Wednesday, February 11, 2015

List Of Committee Members Picked To Serve On City's Design Departure Advisory Committee To Decide If More Portables Go On Laurelhurst Elementary Playgrounds

The Department of Neighborhoods (DON) has named the committee members to serve on the City's School Design Departure Advisory  Committee, to help with deciding if up to four more portables should be added to the two already small playgrounds at Laurelhurst Elementary School.

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has requested a zoning departure that, if approved, would permanently increase building lot coverage to up to 45%, significantly above the current limit of 35%.

Here are the members of the Committee:

Richard Ruidl                     Person residing within 600'
Mia Wise                            Person owning property or business within 600'
Ann Hicks-Thomas            Representative of the general community
Pete Verretto                     Representative of the general community
Kaylene Anderson             Representing parents (PTSA)
Carin Towne                      Representing parents (PTSA)
Dr. Joel Domingo              At Large - to represent Citywide education issues
Mike Jenkins                     Seattle School District (District Appointee)
Mark Thompson                Alternate 1
Karin Thiers                      Alternate 2

Steve Sheppard                Ex-Officio - City DON (non-voting Chair)
Holly Goddard                   Ex-Officio - City DPD (non-voting)

The 30-90 day process will follow these steps as outlined on the DON website:

Orientation Meeting and first Public Meeting

  • DON to review overall process with the departure advisory committee
  • DON to provide overview of the role and responsibilities

 Public Meeting

  • At the first meeting the Seattle School District, with the architectural firm, presents the building design and improvements, the departures requested, and any rationale for the departures. After the presentation, the school departure committee must make a formal determination: 1) that the departures are minor, or 2) major.
  • If the committee decides that the requested departures are major in nature, then two additional public meetings must be scheduled over the succeeding 90 days in order to solicit additional public testimony, and to obtain additional information from the Seattle School District to help inform the committee’s recommendations.
  • If the departures are considered minor, then the committee may proceed directly to a discussion and vote to grant the request with or without conditions. Any conditions recommended must be directly related to any impacts of the departure request.
  • The DON staff will then write, on behalf of the committee, a draft report for review and approval by committee members.
  • A second meeting may be called for review and approval of the draft report, or the report may be electronically transmitted for approval.
  • If there is not a consensus, committee members not in agreement may write a minority report that becomes part of the committee report to DPD.
  • Before the committee makes its recommendations, the public is encouraged to testify concerning their general opinions on the departures and any conditions that might be reasonably put on granting the departures.

Once the Committee has come to a decision and written its report and recommendations, that is sent to the Director of the Department of Planning and Development, who has the sole responsibility for granting the departures as recommended by the school departure committee with or without conditions. The Director’s decision is appealable to the Seattle Hearing Examiner. 

  Christi Nagle, heading up the "Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning," a group of concerned Laurelhurst Elementary parents,  wrote to the group on hearing the news:

Thank you to all who applied to be on the committee, and an extra thanks to those selected, for volunteering your time.   This committee is charged with making sure Seattle Public Schools' proposed additional portables are "compatible" as well as truly "needed" on our school lot.  Based on the list of names, I feel certain that our neighborhood is in great hands!
"Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning," with the motto, “Playgrounds Grow Students,” and "Our kids deserve better" has circulated an on-line petition open to the public to sign.


The group is against higher lot coverage and the addition of more portables stating that:
  • Studies confirm that quality outdoor play space is critical for healthy learning. Open space that now serves as basketball, soccer, kickball and football play areas would be eliminated.
  • Families in the neighborhood benefit from the school’s recently upgraded playground (funded by neighbors -­‐ not SPS), whether it’s during school, evenings or weekends.
  • Laurelhurst already has the smallest lot size of all 11 NE elementary schools, in addition to the highest building:lot ratio.
  • More portables do not guarantee smaller class sizes.
  • Portables are inferior to permanent classrooms due to their isolation from the school community (safety concerns, less collaboration, less access to facilities), lack of natural light and HVAC issues.
  • Seattle Public School District needs to solve its growth issues without taking critical playground away from our kids and community.

The Laurelhurst Community Club commented that "the district must find a permanent solution under the edict from the State Legislature. Taking away existing needed playground space was never the intent of city codes, nor the Seattle School District."

LCC added:

Traffic impacts must be considered-access from the very congested NE 45th St, local neighborhood parking for extra staff (there is no parking lot).
Loss of recreational space for existing children cannot be minimized or dismissed. Healthy bodies and healthy minds are linked. Obesity rates are climbing, and kids need more movement. Playground social skills are also a place where academic rankings are set aside for good fun, and away from electronics.  
The City had building and zoning codes for a reason, and any variance must be granted only if due process is followed to the letter of the law.

Seattle Public Schools released designs drawn up by Harthorne Hagen Architects, showing in detail two options for the placement of the portables.
First option:

  • 2 double portables on the North playground - 28 x 64' foot taking up 1,792 square feet.
  • One right along the north fence that runs along NE 47th Street
  • The other just to the north of the current second grade portable along 47th Avenue NE.
  • No portables on the south playground.
  • The design shows the kickball area moved just next to the NE 47th Street portable and 2 four square courts moved alongside this area.
  • These portables would eliminate a popular, heavily used large play area where currently a large number of students play organized games of  kickball, fliers, soccer and foursquare, as well as just general play by various students.
 Second option:

  • 2 single portables on the North playground - 28x32' portables, each immediately to the north of the existing LASER portables, occupying 896 square feet each
  • 1  double portable on the south playground - 28 x 64 ', occupying 1,792 square feet, along  the west fence bordering 46th Avenue NE and NE 45th Street.
  • This south playground portable would take up the entire narrower southwest part of the playground, eliminating both heavily used basketball court and several four square courts.
  • Thee design shows the new location for 3 - four square courts and 2 basketball courts in the southeast corner of the playground along NE 45th Street and 47th Avenue NE, currently where large number of kids play kickball and soccer.
  • This proposal eliminates the area where a large number of children play "Fliers," soccer, kickball, foursquare  and soccer and have generally play.
The Laurelhurst Blog Staff continues to receive many emails from concerned neighbors living close to the school commenting that the additional portables:
  • changes feel of residential neighborhood
  • changes tone of neighborhood  with that type of density and  structure - metals shells with aluminum ramps  and windowless shacks
  • gives residential, cozy neighborhood an industrial feel
  • devalues neighborhood
  • significant loss of valuable open space
  • highly negative visual impact for neighbors living in close proximity to the school ,as well as, current and future students and general neighborhood having to look at the ugly structures
  • loss of open space not only for students, but for community as a whole who use the playground seven days a week
  • potential for prospective families to not choose the neighborhood to live in lowering school enrollment and ultimately school funding, as well as property values
For more information about the "Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning," contact Christi Nagle at or call 529-­‐9296.
For information on the Departure process contact Steve Sheppard, with the Department of Neighborhoods, at or go here.
For more detailed information about the issue go here.  And go here for information about the portable that was delivered in August then removed.
And here is a KING 5 news report on the issue.
(Photo: KING 5 News)


Karin Thiers
Steve Sheppard
Holly Godard




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