Boxing with imaginary issues - Day School supporters resort to sentimentality, not facts

After reading the letters written by supporters of Seattle Country Day School (hereafter SCDS), I was amazed at how little these earnest people actually knew of the Mayfair side of this controversy. SCDS defenders were shadow boxing with imaginary issues that had nothing to do with the objections of the Mayfair Neighbors Association (MNA) to the current enrollment and facilities expansions of SCDS.

I was able to glean three fictions about the MNA that need to be dispelled before SCDS adherents can even begin to understand why we oppose SCDS.

First, there is the myth that we who oppose the expansion plans of SCDS are essentially "NIMBYs." This is patently false. Long before SCDS ambition cast its baleful shadow over this community, Mayfair residents coexisted in harmony with the Seventh Day Adventist School. As regards SCDS, Mayfair residents have over the past 20 years patiently endured the gradual deterioration of their quality of life because of the incremental growth of SCDS, until at long last we were left with no choice but to say "Enough already!"

SCDS has forced this sorry situation on all of us by its determination to increase its student population beyond what its 2.4-acre site can reasonably accommodate in the community - the choice of an onerous expansion design (Option 'C'), the intransigence on the part of the SCDS Administration and Board of Trustees to reconsider this plan, as well as the less-than-honorable tactics of SCDS in obtaining its permit.

Second, the MNA wishes it understood that we do not now, nor have we ever, had a problem with the behavior, demeanor and citizenship of SCDS students. We all know that SCDS has chosen the best and brightest to imbibe the superior pedagogy of SCDS.

Nevertheless, showcasing SCDS children planting posies in East Queen Anne Playfield and making sandwiches for the Children's Home Society on Queen Anne Hill - not to mention the visit and words of praise from Mayor Nickels (oh wow!) - is a maudlin appeal to sentimentalism on behalf of the present SCDS expansion plan. Simply because a group of SCDS children do warm and fuzzy acts of "charity" to be seen by others does not earn SCDS the right to embark upon an expansion that will irrevocably lay waste the beauty, environment and quality of life of our community.

Third, we are continually being reminded by SCDS that it is a neighborhood school committed to giving an outstanding education to the children of metropolitan Seattle. In the context of the present controversy, this seemingly innocent advertisement is essentially arguing that the mere presence of a prestigious institution is in and of itself a gift to the community. The intent here is to anesthetize Mayfair residents to the problems created by the expansionist ambitions of SCDS.

In response to such boasting we must ask: "Does an academic reputation trump the welfare of my home and community?" Are Mayfair residents really supposed to suffer the demise of their lifestyle because SCDS has some mythical reputation that "reaches far beyond Queen Anne Hill, even beyond Seattle?"

We also think that SCDS is a neighbor to everyone else but the Mayfair addition. Are Mayfair residents really supposed to acquiesce in the beauty SCDS children bring to the East Queen Anne Playfield in exchange for the demolition of the lovely and historical old homes in our Mayfair neighborhood that makes room for unsightly parking lots? Are those of us whose homes abut SCDS supposed to cheer at the thought of having Nob Hill Avenue North turned into a private thoroughfare for the driving ease of the 40 percent of SCDS constituents who live in Bellevue and Mercer Island?

Finally, what few benefits SCDS has given to the neighborhood have been late in coming and given begrudgingly through neighborhood pressure to remedy problems created and left unattended by the incremental growth of SCDS. For example, if SCDS is at long last fulfilling the past conditions attendant to its incremental expansions, it does so only after the Department of Compliance of the Department of Planning and Development was alerted to the unfulfilled permit conditions which SCDS knowingly ignored.

So, too, with the hiring of an off-duty police officer to manage the traffic problems created by the growth of SCDS student and staff populations. It would be a mistake to assume that the hiring of a police officer came about through the concern and largesse of SCDS for the community. Quite the contrary. SCDS tried managing the traffic situation by using unqualified and untrained SCDS staff. This ill-conceived plan failed, and SCDS was finally forced by the severity of the traffic problem and public protest to hire someone qualified to direct the flow of traffic.

Here we need to ask why SCDS supporters have resorted to such fictions in their defense of SCDS. One answer is that they do not live in the Mayfair community. Unlike the majority of the 42 Queen Anne families and certainly all of 24 Magnolia families and all 40 percent of the of SCDS constituency that hails from Bellevue and Mercer Island, I and the almost 300 households opposing the expansion of SCDS live in the Mayfair addition of Queen Anne Hill. We are the ones who will experience the decimation of our quality of life because of what are euphemistically referred to as "redevelopment" and "campus development" projects by those whose familiarity with the Mayfair addition extends to the delivery and pick up of their children from SCDS.

In addition, SCDS supporters are almost totally dependent upon the school for information about the MNA and the status of the community and permit process. This is unfortunate.

What can Mayfair residents expect from 'Option C'? For starters, 'Option C' will destroy the quiet dead-end street on which I and my family live, all to supposedly alleviate any traffic problems created by increased SCDS traffic. A private SCDS thoroughfare will connect Fourth Avenue North with Nob Hill Avenue North and direct almost 1,000 car trips a day through Nob Hill and into the Mayfair neighborhood.

My children will no longer be safe playing in front of our house - the new thoroughfare will empty at my front door. Ingress to and from Nob Hill Avenue North will be severely curtailed at pickup and dropoff times. Woe be to those homes proximate to SCDS if emergency vehicles need to reach us or we need to leave in an emergency. The homes on Nob Hill Avenue North and on Newell Street between Nob Hill Ave. N. and Fourth Ave. N. will be literally encircled with SCDS traffic, especially at pickup and dropoff times.

'Option C' further dictates that beautiful single-family homes will be destroyed and replaced by ugly parking lots, the effect of which will significantly degrade both the beauty and environmental integrity of our neighborhood while depriving the city of desperately needed single-family housing and our Mayfair Community of neighbors.

Then there is the sure and certain fallout from prolonged construction. SCDS has applied for a Master Use Permit (MUP) calling for 10 years of summer construction. What will the community be left with, once construction is completed after 10 summers of dust, noise and traffic jams caused by large construction vehicles?

We will be forced to look at a monolithic structure that in height, bulk and scale will dwarf the surrounding single-family dwellings. Residents will be staring at an 87,000-square-foot complex of buildings and open areas (but not for Mayfair children) that will, like a medieval fortress, be walled off from the neighborhood.

The new design will foster a tranquil and collegial garden-like environment within while the neighbors without are left with parking lots, walls and the exponential growth in traffic and parking problems that will assuredly not be remedied by a private thoroughfare.

Elliott R. Ohannes is a Queen Anne resident.[[In-content Ad]]