Tuesday, January 12, 2016

City Approves Additional Lot Coverage Allowing One More Portable At Laurelhurst Elementary School

North playground

The City of Seattle Hearing Examiner, Sue Tanner, has approved the additional lot coverage for one portable at Laurelhurst Elementary School.

Christi Nagle, who heads up a concerned group of parents called Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning, notified the Laurelhurst Blog Staff of this latest update.

Seattle Public Schools submitted a requested last year requested a waiver from City zoning regulations to increase the allowed lot coverage of 45% on the two playgrounds, allowing up to four more portables.

On March 17, the City appointed, Design Departure Committee Meeting whose role it was to decide whether Laurelhurst Elementary should be allowed up to four more portables, ultimately passed two motions, both 6-1 (School District representative voted no on both):  
1) in favor or making a decision at the meeting, thus voting against no further meetings
2) in denying the proposal for additional portables at the school

Then several weeks later DPD (Department of Planning and Development), sent Seattle Public Schools (SPS) a "Correction Notice," which the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) said routinely happens if DPD needs more information or what they have been provided does not fit their criteria, in order to make their final decision in granting at least one portable, though the request does not state what size.
Several members of the Design Departure Committee Meeting wrote DPD a letter expressing their frustration in not being informed of the Correction Notice request, as well as their concern with the lack of future Committee involvement when SPS provides the additional information.

On July 24th, the group filed an appeal, Project #3019627 regarding the City's approval to allow one more portable at the school. 

Christ Nagle told the Blog Staff:
A few days ago, we received the decision from City of Seattle Hearing Examiner, Sue Tanner, over the holidays.  Unfortunately, she approved the additional lot coverage for one portable.  
Her decision was based on rationale below...

"The District's need for control over its instructional space is a valid, present, educational need. … The Appellant's argue that the District could simply purchase the LASER portable that the district is currently leasing for use as a 5th grade classroom.  That may be one option available to the District, but there is no evidence in the record that LASER would be willing to sell the portable, or that the District wants to purchase it.  Having shown the need to control its classroom space the District has the authority to determine how it will do so."

Obviously, we are disappointed in the fact that decision is partly based on whether or not LASER is interested in selling one of their portables, and SPS is not being pushed by the City to execute the transaction to make most efficient use of space.  LASER is a tenant leasing space on SPS property.  We all want LASER to remain on-site, as they are an important part of the school community.  However, Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning, feels that the LASER program has ample space as set up now, without using their 2nd portable that is current 5th grade classroom.  Space is tight, and the most efficient, educationally beneficial uses are necessary.
PPPP filed a Reconsideration motion (12/28/15) based on the fact that the Examiner ignored an important piece of evidence in her decision.  This SPS memo confirmed district policy prioritizing K-12 classroom space over after-care space.  Sue never mentioned the document in her decision.   
SPS filed a rebuttal to our reconsideration on 1/6/15.   Yesterday, the Hearing Examiner denied our motion to reconsider, and submitted her final unchanged decision.  If anyone would like a copy of the appeal decision or PPPP reconsideration motion, please email us and we are happy to send them to you.  christinagle@yahoo.com  or  kaylenea@comcast.net. 
Parents for Playgrounds and Proper Planning is discussing next steps.  We have the option to appeal the City’s decision to the Superior Court.   
Thank you very much for the community support throughout this process.  We still feel strongly that our neighborhood school would be degraded if another portable got plopped down on top of the heavily used open playground space.   Quality, active recess is a key element to kids' educations.

portable delivered then removed on north playground at
Laurelhurst Elementary School last summer

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