Westwood Council: Denny/Sealth updates, Denny site “vision”


With Chief Sealth High School ready to move into Boren (WSB photo above, from 7/4), renovation work at Sealth is kicking into high gear, in the first phase of the process to combine the campuses of Sealth and nearby Denny Middle School. Last night, the Westwood Neighborhood Council got the latest on the project and also dove deeper into discussion of what will happen to the Denny site once the old school is demolished. Local journalist David Preston covered the meeting for WSB – read on for his report:

By David Preston
West Seattle Blog contributing journalist

Ten poster-sized artist’s renditions of the combined Chief Sealth High/Denny Middle School project greeted attendees at last night’s Westwood Neighborhood Council (WNC) meeting, which took place at the Southwest Precinct on Delridge. The posters were there, along with a professional-looking scale model and color-coded timeline, to help residents get a feel for the changes that will begin happening on the Chief Sealth property soon. Work will get underway on the Sealth interior updates as early as next week, according to project manager Robert Evans.

Evans was one of some half-dozen Seattle Public Schools Facilities Department representatives attending the meeting and spent an hour discussing the artist’s renditions and helping the audience of area neighbors visualize how the project will look when it’s finished. Also in attendance were Sealth principal John Boyd and a representative of the DKA architectural firm, which is designing the project, as well as ten Westwood area parents and neighbors.

From this observer’s standpoint, the future looks pretty dreamy for some aspects of the Sealth/Denny project. For starters things will be greening up – especially for the new Denny. Along with earth-toned building colors, there will be tree-lined walkways, expanded bicycle facilities, a “rain garden” parking lot with permeable concrete, a grass-covered roof over one part of the building and a butterfly roof on the other. (Taxpayer Note: the butterfly design is for channeling storm water runoff, not raising butterflies.) There will also be a plaza-like “galleria” of shared space between the two schools, expanded walkways and open spaces. Lots and lots of open spaces – all surrounded by relatively tall classroom buildings. (The roofline for the new three-story Denny, for example, will be 50 feet.)

The open-space design is for security, not just aesthetics, according to Evans. “We designed this for lots of ‘line of sight’ and ‘eyes on’,” he emphasized. It’s to allow security staff to easily monitor any part of the property, especially the spaces in between, where large numbers of students from both schools might gather. “Bell and lunch schedules will have to be worked out so we don’t have too many students in those places at the same time,” Evans said. “There will also be a 10-to-12-foot-high movable partition that separates Sealth and Denny.” He stressed the word “movable,” adding that there would be times when the partition could be moved aside so combined student gatherings or community events could be held there.

But generally, the idea is to keep students from “co-mingling” too much, and this idea was brought out repeatedly in the discussion between Evans and neighbors, who were concerned about how traffic – both pedestrian and automotive – would flow in and around the new facility. Much planning has been devoted keeping parking lots, walkways and entrances to the two schools separate, as can easily be seen in the sketches and models of the project.

Some lighting and landscaping changes are in store as well, and the new Sealth/Denny will be more open and visible to the surrounding community at night as well as during the day. Which raises the question of curb appeal. Steven Fischer of the WNC worried that the 53-foot-high flat brown walls on the east side of Denny would present the neighbors with an uninspiring view, and several people agreed. When Fischer asked why there were no windows on that side of the building, the architect explained that this design was used to channel natural light into the classrooms more efficiently. However, Evans and his boss, Don Gilmore, assured the group that they would look into alternative designs and surfaces for the east wall of Denny. (Perhaps a mural?)

Evans told the group that outdoor security cameras will be installed on site and operating continuously as soon as the work begins on Sealth. “I like security cameras!” Sealth principal Boyd said enthusiastically.

“We want to get that information [about the cameras] out there in the community, so please pass that along,” Evans added. “We want people to report graffiti too, and there will be a telephone hotline for that. The hotline will also have updated information about the project.”

