Tag Archives: SEPA

Mayor Nickels Joins Chainsaw Gang

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

Mayor Greg Nickels has decided to join the Seattle School Board Chainsaw Gang. In a decision based partly on challenged flawed documents produced by the Seattle School District, Mayor Nickels, through his Department of Planning and Development, has given the Seattle School District conditional SEPA approval to proceed with the Ingraham High School construction project.

The final project permit has not been approved. The public has until Feb 5, 2009 to appeal the city’s conditional SEPA decision. The City’s lack of commitment to save the trees under this decision brings the trees one step closer to being cut. Save the Trees -Seattle will be appealing the flawed decision.

The Seattle School District has proposed cutting down 72 large Douglas fir, western red cedar and Pacific madrone trees on the west side of Ingraham High School that are 75 years old and over 100 feet tall to replace some existing portables. The trees to be cut are seen in the picture above.

Ingraham High School can have both trees and classrooms. The open lawn area on the North side of the school in the picture above has been chosen as a future building site for the school and could be used now to build the proposed addition without having to cut down any large trees.

At 28 acres, the Ingraham High School campus is the largest public high school campus in the city. There are also other locations the addition could be easily built without having to sacrifice a unique urban forest area.

What hasn’t been debated publicly is that at the same time the Seattle School District is shutting down schools across the city because of excess capacity, it is proposing adding an additional 10,000 square feet to Ingraham High School above the 12,000 square feet it is demolishing and replacing. The School District has said it has an extra 3000 high student seat capacity yet is adding, according to its application, 200 more seats at Ingraham High School above the current 1200.

Why when the Seattle School District is experiencing a $37 million shortfall and closing schools is it not re-evaluating the $24 million it is spending for new parking lots and more classrooms at Ingraham High School?

The City’s decision notes that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has classified habitat containing Douglas fir, Pacific madrone and Salal as a “rare plant community” in King County. Mayor Nickel’s DPD however accepts the School District’s incomplete and false statements that the understory does not have adequate species diversity.

One of the School District’s own arborist reports confirmed the species diversity is there despite the district’s repeated efforts to cut and mow the understory. Salal is growing back in a number of areas in the tree grove once mowing stopped last year. The DPD even confirms the viability of the unique habitat by noting that “the Northwest Tree Stand could eventually be restored.” The critical componet of the habitat is the 75 year old trees. The understory has been mowed repeatedly by the School District but is actually coming back once they put the fence up and stopped mowing.

Save the Trees- Seattle calls Mayor Nickel’s decision hypocritical because he has strongly touted the need to save trees in Seattle and increase our urban canopy. Yet when he has a chance to save a threatened urban grove of trees he fails to act.

Citizens have to spend time and resources trying to save trees across the city because the Mayor and City Council have failed to enact needed stronger tree preservation ordinances. Other cities like Redmond and Lake Forest Park for example require a permit to cut down any tree over 6 inches in diameter. Here in Seattle people can cut down almost anything they want without a permit or city permission. That is one of the reasons the cities tree canopy has decreased from 40% in 1973 to only 18% today.

The Mayor’s actions speak louder than words. His lack of commitment to save trees when given the chance like at Ingraham High School shows he has a stronger preference for more development and parking lots than he does for saving our green urban habitat. His lack of decisive action to save the trees joins him with the Seattle School District in their disregard for protecting our neighborhoods, our natural environment and our diminishing green urban canopy and diverse habitats.

Link to DPD website with decision on application #3009549: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/LUIB/AttachmentProject3009549ID31883009549.pdf

Ingraham HS Stages Pep Rally to Cut Down Trees

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

On Tuesday night at Ingraham High School in North Seattle, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) held a public meeting on the Ingraham construction project. As you know, Save the Trees – Seattle and others in the community are opposed to the Seattle School District cutting down 68 trees in a grove on the west side of the High School when other locations exist on the campus where the addition can be built without cutting down any large trees.
The trees to be cut are the 100 foot tall 75 year old Douglas fir, western red cedar and Pacific madrone trees in the distance in the picture. The grassy area in the foreground is one place Save the Trees – Seattle says the new addition could be built, saving any large trees from needing to be cut down. The Ingraham High School master plan actually says this open lawn area is where a future addition could be built an Ingraham. Why not now?

Many neighbors and others turned out to support saving the tree grove and to urge that the project be moved. There was also a very large contingent of vocal students and parents and teachers frustrated by their long standing grievance of classes being held in rundown mold infested portables for too many years.

The Principal at Ingraham stated that he made a concerted effort to turn out students and parents and teachers to support the project. With his encouragement the students basically staged a pep rally for the project. This was not unexpected considering what they have had to put up with in a substandard learning environment.

