Arbor Heights Elementary: Demolition on hold pending hearing on new appeal

July 23, 2014 at 1:52 pm | In Arbor Heights, West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 24 Comments

(WSB Tuesday photo of awaiting-demolition Arbor Heights Elementary)
Three years ago, demolition of the old Denny International Middle School was well under way within a month of the end of the school year. This year, though a month has passed since the last class at Arbor Heights Elementary School, the backhoes aren’t even onsite yet. That’s because the permits haven’t been finalized, since another appeal is awaiting a hearing.

This is separate from the appeal that was argued and rejected in May, challenging the decision that a full environmental review wasn’t needed. This time, the appeal is for the land-use permit itself, and the fact that the demolition permit was approved in the same action. In all, the appeal statement by four area residents and district watchdog Chris Jackinssee it here – lists eight points.

Though a September 15th hearing date was announced by the appeal notice that appeared in this week’s first Land Use Information Bulletin, the city Hearing Examiner’s files now have it scheduled for August 11th. The move was at the request of the district, according to a letter in the online case files, which quotes district staff as saying the extra month would add $70,000 to the project cost.

SPS spokesperson Tom Redman confirms to WSB that appeals for both the Arbor Heights and Genesee Hill projects (the latter has a hearing August 5th, as reported here July 14th) are now pushing back the timeline: “Limited construction activities can be performed on-site, but the bulk of the work cannot commence at either site until we have received MUP [master use permit] approval from the City of Seattle.” He said the district doesn’t know yet if the opening of either new school will be delayed as a result. The new Arbor Heights is scheduled to open in two years, the new Genesee Hill in a year and a half.

P.S. Appeal hearings are open to the public, though only for observation, not for participation/comment. Next month’s August 5th Genesee Hill hearing and August 11th Arbor Heights hearing are both scheduled to start 9 am on those dates in the city Hearing Examiner’s headquarters on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown.

24 Comments

  1. I guess I just don’t get it…the appeals, I mean. Reading the comments from July 14..people talking about the “precious little kids” sarcastically, not walking to school, etc, or not taking the school bus (maybe they don’t qualify, i.e., live too close. Maybe the parent drives them to school, because the parent goes immediately to work. Height? WTH? It’s a school, has been there probably more than most residents….get over it. I live where they built a huge grocery store, and didn’t put in parking for the employees…so their cars take up all the parking on the streets surrounding me. We all have things to deal with. These schools need to be built. Appeals slow that process down. Maybe advocating for the students would be a better idea.

    Comment by JanS — 3:09 pm July 23, 2014 #

  2. I don’t really get this appeal either. It just looks like an ad hoc list of things that could possibly slow the process down. But, given that none of them appear to have a viable chance of stopping the new school building its not really clear what their goal is. The only item that is somewhat intriguing is the desire to dig a trench to look for Duwamish tribe artifacts, but they haven’t even tried to establish any historical or archaeological argument for why this is pertinent to this location. It would be interesting to hear what the end game of this group is… are they just pissed off about the construction?

    Comment by sn6uV — 4:01 pm July 23, 2014 #

  3. So… the appeal says that “nearly adjacent second school [Westside] decreases the size needed for Arbor Heights school”. Do the authors of this document have an idea how much Westside tuition is? Not everybody is willing or able to afford $13K for a year of elementary school.

    This group seems to just want to stall the projects, thus making the school district spend more money, which could be used so much better.

    Comment by KParent — 5:32 pm July 23, 2014 #

  4. Wow, those points are pretty amazing. How is this premature? The AH community BEGGED and pleaded to get AH rebuilt on a faster timeline that originally scheduled. Westside School is a private school with a very large price tag. They will not be sucking a lot of AH students. The rest of the items – well, this school is in the middle of a residential neighborhood. And yes, construction will be loud and prolonged. But it won’t last forever. You can continue to be an obstacle to this process, or you can be grateful that AH is getting an awesome school building. The current building scored the LOWEST on condition (Roxhill #2) in West Seattle. It was a health hazard. Let it go and let’s move on! Every minute wasted is another minute those kids need to go to Boren.

