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Move These Buses, Now

By On

If Bellingham Public Schools (hereafter noted as BPS) goes forward with plans to renovate its bus barn and storage facility, it will automatically foreclose on any option this community might have had to significantly restore nearly 1,000 feet of Whatcom Creek’s ecologically critical riparian zone. (1)

If BPS commits to this scheme, it will also forbid any prospect of putting housing anywhere on this 3.8-acre site – a desire the York Neighborhood has harbored for nearly a decade. By investing a fresh $3.5 million into this already horrifically bad location BPS will automatically be perpetuating, for untold decades, the same environmental abuse that they have merrily engaged in for the past 63 years. (2)

The residents of Bellingham need to know about this. They need to understand that this expensive “Bus Barn” renovation will effectively slam the door on any opportunities for more thoughtful, long-term visions for this creekside property. We will get nothing. There is no room to do anything of any significance to protect this creek. No matter what flavor of slap-happy drivel they’ll try to sell us as feel-good placebos, ramming more pipes and filters and spiffy stormwater widgets into the ground is not the same—not the moral equivalent—of allowing us to finally replace this bus-blighted Hell-scape with a functioning and rich riparian ecosystem. (3) Trees and bushes and critters and shade must replace the wall of yellow-ish diesel and steel leviathans that we, through the numbing familiarity of time, have allowed to park directly atop our most cherished and central waterway.

BPS first began using this site to store their bus fleet way back in 1956. Today, having long-since purchased the entire acreage from adjacent owners, the facility now stores and repairs more than 70 diesel buses. The entire BPS fleet, and the maintenance barns for the fleet, and all the cars for the bus drivers and the maintenance employees—all of it—sits directly next to, almost on top of, Whatcom Creek. This site is bulging with vehicles now and they park on City of Bellingham-owned property both within the barbed wire fencing of the storage and maintenance facility and outside of it, on Meador Ave., where a sidewalk easement should be.(4)

Recommended protective buffers for Whatcom Creek
Recommended protective buffers for Whatcom Creek

Not only is this property already nostril-deep in diesel vehicles, it is also almost entirely within the boundaries of what the Critical Areas Ordinance defines as both the minimum and the maximum riparian buffers for Whatcom Creek. These buffers, at 100’ and 200’ respectively, mean that the daily operations of this bus facility is wildly out of compliance with Best Management Practices for protecting our environment. (5)

Just to be very screamingly clear about this: If Bob’s Bargain Buses tried to move to central Bellingham today, to store a fleetload of giant vehicles on this creek, there’d be zero prospect whatsoever the idiotic idea would fly; multiple State and Federal agencies, beyond whatever malleable glop our local “Shoreline Rules” might be, would swoop in and spank the snot bubbles out of such a daffy proposal in a hot minute. Nobody gets away with what BPS has been doing, not anymore. There’s good reason that our Governor, Jay Inslee, is trying to get $1.1 billion committed to stormwater pollution fixes as desperately needed assistance for salmon and orca recovery efforts here in Washington State (6): Creeks matter: Salmon matter: Orcas matter: This isn’t news to anybody. Even school children understand how stormwater runoff impacts creeks. Citizens around here care very deeply about these iconic elements of our local ecosystems. We inherently know, therefore, that how communities care for local waterways can say everything worth knowing about the community itself.

Leadership at BPS conveniently (and disingenuously) prefers to point at their equally egregious creekside neighbor, Diehl Ford, as if to note that complicity is somehow a virtue. It is not. Neither institution, if they arrived here after passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act, would have a prayer of getting a permit today. The key difference here is that Diehl Ford isn’t soliciting bids for a major construction project next month and, of course, Diehl Ford isn’t funded—from the first penny to the last—by the benevolent and wholesome taxpayers of Bellingham, Washington.(7)

Nobody in a civilized nation does this to their salmon creeks anymore. And they definitely do not do this in the year 2019, not when we have orcas pushing their dead babies around, like disgustingly morbid beach balls, out in the Salish Sea. (8)

There was only one right answer. I called BPS back in August and asked them what it meant when their “Bus Barn committee” was exploring options for this embarrassing and disgusting goatshow they had inflicted upon Whatcom Creek.

They said they were going to rebuild, stay right where they are. I told them they needed to move. They laughed. That was eight months ago. (9)

Virtually every communication I’ve had with BPS since then, I now realize, has been a soft or hard variant of this same response.

It is time for them to move. Those buses must go, now. This is not acceptable, or funny, for either this community or for the health of Whatcom Creek. No matter how many times the School Board offers empty genuflections “to acknowledge that we are gathered here today on the ancestral homelands of indigenous people,” no matter how often they point at the placards declaring a cuddly-wuddly “Bellingham Promise,” these damn buses must go. (10) There is nothing else, no other answer, that can make this situation right unless we MOVE THESE BUSES, NOW.

That wasn’t the answer that Dr. Greg Baker, Superintendent of Bellingham Public Schools, finally offered us this week. As my next article will point out, this is hardly surprising coming from any employee of this School District – even one making $286,897 per school-year, who, we might have hoped, would have some modern vision and a modicum of ecological wokeness to offer us.(11)

It is just a fact that the entirety of BPS has flatly refused to even consider moving this bus barn – despite repeated efforts from this community – for well over a decade now. They’ll never move, never, unless we gouge and pry them out like they were a repulsive, giant, blood-engorged tic that has slowly gnawed into the life-giving aorta of Whatcom Creek, a waterway they do not own and that they cannot keep us from caring about.

