West Seattle Blog... » Arbor Heights http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:31:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Arbor Heights Elementary: Demolition on hold pending hearing on new appeal http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/new-arbor-heights-elementary-old-schools-demolition-on-hold-pending-hearing-on-new-appeal/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/new-arbor-heights-elementary-old-schools-demolition-on-hold-pending-hearing-on-new-appeal/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 20:52:38 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=280319

(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.

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Update: House fire in Arbor Heights blamed on spider-killing attempt http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/fire-call-in-arbor-heights-2/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/fire-call-in-arbor-heights-2/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 03:33:04 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=279503

(WSB photo)
8:33 PM: Firefighters are arriving at a house fire in Arbor Heights near 34th and 102nd (map), reporting black smoke and also that ammunition is going off in the house – so they’ll be fighting it from outside.

(Photo texted by Joe)
8:38 PM: Scanner now indicates they don’t believe there’s more ammunition in the building and they are changing firefighting tactics.

(WSB photo)
8:48 PM: Our crew is at the scene. No word yet on whether anyone’s been hurt. They believe everyone in the house got out safely.

8:58 PM: Just talked again with our crew at the scene. The fire appears to be under control but there are still flare-ups of flames visible here and there. Way too soon to know what caused it.

Above this line, we’ve added a quick Instagram clip – you can see firefighters on the roof and hear the saws they’re using to ventilate the attic.

(WSB photo)
9:18 PM UPDATE: We’ve just talked again with firefighters. The fire began in a bedroom and spread up to the attic. The house has major damage and isn’t inhabitable. One person was inside when it started, and we’re told he got out OK, unhurt. The “ammunition going off” suspicion is now a mystery – we’re told the resident said there had been firearm(s)/ ammunition in there, belonging to a renter who moved out a few weeks ago, so whatever the bangs/pops were in the early going, they now don’t know. SFD’s investigator is en route to work on figuring out how the fire started.

ADDED 11:16 PM: From SFD: “Cause of West Seattle Arbor Heights fire is man using spray paint can & lighter to try and kill spider in the wall. Damage estimate $60k.”

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Summertime hunger-fighting: Free meals for kids in West Seattle http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/summertime-hunger-fighting-free-meals-for-kids/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/summertime-hunger-fighting-free-meals-for-kids/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 23:41:14 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=277696 Many kids in need avoid going hungry through free/reduced-price meals at school. So what happens in the summertime? The United Way One Million Meals Campaign helps provide free summer meals to kids and teens, and sent word today that they’ll be serving on Sundays, starting THIS Sunday (June 29th), 1-2 pm at Freedom Church (35th/Roxbury). Everyone 18 and under will be served, and kid/teen activities will be offered. UWKC also says you can find other summer-meal sites through this lookup.

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Car, motorcycle collide in Arbor Heights http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/car-motorcycle-collide-in-arbor-heights/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/car-motorcycle-collide-in-arbor-heights/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 19:42:19 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=277586 One person was taken to the hospital by private ambulance after their motorcycle collided with a car in Arbor Heights. It happened at California/104th; the rider’s injuries are not life-threatening, but there was a major medical response, and that plus an unrelated medic response not far away led to many a siren in AH this past hour. Our crew was told at the scene that the woman and child who were in the car are not hurt.

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West Seattle power outage: Parts of Arbor Heights, Brace Point http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-power-outage-north-arbor-heights-brace-point/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-power-outage-north-arbor-heights-brace-point/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 07:29:15 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=277338

(Outage zone, screengrabbed from City Light map)
12:29 AM: Thanks to Kevin and Jason for initial tips (editor@westseattleblog.com) – the City Light outage map now confirms an outage in Arbor Heights and Brace Point. They both reported an explosion-type sound preceding the power problem (for Jason, it’s out; for Kevin, it flickered). City Light says 134 households are affected and estimates restoration by 3 am (remember, it’s always more of a “guesstimate” at this point).

1:29 AM: The map now blames the outage on “tree” and estimates power back by 9 am.

9 AM NOTE: Jason says in comments that the power returned around 4:45.

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One more finale at ‘Original Arbor Heights’: Last crossing http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/one-more-finale-at-original-arbor-heights-last-crossing/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/one-more-finale-at-original-arbor-heights-last-crossing/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 11:32:00 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=276971

Here in the wee hours of the first full day of summer vacation for thousands of local kids, we have one more scene from the last day of classes, ever, at the “Original Arbor Heights,” as dubbed by our trusty parent correspondent. Also nicknamed, that’s “The Famous Mr. Wilkie” in the crosswalk, last one to enlist the crossing guards’ assistance before the soon-to-be-demolished old school went out of service. Reports our correspondent:

(He is) the heart and soul of The Original Arbor Heights Elementary school. Did you know that he went to kindergarten in the same Room 4 in which he has been teaching? Yup. Known to many, loved by all.