Those opposed to needlessly cutting down the trees on a campus, which at 28 acres is the largest in the Seattle School District, sympathized with the frustration of the students and parents and teachers who for too many years have been forced to take classes in substandard portables that are in terrible shape and have mold. Teachers and students complained of getting sick. Some of the portables house special needs students but do not have running water or bathrooms.

The Seattle School District has let the situation get out of control and is now trying to make the neighbors the villains for their negligence. The Seattle School District’s approach has been to deny they have any responsibility for delaying the project and blame neighbors who love trees more than students as what is preventing the project from going forward

But Save the Trees – Seattle and the neighbors support the long overdue upgrading of the classrooms. We are not, however, the villains just because we also don’t want to needlessly destroy a unique urban forest when viable alternatives exist on the campus for building elsewhere. One location we suggested was the North lawn area which Ingraham actually picked as the site if a future addition was to be built after the current project.

It is rather ironic that the Ingraham Master Plan produced as part of this project can propose building on this North lawn location in the future but it is somehow not possible to build there now and spare the grove of trees. They are serious enough about retaining the North lawn area for a future addition that in the current proposal it is the only area on campus where they do not propose planting trees.

Two wrongs do not make a right. Not upgrading or maintaining the school in a responsible way for students and teachers in the past and proposing to cut down 68 Douglas fir, Western red cedar and Pacific madrone trees to now do the upgrade is only compounding the past mistakes by avoiding responsible stewardship of both our schools and our natural urban habitat.

The Principal testified that he went around to different student groups to recruit them to come to the public meeting to support the project as is. It is very hard for any students to take on the Principal publicly and say they opposed cutting down the trees. I have spoken with both students and teachers who opposed cutting down the trees. At least one teacher was told to stop any efforts to get students to oppose cutting down the trees because that was political and not education. The teacher felt threatened and that her job was at stake.

The Principal is the authority figure at the school. Student recommendations for college frequently come from the Principal. Is it any wonder that teachers and students who oppose cutting down the trees might feel intimidated or threatened if they spoke out. I remember when I contacted Martin Floe about our arborist looking at the trees he personally told me to not talk to the students. I guess he was afraid of them hearing anything contrary to his position. So much for an open dialogue at Ingraham.

What Floe has forgotten is that he is acting in a capacity of public trustee for a public school funded by taxpayer dollars. He has tried to characterize the neighbors as NIMBY’s which means he doesn’t even understand the term. We are not opposed to renovating the school and in fact believe it is long overdue. I am aware of no one in our group or neighbors and other tree advocates that are opposed to the renovation. We voted for the BEX bond issue. Our tax dollars are paying for the project and we have the right to express our views as much as anyone else.

Unfortunately the process set up by Martin Floe excluded the community and neighbors from the initial selection of the site and design of the project. Meetings of the School Design Team were held in secret with a few parents and teachers personally selected by Martin Floe. The public’s only chance to comment on the proposed project was earlier this year after the building site had been chosen and the design done. And we were then told we could not comment on the site anymore since that decision was already made.

At last night’s meeting, as I publicly stated, I do not think anyone there opposed the decaying portables being torn down and replaced with modern classrooms. Unfortunately it was obvious that the only option given to students and others to get new classrooms was to build in the tree grove. And blame the neighbors, rather than the School District for its inadequate review and closed review process, for preventing them from getting new classrooms.

The issue at this point is a legal one, whether or not the project is in compliance with city and state SEPA laws. We are pursing the legal process afforded the public to review the project.

The meeting was part of the public process for approval of land use permits for building in the City of Seattle and is proceeding on the normal timetable, except for the delay caused by the School District withdrawing their permit application in August in an attempt to just cut the trees down. The King County Superior Court issued an injunction to stop the trees from being cut down without any review by the City of Seattle. The City of Seattle is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks. The City does have the authority under the city’s SEPA laws to further mitigate the project, including moving it to save the tree grove. We will let you know what happens.

Seattle Public School Violates Court Injunction!

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

On Monday Judge Erlick of the King County Superior Court ruled on behalf of the plaintiffs Save the Trees – Seattle and put in place an Injunction to prevent the Seattle School District from cutting the trees or destroying the habitat in the grove of trees on the West side of Ingraham High School. This afternoon, a contractor for the Seattle School District drove into the center of the grove and commenced putting up another fence in the proposed construction area. Using an air hammer the contractor started driving steel posts into the ground.

This action was in direct violation of Judge Erlick’s ruling that the trees and habitat were to be preserved and protected while the Seattle School District resubmitted its construction permit application to the City of Seattle. Steve Zemke of Save the Trees – Seattle called the police and contacted their attorney, Keith Scully, of Gendler and Mann, who contacted Ron English, Attorney for the Seattle School District who contacted MidMountain Contractors who called their employee to stop any further work.

