Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ingraham Neighbors Angry Over Lost of Tree Grove

As part of the $22M upgrade at Ingraham (as part of BEX III), the district plans to fell 80 mature trees. Here's the story in today's PI. The twist is not just that the neighbors are unhappy but the district wanting to do it runs counter to state and city goals for tree cover. From the article:

"Last year, Mayor Greg Nickels released the Urban Forest Management Plan, which aims to increase tree cover from 18 percent to 30 percent in 30 years.

An Emerald City Task Force was convened and in December released its tree-saving recommendations. Now the city is reviewing and updating its tree regulations, which offer weak protections.

Trees are valued for providing habitat to birds and other animals, controlling stormwater runoff, helping fight climate change and cleaning the air.

But while city leaders say they want to save trees, those critical of the Ingraham plan wonder if Seattle Public Schools missed that message.

David Tucker, district spokesman, said they'd like to preserve as many trees as possible, but it's not their primary mission.

"Our focus has to be what is going to best assist those students in progressing academically," Tucker said."

Well, okay, of course the focus is on academics but our schools are not isolated islands. They sit in neighborhoods.

Of course, the district is not stripping the area bare but will replace some of them (albeit with smaller trees that, of course, will take years to grow).

So could there be a compromise? Neighorhood:

"The trees are coming down to make room for needed classrooms. But neighbors wonder why the construction can't be shifted to a large grassy space just around the corner, sparing the towering cedars and firs."

District:

"If the building was built on the nearby grassy site as some suggest, classroom daylight would be lost, more open space would be eliminated because the proposed two-story building would be spread over one story, and the addition would be much closer to the street. It also would cost more."

I guess you'd have to see the plans to see if what the district is saying is true. But naturally, we all have to believe the old district adage "it'll cost more not doing it our way" because they say it every time.

"Ron English, Seattle Public Schools' environmental officer, signed off on the draft environmental review of the project, determining it "will not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment."

Neighbors challenged that assertion during a comment period ending March 19. They're also upset over feeling excluded from the planning process -- a frequent complaint in construction projects undertaken by the school district.

"This is public money. It's tax dollars," Zemke said. "We should have a voice."

You think?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is Facilities quickly becoming the most controversial department in the district for its total disregard for any type of public engagement whatsoever?

Granted, the pendulum appears to be swinging back towards the district/Board thinking the public is a nuisance, but Facilities as a department seems to be making public enemies faster than any other group @ the JSC.

Anonymous said...

They're expanding the parking lot at Ingraham?! Um, wait a minute -- in my experience that was the *only* school parking lot that wasn't jammed to the gills during tours (and it's not because there weren't lots of folks on the tour). Do they really need more space?

Melissa Westbrook said...

They do. Their math classes are held out in old portables. It's not a good situation. Having said that, you have to wonder about why the district is always "my way or the highway" on so many capital projects?

Charlie Mas said...

The District is "my way or the highway" on everything.

I wouldn't mind it so much, but they aren't very thoughtful about how they determine "my way".

I have seen, time and time again, rather thoughtless or capricious decisions made with knee-jerk speed. Unfortunately, they then dig in and commit to defending these quickie decisions to the death as if all of their pride and honor were staked to them.

It's not just in Facilities - it is part of the District's dysfunctional culture. That's part of the reason they don't check with internal stakeholders either. They don't want it to appear that they didn't make the decision independently. They don't want to appear as if they were controlled or influenced by anyone else.

Weird. In my business we NEVER make unilateral decisions. EVERYTHING is subjected to peer review - and the expectation is that the peer review will be diligent and rigorous. There are no coups taken when a decision is improved by peer review - we ALL get credit for good decisions and we ALL take responsibility for poor ones.

Anonymous said...

I just meant do they need more *parking* space -- not talking about the rest of the remodels.