AH will share Boren with STEM for the next two years, while its brand-new school is built on this same campus.

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West Seattle schools: Last graduate of ‘Original Arbor Heights’ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-schools-last-graduate-of-original-arbor-heights/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-schools-last-graduate-of-original-arbor-heights/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 00:10:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=276839

Thanks to our Arbor Heights Elementary parent correspondent for sharing that photo from today’s 5th-grade graduation ceremony. The final graduate of the last 5th-grade class at “Original Arbor Heights,” as our tipster dubs it, was Max Zuber. The building is scheduled for demolition in late summer or fall, as per the construction schedule laid out at a community meeting two weeks ago. Tomorrow is the last day of classes there, as is the case all around the Seattle Public Schools district.

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Another Arbor Heights scene: Westside School’s future home http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/also-in-arbor-heights-westside-schools-future-home/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/also-in-arbor-heights-westside-schools-future-home/#comments Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:24:49 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=275853

While in Arbor Heights, we stopped by the future site of Westside School (WSB sponsor) for a look at the dramatic renovation scene at the former Hillcrest Presbyterian Church. The former sanctuary is basically hollowed out, as you can see, looking over the fence from 34th SW. Westside will spend one more year at its current campus, the former EC Hughes Elementary, leased from Seattle Public Schools, before moving to the new site. Westside’s 2013-2014 school year ended yesterday, and this past week, the school had its first middle-school graduation, having added 6th-8th grades over the past three years. Construction at the new site began just over a month ago.

P.S. We recently asked SPS to reconfirm what happens to Hughes once Westside moves; district spokesperson Teresa Wippel replied, “There are no plans at this point for EC Hughes other than to have it available for emergency use/to hold students when other schools are being remodeled, etc. No plans to lease it to anyone else, either.”

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Happening now: Last carnival @ ‘old’ Arbor Heights Elementary http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/happening-now-last-carnival-old-arbor-heights-elementary/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/happening-now-last-carnival-old-arbor-heights-elementary/#comments Sat, 07 Jun 2014 23:14:16 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=275841

Until 6 pm, the community’s welcome to join Arbor Heights Elementary students, staff, families at the school carnival – autograph the soon-to-be-demolished building, especially if you’re an alum! Games, food, prizes too.

ADDED 5:30 PM: Thanks to our anonymous parent source for the top photo; we stopped by for these:

The “Angry Birds” toss is on the paved playground that’s seen better days – the new school will include an open field:

A tropical touch:

And a hand-lettered poster with a reminder about the next big event:

That’s Tuesday, 6-8 pm, a community gathering for an official farewell to the old school (though the last day of classes isn’t until June 19th).

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New Arbor Heights Elementary: 2-phase construction; no size decision yet http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/new-arbor-heights-elementary-2-phase-construction-no-size-decision-yet/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/new-arbor-heights-elementary-2-phase-construction-no-size-decision-yet/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 02:38:23 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=275321

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The new Arbor Heights Elementary School will be built in two phases, project managers told community members last night, and remains on track for welcoming students on the first day of school in September 2016.

Not that long ago, principal Christy Collins reminded the ~40 attendees as the meeting began, the new school wasn’t slated to open until 2019. She’s been principal for three years, and that’s how long the discussion about a replacement school has been under way.

The school had been deteriorating since long before then, including, she recalled, climate-control problems that notoriously led to children wearing mittens in class. She spoke of the journey that led to an “environmentally friendly” design, “much greener than we presently have.” The new school, she said, will also be emblematic of an “environmental STEM school,” the curriculum that AHES is phasing in – “a school that is not only fiscally responsible but really honoring the children who will be coming through the school in the next 50 years.”

As Collins handed the meeting off to the rest of the project team, from the district and Bassetti Architects, the spectre of the recent challenge to the district’s “no formal environmental needed” ruling, a challenge rejected by a district hearing examiner, was evident in some of their key points. Concerns remain, attendees were reminded before the meeting, when one of the appellants circulated a letter about continuing concerns regarding safety and traffic.

