Shoreline Schools, questions and answers re change of plans for Shorewood

Sunday, July 18, 2010

By Diane Hettrick

I asked some follow-up questions after the Shoreline School district's press release about incorporating Ronald School into the Shorewood design, and after hearing from the Museum which would be dispossessed by the School District's actions. My questions, as posed, and the answers follow:

1. Why are you playing hardball? Major property purchases can take a very long time. What are the deadlines on the federal money - is that the primary driver?
The state has given the District a commitment for $17 million for Shorewood, but with certain deadlines that must be met to qualify for the funding. The District has been clear with the Museum Board as to the timeline for the project. When the Museum failed to execute the Agreement in Principle despite repeated efforts over the past five months, failed to purchase an adjacent piece of property, and appealed the SEPA determination, the District felt it must move forward to keep the project on the timeline.

2. Is the design you are going back to one of the ones at the original open house, where the new school is built right into the wall / walls of the museum, or a design that leaves the 45' clearance around the Ronald School.
As you reported, the District will now return to its original plan of including the Ronald School as part of Shorewood. The minimum 45-foot clearance would only have been required if the Ronald School were to left on its own and not a part of Shorewood.

3. Are you actually planning to gut the building and use it?
Working with the King County Landmarks Commission, the Bassetti Architects will create a plan to incorporate the historic Ronald School building into the Shorewood design - honoring, preserving and restoring the original school building structure, while bringing the unreinforced brick masonry building up to code and making it a safe structure for student use.

The District’s FAQ on the Ronald School goes into more detail about restoration of the building:

4. Isn't this a second-best design and use of the site?
As far as historic preservation is concerned, the highest purposes of historic properties are the original ones for which the building was built. In this case, the historic Ronald building will be returned to use as a school, just as it served the community for nearly 60 years.

5. Is the City involved this time around in trying to find a solution?
Members of the City Council and city staff were present for a number of meetings between the District and the Museum.

6. Are you at all concerned about negative public opinion?
The District has a made a commitment to the communities it serves to modernize/replace Shorecrest and Shorewood High Schools. In February, 10,788 voters supported the bond issue to modernize/replace both high schools. We are looking forward to completing two new high schools that will serve the Shoreline and Lake Forest Park students, families and communities for decades to come.


Anonymous,  July 19, 2010 at 5:38 AM  

The school district has failed to note that it not provide public notice to King County, the State Department of Archaeology & History and the Shoreline Historical Museum in its original SEPA process, which is why the Museum appealed their application; it is not "bad faith" on the part of the museum to file an appeal. Rather, it is a mistake on the part of the School District and its contractors to adequately and completely process their SEPA in issuing a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS). In the City of Seattle, the issuance of a Mitigated DNS results in the mere addition of a wheelchair ramp or lift in a landmarked building. Even if the school district integrates the building into the school design, they will have to undergo another SEPA process. The public will have another opportunity to submit comments. This SEPA process, if insufficient, can be subject to another SEPA conducted by the City of Shoreline. Since the destruction of the interiors is significant modification of a landmarked structure, the school district may be mistaken in its belief that evicting the museum will fast-track their design.

It is not "bad faith" to appeal a SEPA process when the school district had failed to assist the museum in securing the land proposed for the new location of the school. In fact, part of the SEPA appeal identifies the failure to include the new location of the museum, it is unknown if the school district provided public notice to owner of the property owner who was supposed to sell this property to the museum. This property owner was one of the last to sell to the City of Shoreline as part of the Aurora Corridor, both the City and the School District staff were aware of this fact. This property owner was willing to litigate with the City over the eminent domain proceedings, if they divulged this fact to the museum is unknown.

The city has regarded the museum as integral to its Town Center Sub-Area Plan, now the school district wants to dispense with the museum yet they seem unconcerned. The school district fails to realize that they must obtain a conditional use permit for building construction from the City. They have already asked the citizens for a levy lift and received from the City development code amendments, yet persist in the spin that they care about what the public wants. They lied about the levy not increasing property taxes already to the public and received development code amendments for additional school height, now they want to evict the museum, a benefit open to the general public as opposed to only people who have school-age children.

