Tree issue near Ingraham brings both sides to hearing
About 200 people attend a public hearing over whether Seattle's Ingraham High School should be able to cut down 73 trees to make way for a school addition.
Seattle Times staff reporter
According to Ingraham senior Phi-Long Nguyen's handmade cardboard sign, the fight over trees next to Seattle's Ingraham High School boils down to little more than a backyard dispute.
"It's our backyard, not yours," read the sign. Nguyen has a point. In contention are 73 of the roughly 133 mature trees on Seattle School District property next to Ingraham — trees known in the neighborhood as the Northwest Forest.
The district has proposed cutting trees in the grove to build a two-story addition for the school, where some classes now are relegated to portables.
"We are in desperate need of a new math building," said 17-year-old Nguyen, in his second and final year at the school. The expansion program would affect most students, he said. "Everybody has classes in those portables, and it's horrible."
But the grove of trees also is a backyard for some neighborhood residents. And they are up in arms that the district wants to cut any trees at a time City Hall hypes more urban trees as a city priority.
Since a King County Superior Court injunction about three months ago temporarily blocked the school district from cutting trees in the grove, the district has been waiting in the wings until the city's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) determines whether the project can go forward.
Some neighborhood residents and their supporters have rallied under the banner Save the Trees-Seattle to lead a charge against tree cutting.
On Tuesday night, the city department held a public hearing at Ingraham to allow people on both sides of the issue to get their views on record before the city issues its findings.
That's where Nguyen's sign and many others were toted in support of the school-expansion project. About 200 project supporters and detractors attended the meeting.
Nguyen questioned whether some neighborhood residents might be more concerned about their own property values than accommodations for the school. "We understand their reasoning, and we also understand there may be hidden agendas going on," he said.
Some opponents have proposed the school addition be built on an open lawn area on the north side of the school, instead.
"The issue ... is not one of education versus trees," Steve Zemke, a Save The Trees-Seattle spokesman, said. "We can have both trees and education."
But opponents to tree cutting were clearly outnumbered at the hearing.
"Ingraham High School was a state-of-the-art high school. We'd like to see it that way again," said Cassie Fotheringham the school's parent-teacher-student association president. "This NIMBY [Not in My Back Yard] has got to stop," added Ingraham principal Martin Floe. "Let's get the project moving."
Tamara Garrett, a city DPD land-use planner, said it's likely to be several weeks before the department issues its findings.
Charles E. Brown: 206-464-2206 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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