FOLLOWUP: New proposal for Alki Elementary rebuild, with some parking

(New design proposal for Alki Elementary, with 15 parking spaces in southwest corner of site)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Four months after a city hearing examiner ruled that Seattle Public Schools must address parking concerns in its plan for rebuilding and expanding Alki Elementary, the district has submitted a new plan to the city. The original plan had no offstreet parking; the new one has 15 spaces.

First, some backstory – the hearing examiner’s order was the result of an appeal filed by nearby residents challenging the original city Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) decision last May to grant zoning exceptions (“departures”) for the project, including building it with no offstreet parking. The appeals were either dismissed or settled, except for the parking issue; the district was ordered to “revisit” it. SPS instead chose to go to court to challenge the ruling; after a hearing October 20th, a judge dismissed that challenge (on a technical point, not on its merits), leaving the district no option but to come up with a project revision. Now it’s done that.

One point of contention for the nearby residents’ appeal had been the parking study done for the original plan by Heffron Transportation, during a time period when both the pandemic and the West Seattle Bridge closure were factors. The firm has done a new study (see it here), looking at neighborhood parking this past August and September, and also looking at parking at and near the former Schmitz Park Elementary, to which Alki Elementary has moved until its new building is ready. The new parking study has findings similar to the previous one, contending that school-related needs still wouldn’t max out the available street parking near Alki Elementary. The new study also says they found Schmitz Park’s 47-space lot a little more than half-utilized.

All this, and the new plan, is summarized in a memo to SDCI (see it here) by project architect Rebecca Hutchinson of Mahlum Architects. Here’s how she explains what they did to come up with the 15 spaces:

… the design team was able to remove the loading platform and a dedicated driveway and staging area for SPS delivery trucks and garbage pickup. The design team also relocated the proposed transformer further away from the school building, which adds a greater cost than the original design. The design team then removed some storage space from the school and reconfigured the long-term bike parking structure (while still retaining the same number of long-term bike parking stalls). Finally, the design team removed the dedicated pedestrian path at the south edge of the site. This redesign sacrificed those elements that are desired for the functioning of the school, such as better loading, storage, and separated pedestrian path, and left only those architectural elements that were necessary to meet educational goals.

The result is that SPS was able to redesign the school to accommodate 15 parking stalls, including one ADA van stall. Depending on the needs of the student and staff population at the time the school reopens, it is possible that SPS can include one additional ADA stall and/or a time-limited load or unload zone. Now that the ADA stall can be included on the school site, the previously proposed on-street ADA stall across the street has been removed, which will result in retaining one additional on-street parking stall.

The architect’s memo also details why that’s the most they could do in terms of parking (if the project was built to code, 48 spaces would be required). A parking garage wasn’t an option, either above or below ground, Hutchinson wrote, for factors from height to water table to “(it) would increase the potential for uninvited persons to utilize the parking structure for a multitude of nefarious reasons.” She also wrote that a parking garage would likely add at least $10 million to the project price tag.

Another option examined: Condemning/buying adjacent residential property. They looked at a 16-unit apartment building south of the school and two single-family homes east of the school; neither seemed feasible or desirable for using that way, nor would either site enable the code-compliant number of spaces, the architect wrote.

In one last bit of case-making, the memo notes that seven SPS elementaries have no parking (none in West Seattle), 12 have fewer than 15 spaces, six have 20 or fewer; the project team has pointed this out before.

WHAT’S NEXT: It’s up to SDCI to review the revised plan and decide whether to approve the new version of the zoning exception (departure) or to reject it and insist on a plan with the required 48 spaces. If SDCI approves the revised departure, it would again be subject to appeal. The old school building already has been demolished but construction permits won’t be issued until this issue is settled.

24 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: New proposal for Alki Elementary rebuild, with some parking"

  • Why December 20, 2023 (9:16 pm)

    This is really laughable, Hutchinson discussing why a parking garage isn’t feasible:“(it) would increase the potential for uninvited persons to utilize the parking structure for a multitude of nefarious reasons.” Alla sudden she is concerned about the surrounding community. Hahaha

    • Steve December 21, 2023 (8:22 pm)

      The only things nefarious about this project are 1. The huge added expense of a soaring ego atrium in an elementary school, where – let’s remember – the humans are small and 2. Trying to fit a mega-school on the smallest SPS site in the city, within a mile of two much larger sites in either direction and 3. Building a proposed mega school without an outdoor playground, without adequate ADA (or any, for that matter) parking, and with wholly inadequate traffic management in an already-congested neighborhood and OK let’s mention 4: totally disregarding all the comments and suggestions of staff and faculty, regarding needs and design.

