ALKI ELEMENTARY REBUILD: Here’s what happened during first day of second appeal hearing

(WSB photo, Alki Elementary site at 3010 59th SW)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

For the second time in 10 months, a city hearing examiner is presiding over proceedings that will determine what’s next for the rebuild and expansion of Alki Elementary School.

Again this time, that hearing examiner is Susan Drummond, whose decision last summer left the door open for what’s happening now.

The backstory: Last year, four nearby residents appealed the city decision to approve nine zoning exceptions (“departures”) that Seattle Public Schools had sought for constructing the school with a taller building and higher student capacity. Through a ruling and a settlement, that all ended with just one appeal granted – the one challenging the departure that would allow the new school to be devoid of offstreet parking (as first revealed two years ago). Drummond told the district and the city Department of Construction and Inspections to “revisit” the issue. Rather than doing so immediately after that ruling, the district tried – and failed – to get a judge to throw it out. After that, it proposed a new plan with 15 offstreet parking spots. The city said OK. A different group of nearby residents appealed that, under the name Friends for a Safe Alki Community. And now, it’s all back before Drummond, who heard the first of at least two days of testimony Tuesday in the examiner’s hearing room at the city Municipal Tower downtown. We attended in person and plan to return for the next day of testimony on Thursday. No surprises, but here’s how it went:

The hearing room is a bit less formal than a courtroom. The presiding examiner sits at the head of the windowless room; representatives of all involved parties sit at a table in front of her, with spectators sitting just feet away. Most of the day was devoted to witnesses for the appellants, aside from two for the district, called early to fit into time constraints. (The appeal case will continue when the hearing resumes tomorrow, and then it’s the other side’s turn.)

First they argued over a district motion asking that two exhibits for the appeal be disallowed – news reports about the possibility the district will close and/or consolidate up to 20 elementary schools. Representing the district, lawyer Katie Kendall from McCullough Hill contended the potential for closures is irrelevant, because “we don’t know how many schools will close or whether any will close.”

(Rendering by Mahlum Architects – north side of new school)

Representing the appellants, Audrey Clungeon from Bricklin & Newman countered that the closure possibility is relevant because the appeal was “going to be looking at educational need” and that the district’s “declining enrollment is relevant when we’re talking about putting a very large school on a very small site.”

Drummond noted that she has to consider the school’s maximum capacity “so I don’t want to go further down the road of questioning the capacity.”

The opportunity for opening statements was declined by all, so Clungeon got right to her first witness, Dano Beal, a retired longtime SPS teacher who spent his last seven years of teaching at Alki Elementary, during which he was on the Building Leadership Team as well as on the School Design Advisory Team for the rebuild (SDAT). It should be noted that discussion of conditions at the school are from years before this year, with Alki currently temporarily housed at the former Schmitz Park Elementary (where it will be for at least two more years).

Beal said he and co-workers on the SDAT “put together a hierarchy of what they wanted to see,” with dropoff-zone safety and parking high on the list: Parking has “always been an issue over the years.” Not always for him personally, he said, as he lived near the school for more than 20 years, but still had firsthand observations. Teachers have to be at the school early in the morning, before street parking opens up with area residents leaving for jobs elsewhere. Without open parking, he said, parents couldn’t park nearby to walk their kids to the school entrance, and “mayhem” sometimes ensued. That led to the principal directing traffic himself, Beal said. If the principal couldn’t be there, other staff were asked to do the same thing – without training, Beal said, so he refused. As for staff parking, he said the old school’s 30-ish spaces included spots for the principal, custodian, and food service workers, just a few of the 25 to 30 staff on campus at any given time. He talked about being surprised to learn during the SDAT work that the school was to be built without parking: “That really shocked all of us, because that was number two on our list.” Also, he said, other sizable schools in West Seattle have abundant parking – WSHS and Madison MS, for example – and parking aside, overall, he doesn’t feel the planned school’s size is appropriate for the site’s size, nor for the number of students that do and will live in the area, especially considering the enrollment decline. (Alki ES’s current enrollment was cited as 271 students, about half what the planned rebuild/expansion could handle.)