The meeting conditions were a little challenged – the projection screen on the stage in the school cafeteria was difficult to see in the early-evening sunshine blazing through the west-facing windows – but presenters attempted to improvise, removing renderings from easels on the side of the room and holding them up as supplementary visual aids.

From “guiding principles” of the school design, a key intent: “Safe, secure, welcoming,” with covered entries, as well as energy efficiency and features that “(enhance) the school’s role as a beacon for the community.” He spoke of evolving technology and research into best practices, so that the school could be modernized to work with advances in both those fields, and better maximizing the relatively small site, removing the central school building from its current sunken position – right now, there’s an 8-foot drop from street to school entrance, and it will be 3 feet after the new school is built.

(New site plan, above; aerial of current school, below)

The architects showed the school’s current placement on the site, with slopes at both ends, and a culvert that sends water coursing through its heart, noting that will be moved as part of the construction. The bus loading and unloading will circulate on SW 105th. (Update: We are informed that statement made at the meeting was in error, and that the bus zone will be on 104th.)

Curbs on both 104th and 105th will be upgraded, she said, and – in response to a question – added that the upgrades include sidewalks along both sides of the school, as required by the city – storm drainage improvements and street-tree addition, too.

The main floor of the school building will be connected to 105th, they said. There will be good daylighting into the classrooms, with north-south windows. There will be a learning commons with all classrooms having access.

They showed the exterior of the new school from various perspectives. The library will serve as a “beacon” with lights – visible from the northeast – saying the school’s open. The three-story section of the school will be visible from the southwest, the “learning” portion of the school.

On the southwest side, there is a “child care” area with classrooms above. This school is currently planned to be built to the 490-student option but a final decision will be made early next year about whether to build it instead for the potential of housing up to 660 students.

The district decided to build the core facilities for its new elementaries to handle that many students, but isn’t necessarily starting off with classrooms for that many. (The new Genesee Hill school is one that will be at the maximum size from the start – not surprising given that enrollment is expected to pas 600 next year at Schmitz Park Elementary, whose program will move to the new GH.)

Enrollment projections will be consulted early next year to make a final decision – district capital-projects senior manager Lucy Morello said the bids will be solicited with both options. In a conversation after the meeting, she even mentioned a sort of third option – the shell could be built to the 660-student size, with interior work to be left to be done later if needed. A persistent rumor about a potential larger school representing a way to co-house Roxhill Elementary was dismissed by Morello, saying that the community was “heard loud and clear” when it vehemently opposed the merger idea a few years ago. Possible factors in the need for more space could include, it was mentioned, upcoming ballot measures for universal preschool and smaller class sizes.

There was also an aerial view showing skylights that would be the best way to get a lot of light into the school. On the north side, the building will be less than a foot higher than the current building; the three-story section will be 15 feet above the roofline of the current one, on the south side.

The construction is planned in two phases, later explained as the result of the project having moved up this far in the timeline – they needed to start the abatement this summer, so, while the first phase of work is under way, permits will be sought for the second phase.

The first phase will begin this summer, the second phase – the bulk of the work – next March. Here’s the timeline shown at the meeting:

Bid opening Phase 1 award, July (bids will be opened next week)
School moveout, June 23-July 7
Phase 1 Contractor Mobilization, July 8
Abatement, July
Demolition/Civil Work, August-November
Bid Opening Phase II Award, February 2015
Phase II Contractor Mobilization/Start, March 2015
Phase II Completion, May 2016
Start of School, September 2016

So, if the schedule goes as planned, there will be a break in work between November and March.

They expect to work Mondays-Saturdays, with a 7 am start on weekdays, 9 am start on Saturdays. A third-party consultant will be observing during the abatement phase, which will be done in a “closed, pressurized space,” to avoid any exposure beyond that space.

Other questions included traffic – as surfaced during the appeal hearing, the potential confluence of traffic between the relocated Westside School (at 34th and 104th, just three blocks away) and the new Arbor Heights is a concern. Morello said that they’ll be working with SPS Transportation to look at an “access management/traffic management plan,” in conjunction with Westside, which will open a year earlier than the new Arbor Heights. They’re meeting this week, in fact, she said; shifting start/dismissal times could be an option.

Lemay noted that the site includes 55 parking spaces, 50 more than it has now, which is supposed to help alleviate concerns about staff parking offsite. Particular age groups and programs will have particular dropoffs on 105th and 104th, though the project team acknowledged that it will be challenging “to train the parents.”