    Comment by AmandaKH — 5:58 pm July 23, 2014 #

  5. It is disappointing that folks would hinder the much needed new schools. Very disappointing.

    Comment by School Booster — 7:32 pm July 23, 2014 #

  6. What I find ironic is that this new building will help this guy out with a higher property value! Who doesn’t want that?! It’s so disheartening that people feel they need to throw a wrench in the works – I agree with Amanda — AH scored the lowest, it’s an eye sore and our neighborhood and children deserve better!

    Comment by AH MOM — 9:23 pm July 23, 2014 #

  7. This is too bad. My daughter will be entering K the year the new building is scheduled to open. Westside looks great and it’s nice to be within walking distance for us as well, but it’s not even on our radar with the expensive tuition. The option schools, however, are starting to look a lot better if this gets delayed indefinitely.

    Comment by AHFamilyToBe — 9:59 pm July 23, 2014 #

  8. This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read that you’ve had to report here, and I’ve read you having to report some doozies of stupid, idiotic complaints by things I’ll charitably describe as ‘humans’. This is the new low, for things that weren’t crimes against people by current definitions of crimes against people.
    .
    Y’all are idiots, impacting hundreds of families and thousands of kids. NIMBYism is a disease. Unclutch your pearls.

    Comment by Joe Szilagyi — 10:24 pm July 23, 2014 #

  9. I’m pretty sure one of the names on the complaint is a previous teacher at AH who is no longer there. Does he just have a bone to pick with AH?

    Comment by AH Mom — 6:22 am July 24, 2014 #

  10. Chris Jackins is also responsible for holding up demolition of the old Pathfinder building. I believe he likes to do this kind of thing all over the district. He’s not even a West Seattle resident.

    Comment by At it again — 6:29 am July 24, 2014 #

  11. While I do think that the new appeal is unwarranted and will not accomplish anything, the first appeal for an environmental review was completely valid – and dismissed out of hand. It’s too bad that reason never seems to prevail. It’s also a shame that, as neighbors and taxpayers, we’re either criticized for lack of involvement, or accused of NIMBYism. You just can’t win.

    Comment by anonyme — 6:45 am July 24, 2014 #

  12. I remember sitting next to Chris Jackins at a school board meeting and am pretty sure he was in support of AH need for rebuild. I remember him speaking on our behalf and I even ran into him at Target a few days later and thanked him. Now this?
    .
    The statement on the appeal claims the group is interested in “providing a good environment for education and neighborhoods”, yet this appeal is the very opposition to this end. As previously mentioned, AH has had the WORST building rating (not just in WS, but in the ENTIRE SPS system!!!). WAKE UP PEOPLE! These kind of delays and road blocks are costing our fragile district time and money it/we can’t afford. It’s unfortunate that the psychotic actions of a few are forming consequences that affect many. Our community needs a new school. Where on earth do they expect our children to go?

    Comment by seriously?!?! — 7:17 am July 24, 2014 #

  13. This is a sad use of time and money when nothing is on the line but delaying local children a much-needed school. My kid will enter K in 2015 and if this is delayed, we won’t be sending her to Westside (unless we win the lottery), we’ll be sending her to an option school.

    Comment by FutureAHer — 8:35 am July 24, 2014 #

  14. I think the appellation “district watchdog” is a bit charitable. How about “gadfly” or “obstructionist”?

    There is contact information for these folks in the document in the appeal statement at the “see it here” link in the second paragraph of the story. I am going to give them all a jingle and let them know I do not appreciate them screwing up the primary school situation in West Seattle and costing us all additional tax money with this frivolous appeal.