The second witness for the appeal was Maryanne Wood, a nearby resident who was involved in the first appeal and ran for School Board last year mostly as a platform for her concerns about the project. She said she lives on 57th SW, a block east of the school and the adjacent playfield, and described competition for parking in the neighborhood as “pretty intense. … When school is in session, it’s almost impossible to find a parking spot that’s not two or three blocks away.” She said some of the surrounding blocks are missing sidewalks, and described some of the streets as “narrow.” That means challenges for emergency vehicles, she said in response to a question from Clungeon – “they can eventually get through but it takes some creative maneuvering.” The district plans to provide one ADA space, Clungeon noted, asking Wood if that would be enough. Wood spoke of a grandchild who is a special-needs student and needs to be delivered directly to staff members, as well as adding that she herself is now disabled: “I can’t go more than a block, so if I can’t find parking, I can’t go.” In followup questioning, district lawyer Kendall elicited that Wood’s grandchild is not currently attending Alki, and that her residence is outside the project’s parking-study area.

After morning break, Clungeon brought up the next appeal witness, Linda Cuddy (who lives in the 2700 block of 59th SW with her husband, the main representative of Friends for a Safe Alki Community, Steve Cuddy). She echoed the contention that “parking has always been an issue” in the neighborhood, not just because of the school but because Alki Beach “has always been a destination.” It’s not a matter of 59th SW residents wanting to park in front of their own homes, she explained, as most have parking off the alley to the west, but visitors park and drive in all manner of illegal, unsafe ways, she said – facing the wrong way, wheels on the sidewalk, too close to hydrants, etc. “I’ve been seeing this for 30 years and it’s gotten worse and worse.” The neighborhood is densifying, too, she said. Cuddy also spoke of daunting pedestrian conditions to the south, for those crossing Admiral Way, as she said she had done when she was a pregnant mom of a toddler ~25 years ago, walking to co-op preschool at Alki UCC. (She later said they also drove there, as they did when their kids were students at Schmitz Park Elementary, going there instead. of Alki Elementary because of SP’s award-winning PE program.) Another complicating factor she noted was the increase in delivery trucks on the streets since the pandemic. Overall, she said, traffic and parking were problematic even before doubling the school population was planned. She said she had spoken to a parent who was relieved their child will be finishing their elementary years at ex-Schmitz Park because he’ll never have to deal with the Alki site traffic again. Under cross-examination, she insisted that the area congestion happens “all day, every day” and that the suggested signage won’t change people’s behavior. In followup questioning, Clungeon noted that maybe parents will follow what’s laid out in the project’s promised Transportation Management Plan, but others traveling in the area wouldn’t even be aware of it.

That was also an assertion of the first witness after lunch. Most of the afternoon was spent on Clungeon’s questioning of Gary Norris, a transportation consultant who detailed a long resumé of positions with municipalities around the region before starting his own business.

Showing a variety of photos, Norris reiterated that current users aren’t following “basic rules of access” around the Alki Elementary site, so a Transportation Management Plan isn’t likely to change that. The photos included a car parked with wheels on the curb, the narrowing of 59th SW with cars parked on the west side (across from the school and Alki Playfield), delivery vehicles squeezing through, a driver opening their car door into the traffic lane, a car “parked virtually on top of a crosswalk,” principal Mason Skeffington out in the street directing traffic, and more. The district is assuming a high “level of walking,” he said, despite multiple safety issues for pedestrians, from line-of-sight impediments because of parked cars, to sidewalks in pooor shape: “(The area is) fraught with sidewalks that are falling apart … all those cracks in the sidewalk are going to be problematic for the school population.” He cited missing sidewalks on some nearby streets, too (looking at Google Street View, SW Stevens east of the school-adjacent community center is most noticeable). Clungeon asked about other factors on nearby streets that might make walking difficult; Norris noted the hills to the south (59th SW) and southeast (Admiral Way).

Addressing the parking supply, Norris said his understanding was that Alki, with 271 students and 32 staff, had 29 spaces within the old site, not counting the asphalt area between the school and playground that had historically been used for parking in school off-hours but will not be available for that use in the new school design. Norris also contended that the project’s traffic consultants focused on conditions within 800 feet of the school when it should have been 400 and that there was “no factual analysis for what the pickup and dropoff demand” will actually be. Returning to the district’s expectation that a Traffic Management Plan will solve the problems, he called that a “ludicrous expectation,” contending that TMPs are created to “deal with situations that already exist, not something like this.” He also noted that the zoning requirement of 48 spaces, based on square footage of the project, does not count the gym, which the school will continue sharing with the Alki Community Center building; if it did, he said, 123 spaces would be required.

What about carpooling? Norris said the plan suggests more of that but he doesn’t think it’s likely to happen without some incentive. He said parents just prefer to drive their kids to school, “which is putting a big demand on these sites.” He also took issue with the plan for one ADA space: “We should be talking about FIVE.”

