Wilson-Pacific Building Meeting Tomorrow

I talked to Mr. Sheppard to ask a couple of questions about this meeting.  The notice came out 3-4 weeks ago (and yet, I didn't see it at the district website).  The "ask" from the district is about typical but, as he said, different neighborhoods have varying ideas on what impacts look/feel like. 



The Seattle School District is requesting a waiver (departure) from some City zoning regulations for the construction of a new Wilson Pacific Elementary School and new Wilson Pacific Middle School. The District plans to demolish the existing school and construct a new elementary and middle school building.  The School District is requesting modifications for greater than allowed building height, increase on-site parking spaces and parking location and off-street bus loading and unloading. The process for considering this request includes hearings before an advisory committee composed of neighbors and School District and City representatives

The Committee will gather and evaluate public comment on the departure request(s). The Committee can recommend waiver (departure) from some signing regulations and any relevant conditions to be applied to minimize its impacts on the surrounding neighborhood, or recommend denial.  The Committee may make its recommendation following this meeting, or hold up to two additional meetings prior to making its recommendation.
The Committee has been formed and will hold its first public meeting:
        Date:                 Tuesday, March 18, 2014
        Time:                 6:30 PM

        Place:                North Seattle Community College
                                9600 College Way North
                                Seattle, Washington 98103
                                Library Building
                                Conference Room LB 3129

The meeting will include a brief presentation on the requested modifications to development standards (zoning) that have been requested.  Following this presentation, the Committee will consider its recommendations.  An additional meeting may be held if the Committee concludes that more information is needed.

The public is invited to make comments at the meeting.  Written comments may also be submitted to:

        Steve Sheppard
        Department of Neighborhoods
        700 5th Avenue, Suite 1700
        P.O. Box 94649
        Seattle, WA 98124-4649

        For more information, call:

        Steve Sheppard at 684-0302, or e-mail steve.sheppard@seattle.gov


Anonymous said…
Did the Pinehurst meeting occur yet? I wonder what the outcome was for that. Wilson Pacific is sited better for a school and expansion than Pinehurst.

Anonymous said…
Does Wilson Pacific have a planning principal yet?

N by NW
Anonymous said…
The district is proposing seriously short changing the required parking, something like HALF the required parking stalls. The neighbourhood will take it on the chin if the departure is granted: remember, Lincoln high school will be coming for their athletics. The streets will be a mess.
-grueling parking
Maje said…
I'm curious about the Pinehurst meeting too. There were some community members who were concerned about the same variances being requested here.
kellie said…
I would not say these variances are typical. I would say that the requested variances are very aggressive and ultimately the result of the lack of long term integrated enrollment and facilities planning.

To be extra clear, I am not saying that current staff is the problem.

The real problem is that during the many years that Seattle Schools was "obsessed" with closing schools, Seattle Schools should have been on a path of planning NEW schools. I don't think it is possible to really count the vast quantity and diversity of feedback that came from every single community in the district that "school closures" just did not match what everyone saw in their neighborhoods.

During the closures, families kept reporting that preschools were full with crazy waiting lists and that families were choosing an urban lifestyle. But the closures marched ahead and the distraction of the closures kept folks from noticing that every Kindergarten cohort was getting a bit larger every year since 2002.

IMHO, the real issue with the variances is the "sum total" of variances. Each variance in isolation has a "good reason" to support that variance but when you take the variation in total, it becomes clear the BEX plan never really took into account City of Seattle code and just marched forward with the expectation that all these variances would be rubber-stamped.
kellie said…
The parking for Wilson Pacific is woefully inadequate for the many, many demands that are going to be placed on this property. Wilson Pacific seems to be more "hogworts" than anything else when it comes the long list of promised services for this property.

There is supposed to magically be room for all of north end APP, a full comprehensive middle school, the Indian Heritage program / Pinehurst K8 (I don't know what the new blended program will be called) AND all of the athletic supports for the new Lincoln high school.

There could be more things planned for this property because every time I look away for a few weeks, I come back and find that something else has been placed at Wilson Pacific.

Bottom line: this property is going to be in heavy use almost 24/7 because of the nearly 2,000 students who will attend school on the property plus extensive use of the athletic fields by SPS and Parks department. There needs to also be planning for the heavy traffic that will soon be at that property.
kellie said…
Last comment on this

All of the North Seattle projects are requesting major waivers on parking as well as waivers for where the schools busses go for loading and unloading.

The Pinehurst program is looking at 700 students and about 70 staff with 13 parking spaces. Cedar Park has more variances than remotely reasonable as well as a landmarked building. The Thornton Creek project has another long list of variance requests.