The best scenario, in my view, is that this property get sold to the City of Bellingham (or condemned, as mayor Linville has suggested) so that housing and creek restoration options are put firmly, squarely, in the community’s control.

——————————

To contact the elected representatives of the Bellingham School Board:

https://bellinghamschools.org/about/school-board/listening-post/

Notes

1) Distances taken from tools via Google Earth: two measurements from the bridge on Meador Ave. to the Bridge on James St. at 970 feet and 924 feet. “ecologically critical riparian zone” – our Whatcom Creek Alliance sought out consultation with Bob Warinner, Assistant Regional Habitat Program Manager for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. We did so because, for some reason, it appears that it is going to be up to fumbling citizens to try to figure out what sort of cash bounty, through grants, we might be able to rustle up from the $90 million—$1.1 billion that the Governor and other leaders appears to be eager to dole out. Normally local governments do this, of course, but we have a mayor, City Council, and BPS that have yet to express the slightest interest in pursuing this inquiry, soooo …. I digress. Mr. Warinner, a stream restoration specialist who grew up here and used to fish in Whatcom Creek, noted that the South-facing banks of streams are preferred AND that being able to span the restoration effort between two distinct anchors – such as the bridges on this site – is an ideal scenario. He also shared a completely bottomless Web link that proves there is pretty much NO more important remediation target that can compete with the overall ecological benefits of restoring a riparian zone along a creek, any creek, that is damaged. Bottomless: https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01987/

2) 1801 James St., via Whatcom Auditor, is about 3.58 acres – I call the site 3.8 due to the lack of full ownership by BPS. It would be realistic to assume that a 100’ creek buffer would chop that in half, leaving about two acres for prospective housing and/or a mix of uses such as dense housing and a small neighborhood park or community garden. The funding for this fantasy notion seems readily available today, with City funds, but the salient point is the York Neighborhood Association did, in 2010, get unanimous City Council approval for their Neighborhood Plan which states: “The Whatcom Creek Greenway corridor should be connected along Whatcom Creek in Area 1. As ownership change, the possibility of the City Acquiring property for open space, trail, park, and riparian corridor purposes should be pursued.” Nobody, aside from BPS, obviously, disagreed. Nor did anyone disagree, then, when the YNA suggested the addition of “housing units be built along Meador Avenue, in front of a new Whatcom Creek park and trail system” in the same document.

3) I had a pretty intensive fixation with “stormwater issues” in and around Bellingham. I wrote several articles about the topics, went to seminars, read books, and eventually created a Web site devoted to green roofs around here (bellinghamgreenroofs.com) that is now woefully derelict. What I can observe is that this City, through the Bellingham Public Works Department, has an absolute fetish for jamming high-tech stormwater basins, filters, and new-fangled gizmos into the ground – if there is a million-dollar way to avoid planting a tree, we will find it here, by golly, and oftentimes be the first in the State to do so! I appreciate the technology and do not mean to belittle it; it is critical to deploy this arsenal of widgetry in impossible situations like the Lake Whatcom Watershed. But it is just wildly inappropriate for the Bus Barn mafia to be claiming, as they appear to be now, that stuffing a million bucks into the soil is what will benefit the ecology of this riparian zone. It will not. The creek needs real habitat—living stuff managed by God—and not more meddling from us.

4) The site is too full to do any restoration work, too full to add to the fleet, and too full for this to be a good, long-term use of taxpayer dollars for this dumb “renovation” – BPS will outgrow this site, or spill into the neighborhood, or otherwise be trapped spending a bunch of money in this weird rhomboid-shaped lot when they could just buy their fantasy property, as they SHOULD have planned for decades ago, somewhere far more appropriate. The City owns property allover this site as near as I can tell: An alley easement through the middle, a sizeable triangle at the Meador bridge, and whatever sidewalk easement BPS has usurped as external parking. It the City had any semblance of testicular or ovarian mass, they would evict these trespassers tomorrow and punish them for thwarting repeated requests – now more than a decade old—from the Greenways program, from Public Works and Natural Resources, and from the York Neighborhood to please, dammit, allow us to do something smarter on this creek.

5) The Critical Areas Ordinance sounds like a thing to be reckoned with, but it is an utterly worthless document enforcement-wise. A property, such as the Bus Barn or Diehl Ford, can gleefully park their vehicles fully within the mandated buffers forever, just so long as they can claim a “pre-existing use” – aka, they are “grandfathered in.” It is only when new construction is impending within the buffers, such as a new building or house or barn, that the CAO is triggered. Even then, because there is often property rights or old covenants sown into the property title, it is still possible to apply for a so-called “Conditional Use Permit” that may allow intrusion within the CAO. Nobody, to my knowledge, has yet seen the site plans for this bus barn. The architect is Zervas Group, a local firm with a fine pedigree for green building practices, but the ability for the public to see if this new construction is within the 100’ buffer has yet to emerge. All of which matters not in the slightest – the stupid damn diesel buses will STILL be burrowed deeply within the no-go zone. Forever. Warriner, from the WDFW, told us he put a tape on the site and sees the buses are only about 40’ from the waters’ edge right now. Which, for math majors, is not the same as 100’. (BPS pays a contractor to spray blackberries, through the creekside fencing, then puts up signs to tell its employees to stay away – more on that in future articles.) No spray buffers poster.