Some questioning focused on recommendations made in a city document, Best Practices for School Traffic Design, and whether the Alki Elementary plan seemed to be following them, such as “pedestrian routes should not be crossed by [motor vehicle] traffic.” Norris continued to stress that the pre-existing situation at Alki Elementary’s past-and-future site is already bad, and that the site has greater “safety and circulation needs” than are being planned for. “Times have changed, (more) parents are driving their kids to school,” he repeated. Could the problems be fixed later? asked Clungeon. Norris said that could happen “if we have a paradigm shift and people stop driving their cars … otherwise, it needs to be structurally addressed in the development of the site.”

Cross-examination questions from Kendall focused on apparent disparities in some of the numbers Norris cited – parking conditions within 400 feet vs. 800 feet, the duration of peak pickup/dropoff times – and whether the illegal parking shown in his testimony (wheels on curbs, etc.) was exclusive to school zones or seen elsewhere around the city. They also clashed over the number of parking spaces he suggested the school really needed, attributed to numbers from the Institute of Transportation Engineers – she said .14 space per student is peak demand; he said .88 is what’s needed overall. Then they sparred a bit more over what relevance pickup and dropoff had to parking supply, since, she declared, “we’re here today on a parking departure.” And the percentage of space usage on the street was a point of contention too; at one point Norris said 75 percent street-parking usage was considered “full use,” but Kendall said the city of Seattle’s number was actually 85 percent. Kendall also asked about data proving his contention that school-bus usage has declined – a study was shown – and that car usage has risen; he replied that in general, “increased traffic around schools” had shown that. Asked about the safest place to locate the school’s entrance, Norris retorted that, “The question is not whether that’s the safest place for the school, it’s whether that’s a safe place, and this is not a safe place.”

Also mentioned, the Montlake Elementary project elsewhere in the city, granted a “departure” so it could be built without offstreet parking, one of seven Seattle Public Schools elementaries without parking, according to the architects. Norris contended that school’s site/setting is nothing like Alki.

The day concluded with two brief witnesses for the district; none of the remaining witnesses to be called by the appellants were expected to be quick enough to fit in before the day’s end. First was Chad Kersman, father of an Alki Elementary kindergartener and Alki resident, one block west of the school, on 60th SW, testifying via Zoom. He said he had no reservations about the new school’s larger size, and that parking wasn’t a problem on his street, where he said he could see about 10 open spots at that moment (4:20 pm) within “50 yards” or so. He said he works from a home office four days a week, 7 am-6 pm. He said he has no concerns about the school being built with 15 parking spaces. Asked when parking is tightest in his neighborhood, he said summertime, when school is out “and everybody wants to go to the beach.” He acknowledged that he can’t actually see the school from his home, but noted that many Alki families use his street at dropoff and pickup times, and didn’t expect a problem with an increased number doing so. “There’s always a 20-minute rush and that’s just how school works – it’s not due to the parking situation but rather parents like myself trying to do a million different things.”

Final witness for the day, also called by the district, was project manager Brian Fabella. Kendall asked him about a letter-writing campaign in support of the rebuild (the one we reported on two weeks ago). He said that so far he had received more than 100 letters of support. On cross-examination, Clungeon noted that many were “very similar, like there’s a template.” Fabella agreed with that assessment, “but some were a bit tailored.” She asked about other public comments he had seen – were they mostly about parking and dropoff? – yes, he replied, adding that his review of comments was unofficial, as the city manages the process of granting or denying departures.

(The city planner assigned to the project, Carly Guillory, was at the table all day, but was never asked to speak.)

WHAT’S NEXT: The proceedings continue at 9 am Thursday in the examiner’s hearing room, open to the public. You can also listen by phone (here’s how). The appellants have at least two more witnesses to call. There is no potential third day set aside yet, so if it looks like things will run long, everyone will confer. Once testimony concludes, the examiner typically takes a few weeks to issue a written ruling. That ruling is the city’s final word in the case, but can be challenged in court. Whenever there is finally an unchallenged decision on the parking issue and the plans reflect whatever that decision is, building permits can be issued; until then, as shown in our photo, some site work is all that’s happened since demolition of the old school.

71 Replies to "ALKI ELEMENTARY REBUILD: Here's what happened during first day of second appeal hearing"

  • dzag May 29, 2024 (6:28 pm)

    With all due respect why are they even building a new school when they are wanting to close 20 in the district… they could suspend construction and save money 

    • Greg May 29, 2024 (8:02 pm)

      These are different budgets.

