ALKI ELEMENTARY: Zoning exceptions appealed; community meeting turns contentious

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

By Monday afternoon’s deadline for appealing the city decision to grant nine zoning exceptions for the Alki Elementary School rebuild, six appeals had been filed with the city Hearing Examiner, which today ordered them consolidated into one case.

Two hours after the appeal deadline, Seattle Public Schools discussed the project at an in-person community meeting, which turned contentious as frustrated neighbors at times shouted their concerns about some of those zoning exceptions, particularly those related to transportation, including the removal of all on-site parking.

We reported last month on the city’s recommendation that the zoning exceptions – formally called “departures” – be approved. The district first mentioned in an online public meeting last June that it would seek departures, and a request for public comment went out last fall. However, the usual public process was truncated because of pandemic-related policies, and that’s part of what neighbors are upset about, saying they didn’t have a chance to participate in the design process or, later, to have their concerns heard.

So last night, after listening for an hour to district director of capital projects Richard Best, architect Becky Hutchinson of Mahlum, and transportation consultant Marni Heffron, they did what they could to be heard, at times shouting their disagreement with the project team’s contentions.

After Best gave an overview, saying the design was meant to support the district’s focus on “student outcomes” among other things, he yielded the microphone to Hutchinson, who tried to stress the site’s status as a “community hub” (it’s adjacent to Alki Community Center, which is not part of the project, another point with which some community members take issue, and Alki Playfield).

Hutchinson said the school’s entrance is moving from the west side to the north side because most students come from that direction. Inside, she said, the new school will have “support spaces” and “shared learning spaces” that the current one lacks. As had been the case during last year’s online meeting, she referred to the entrance as a “front porch.”

The new school’s added height, the subject of one of the zoning departures, gives it a third story, and that’s where the library will be.

Back on the ground floor, preschoolers will “have their own front door,” on the side with the loading area (another point of concern).

You can see all the design slides in the full meeting deck here; they segued into what the district called FAQ, attempting to address some of the previously aired concerns. First one – why no on-site parking? The district’s answer was that SPS prioritizes educational programs over uses for private vehicles, and showed a table of other schools with little or no parking (none in West Seattle):

The 100-page presentation deck had 17 pages of slides aimed at trying to explain the rationale for building with no on-site parking. It went through several scenarios in which, the project team said, some parking might have been possible if there were other dramatic changes to the project – such as, 7 spaces if they removed the preschool area and outdoor-learning space, or 29 spaces if they built to four stories instead of the currently planned three.

Heffron, who said her firm has been working with SPS nearly 30 years, said her firm had used a “full slate of parking and traffic analyses” including “historic aerial photos” and on-street surveys to come up with the conclusion that the neighborhood had enough parking to accommodate needs during school hours. Events, however, as noted in the departure-discussion process, should be split so the school would never have more than 400 people on site; Heffron contended “that also is done at many other schools” but didn’t name any. She insisted, “We believe that this like many other schools can operate just fine with no on-site parking.”

Next in what the district presented as FAQ was, “how does the new design prioritize safety?” The no-parking plan came into play here too, with slides recapping “best practice guidelines” for school traffic safety including a de-emphasis of “private car infrastructure.”

The answer to this question also showed interior school features, such as the reception area:

The third FAQ was another thorny issue: “Will the new school affect neighbors’ views?” The district’s answer was, for the neighbors uphill to the south, yes, but not much.

The final FAQ was “why are you so intent on improving Alki given its small site?” Answer: The site’s status as a “hub” among other locations of interest made it value-added, in their view.

Throughout the meeting, the district had been collecting written questions for the project team to read aloud and answer. First one: “Who is the instigator for this project?” “Seattle Public Schools,” replied Best. (It was proposed for BEX V levy funding in 2018.)

Next, a person who said they live half a block from the school and didn’t get notification of the meeting. Best said postcards were sent out, albeit “late,” and noted that principal Mason Skeffington sent notice to the “Alki community,” plus the announcement was published in community media such as WSB. Another question made a similar accusation, suggesting the rebuild was a “secret project.”

Then a question asking if it was “wise to enlarge a school close to so much crime,” given incidents such as the recent murder just across the playfield. Principal Skeffington said they’re dealing daily with safety and security, and that the rebuild will upgrade the school to the newest technology. A related question followed, asking more specifically about safety designs for intruders or even “active shooters.” Best said all schools are designed with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles and that those are factored into the design.

