Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dear Mayor Murray, No and Hell No

Update: for one, turns out there's someone from the Gates Foundation on the Committee.  I'm sure that's a bit voice for charters.  His name is David Wertheimer.

What seems to be the explanation for this "mandate" for investment in charter schools is the idea that (1) SPS isn't building new schools (wrong) and (2) that school facilities could be built into housing.

On the first issue, we all know SPS is opening up every building they can (and those are some schools that have been closed so long, they might as well be new) and, as well, the district IS opening two new schools at the Wilson-Pacific site.  I have no idea why someone would say the District isn't building new schools if they didn't know for sure but you'd have to ask members of the Committee.

Now if the City thinks that having charters will serve all these new students, they clearly don't know charters.  For one thing, charters are deliberately smaller so any idea that a charter high school would serve even half the number of a comprehensive is a dream.

I have no idea if this idea of housing with a school attached would only be for charters but it if were, that would be a clear signal of the Mayor's direction and it's not working with Seattle Schools.  If there were the possibility of asking the district first if it wanted to use the space and then, if not, finding a charter, that would make more sense.

End of update.

Too impolite? But it is my real and true reaction to my preliminary reading of the Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee report that was issued yesterday.

I want to note that this was called to my attention by "does this guy ever sleep" Rep. Gerry Pollet.

There are 20 times that the word "school" is mentioned in the report.  Here's the first one on page 20 which starts with a sentence about the City working with state/regional entities including Seattle School District.  But two paragraphs later, it says:
When land is not suitable for housing development, the unrestricted proceeds from sale should be dedicated to affordable housing development. The City should also create a mandate for the co- development of affordable housing in conjunction with new public buildings and investments such as community centers, libraries, charter schools, etc
Who decided that phrase had to be "charter schools" and not "public schools?"  

Who decided the "mandate" for "new public investments" should be charter schools? 

I don't know but it's a slap in the face to SPS.  That phrase "charter schools" needs to go.

And, coming on the heels of Mayor Murray's statement about the district "playing ball" with the City over preschools, it very much sounds like SPS is not a partner but a mere chess piece to be moved around on the board.
What is strange -either as if no one on the Committee knows or cares - is that there is no mention that Seattle Schools is ALREADY experiencing a capacity crisis.  Charters are unlikely to truly alleviate that any time soon. Is Seattle Schools going to start competing with charters for space in buildings with space available?  And, whose side will the City be on? 
Then there is this on page 289:
  SF.3 Allow Flexible Reuse of Large, Unique Development Sites When former school sites, church properties, military installations, publicly owned lands, corporate campuses among others are ready for redevelopment, these sites are often not zoned to allow multifamily housing
Again, this may just be ignorance on the part of the Committee in not realizing that no, there are zero former school sites to give up. There are no more Queen Anne Highs to take over.  The district may end up taking back the site on Lake City or even Oak Tree.

It wasn't necessarily the Committee's job to reflect on what all this new density will mean to the District but it would have been nice that they showed they understood the current state of the capacity in Seattle Schools.  Also to consider is what the boundaries will look like as this density comes in.

My area, Roosevelt/Ravenna, is right on the light-rail line and an urban village.  They want to upzone our single family area as well as build apartments all along Roosevelt. This is fine BUT that means that the boundaries to say, Roosevelt, will become much tighter.  Lincoln may not be able to handle it all.  What then?

Just to note, many of its recommendations will have real and meaningful affects on Seattle Schools but on a personal note, it will affect my neighborhood of Roosevelt/Ravenna.  To be clear, my husband and I moved here, knowing density was coming.  He used to say we lived in the suburbs (but he grew up in Naples and Brooklyn so he knew something about density).

I have no problem with more backyard cottages or townhomes or duplexes.  But if all we do is throw up row after row of condos/apartments/rowhouses, my belief is that we will fundamentally change some of our neighborhoods and I believe that the backbone of this city is our neighborhoods.


Charlie Mas said...

The City only sees the school district as a resource, not as a responsibility.

Charlie Mas said...

The City only sees the school district as a resource, not as a responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Murray has an Educational Advisory Committee. Several people on the committee have very good knowledge of the significant space issues that the district is having. Does the committee act as an echo chamber, or does he not listen to them, or what? Can anyone who is on the committee provide some perspective on this? Or on the Mayor's real lack of perspective?


Melissa Westbrook said...

See my updates.

Anonymous said...

Also from the report:

The City should work with other jurisdictions including the State of Washington, King County, Port of Seattle, Seattle School District and Sound Transit, to create an inventory of public properties and evaluate these to determine potential opportunities for affordable housing.
They think SPS has properties they might turn over for affordable housing?

They want to increase the amount of land zoned for multifamily housing, and say "new multifamily zoned land should be prioritized near..schools..." They do realize that the schools don't have room for more, right? And that those kids you add near many of the schools will end up having to be bused to a not-so-close school, since the school next door is full and the boundaries had to shift way over to accommodate the increased density near the next school over?