For the future, Evans said that, along with the hotline, there will be quarterly newsletters and regular updates to the project website, and said neighbors will be apprised via door hangers and flyers about any construction work that might affect them. Principal Boyd said that Chief Sealth’s website would also feature regular project updates. In addition, kiosks will be installed, one each at Denny, Chief Sealth and possibly at Boren, which is where Chief Sealth students will attend school through June of 2010. The city Transportation Department (SDOT) will conduct separate public meetings regarding speed bumps, bus lanes and any other traffic-related changes needed to accommodate the project.

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of what will become of the Denny Middle School property once it is vacated and the existing school is torn down; here’s the concept drawing WNC released last month (click the image to see a larger version):


At last night’s meeting, WNC president Fischer unveiled a flipchart-sized “concept board” detailing several suggestions the group had worked out in previous meetings. “For Education, Recreation and Open Spaces,” was the theme.

Possibilities included an expansion of the existing Southwest Community Center, new tennis courts (to replace the ones lost in the Chief Sealth upgrade), better stairways, an “informal amphitheatre,” more green space, a skate park and even a small off-leash dog park.

Council member Susan McLain said “We want something [at the Denny site] that serves neighbors, students and the community at large.”

“We’re looking for increased connectivity for the neighborhood,” Fischer added. However, he stressed that the concept board was just that – a set of concepts – and would still need to be shopped around the community and discussed at one or more public meetings before any plans could be submitted to the school district. “But getting the word out is what the Neighborhood Council is for,” he said.

The district intends continue owning and maintaining the old Denny property, regardless of how it is developed. Project manager Gilmore noted that the Seattle Parks Department, which controls the adjacent ball fields and some of the other Denny-area property as well, would also need to be consulted and that any final plans should identify funding sources for the requested improvements.

When one resident wondered why there was so much concern to make sure the school district folks were getting the message, several veteran members responded that their opinions had either not been solicited or had been ignored by the district in the past. They pointed to the 9-foot tall and forbidding black fence around the new athletic fields to the south of Sealth, and the gates which are often locked, preventing the neighborhood from using the space, or traveling across it. These, they said, were the result of their opinions not being respected in the past, and they wanted to see a change.

From what I could tell, that change was well under way.

The meeting ended with the group deciding by consensus to meet again at the Southwest Precinct on August 12. WNC leaders say West Seattle’s School Board member Steve Sundquist will be invited to attend that meeting, along with Seattle Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher and Southwest Precinct Captain Joe Kessler.
This is David Preston’s first story for WSB. All of our Denny/Sealth coverage is archived here.

15 Replies to "Westwood Council: Denny/Sealth updates, Denny site "vision""

  • Michael July 9, 2008 (9:51 am)

    When are they just going to tear Boren down? It’s been an interesting comparison over the past several years: school moves into Boren, neighborhood gets trashed; school moves out, neighborhood sees influx of new residents and improvements. Is it that kids have no respect for a temporary site? Do they treat their regular school neighborhood like that?

  • ZS July 9, 2008 (10:11 am)

    The photo of Boren in this article is a very sad sight. The lack of respect and concern from the city is what bothers me. How can they put kids into such a rundown facility, even if only temporary?

    The city should make an effort to keep the school in acceptable condition. And while they are at it, make at least a feeble effort to clean up the crime ridden neighborhood they are sending these kids to as well.

  • WSB July 9, 2008 (10:20 am)

    Re: first comment – The Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association (DNDA) has a simmering project/vision regarding redeveloping the site into a major residential/commerce hub for the growing Delridge neighborhood. Haven’t checked it on its status lately, though, and certainly the district has plans for that site for at least a few years to come. Re: the second comment and the crime-ridden neighborhood – it’s not just a “city” thing – the folks of the North Delridge Neighborhood Council, for one (and other groups), have been working hard and seeing signs of positive change. If you live in that area, I hope you will get involved with them if you are not already. (This is separate of course from the issue of Boren’s condition.)