    • WarOnCars December 22, 2023 (5:28 am)

      so right! having an parking structure at the school open for anyone to use or obstruct for any reason is definitely the same as the imagined impact to on-street parking that single family home owners were fretting about :) i need that open parking structure so i can have the public further subsidize my car ownership!

  • Parent December 20, 2023 (9:27 pm)

    And our kids just hold their breath while adults continue to move slow, drag their feet and make zero construction progress. This was all so foreseeable. Absolutely awful and huge bummer for these students who have been so heavily impacted by Covid and the choices made by SPS. Ugh. 

    • WarOnCars December 22, 2023 (5:29 am)

      construction would have already been underway if it wasn’t for single family homeowners obstructing it. no idea how you get to the delay being from SPS’ side.

  • Kyle December 20, 2023 (9:44 pm)

    Finally a reasonable design and proposal. So clearly SPS was lying when they said ANY parking would require removal of the early learning center or preschool classrooms (not the case). Sad that it had to go to court to get a reasonable design with accomodations for some on site parking. The design concessions seem minimal and I hope the parties settle soon so construction can begin.

    • DC December 21, 2023 (9:30 am)

      More expensive, less functional, and delayed opening school all so the NIMBY neighbors can spend a few seconds less per week looking for free parking. And this after TWO studies prove there is plenty of street parking. I wouldn’t call that reasonable. 

  • SE December 21, 2023 (1:45 am)

    What’s so galling to me is that a new school should never even be built on this tiny site when there is a gigantic footprint at Lafayette to build upon. I walked around the school recently, and it’s the size of two city blocks! It seems like you could even build a new school there while the old one still functioned. With declining enrollment and upcoming school closures, this area of the city will only need one school, or two if you factor in Genessee Hill. 

    • sps December 21, 2023 (8:24 am)

      Lafayette enrollment has actually been increasing the past several years (now over 500 heads, one of the biggest elem schools in the city, larger than Genesee). But I agree with you that either Lafayette or Schmitz would have been far better choices for reconstruction. 

    • Admiral Nelson December 21, 2023 (9:00 am)

      Exactly this. The Lafayette school site is huge, the building is outdated, and its more central to the West Seattle community. I don’t understand why this wasn’t the primary option.

  • Access from lot December 21, 2023 (7:31 am)

    With the main entrance to school on north side, what is the accessible route from the ADA stall in south parking lot? Will there be an improved accessible route for people who  park in ADA stall to main entrance? Or would people have to go past dumpsters to the street to access main entrance? For school security reasons (and to not require people who use wheel chairs to use the service entrance) it is assumed that all would need to enter through main entrance not south side? Recommend SDOT/SPS designate on street disabled parking spots near the main entrance to align with PROWAG.

  • Grandma J December 21, 2023 (8:57 am)

     This design negatively all impacts 98116 residents and the environment by removing green, open space.  How about the City of Seattle add the fine property as a park?  Look at the big picture SPS.  See that newer Highline Schools still have open space.  Where do the children play?  

    • Anne December 21, 2023 (9:47 am)

      Where do the children play at -oh let’s say Lafayette for example? Perhaps they take a field trip across the street to a Hiawatha ? Perhaps at Alki -the children can walk down the block to Whale  Tail? 

      • Lafayette leopard December 22, 2023 (8:54 am)

        There is a huge playground and field at Lafayette that they play at, behind the school. 

      • Lafayette Leopard December 22, 2023 (10:41 am)

        Lafayette Elementary has a very large playground and field right behind the school with lots of toys and areas to play. The kiddos don’t have to go to Hiawatha for recess or play. 

