FOLLOWUP: City gives approval to zoning exceptions for Alki Elementary rebuild

(Rendering by Mahlum, from last year’s info packet for proposed zoning ‘departures’)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

As reported previously, the planned rebuild of Alki Elementary School includes nine zoning “departures” – exceptions – that require city approval. In a decision made public today, the city Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) has granted approvals of all nine. They are, in brief:

1. To allow greater than allowed building height.
2. To allow less than required vehicular parking.
3. To allow bus load and unload off site
4. To allow a curb cut to a service area without parking
5. To allow larger curb city width
6. To allow larger curb cut flare
7. To allow less than required long-term bicycle parking.
8. To allow less than required weather protected bicycle parking.
9. To allow a changing image electronic sign.

The first two, height and parking, generated the most neighborhood concern, including in an environmental appeal that a district hearing examiner rejected. Regarding height – zoning would limit the building to 35 feet, but Seattle Public Schools‘ plan is for 57 feet – the SDCI decision says:

The increased height accommodates important classroom uses, building parapet and necessary mechanical equipment to service the building. The departure is appropriate in relation to the programmatic requirements of an elementary school and the character and scale of the surrounding area and appropriately located on the site. The over height areas will increase the appearance of bulk at the site but is commensurate with the overall scale of the school.

The Director finds that the height departure will not exacerbate existing traffic, noise, circulation, or significant impacts on housing or open space in the area.

The parking-reduction approval is more complicated:

If built to code, the school would have to have 48 off-street spaces, but the plan includes none. The decision notes, “Due to the limited area of this site, providing on-site vehicular parking would result in sacrificing educational program and outdoor learning opportunities,” and sets five conditions for approval:

1) School Transportation Management Plan (STMP): Prior to the school reopening each year, the District and school Principal should establish a STMP to educate families about the access load/unload procedures for the site layout. The STMP should also encourage school bus ridership, carpooling, and supervised walking (such as walking school buses). The plan should require the school to distribute information to families about drop-off and pick-up procedures, as well as travel routes for approaching and leaving the school. It should also instruct staff and parents not to block or partially block any residential driveways with parked or stopped vehicles.

2) Engage the Seattle School Safety Committee: The District should continue the ongoing engagement with the Seattle School Safety Committee (led by SDOT) to review the new access for pedestrian and bicycles and determine if any changes should be made to crosswalks, traffic control, crossing guard locations, or to help encourage pedestrian and non-motorized flows at designated crosswalk locations.

3) Develop a Neighborhood Communication Plan for School Events: The District and school administration should develop a neighborhood communication plan to inform nearby neighbors of large events each year. The plan should be updated annually (or as events are scheduled) and should provide information about the dates, times, and rough magnitude of large-attendance events. The communication would be intended to allow neighbors to plan for the occasional increase in on-street parking demand that would occur with large events.

4) Update right-of-way and curb-side signage: The District should work with SDOT to confirm the locations, restrictions, and durations for curb-side parking and load/unload zones adjacent to the school.

5) Create a Large Event Plan for events expected to attract 400 or more attendees and modifies the event to reduce total peak demand by separating it into two sessions or into two nights as occurs at other Seattle elementary schools.

SDCI approved all the other departures, without conditions except for #9, regarding the illuminated sign. These are the conditions for that approval:

1. Limited to one single-faced sign.
2. Time of use is restricted to 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. weekdays and weekends.
3. The sign is limited to being lit using one color with a dark background.
4. No video, flashing, scrolling, rolling, tumbling, or moving images are allowed. The message may change, however.

You can read the entire decision here. Feedback was solicited for the proposed exceptions last year. Today’s release opens a two-week appeal period, through May 22nd; this notice explains how to file one. The district expects to start construction this summer; Alki Elementary is scheduled to move to the former Schmitz Park Elementary campus for two years while the new school is built.

25 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: City gives approval to zoning exceptions for Alki Elementary rebuild"

  • Kyle May 8, 2023 (2:15 pm)

    The height stuff, agree. Sorry about views and the “character” but please build up. The parking, I wish they could have come to a middle ground. 48 spots is obviously too much. Adding some parking which the school could stripe for visitors, etc. seems reasonable. Seems like they already paid the designers and don’t want to rework the design at additional cost. The school is being made to house more students so they will inevitably be drawing from families that are non-walking distance and bus service to Alki is terrible (thanks metro). Plus very few parents are going to let their 1st grader walk a mile to school so cars and elementary schools will still go together. As a parent I don’t think I’d want to be zoned here for 6+ years for multiple kids.

    • Dcn May 8, 2023 (5:08 pm)

      Parking would only be needed for visitor spots? This large school will have at least 48 staff in it. Mass transit to this site is not great, so most staff who don’t live nearby will probably need to drive. And park on the street all day, in an area where parking is already tight. 

      • Kyle May 8, 2023 (7:10 pm)

        It doesn’t have 48 spots pipe dream to get that many. Thinking a comprise would be a few spots.

