Councilmember Clark left office on April 14, 2015.
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School lessons

I understand that the Seattle Public Schools have a tough job when it comes to expanding, renovating or building new schools. We live in fairly built-out city. There aren’t a lot of big lots waiting to have schools plunked down on them. Likewise, when it’s time to renovate or expand a school we have no shortage of arm-chair architects (myself included).

Having said that, I am disappointed at the District’s methods when it comes to the Ingraham High School expansion. Many in the surrounding community have objected to the expansion as designed because it would require the removal of several mature trees on the site. School district officials have been going through design and were part way through City environmental review of their Master Use Permit application when they decided they wanted to cut the trees sooner rather than later. Student safety and weather were cited as reasons, but many people suspect the District became worried the environmental review might result in tree-related mitigation or, worse, a requirement to somehow keep the trees. The latter seems unlikely to me, but that’s the arm-chair permit review in me talking.

It’s simply bad form to alter the site when environmental review of your proposal is happening. The goal of environmental review (a goal I thought until now was shared by all) is to rationally review a project for the impacts it could have on the environment and surrounding community. If you start deleting or changing elements of your site, you remove elements the environmental review could have said were important. Filling in wetlands is a classic example. “Wetlands? What wetlands?”

So, if you want to cut the trees sooner rather than later and your environmental review isn’t yet complete, what do you do? If you’re the District you pull your permit application so that there’s suddenly nothing to review. Then, after you’ve cut the trees, you resubmit your permit application.

I actually want to see Ingraham expanded as quickly as possible. However, the District broke with the intent of environmental review. We as a community have agreed that environmental review is important to us. To have a government entity make an end run sends a horrible signal to other developers and chips away at the broad compact we all share when it comes to urban development and the environment.