2131 N 132nd St, Seattle, WA 98133 206-366-0811

Seattle School District Seeks to Avoid State and City SEPA and Land Use Laws.

Save the Trees Press Release:
August 9, 2008

Seattle School District Uses Developer Loophole to Avoid Environmental Laws.

The Seattle School District is attempting to avoid Washington State and Seattle Environmental Protection laws and Land Use Regulations using an unscrupulous developer loophole. In the process they are about to destroy an urban forest tree grove at Ingraham High School in North Seattle that has unique environmental value.

The Seattle School District yesterday notified the city of Seattle and neighbors that they “have withdrawn its pending application for a Master Use Permit (MUP) for the project, as well as the building permit application and grading permit application. So long as these applications are not pending, no city permits are required for removal of these trees….”

The forested area is classified as a rare plant community in King County by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources under its Natural Heritage Program because of its unique combination of Douglas fir, western madrone trees and salal understory.

The Seattle School District’s action is the same as loggers killing spotted owls or developers filling in wetlands prior to applying for permits, so they can avoid environmental laws. In this instance the Seattle School District’s bringing out the chainsaws is adopting the worst environmental practices to evade environmental protection laws to end a legal appeal process.

They seem to have decided that allowing citizens the right to appeal their decisions is something they don’t have time for or that they need to do. This is not a single action here. Last week they did a similar destructive bullying tactic at Denny Sealth School in West Seattle. They bulldozed down the trees there that were part of a DNS appeal hearing while the hearing was still going on – ending any effective appeal. They apologized for their “mistake” but the trees were gone.

Here at Ingraham they are also playing the same school yard bully. We are in the middle of an appeal process to save the Ingraham tree grove and the school district is again picking up the chain saw and saying the game is over. At stake are over 68 evergreen trees that are 75 years old and over 100 feet tall.

We have warned the school district that if the trees are cut down because they want to end the public legal appeal process that they are facing a recall effort of the entire school board for their dereliction of their responsibility to allow the legal public appeal process to continue.

They have made a mistake by locating the proposed school addition in a unique and rare environmental habitat – a rare plant community. They made their decision without involving the public in the planning process.

Their argument that it will cost them to move the building addition to another location is the same argument polluters make when they asked to clear up toxic waste or air pollution or a developer is told they can’t build on a wetland. Yes it may cost them more but they need to do the right thing and follow the law.

The Seattle Public School District is in charge of educating our city’s children. They need to teach and lead by example. You can not teach our children we are a nation of laws and then seek to evade the law applying to you.

We urge the School District to rescind their order to cut the trees down on Aug 15 and 16 and continue with the legal process. If not we will be pursing our legal options to stop them.

Under city environmental law SMC 25.05.67N2a it states “It is the cities policy to minimize or prevent the loss of wildlife habitat and other vegetation which have substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological and/or economic value.

Under SEPA regulation SMC 25.05.675N.2c if a city “finds that a proposed project would reduce or damage

1. Rare uncommon or exceptional plant or wildlife habitat

2. Wildlife trail ways or

3. Habitat diversity of species (plants or animals) of substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological or economic value

The decision maker may condition or deny the project to mitigate its adverse impacts.”

The Seattle School District is seeking to avoid the project being evaluated under these regulations and is instead seeking to destroy the environmental habitat so that it can do what it wants without environmental oversight or mittigation.

end press release///////

This action could be reversed by the Seattle School Board but no one wants to break ranks and admit they made a mistake. Arrogance, not reason rules at this point.

Contact the Seattle School Board and urge them to abandom their wild west cowboy gunslinger attitude and move the proposed addition to the north side of the school where an open lawn area would allow a new building addition to be placed without cutting down any old trees.

This issue is not education versus trees as the Seattle School Board suggests. We can have both. The Ingraham campus is the largest Seattle School District campus at 28 acres. The west grove of trees is only 1.2 acres in size and is a unique asset to the campus and the neighborhood.

Seattle City Council to Act on Saving Tree Groves

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School


This Tuesday afternoon at 2 PM, the Seattle City Council ‘s Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities will be discussing and considering passing a resolution on clarifying the existing rules on protecting trees in Seattle “to include groves or groups of trees or other vegetation that are determined to have substantial ecological, educational or economic value”

Resolution 31065 is sponsored by Council President Richard Conlin and Sally Clark. You can read their press release here. They expect the Committee to vote on the issue June 24 and the full council to vote on June 30, 2008.

