(View from the new camera as of a few minutes before we published this)
If you want to check in on the progress of the new elementary school on Genesee Hill, you don’t have to walk/bike/run/drive/send your drone over … a live webcam is now up and running on the site. See it here. The school’s now projected to open in fall of 2016 as the new home of the current Schmitz Park Elementary program (what then happens to THAT campus is apparently back to being “undecided”); construction has been under way for more than three months now – demolition of the old GH Elementary started in early September.
Alert for Genesee Hill residents – cleanup work starts tomorrow at the former Dakota Substation. This is one of the “surplus” ex-substation sites whose fate has yet to be decided. Here’s the official announcement we received:
Seattle City Light will start work this week to cleanup the former substation located at 4918 SW Dakota Street. The work is expected to take approximately 2-3 weeks to complete. Planned work will remove soil, debris and some vegetation due to contamination. Pesticide contamination at the site is many times higher than the state’s required cleanup level. This work will not involve planned electrical outages.
Removal of soils in treed areas of the property is necessary; however, City Light plans to preserve the trees in these areas. To protect tree roots, City Light will use vactor trucks to remove the contaminated soil. The vactoring technique has been successful at each of the sites in which City Light has used it, including the Fauntleroy site in West Seattle. The utility has received recognition and thanks from community members for the successful protection of the trees on the Fauntleroy site.
Work will include operation of heavy equipment such as backhoes, dump trucks and vactor trucks. This vactor soil removal process will result in louder noise levels than conventional methods of excavation. Noise studies have been performed on this type of work and have indicated that sound levels are considered safe for residents near the work site.
A communications rep for the project tells WSB that notices have been circulated to neighbors already via e-mail, and that door-hanger notification is under way too. The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, which began as a West Seattle-based group but has expanded to a citywide focus, has been working to find ways to keep sites like this one saved as open space.
Went out this morning to check on the three largest demolition sites working in West Seattle:
ARBOR HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY: At the Arbor Heights site, the buildings are now all gone. Teardown work here started the Friday before Labor Day, but didn’t really rev up for another week. Seattle Public Schools says work will stop down for much of the winter before the second phase, construction, begins. A decision is also pending on whether the new $42 million school will be built to 500 or 650 capacity. During the two-year construction period, AHES is sharing the Boren Building with K-5 STEM.
Now to the district’s other big WS project:
ON GENESEE HILL: The future home of the Schmitz Park Elementary program is now five weeks into the demolition phase. As shown in our photo, just a bit of the main building of the former Genesee Hill Elementary is still standing, toward the east side of the site. This school will be built for 650 students.
And on the private-development front:
‘THE WHITTAKER’ SITE UPDATE: Back on Wednesday, we reported on the start of abatement and demolition work at the site of West Seattle’s biggest current project, The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW). The work has focused so far on the middle section of the site, between 40th (above) and Fauntleroy – yesterday, that included the wooden building that was the original home of West Seattle Produce (which has long since moved across the street):
A project spokesperson tells us the major demolition work is likely still more than a week away. The site also holds a former auto dealership, former used-car lot, former gas station, and former funeral home. The mural on the side of the dealership is to be digitally re-created on a wall of the new development, which will have almost 400 apartments over street-level retail, plus almost 600 off-street parking spaces.
(UPDATED Wednesday morning with two more views of Arbor Heights)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:50 PM TUESDAY: If you’ve been meaning to go take a look at what’s left of the former Genesee Hill and/or Arbor Heights elementary schools before they’re completely demolished, you’re running out of time. As of this afternoon, main-building teardown is under way at both sites – above, our photo from GH; below, Tim Eannarino shared the photo from AH this morning:
(Also, a few closeup views caught Robin Adams‘ eye.) The new schools to be built on these sites are both scheduled to open in 2016.
ADDED 9:04 AM WEDNESDAY: Thanks to Mike for sharing these next two Arbor Heights photos:
We checked again with the school district and they still don’t expect to settle on the new AHES’s final size until next spring (they could build it for 500 students or 650; the current school, temporarily housed at the Boren Building, is adding a third kindergarten class, so growth is continuing).