  • Westwood Resident July 9, 2008 (11:40 am)

    What will happen to the Denny MS site?
    The property is owned by the city/school district, if they can make a bundle of money by selling it they will.
    They will sell it to the first developer that offers what they want/think it’s worth. On that site will be placed a Mega-Condo/Townhouse development.
    1. It’s what “Gridlock” Greg envisions for West Seattle.
    2. It will increase density, which in turn increases the tax base.
    3. Because of the increased tax base, his and the council’s pet social programs can be funded, while they raise taxes to fund Police, Fire, transportation, utilities and education.
    And because the majority of the people in Seattle are “Sheeple” they will vote the same ineffective, socialist, dimwits back into office next year.


  • Patrick July 9, 2008 (12:06 pm)

    I personally wish they would permanently move Chief Sealth to the Boren Site, it is less residential, Since I live next to the school “some” of the students, not all students, have no respect for the people who live in the neighborhood.

  • Marlene July 9, 2008 (7:32 pm)


    I’m truly sorry you’ve experienced disrespect from our students. The problem you’ve highlighted is very complex, and I’m not going to do a sociological dissertation here. I know what you say is true. Once the students leave campus, the school jurisdiction ends. I wish I could tell you the problem will get better.

    Unfortunately, with 500+ added students to the campus, I’m afraid the problems will only increase. As WR stated above, the district has placed more emphasis on money that on what’s best for the community.

    You are not the first person who has suggested that Sealth stay at Boren permanently. it certainly would eliminate the “co-mingling” issues

  • GenHillOne July 9, 2008 (8:52 pm)

    Patrick ~ was the school there when you moved in? I’m not saying that (some students) disrespecting the neighbors is right by any means, but the whole school should move???

    Admittedly, the Boren site isn’t the nicest, but I bet a cool partnership between Sealth and DNDA could be set up for the two years at Boren; something that would benefit both the neighborhood and student pride (perhaps even the future of the site that all would use, if the ‘vision’ becomes reality, even after students move back to the Thistle location). If the student body can feel like they’ve made a difference at/around Boren, it could very well carry over to the other building as well. I’ve said it before, but the students coming into Sealth – and I’m sure there are plenty already there – are primed to be leaders for the co-location, they just need to be empowered.

  • Grunesch July 10, 2008 (7:13 am)

    The reporting in this article does a dis-service to West Seattle.

    I live near the Denny-Sealth school, and I have been following the design of the new facility. Patrick’s article is full of mis-information, and reads like public relations for the school district.

    I’m sorry he has written such a naive “puff piece” because there are some real issues at stake that will affect the surrounding community for decades.

  • Marlene July 10, 2008 (11:45 am)

    To Grunesch,

    Do you mean David, not Patrick? If so, I thought the same thing. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s new to how the District actually works.

    As a veteran of the BEX III war, I’m sad to say I don’t have a lot of hopes that the Westwood Neighborhood Council’s vision will be implemented.

    Right now, Facilities is under pressure to give the illusion that community engagement is occurring. The dog and pony shows will be allowed to happen, but in the end Facilities will do what they usually do. Continue with their hidden agendas in collusion with the Board, and do what THEY want to do with the site.

  • westello July 10, 2008 (2:05 pm)

    Interesting how it’s in the best interests (or so we are told) of the students to have a joint campus and yet the district spends an awful lot of time describing how separated they will be.

  • David Preston July 10, 2008 (4:35 pm)

    Grunesch and Marlene:

    I am aware that there has been some rancor between the Seattle School District and local residents over the issue of the Sealth/Denny redevelopment. However, my assignment for this piece was to cover what happened at the Westwood Neighborhood Council meeting, and that’s what I did. Whenever residents spoke at the meeting, school district personnel responded thoughtfully and respectfully, and the tone was generally very friendly, in spite of past disagreements. Whether the district responds to all resident requests remains to be seen, but at this meeting district people were definitely listening.