6) President Nixon, ironically, presided over passage of some of the most robust and enduring environmental legislation this nation has yet concocted, including the EPA. But, it should be noted, he only did so because creeks and rivers were literally bursting into flames in the 1970s. (It is fun to think that, today, even with Trump in office, what BPS wants to perpetuate here is actually still dumber than what either of these scumbag leaders could likely allow under existing law – 1956 was just such a long, long, time ago!) The Clean Water Act is a miasma of eye-melting acronyms; I would suggest, however that Non-Point Source (NPS) pollution – meaning it doesn’t come out of a single pipe, or single “source”—and perhaps Total Maximum Daily Load of acceptable pollutants (TMDL) are immediately applicable terms and concerns for stormwater pollution at this site, just as they are for the Lake Whatcom watershed. Here’s the thing: The whole site, all 3.8 acres of it, is gravel. Heavy buses have been mashing every drop of oil and brake fluid and diesel drizzle that has hit that ground, for six decades, and gooshing that snot into the ground. The “soil” is likely boiler-plate hard by now and effectively as impermeable (absorbent) as a State Highway. Only a person with a very, very, morally gelatinous mind could seriously claim that this site is not, in fact, a vector for nearly constant pollution into Whatcom Creek – it is an acres-wide sheet of generational toxic goobers, packed firm, that then gets 40 inches of rain falling on it annually. Gravity, and reality, takes care of the rest.

Specifically, the Governor’s $1.1 billion plan, as it relates to this bus barn, could provide, “Nearly $363 million in the capital budget for salmon recovery, culvert removal, water-quality and water-supply projects around the state.”

This is separate from the $90 million plan moving forward through the Washington State Department of Natural Resources which, also, notes there is a crisis and a duty for action. From attached link, emphasis added: “We haven’t had a baby orca survive in three years. Our salmon runs continue to decline. The struggle of many of Washington’s native species requires us to make immediate and significant investments in restoring our waterways and landscapes,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz. “This funding package will allow DNR to protect and restore salmon habitat and water quality, helping secure a future for our orcas, our salmon, and our way of life.”

There is a galactic assload of cash available to fix this bus barn site – pretty obviously, this would massively benefit whatever budget pinch BPS might whine about once we force them to move. There is, however, zero political will from our local elected officials to do anything whatsoever to reach out and take this opportunity to do so. This is astonishing to me.

https://www.dnr.wa.gov/news/commissioner-franz-lays-out-90-million-request-orca-salmon-habitat

https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslees-budget-takes-big-steps-save-orcas-and-salmon

7) Ron Cowan, executive director of Capital Projects and School Facilities, has proven uniquely intractable. His long history of fanatical defense of this bus barn far predates this article but, from seeing him perform in several public settings now, I can state emphatically that he is the core problem: This man doesn’t know, or care, at all about riparian habitats and has zero concern for this creek: His sole mission in this life and in this community is to ensure that the Bus Barn never moves. I can, and will, back that up with evidence in future articles.

8) It is possibly unknown to readers of this today, but a baby orca was born last month and two mature orcas are, right now, being monitored for starvation. All three will likely die. That there has not been daily coverage of this is, apparently, due to the government shutdown: NOAA tracking and drone surveillance of these whales effectively stopped when the shutdown started. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/i-am-worried-and-i-am-afraid-two-more-puget-sound-orcas-predicted-to-die-in-critically-endangered-population/

9) I first began pestering City Council about this Bus Barn goatshow in May, 2018. My first contact with BPS’s Ron Cowan was sometime in August.

Video of bus barn project—https://bellingham.wistia.com/medias/jdlnedxo65

Transportation Garage Planning Committee – “As part of the bond approved by voters on November 5, 2013, the existing Transportation Garage will be renovated/replaced with a new facility.” … if ONLY “replaced” meant MOVED in this case! There is a link to review the total absence of environmental concerns that this committee appears to have had during the formation of considerations for this project. But the link is compromised or otherwise noted as “not secure” so I provide the root connection here: https://bellinghamschools.org/about/departments/capital-projects-school-facilities/

10) Having spoken three times now before the Bellingham School Board on this “bus barn problem” it seems obvious to me that their response, so far, has only been to cobble together some janky virtue-signaling reference to “tribes” and “sacred lands” that they mashed together and tried to read as preamble to the start of their January meeting. They’d never read this statement before, so, I’m guessing, it was entirely in my honor. In any event, the so-called “Bellingham Promise” is emblazoned on much of BPS’s literature and walls. They cannot live up to it, at all, if they go forward with the obdurate idiocy of insisting these buses stay in this inappropriate location. The psychological impacts – both to children and to this community – of being forced to see more generations of BPS’s disregard for the health of Whatcom Creek will put paid to whatever febrile pablum comes out of their mouths or their publications in regard to caring about the environment around here.

http://bellinghamschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/BellinghamPromise.pdf

* haha! Just kidding! Any parent today is infused with massive anxiety, amidst daily reports that their child will inherit a broiling and dead planet, about the state of the world’s environment. But, miraculously, the Bellingham Public School system cannot even find a way to put a single sentence of that concern into their documents. Small surprise, then, that icky hippies like me have to do all the heavy lifting and fight like Hell to get this massive public agency to move their buses, provide walkable trail access, or install even a single goddamn solar panel on their multi-million dollar projects.

11) In mid-November I asked Dr. Baker, via e-mail, two questions regarding this Bus Barn project:

- 1) Who is in charge?

