FOLLOWUP: New appeal for Alki Elementary rebuild project

(Birds, including a Bald Eagle, on cleared Alki Elementary site – photo by Don Brubeck)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The Alki Elementary rebuild is being appealed again.

To recap: This all traces back to Seattle Public Schools proposing a new, larger school that, as announced in 2022, would require nine zoning exceptions, officially known as departures. City reviewers approved the departures last May. Nearby residents filed appeals shortly thereafter. All but one of the challenges were either dismissed or settled. The one that was not involved parking – under zoning rules, 48 offstreet spaces would be required, but the district wanted to build the school with none. A city hearing examiner told the district in August to go back to the drawing board on that. Instead of coming up with a counterproposal immediately, the district went to court. Its challenge was dismissed in October, not on its merits, but on the premise that the court only had jurisdiction on a final decision, and that’s not what the district was challenging. In December, the district came up with a new plan that would include 15 parking spaces. Last month, the city said OK. And now, that’s what’s being appealed.

The appellant is different this time – it’s a group calling itself Friends for a Safe Alki Community, led by local “semi-retired lawyer” Steve Cuddy, who says the group has more than 50 members. The appeal contends in part:

The Revised Decision has not ensured that the proposed facility is compatible with the character and use of its surrounding area and the Decision fails to consider and balance the impacts on traffic, noise, circulation, and parking in the area. For example, the Revised Decision erroneously concludes that the proposed departure request will result in no significant loss of vehicular parking on site and will establish an increase in parking for the record. That is simply false. The school of approximately 300 students and 30-40 staff had approximately 29 parking spaces and the adjacent Community Center had approximately 27 spaces and still experienced persistent parking, traffic, and safety issues. The Revised Decision grants the departure to almost double the number of students and staff while reducing the number of parking spaces down to 15. The Revised Decision also fails to consider impacts to emergency/first responder access in the area.

Among other contentions, the appeal says the information used for the city’s approval of the revised plan was still faulty – with another parking study done after the old Alki Elementary was demolished last year, with its student and staff now housed at the former Schmitz Park Elementary.

In addition to the parking issue, the new appeal includes safety concerns, as did the previous ones. The appeal documentation uploaded to the city Hearing Examiner‘s website includes Cuddy’s personal 22-page letter of opposition written one year ago, including background that he worked more than 15 years ago to get the traffic-calming speed humps installed on 59th Avenue SW alongside the school and adjacent playfield, and a decade ago to get stop signs at 59th/Stevens, near the campus’s north edge. It also includes a letter to the city from his wife Linda Cuddy, written this past January, and noting she worked years ago to get a sidewalk installed along the north side of Alki Playfield. She wrote, in part, summarizing some of the safety concerns that also were aired in the first round of appeals:

The Alki School, SPS’s smallest parcel of 1.4 acres, is located in an incredibly busy environment, in the midst of regional parks and Alki Beach attractions, all within a “Parking Overlay.” As the Hearing Examiner said, “The school site has limited street access, with just one right-of-way, on the east side of 59th Avenue SW, from SW Admiral Way looking south. 59th Ave SW is signed for on-street bus loading and unloading on the east parallel to the school and for parent drop-off north of SW Stevens Street also on the east side. Due to its limited and cramped street access, difficult vehicle circulation patterns and the narrow width of 59th Ave SW, during peak drop off and pick up times, passage on 59th Ave SW effectively becomes a one lane street creating unsafe and unmanageable traffic and parking issues.” Parents are forced to park in an unsafe and illegal manner in the parent drop off zone. Otherwise, traffic issues would be much worse and restrictive on 59th.

So what happens now? The city Hearing Examiner’s Office will schedule a hearing on the new appeal, which will be followed by a ruling, which may be appealable in court. The school construction remains on hold pending a building permit, which can’t be granted until all this is decided. The new school originally was projected to open in fall 2025 but even prior to this new appeal, the district had moved that to fall 2026. (Planning for the rebuild dates back to 2018, when the district was deciding what to send to voters in its 2019 BEX V levy, and it was described even then as a potential expansion of capacity to 500. Our archives show parking questions arose before the 2019 vote, too.)

48 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: New appeal for Alki Elementary rebuild project"

  • Rhonda March 10, 2024 (6:13 pm)

    It seems better to scrap the entire school project, keep the students and staff at Schmitz Park Elementary, and turn the 1.4 acre SPS site into a park for all to enjoy.

    • Billy March 11, 2024 (10:19 pm)

      Surely at some point we can agree that there are enough parks for the community?. 