It does not appear that the public will get much chance to comment on the resolution because the Committee is only allowing 10 minutes of public comment for a jam packed meeting that also includes discussion of a 20 cent per bag green fee on disposable shopping bags and another discussion on prohibiting polystyrene containers for food and shifting to compostable and recyclable alternatives.

The best bet for those that want to help protect existing groves of trees from being destroyed in Seattle is to call or e-mail Seattle City Council members urging their support for added strengthening tree protection. Certainly come to the meeting to show your support as well. The Seattle City Council members can be contacted by going to the Seattle City Council website.

The two current battles over threatened destruction of trees includes a grove of 130 old Douglas fir and western red cedar and madrone trees at Ingraham High School in north Seattle and another grove of mostly Douglas fir in the Maple Leaf area in Seattle called the Waldo Woods.

Recent articles on the proposed tree ordinance:

Seattle council members want groves of trees protected” Seattle Times 3/29/2008

Call to Protect grove of trees is sent to Nickels” Seattle PI 3/29/2008

Seattle Treescape: A bigger canopy” Seattle PI editorial 6/11, 2008

Neighbors Urge Seattle School Board to Redesign Ingraham HS Project”, MajorityRulesBlog 4/15/2008

A growing contradiction at Ingraham high, Seattle PI 3/28/2008

Maple Leaf appeals decision on letting developer cut down trees” Seattle Times 5/28/2008

Seattle School Board Wants to Honor Renowned Mountaineer by Cutting Down Old Trees

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School


The Seattle School Board is both out of touch with the environment and with history. They are pursing a pig headed approach to renovating Ingraham High School in North Seattle, refusing to consider any alternative designs. Their one and only design clear cuts half of a grove of 75 year old 100 foot tall evergreen trees.

The disconnect here is that besides being contrary to the current goals of Seattle to preserve existing trees and to plant new trees to increase our tree cover in Seattle, they are doing this clearcut at a school named to honor a renowned outdoorsman and mountaineer. The school was named after Major Edward Sturgis Ingraham – the first Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.

As noted on Wikipedia, Ingraham was “a noted mountaineer who climbed Mt Rainier 13 times and a leader in the effort to establish Mt Rainier National Park.” The Ingraham Glacier on Mt Rainier is named after him. He also was involved in some of the first ascents of Mt Baker in the 1890’s. He was appointed to be a member of the first State Board of Education.

So much for having a school named after you by the Seattle School District. Its sort of like the US Navy naming a battleship the USS Gandhi. Ingraham is probably rolling over in his grave, seeing the lack of respect for what he stood for regarding the environment and the horrible lesson this teaches our children entrusted to the Seattle School District.

The voters approved the funds for the renovation of the school but the Seattle School District never told the voters that their intent was to cut down some 66 Douglas fir, western red cedar and madrone trees on the west side of the school to build the addition. If they had told the voters, the funds never would have been approved.

And all during the planing for the addition through the rendering of architectural drawings, neighbors and other members of the community were kept in the dark as to the Seattle School District’s true intent. Internal minutes of a Seattle School Design Committee were first released some 6 months after the meetings started and after the first opportunity for the public to comment on the Environmental Checklist for the project.

The committee noted last year that some neighbors may object to the trees being cut. But at their second meeting they already stated that building where the trees were was their preferred choice. This was despite the fact that a large open area exists on the north side of the school where they can build the addition without cutting down any trees. And they had already in their long range master plan picked this site for a future classroom addition.

The Seattle School District only seriously considered the site where the trees were. A request for release of public information on any alternative designs and associated budget figures produced only a brief one page line sketch of a building on the north side. No alternative budgets supposibly exist.

The Seattle School Board has taken a blind eye to the whole thing – refusing to look at building on the north side and saving the trees. They have issued a notice of determination on non-significance for their SEPA environmental checklist. This is so they do not have to do an environmental impact statement.

The problem is that the Seattle School District is the one issuing the so called notice of determination of non-significance. There is not a review by a separate agency or entity which seems like a significant conflict of interest. It’s like asking a coal burning energy plant to determine whether its emmisions are impacting the environment and taking their word for it without any independent agency or entity reviewing the information and making the determination.