Two updates on West Seattle demolition sites:
GENESEE HILL SCHOOL: After a tip last Friday, we noted that some deconstruction was under way at the former Genesee Hill Elementary campus, where the current Schmitz Park Elementary program will move in 2016. Today, building teardown is under way in a big way, starting with the classrooms north/northeast of the main structure. That’s about one day behind the start of a similar phase at Arbor Heights Elementary, where Seattle Public Schools is also tearing down an old school to build a new one.
4535 44TH SW: While in The Junction a short time ago, we noticed the backhoe has arrived at 4535 44th SW, future home of a four-story, 36+-unit, no-offstreet-parking apartment building; we’d noted last week that its demolition permit was granted.
While it was described as “microapartments” when we first reported on the plan early last year, this is NOT microhousing – the units will be full-fledged studios with kitchens. (We’ll check back in a bit to see if the backhoe has started work yet.)
Thanks to Fiona for the tip: Demolition has begun at the other new-elementary-school site in West Seattle, on Genesee Hill. No backhoe-biting-into-building activity yet, as of our visit – as you can see in the photo, some bricks have been removed from the front of the school along SW Genesee, and we noted backhoes on the back side (north). This is the future home of the program currently at Schmitz Park Elementary; Seattle Public Schools has said that building will become an “early-learning center” once the new elementary opens. According to this history page from the district website, Genesee Hill Elementary was open 1948-1988 before its first closure; the building was reopened in 1994 for the alternative school that became Pathfinder K-8, which was housed there until GH was closed one final time in 2009.
One month after we reported on an appeal hearing set for aspects of the Genesee Hill Elementary School project, the decision has just been made public: The appeal has been rejected. Appellants included a half-dozen area residents and school-district watchdog Chris Jackins, challenging/questioning project components including the zoning exception for the school’s height, where the bulk of its building will be placed on the site, plans for on-street school-bus loading, and the amount of on-site off-street parking. We were not able to cover the appeal hearing held downtown eight days ago, but its points and the Hearing Examiner’s findings are recapped in the decision document – see it here. Next, we’ll be checking with Seattle Public Schools regarding their timetable for starting work on the new school.
Today’s Land Use Information Bulletin from the city brings the formal notice of an appeal hearing for the new school to be built on the five-years-closed Genesee Hill Elementary site. The appellants, including district watchdog Chris Jackins and more than half a dozen local residents, are not challenging the entire project; they object to aspects including the zoning exception for the school’s height, where the bulk of its building will be placed on the site, plans for on-street school-bus loading, and the amount of parking (71 spaces might not be enough, they say). The appeal hearing is set for 9 am August 5th in the Hearing Examiner‘s chambers on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown; it’s open to the public (for observation but not comment). Some preparation work already has been done on the site, but demolition is still to come.
(Rendering of new elementary at Genesee Hill site)
After several inquiries about the status/timeline for demolition at Genesee Hill Elementary – to be replaced by an all-new school – we checked with Seattle Public Schools. Tom Redman, who handles communications for SPS projects like this, says they’re not ready to set the date for demolition to begin yet, because they’re still finalizing permits:
The hazardous materials abatement and the archaeological survey have been completed. The building bid package was completed and advertised, followed by the pre-bid conference. The Master Use Permit (MUP) is being reviewed by the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development. The contractor is scheduled to begin work this summer, pending appropriate permit approval by the city.
One neighbor reported that it looks like demolition is near at the old Genesee Hill Elementary – slated for replacement with a brand-new school – but it’s not happening yet, according to Seattle Public Schools‘ Tom Redman. He explained what IS happening right now:
We are not beginning demolition yet. We are currently abating/removing hazardous material from the existing building. We are also doing an archeological survey, based on the State Dept. of Archeological and Historical Preservation maps.
Also, per City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development, we are doing required testing for pin pile foundation load test, which means we are driving a test pile into the soil and checking subsurface load capacity. This will give us an idea of what the planned foundation pilings can support beyond standard loads.
Background information about the new school is here. The old building has been closed for almost five years.