      • Rhonda March 12, 2024 (12:23 am)

        There can never be too many parks.

        • K March 12, 2024 (6:24 am)

          Enough is not the same thing as too many.  The kids need their school, and having construction held up by a handful of of people abusing the process is galling.  Using parking, advocating for the cars, which is contributing to the same climate change that is destroying those kids’ future as the reason to delay building the school is just appalling.  That group should stop being selfish and think about the kids.

          • Rhonda March 13, 2024 (5:04 pm)

            Nonsense, K. In 6 years every car sold in this state will be electric and in just over a decade most of the other cars on the road will likewise be emission-free. Almost all electricity produced for the Seattle area is from carbon-free hydroelectric. That new school building will have a larger carbon footprint than 15 cars.

          • Bob March 15, 2024 (11:55 am)

            Whether they mean to or not, they are thinking of the kids. It will be extremely challenging to attract strong teachers without a parking spot for them. That is the unfortunate reality. Parks rock. So does education.

          • A March 16, 2024 (7:00 am)

            +1 Thank you

    • Elton March 12, 2024 (9:41 am)

      Anyone advocating for keeping the students and staff at Schmitz Park has
      not been there – much of the school is in T-buildings and the main
      building itself is only in OK condition. If we’re going to keep the
      school there, it needs a lot of work.

      • r March 15, 2024 (9:30 am)

        I agree. I recently toured both Genessee and Schmitz Park Elems and the difference in the physical buildings is stunning. The Alki Elem teachers and administrators are great, but it’s clear they can’t offer kids as much as Genessee because of the limitations of the space. Alki Elem students deserve a school that is as nice as the Genessee space.

  • Oerthehillz March 10, 2024 (7:20 pm)

    In the mean time, it looks like a great place for the birds to hunt for the scattered rodents to eat.

  • ttt March 10, 2024 (7:55 pm)

    The district should have planned the new elementary for the large schmitz park site and made Alki a preschool only site.

    • FACMAC participant March 12, 2024 (7:53 am)

      Actually there is a kernel of a good idea in here, that Schmitz Park should be made into a day care center, with excellent parking and drive through opportunities,  room to run, and such a quiet corner.  WS is dire need of day care spots and that would be perfect.  There are several reasons why the district did not take your suggestion.  One is that the attendance area balancing will settle out with Alki rebuilt and the new school at Genesee Hill.  The schools were too close when using Schmitz Park, which was okay when schools were smaller.  Another reason is that the Alki Elem Community would be outraged and heartbroken to lose their neighborhood school.  This is a very special location and is not to be abandoned lightly, just as fraught as Schmitz Park moving to Genesee.  Lastly, the Alki building needed to be replaced no matter what, the condition was pretty awful.  Oh and don’t forget that Schmitz Park has been a trooper in managing all the interim use for schools getting remodels/new buildings.  So there you go.

      • Resident March 26, 2024 (1:01 pm)

        The Schmitz Elementary building has been used for child care, currently I believe by the YMCAs daycare program

  • Don Brubeck March 10, 2024 (7:58 pm)

    I sent Tracy the photo of the eagle that has been visiting the temporary storm water detention pond at the school. The eagle and I are not connected in any way to  Friends for a Safe Alki Community or this appeal.  Coincidental timing.

    • Oerthehillz March 11, 2024 (4:40 am)

      I love the photo. Especially seeing the crow overhead checking to keep tabs on what the eagle might find. Nice catch!

  • Kyle March 10, 2024 (8:07 pm)

    The 15 space redesign seemed a good compromise. Not sure what this new group is trying to do. Seems a bad look for a semi-retired lawyer to keep parents and kids at the school currently in a semi-permanent building for more years.

  • MacJ March 10, 2024 (8:28 pm)

    I’m sick of the “neighborhood character” canard. If they actually believed in it none of the parking they keep carping about or their homes would have ever been built in the first place.

    The Denny Party called it New York Alki, not Broadmoor.

  • Charles Burlingame March 10, 2024 (8:49 pm)

    Just a reminder that Seattle’s current requirements for minimum parking are based on the capacity of “auditoria or public assembly rooms”…nothing to do with educational space or student needs.

  • Seth March 11, 2024 (8:36 am)

    We should just demolish alki beach and build a parking garage there.  I swear some of you are allergic to walking more than 10 feet.  WallE gets closer to reality by the day.

  • WS ex-pat March 11, 2024 (9:42 am)

    Thank you for appealing, and keep up the fight! This city has gone to the birds.