Will the school really be done by the start of the ’25-’26 year, considering that the other major local BEX V project – expanding West Seattle Elementary – has taken an extra year? That was in large part because of the “five-month concrete strike,” Best replied.

What’s the “current diversity” at Alki? The principal said it’s 65 percent white, 15 percent multiracial, and didn’t have the breakdown for the other 20 percent.

How will SPS fund increased operational cost for an expanded Alki? More students bring more funding, Best said. And, he added, a larger school allows the district to offer some support programs that are not available at smaller schools.

How is recess planned into the design? It’ll be a lot like the way it works now, said Hutchinson. In response to a related question, though, the project team said they hadn’t worked out with Parks exactly how the play areas north of the school would be configured. (That came up again in the attendee Q&A period.)

What about access for emergency vehicles on 59th SW, which is already tight? Heffron said the current system works and they don’t expect “major changes.” She also said they “don’t anticipate more buses” despite the potential for to increase from ~300 to 500+ students because “there’s capacity on current buses” and they don’t plan to expand the attendance area.

Attendees started loudly disputing district contentions during the next question about the entrance for preschoolers. Where are parents going to park to walk the littlest students to their entrance? they asked, along with why the entrance is adjacent to a loading area. “You are going to have injuries!” someone shouted. Others repeatedly insisted “we’re not against a school here” but they are against the dramatic expansion.

Next – how is the district addressing noise from the “mechanical penthouse” planned atop the building? Best said acoustic-engineering experts are in charge of that.

Then, a question about the truncated Department of Neighborhoods process that led to the initial recommendation for approval of the zoning departures. The comment time during that process was extended, the district pointed out. But, contended a neighbor, notices were only sent to people extremely close by. And another took issue with the departure rationales going against the public comments the city had received. “You gave them nothing.”

Shortly thereafter, another clash over the lack of parking, and what data Heffron used. She said they had used “a lot of historic traffic data from before the West Seattle Bridge closed” and in-person studies, boosting the count to try to compensate for the pandemic-driven changes in road/parking. An attendee countered that the study did not take important factors into account. The project team repeated that “many” schools don’t have parking for parents, and attendees countered that – as noted above – those schools aren’t in West Seattle.

That issue reasserted itself a few minutes later, with attendees contending that parents don’t want their kids walking to school, and that doubling the school’s size “isn’t going to work.” Having just one ADA space across the street also won’t work, neighbors said.

Is it really safe to locate the preschool entrance near the loading area? Best said there’ll be separation, and that drivers making deliveries “will not be there when students and families are picking up and dropping off (students).”

Many questions obviously remained when Best ended the meeting close to the planned 9 pm. He promised they would be answered “on the website,” though no time frame was mentioned.

On another matter of time frame, with appeals filed as mentioned at the start of this report, the city Hearing Examiner will need to set a date for a hearing. The project is currently expected to start construction this summer; how, or whether, the appeal process will affect that remains to be seen.

72 Replies to "ALKI ELEMENTARY: Zoning exceptions appealed; community meeting turns contentious"

  • Marcus May 24, 2023 (4:16 am)

    Just seems like way too much for this location.  

  • Beatrice May 24, 2023 (6:12 am)

    At West Seattle High School 30+ school parking spaces will be supplanted by 2 portable classrooms in a neighborhood already highly overburdened by lack of resident parking. Officials refused a public meeting despite pleas. 

    • Reed May 25, 2023 (6:27 am)

      Those high school kids should be busing or walking to school, not driving.

  • We live in a city not a suburb May 24, 2023 (6:21 am)

    I love the sentiment of building for students not private vehicles! This is the direction that we need to keep our city going in cities are for people not cars! Additionally, making it a data back decision by counting spaces using satellite imagery is perfect and I see no reason why The exemption shouldn’t be given. I lived on Alki for over five years and in that time it is clear that there is a ton of parking during school hours… Not only is there abundant parking during the off peak months and weekdays, but during school hours, most residents who park their private vehicles on public property…  have left to go to work, so there is little to no conflict with teachers who might be parking there, or parents who are parking a block or two away to walk their child to school. As for the loading zone… That is literally a non-issue, they are correct that the trucks will not be coming during student drop off. Furthermore, an actual safety issue would be building a large parking lot that students must cross to get to their school… Distracted parents driving gigantic SUVs and trucks with huge front and blind zones are a real hazard…That seems like a great plan!