Admiring the fall colors this weekend? A visit to the past-and-future school site on Genesee Hill (50th SW/SW Genesee) might be in order – to pay your respects to that American Elm honored as a “Best in City” tree in PlantAmnesty‘s Heritage Tree program. Karen Lyons shares the photo and the news:
I belong to a group that is trying to save some of the fine trees on the school’s 6.2 acres. I’m the group’s botanist so I volunteered to take a tree survey last year and found a magnificent American Elm! The majority of American Elms in the US were wiped out by Dutch Elm disease. Somehow this tree is either immune (making it valuable for research) or has escaped the disease. I later contacted the Heritage Tree committee and they sent a group of 6 investigators to measure and take samples of the Elm. That was a few months ago. On October 1st I received this letter naming this tree and awarding it as “Best In The City”. It will be spared!
District documentation verifies that the tree will not be taken out during the construction of the new school – from last month’s summary of the newest design changes: “The steep hillside on the site will be fully protected, as will the significant and exceptional trees on the hillside (including the old elm near the center of the site).” The district expects to start construction next spring; the current Schmitz Park school program is expected to move into the new school at mid-year 2015-2016, while the district proposes to turn the current Schmitz Park building into an early-learning center.
Heads up – more portable classrooms are being moved, early tomorrow and early Thursday. From Tom Redman at Seattle Public Schools:
The last of our portable moves from Genesee Hill are scheduled as follows:
8/28/13 before 6 am- 1 single from Genesee Hill to Jane Addams
8/29/13 before 6 am- 1 single from Genesee Hill to Jane Addams
SPS and its contractors are following the SDOT requirement for these structures to be moved off-site in the early morning hours in order to comply with SDOT’s requirement to be off the road by SDOT’s 6am truck traffic restriction hour. This results in the entire to and from transport needing to be completed by 6 am.
On Sunday, we previewed three neighborhood-council meetings happening this week and next – North Delridge Neighborhood Council (under way right now), Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council (tomorrow night), and the second meeting of the revived Junction Neighborhood Council (August 20th). Tonight, another one to add to the list: This Thursday, the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council meets, with two major items on the agenda: The future of the 50th/Dakota substation site (one of six West Seattle sites the city is reviewing), and the small-lot-development issue that’s affected neighborhoods including Benchview (which recently saw both a court victory and a re-filing). You are welcome to attend the GSNC meeting at 7 pm Thursday (August 15th) at West Side Presbyterian Church (3601 California SW).
Does West Seattle’s 65-year-old Genesee Hill Elementary School – slated for demolition and replacement – meet the criteria to be a city landmark? A hearing on that question is set for August 7th, according to an announcement from the city:
The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider landmark nomination for Genesee Hill Elementary School at 5012 SW Genesee Street. The meeting will be on Wednesday, August 7 at 3:30 p.m. in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue, 16th Floor in Room 1600.
The public is invited to attend the meeting and make comments. Written comments should be received by the Landmarks Preservation Board by 5:00 p.m. on August 6 at the following address: Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods, P.O. Box 94649, Seattle WA, 98124-4649.
A copy of the nomination is available for public review at the West Seattle Branch Library, 2306 42nd Avenue SW (206-684-7444); and at Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Office in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, Suite 1700 (206-684-0228). The nomination is posted on Seattle Department of Neighborhoods website (in three files on this page).
This process is a routine part of projects like this, and also was done for the old Denny International Middle School, torn down and replaced by open space and recreational facilities when the new one nearby was ready to occupy. Seattle Public Schools expects to start building the new school at Genesee Hill next year.
If you’ve been looking to catch up with where the plans to build a new elementary school on the former Genesee Hill Elementary campus stands, here’s your next chance. The district has announced a community meeting for 6:30 pm Wednesday, May 8th, at Schmitz Park Elementary (5000 SW Spokane). District spokesperson Tom Redman says, “The meeting will include discussion of the progress of the project’s schematic design and an update of the work of the School Design Advisory Team. The SDAT team will meet before the community meeting at 4:30 p.m., also at Schmitz Park.” He also notes – if you hadn’t seen this on the timeline – the new school will NOT be opening for the start of the 2015-2016 school year, but instead is expected to be open after that year’s winter break – January 2016.
Reports of discolored water have come in via e-mail, via Twitter, and the WSB Forums tonight – mostly in the Genesee area. Residents who checked with Seattle Public Utilities say they were told fire crews were running the hydrants earlier today; via e-mail, Eileen adds, “They suggested not running much hot water right now since it will fill up your hot water tank w/ sediment. Wish I’d known that before running the dishwasher tonight!” If you’re having this problem tonight – or encounter it some other time – check out this online advice from SPU.