The truck was driven out of the grove a short while later. The call to the police was cancelled as they had not yet shown up. Tree Solutions and other consultants have advised the Seattle School District to keep trucks out of the trees because they damage the tree roots and affect the survivability of the trees. The Seattle School District continues to ignore this advice and the court order prohibiting damage to the tree grove until the environmental review process is completed.

Why was the Seattle School District not able to obey the court order and inform all contractors of the Injunction prohibiting any activities which would harm or destroy the trees or the habitat of the groove? The Project manager at Ingraham is John McWilliams and he should be held responsible along with Don Gilmore who is in charge of the BEX program.

John McWilliams and Don Gilmore were both present in Judge Erlick’s courtroom on Monday when Judge Erlick ruled. Did they not understand what the Judge said? As Project Manager for the Ingraham Project isn’t McWilliams responsible for what the contractors do? Or is this just going to be called another one of those “mistakes” or “miscommunications” and brushed aside?

Contactors working at Denny Sealth in West Seattle recently cut down trees and bulldozed an area along Longfellow Creek on the Sealth campus at the same time an appeal was underway before a Seattle School District Hearing Examiner. This action destroying that habitat made that part of the appeal mute and resulted in the Hearing Examiner saying the School District needed to up the loss of trees there from 25 to 35 to reflect that action. The actual result was contrary to a statement by Seattle School Board member Peter Maier who at the time was seen on television saying that all that happened was that a few trees were nicked.


Save the Trees- Seattle Wins Injunction to Halt Tree Cutting

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

Save the Trees – Seattle was granted an Injunction today to prevent the Seattle School District from cutting down the trees at Ingraham High School. The battle is not over, but Judge Erlick of the King County Superior went further than expected and granted an Injunction prohibiting the Seattle School District from cutting down the trees until after the Seattle MUP process is complete.

Judge Erlick ruled that the appellants met all the tests required for an Injunction and that the Seattle School District, by withdrawing their permits for construction, was putting the cart before the horse. He ruled that the School District first had to comply with the City of Seattle’s environmental review through the MUP process and that it was premature to rule on the issue until after that process was complete because there was no way of knowing what conditions the city might place on the project.

All in all Judge Erlick saw through the Seattle School District’s attempt to use a loophole to evade and avoid further environmental review and just cut the trees down. He also ruled against the Seattle School District’s attempt to claim Save the Trees legal appeal was adding to the cost of the project, noting it would only take 2 days to cut the trees down according to the School District. The School District was trying to require that Save the Trees post a $200,000 bond but the Judge said no. The $7500 bond is still in effect however.

The Seattle School District is planning to petition to throw the case out, claiming that Save the Trees filed their appeal in the wrong court. They are also going to raise a bizarre claim that Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson was not served notice of the lawsuit. A signed statement was submitted to the Court by Goodloe–Johnson. To answer this charge Keith Scully, the attorney for Save the Trees presented to the Court a signed document by the process server that Goodloe- Johnson refused to be served. Her representative, the legal department was served instead.

It seems the “new” Superintendent is just another one of the old boy’s network in the Seattle Public Schools, willing to join in their charade and mockery and disdain for the public process. What a mockery they are making of public involvement, openness and following the spirit of the law. She has joined with the Seattle School Board in trying to find loopholes in the law and avoid environmental review by the City and Courts of the Ingraham High School renovation project. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

To date the only environmental review done was done within the Seattle School District. And the Seattle School District has shown their true lack of respect for environmental and land use law through their recent actions and intent to just cut the trees down and end debate.

The Seattle School District is trying to make the issue one of trees versus education. This is not the case. The Seattle School District could easily move the project to the North side of Ingraham High School where an open lawn area now exists. No large trees would have to be cut down as a result. The school can have both trees and new classrooms.

A critical next step is to try to get passed a long overdue updated Seattle tree preservation ordinance to try to close the loopholes being used by the School Board and developers to get around protecting plant and animal habitat and trees and tree groves in Seattle.

Save the Trees has legal bills to pay along their success. Please show you support for their successful but continuing battle with the Seattle School District by contributing to help pay their legal bills. They owe about $4000 and unfortunately will owe more, as they have to go back to court to defend against the School District’s continuing attempts to throw out the case.

Make checks out to Save the Trees, c/o Steve Zemke, 2131 N 132nd St, Seattle, WA 98133

Thanks for your help.

And take a moment to celebrate the success of Save the Trees!



Save the Trees – Seattle in Court Seeking Preliminary Injunction

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

A hearing is scheduled for 2:00 PM Monday, August 25, 2008 before Judge Erlick of the King County Superior Court, 516 Third Ave, Seattle in Rm W 10-60 on the Save the Trees Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and Motion to Reduce Bond.