    • Al King May 24, 2023 (9:40 am)

      Alki resident here. The pushback on no parking is simply residents and school staff recognizing THE REAL WORLD not the “wishful thinking” world.

      • WestSeattleBadTakes May 24, 2023 (10:36 am)

        We’re moving on without you Al, feel free to move along. I am sure you’ll be a welcome addition in a place that has no positive vision for its future.

        • Niko May 24, 2023 (4:46 pm)

          Well somebody like him pays 57% of their property taxes to fund the schools. Perhaps we should have a property tax strike to stop reckless spending

          • Rick May 25, 2023 (12:27 pm)

            And adding density would make his taxes cheaper and have more people to pay taxes. So I agree with WSBT. We are moving onto the future here.  There is absolutely no reason public transit can’t be used to pick up your children. I don’t want to hear outlier examples either.

      • JW May 24, 2023 (1:21 pm)

        Yes, it is time to recognize the 
        Real World automobiles are destroying our Real World Now.
        Let’s be cognizant of Tomorrow.

    • Bill May 24, 2023 (11:43 am)

      So would you support requiring the school to hire only people who can take public transit, or walk to work?  It seems to me that if the school bring cars to the neighborhood, the school should be responsible for where those cars are stored.   However if the school can commit to bringing no additional cars to the neighborhood, then they can have no parking.  I would say the same for new apartments and homes.  People need to stop storing cars on the street.

      • JW May 24, 2023 (1:27 pm)

        I agree Bill,
        but should only new apartments and homes be responsible for eliminating their storing cars on the streets.  
        What about existing renters and homeowners also?

        We could solve the car storage issues by establishing demand pricing for all vehicles stored on our streets.

  • KT May 24, 2023 (6:46 am)

    Nine zoning exemptions approved.  Let’s face it … the city and SPS is gonna do what they wanna do regardless.

  • Jon Wright May 24, 2023 (7:51 am)

    NIMBYs gonna NIMBY.

    • Al King May 24, 2023 (9:46 am)

      Jon Wright. We’re not “nimbys” we are people that live in the real world with our eye’s wide open.

  • Ummm May 24, 2023 (8:21 am)

    Lafayette has zero parking for parents. All street parking. 

  • JT (architect) May 24, 2023 (8:36 am)

    Increasing students by 300 will most definitively affect traffic in the area during drop off and pick up times.  The Elementary School at 116th and 26th has traffic issues at drop off and pick up times.   Parents ‘park’ in the traffic lane while they wait to move forward.  No traffic can get through for  up to a hour!  Traffic lines should be similar to the Fauntleroy Ferry line where the ferry line traffic  pulls over into the shoulder and does not block driveways.Also regarding the Engineers dealing with sound:  The city needs to establish regulations for db levels and sound direction in order for engineers to comply.  The answer to the community stated at meeting  is misleading.  The partial blocking of view is devastating to the homeowners affected by the height  additions.  Is the city to compensate the owners for loss of value and the potential emotional stress of having to sell their home.

    • D-Ridge May 24, 2023 (9:49 am)

      Please provide me with evidence of a single property that was located next to a new development in this city, especially a new school expansion, and has seen a decrease in its value as a result.

    • Spencer May 24, 2023 (12:53 pm)

      “Devastating”? Let’s keep our heads screwed and be reasonable.

    • WS Architect May 24, 2023 (1:30 pm)

      As an Architect you should know there is no view protection in Seattle….none.

    • JW May 24, 2023 (1:43 pm)

      As an architect, if JT practices or even owns a home in Seattle, they know that there are no view rights in Seattle.  
      The real estate sales people even use the golden phrase, “unobstructable views” for those rare properties above the housing height limits and free of pesky neighbor (now your own also) trees or directly on the waterfront.  
      JT should also be assured there also decibel levels in our codes and mechanical systems are becoming more efficient and quite.
      The issue of congestion during drop-off and pick-up is largely because more and more single child vehicles with most drivers arriving at the last second, showing up at the same time.  
      What’s wrong with walking, biking and carpooling like the old days?