    • Alki Parent May 29, 2024 (8:16 pm)

      The money is already allocated via a voter approved levy. The children are stuck at an old, unfit, and tiny school while retired NIMBYs waste district money that could go to education. They don’t actually care about parking. This is one of many avenues they explored to stop construction – it is the only one that got traction. They are outrageously selfish.If schools are to be closed and consolidated, it should be in a new school rather than crumbling old ones.

      • JustSarah May 29, 2024 (9:40 pm)

        Just here to express support for this! This issue should be considered separately from the SPS closure proposal. Let’s discuss this on its own merits; if SPS ultimately decides Alki Elementary should be closed, that can happen without the burden of paying out for a petty lawsuit. 

        • Eva Chappell May 30, 2024 (7:43 am)

          Yes!School consolidations cannot be discussed and decided behind closed doors by a minority and without input by all families affected. The discussion about closing Alki during the appeal hearings must stop immediately.

          • WSB May 30, 2024 (10:44 am)

            Just to be clear, the exhibits are URLs for two Seattle Times articles about the school closure plan but they have not been discussed in the hearing (so far) nor has the concept of closures, so there’s nothing to “stop.” And certainly nothing regarding schools’ fate will be “decided” here. This is strictly and narrowly about whether the new school can be built with fewer parking spaces than city zoning code requires. And that decision will be a few weeks after the hearing ends. – TR

      • Maryanne Wood May 30, 2024 (10:51 am)

        If you believe what you say to be true, are you making sure you are involved in the process? Are you attending the hearings? Are you educating yourself on the specifics of this project?  Are you doing everything you can to ensure that this beautiful new school meets the needs of ALL of its students?

        • Alki Parent May 30, 2024 (4:11 pm)

          Please spare me your crocodile tears for “ALL of its students” as you force them to learn in an old and unfit building for more years by weaponizing the legal system. Unlike you, I actually have kids that this impacts.  

        • heartless May 30, 2024 (4:23 pm)

          I mean, how many of the students do you think drive?

        • Eva Chappell May 30, 2024 (6:35 pm)

          I believe this is directed at me, Maryanne?Yes, I have been following the hearing’s webpage since the very beginning of this appeal! I saw your exhibit list, including the Seattle Times articles even before this WSB article; I also saw the SPS lawyer’s written reply that this hearing should be solely about parking departures and not about educational needs, and I also saw your lawyer insisting, in writing ,that this material is relevant and a discussion about educational need required for this appeal. I am very glad to hear that the Hearing Examiner does not want to go down that route and question capacity. I hope this did not change today. I would not assume, that just because someone disagrees with you, that the person is uninformed. 

  • Greg May 29, 2024 (8:12 pm)

    The kids deserve their school and not an education in portables like they have now. The neighbors arguments sound like an attempt to seek subsidies for more parking ANYWHERE given their frustrations with peak Alki tourism. They shouldn’t be allowed to continue their permit blocking any longer. 

    • JustSarah May 29, 2024 (9:41 pm)

      Exactly. 

    • Another Alki Parent May 29, 2024 (11:27 pm)

      Well said, Greg. This move is beyond selfish, unbelievable really, for a group calling themselves “friends for a safer Alki community”. Zero thought given to the impact of their actions on the most important population here, THE KIDS, and how UNSAFE their current situation is at Schmitz park, not to mention the sacrifices forced upon them – I.e spending their childhood in a dingy school (at best) and small portables  for what is now at least 1 year longer. All this by a group of people whose kids are grown (not impacted) grasping for any possible chance to gain parking largely resulting from summer visitors at Alki, NOT the 20 minute school drop off and pick up rush (that happens at all schools, regardless of parking). So, thank you ‘friends for a safer Alki community’, for putting your needs ahead of our children’s. I hope you feel really good in these meetings fighting for your parking spots, furthering delays and time spent at a crumbling school, with each day that goes by, and most notably, negatively impacting the kids of the Alki Community. 

    • Chrissy D May 29, 2024 (11:54 pm)

      Couldn’t agree more Greg. Also, Seattle is going to become a major city whether people want it to or not. And with that comes dealing with lack of parking, move if you don’t like it. Get the school built so we can educate our children. 