Re: all that "surplus public property" that is not already zoned to support housing, how about turning it over to SPS rather than using it for infill housing?

And if they're going to require that developers include low-income units (or pay for the city to do so), why aren't they also requiring that developers pay impact fees to help build the new schools necessary to serve the increased population?


Anonymous said...

What "surplus public property" and if there is "surplus public property" should not the public have input on it's use? Is the "surplus public property" those old SPU transfer station locations soaked with PCBs? Maybe they mean the land under our public overpasses and bridges? Wait, that's already being used as NO income housing.

Who voted for this clown? Oh wait, that's right all of you did!


mirmac1 said...

Impact fees? But that would hurt Murray's campaign coffers! It's all about the billionaires and their developers.

Anonymous said...

They don't need developers to pay for anything because we (I mean all of you) keep voting for us to pay fro it all. I hope you all are starting to see the error in your ways!

People were mad at Mcginn for snow, bikes and his tunneling disaster premonitions. Murray is Mcginn on steroids. By the time we vote him out of office Seattle will just be a distant memory like Fremont.


Skeptic said...

The city has successfully put 1200 prek students into SPS via the Family and Education Levy. I'm finding it interesting that the city partnered with private pre-k providers. It is also interesting that these private prek providers are supported by the Seattle Foundation; the organization that brought us Teach for America.

It is also worth noting that the district just accepted funding to support prek and housing.

What is the big picture/plan?

Skeptic said...

One thing is certain: Murray sure likes to keep Bill Gates involved.

mirmac1 said...

You mean enthralled, right?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Skeptic, I'm going to write about what I think is happening and at least it will be out there and no one will say they didn't know.

Anonymous said...

If this passes there will be a lot of tabs popping in the Sisley quadrant. Even taller structures right in front of RHS!


Anonymous said...

The city knows about SPS capacity issue full well. HALA isn't about affordable housing. This is about money and interest groups. Keep your eye on that and who's on the HALA committee to see why these recommendations are of no surprise. They'll be the usual "accommodation" and "engagement" over these proposals to deal with the public outcry (let's call it - the grand bargain), but decisions have been made. I'm not sure SPS leadership is all that opposed to mayoral plans. People in these leadership positions have personal aspiration too. Political patronage goes a very long way in this town.

The key to checking these plans will depend on city council and school board elections and future taxing referendum.


n said...

former . . . military installations, publicly owned lands

We need to examine the whole proposition because I do not want to see our public parks - Discovery Park/Fort Lawton - turned into public housing. It is a gem and it needs to be protected. I don't think we set aside nearly enough parks and shoreline considering the numbers of people who access them in the summer. No public housing in these areas because they should be conserved for use by all. Public housing will destroy these areas.

I think I completed that survey and I marked a preference for increased density but with the expectation that it wouldn't be a gift to developers nor trash our few precious gems like Fort Lawton/Discovery Park, Carkeek and others.

Also, does the west coast get its information by pony express? Hasn't the word on charters reached the mayor's office yet? I voted McGinn. I was willing to work with him on bikes and transportation. But Murray is an elitist who knows how to play the game. Scares the heck out of me. Kshama is my favorite council person but I don't know that she'd agree with me on the issue of public housing vs. wilderness areas.

Knapp's Map said...

Do you know all those Road Map/ Race to The Top grants. If you ever have a question, you might want to ask Jonathan Knapp- he sits on their Executive Committee.


Anonymous said...

Murray will be at Greenwood Senior Center on Saturday. I would go and let him know what you think. I was not wild about McGinn, but Murray really is McGinn on steroids.

"Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will be at the Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N. 85th St., from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 18, as part of a “Seattle at Work” event.

The mayor will be joined by several city department directors to talk with residents about how the city works in our neighborhood, including city programs and special projects."


Anonymous said...

Some have questioned if Mayor Murray listens. When it comes to Venture Capital Education listening is not in the job description of Mayor = Autocratic Agent of the Oligarchs.

-- Dan Dempsey

n said...

...Murray really is McGinn on steroids.

We are a growing city and I'm willing to give up some of my ambiance for the needs of community but it has to be thoughtful and reasonable. I think McGinn was good at that. I thought he really excelled at public meetings - honest and introspective. I can't bike but I was pro-bike everywhere because in the long run, that's best for our future transportation needs. Once you have it and people get used to it, they make it work. But I draw the line at public spaces that preserve nature. If we lose those spaces, we really will become rats running mazes. Our kids needs those spaces even more.

mirmac1 said...

n, I agree

Anonymous said...

Magnuson Park provides a real time example. There is low income housing, but it has not ruined the park. Likely, because the housing was added in areas where there are already structures. The play fields, wet lands, and lake front were left to be a park.