The meeting overall was cordial, with the only hint of discord being one resident asking how he would get relief from an already-potholed street that now would likely be traversed by heavy truck traffic.

SIDE NOTES: In its final weeks in the old building, Arbor Heights has two big events ahead, to which the entire community is invited – its carnival this Saturday, June 7th (details here) and a “goodbye” event one week from tonight (Tuesday, June 10th) – details here.

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Tonight’s calendar highlight: Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights CC http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/tonights-calendar-highlight-westwood-roxhill-arbor-heights-cc/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/tonights-calendar-highlight-westwood-roxhill-arbor-heights-cc/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 17:08:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=275376 Thornton Creek did it – can Roxhill Bog do it too? That’s one of the neighborhood issues on the agenda for today’s featured calendar highlight, the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council meeting. Live/work in any of those neighborhoods? Go check out WWRHAH at 6:15 pm, Southwest Branch Library (35th/Henderson). See the agenda in our calendar listing, and the calendar itself has many more events for today/tonight, including nightlife!

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You’re invited: Farewell party for ‘old’ Arbor Heights Elementary http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/youre-invited-farewell-party-for-old-arbor-heights-elementary/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/youre-invited-farewell-party-for-old-arbor-heights-elementary/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 21:20:41 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=274549 In two weeks – 6-8 pm Tuesday, June 10th – alumni, staff and students past and present, neighbors, everyone’s invited to celebrate Arbor Heights Elementary before the demolition and reconstruction. Scroll through the official invitation:

(If you can’t read it in the window, see it as a PDF here.)

P.S. Before then, if you’re interested in an update on the plan for the new school, here’s our previously published announcement for the district’s June 2nd meeting.

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New Arbor Heights Elementary: The appeal decision is in http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/new-arbor-heights-elementary-the-appeal-decision-is-in/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/new-arbor-heights-elementary-the-appeal-decision-is-in/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 16:40:45 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=274080 No formal environmental review for the new Arbor Heights Elementary School project that’s replacing the crumbling original 65-year-old school. That’s what the district originally had decided, issuing a Determination of Non-Significance; more than two dozen neighbors appealed the decision, arguing their case at a May 8th hearing (WSB coverage here), and now the appeal ruling is in, starting with an introductory letter by Superintendent José Banda:

(If you can’t see the Scribd embed above, here’s the document as a PDF.) If you want to skip ahead, the conclusions of Margaret Klockars, the hearing examiner who handled the case, start on page 7, after a recap of what the district originally decided and the points that were argued. Bottom line: While Klockars agreed that the checklist leading to the original Determination of Non-Significance had a few errors and omissions, she believed the supplemental information provided later by the district showed no major impact in areas of concern from traffic to trees, so the DNS conclusion “was not erroneous.”

SIDE NOTE: As reported here last night, the district has set a community meeting June 2nd for questions/answers/updates on the project, which will start after the school year ends and everything is moved out of the to-be-demolished buildings. AHES will hold classes at the Boren Building for the next two years, with the new school expected to be ready for fall 2016.

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New Arbor Heights Elementary: Community update meeting June 2nd http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/new-arbor-heights-elementary-community-update-meeting-planned-june-2nd/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/new-arbor-heights-elementary-community-update-meeting-planned-june-2nd/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 00:47:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=274002

(Rendering of new Arbor Heights Elementary)
If you’re interested in the new Arbor Heights Elementary School, your next chance to get project updates, and to get questions answered in person, is less than two weeks away. Seattle Public Schools has announced a community meeting for Monday, June 2nd, 6:30-8 pm at the current AHES.

The meeting will be presented by representatives of Seattle Public Schools BEX IV capital projects team and Bassetti Architects, and will include information about the project’s building and site design. You will be able to learn more about the project’s scope of work and construction schedule. You will be able to share comments and ask questions.

Meantime, we’re still awaiting word of a ruling on the appeal of the project’s no-formal-environmental-review-needed decision (here’s our coverage of the May 8th hearing).

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No environmental review for new Arbor Heights Elementary? Neighbors’ concerns aired at appeal hearing http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/no-environmental-review-for-new-arbor-heights-elementary-neighbors-concerns-aired-at-appeal-hearing/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/no-environmental-review-for-new-arbor-heights-elementary-neighbors-concerns-aired-at-appeal-hearing/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 16:00:20 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=272738

(Rendering of new Arbor Heights Elementary)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

They say they’re not trying to stop it from being built.

But neighbors and others concerned about the new, larger Arbor Heights Elementary School say something is missing from the plan: A full-scale environmental review.