  • Josh May 29, 2024 (8:43 pm)

    It never made sense to build an almost 600 kid elementary school in probably the most geographically isolated spot in the city. There are never going to be almost 600 kids within the current Alki and Gennese Hill boundaries much less with each of them. Not now not in 10 20 30 or ever years. Even with sustained density growth in the area the kids will not come with it. Sell the land to parks. Put the Alki kids at Gennese. Rebuild Schmitz. 

    • JustSarah May 29, 2024 (9:45 pm)

      Can we agree that’s a separate issue? If these neighbors win, SPS needs to pay out to them. If they lose, SPS can still choose not to move forward with construction if that’s what they choose. However, there’s a point to be made for leveraging a brand new building to absorb some of the students if a neighboring school is closed. 

      • Maryanne wood May 29, 2024 (10:50 pm)

        Hi Sarah, there’s no “paying out” to be done. This is simply about not allowing SPS to build an enormous school without providing adequate ADA parking for the staff, students, and families that will be a part of it. I have been insulted and called names but I’m not backing down until SPS does the right thing.

        • Kyle May 30, 2024 (6:50 am)

          The right thing has been done. The design has been modified to include 15 spots This seems a good compromise. How many does this new group want? Let’s compromise and move on.

          • Maryanne wood May 30, 2024 (3:36 pm)

            There is only one ADA parking spot in the 15 spots. That is not the “right thing”

        • Elizabeth May 30, 2024 (8:14 am)

          You don’t care about parking…. you care about your property and traffic around your house.  If you cared about parking, you would be advocating for closed beaches during the summer, no youth sports at the field, no beach volleyball tournaments, no Alki Art Fair, the list goes on and  all of this impacts parking so greatly.  You are not advocating for neighborhood zoned parking which would be much more beneficial to solving your problem.  You are not focused on what is best for our community.   You live in a dense part of the city.   Parking is always an issue down there – always.  Please stop saying anything different. You are wasting so much of our tax paying money, time, and our kids are just waiting for adults to do better. 

        • AlkiFan May 30, 2024 (9:47 am)

          Maryanne,I just drove the site and all the streets around the Alki site and there were 40+ parking spots close by! You are not helping the situation and infuriating neighbors and local family members.  Perhaps focus your attention on getting the roads maintained, which I’ve been trying to do. All the streets are ragged around Alki, especially SW Teig Pl. We’ve been Alki residents for 10 years and looked forward to our children attending the new school – which has been in the works for years. Our older one will now not be able to attend due to the already year delay. Also, to note drop off at Schmitz park elementary is much harder than Alki Elementary was! We also currently have someone at Schmitz who helps direct traffic and cross walks for children’s safety, so this is standard. Leave this alone. This is a waste of time and money. My daughter is asking, why would adults tear down my school and then not fulfill there promise to rebuild. Find a better purpose!

          • Alki Parent May 30, 2024 (4:01 pm)

            Reminder to everyone that Maryanne Wood ran for school board on a campaign that included not rebuilding Alki and got ONLY 11% OF THE VOTE. People don’t support her but she won’t listen. Could there be a more perfect example of selfishness? 

          • Maryanne wood May 30, 2024 (10:19 pm)

            Thank you for remembering me but not what I ran on. Never did I say in print or on the air that Alki should not have a new school. I said ” Not this school, on this site.” I will repeat, one ADA parking space is not enough.

          • Alki Parent May 31, 2024 (6:07 am)

            The point remains: The people rejected your ideas. 

    • Agree with Josh May 30, 2024 (1:45 am)

      Not a NIMBY…not old…engaged parents…this project never made sense.  there’s no need. funds better used elsewhere. Many will fight this for as long as it takes. 

    • Lola May 30, 2024 (7:49 am)

      Josh,  I have been saying this very thing.  Rebuild Schmitz Park since the land the was donated can only be for schools.  Since they can’t do anything else with the land rebuild this one.  Sell the rest of Alki to the Parks Dept. since they own more than 50 % of the land down there.  Not sure who makes these decisions but it seems weird how they are going to rebuild Alki then not have enough people to go there.  There are more dogs down on Alki than there are kids.  The youth of today do not have kids, they have pets. 

      • Alki Parent May 30, 2024 (4:07 pm)

        Where do the Alki students go while Schmitz is being rebuilt? I currently have kids that would like to go to Alki, but are stuck learning in portables while people talk about “the youth of today” as if they have any clue what they’re talking about. 

    • Another Alki Parent May 30, 2024 (9:24 am)

      Current Genessee enrollment – 482 / Current Alki enrollment – (at temp schmitz park location) – 271. Based on my math, that total exceeds Josh’s speculation that “there are never going to be almost 600 kids within the current Alki and Gennese Hill boundaries”  

    • Canton May 30, 2024 (11:20 pm)

      Spot on, great points.