Contact the Seattle School Board and urge them to save the trees by building the addition on the north side of the school. No money has been committed or spent for construction yet. The Seattle School District is acting like it is still 1959 and they can build whatever they want where ever they want without taking into account the concerns and goals of the larger community they live in. They are being bad neighbors when they don’t need to be bad neighbors. They need to hear that the public opposes their clearcutting plan for Ingraham High School.

You can email the Seattle School Board members at – Sherry Carr, District II; Harium Martin-Morris, District III; Peter Maier, District I; Cheryl Chow, District VII Steve Sundquist, District VI; Mary Bass, District V; Michael DeBell, District IV

Send them all your email since 4 of the 7 board members need to vote to build the addition on the north side of the school. Also send a copy of your e mail to the Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools – Maria L Goodloe-Johnson at superintendent@seattleschools.org .

Speak Up for Parks and Green Spaces in Seattle!

The Seattle City Council is soliciting public input into a new Parks and Green Spaces Levy for this November’s Ballot. The first of three public “open house” meetings was held Monday at City Hall. Another one will be held tonight, May 14, 200 from 6:30 to 9:30 PM at the Northgate Community Center at 105010 5th Ave NE.

A third open house will be held Thursday, May 15, 2008 from 6 to 10 PM at the Rainier Community Center – Multi-Purpose Room at 4600 38th Ave So.

As the Seattle Great City Initiative notes:

The Seattle City Council has empaneled a Parks and Green Spaces Committee to assemble a levy package for this November’s ballot, which will continue to fund investments in Seattle’s green infrastructure. Critical to the success of this effort will be significant public turnout and input into the shape of the levy at the three public open houses that are listed below.

Whether it is shorelines or streambeds, tree canopy or playgrounds, please join us at one or all of these events to show that there is broad public support for this kind of continued investment in the ecological, community and economic benefits that green space funding brings to our Emerald City. If you would like to send comments email parksandgreenspaceslevy@seattle.gov

The Seattle Times printed a commentary yesterday entitled “Satisfying Seattle’s Passion for Parks”. It was written by Tom Rasmussen, who Chairs the Seattle City Council’s Parks and Seattle Center Committee and Richard Conlin who is the Seattle City Council President. They note that:

After eight years, the current Pro Parks Levy will expire in December. The levy has been a great success: It enabled the city to acquire 42 acres of open space, including 15 new neighborhood parks, and funded 70 park-development projects, including habitat restoration, athletic-field improvements and city trails. …

On April 21, we established the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Citizens’ Advisory Committee to develop a list of potential park, recreation and open-space projects to be funded by a continuation of the levy.

As the City Council considers a new parks levy, quality of life will also be at the forefront of our minds. By design, Seattle is working for more housing within the city limits in order to protect Puget Sound’s forests, farms and wildlife. In return, we must offer residents more green space and better facilities for recreation, contemplation and getting outdoors.

Rasmussen and Conlin note that a recent poll the Seattle City Council commissioned showed strong public support for continuing the ProParks , with 65% of the polled respondents saying they would support an extension of the levy to “fund improvements to existing parks and the acquisition of new neighborhood parks, green spaces, play fields and trails.”

Angela Galloway of the Seattle PI last month posted the poll questions and detailed responses on the PI’s Strange Bedfellows blog.

The continued fight over trying to save some 80 large Douglas fir, western red cedar and madrone trees at Ingraham High School in North Seattle this week found 8 of the 9 Seattle City Council members, including Rasmussen and Conlin urging the Seattle School District to pursue an alternative design for their classroom addition that would save the 50 year old evergreen trees from being destroyed.

Obviously if funds were available one alternative would be for the City of Seattle to buy the development rights to the west grove of trees and preserve it as a green area for the school and neighborhood. There is also an east grove of trees at the school that has been seriously looked to be cut down for additional unneeded parking and possibly as a building site. This area also needs to be looked at for either purchasing development rights or out right purchase.

It is obvious that the Seattle School District and Seattle School Board is giving preserving green space on its school campuses a very low priority. Most in city schools across the country would love to have the green in city forested area that is present on the Ingraham High School campus. It seems the school district here is still following in the footsteps of those past school board members who in the past saw some value in paving over school playground space with asphalt, which many schools in Seattle still have an over abundance of while having a deficit of grass and shrubs and trees.