    • rick May 25, 2023 (12:29 pm)

      You’re never entitled to a “view” 

  • Gina May 24, 2023 (8:38 am)

    This is the plan SPS had for Lafayette about a decade ago and pushed through rezoning the east side of 45th to 8 units on previously single house lots to be able to build a 3 level structure. The plan made sense up here with the space available.  A good idea to add the amenities, a bad place for a mega school.

  • Mr J May 24, 2023 (8:43 am)

    I love that on so many WSB posts commenters will often bring up children to support their points on homelessness, density, policing etc. but when SPS is putting children first (putting a pin in their treatment of teachers – haven’t forgotten) and building a lovely updated school all people seem to care about is their own convenience. Their views and parking. Woeful. Car culture is not safe, it’s not good around schools and I think parents can start utilizing district transportation. One note of agreement, the ADA space absolutely needs to be on the school side. 

    • They Ain’t No Buses, Man! May 24, 2023 (10:43 am)

      When the district can actually provide reliable and consistent transportation, then maybe. But King Co and Seattle (in partnership) are sooo far from that being a reality. Families should not have to incur the burdens of a lousy transportation system. Public transit in West Seattle is broke. 

      • Mr J May 24, 2023 (11:49 am)

        I think that’s an issue that can be fixed. The State needs to provide more money for this. I get the frustration, but we cant keep building like it’s 1980. Three years should be adequate time to sort it out (I say that with sincerity but also I know it’s likely now the case).

      • Car-free resident May 24, 2023 (12:51 pm)

        Speak for yourself my man, I think public transit is very serviceable around here and it’s getting better all the time. Or are you just going to rest on your laurels made out of cars?

    • Stella May 24, 2023 (11:20 am)

      Mr J, there’s car culture, and then there’s just providing basic accessibility.

      This plan is a huge middle finger to those of us with mobility issues.

      • Mr J May 24, 2023 (11:53 am)

        I’m not here to fight accessibility, the WSB clearly stated that there was pushback on ADA accessibility across the street which I think is warranted. If SPS is in violation of any Americans With Disability Acts they should be held accountable and fix that solution. 

  • Dietrich Schmitz May 24, 2023 (8:54 am)

    Great coverage, WSB, it is appreciated. :-)I’m not seeing it, but wondering if the discussion of renovating the Schmitz Park site to increase elementary school capacity in the area has arisen.  It seems like a better location for increasing the numbers of students than Alki would be.

    • WSB May 24, 2023 (9:49 am)

      It’s been suggested in previous discussions, such as school board director Leslie Harris’s recent meetings that we covered (including the April meeting at which a letter from your mother was presented), but it wasn’t mentioned here – it could have been on one of the question/comment cards submitted by attendees, but the district chose what to read/answer and none of what they read/answered mentioned SP. – TR

    • Terri May 24, 2023 (12:19 pm)

      Yes, we have proposed to SPS to build on the Schmidt Park school  site. Must bigger lot, no views to obstruct, & neighborhood wouldn’t be impacted durning construction. Plenty of parking so neighborhood wouldn’t be impacted. They refused to even consider.

      • JW May 25, 2023 (10:52 am)

        whose ox is gored?

         Doubtful that those suggesting other locations for construction and siting of a school within an existing neighborhood, making statements like “neighborhood would’t be impacted during construction,” and, “Plenty of parking so neighborhood wouldn’t be impacted” have not spoken to those neighborhoods. 

  • Plf May 24, 2023 (9:06 am)

    It appears much of the frustration could have been avoided if sps had been more transparent perhaps they were but it feels like they have an agenda and come hell or high water that was what is going to happen, they don’t now or in the past felt like they wanted a true partnership with families and the neighborhoods, this kind of perception certainly doesn’t make the average Voter want to support their levies reinforces my decision, which was financially challenging to send my daughter to private school.  

  • D-Ridge May 24, 2023 (9:19 am)

    Folks literally prioritizing cars over children, come on now.

    • Al King May 24, 2023 (9:53 am)

      D-Ridge. Go by any elementary or junior high school at start/finish time and see for yourself the ling line of parents in their vehicles dropping off or picking up their kids. They have their priorities. Have you actually said anything to them or do you just drive by and glare?

      • Brian May 24, 2023 (10:20 am)

        At gatewood it’s mostly parents picking up their kids on foot. 