However, if this proposal passes it doesn't seem that there is any barrier to keep the city from selling off our parks to the highest bidder. It doesn't seem a far stretch that the lake front of Magnuson would become a row of high rise luxury condos. Access only for the wealthy, and the park gone.

The low income housing at Magnuson has greatly contributed to the FRL percent at Sand Point Elementary. In a search for much needed funds they applied for an FEL grant. In turn that allowed the city to become a deciding voice in how the school is run. It strikes me as the boil a frog approach for the city to take control of SPS.

Overall, this proposal is a thinly disguised sale of our city and unique neighborhoods to developers. The developers don't care about the impact to our children via their schooling, ability to visit the lake shore, or have a field where they can run, play or kick a ball.

If Murray truly cared about affordable housing he wouldn't propose 900 million dollar levies to increase property taxes. His priorities seem blatant, and not in favor of children or the families of Seattle.


willisreed said...

Someone above asked why the City doesn't assess impact fees for the schools - that decision would lie with the school district, not the City.. At least according to this 2014 report, SPS does not require impact fees for new development (although it could do so, and it would probably help with its capital needs).

Joe Wolf said...

Response to StepJ -

It is next to impossible for City park property to be sold or exchanged. There was an initiative in the '80s ... KUOW did a piece on it recently. Search their site.

Lia R said...

Danny Westneat, HALA and Ed Murray:

Some on this blog have had a problem with the City of Seattle- namely Ed Murray, Tim Burgess and Holly Miller.

Here is an interesting story about Murray and his ability to twist and turn the truth:


Essentially, if Murray's lips are moving- he is lying. The city is supporting 1200 prek students in SPS- via private pre-k programs and the Family and Education Levy. When did the city/ district planning on informing the board?

The city - via public messaging- informs voters that they have contracted with multiple private prek providers, but fails to inform the public that these kids are within SPS.

Lia R said...

Clarification: When did the city/district plan on informing the board that they have 1200 prek students within SPS?

Anonymous said...

About Discovery Park and the Mayor's plan :


Yes, mixed housing plan for Ft. Lawton (on park's border). It's a beaut of a site and once a few trees are cleared, lovely view$$$$ of the Sound and Shilshole.

The 22 houses inside the park were sold to a developer and are being fixed up. They will be sold as private residences. They kept the govn't property signs on the chain link fences though.


Lynn said...


The document you linked only applies to unincorporated King County. Does the City of Seattle have the same policy?

willisreed said...

Yeah, I caught that after the fact. Mea culpa.

After a second round of googling, it appears Charlie Mas has already covered the issue on this blog in the past: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2012/09/impact-fees.html

Anonymous said...

Per RCW 82.02.050, the city could collect school impact fees. However, it doesn't seem like SPS has ever bothered (?) to make the case it has any need for this income. The city's old Comprehensive Plan says the district can meet the needs of population growth with existing facilities, and the recent updates also give the impression that all is good.

Dated May 29, 2015, the Capital Facilities Appendix (to Comprehensive Plan Update) includes this:

forecast of future needs
The School District’s Facilities Master Plan (FMP) provides planning information for a period of 10 years, to school year 2021 including detailed analysis of needs by individual school service area. Overall, student enrollment is projected to grow to over 57,000 students by 2022. This would exceed the estimated 2012 capacity of approximately 51,700.
The Building Excellence (BEX) IV levy provides the funding necessary to address existing capacity needs through 2021. It includes the following projects, which along with portable classrooms, are anticipated to accommodate the projected students population:

 Fairmount Park Elementary improvements
 Schmitz Park Elementary replacement
 North East School development (new school)
 Jane Addams K-8 replacement
 Olympic Hills Elementary replacement
 Wilson Pacific K-8 development (new school)
 Loyal Heights Elementary addition
 Arbor Heights Elementary replacement
 Queen Anne Elementary addition
 Wing Luke Elementary replacement
 Bagley Elementary addition
 Meany Middle reconfiguration
 Mann High addition
 World School modernization
 Lincoln High modernization
 Interim downtown elementary school
 Support of various interim schools

But with the unsustainable increases we're seeing in levies, it sure seems like it's (past) time for school impact fees. The City Council was talking about about impact fees last fall, and it looks like its transportation committee recently took up the issue, including the possibility of working with SPS re: including school impact fees. It was mentioned here, in late April 2015. Does anyone know where things stand? A policy briefing from that meeting includes this: "Given current analysis of growth patterns, impact fee may be minor source of funds compared to levy and may not be the right tool for addressing the need. But to ensure potential is fully understood, recommend partnering with Seattle Public Schools to discuss possibility and refine the analysis." Is anyone at SPS working with SPS on this?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Argh, I agree. If the City's committee is so blithely saying "more schools" without asking how that will happen (no magic fairies for this one), then it a troubling report.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joe.