    Comment by jwright — 9:36 am July 24, 2014 #

  15. I find one particular name on the list of those protesting the permits astonishing. My daughter was in the first and second grade in Mr Femiano’s class at Arbor Heights in 2003 and he got me started on a long sometimes lonely road of protesting the condition of that school. There was standing water under his classroom exacerbating asthma problems in students, asbestos drug through his class in garbage bags, lead in the water, mold EVERYWHERE, rats in the restrooms. Mr F fought (in defence of his students) the principal, his union, the district and got parents involved in the fight. We won! It took the length of my two child tenure at AHE and a ton of hours on the part of committed parents, a new principal and a few small voices of reason at the district level, but they finally said “Okay, you get your new school” This has been DECADES in the works. Nothing about this process has been rushed. Let the district get on with it and enjoy a beautiful school and your increased property value at the end of it. It’s about the children. Remember?
    Cori Roed – neighbor, student advocate and former AH parent.

    Comment by Cori Roed — 10:15 am July 24, 2014 #

  16. It’s disappointing that a small number of people are adding undue stress and potential delays to our project. It was already determined this project would be done in 2 phases — one contractor for the abatement/demo work and another for the building construction. The contractor for Phase I is onsite now doing the abatement (pre-demo) work e.g. removing asbestos insulation and flooring. They didn’t arrive onsite until JULY 14th. The actual demo of the building isn’t scheduled until late August/early Sept. so hopefully they can continue to do all the pre-demo work on schedule, the hearing goes well and the demo work begins as planned in late August/early September.

    Comment by AH Parent — 10:15 am July 24, 2014 #

  17. I’m certainly not going to defend The City of Seattle for their management of resources but if you want to effect change, blocking this needed and popular project seems like the wrong tack.

    Comment by DRS — 11:07 am July 24, 2014 #

  18. I think the fact that a dedicated teacher is part of this appeal should give people pause. Clearly, he is very aware of the crying need. That he believes it is important to slow the process to improve the outcome says volumes about the district’s process.

    Comment by Julie — 12:09 pm July 24, 2014 #

  19. While Chris Jackins championed AHE being moved up on the BEX Levy timeline, he has never been in support of an AHE rebuild. He has referred to the new design as the “Taj Mahal” and “Mega School.” Chris believes that the school should be remodeled and remain at the same capacity.

    Chris’ argument is that the new “mega school” capacity numbers will have an impact on Roxhill Elementary enrollment and the school will be closed and absorbed by AHE. This argument is unfounded.

    AHE in its current building once held almost 1000 students. For most of the past two decades, enrollment was 500 or more. It declined from about 2006 to present. Roxhill has high enrollment numbers and will not close. It was made clear by Carmella Delino that Roxhill will not be absorbed by AHE. I attended a community meeting at Roxhill for a BEX hearing and their community spoke loud and clear that they wanted to stay together, but wanted a new facility in a safer location (off of Roxbury).

    I am really confused about his new agenda.

    Comment by Ann — 1:27 pm July 24, 2014 #

  20. One of the appellants is a former AH teacher who transferred to another school at least 6 years ago. He testified before the school board numerous times about how he was wronged by a former AH principal. Makes me wonder if he still has some beef with AH?

    -Another AH parent

    Comment by Rosslyn — 3:26 pm July 24, 2014 #

  21. Is the Seattle Committe to Save Schools and Chris Jackins one in the same? I did a search and can’t really find any info on this committee.

    Comment by Ann — 5:49 pm July 24, 2014 #

  22. I agree, Cori. I really can’t understand Mr. Femiano’s complaint when he fought so hard to publicize the building’s appalling condition.

    Comment by bertha — 6:12 pm July 24, 2014 #

  23. The authors of this appeal clearly have no consideration for Arbor Heights students. I don’t understand how you can include yourself in a conversation about a school when you are unwilling to also consider the needs of the students.

    Comment by suzanne — 6:39 pm July 24, 2014 #

  24. you could bet that if it was sports related they would be beating the drum to get-er- done the loudest.. with no reservations……

    Comment by Robert — 7:58 am July 26, 2014 #

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