        • Josh May 24, 2023 (3:41 pm)

          I was going to mention how at Gatewood, which has like 20 parking spots in its little lot everyone gets in and out with no problem and no car lines. There are a couple lazy jerks who park in no parking zones but in a neighborhood that is just as dense as Alki it all goes fine and our enrollment is currently much higher than Alki’s. Also the year our oldest daughter went to Alki 95% of parents walked to get their kids. The only issue I have about this rebuild is the decades it will take to get the school to capacity as there is no way an extra 300 elementary age kids are moving into that school anytime in the next 49 years. 

          • Kyle May 25, 2023 (9:17 am)

            I think this is what is reasonable. I don’t think anyone is asking for 50+ parking spots. 10 or so spots to be sued for visitors, folks with disabilities, people carrying supplies, etc. seems reasonable. Why does it have to be all or nothing. Also, reading the tea leaves, with the Alki expansion Lafayette or another close school will probably be consolidated in a few years. Areas outside “walking distance” bringing more cars for drop off since Alki has very limited transit after pandemic Metro cuts.

          • Mike May 26, 2023 (6:55 pm)

            The District will just drastically expand the catchment area for Alki, taking away students from other nearby schools.  This was done with Arbor Heights to the extent that kids living directly across the street from Roxhill were forced to go to Arbor Heights.  These kids had to rely on District transportation or being driven to school because it was way too far for the younger ones to walk.   So much for reducing vehicles on the roads!

      • D-Ridge May 24, 2023 (12:06 pm)

        They can still drop kids off on the many many streets near the school, it’s what we do with our kids (when we aren’t biking or bussing); drop them off a block over, we’ve never expected to get on campus itself to drop them off.

  • Screw Cars, Use Transit May 24, 2023 (9:44 am)

    Why do Seattle residents have such an infatuation with their private vehicles? No elementary kid is driving themselves to school.  The “every family needs multiple cars” mindset needs to die

    • Bubbleator May 24, 2023 (10:48 am)

      Easy for you to type, and impossible for hundreds of thousands of Seattle residents to actually live.

      • Car-free resident May 24, 2023 (12:58 pm)

        People love to bring up that cars are necessary for some ephemeral big group of people (trust me bro!) but never seem to be able to articuticulate how many people there are, what the problem is, and why cars are the solution. Easy to type, impossible to build an actually compelling argument.

    • Stella May 24, 2023 (11:22 am)

      Have you actually looked at the transit access near Alki Elementary? It’s practically nonexistent.

  • Admiral May 24, 2023 (10:03 am)

    Ummm – Lafayette is adjacent to a 3-lane Arterial street with street parking and has better transit.  

  • WS Guy May 24, 2023 (10:17 am)

    Won’t the kids just be dropped off and picked up on Admiral like one block away?  Or Alki at the other end of the block?  Can a first grader not walk one block?

    • Al King May 24, 2023 (11:47 am)

      WS Guy. Good question. Except for my 1st day of kindergarten at Genesee Hill when my mom walked with me to make sure I knew the route I walked every day by myself all the way through high school. It really wasn’t difficult.

  • Joe Z May 24, 2023 (11:52 am)

    If the new school is built at Layfayette, they should build a large affordable housing complex at the Alki location. 

  • skeeter May 24, 2023 (11:54 am)

    Car culture is the problem and paid street parking is the solution.  Look, many people don’t have an option and they need a car at work/home.  Fine.  They pay $12 per day to park their car on the street in this neighborhood.  Paid parking will free up a LOT of street parking space and will decrease car congestion.  Paid parking will incentivize many households to decrease the number of cars they own.  It will incentivize those with commuting options to bike/walk/transit/carpool.  People who simply need or want a car can pay to park and not have to drive around for 14 minutes looking for an open parking space.  If car congestion remains difficult then increase the parking rate to $16 per day.  

    • Mark Schletty May 24, 2023 (2:17 pm)

      All of us have already paid tons of taxes to build and maintain streets. Streets are designed for both driving and parking. Therefore we have already paid for the on street parking. Now to force people who need cars to pay to park in front or near to their home is total discrimination against low income citizens.  It is so frequent that people, and the government, disregard the needs of mobility challenged and low income people. So, Skeeter, your solution for low income people needing but cant find parking or afford a fee, because it is still to congested, is to further raise the fees so they for sure cant afford to pay them. In other words, if you are low income or mobility impaired and need a car, just move out of Seattle and leave it to those of us who are young, healthy and wealthy.