- 2) How will BPS let the community know it has abandoned this project, in this exquisitely bad location, and is hereafter totally committed to finding a better site for its bus fleet?

His response, in its entirety, follows:

Thanks for your questions Alex.

I am the Superintendent of the school district who along with our school board and our leadership team and staff lead our district.

We have not abandoned the project. We are certainly open to ideas and are inquiring with the city one last time.

This community has been involved in the location of all our facilities including our transportation facility, where it has served our community for over half a century.

Greg

For an update on what Dr. Baker’s position is today, and what my response has been, please see my NW Citizen article “This Mayor Hates Greenways” that provides this information. Please note that, while a dedicated member of the newly-formed Whatcom Creek Alliance, I in no way speak on their behalf – I’m on my own regarding my opinions about the idiocy of this Bus Barn and only hope, here and elsewhere, that other citizen advocates for housing and for the environment might join me in demanding better options for this BPS property.

About Alex McLean

Posting Citizen Journalist • Member since Jan 26, 2013

Alex McLean works in the local trades for a living. He served two 3 year terms on the Bellingham Greenways Advisory Committee, and helped craft the Levies that voters of Bellingham [...]

Comments by Readers

Tim Paxton

Jan 27, 2019

Nice summary of the Bus Barn on Whatcom Creek/Ditch. 

This whole area used to be wetlands before they ditched and rip rapped the Creek back in the 1980’s at public expense for the benefit of property owners along Iowa street who kept getting flooded.  It flooded regularly down there.  

Count on Dr. Greg’s School District to lie, cheat, and hide any BSD planned use from the Public.  They did the same trick at the Options High School recent conditional use permit process.  They are actually pretty disgusting people.   I predict they have developers already lined up with insider deals ready to go if they ever move.

This area would make a super wild life riparian park to help the salmon and recovery of habitat damged by  the pipeline explosion.   Plus it is unnatural fill of who knows what contamination from the School District and original sourcing.   Good start would be to condemn the property and then take a few years to decide how to best use it to improve water quality in Whatcom Creek.

 

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Jon Humphrey

Jan 28, 2019

Thanks for a great article Alex. As an environomentalist, this makes me sad, but I am not surprised. This behavior is in line with the hypocritical actions of the pro-landlord/pro-development Linville administration. The COB, Whatcom Democrats, etc. have been saying for years that they can’t deal with other issues because of homelessness, yet here they are missing an opportunity to build public housing, which will actually control rent in the long term here, and messing up the environment again. Who will get the money? It will be some developer connected in some way with the administration, of course. Here are a few more examples.

1. The recent Whatcom Democrats Housing Resolution. None of the good things in the resolution are written in a way that’s actually enforceable. The only thing the resolution will definitely result in is money being funneled to wealthy developers whose properties will be purchased by wealthy landlords who will continue to overcharge people for rent. The document is even, hopefully unintentionally, discriminatory against the poor and minorities. For example, one of the housing structures mentioned in the document is “Carriage Houses” which historically used to be the homes rented out at obscene rates, to indentured servants. Slaves also lived in Carriage Houses. It’s just the disconnected wealthy, in their big homes, saying to the poor. “This is what we’re going to build, and you’re going to live in it, you’re going to like it, and you’re going to like overpaying us for rent too.” The resolution also, of course, lacks any public housing and is being worked on before homelessness, again. Note: Building new structures, even energy efficient ones, is usually NOT good for the environment. Retro-fitting is often the way to go.

2. The Jail. Even though better technology existed, that was less expensive, and in a million other ways the jail DID NOT MAKE SENSE, the jail was pushed for to create a 110 million dollar development project. Which is also NOT good for the environment.

3. The protection of big telecom, by refusing citizens access to the public resources they’ve already paid for! Even while the State Broadband Office issued a statement saying, “Broadband is the single most important economic development tool we have, and will ensure more equitable access to education, jobs and health care throughout the state.” The office also confirms that the Digital Divide is bigger in minority communities, and that everyone needs access to real, reliable, broadband to find jobs, educate themselves, and more today.

—I could go one, but the point is clear. This administration will do anything to funnel money to the developers that donate to it, and most of our council members. Their actions show that their motto is, “citizens and the environment be damned! We’re going to make some money, at any cost.”

 

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Konrad Lau

Jan 28, 2019

Gracious!

If I didn’t know better, I would think the Bellingham School District was about to open a bus barn/ abattoir / death camp on this site. I would imagine the School District has to abide by all of the regulations currently imposed by the Ecology Department on every other organization in Whatcom County.  Tell me, how is the average reader to respond to sentences like “… what flavor of slap-happy drivel they’ll try to sell us as feel-good placebos, ramming more pipes and filters and spiffy stormwater widgets into the ground is not the same—not the moral equivalent—of allowing us to finally replace this bus-blighted Hell-scape with a functioning and rich riparian ecosystem.”?

It would seen the District is in cahoots with EVIL BIG BUSINESS to destroy the environment and the activists are the only ones who have a clue about what needs to be done.

Furthermore, if everything in the activists agenda is not implemented, everyone else is EVIL and IMMORAL too.

Frankly, the opening paragraphs of this rabid litany instantly made me think of the leader of a mob carrying pitch forks and torches, not of rational human beings. I suggest before using this rhetoric on the average citizen, the author contemplate moderating his language.