At some point, the sum total of the variances needs to be considered. If every variance were granted, this would effective make all of the City of Seattle code regarding schools null and void as none of the code was being followed. Moreover, the size and scope of the sum total of the variances is going to change the character of what school looks like.

Hamilton was granted extensive waivers back in the day and the majority of those waivers were given based on the idea that there would never be more than 800 students at the school and that since most of the students came by bus from either Lake City or South Seattle, there was no need for large evening events.

But buildings are made for 100 years, not for the program that will be placed there this year. Variances for buildings should be based on the building and not how it will be used. As many folks know, Hamilton now has over 1100 students and the traffic and parking issues are a real danger. I sincerely doubt that all those variances would have been granted if anyone knew how the building was being used today.
Catherine said…
I was at the latest Pinehurst / Jane Addams K-8 meeting. As an architect, I was dumbfounded by the scale of the transportation departures requested in a neighbor without pedestrian infrastructure.
There seems to be an almost complete absence of strategy for getting staff and students to this option school. A school has to either be park-able or walk-able, it can't be neither. This is dangerous and irresponsible.
Anonymous said…
@ Kellie

Actually, the traffic study for the new Pinehurst building lists only 9 planed on-site parking spaces, (one small lot with 4 parking spaces and 5 spaces in a loading zone area).

Also, street parking adjacent to the school is being reduced. They are losing the angled parking along NE 117th. It is being replaced with parallel parking, a loss of 17 spaces.

- reality check
When I spoke with Mr. Shepard, he said you never know how many people will show up at these meetings and what concerns might be expressed.

He did say that he thought the Thornton Creek meeting (which will occur someday as they, too, will want variances) would be packed. He said they already have heard from that neighborhood.
Anonymous said…
The number of variances being asked for at all of these sites: Pinehurst, WP, Thornton Creek are a stark reminder that

1) SPS can't plan its way out of a bag. The sum total of what they are asking for in planning departures is ridiculous. To shoehorn kids and programs into spaces that are not meant to support such high numbers or such high traffic and to expect that plan to last for the next 50 years is wrong.

2) SPS has no partnership with the city or its residents. So what's new? Not much. But the dysfunction is on high display. These plans are disrespectful to the surrounding neighborhoods. High vehicle and people traffic, safety issues, no parking, taking away greenspace. No mitigation plans. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I have encouraged my neighbors to write to the city and to the council about this.

North End
kellie said…
@ reality check,

At the meeting they said, that they were replacing the 9 spots with 13 and therefore "improving" the parking. At least that is what I have in my notes. The room was very echo'y so I could have missed it.

They also emphasized at the pinehurst meeting that there were 150 open spaces in the neighborhood that were more than adequate for staff parking.

kellie said…
@ Mel,

Yup, you never know who will go to these meetings. I am really glad you published this meeting as otherwise there is no natural way for Wilson Pacific issues to be day lighted.

As Wilson Pacific is still an "unformed" community, there really isn't a school base that is actively tracking these issues. The reason so much density was planned at that site is because of the lack of residential density.

So there is a really good chance that all the variances could be rubber stamped and folks won't really know what hit until the building opens. I hope not because there are multiple tragic flaws with this campus plan.

IMHO, this campus is now effectively the world's largest K8 and is no longer, simply two schools on opposite sides of a large campus.

K8's are in theory expanded elementary programs and therefore don't "rate" the infrastructure of the comprehensive middle school that you get from having 1000 kids over just three grades. The serious concentration of bodies at the comprehensive school is typically off-set by sport program and music programs that need that density to work.

However, the current Wilson Pacific plan has NO auditorium and No lockers so the building is really being built to look much more like a K8 program. So when the new combination of Pinehurst K8 and Indian Heritage was placed into the building it really did have a natural sort of logic. But that means that the building is really no longer a comprehensive middle school.

That then begs the question of how appropriate it is to have Wilson Pacific also be the satellite location for much of Lincoln high school. It is questions like this that led me to recommend that if you are going to use half of the campus as a high school, why don't you just make one of the buildings a high school and leave the elementary kids at Lincoln.

The bottom line is that Wilson Pacific has been "promised" to too many groups and because there are too many promises, there needs to be too many variances because the property can't be everything to everyone and have parking.

disturbed said…

As the parent of a future WP middle school kid, your posts have me incredibly upset. What can we do? For example, I had NO idea there was no auditorium. I had NO idea that WP was to be Lincoln's sports solution. What will the WP middle school kids use? This is unbelievable.

I agree wholeheartedly. Build a MS and HS. Keep the APP kids at Lincoln with Pinehurst and Indian Heritage. SPS will need to form some alternate APP options in the north end like they are in West Seattle to relieve the APP numbers at Lincoln.