No arrests reported so far in a reported burglary attempt at the closed Genesee Hill School today. Police and Seattle Public Schools security responded around noontime to a report of a possible break-in; police told us at the scene that it appeared to be an attempt. Scanner traffic later indicated that witnesses saw two suspects, both female, but no other description, heading northbound on 51st SW.
A preferred “schematic design” was revealed last night for what is now going by the working title of the “new elementary school at Genesee Hill,” rather than “the new Schmitz Park Elementary at Genesee Hill,” according to project manager Janet Donelson.
The design was shown to about 20 community members in the Schmitz Park cafeteria, exactly three weeks before the February 12th election in which Seattle voters will decide whether to approve the Seattle Public Schools BEX (Building Excellence) IV levy that will generate the property-tax dollars for this $38 million project and others around the city.
As Donelson explained at the start of the meeting, the district provided some advance money to get the design work under way – since getting a new school open by fall 2015 would be impossible if they waited till after the election to start; a community advisory team has been working since last fall.
Ahead, four more views from last night’s presentation led by BLRB Architects, and what happens next:
If you’re not on the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council e-mail list – or otherwise involved in the process, you might not know they’re sharing early updates from discussions about the new school to be built on the Genesee Hill Elementary site and opened in fall 2015 (assuming funding is approved by voters in the February vote on the Seattle Public Schools BEX IV levy). This morning’s GSNC update includes notes from a meeting earlier this month, outlining how the current site will be used:
On Dec. 15 (which happened to be the day after the Newtown, CT, school tragedy), the School Design Advisory Team (SDAT) met to explore possible layouts for the new elementary school to be built on the Genesee Hill site. A variety of possibilities were explored, and the design was narrowed down to one for the architects to further explore and assess from a feasibility and cost standpoint.
Here is a summary of what was included in this design (apologies that it is a text description, but no drawings or plans are currently available):
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Though the vote on the Seattle Public Schools BEX IV construction-project levy isn’t until February, the process of planning one of its designated projects is under way now.
Last night, the Design Team for what’s for now known as the new Schmitz Park Elementary at Genesee Hill convened a “community conversation,” inviting neighbors to come talk about ideas and concerns. The school will be built on the site where the closed Genesee Hill Elementary now stands; it was long home to Pathfinder K-8 until that school moved into what had been Cooper Elementary on Pigeon Point in fall 2009, as part of the school-closure plan that shuttered GH permanently.
From tonight’s calendar: Reminder from the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council – a community conversation is scheduled tonight with the Design Team for the new school at the closed Genesee Hill site, 6:30-8 pm tonight at Schmitz Park Elementary. Read on for some examples of what they’re looking at, to help inspire your suggestions (and see how to comment even if you can’t go to the meeting):
Though the BEX IV school-building levy won’t go to voters till next February, the process of designing its first potential projects is starting now – including the creation of a community/district Design Team for the new school that’s currently described as Schmitz Park Elementary at Genesee Hill. That school will be built on the site where the closed ex-GH Elementary now stands. The Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council is announcing its hopes for the site – looking ahead to a community conversation next week:
GSNC is pleased to announce that Kerrie Schurr, the group’s Communications Chair, has been selected to represent the council on the Seattle School District’s Design Advisory Team for the new Genesee Hill school building (future location of the Schmitz Park program, if the capital levy passes in February). This is a great opportunity for the community to have input into the design considerations, either via the council or directly to the district at the Community Conversation for this project.
The Community Conversation will be held on Monday, November 19, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Schmitz Park Elementary School. A second Community Conversation will be held during the week of January 21 (details forthcoming).
At the short (1-hr.) GSNC meeting last Thursday evening, those in attendance came up with the initial list below of desired features for the new Genesee Hill school. Additional ideas may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m. Sunday, November 18.
The GSNC requests, after the jump: Click to read the rest of Designing the new school on Genesee Hill: GSNC’s early hopes…
Thanks to Bryan and Janet Jones for photos from the grounds of the former Genesee Hill school, where the community gardens are getting some TLC from neighborhood and Seattle Pacific University CityQuest volunteers. That work’s going on till about 2 pm.
