Calling All Preservation Advocates!
Historic Seattle seeks your help in saving Seattle’s historic schools. We recently learned that a bill has been introduced to the State Senate by Senators David Frockt and Reuven Carlyle (SB 5805) “Concerning the application of landmark or historic preservation regulations with regard to school district property in school districts with more than fifty thousand students.”
In a nutshell, SB5805 seeks to exempt schools in the Seattle School District from the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO). The bill states, “For school districts with more than fifty thousand students, school district property shall be subject to state and local landmark or historic preservation regulations only to the extent explicitly approved by the board of directors of each school district.”
The Seattle School District is using the legislature to solve a local issue. Seattle is the only district in the state with over 50,000 students. If the school board does not like the LPO, it should address its issues with the City of Seattle, not the state legislature.
It’s our understanding that all currently designated Seattle School District-owned landmarks as well as all future designated landmarks owned by the School District could be affected. Schools could still be designated through the current Landmarks designation process, but the school board would have the authority to “approve” which elements of the landmark ordinance it wishes to comply with. One could designate a school, but the school board would have the authority to ignore any controls and incentives, thereby opening up the possibility of demolition or significant alterations without approval from the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board.
The bill also refers to “state…historic preservation regulations.” There are no state historic preservation regulations. The Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation reviews historic preservation issues under SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act). Is the School District also looking to be exempt from SEPA?
Seattle taxpayers have approved millions of dollars in levies for schools, much of which has been used to renovate designated landmarks. If this bill is passed, the school board would have the power to “undo” the will of Seattle voters on past projects.
The bill also sets a bad precedent for other school districts in the state.
What You Can Do
Please submit written testimony, ideally, by Wednesday, January 10, close-of-business day (5 pm), or no later than NOON on Thursday, January 11, to Senator Frockt and Senator Carlyle and explain why you are opposed to this bill (SB5805). Be sure to reference the bill.
We also suggest emailing Senator Lisa Wellman and Senator Christine Rolfes, Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee. And it’s always a good idea to contact the senator in your own legislative district.
Keep your message short. Bottom line, the Seattle School District should not be exempt from the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. You might even ask Senators Frockt and Carlyle why they are even supporting such a bill.
If there is a historic school in your neighborhood that is designated a landmark or is a potential landmark, please note the school buildings and say why they are important. Seattle’s historic schools are institutional anchors in every neighborhood. The School District has a duty to maintain and sensitively upgrade these buildings to serve the community.
If you have time to attend a public hearing for the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee scheduled for Thursday, January 11, at 1:30 pm, we encourage you to provide testimony in person. The hearing takes place in the Senate Hearing Rm 1, J.A. Cherberg Building, Olympia, WA 98504.
Here’s a link to learn more about testifying in Committee in person and via written testimony (scroll down the page for written testimony instructions). http://leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/Testify.aspx
We recommend emailing the senators and their legislative aides directly. See contact info below:
Thanks in advance for taking the time to advocate for the preservation of Seattle’s historic schools!
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Eugenia Woo, Director of Preservation Services at Historic Seattle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Seward School, a designated Seattle Landmark (source: Department of Neighborhoods)