Correcting the Public Record on Ingraham High School

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School


Last Friday I attended the BEX (Building Excellence) Programs Oversight Committee that is supposedly helping oversee the latest construction projects being done by the Seattle Public Schools. I went to correct errors in their meeting notes from a previous meeting. I was graciously given an opportunity to present my concern regarding the lack of public involvement in siting and designing the Ingraham High School Construction Project that is moving ahead to cut down 62 large Douglas Fir and western red cedar trees, most over 50 years old and many over 100 feet tall, as well as up to 22 madrone trees

While the committee was responsive to realizing that there was a lack of public notification and involvement on the front end, their response seemed to center on the fact that they needed to do a better job in the future addressing public involvement and environmental concerns. The present situation seems to be a classic group think process. No one seems to want to be the one to say maybe they need to look at alternative designs because that would stop the forward momentum and no one wants to be the one to say now that maybe they messed up and they should step back and site the project on an alternative site.

It doesn’t matter that it is now obvious that no alternative designs or sites were seriously considered. In fact at the August 27, 2007 Ingraham High School Design Committee meeting #2, the recently published minutes have the statement that “Building Scheme A with new addition at the west end is preferred.”

When I recently asked to see any blueprints or budgets or even serious sketches of alternative designs to the west addition, I was told that none were available. A formal request for alternative designs and budgets to the Legal Department of the Seattle School District brought the response that none exist.

Ironically the guy dealing with the environmental review process for the Seattle School District is Ron English who reminded me recently that he was involved in defending WPPSS’s (Washington Public Power Supply System) building its 5 ill fated nuclear power plants many years ago. Back in 1981 when he was an attorney for WPPSS, I was the sponsor of Initiative 394 to require that there be a public vote before they could issue more public bonds to be paid for by ratepayers to continue building the projects. The initiative required for the first time that WPPSS do cost effectiveness studies on the projects to determine whether or not there were cheaper alternatives to generating energy than building all 5 plants. This was something WPPSS never did before starting to build its 5 nuclear power plants.

In some ways the Seattle School District, while much more benign than WPPSS, has approached building the new addition to Ingraham High School in the same secretive way WPPSS went about building its nuclear power plants. The Seattle School District did a non public design review process. It started last year with the Ingraham High School Principal selecting a few teachers and a couple of parents to meet with consultants and Seattle School Administration people to sit on a school design team that was involved in selecting a site and design for the new project. The design team did not hold public meetings or seek public input. It was only in March, 2008 long after the meetings were held that brief notes of the minutes were posted on the school’s website. The meetings started back in July of 2007.

Neighbors, other community members and concerned citizens were not given a chance to give input on the project or even follow its progress until after the site was chosen and the architectural firm had drawn up the blueprints. When neighbors first heard what was happening – that the school design team, consultants and Seattle School District Administrators had made their decision – they were basically told it was too late to look at any alternative designs or question the decision of the in-house committee. The first public neighborhood meeting was on March 18, 2008 the day before comments were due on the Environmental Checklist that was used to reach a Determination of Non-significance by the School District’s in house environmental Lawyer, Ron English.

The parallels with WPPSS are obvious to me- they did not seriously look at alternatives, either in terms of environmental costs or for comparison of building costs. They only seriously considered one site, the same as WPPSS only considered building nuclear plants. WPPSS treated its ratepayers the same way as the School District did in this process – WPPSS allowed them the opportunity to respond after the meeting was over and the Board had taken their votes on agenda items. It was obvious that the public’s opinion did not matter.

Being given an opportunity by the Seattle School District to make comments after the site and design decision is made allows for only token public involvement. We repeatedly hear the argument that we’ve already spent money to come up with a design and we don’t want to waste it by looking at alternatives now. WPPSS made the same kind of argument, as they continued to issue more and more bonds for what eventually became the largest municipal bond default in US history. Continuing to spend more money does not make the original decision any more right. Being unwilling to re-evaluate projects as to their feasibility and desirability as concerns arise is a sign of rigidity and a shirking of public responsibility. Saying we will do better next time does not make it right this time.