  • NotaNimby March 11, 2024 (10:09 am)

    This is pretty low, continually delaying these kids being able to utilize the new school over concerns about parking that will largely sit unused based on studies of similar elementary schools. This is one of the worst NIMBYISMS I’ve ever seen. These people should be ashamed of themselves for doing anything they can to block an elementary school.

    • Proud NIMBY March 11, 2024 (1:07 pm)

      Neighborhoods without NIMBYs are places you wouldn’t even drive through at night without locking your doors and rolling up your windows. I cherish our NIMBY neighbors as they keep our quality of life high, our streets safe, our air clean, our legacy trees alive, and our kids safe. 

      • reed March 11, 2024 (2:31 pm)

        How does encouraging more dependency on cars increase street safety, keep air clean, keep legacy trees alive, and keep our kids safe? 

      • Jon Wright March 11, 2024 (3:25 pm)

        Seattle is a city full of people who think they live in the suburbs.

  • Rob March 11, 2024 (11:12 am)

    Activism is what seattle lites do best. With out it they would be going around in circles not knowing what to do next.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident March 11, 2024 (12:01 pm)

    So, since this is an elementary school there is no need for student parking. But just a question…where are the 30-40 staff members supposed to park?

    Are they expected to take the bus?
    Are they to utilize the non-existent street parking?
    Are they going to have to take an uber/lyft to work every day?

    At the minimum there should be enough parking for 80% of the staff, PLUS emergency/police vehicles.

    Some people need to drive to work, not everyone can, or are able, to take a bus to work.  

    • reed March 11, 2024 (12:09 pm)

      They can park on the street within a few blocks of the school. The adjacent neighbors can do their part by parking their vehicles in their driveways.

    • rachel March 13, 2024 (9:57 am)

      growing up on alki and going to the school and knowing some of the former teachers….they parked on the streets.  They did take the buses (that’s what buses are for).  They found a way to get to work just fine

  • Local Parent March 11, 2024 (12:33 pm)

    I live in the area and have kids at the school. This is pure NIMBYism.

    Parking is not their actual concern, it is just the only thing this group has found to latch onto that would stick. They tried other arguments, as well, and those were rejected.

    There has always been plenty of street parking nearby. Before the demolition, if I needed to pick kids up early for a doctor’s appointment I never once had trouble parking directly across the street from the school.

    As others have said, this group should be ashamed of what they’re doing. Schmitz Park is an old school that is too small. Their NIMBYism is causing kids to spend years learning in portables.

    • Eva C March 11, 2024 (4:34 pm)


    • Elle March 11, 2024 (8:26 pm)

      100% agree with you! 

  • Z March 11, 2024 (1:40 pm)

    The Revised Decision also fails to consider impacts to emergency/first responder access in the area” says the likely fellow that also wanted “Safe Streets” to remove more parking. If the Cuddys are actually concerned about emergency access then why have they lobbied so hard to reduce access?The Revised Decision has not ensured that the proposed facility is compatible with the character and use of its surrounding area” – technically that’s false. There was a school there and there should continue to be a school there. What do the “non-semi-retired” parents of the children in this area have to say?I’d love to see a concise list of whom Steve Cuddy is representing as “Friends for a Safe Alki Community” including age and address (or zip at a minimum).As the current school dates to 1913, I seriously doubt  “semi-retired” Steve and the “Friends” have interest beyond they’re own. Unless they’re over 110 years old, that site and it’s services to the community pre-date all of them.Cuddy didn’t move into Alki (at least the property across from the playfield) until 2013.Ms. Cuddy purports “during peak drop off and pick up times, passage on 59th Ave SW effectively becomes a one lane street creating unsafe and unmanageable traffic and parking issues.” – That’s why there’s parking on one side of the street in front of your house, Linda: from my lens it’s no different than any other area school.Linda Cuddy: “ passage on 59th Ave SW effectively becomes a one lane street creating unsafe and unmanageable traffic and parking issues” – Right! you championed for that! It’s effectively that way 24/7 and has been since *your* speed humps were installed. I don’t see this as a negative but there was a clear miss on how that would effect traffic at the school. The Cuddys been there going on a decade and should know as much. Linda’s ask (which she got) to farkle with 59th came at a consequence.Should the school have adequate parking for staff? YES. It it likely the Cuddys also supported the elimination of parking with the Alki “Safe Streets” debackle? – yes. Should SPS and the parents that rely on Alki have to pay for their short-sightedness?, No. You can’t ask for a “safe neighborhood” while at the same time reducing parking, narrowing 59th to effectively a one-way after doing as much prior (which curiously both Cuddys mention after advocated and accomplishing as much). At what point when they advocated for turning 59th into an effective one-way was there consideration given to the school that’s outlive them by generations?The Cuddys should be ashamed: they generated the problem they’re now complaining about. The kids deserve better. The community deserves better.