    When the question of what would become of the Denny site was being discussed, some issues about residents not being listened to did boil to the surface, and I reported that as follows:

    . . . several veteran members responded that their opinions had either not been solicited or had been ignored by the district in the past. They pointed to the 9-foot tall and forbidding black fence around the new athletic fields to the south of Sealth, and the gates which are often locked, preventing the neighborhood from using the space, or traveling across it. These, they said, were the result of their opinions not being respected in the past, and they wanted to see a change.

    I don’t exactly consider that puffery.

    Grunesch: if you feel there was misinformation in the piece, please specify what it was. Any errors of fact can be corrected.


    –David Preston

  • Marlene July 10, 2008 (8:47 pm)

    David, I think that your statement, “From what I could tell, that change was well underway,” was troubling. The words spoken by Robert Evans and others were “polite.” I don’t recall at any of the Board, design, or community meetings that anyone from Facilities was disrespectful. What besides their words gave you the impression that change was well underway?

    Words are easy. We have heard many promises about information being posted on district websites, newsletters, and accurate updates being presented at Board meetings. The information either isn’t there, is deceiving, or shows up late.

    Many of us don’t see any evidence that the district has changed or will change in the future because of their demeanor at community meetings.

    The Westwood Neighborhood Council was blown off big-time by the District last year. The District has a lot of fence-mending to do. Time will tell if Facilities “respects” the WNC enough to accept their community vision for the Denny site. They may have been listening, but were they HEARD.

  • WSB July 10, 2008 (9:06 pm)

    Hey all, as editor I’m going to step in here.
    We have covered this issue more extensively and intensively here at WSB than any other area news source in the past year, I would submit to you.
    I have covered many of the events, meetings, etc., personally but this happened to be on a night when there were other major events in West Seattle (four of our area’s biggest community associations/councils ALL meet on the same night, second Tuesday of the month, and ALL have huge issues facing them now), so like any editor, I made my choice on how to deploy the forces available to me — hiring David, a veteran journalist, as a freelancer to cover this particular meeting rather than just saying “oh well, we can’t make it there.”
    In retrospect, maybe I should have clipped out all personal observation, since we have moved in the past year away from most of that here on WSB (though I’m not always sure if it’s for better or for worse), but we felt it interesting to have the situation seen through fresh eyes, as it were.
    I appreciate the comments here, since unlike many types of “old media” sources, our type of news site, with vibrant discussion following stories, sees coverage that turns into something of a collaboration. I also appreciate David taking the time to respond, which certainly was not part of the assignment, and I stand by his story, which was written clearly and comprehensively. As editor, I am ultimately responsible for what goes on this site, and always interested in feedback (I spend a great deal of my days/nights dealing with it both in comments and in e-mail, and sometimes by phone), so you are always free to direct concerns to me on the site or off the site,
    editor@westseattleblog.com – TR (and p.s. you’re also welcome to come talk to us in person all weekend, WSB is teaming with the Chamber of Commerce to staff the Information Booth that’s in the heart of things at West Seattle Summer Fest in The Junction, and co-publisher Patrick and/or I will be there continuously 10-5 – if not longer – all three days)

  • Bob July 11, 2008 (1:36 am)

    Parts of the article read like an opinion column. That’s fine, but in this case it showcases how well meaning but green the writer is. The School District has a long and glorious history of superficially listening to people and then making decisions that contradict what citizens and parents told them was important.
    Anyway, don’t feel bad. There were some creamy soft puff pieces in the big dailies in the past few days about the Superintendent and School Board. This article at least was much better than those.

  • Valkyrie July 21, 2008 (10:23 pm)

    The link below describes a different view of the Westwood meeting. Steve Fischer describes Don Gillmore as being dismissive. http://www.westseattleherald.com/articles/2008/07/21/news/local_news/news02.txt

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