So they appealed the ruling that the project doesn’t need that kind of review, and their appeal led to a hearing that lasted much of the day Thursday in a meeting room at Seattle Public Schools headquarters in SODO.

It brought some surprises – including last-minute district research exploring some of the points for which the challengers said an environmental review was needed before the new school is built on the site of the old one starting this summer.

Appeal hearings don’t result in instant decisions, so a written report will be forthcoming. But here’s how the hearing unfolded:

First, a bit about the process. The burden of proof is on the appellant to show why the ruling was so wrong or damaging that it must be overturned. They have to put a case together at their own expense; unlike a criminal court, they are not guaranteed legal representation. So Chris Jackins, a longtime district watchdog working with neighbors, presented an opening and closing statement himself, calling witnesses inbetween the two, while the district was represented by high-profile local land-use lawyer Rich Hill, whose witnesses included district employees and other experts working on/for the project.

The document at the heart of the appeal is this – the Determination of Non-Significance and SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) checklist, released by the district in March:

Presenting the appellants’ case first, Jackins contended that the the checklist included “errors and omissions” and that the project would result in a “school (that) is too large for the neighborhood, increasing up to 90% in size” (from 47,000 square feet currently to 90,000 square feet), with “probable significant environmental impacts” including, he outlined:

-Traffic and parking effects
-Since it’s at the far south edge of the district, it would draw from farther away to fill its potential 660-student capacity, increasing pressure to close nearby schools such as Roxhill (he brought up the AH/Roxhill merger that was briefly proposed and withdrawn a few years ago)
-Residential neighbors affected on all four sides:
-Drainage, pollution, street changes on SW 105th related to the school’s drop-off/pickup, plus speeding on residential streets,
-Zoning departure (exception) for electronic message board
-District to remove 50 trees but doesn’t say how many are significant, so “impacts have not been formally characterized”
-No formal archaelogical survey conducted, but Jackins suggested consultation with the Duwamish Tribe
-Concerns about whether building materials will be reused

Regarding traffic, a major concern for those in the area, he said, is the fact that Westside School (WSB sponsor) is moving to a former church a few blocks east on SW 104th (as reported here, construction has just begun), but, Jackins said, the Arbor Heights project’s traffic study didn’t factor this in, while the Westside study did (see it here). The 35th/104th intersection between the two schools would see a sizable increase in “traffic load.”

But the neighborhood-street traffic increase weighed even more heavily on the minds of neighbors such as the first witness, Carmen Ragghianti, who read a letter she had sent to the district. After more than 20 years in the neighborhood, she said, she’s happy to see a new school on the way, but the planned enrollment increase raised safety concerns, and she wondered if the district had gotten the full picture by studying traffic on only two days, one regular school day, and one day when students weren’t on campus because it was a professional-development day for teachers.

Another area resident, Robert Femiano, was called next. He described himself as a former Arbor Heights Elementary parent and teacher who had spent 14 of his 37 teaching years at AHES. The Arbor Heights area’s dearth of sidewalks raised a safety concern, he said: “Increasing traffic without the safety of sidewalks seems to me to be playing with fire.” The potential 660-student population also could lead to increased health problems, he said, noting that his wife works as a school nurse. And he wondered where the students would be coming from, if Roxhill is remaining open, while pointing out that the former EC Hughes Elementary will be available in a few years (once Westside School moves out) and that the former Denny International Middle School site still has a large empty space identified as a potential future elementary-school location. “As a longtime educator, I could not support the choice for a megaschool” if something smaller was an option.

Nearby longtime resident Rex Long was next to be called, listing parking and traffic as his concerns, saying the 35th/104th intersection had “a lot of action” including crashes over the years.

He was followed by a more recent arrival, Brian Pope. While stressing that he likes the idea of a new school, he said that since he and his wife both work from home, they “get to see things that most people do not see,” including that the current pickup/dropoff area is not used that way by many, who instead look around for a parking space and then walk their children over to school. (The current AHES campus has very few of its own spaces.)

Some walk their children across 35th, east to west, noted area resident Rosa Long, who was called next.

She was followed by an architect living in the neighborhood who also reiterated that she’s glad a new school is coming but surprised at its size. The current documentation “doesn’t give a full picture of the impact on the neighborhood,” she contended, including the impact during construction, with trucks hauling excavated material. “We don’t know how many trucks it’s going to be, but we know it’s going to be a lot.”

The illuminated signboard concerned her too; she suggested it would be better placed in the center of the property.