The following is the letter I submitted to the BEX committee. Originally it by some committee members was suggested to add the letter to the meeting minutes but the representative from the UW sitting on the committee thought that was going too far since I was advocating a position (they aren’t?) and got the committee to agree to only amend the minutes. Heaven forbid if the public read what I had to say at a public meeting of a committee of the Seattle Public Schools. Anyway here’s the letter:

Correction needed to Meeting Notes
of March 14, 2008 BEX Programs Oversight Committee

Under Project Updates for Ingraham High School it says “Numerous community meetings were held.” This is not true. No community meetings had been held to this point. The first community meeting anyone heard of was a March 18, 2008 open house and it was poorly attended because of a messed up mail program that sent a few people 29 copies each of the meeting notice and the rest of the neighbors got no notice, including those right across the street from the proposed construction site. A second and final meeting was held April 24, 2008. These were all after a design and site had already been picked without community involvement.

At the April 24th meeting four sites were noted on a map, on the north, east, south and west side of the school. This was the first time neighbors and others in the community heard any discussion of other sites besides a north site mentioned in the geophysical report and dismissal of the north site when neighbors asked why it was not being considered. Besides the site in the west grove of trees, the site on the east side was in a second grove of trees, while the south site was where the tennis courts are and the north site is actually on a grassy lawn that does not require any large trees to be cut down.. So to say that “even more trees would have to be removed if another location had been selected” is also factually wrong.

It is important to note that over 700 citizens have signed a petition asking that the school district build on an alternative site like on the North side of the school that does not require destroying 62+ fifty year old 100 foot tall Douglas fir and western red cedar trees, as well as up to 22 madrone trees. The tree cover in Seattle was listed as 40% in 1972 and last year was 18%. The Douglas fir madrone forest area on the west side of Ingraham is becoming rare in the city and destroying over half the forest would be a loss for Seattle and the school district that is not necessary.

What is strange here is that the North site is actually discussed as a building site for Ingraham in its long range plans. The community and neighbors are upset that they were excluded from the process and are still viewed as only a nuisance. Yet the public that was given no chance to be meaningfully involved in a timely fashion are the ones who will be paying off the bonds for the projects.

Groups like the Haller Lake Community Club, the Seattle Community Council Federation and the 46th District Democrats have all taken positions questioning the lack of community involvement, opposing cutting down over half the forest area and supporting an alternative design. Signers of the Save the Trees petition included King County Executive Ron Sims, Washington State Senators Ed Murray and Ken Jacobsen and State Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson and Phyllis Kenney.

Support is strong for preserving the trees and the public does not understand why the Seattle School District seems to think they can destroy so many trees and think it is not significant or that they did not feel the need to consult with neighbors and others before going ahead with a design that significantly destroys so much of a unique urban forest, significantly altering both a school campus and the neighborhood.

The Seattle School District needs to step back and give an alternative design serious consideration or it stands to lose serious credibility as a responsible member of the larger community. Building on the current proposed site will destroy many trees that have been growing for over 50 years and that given time will be exceptional trees, Just as educating students takes time, trees do not reach maturity in just a few years. And serious questions exist as to the viability of the remaining trees because of possible severe root damage and changed wind dynamics at the site.

The Seattle School District has an opportunity to step back, take a second look and act in a more environmentally responsible way. It is not easy to do that but it would set a great example for Seattle students to see the Seattle Public Schools change course and adapt to changing times, needs and circumstances and put a greater emphasis on preserving our natural habitat in which we live. It is a great lesson to impart to our future leaders – that it is possible to change course and be more environmentally conscious and responsible.

Steve Zemke
Save the Trees
2131 N 132nd St
Seattle, WA 98133

dated Friday, May 9, 2008

View KING 5 News Coverage of Save the Trees

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School


Efforts continue to save 62 old Douglas fir and western red cedar trees at Ingraham High School in North Seattle. The trees are in a grove of about 120 trees on the west side of the high school.

The Seattle School District decided to design a new classroom addition to replace old portables on the campus without involving neighbors or others in the community. Instead Ingraham High School Principal Martin Floe selected an in house group of administrators and teachers and other school affiliated people to come up with a design. No effort was made to reach out to neighbors or the local Haller Lake Community Club to let them know the design process was going on, to ask if anyone wanted to be involved or give input from the neighborhood.

It turns out that they never priced out or looked at any other designs besides the site the architect who designed the school in 1959 suggested in 1959. Since then a large grove of 120 some trees, including 100 foot tall Douglas fir, western red cedar and madrone trees have thrived in the area and created a unique park like setting on the west side of the school.

