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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Trees Win at Ingraham Hearing

This article from the P-I describes how Deputy Hearing Examiner Ann Watanabe determined that the district's planners did not evaluate alternatives to removing all or some of the trees as required by City policy.

The trees won again. The District can build the expansion (tell me again why we're expanding high schools when we have excess high school capacity?), but they should build it on some other part of the school property than the part with the grove on it.

6 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

The thing about the article - which drives me nuts - is that it says the neighbors won on that point but that the examiner upheld other points and send yet other points back to be discussed. I'll have to find the whole decision or wait for the Save Seattle's Trees group to post something.

But yes, a victory for the trees. It again points to the lack of transparency in the process and inability for the district to think in different ways. I even wonder if they have a "what if we lose" contingency? And, will they just keep fighting for the sole vision they seem to be sold on or could some compromise be made? This project is probably now way behind and needs to move forward.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Apologies, I spoke too soon. The PI article (miss you, PI) online says,

"While district officials called alternative expansion sites unacceptable, it did have a conceptual master plan with an addition along the north side of the main school building, she noted. "The use of other areas on this 28-acre campus, or at least the reduction of the proposed building footprint, would not be unreasonable or unworkable."

Now they had previously said that nothing else would really work so this comes as a bit of a surprise but a good one.

TechyMom said...

Looks like the perfect place for a budget cut to me...

How about we don't expand HS capacity, since we already have too much, and use some of the savings to fund transportation, so we don't need to change start times? I realize they're different budgets, but really, our priorities are goofy. Even if we can't move the money, I see no reason to spend it on this project right now.

Mr. Edelman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Zemke said...

The Seattle School District really does not have an alternative that they want to talk about. They have been pushing this project in the tree grove all along as if no reasonable alternatives exist. They repeatedly have said, for example, that they could not build on the open lawn area on the North side of the school or anywhere else.

Yet a public records request found that they had a Master Plan for Ingraham produced by Integrus Architecture that showed a future addition on the North side of the school exactly where they said they couldn't build now.

We later discovered e-mails discussing utility placement on the North side for a future two story building. Don Gilmore admitted in the Hearing Examiner process that they were looking at a two story addition on the north lawn if they were to add to the school beyond the current proposed addition.

Save the Trees - Seattle urges them to move the present project to that site now and save the NW tree grove area from being destroyed.

Ingraham High School has the largest public high school campus in the city at 28 acres. Yet currently it is all a single story building.

The Ingraham campus is big enough to accomodate both trees and new classrooms. All that's stopping that from happening is the unwillingness of the Seattle School Board to correct the mistake they made of trying to build in what under Seattle environmental law is a rare plant habitat that needs to be protected and not cut down.

Steve Zemke said...

Here is a link to a pdf file we put up that has the Hearing Examiner's decison on Ingraham High School,

http://saveingrahamstrees.info/uploads/INGRAHAM_HIGH_SCHOOL_00001.pdf_Seattle_Hearing_Examiner.pdf

The relevant decision regarding the trees is briefly this:

Seattle Hearing Examiner Ann Watanabe, “reversed and remanded in part” the DPD’s January decision to allow the Seattle School District to cut down the trees.

Watanabe noted that “The Northwest Grove is uncommon on account of the conifer/madrone/salal association which is present and the relative scarcity of that association”.

She adds “The proposal would reduce by half an uncommon habitat that the city’s SEPA policy says must be protected. Given the difficulty or impossibility of replacing this amount of habitat on the site, avoidance or reduction of impacts on the grove is required if such measures are reasonable or capable of being accomplished. Therefore, the decision will be remanded to DPD to require additional mitigation in the form of relocation outside of the grove, or at least reduction of the additions intrusion into the northwest grove.”

Save the Trees-Seattle does not believe the current project footprint can be reduced any further and that the logical solution is to move the project out of the rare plant habitat area to another area like the open lawn area on the North side of the school.