In the Crista Master Plan process, Kings school was required to bend over backwards for traffic mitigation, however, the school district failed to address any traffic concerns in their SEPA application. The intersection at 175th and Linden is noted in the City's Traffic Master Plan for failure by 2020 and is one of the most dangerous intersections in the City as measured by accidents -- and it is right in front of the new high school. Isn't student safety part of the school district's concerns? Is it fair for the school district to rebuild their school without addressing traffic when Kings had to extensively develop a traffic plan? In fact, the Crista Master Plan (including its traffic plan) has been deemed insufficient and is currently being appealed in King County Superior Court, this could happen to the school district; talk about delays.

Anonymous,  July 19, 2010 at 5:39 AM  

The school district keeps on harping on the illegal lease agreement, but the lease agreement on the website from January 20, 2010 uses as a point of comparison a lease agreement entered into in 2005. They should have used an example from the Seattle Public School District that was settled in 2009 for a lease entered into back in 1989 - which is roughly the same era as the museum lease. The Seattle Public School District hired an arbitrator to help them settle the lease at Jefferson Square in West Seattle as the developer had made significant improvements to the site, which is similar to the museum. The museum has invested significant amounts of money to maintain and restore the facility to obtain its landmark status and make it eligible for federal and state historical classification with complete notice to the school district prior to the initiation of the school design process.

There is more to the story than the school district is telling, there are always two-sides to every story and the public should be made aware.

Janet Way July 19, 2010 at 9:45 AM  

Several significant facts were also revealed in a public records documents search at SSD. (Though we had to wait over a month to receive them!)

Their own consultant, AHBL recommended that the CITY of Shoreline should be SEPA Lead Agency on the project, AND that in the SEPA they recommended an MDNS (Mitigated Determination of Significance). However SSD elected to chose THEMSELVES as SEPA Lead Agency and do a DNS (Determination of Non-significance) despite the fact that the Agreement in Principle called for moving a Landmarked Historical Building and that their traffic studies showed "significant impacts" to area roads.

Also, the record shows that their environmental assessments say that "infiltration" of stormwater will not work, despite the SSD claim to be reducing pervious surfaces (even though they are drastically increasing parking lots for students and displacing the Museum because they want "parity" with Shorecrest.)

In addition, the process the District undertook in their appeal is very questionable. They elected to do a "non-hearing" hearing with the Hearing Examiner. In other words, there was no public hearing (in which the public might hear and see what's going on), instead it was all done through submission of written argument. How is that a transparent process?

Local experts on SEPA were asked about how this was conducted and were dismayed and suspicious to say the least.

How does the "spin" from SSD match the actual record? With $150 million in taxpayer funding up for grabs, who benefits and who gains from this plan they've hatched to destroy our local Historical Museum?

JEDH July 19, 2010 at 12:59 PM  

WOW! Shoreline School District needs to come down to Earth and follow the same rules and ethics the rest of us are expected to follow and have. It's time to set them straight.

City of Shoreline leaders: Where are you? Duty calls. You are needed to get this situation fixed immediately! If we allow this example to continue, respect for the City of Shoreline and the Shoreline School District will be eliminated even before part of our History could be.

Anonymous,  July 19, 2010 at 9:53 PM  

As a parent, my hope was that the building would be moved. I understand that the original lot fell through, but that was several months ago.

What were the museums alternate plans? Were the really looking for another lot? If so, which one? How much additional money will it cost to move?

Moving the building has always been the best option. I would like to hear from the museum about what else they are trying to do to ensure that could happen.

Anonymous,  July 19, 2010 at 9:55 PM  

"The school district keeps on harping on the illegal lease agreement..."

I haven't seen that at all. Where are you getting that from? As far as I can tell, the school district is harping on the museum's failure to execute on the Agreement in Principle.

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