  • Dave May 29, 2024 (8:50 pm)

    Apparently these” NIMBY “accusers do not live adjacent to the new bldg without adequate parking …and would be the biggest NIMBY’s if they did.    Would be nice if they could possibly shift their perspective…but…plain and simple live far enough away so they wouldn’t be affected…

    • heartless May 31, 2024 (9:13 am)

      What if those people who prioritize parking just choose to live in buildings with garages?  Wouldn’t that be simplest shift in perspective?

  • P Dub May 29, 2024 (8:52 pm)

    I missed it from a couple weeks ago so linking the recent Seattle Times article on the SPS budget challenges and proposal on elementary school closures: Four things to know about Seattle’s plan to explore closing schools | The Seattle Times

  • j w May 29, 2024 (10:50 pm)

    Who is the electrical contractor for this project?

  • Scott May 30, 2024 (7:16 am)

    The fact of the matter is that parking is needed and if you say otherwise then you haven’t had to deal with trying to drop of a child or visit the school to find chaos round the school and no parking. They should have left the school alone and built a new school at Schmitz Park. 

    • shufflerunner May 30, 2024 (9:54 am)

      Not an actual fact. I did drop offs for the last two years at the old school building and it was fine. The only issue I ever had was someone who felt they were entitled to the street parking spot directly in front of their house. 

  • S May 30, 2024 (8:10 am)

     I think Alki is being designed to serve children both close to and outside of the walking area. Yes, there is NIMBYism, but a judge has ruled that they actually have hit on a concern. I want the kids of Alki to have a new school, but I also want to make sure that the school is designed to serve all of the children that are assigned to it. School closures should be taken into account. 

  • sam-c May 30, 2024 (8:36 am)

    Can you clarify the following comments that seem to contradict one another: “ Norris also contended that the project’s traffic consultants focused on conditions within 800 feet of the school when it should have been 400″ and later the  story mentions, “Cross-examination questions from Kendall focused on apparent disparities in some of the numbers Norris cited – parking conditions within 400 feet vs. 80 feet”             I haven’t reviewed the project documents- did the project team analyze at 80 feet or 800 feet?

    • WSB May 30, 2024 (10:11 am)

      typo, in second should have been 800 not 80, fixing.

  • SPS parent May 30, 2024 (8:44 am)

    It was such a massive mistake for SPS to demolish the old building before getting permits for the new one. As an engineer, most local gov’ts I work with don’t even advertise projects for construction until all permits are obtained, since permit conditions often force design changes. These poor kids could be learning in their familiar, if outdated, school while this process plays out. SPS builds enough that they should have competent project managers who know this.

    Disagree with those who say the new school is too big, though. Lafayette is filled to the brim, Genesee has almost 500 as well, not much extra space. A third large school is needed in the north end to handle future growth. 

    • BeachTeach June 1, 2024 (2:23 pm)

      Actually, neither Lafayette nor Genesee Hill are, as you say, “filled to the brim”. Genessee Hill has an official capacity of 682, and with portables, over 800. Currently, Lafayette has a capacity of over 400, with just over 300 currently attending. Lafayette many years ago, held over 1500 students in a slew of portables (that’s why there is so much pavement at that site). The IMPORTANT thing to note is that both sites are well over 6 acres in size….. the Alki site is only 1.4 acres….. it’s very inadequate for a large school building.

  • whataboutthecreedence May 30, 2024 (9:12 am)

    This project should really be put on hold until the district figures out their plans for potentially closing 20 elementary schools. Using the argument “but the money is already in place” is a great example of government waste being allowed to perpetuate.

    • Nicole May 30, 2024 (4:35 pm)

      It’s levy funds specifically designated to do capital improvements and build new buildings -exactly what the taxpayers approved the funds for.  So we should go against taxpayer wishes? 

      • flimflam May 31, 2024 (8:52 am)

        It’s seems conditions have changed quite a bit and closing some schools while building brand new ones feels wrong and wasteful.

      • BeachTeach June 1, 2024 (2:29 pm)

        That’s EXACTLY the point. In the levy presentations for the Alki rebuild, the ORIGINAL design was for a school of 400. Given that information, the levy passed…. however, very quietly, SPS changed the design plans to a school with a capacity of over 600. THAT is NOT what the voters approved. When pressed with this fact, SPS officials simply shrugged their shoulders and stated the current staff could not be held responsible for the presentations of previous personnel…… in my opinion, YES, they CAN and SHOULD it’s dishonest to change the plans AFTER receiving the levy funding.