But it overlaps with another event you can join in, too – from 1 till 3 pm, make mosaic stepping stones with Bright River Studio artist Terri Goodwin. Just bring “a colorful old plate or tile to break up for the mosaic” and “dress for mess.” You’ll get to keep your finished creation.
ADDED: Afterward, Janet sent out this summary:
Today was a gold star day at the school, with several long-awaited tasks accomplished, as follows:
Four new basketball nets installed
Some playground sweeping
All summer debris transferred to the dumpster
Ivy pulled from the Dakota hedge
Wildlife area tidied
Wood chips wheelbarrowed to beds – wildlife area and behind play structure
Two and a half trash bags of litter picked up.
Photos with story posted to the wsblog
Stepping stone art
Thank you one and all!
The future of the ex-Genesee Hill Elementary campus remains a central point of concern for people who live in the area, according to what the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council heard last Thursday during its first general meeting after several months’ hiatus. The meeting’s main point was to hone in on defining the neighborhood’s attributes and how to add to them with an eye to the future. Attributes, according to attendees: Friendliness, small-town feeling despite big-city proximity, exceptional views from the hills and bluffs. What’s needed: More park space where people can gather – the neighborhood has beautiful, forested Schmitz Park, of course, but it doesn’t have any sort of “commons” area. Also suggested – more events like last year’s neighborhood hoedown. About the campus: The community gardens maintained by volunteers on the west side are a point of pride, and despite the fencing that the district’s been putting up, neighbors hope access will remain. (In the longer term, the district is considering asking for money in its upcoming BEX IV levy to build a new Schmitz Park Elementary on the Genesee Hill campus.) To stay in touch with Genesee-Schmitz, keep an eye on the GSNC website.
Thanks to Rob for the photos from the ex-Genesee Hill School campus, where Seattle Public Schools has just fenced off building access – as they had told us two weeks ago that they planned to do in the “near future.”
District spokesperson Tom Redman had told WSB that they planned to fence off the buildings because of increasing crime – graffiti, other vandalism, break-ins – but that garden or field use wouldn’t be affected. Rob says that with the fencing, “The buildings are still accessible from the west side (51st) and the park is only accessible from the south end (Genesee Hill).”
Last month, the district had fenced off field access from SW Genesee, citing vandalism concerns.
Well, in lieu of actual time-traveling, envisioning the future is the next best thing. And that’s what the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council – which hasn’t had a general meeting in a while – is getting ready to do, with the help of as many interested neighbors as they can find! One week from tonight, the journey begins:
What would make our neighborhood a great place to live in 2020?
The GSNC is embarking on a neighborhood Vision 2020 planning process, and we want YOUR input and involvement! Please come to our next meeting and share your ideas with us:
• What do you like about our neighborhood now?
• What short- and long-term changes would you like to see?*
Thursday, April 26, 2012
6:30-7 p.m. Social Time (refreshments will be served)
7-8:30 p.m. Meeting (with lots of time for input and perhaps a speaker or two)
Howell Auditorium, West Side Presbyterian Church, 3601 California Avenue SW
* Some areas to think about:
Social events, parks, communication, traffic improvements, beautification projects, education and support, crime prevention, emergency preparedness, gardening, policy, shared interests/resources, volunteer opportunities
For more information (including a map), please visit our website at www.genesee-schmitz.org. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please send your name and email address to email@example.com
The vacant former Genesee Hill Elementary is being besieged by vandals, says Seattle Public Schools, so now they’re going to put up even more fencing. Four weeks ago, we reported on a new locked gate along SW Genesee, which was mostly aimed at vandals, according to the district, but now it seems that’s not enough. Tom Redman from the SPS Capital Projects and Planning department tells WSB the district is “going to fence off the Genesee Hill building with temporary fencing in the near future. There has been increasing vandalism and graffiti plus another break-in last week. Crews will fence off the building, but it will not affect the garden use or the field use (use of the field as a dog park is still not allowed).” Right now, it doesn’t seem likely the Genesee Hill building will ever reopen; in the district’s BEX IV levy planning, it’s mostly under discussion as a future site for an elementary to replace Schmitz Park.
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