 

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Tip Johnson

Jan 28, 2019

 Hmmm

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Jon Humphrey

Jan 28, 2019

Konrad, I hve to backup Alex again here. It’s time we had frank conversations about the situation in Bellingham and used fearless feedback. The regulations of the Department of Ecology should be stronger, but are currently, largely a joke tahnks to neo-liberals and neo-conservatives hobbling the department over the years in favor of “progress”. We see this is the amount of Mercury they’ve allowed to be contained instead of removed at the Waterfront, for example. The schools are protecting giant machines, more than capable of taking a bit of rain here and there, while people are freezing to death and starving to create yet another multi-million dollar development project, while we wait to work on homelessness, social justice, etc. For at least the 4th winter in a row. Doesn’t this violate “The Bellingham Promise?” Buses before people and the environment? So yeah, looks like the School District upper eschelon is totally out of touch with its base, just like the administration its linked with. I wonder when the plans for the next school with an olympic sized swimming pool in it will be approved. Probably right after the superintendent e-mails school families to say they’re cutting educational benefits for teachers, again.

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Mike Rostron

Jan 28, 2019

I have to disagree with Mr. Lau as well. I certainly hope we don’t get to the point of censoring conversations on the basis of style, or perhaps because it might hurt the oh-so-delicate feelings of potential readers (or those who hold political office).

Short of actual ad hominum comments, one should feel free to express thoughts here in any style that seems to most effectively advance the argument. Sometimes genteel conversation conventions can get in the way of actual communication and understanding.

I find Alex’s style refreshingly clear and to the point, like several of the other regular commentators here. 

The only comments that should be moderated or censored should be actual misrepresentation of facts, personal attacks, or completely off topic rants.

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Alex McLean

Jan 28, 2019

I can’t help Konrad if he’s incapable of reading through the endnotes—It just isn’t my problem.

He’ll be happier of course when the Herald finally saunters in and mewls out some saccharine “he said, she said” analysis that, presumably,  will ignore the broad spectrum of people in this community who are distraught about BPS’ intractable committment to this horrible location, lump them into a dutifully tapioca paragraph.

I’ve been doing this subject, and almost nothing else, for most of eight months now: I’m going to vest my right to be deeply irritated by the process and gimmickry and flim-flammery of this whole situation! This city used to be more interesting than this, more nimble and capable of action, and our elected leaders were, once, a huge part of that.

Today, however, it seems we cannot even do the small things right.

As fun as it is nowadays to beat up on Hippies and activists and make them have a sad—a national institution incorporated by Trump and his troglodytes—I guess I can sympathize with Konrad for being unfamiliar with how “protest” or “activism” even works in this country anymore. I’m definitely a wierdo and, sure, it is very icky of me to say anything unkind of Bellingham Public Schools. I get it.

But I very much do plan to go astral pedantic on this topic forever: I will remind every mayor and politician for the rest of their lives where they stood on this, keep glossy photos of this Bus Barn in my pocket just for when I bump into them around town—“Here. This is yours—You own this. Forever.” Then I’ll give them a photo of whichever orca died that week.

Here’s hoping Konrad can find similar productive time to send his next winsome complaint to the Sierra Club.

 From: Mt Baker Group, Washington State Chapter Sierra Club
To: Bellingham School Board
Date: January 22, 2019

The Mt. Baker Group of the Washington Sate Chapter Sierra Club (MBGSC) was informed of the School District’s proposed renovation of the Bellingham School District (BSD) bus barn facility in December of 2018. Thanks to the efforts of local activists, we have become aware of the inappropriate location of the facility in relation to Whatcom Creek and the Salish Sea. The facility would never be permitted under current regulations, and would be considered a gross insult to the riparian corridor by both scientific and public opinion. The bus barn, like much of our built environment, is an example of the piecemeal degradation of the natural world that has resulted in the ecological crisis in the Salish Sea, evidenced by the drastic decline of salmon populations and the threatened pods of our Southern orcas. Our settlement of Whatcom County has cumulatively inflicted great harm on the natural world we all depend upon and profess to treasure, and the remediation of those harms is incumbent on the current residents of the county. The bus barn also inflicts injury upon the adjacent York neighborhood with air and noise pollution.
The relocation of the bus barn would be a great example of our community’s commitment to healing our environment and set a fine example for the students of the Bellingham School District. The BSD is also proposing the development of the Gordon G. Carter site on the west side of Lake Whatcom, creating a facility for environmental studies for the students. Perhaps the first course should be the history of Whatcom Creek and the role the bus barn has played in its decline as a healthy ecosystem. It would be a shameful irony if the students are transported to the Carter site on buses situated at a facility that the community has realized is outmoded, and must be moved for the greater good.
Therefore the MBGSC, representing 1715 members in Whatcom County opposes the expenditure of public funds on the renovation of the BSD bus barn, and urges the BSD to actively plan for its relocation. While we ask you to follow all environmental rules and laws requiring setbacks in the riparian area and containment of runoff etc. which is what is required by our SC commitments there is community support for relocating this project. The State of Washington is providing funding to save the orcas and their food supply of chinook salmon and the relocation of the bus barn is a project that would qualify for the money. There has never been a better time to accomplish this task.

Sincerely,

Mt Baker Group Executive Board

Judith Akins Chairperson
Rick Eggerth Vic-Chairperson
Lynn Colson Secretary
Ron Colson Treasurer
Bill Gregory At Large
 

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Mike Rostron

Jan 28, 2019

What is wrong with Bellingham, in short, is that we have no one like Alex on the council. Having been on MNAC mysself “back in the day” I can tell you just what sort of lickspittle brown-nosing sorts dominate politics in Bellingham.  They all dance to the tune the developers play, and the ones that don’t are afraid of their own shadows. It does not help that Western is perhaps the least progressive university on the west coast, and unlike some others, has little postitive influence on local politics or policies. 