    • Maryanne Wood March 11, 2024 (11:39 pm)

      Your statement is full of inaccuracies. Please check your facts before taking it upon your self to speak about safety at the Alki Elementary school location. There will be a new school at that location just not the one that ignores all safety concerns brought forth by the community.

      • heartless March 12, 2024 (10:43 am)

        It would have been helpful if you actually mentioned what was inaccurate. 

        As is, your post comes off as someone just going “Nuh-uh!” in response to what seemed a well-reasoned and thoughtful comment by Z.

        • Maryanne wood March 12, 2024 (11:04 pm)

          The statement ” the current school dates to 1913″ is not true and is purposely meant to be misleading. 

          • heartless March 13, 2024 (7:19 am)

            That’s the inaccuracy you’re concerned about?  I don’t know much about the school, but didn’t the West Seattle Blog report on the school’s 100-year anniversary in 2013?


          • Maryanne wood March 13, 2024 (11:35 am)

            One inaccuracy among many. WSB was reporting on the fact that there had been a school at that location for 100 years. The actual school most people are familiar with has not been there since 1913. Since you don’t have the courage to use your actual name this discussion is over.

          • s March 13, 2024 (8:07 am)

            Maryanne Wood — You said “full of inaccuracies”….and when asked for specifics you cite the year that the school opened, which doesn’t really matter. That’s it? Was everything else that Z wrote accurate?

          • heartless March 13, 2024 (12:28 pm)

            Sorry, I was just curious.  And sorry for being so cowardly I use a screen name to comment on here… 

          • SCREEN NAME March 13, 2024 (1:58 pm)

            @heartless Don’t feel bad. It’s probably just sour grapes.

            Maryanne Wood, if this is the same person, ran for the school board and part of her platform was that Alki should not be rebuilt into a larger school.

            Guess what happened? She lost and didn’t get 13% of the vote. Voters rejected her platform overwhelmingly.

            So now we get NIMBYs and loud minority voices holding things up while the kids suffer. 

  • Pickles March 11, 2024 (5:04 pm)

    Agree with Z.  

    It’s  alarming to witness small contingents of self anointed neighborhood activists hi-jack our system, with attendant costs and delays.    

  • Mark H March 11, 2024 (7:03 pm)

    Charge for all street parking in Alki.  There will be no shortage. Why aren’t the residents asking for that? 

  • Fairmount March 11, 2024 (7:07 pm)

    Why should teachers have to park on the street and worry about finding street parking every day? It’s pretty rude. Y’all should be nicer to your teachers. Wouldn’t you rather them get to your kids in a good mood in the morning? No one likes having to fight for parking or park far away every day from their work. Alki is hard to get to as it is and teachers are likely not living nearby. Schools need staff parking lots.

    • Tired of NIMBYs March 12, 2024 (8:02 am)

      The people filing this complaint don’t actually care about parking. Stop falling for their distractions. They want to stall the project and kill it. They’ll list any complaint that they think might work. They don’t care about the teachers. They’re just selfish people who for some reason think a neighborhood would be better without a school. 

    • reed March 12, 2024 (9:12 am)

      Rude? I think its pretty entitled that street parking isn’t good enough for teachers in an urban neighborhood, especially when there is ample street parking in the area. This is nothing more than a bunch of whining neighbors not wanting outsiders to park on “their” streets.

  • exAlkiparent March 11, 2024 (8:07 pm)

    The issues being brought up by the appeal group (parking, traffic flow, safety) were brought up by parents and neighbors during the community engagement process as early as 2019.  The fact that the project is being delayed by appeals is a failure of the district’s project management team to actually engage and address their stakeholder’s concerns during the community engagement phase of the project.

  • Parent March 11, 2024 (9:57 pm)

    Let the kids have their school. 

  • Hg March 14, 2024 (10:20 pm)

    It’s interesting to me that out of all the schools that have successfully been rebuilt in the WS community, Alki is the one to get derailed, well seemingly. Really shame on these protesters. Parking is not a highlight at any of the new schools and many kids in west Seattle have been educated for several years in portables at some point with no harm done (In response to a comment somewhere above).  time to get building.

Sorry, comment time is over.