  • Marcus May 30, 2024 (9:45 am)

    So okay the budgets are different.  How about we do not build Alki elementary and convert that land to a community center or more park ground.  Then take the money and do something outrageous and unheard of——GIVE THE MONEY BACK TO THE TAX PAYERS.  

    • Alki Parent May 30, 2024 (10:23 am)

      How about — and this might sound crazy — we properly invest in children and education with dollars that voters already approved?

      These selfish attitudes are pervasive and pernicious. 

      • Marcus May 30, 2024 (1:42 pm)

        We are investing in children’s education.  There is not a school levy that has failed in so many decades if any.  But throwing money at education that may not be necessary or does not work or could be spent better elsewhere is just silly.

        • Alki Parent May 30, 2024 (4:03 pm)

          You are literally advocating for clawing back money that was voted on to be put towards education and have it returned to your pockets. That is not investing in children’s education.

        • Nicole May 30, 2024 (4:37 pm)

          Levy funds are only allowed to do capital improvements   They are explicitly not allowed to fund education- THAT is the states job and it comes from their bucket of money.  So folks here saying that education isn’t adequately funded are 100% correct.  Local jurisdictions only get to pay for buildings.  

          • Mel May 30, 2024 (7:46 pm)

            You can see the $ amount per student each SPS school is getting via the superintendent score cards. IMO, these schools are funded well. Private schools are charging much less per head (in some cases 50% of what SPS is getting) and are able to operate a school. I think there is a lot of waste within SPS and throwing more money at it won’t fix the problem. 

      • BeachTeach June 1, 2024 (2:32 pm)

        Please see the above comment concerning the dollars already approved… Seattle Public Schools CHANGED the design to a huge building, AFTER receiving voter approved funding. That is dishonest, and should be the focus of the issue.

  • Jay May 30, 2024 (11:05 am)

    I think it’s very interesting that zero of the opposition voices have a kid in public school, and those who are parents have grown children my age. Fun fact about construction, you can’t just pause a project. There are so many moving pieces and schedules that are locked in six months to a year in advance. HVAC system lead times are a year. Generators, two years. If the NIMBYs are eventually defeated, it’s not like the project can just start right back up. It’s going to be a long and expensive process. Combine that with construction cost escalations outpacing inflation, I wouldn’t be surprised if 20-30% was added to the total project cost.

    • Canton May 30, 2024 (11:25 pm)

      Complete fallacy that opposition has no kids currently in school… Sources for that lie?…

  • BeachTeach May 30, 2024 (11:48 am)

    I take great offense to being referred to as a “NIMBY.” I served on the Alki staff for seven years, AND served on the school design advisory team (SDAT) for this project. After the voter approved levy, SPS changed the design from a small to medium capacity design to an enormous building design. I have been involved with this project from the very start. Let me be very clear….. everyone wants a safe, healthy school in this neighborhood…. the current design is a HUGE school. We are highlighting the very real problems that will result with such plans…… We very much WANT a school at this site.

    • BigBeautifulSchool May 30, 2024 (12:39 pm)

      Basically what it is boiling down to is between the hours of 7:30am and 8:30am and 2:00PM-3:00PM you can’t be bothered by ‘the amount of traffic’ that occurs in the neighborhood. One must forget that this is Monday to Friday only. No holidays. No summer.  This is surge and then deplete traffic. NOT sustained. Once the kids get dropped off that’s it. The amount of traffic that occurs during these few hours are NOTHING like a summer weekend ALL DAY LONG. Lest we forget…the school has been here for a long time (longer than ANY one of these NIMBY’s). So this is nothing new.  Grant the departures and move on. 

      • BeachTeach May 30, 2024 (1:27 pm)

        Again, there are large delivery trucks, US mail, and first responder traffic throughout the day, everyday…. serving both the school and community…. regardless of time of day or time of year.

        • heartless May 30, 2024 (6:55 pm)

          Won’t someone please think of Amazon!  News for you, “Teach,” first responders won’t worry about finding a parking spot.  And if you’re keeping an elementary school from being built because you’re worried that delivery trucks will be inconvenienced?  I mean…  There are no kind words, so I’ll remain silent.

          • Sam May 31, 2024 (6:04 am)

            BeachTeach, it’s time for this school to be built. Please stop pretending that you speak for Alki’s staff and students. You don’t. 