      • JW May 24, 2023 (3:18 pm)

        monetize all street parking.
        Low income people with demonstrated need, can be provided vouchers.  
        For the rest of us, like Mr. Schletty and myself, we should pay for parking if only to cut down on pollution, congestion, convenience and reliance on vehicles.
        I do appreciate Mark’s remarks about being responsible for the sidewalk and planting strip in from of his home.

      • skeeter May 24, 2023 (3:47 pm)

        If a person is low income (or high income for that matter) and needs a car then they have several options.  1. find a house or apartment with off-street parking.  2. find a job with free off-street parking paid by the employer.  3.  pay for parking on the street.  4.  Utilize transit, busses, rideshare, carpooling etc to minimize car and parking needs.  The alternative – 8 people fighting for the same free on street parking spot is a huge waste of time and resources.  If anyone has a better solution I’m all ears!

        • Mark Schletty May 24, 2023 (5:07 pm)

          Skeeter option problems—- option 1- so you would force someone who has owned their house for thirty years and is now old enough, with mobility restrictions,  and needs to drive a car, to sell their home and move to suit your desires? Not me.  Option 2- so you would force someone with a job to quit and try to get rehired elsewhere to suit your desires.  Option 3- see above comment by Mark to understand that fallacy. Option 4-  in much of Seattle this is not possible. For example, my neighborhood has only one bus and it only runs once an hour with limited running times and only goes to twp places in West Seattle. Ride-sharing and carpooling are unrealistic options to go shopping, get groceries, go out to dinner etc.. Why so many people are blind to the needs of others just amazes me.  

      • Jort May 25, 2023 (12:33 pm)

        I will never get tired of the argument among car advocates that, really, we need cars for the low-income people and for the disabled. The vast majority of people are not disabled (and a car is not the only method of transportation for the disabled), and furthermore owning a car is the single most individually expensive method of ground-based transportation on the planet. The argument that cars are, somehow, better for low-income people is obviously and laughably false and is a red herring from car advocates who should perhaps be more honest about what they really want. 

  • Gaslit May 24, 2023 (12:19 pm)

    Why are Alki residents so entitled and so shameless about it? They want streets closeed, they apply want people they approve to come to the public beach which is nearby where they live and now they want to dictate the terms of how a school is being expanded. Would it be a better solution for SPS to get the city and county to enforce eminent domain to build a parking lot?

    For those who think riding transit is the answer, you do it. Get up in the morning if you live in the neighborhood, walk to Admiral or wherever and catch a bus with a small child to get to school on time. Also for those who think that elementary school children can simply walk to school on their own, unless you’re a parent of that child- don’t try to tell others how to raise their kids.

    It’s honestly like Alki residents keep the collected works of Ayn Rand nearby every time something doesn’t fit neatly into their worldview. 

    • Al King May 24, 2023 (1:13 pm)

      From what i’ve read there’s a LOT of neighborhoods that are “entitled and shameless” about traffic and parking in their neighborhood. Can’t pretend that it’s only Alki

    • WestSeattleBadTakes May 24, 2023 (1:22 pm)

      unless you’re a parent of that child- don’t try to tell others how to raise their kids.

      No, I will tell parents how to raise their children. We live in a society after all.

  • Cars>Kids May 24, 2023 (1:48 pm)

    The amount of NIMBYS in West Seattle is really, really embarrassing.

    • Jim May 24, 2023 (4:50 pm)

      These people you’re insulting pay the property taxes that fund these schools. Enrollment is falling there are other spaces they can use this plan is poorly thought out especially for the climate we live in

  • Ferns May 24, 2023 (2:03 pm)

