Friday, August 08, 2008

Facilities Department Goes Unchecked (Further Updated)

So here we go again.
I had seen at the BEX webpage that the Ingraham neighbors against having a grove of trees cut down for a new addition lost their battle in a hearing. More than 65 trees out of grove of about 130 are to come down. That in itself is sad considering most of those trees are healthy. But the district says that's the best way to build the addition and that they are replanting trees (although not the same kind with the same canopy size - I'm no expert but apparently it matters in a city what the tree canopy is).

Okay fair enough but then I heard on the 5:05 local news on KUOW yesterday that the district has dropped OUT of the city permitting process. Why? Because they own the land and can do what they want. So what they want to do is cut down as many trees as they want and THEN apply for a city permit to build.

Apparently, this tactic was done before in SW Seattle, again amidst protest from the neighborhood. The district said then that it was a "mistake".

This district continues to ignore neighborhoods and communities in what it does with its facilities. Charlie thinks the Board gives the Superintendent and staff a pass? Facilities is NEVER challenged on anything. Not even from the BEX Oversight Committee (really, go to a meeting - there's much rubberstamping going on).

This does not build goodwill within a city that already has shown ( at least in attendance) misgivings about the public school system. (Can't wait for that State Auditor's report on Facilities.)

Update: the PI published a story on this in their morning edition. From the article:

"State and local elected officials also have condemned the project over worries about the environmental damage caused by the loss of the grove of trees. The district committed to planting three trees for each one that's cut down, but the replacements will be smaller and provide fewer ecological benefits for many years.

On Friday, Mayor Greg Nickels issued a statement saying that he "is deeply disappointed in the decision by Seattle Public Schools to cut trees at Ingraham High School without further city review or public input.

"The School District should stay within the regulatory process and act in good faith," Nickels wrote. "We expect good stewardship of our trees from all our residents and from the school district."

(By the way, I think this action signals the end of the honeymoon phase between Nickels and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. I personally think he still favors an appointed Board and if he thinks the district is acting unwisely may go to others who support this action, like Senator Ed Murray, and start some quiet discussions.)

And in the Comments section after this story? Calls for voting out the current Board. I don't agree but boy, this really isn't good for the district's or the Board's reputations.

New Update (8/11):
This update is courtesy of the great work over at the West Seattle blog. Here was the original blurb I heard about:

"The citywide-media’s Denny/Sealth mentions (here and here) apparently came straight from a “Save the Trees” news release (read it here), without independent followup on exactly what was cut. Here’s what the news release said (in the middle of other text about the Ingraham project):

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."

"(Meanwhile) we asked Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Patti Spencer what she could tell us about any Denny/Sealth tree trouble, and here’s her answer:

Here is my understanding of what the situation was/is: The contractor needed to put up a SILT fence to protect Longfellow Creek during construction. Putting up that fence necessitated trimming trees. I have been told that several branches were cut, and apparently there was one multi-trunk tree that needed to
have parts of the trunk trimmed to make way for the fence. The area cleared is 3 to 4 feet wide. The mistake happened because the contractor proceeded without authorization, which meant that the work was done before the SEPA ruling was given. The hearing examiner termed this a “minor mistake.” Our facilities team has taken steps to ensure that type of action does not occur again.

A multi-trunk tree that had to have parts of its trunk "trimmed"? I guess I'd have to see it but doesn't cutting into a trunk hurt it? I looked up "multi-trunked" and here's what I found at the Pacific NW International Society of Arborculture:

"Multiple Trunks. Some trees develop
multiple trunks. Trees with multiple trunks
can, however, break if the trunks are weakly
attached. Trunks with splits or cracks have a
high failure potential. Inspect these trees for
cracks or splits where the trunks meet."

So if they cut into the trunks of a multi-trunk tree, didn't they just weaken it?

What contractor who does work for public entities doesn't know about not cutting anything down without permission? And this won't occur again? I wouldn't bet on it; it's the easiest thing in the world to do what you want knowing you have the excuse of "Sorry, didn't mean to, won't happen again."


Jet City mom said...

The Seattle School District does not need to cut down any large trees to build the addition at Ingraham High School. The North side of Ingraham High School has an open grassy lawn that the school district has actually identified as a future building site in their master plan for Ingraham High School. Considering the magnitude of the impact on the current site that clear cuts 2/3 of a magnificent grove of trees, most reasonable persons would scratch their heads and ask, "Why don't you build the proposed addition there and save the trees?"

Not just the neighbors in the immediate vicinity ( my inlaws live a block a way, but those concerned about bird habitat, erosion & air quality in this region are upset that trees that have been around before any of us were born ( they are older than 75 yrs), will be cut down unneccesarily.


Charlie Mas said...

The BEX Oversight Committee is poorly named. They do not oversee anything. In fact, the Committee's stated purpose is to keep the BEX projects "intact". That means that they don't think it is their role to make changes in the projects as necessisary, but to protect the projects from changes. That's not what I call oversight.

speducator said...

Does anyone know what the Seattle School District is planning to build on the north side of Ingraham? Is their enrollment actually going to increase that much to warrant two new additions?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, the BEX website says one addition which is to get rid of using portables for math classes.

