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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Outcome on Ronald School COA Hearing

Shoreline City Council Makes a Unanimous Decision to Let the Shoreline School District Have Its Way with the Historic Landmarked Ronald School.

Front Walk and Door of Ronald School
Landmarked in 2008
A local non-profit, Shoreline Preservation Society had appealled the previous decision of the "Shoreline" Landmarks Commission (which in reality contained no one representing Shoreline attending, as required by City Statute and and Interlocal Agreement with King County.)

Shoreline Preservation Society issues the following statement about the outcome of the hearing:

The objective of SPS in filing the appeal of the COA was not only to protect the Ronald School, but to 
ensure that the decision was made by Shoreline. SPS took a position to support both the rebuild of the Shorewood HS AND properly protect the Ronald School. Sadly, because the City Council relinquished its solemn responsibility to protect our cultural and historic assets, the current proposal will unnecessarily impact the Ronald School and invade its landmarked sections. Serious precedents will be set.

SPS obviously strongly disagrees with the Council's decision and believes their appeal demonstrated numerous Landmarks Commission errors, including in important procedures, but also errors of fact, judgement and conclusion.  It was the Council's duty, if there was ANY possible error, to assert its authority, and remand the decision back to the Landmarks Commission.

SPS is currently looking at options for the future and considering what steps can be taken to ensure the
protection of the cultural and historical assets in the Shoreline area.

Councilmember Chris Roberts made many good points in his statement, including pointing out:
 • that the Landmarks Commission did NOT indeed have a quorum with only 3 voting members,
 • that the proposal will impact the landmarked sections,
 • that the Shoreline School District had followed a course that divided the community and,
 • that SSD missed many opportunities to work cooperatively with the Shoreline Historical Museum from the beginning
Roberts then justified voting to Deny the appeal of the COA based on his belief that SPS had not properly mentioned the "quorum" word in the appeal or at the first hearing.

But, SPS believes that it was not the place of citizens at that first hearing to raise the quorum issue, but that it was the responsibility of the Commission and its Chair to do so. SPS DID specifically call out the commission numerous times on their faulty procedures and especially the lack of a Shoreline Member, which was required by law. 

Where was the City Manager and City Attorney and their responsibility to instruct the Council on their responsibilities?  Some Councilmembers seemed to think it was not their place to "judge" the decision of supposed experts on the Landmarks Commission. Don't they realize that in this case, that is their job?
It was their job to judge whether Commission was correct and the School District/Bassetti's plan would be allowed to impact this historic building.  

Shoreline Preservation Society strongly believes that the Council has now shirked its responsibility to protect the Ronald School in denying the appeal.  And the decision was
in reality a political excersize with a flimsy veneer of policy reasoning.  

SPS points out that there were numerous, serious flaws in the procedures that have been followed by the "Shoreline Landmarks Commission" and the City's responsibilities, including:
• no Shoreline Member and no provision for a substitute when needed
• no City staff even attended the first hearing
• intent of the City's preservation law undermined and disregarded
• SEPA process gone awry and City letting the School District dictate the outcome
(no real alternatives were ever really analyzed or presented properly)

What was gained through this appeal process? SPS is proud to have made it possible for the public and stakeholders to be a party to this Certificate of Appropriateness process. Until these hearings, the public had been excluded from the process. Now two public hearings were held, which would not have otherwise happened on a matter of importance on a cultural icon in Shoreline. One was televised. The public also had the opportunity to speak their minds.  

Also, the Council had originally proposed to hold their deliberations on this matter in "executive session", and SPS challenged that and put a stop to that.

Lessons Learned
1. Preservation is a process that needs to be seriously strengthened in our community.

2. Without serious oversight and and constant vigilance, everything of value here is potentially at risk.

3. The Shoreline City Councilmembers are too busy and don't have the staff support to be able to understand the complex issues presented in this case.

4. The Shoreline City Council is willing in their decision, to ignore important, basic procedural issues such as "quorum", when the desire for expediency is stronger that ensuring accuracy and quality of their judgements. 

5. Standards which are required to be followed under the Preservation Law regarding landmarked buildings in the City Code are easily dismissed by councilmembers when conflated with issues that are irrelevant such as, "use, timing and proposals for shiny and new".

6. The City has decided it is not in control of what is allowed in Shoreline. The Shoreline School District IS. 

The Shoreline Preservation Society will continue its mission on preservation.  Meanwhile the future of the oldest, and most significant historic building in our area, is still at serious risk.
Judge JT Ronald, Shoreline Pioneer
In a statement made in our appeal, "If what has befallen the Ronald School, is the outcome available to all Shoreline Landmarks, then no historical property is safe and the City's Landmarks code is not worth much."


  1. Thanks so much for all you have done to bring this issue into the light of public process. There are many in the community who appreciate your efforts to create boundaries for the School District's underhanded treatment of voters, staff and now our most acclaimed landmark; can't wait until the next levy....

  2. What a great gift you've given the community. Thank you for keeping this issue illuminated, and the people of Shoreline informed.

  3. This moment in Shoreline's history is a sad and painful one, and it didn't have to be this way. I'm glad there will be two new high schools. But our government agencies (School District, City, County) have all failed us by pitting citizens against each other, by destroying an important community asset for our local economy (heritage tourism), and by ignoring public process and our laws, rules & regulations - just to name a few. Pretty Awful.

  4. Time to start the conversation of who would help make up a much more reasonable school board. Can't wait 'till the next election. I noticed how quickly School Board members dashed out after the end of the appeal hearing/meeting. Are they feeling guilty, perhaps?

    The word is now out now, that the result we seem to be coming to with the RSB is greatly due to the School District's total lack of respect of community by EXCLUDING the Museum and other history preservationists from new school processes until it was too late for them to offer any meaningful input- input that would have left the Shoreline Area as a community rather than a community divided. It will will take time to recover. How much time- who knows.