    It’s really hard for me to understand how these West Seattle projects without parking, let alone extra parking could possibly be entertained. The public transportation system in the region is not sufficient, and the weather is not mild enough and the terrain is not flat enough, buses not plentiful enough to expect everyone to be able to get around walking, bussing or riding a bike! It might seem hopeful or wishful the idea that “if you fail to build parking, the cars simply won’t come” but we know that’s not reality! At least I do. I don’t know how planners expect people to be  physically fit and able to bike uphill/downhill in the rain, traffic, toting children to school to safely make the commute – avoid bike theft, store the equipment in their apartment. It’s not just ridiculous. It’s actually cruel. Cruel to the teachers and students and parents, and cruel to the neighbors in the community who suffer with car-jammed streets and blocked in driveways. Seriously? Parking is necessary on site or at an extremely convenient park and ride for staff. I’ll just leave this saying that I worked at a large employer that charged employees for parking and every year they would do a transportation survey to try to reduce drivers onto the campus and incentivize carpooling, etc. And every year my answer was that no amount of increase in the cost would stop me from driving my car because the public transportation options were untenable. I’d consider carpool to get a premium spot. I would have quit my job rather than be forced to take alternative transportation that sucked up extra hours of my life every day and was uncomfortable and unreliable or unsafe in the case of biking. So. Good luck anti-Parkers. You may get what you want (ideologically pure, faux carless paradise but not in the way you expect (families moving away to more convenient, better planned and resourced communities). Make life easier with new projects – not harder. Was the community and staff even surveyed about this? No buildings like this should be approved without at least two levels of underground parking. I don’t care that it costs more. It’s a benefit to everyone. 

    • CARDRIVER May 24, 2023 (5:42 pm)

      (Preface, I have multiple cars for commuting and hobby, and drive most places, I have a 90mile daily commute) I highly recommend you and others listen to this research done by Henry Grabar: is an interesting subject, crazy how it dictates other infrastructure from the outdated laws and building codes. Big thing is Parking costs MONEY – no way around that. It’s getting to a point to where it’s not worth the cost to add parking. This might force other transportation options in the future. Cause & effect.I also thought about why underground parking is not considered, but I can only assume the costs cannot be afforded, or it’s not environmentally friendly for this site. (Or it’s too much $$$)Nothings going to be perfect, but The option for a better school with better funding outweighs and appeals to try to get a few parking spaces added. 

  • Melissa Westbrook May 24, 2023 (5:42 pm)

    Josh, You said:”The only issue I have about this rebuild is the decades it will take to
    get the school to capacity as there is no way an extra 300 elementary
    age kids are moving into that school anytime in the next 49 years.”You don’t need 300 extra kids to move into the area if you close one elementary. This is what is gonna happen. Montlake will likely absorb McGilvra. Meany MS will absorb Washington MS. And know who gets first dibs on any closed school building now? Charter schools. There’s a new ( and needed) revenue stream for SPS.

    • WSB May 24, 2023 (5:49 pm)

      With that in the unspoken background, I was surprised that the transportation-firm rep said at the meeting the school’s attendance area would not be changing and so more buses would not be needed.

    • Past Alki parent May 24, 2023 (6:45 pm)

      Melissa, why do charter schools have first dibs?  Parking is not the issue, except in these comments.  The issue is traffic and pedestrian safety.

  • Alki Elementary Boundary and SES May 24, 2023 (6:27 pm)

    In all of the comments about entitlement and transportation and NIMBY, please take it in context with the attendance boundaries of Alki Elementary which skew towards a higher SES and less densely populated part of Seattle.Boundaries Map

  • Sam May 25, 2023 (8:00 am)

    I wonder if someone has timed the actual minutes drop off and pick up actually consume on that street. I would imagine it’s a LOT less than the time the street is completely clogged on the weekends for beach parking. Also, what is the Parks Departments ownership in all of this? They don’t seem to cooperate with SPS by allowing a larger footprint for the build since the park and the community center are their property. Shouldn’t the  Parks department be responsible for not providing adequate parking for the ballfields or Whale Tail? As a parent of Alki students, I am much more concerned about curriculum, school safety and updated infrastructure than parking spots. 

  • Melissa Westbrook May 25, 2023 (8:13 am)

    Past Alki Parent, why do charter schools have first dibs? The charter law was written that way. It’s all baked in.

  • An urban planner walks to a bus stop May 25, 2023 (10:56 am)