I think I’ll stop here. I feel a rant coming on!

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Thomas R. Scott

Jan 29, 2019

The concerns are at least threefold:

  1. Ecologically bad placement when other sites have been found by those even slightly motivated and taking a few minutes to look.  And I mean minutes.  One such search on the web found a larger cheaper site (with a potential for additional offsetting income) well away from ecologically sensitive environments.
  2. Neighborhood Plan (part of the CoB Comprehensive Plan) calls for a more appropriate use ecologically and of more benefit to the community.
  3. Just not a sound business decision making by the District. With much of the site falling within the 100’ zone and most of it within the 200’ zone from the creek AND with an ever increasing school population, sooner or later, the District will have to find a new location.

School District’s myopic foresight is ONLY 10 years!  At the last meeting on this topic hosted by the York Neighborhood Association, one of the District representatives stated that they have only planned and forecast 10 years ahead with no further forecasting envisioned. They stated the site is sufficient for 10 years as they have already increased their bus fleet to around 70 which will satisfy their forecasting for school population growth and that the site currently holds the fleet, parking for related employees and the repair facility. As noted in the article, that includes City land which this or a new City administration could choose to repurpose to sidewalks or other purposes.  Note: Adverse Possession (“squatters’ rights”) does not apply to government land so the City can assert its rights regarding road center/setbacks and other public property which has not been expressly released to the District. (1)

The District’s Plan: Invest $3.5 million ($3.5M) in that site and may have to move or expand in just10 years (2029).

That $3.5M investment cannot just be picked up and moved in 10 years. Aside from mechanical investments, which might be partially recoverable, most of that investment would cost the District more in disposal costs.

Thus, in 10 years, the District is willing, almost expecting, to write off $3.5M (with relatively no book value) and need to reinvest the original investment value (at a higher cost due to inflation) as well as other higher costs (higher taxes/fees, regulatory requirements) which may be avoided by moving now, for roughly little additional costs, maybe even some savings with a modicum of more inventive thought (such as looking for mitigation swaps or other ideas which are not exactly untested for decades).

 (1) https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-can-claim-property-based-adverse-possession-washington.html

 

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Konrad Lau

Jan 29, 2019

It would seem to me that if the ecology department is, indeed, a “joke”, perhaps changing the structure of the organization and its rules should have been done previous to this time. More importantly, maybe regulations and rules should be changed now before another similar situation is faced

I am not advocating censorship due to style but am advocating the use of fewer insults in order to make a point. I believe the majority of the folks serving in the Ecology and Permitting Departments emphatically do NOT believe they are part of a sad joke or conspiracy with Big Business.

Additionally, Alex (or anyone else of this opinion) should place him or herself up for a council seat at the earliest possible time. They should also use these arguments as planks upon which to run and then if the voters agree with their evaluation of the situation, things could be changed easily. It is always easier to stand back, hurling insults and advice from afar, complaining about footprints on the carpet when you are not standing in the mud of the day.

Referring back to the article. I got the impression the only solution seen as good would be the removal of the bus facility and returning the river plane back to its once pristine swamp. If this plan was adopted, what would it cost for the District to build in another place? Would the District, in fact, be able to build on a piece of property as logistically ideal and could they ever get a building permit approved by the Department of Ecology?

All I am asking for is a little intellectual honesty when discussing economically expensive and politically impossible (re: environmental activist approval) issues such as these.

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Alex McLean

Jan 30, 2019

Thanks, Konrad, for giving me a lot to consider and to work with here—all of your inquiries are valid, if not jaded by the convenient presumptions of the day, and I’ll attempt to answer them without the usual geysers of rage-inflected hyperbole that this Bus Barn topic tends to inspire in me.

1) The rules themselves are not a “joke” per-se so much as the enforcement of them is passive and elastic, made so oftentimes through the glad-handing permissiveness doled out both through baked-in loopholes, which water-down the intent of the legislation, and through the regulators who issue permits.

It was interesting to sit in City Council last night and listen to the fawning praise given to the condemnation of Bellingham Sash and Door and the $3-ish million the taxpayers will supply to ensure development along the shore of Whatcom Creek’s estuary in Old Town. The so-called Sash and Door parcel, by Council’s own admission and as described by Tara Sundin last evening, had a bunch of clauses that allowed for a totally inappropriate “pre-existing use” of that property—it had been there since the dinosaurs, but the closeness to the creek and the type and intensity of the use was just no longer remotely cool for the ecology of the creek.

Now, today, the City controls every aspect of that property and we can, and damn-sure will, have a riparian zone and setback that we can be proud of as a community. I talked to a gentleman there who I know is working on an absolutely jaw-dropping proposal for that property and—should his team attain their goal and build it – I would have zero complaints with it. But, please notice, there’s a difference here: The Bus Barn can continue to do horrid things in perpetuity simply because they want to and because nobody, as yet, has said they cannot. That is capitalism, or property rights, or ... whatever you want to call it. I see it as a bad deal for the creek, of course, because I’m an environmentalist who has a particularly geeked-out fixation with stormwater issues and habitat. You are absolutely right that new rules and updated realities should apply in a world that has changed massively since 1956.