  • WS Taxpayer May 8, 2023 (3:00 pm)

    This is a waste of funds that should be allocated elsewhere due to declining enrollment.  The budget issues across SPS are compounded by spending of this ilk.  

  • J May 8, 2023 (3:59 pm)

    What a joke!!! I can’t believe this monstrous school is being built without adequate parking! What are the planners thinking? What did their due diligence consist of? Did they do a site visit and walk around of the neighborhood and current parking issues? Hard to make a worse decision in support of 300+ families and educators.

  • Lola May 8, 2023 (4:14 pm)

    Why they are not utilizing the old Schmitz Park School is beyond me.  That could be re-vamped since they left it to the City to only be used for Schools.  Lots of room to go up to make a bigger school.  

    • Mike May 8, 2023 (5:17 pm)


      • Kyle May 8, 2023 (8:49 pm)

        Because they already spent millions on the design and closing Alki in favor of already closed Schmitz Park would mean reopening a discussion on zoning that they don’t want to do. Not sure if that is right, but that is the reason.

  • onion May 8, 2023 (4:42 pm)

    The city basically punted on the parking and transportation messes this school will create. I am not effected, as a parent, teacher, or neighborhood resident. But this is going to create big headaches all three groups will have to deal with every day.

    I agree with Lola’s comment Re. Schmitz Elementary.

  • flimflam May 8, 2023 (5:30 pm)

    It was pretty obvious that this would be approved for better or worse…

  • Jort May 8, 2023 (6:19 pm)

    “Due to the limited area of this site, providing on-site vehicular parking would result in sacrificing educational program and outdoor learning opportunities …” Neighbors care more about their parking, it seems, than the education of their children. But, that’s the American way. “But what about the parkingggg?!”

    • J May 8, 2023 (7:20 pm)

      Silly comment Jort. People can care about education AND parking. Think about kids and teachers schlepping gear in the rainy dark for blocks. Easier to compromise a little space to gain a little parking. Win win. Not all or nothing. – Alki elementary alumnus. 

    • Gary May 9, 2023 (6:45 am)

      Jort, where will those with mobility issues be parking?

  • Admiral May 8, 2023 (7:02 pm)

    The school should have provided some parking, however residential demand for parking peaks late night early morning and school activities occur during the day!   

  • Neighbor May 8, 2023 (9:22 pm)

    So the preschool down at the corner of 61st and Alki will have more parking than the elementary school. Brilliant.

  • BJ May 8, 2023 (10:05 pm)

    The City runs roughshod with over neighborhoods, ignoring residents’ input.  No community meetings to hear objections or suggestions, they proceed wearing earplugs and blinders.  Same thing at West Seattle High School where portable classrooms planned for the school parking lot will displace THIRTY-some cars to already overcrowded surrouning streets.  

    • Jort May 9, 2023 (7:50 am)

      Again: the biggest concern with these projects meant to benefit the education of children is …. the reduction of parking spaces. Parking. Parking spots. For cars. 

  • Jim May 8, 2023 (10:26 pm)

    The smite as well say the school contractor is being given a license to do whatever the heck they want. This is ridiculous and unnecessary

  • 22blades May 9, 2023 (5:20 am)

    “ 7. To allow less than required long-term bicycle parking.”. This is a big step backwards & a truly lazy design decision.

  • Don Brubeck May 10, 2023 (9:30 pm)

    The Department of Construction and Inspections Director’s decision to
    approve the departures from the land use code requirements is
    appealable. The deadline to appeal is 5:00 pm on May 22.  The school
    district has scheduled their community information meeting two hours after that deadline.  Another lesson from the district in how to pretend to listen to the community. SDCI report on the decision and information on how to submit an appeal to the Hearing Examiner is here.

    • WSB May 10, 2023 (9:54 pm)

      We noted the appeal aspect in the story above (including how to file one).

  • Mike May 11, 2023 (7:05 am)

    I love the biggest hangup is parking (the American way).  Celebrate the kids getting an updated school. 

  • Mark H May 12, 2023 (11:15 am)

    While this project has been in process for a while, the tone of comments implies some folks here have not been following state law changes.”Parking impacts” (to shared PUBLIC space) are no longer considered to be an “environmental factor” for analysis under SEPA.

    If one must have reliable parking at their home, it’s incumbent on them to have private property parking available.

  • Pragmatic in West Seattle May 12, 2023 (11:43 am)

    How about selling the Alki Elementary property to a developer and using that small fortune to build a world class facility at the old Schmitz Park location? Parking, bike space, play fields, easy ingress/egress, and its centrally located to have multiple demographics attend. Then we as taxpayers can stop paying for a piece of property that isn’t in use but still needs to be maintained and the kids get a top notch building with plenty of space.There. Fixed it.

    • WSB May 12, 2023 (1:08 pm)

      Just to clarify part of your point, the former Schmitz Park Elementary is in use. It was housing preschool and other programs until it was put into use as an interim site (West Seattle Elementary the past two years while their school was being expanded, Alki the next two years – West Seattle didn’t have an interim site before that, once the former Boren Junior High became permanent home of STEM K-8) … TR

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