        • BeachTeach December 29, 2023 (2:20 pm)

          I served on the design team for the new Alki building…. AND I taught at Lafayette for 16 years. The BIG mistake has always been not choosing the Lafayette site for a rebuild. The amount of land is much better suited to the mega school that SPS insists on building. They should put parking where the Lafayette building is now, with the school building on what is now an enormous asphalt area. With the HUGE funding deficit facing SPS, the Alki site should be sold or leased by the city to enhance the existing community center. ALL of this was mentioned during our design meetings over the past three years….. but each time, shut down or ignored by both SPS and the design firm. The community should be outraged that the original levy schematics for a new (smaller) building were not followed as voters expected. The current design is NOT what was presented to voters when we were asked to approve the funding…. that’s just plain dishonest.

  • High Point December 21, 2023 (9:06 am)

    SPS should just please the neighbors and pave over the soccer field and park. I mean, that’s the status quo in Seattle right? Please the NIMBYs? I love taking my kids to Whale Tale Park, but never go because we can never find parking. Might as well just pave it over and put in a parking lot. Win/Win. The neighbors get what they want and SPS gets neighbors to move on to something else to be salty and disgruntled about. Oh… Yeah I was being sarcastic, but for real… My kiddos go to a school in South Seattle (East of I5). Half of the teachers have to park off site. This whole debacle reads like NIMBYs holding up funding for schools and neighborhoods that actually need it. Just something for those neighbors to think about while they ride the bus to their 175K/YR jobs.

  • wetone December 21, 2023 (9:48 am)

    This is laughable at best….(The architect’s memo also details why that’s the most they could do in terms of parking (if the project was built to code, 48 spaces would be required)…….)There are many homes, buildings around and next to Alki school that have basements and or below grade parking. If I went to city as a private citizen that wanted  to build or remodel a property in same area and using same reasons for not wanting to have parking area to city code/ requirements, they would laugh me right out the door. So many poor decisions from SPS and architect on this project. Most all issues architect is whining about should have been know prior of design and now costing taxpayers even more by poor choices of SPS. Parking around Alki today is poor at best and will continue getting worse as most original single family homes are being replaced quickly with multiple units. It seems SPS has some real issues with experience and common sense………Growing up at Alki and going to school there along with hanging out at the field house was a great experience for so many. To bad city, SPS and SPR have failed in many ways in providing continued recreation activities for children and teens……..

  • embarrassing December 21, 2023 (1:11 pm)

    I’m embarrassed for this architect, her write-up sounds very unprofessional and petty to me.  So they’re worried homeless people would get in a parking garage if there were one?  Isn’t that an issue everywhere?  The whole response sounds petulant to me.

  • Wseattleite December 21, 2023 (1:35 pm)

    This projects seems to suffer from “we voted on funding this back in the day thus we cannot apply any rational thought or reason to the actual consequences of the back in the day intended outcome.”

    • BeachTeach December 30, 2023 (2:37 pm)

      It’s important to note that the designs presented at public meetings to pass the levy were COMPLETELY different than the design plans and capacity of the final design. We should get what we voted on and approved.

  • r December 22, 2023 (10:42 am)

    I am so embarrassed by my neighborhood’s reaction to this new school. Those stupid yard signs. The endless complaints.You’d think there was a nationwide movement to dismantle public education. Oh wait… there is.Thanks NIMBY neighbors, now a decent number of kids are going to spend their entire elementary school experience in portables at Schmitz Park. Good job, you really stuck it to those 7 year olds.

  • alki_2008 December 26, 2023 (8:29 pm)

    So, their brilliant idea is to put parking spaces where there were parking spaces before? Wow. Never would’ve thought of that myself.

  • Rod January 3, 2024 (9:01 am)

    Just accept the 15 parking-space proposal and move forward, for the sake of the kids who will attend this school. I understand it’s not ideal. I live in Alki and have personally experienced difficulty parking on 59th Ave, but when it’s busy (warm months) you just have to park south of Admiral and walk for a few minutes. Walking is part of living in a city. It’s a short walk. It’s good for your health. To residents who live nearby, but do not own, and are not paying for sufficient parking for their themselves, I say that your entitlement to public parking is the same as anyone else’s. You do not get special priority access to public parking. Either pay the market price for a residence that fulfills your parking needs, or get free public parking, and walk a few extra minutes when needed.

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