Very likely we will sue. Very likely we will press the Department of Ecology to send teams with hazmat suits into the site, stream biologists, soil specialists, hippie lawyers, and whatever muscle and advice we can muster from the Governor’s Southern Resident Orca Taskforce to pressure this recalcitrant and comically out-of-date School District to rethink their commitment.

But, legally speaking, they have the right to move forward and bully their way ahead. (It will cost them a lot more, of course, once they send it to public bid: Construction companies don’t like pissing away all their time and energy drafting up a complex and competitive proposal only to be told, “oopsie! Just kidding—hey, guys, we decided NOT to build that totally idiotic project after all!” These companies, also, will likely file suit for their wasted time.)

I’d add, also, that when I referenced something to the effect of “the malleable glop that is our Shoreline Rules” I did so by harboring some considerable disdain for the process deployed for our Waterfront District: There was zero science, zero ecological consideration, that was layered into a plan that will soon see a $32 million wall of luxury condos acting as a glass and steel buffer along the most ecologically important part of Whatcom Creek, its estuary, and the most important zone for the endangered Chinook Salmon who still, just barely, call that creek home—only 17 of them made it back in 2017, the last year I could find a survey record, and they notoriously prefer the lower parts of creeks.

We’ll get a lovely trail, some shrubs that won’t obscure the views, and a few train-loads of beauty bark ... but we won’t be getting habitat or a setback that has any meaningful long-term value. There’s a difference between “Planning” for profit and DESIGNING for the planet. And, while I hear the muted refrain of ‘these damn hippies just want EVERYTHING to be a park!’ I would push back a bit and note that places as mangled and dense as Beijing are, in fact, deploying exactly these sorts of new-fangled ecologically-appropriate philosophies in their urban design strategies; Massive protection for the most environmentally important spots then, where it damn-well makes sense, massively dense housing for the billions of humans that need warm places of their own version of “habitat” to shop and breed and watch kitten videos.

In short, yes—the rules need to change. So, too, does our ENTIRE approach to urban planning. If you have time I strongly encourage you to look up “Landscape Urbanism” (and Peter Calthrope’s Ted Talk) to realize that all of our hot, steaming blather about the Pacific NW being some glorious “ecotopia” cannot remotely be achieved unless we take a 6 million ton crowbar and pry some radical new ideas out of our current ecological crisis.

2)  I know several people in the fields of stream restoration, ecology, salmon enhancement, and the general diaspora of folks who got full-fledged college degrees in biology and environmental sciences—including some in Bellingham who officially solicited BPS to please be allowed to do something different on this exact section of Whatcom Creek—and I would agree emphatically that they are not craven pawns of developers or in any way thrilled that the planet is dying all around them.

But, with that said, I also know they will damn-well do their jobs – they will get assigned some impossible and ridiculous mission, such as, “protect Lake Whatcom from invasive species and fertilizer runoff,” or “find a way to make more than 70 diesel buses jammed tight to this salmon creek vaguely acceptable,” and they will, absolutely, scribble up some theory or design that provides cover for those who employ them. Why? Because they need their jobs. And, yes, because they hope, every day, that what they are doing is making a difference.

I’ve done construction management on about $20 million-worth of projects in and around Bellingham – some large structures that you likely drive past every week. I know, therefore, that engineering works and that design matters. But, again, if we are going to insist on perpetuating the wrong sorts of land use in the worst places we had better get used to the idea of catastrophic failure. This isn’t woo-woo hippie stuff. It is just the bombproof facts of the natural sciences – everything we know about how the planet’s ecological systems function – exploding violently and repeatedly upon thousands of years of tragic mistakes in land use planning made by billions of people who tragically, and consistently, repeat them.

3) I’ll never have a prayer of getting elected to public office in Bellingham, Washington, even though one might think my talent for nurturing deep and lasting relationships with the most powerful people in this town would see me wafting into office on a soft breeze. Rigged!!

Joking aside, journalists typically rank slightly above vermin-coated dead puppies in opinion polls – a fact I embrace due to the extremely lucrative pay that comes from the endeavor! – so I doubt that even my most pained effort at a charm offensive could win on a ballot. Still, since you dropped the gauntlet, I do wish I could run for Dan Hammill’s council seat right now and just go astral-pedantic on this idiotic “Bus Barn Issue.”

I’d invest the bulk of my advertising and doorbelling effort, in this fantasy campaign, by getting a tattoo calligraphed on my neck with the following inquiry for Mr. Hammill:

“So, Dan Hammill, according to your LinkedIn page you ‘managed all components’ of the first Bellingham Home Fund levy in 2012. You also ‘ran all aspects of campaign management’ for Carl Weimer’s successful reelection bid to County Council in 2013. Carl Weimer, of course, is the current Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, formed after Whatcom Creek became a charcoalized and apocalyptic dead zone by the pipeline explosion on June 10, 1999. Prior to that Weimer was the Executive Director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and I saw him there, in late October, when we presented this Bus Barn freakshow to the WRAI-1 board. Dan, you currently sit on City Council representing the 3rd Ward. The 3rd Ward represents the entirety of the York Neighborhood, this Bellingham Public Schools Bus Barn property, AND the stretch of Whatcom Creek that was turned to ash 20 years which killed three local students, including Liam Wood who graduated from Sehome High on that very same day, during that horrific pipeline explosion. Kelly Bashaw was elected to the Bellingham School Board in 2007. She is still on that board today. Kelly Bashaw married City Council president Dan Hammill – that’s you, Dan!—in 2012.