Back on Arbor Day last month King 5 TV did a segment on the controversy. You can view it by going to KING 5 VIDEO.

Since the session aired the Seattle School District has withdrawn their original determination of non-significance and have completed a second draft of the Environmental Checklist. They will soon issue a revised draft for comment and this will represent another opportunity for neighbors and Seattle residents to question the need to cut down some 62 large Douglas fir and western red cedar trees when an alternative site exists on the North side of the school to build the new classrooms without cutting down any trees.

You can help to stop the destruction of these trees by sending an e-mail to the Seattle School Board members telling them you oppose cutting down the trees and that they should come up with an alternative design. Our tax dollars pay for the Seattle Public Schools. We have every right to demand that they spend them in an environmentally sound way and do it in a manner than protects our urban forested habitat.

In the last 30 years we have lost some 50% of our tree canopy in the city. It is absurd to keep cutting it. And the Seattle School District and Seattle School Board have a viable alternative to cutting the trees down. The Seattle School District actually shows the North site as available for possible future expansion. What a terrible lesson the Seattle School District is giving to our students.

Seattle School Board Wins Grinch Award

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

“Hate those trees, sure do,” said the Grinch. Reverting back to his old form and stance, the Grinch announced yesterday that he is expanding his franchise of celebrations that we can do away with. Earth Day is one of those.

And in the spirit of those who agree with him, the Grinch awarded an honorary franchise membership to Seattle Public Schools for their dogged efforts to clearcut trees from their school campuses.

Trees are a bad influence on kids said the Grinch. Especially large old trees noted the Grinch. So the Seattle Public School’s efforts to remove 68 large old evergreen trees from the west side of the Ingraham High School campus in North Seattle got the Grinch’s attention.

Brilliant strategy said the Grinch. Seek public money to replace grimy moldy old portables and promise new classrooms to renovate and upgrade the campus. The public supports that. But don’t tell the public paying the bill that the plan is to build the new classrooms smack in the middle of one of the few large groves of old Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and madrone trees left in Seattle. Most of these trees are now 75 years old and over 100 feet tall.

The Grinch praised Seattle Public Schools for excluding members of the public from participating in the design process. “Neighbors and other members of the public only ask embarrassing questions and waste your time,” said the Grinch.

Part of the strategy to decrease student support for Earth Day celebrations the Grinch noted was the consideration by Seattle Public Schools to also cut down another grove of trees on the east side of the campus by the Helene Madison Pool. In the tree report filed with the City of Seattle dated Oct 22, 2007, the enclosed Ingraham Master Plan had circled this grove of trees and wrote in large letters “POTENTIAL EAST PARKING EXPANSION” – 50 spaces.

“Brilliant!” said the Grinch. “The more we work to encourage students to drive to school by creating more parking spaces, the less environmental habitat there is for them to spend time in marveling and celebrating their natural environment.”

The Grinch said that while the Seattle School District dropped the proposal to cut the east forest down in their current plan, they’ll always be more chances to cut down the trees in the future. “And for now you can tell the public that you’re not going to cut down these trees and look like environmental heroes, while you move forward to decimate the grove on the west side,” he gloated.

The Grinch noted that the trees in the east grove remain a real threat because teachers at Ingraham High School have actually used this area for environmental learning. “Preserving trees and native natural areas are a continuing threat to our efforts to do away with celebrating Earth Day,” said the Grinch.

The Grinch praised the inaction of the Seattle School Board in responding to strong public concern about cutting down the trees. Obviously their continuing to move forward with building the addition as planned is encouraging noted the Grinch. To seriously listen to the taxpayers paying for the school renovation would be a mistake he said. Just stop up your ears he suggested, urging them not to give in to public demands to come up with an alternative design that would save the trees on the west side of the school.

The Grinch urged the Seattle School Board to remove their e-mail contact information from their website at www.seattleschools.org/area/board. “If members of the public get hold of this information, who knows how many might try to contact you, urging you to come up with a new design for the classroom addition that doesn’t require cutting down the 68 large Douglas fir, western red cedar and Pacific madrone trees on the west side of the campus.”

“And for God’s sake don’t tell them about the open grassy lawn on the North side of the school where you could build the new classrooms and not have to cut down any large trees.” yelled the Grinch.

The Grinch was last seen dancing a jig and then running away, yelling at the top of his voice, “Cut down those trees now!” Again and again.