Please let me know the appropriate people to bark at since this is insane.
Anonymous said…
LINCOLN families: COME TO THE MEETING TONIGHT ABOUT WILSON PACIFIC BUILDINGS, at 6:30pm at North Seattle Community College, in the Library building.

All of us at Lincoln are heading to Wilson Pacific Elementary School upon that building's completion. Then, at least 35% of those kids will go to the Wilson Pacific Comprehensive Middle School (except, of course, the Board voted in Nov 2013 to make it a K8 by placing AS1 K8 in the comprehensive middle school, carving out 150 seats, reducing the middle school to 850 seats). APP middle school in the north will be at 3 locations: Jane Addams for the NE and the NW middle schoolers will be at WP and possibly Hamilton (if the numbers can continue to allow the APP).

Tonight is THE PUBLIC HEARING HELD BY THE CITY. It is the only one, (although, depending on how it goes, there could be another one). If the City just rubber stamps the District's variances, then, there will be no more meetings, and, no chance for you to express your opinion about impacts to the neighborhood about the feasibility of the 'plan'.

The District only has plans for some buses to load on the street, that will impact traffic flow. The district has not made plans for all of the buses, so it is unclear what will actually happen. The district is not planning on providing the amount of parking needed for both of these 2 schools. This will impact the neighborhood. Plus, there will be a third school, Lincoln High School, a school of 1,600, that will be coming to Wilson Pacific for the athletics because Lincoln has absolutely no field at all. How can all three schools (650 + 1,000 + excess in portables + Lincoln athletes) be at the same place at the same time with little parking? Is that feasible? Is that safe?

It is up to the City to either greenlight this, or, tell the district to make a plan that sticks to the zoning. Land use and building codes are there for a reason. Safety, security, being a good neighbor, all of this matters. This is not an 'either or', this is a large 17 acre lot, should be possible to meet the buildings, fields, and the transportation requirements.

What if the community pushes back, and demands plans meet certain zoning codes in order to accommodate all of the slated enrollment without pushing cars into the local streets? There could be an additional hearing scheduled, so that there would be more time for the community to learn more and weigh in. Since this meeting seems to have flown under the radar, a second meeting, well publicized, is vital. Attendees tonight should definitely push for a second hearing!

What if the input from the hearing results in the variances not okayed? The new buildings and fields are still built, but, they would be built to respect whatever codes the City enforces due to neighbor input. So, either way, the neighborhood is getting 2 new schools and new sports fields, but, HOW they get done, and, how intense the impact on the community (neighbors, teachers, students, parents) will be planned in such a way as to respect code.

Come tonight: These are our future homes. We need to make sure they can function without undue impact on our neighbors. As stakeholders, it is critical that our voices are heard. Come, learn more, and speak up, whatever your point of view is.

The Committee will gather and evaluate public comment on the departure requests.The Committee may make its recommendation following this meeting, or hold up to two additional meetings prior to making its recommendation.
Tues March 18, 2014
6:30 PM
North Seattle Community College
9600 College Way North
Seattle 98103
Library Building
Conference Room LB 3129

There will be a brief presentation; after the Committee will consider its recommendations.

The public is invited to make comments at the meeting. Written comments may be submitted to:

Steve Sheppard
Department of Neighborhoods
700 5th Avenue, Suite 1700
P.O. Box 94649
Seattle, WA 98124-4649

Or contact:
Steve Sheppard at 684-0302, or e-mail steve.sheppard@seattle.gov

-WP bound
kellie said…
For anyone considering going to the meeting tonight or sending in feedback, here is some structural points that might be helpful.

The variance committee votes on their recommendations. For tonights meeting, they can vote on

* recommending the variance be approved,
* recommending the variance be denied,

* Recommending an additional meeting to either solicit more feedback or to consider the answers to questions raised during the meeting.

At the Pinehurst meeting last week, there were many questions raised by the attendees that did not have answers. As such the committee voted for one more meeting so that they could try to find answers to the questions.

For example, it was mentioned during the meeting that the "Safe Route to Schools" folks were looking at options. One participant asked if there could be another meeting and that the Safe Routes to Schools representative could be there to answer questions about safety.

I won't be able to be there tonight. I would hope that the request for an additional meeting is made. At a minimum, I think that the 5 planned feeder elementary schools need to be brought into this process and given some time to submit their feedback.

Buildings are made for decades and I the variances are forever.

I am the last person that needs to be convinced we have a capacity crisis. i have been lobbying for more capacity for a long time now. But I don't think "more capacity at any cost" is in anyone's best interest.

Penny wise - pound foolish planning is the worst thing we can do. Not building an auditorium because it is not the budget is a bad reason. That means that this school will NEVER have an auditorium and will need to borrow the auditorium at other schools. How is that a plan?

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