Will enrollment warrant it? Well, it might after they change the assignment plan. However, this doesn't preclude people continuing to leave the district.

Jet City mom said...

They are going to also add 46 parking spaces & supposedly make room for special education students in the main building.

Actually they could do this now, as the self-contained SPED students spend the bulk of their time in the portables- which are cold, damp & have vermin.
By pushing those students to the portables, it underlies the attitude that they are not in the mainstream of the Ingraham student body, regardless of efforts by teachers and administration.

Since the building does not enroll the numbers it has previously, I am wondering what they are doing with that space?

Charlie Mas said...

According to the BEX III campaign brochure:

"The Ingraham project replaces a modular building constructed for temporary use in 1967 and will include:
* Six math classrooms with up-to-date health and safety features
* An addition that will further support the International
Baccalaureate program
* Sidewalk improvements and new landscaping

No mention of special education, it says that the news rooms are for math and IB. I guess "new landscaping" is a reference to cutting down the trees.

The BEX III web site includes links to Findings, Conclusion, and Decision Recommended to the Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools from a land use hearing and the Superintendent's letter in response to the hearing examiner's recommendations.

The neighbors' appeals were denied.

Here's the thing: just because the District CAN do a thing doesn't mean that the District SHOULD do it.

If the District is right about this project, why are they getting so much resistance? Are their opponents simply wrong and ornery?

Jet City mom said...

THe mention of special education is in the BEX pdf file titled Ingraham Project Information.- under Other Desigh considerations. ( Click on Architectural Renderings)
It mentions that special education is housed in seven portables onsite & that the construction will alleviate that.

teacher99 said...

And in case you had any doubt as to how blatantly devious the Facilities dept. has become under the watch of MGJ as evidenced with the early Denny/Sealth battle and most recently with the arrogance displayed with Ingraham's trees, check out the following link to a "mistake" with trees at Denny/Sealth. It appears that Facilities is taking the approach that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.


speducator said...

The following is part of a report from the West Seattle Herald that discusses the hearing held at Chief Sealth High School. During this meeting, the contractors were busy taking down trees were not approved to be taken down by DNS:

Gillmore said at the hearing that he had not known about the construction on the east perimeter until the day before. Later he claimed that only branches, and not entire trees, had been cut to install a filter fence which would keep pollutants out of the creek during construction.

But when presented with photos of freshly cut tree stumps just east of the filter fence, Gillmore admitted that he had not seen them before, and that in fact these could be trees cut during the premature construction.

"We admit that the contractor should not have plowed that land," Gillmore said.

In her recommendation Klockars did recognize that 10 trees had been cut along the east perimeter of the construction site, while Lorne McConachie, the lead architect for the project, had only anticipated that two birch trees would be removed from the drive aisle. She went on to recognize that premature actions by the contractor had in fact resulted in damage to the nearby trees.

While The State Environmental Policy Act prohibits any actions that have an adverse environmental impact before a final Determination of Non-Significance is issued, Klockars said the regulation does not apply to appeals. Nonetheless, she claimed that the recent premature construction activity would effectively require that the projects proposal be revised to include a loss of at least 35 trees, instead of the initial 25.

So, this is more evidence that there is no oversight for BEX.

Jet City mom said...

Im not certified as an arborist, but because this stand apparently has not been maintained by the district, necessitating removal of a large number of trees for disease and hazard ( 18) & 66 conifers removed for construction, ( while apparently replacing half of them with seedlings), resulting in 32 original trees remaining from 116 ( and 32 transplants), I worry that we will end up losing more of the Doug firs.

Trees in a stand- protect each other from wind and weather-
If the Douglas firs are upwards of 100 ft. they are likely to be well over 100 years old. Root biomass decreases with age- at age 21- they would have 51% biomass, @ 100 years- less than 20%.

Root grafting is very common in Pseudotsuga menziesii & removal of half the trees will compromise the root ( & support) systems of the rest.

WS said...

What Marlene alludes to was coverage of a hearing that was apparently not widely publicized - I spent time yesterday trying to find out from various sources, district and otherwise, where they publish notice of these hearings, as I would have been there if I'd known about it, and I watch a multitude of government calendars daily looking for exactly this type of thing. Maybe a newspaper knew about it because of mandatory legal notice? I don't know.

At any rate, I have since spoken to Chris Jackins, who brought the appeal that led to the hearing. He told me earlier this (early) morning that while Supt. GJ issued her ruling relatively quickly after the Ingraham appeal hearing, she has yet to issue one - at least so far as he knows from watching his mailbox - in this one. Meantime, he is providing us with more information for our next followup, including at some point hopefully the photos he took of the cut trees before they were cleared away (this all happened in mid-July, he says) - TR (WS Blog editor)

WS said...

By the way, tonight (Tuesday 8/12) the Westwood Neighborhood Council meets, 7 pm at the Southwest Precinct meeting room, with Denny/Sealth on the agenda - including the future of the Denny site - and guests, according to WNC president Steve Fischer, including School Board rep Steve Sundquist. I'll be there and will file the report as soon as I can afterward.