After two hours, it was time for Hill to start calling witnesses on the district’s behalf. The project’s lead architect, Ross Parker from Bassetti Architects, was first. To the point of 660 students making for a “megaschool,” he said the school’s enrollment has been larger in the past, and that the new building will have more square footage per student than the current one does. Outlining the new school’s pickup/dropoff/parking areas, he said it would have 55 parking spaces, which is 47 more than the current school has (yet fewer than the 71 city code would require, for which a “departure” was approved). Most of the dropoff was expected to be focused on the northeast corner off 104th, and there will be a holding area for up to 20 cars, with an exit to 105th. Buses will continue loading and unloading on the street, and a departure was approved for that too.

Drainage issues raised in the appeal, he suggested, would be addressed by features including the plan to pave a “ditch” along the property line, with a new curb, gutter, sidewalk, and street trees; the water in the ditch will go into a culvert with “the intention … that it will alleviate any stormwater problems.” Improvements, he said, are planned along both 104th and 105th. The new site will have half as much impervious surface as the current one, including a grass playfield replacing asphalt, he added, also mentioning that 83 trees are planned to replace the 50 slated for removal.

The committee that considered the proposed departures also required screening to make sure homes wouldn’t be affected, and, Parker said, it won’t face homes anyway.

The next witness was Tod McBryan from Heffron Transportation, which did the traffic study for the AHES project.

He acknowledged that traffic “will continue to be busy and somewhat congested … around the site” during morning and afternoon. But he said their study showed that the project would increase traffic by 172 trips in the morning, 128 in the afternoon, and generate “peak parking demand” for 92 vehicles during the day, 60 percent of which would be handled on site, with “the remaining (to) overflow to 104th and possibly 105th.”

He then revealed a supplemental study had been done to address the potential compounding of effects with Westside School coming in a few blocks away. Westside currently “staggers arrivals,” he noted, while Arbor Heights has all arrive and depart at the same time. Under current schedules, the two schools would have a 20-minute overlap, McBryan said, but they don’t believe it will worsen the level of service (usability) at the 35th/104th intersection. They will recommend, he said, that the district monitors the start times of both schools when Arbor Heights is about to open, and if there seems to be an overlap, AH might consider a change. Plus, he said, the School Board is considering opening elementaries earlier, so that might make the whole point moot.

As for one appeal witness’s mention of a collision problem at 35th/104th, McBryan said they reviewed four years of data and found no collisions reported at that intersection; the Westside study, he said, found the same thing, and went back all the way to 2008. (The witness who mentioned crashes had been asked if they were reported to police, and he had said yes.)

An arborist who got involved in the project “late in the game” was the next witness, saying two trees of note had been found – one a madrone, “considered exceptional at all sizes by the city of Seattle,” the other a birch. The SEPA checklist mentioned a plan to save and transplant nine trees, two of which were two-foot-trunked Douglas firs; transplanting those types of trees doesn’t work, said the arborist, but now the two are planned to be kept in their current spots anyway. The other seven were palm trees and the district might consider how to get them into the hands of someone who could transplant and save them.

Next witness addressed the archaeological points, saying almost all the dirt to be moved off the site was Pleistocene-era soil “which predates human occupation … we would not expect to find buried cultural resources at this location.” But, she added, there’s a document outlining what would be done “if something unexpected was found.”

The project manager from Heery International said the district does have a plan for reusing materials from demolition, at least 50 percent, and that it will be “tracked on a monthly basis.” And the final witness called by Hill was Lucy Morello (at right in photo above), who has been overseeing capital projects for the district. She added more information about the illuminated sign, saying its use would be restricted to 7 am-7 pm on days the school was in use, and that it wouldn’t be used in the summer, or on holidays or weekends.

In a brief closing statement, Jackins contended that “everything about this project seems to be rushed,” and he said that the supplemental studies presented by the district had not been done before the SEPA checklist was issued, so the information hadn’t been presented to the public, which should have had the chance to review it in the environmental process: “This is not the way to do an environmental review.”

For his closing statement, Hill said that doing “significant work” after an appeal was filed is not unusual, since “the respondent has the right to develop evidence,” and he said all that evidence “reinforced the (Determination of Non-Significance) decision” not to require a full environmental review. He added, “There really has been no successful effort on part of appellants to demonstrate any significant adverse impacts.”

The presiding hearing examiner, Margaret Klockars, said she expected to present Superintendent José Banda with her written decision within 10 days.

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