Save the Trees is back in court today on their motion for a Preliminary Injunction to prevent 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 King County Superior Court to resolve the environmental impacts of the project. The temporary restraining order expires today, which means the Seattle School District could again try to cut the trees down tomorrow unless the Preliminary Injunction is granted.

As Save the Trees Attorney Keith Scully of Gendler and Mann notes in the petition to the Superior Court,

“The District’s Decision to withdraw its MUP and other permit applications
has dramatically altered the factual picture since the Hearing Examiner made her
decision. As the District has gone to great pains to demonstrate, the District
has not applied for permits…It can cut the trees without any city permits or
even finalizing construction plans. It is not bound to submit the proposal as
described to the Hearing Examiner to the City. There is thus no guarantee that
any mitigation will actually be constructed once the trees are gone, let alone
enough to compensate for the massive increase in untreated stormwater to Haller
Lake, increase in greenhouse emissions, removal of habitat, and other impacts
that will result from the District’s clearcut. Unlike most land use cases, where
the court reviews both the permits and the associated SEPA review, the District
in this matter is attempting to manipulate the City of Seattle’s review process
by cutting trees before finalizing permit plans. The necessary consequence to
the District of this course of action is that they cannot rely on hypothetical
mitigation measures to justify the determination of non-significance: unlike the
facts presented to the Hearing Examiner, the only action on the table at this
time is clear-cutting a rare collection of trees and other native species”

The Ingraham Tree Grove is comprised of a plant habitat that has been 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. While the Seattle City Council and Mayor Nickels are urging the preservation of existing trees and adding canopy to the city, the Seattle School District is going in the opposite direction.

The issue at Ingraham High School is not one of education versus trees. We can have both trees and education. The Seattle School District can build the proposed addition on the open lawn area on the North side of the School without cutting down any large trees. This is a location they have already identified and selected as a future building site in the Ingraham Master Plan. Save the Trees supports the renovation of Ingraham High School and building the new addition on the North side of the school.

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 King County 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.

Ingraham Tree Grove Given Temporary Stay of Execution

Save the Trees!

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

Save the Trees – Seattle, representing the neighbors and community around Ingraham High School, was granted a temporary restraining order on August 13, 2008 to halt the cutting of 68 trees in the West Grove. This action became necessary when the Seattle School District withdrew their construction permits, trying to avoid further environmental review of their project by the City of Seattle. They believed they could then just cut down the trees and then reapply for a new permit.

The Seattle School District wanted to prevent further judicial review by those who believe the trees don’t have to be cut. Save the Trees position is that the District can build the project on the open lawn area on the North side of the school without cutting down any large trees. We can have both the educational benefits of a renovated school and the environmental benefits of a healthy urban forest and park. It is not an either or situation but a choice to have both.

Save the Trees! needs to go back to court on August 25, 2008 to get a preliminary injunction to stop the tree cutting while the environmental appeal of the Seattle School District’s proposal is being heard in the King County Superior Court. The August 25, 2008 hearing will again be before Judge Erlickin the King County Superior Court and will start at 2 PM.

Save the Trees! needs your help to continue their battle. Neighbors and other supporters of Save the Trees in Seattle have already helped raise a $7500 bond or the trees would have been cut down. Now Save the Trees needs to raise another $25,000 to continue the legal battle.

If you want to see both trees and education coexist in our neighborhood and city, please copy the coupon below and send a generous check to Save the Trees!. Please include your e-mail so you we can keep you updated. Thanks for helping!

Send your check today to:

Save the Trees!
c/o Steve Zemke,
2131 N 132nd St,
Seattle, WA 98133

P.S. Please forward this post to your friends. The trees at Ingraham represent in a nutshell the crisis facing Seattle’s urban forests. If we can’t save the trees at Ingraham, what tree in Seattle is safe from the chainsaw? Seattle’s urban tree canopy has gone from 40% in 1972 to only 18% today. It’s time to preserve the remaining trees in our city, not keep cutting them down!


Yes we can have both education and trees at Ingraham High School! Here is my check to help pay for the legal battle to save the trees in the West Grove from the chainsaws and move the proposed addition to the North Lawn area.

I can help with [] $1000 [] $500 [] $250 [] $100 [] $50 [] $25 [] other $_______

Name __________________________________________ Phone (h) _______

Address ________________________________________ (w) __________

City _______________________State ______Zip _______ (cell) __________

e-mail (print clearly)___________________________________________

Send checks to Save the Trees!, c/o Steve Zemke, 2131 N 132nd St, Seattle, WA 98133
Copy this coupon and send with your check. Thanks
Recent news articles and blogs writing about saving the Ingraham trees:

Judge prohibits School District from cutting Ingraham High trees

Judge halts tree cutting near Ingraham High School