          • BeachTeach June 1, 2024 (2:42 pm)

            I never said that I speak for the Alki staff or parents…. I stated that I was a member of the design advisory team, a member of the building leadership team, and the safety team. I stated the FACTS pertaining to the process, and the discrepancies that have arisen since the early stages of the project. I loved working at Alki Elementary, and very much want a new school at this site…. if it’s a large school, that’s fine….. my ONLY concern is that it be SAFE for students and the community. The current design will NOT be safe for either. Do not make me out to be the villain in this. I have far more valid experience in this issue than you do…. And yes, I live in the neighborhood and am a taxpayer as well.

          • BeachTeach June 1, 2024 (2:53 pm)

            You are misunderstanding my post. I certainly don’t care if delivery trucks are, as you say, “inconvenienced.” They do, however, constrict traffic flow on 59th and Stevens…. two way traffic is not possible when they are parked in the middle of the street. 

    • Greg May 31, 2024 (2:49 pm)

      I agreed with many of your arguments on the initial appeal. But at this point, the kids are spending extra years being educated in portables over a single parking departure. You’ve had an honest appeal and won a concession. Please accept the compromise result and move on.

  • K May 30, 2024 (3:20 pm)

    It sounds like the real answer is to make streets adjacent to the school 15-minute load zones during the day, and make nearby residents clean out their garages or otherwise find somewhere else to store their cars than on taxpayer-subsidized right-of-ways.  So much hand-wringing because homeowners feel entitled to street parking.

    • WSB May 30, 2024 (3:26 pm)

      As noted in testimony and in the story, the residents who’ve testified so far, pro and con, have all noted they have alley parking so don’t use the street.

  • Alki Resident May 30, 2024 (11:14 pm)

    Scrap the rebuild. School of this size should not be in that lot. Instead, expand the size of the community center with parking. Invest in the ball fields – would make for an GREAT softball field.  And yes, I think about the kids. My son went to alki elementary. If he was still there, my opinion would be the same – don’t rebuild the school!

  • Canton May 30, 2024 (11:33 pm)

    Just an idea. If there is surplus classroom space, how about they rent that space to private and charter schools, which are booming now. Parents are tired of propping up failed institutions. If the schools are losing customers, use the space for a product that customers are using in growing numbers?…

    • JustSarah May 31, 2024 (1:02 pm)

      Ooh, and next Paper Boat Booksellers can lease shelf space to Amazon. /s

  • SPS Parent and Sub May 30, 2024 (11:53 pm)

    Lafayette and Gatewood are currently over capacity. So are West Seattle Elementary and Roxhill.Genessee is roughly at 81% capacity just like Alki. Arbor Heights at 93%. Fairmont Park is at 99%. The enrollment data for the rest of the WS area elementary schools is not hard to find. Lafayette needs a new building just like Alki. Gatewood needs upgrades. West Seattle Elementary is brand new and Arbor Heights is new. Pathfinder needs building upgrades. Ya’ll – Redistricting is probably in the long term plan, especially since more families or soon-to-be families with kids are moving to West Seattle, not less. At the forefront of all of this needs to be the kids -lets rally to get them into a new school and a healthy learning environment as soon as possible. And then let’s make sure all the other schools and kids in the area have what is best for the KIDS to flourish. I wish all this time and energy and money spent by adults on fighting parking was spent volunteering at the schools or funding the PTA’s. Our kids need support and action, not division from childish adults. 

    • JustSarah May 31, 2024 (1:04 pm)

      Thank you, agreed, though I’d argue Gatewood also needs a new building… Not going to happen because of its landmark status, but it’s in poor condition and is an earthquake safety risk. 

    • BeachTeach June 1, 2024 (2:48 pm)

      Actually, neither Lafayette nor Genessee Hill are over capacity… both are currently lower than capacity, and like SPS are experiencing a continued and predicted decline in enrollment.

      • SPS Parent and Sub June 2, 2024 (9:23 pm)

        Hi BeachTeach – I never said Genessee was over capacity – it is at 81%. The 2023 Lafayette enrollment is at 505, which makes it at 120.8% capacity. That would be over capacity. Alki needs a school and they are getting one, with or without complaining adults. But WHEN our children will be in a stable school environment sits soley on the shoulders of the loudest complainers that are wasting tax dollars and resources. Construction costs just go up as complainers complain. WE all pay for it now and in the long run. Nevermind that our kids wait in trailers until the “smartest adults” finally feel heard. 

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