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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ronald School - The Hearing

"Certificate of Appropriateness" Decision Rendered - 
The "Shoreline" Landmarks Commission held the Hearing 
last night at the Richmond Masonic Hall

Decision? To allow the proposed impacts to the Historic Landmarked Ronald School (1912).
Is anyone surprised? Not really. 
Shoreline Landmarks Commission prepares for the hearing

There was a panel of THREE members, none of which were representing Shoreline. It was considered a "quorum", because the fourth member, Brian Rich was present at the beginning and then "recused himself" from voting and attending and left, because he works for Bassetti, the architecture firm that is doing the design for Shorewood.

There were at least 70 people attending the hearing. Thirty citizens spoke at the hearing, about half and half, pro and con for the project. Bassetti gave about a half-hour presentation at the beginning. 
Over 70 Interested Citizens and many staff and
School Board Members attended, 2nd fr R is
SSD Superintendent Sue Walker

The Director of King County Historic Preservation, Julie Koler explained that the commission would only consider information in the decision, about the Landmarked sections of the school which include, all FOUR sides of the exterior and the 15 foot perimeter area of the property beyond and up to N 175th, including the walkway.  

The building was previously "Landmarked" in 2008. The proposal, is to "gut" the insides of the building,  (which was not landmarked) and connect the new school on the south facing side and encase the oldest section of the back wall in transparent material. The windows will all be replaced with wooden sashes like they were earlier in the 20th Century, but those on the rear side would be then filled in with some masonry to "protect them". No explanation was given about the actual use of the building in the  plan.

Nancy Callery of Bassetti gave the presentation to the  panel. There had previously been a Design Review process, in which a certificate was signed saying that both the owners and applicant and the Design Review Committee agreed that the required "Criteria" were met, by the proposal. But, no one was informed of this process in advance, hence no other side of the story was told.

SSD Superintendent Sue Walker gave a short statement at the beginning using the District's chosen theme "Honor the Past while we celebrate the future". This theme was repeated many times by other representatives of the District including David Wilson, Mike Jacobs, and Maren Norton who proudly proclaimed she in a "Thunderbird" (graduate of Shorewood). Her mother, Geneva Norton also spoke and stated that she had served on the "Design Team" of the Shorewood project.

Many other citizens spoke, both Pro and Con and were very passionate.  

The Shoreline Preservation Society had five members speak. (In full disclosure, I am serving as president of this organization.) We also asked that an impressive letter by Kate Krafft, an expert on preservation, who had also written the Landmarks Application originally and had previously served as expert staff at the KCHP, be read into the record. Her letter stated quite unequivocally, that the criteria had NOT been met and that
"...I believe that the conclusions included in this report regarding adherence to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation are incorrect.
Another expert who spoke was Flo Lentz of 4Culture. She said that 4Culture has invested a substantial amount of grant funding in the Museum's programs. She also posed some questions of the panel such as, "If you had to Landmark this entire building in the future (if the whole HS project is completed as proposed, and the Ronald School is altered as planned) would the building still be eligible for Landmarking then?"

Many of the school advocates felt that the Ronald School was just old an in the way, others said they wanted to "honor history" by repurposing the school back to classrooms for "educational purposes"

This was a bizarre argument (in my editorial opinion) because of course the Museum has served a highly educational purpose for children and adults for 35 years.

But many, many folks spoke passionately about the value of the Ronald School building to our heritage.

Two of the original students who attended Ronald School spoke. Helen Oltman and Jean Wren spoke of their sadness to see this project happen.

The public comment went on until past 9:30pm.  The Commissioners discussed their opinions, and it was clear there was little difference of opinion. Mr Stephen Day (who had also served as Chair of the Design Review Committee) made the motion to approve the COA.

Needless to say, the Shoreline School District supporters were very pleased. 

But, though they were disappointed, Shoreline Preservation Society members expressed a sense that the public hearing has served a good purpose to finally air some of the facts and feelings about the project. The Society is urging citizens who care about Preserving Shoreline to stay in touch.

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