    After coaxing and arguing with their young child all morning, an urban planner (UP) finally got the child out the door and on the way to school. The short walk down the sidewalk was further met with defiance, fit-throwing, and cry-screaming, it was a bad morning to be certain. Arriving at the child’s school red-faced and tear-streaked, and having attracted stares seemingly from every passerby, the UP feels a guilty sense of relief at turning the child over to teachers and after school daycare for the rest of the day. With hope that the evening will go better, the UP’s thoughts blissfully turn to the day’s work of planning other people’s communities. Back up the hill the UP walks to start the downtown morning commute, only to notice that the fitful child left an ill-placed and obvious stain on the UP’s pants. Cursing under their breath they return home to change, which ended up a blessing in disguise for on their front porch in plain view was delivered (a day earlier than expected) their new laptop in a box that reveals its contents. With lightning speed, the UP is back out the door, now rushing to get catch the bus. Sprinting, they arrive at the bus stop just before the bus is scheduled to arrive, the last bus of the morning that gets them to work on time. Since their last job performance review when the boss cut their raise for being late too often, the UP has pressed to get to work on time. The work day starts with a client meeting, so being late today is not an option. A hint of smugness tugging at the corners of their lips, the UP scans the horizon for the inbound bus, pulls out their phone and checks email. One minute goes by. Two minutes. Three minutes. Concerned, the UP pulls up their favorite transit planning app. Sometime since they checked before walking to school, the bus was cancelled. No reason given, it’s just not showing up. Left high and dry, the already frazzled UP tries to hail a lift, but no drivers are near who can get them to the office in time. Panicked, the planner runs home to the salvation of their alternative fuel vehicle. With a sense of self-loathing for what they are about to do, the UP inserts the key and starts the engine. Traffic is heavy ever since the latest large company called their thousands of employees back into the office, overwhelming the public transit system, but the UP manages to make the meeting on time, albeit sweaty and dis-shoveled. The meeting, in which the UP pitched the client a hotel site plan sans guest parking, went remarkably well, as did the rest of the consuming work day. It was after 5:00 before the UP knew it. Remembering they were on the hook for soccer practice carpool, and that they had the car, they packed up their things and headed to the parking garage. As the car’s quiet engine purred to life, the UP heard a strange and loud noise from under the car. It took a minute to realize the car had been vandalized, in the way of the crime spree they had read so much about. Cursing again under their breath and with the familiar sense of driver self-loathing, the UP was about to put the car in drive as their phone lit up. It was a call from daycare, no doubt letting them know they were late for pick-up. For the second time today, the Urban Planner wept with the realization that they do not have all the answers after all.

  • JW May 25, 2023 (11:35 am)

    longish comment that has nothing to do with the discussion.
    But a (puckish?) short story making light of a person who has studied and worked in a field that you are not aware of and do not approve?

    What is the point of bringing in and demonizing their  “young child?” 

    • An urban planner walks to a bus stop May 25, 2023 (2:37 pm)

      It’s too bad you miss the points, JW. In part, it’s about the assumptions we make leading us to the things we say and do to one another. For example, your assertion that I am unaware of/do not approve of the field is completely false. I am an urban planner, one who can be honest about the shortcomings of the profession and who often checks my assumptions. Also, the child isn’t demonized, can’t imagine how you drew that conclusion. When young children are first becoming aware of their emotions, they are apt to express them strongly. The child in the fable is being their lovely child self. 

  • sc May 25, 2023 (8:33 pm)

    There seems to be a misunderstanding. The issue is not about resident parking, it is about insufficient parking near the school for parents at student drop off and pick up times, many of whom – like it or not – choose to drive, especially in bad weather.   Street parking space shortages near the school cause parents to park illegally and unsafely along 59th and 58th now, blocking both streets, and causing dangerous congestion at the school’s crosswalks.  It’s not unusual for cars to back over crosswalks now.  SPS proposes to nearly double Alki School size, giving zero consideration to school traffic and pedestrian consequences, which will double the already serious student traffic safety hazards.    SPS also plans to dramatically expand its special needs student numbers and services at Alki (which us wonderful).  However, many special needs kids need to be driven to school.  A single on- street ADA space, across the street from the school is inadequate.  SPS’s own guidelines require off street ADA parking, but there will be none if the school’s current lot is eliminated.

    • Dez May 28, 2023 (9:18 am)

      Drop off/pick up parking is important for this working parent.  I’d love the idea of walking or biking but reality is having a car is essential to get around the city and beyond. We already carpool with other families who are in similar situation.  Telling people to quit their job and find a job that doesn’t require cars is the same as telling people to move out. I work as home health nurse. A car is a must. The minute people start labeling other people as “NIMBY”, “elitists”, “car culture” addicts, etc, then I know this isn’t a  discussion about common sense solutions. It’s about selling SPS’ plan to the public. The biggest tell about the whole SPS process and tactics used are being seen in this discussion thread.  The one ADA parking across the street. And lots of words and phrasing of NIMBY, elitism, etc. are used to pushback criticism. Once again people who are being affected are late to be notified. 

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