Dan Hammill, champion of housing and representative of our most cherished and mangled urban creek, I’ve stood before you five times now asking for some help and intervention from the City Council that you preside over as President. I’m super curious: What do YOU think of this Bus Barn proposal? What do you have to say about the housing that the York Neighborhood has said, for nearly a decade now, that it wants in this location? What do you, Dan, have to say about protecting the riparian zone of this creek for future generations in this community?”

4) Unlike the stereotype you seem eager to paint over me, Konrad, I am not the sort of luddite hippie who demands we return to a pre-Columbian veldt of old-growth forests around here. There’s good development, and bad. I go to the Design Review Board often to praise the former and shame the latter. It is Citizenship 101, not really that complex.

This Friday the Bellingham School District is having its grand opening and public tour of their brand new $74 million Sehome High School.

This Bus Barn is a rounding error compared to the budgets—and the assurance of voters in this community to support those budgets—that BPS wallows in.

It has been a month since I last checked, but the Bellingham Home Fund had $3.5 million in it. Park Impact Fees had over $5 million. The Greenways Program has nearly $11 million in funds devoted specifically to property acquisition. Public Works and Natural Resources could leverage grants from the roughly $450 million I’d wager the Governor and Commissioner of Public Lands are about to dedicate to stormwater and creek and shoreline remediation/restoration efforts in urban areas – just a titanic sum of potential cash, whatever it turns out to be—that is going through legislative committees right now. If the City owned and controlled this site, we could get exactly the benefits of housing AND environmental protection that we want out of it.

I did ask the Haskell Corporation, which has several dead-level acres of empty gravel lots just a few hundred feet from this existing Bus Barn site, if they had anything for sale. Oddly, they never called me back. Several of us icky activists have, in fact, made calls about similar properties around town that might work. I might note to you that not only is this effort not at all, even remotely, our job to do – we have zero damn authority to go poking around looking for places to store more than 70 diesel school buses – but our efforts nonetheless are vastly more than the Bellingham Public School District has so far put in: They have never once made a single call or seriously investigated alternatives; The ONLY thing they have done, so far, is ask the City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham to give them property in TRADE.

They will get paid for this parcel.

Even if it is condemned, they WILL get paid.

I fail to comprehend how doubling down on a bad investment, in a bad location, which the neighborhood and the environmental community does not approve of, makes any sense whatsoever to taxpayers who – just at a glance – can fathom that BPS is already outgrowing this parcel and should have begun looking for alternatives a long, long time ago.

I fully acknowledge that my tone is obnoxious and, should Dan Hammill or anyone else be offended, I grant you it is unseemly and immature of me. I apologize for that.

But I absolutely know that this City can do better than this. In the age of “call-out culture” I don’t feel at all like my pugnacious demands for some creativity and action around here are out of line when half the universe seems content to pontificate endlessly about a presidential election that is almost 22 months distant – especially when we have an opportunity right here, right now, to actually change something for the better that could truly matter in this town.

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Jon Humphrey

Jan 30, 2019

Well it’s the old problem that the “road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I will metnion a state bill and tie it in here to Alex’s problem. Sexual Harassment is wrong, and illegal, already. Pople can, should, and do, get fired for it all of the time. However, the state is introducing a bill that, at first, was just supposed to target that issue. In the end the wording is so vague that it can be used to censor just about anything. Here is the link. http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2019-20/Pdf/Bills/House Concurrent Resolutions/4401.pdf
So, let’s say that hypothetically Alex was a member of the council, and he got annoyed with the disconnection of our politicians with the population. He had proven many times that a bus depot is inappropriate for many reasons, and that the COB was hiding something, and funneling money to developers linked to the current administration. He got so frustrated that he called their response “bullshit artistry.” Well, under this bill Alex’s entire expertise could be psuhed aside and the issue closed because his comments could be said to be “bullying” or many other things. I had this happen when I called the COBs response to broadband “bullshit artistry” by April Barker, even though I can now show that Ted Carlson and others, flat out lied about the existence of 2” abandoned water and gas lines that can be used as conduit and are already traced. All of our politicians have an agenda, and censorship, even well meaning, gives them an opportunity to shut down legit discussions which they always want to do to protect special interests. Besides, making people address people in a certain way is what was expected of people addressing royalty. “Please remember, you are speaking to the queen!” Are our reps. royalty now?

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Konrad Lau

Jan 30, 2019

Dear Alex,

First, let me say that I emphatically agree with you that whenever there is discussion about erecting massive condo projects (anywhere), you can be sure there have been copious quantities of shekels finding their way into the pockets and bank accounts of local officials. The color of green seems to blind folks to the single most important (in my opinion) goal of maintaining our lifestyle and ecology without becoming a Vancouver, Los Angeles or Dallas.

I participated in the long-term discussion regarding the re-opening and/or expansion to previous levels of railroad operations through Bellingham. The most vocal of the opponents had direct ties to the construction of condos along the tracks and therefore was singly concerned with the possible negative impacts on his property values. That individual happens to be joined at the hip with our ever-watchful Re-Sources organization. Ever since those discussions, I have had a residual bad taste (you know, the proverbial dead cat) in my mouth whenever the subject of Bellingham’s waterfront development arises.

Secondly, regardless of your suspicions, placing yourself in front of the cameras will at least give you the beginnings of a platform from which to reach those not as engaged as you in this debate. Like the wise man said, Ya can’t catch a fish with a dry hook.

Third, you must have a long neck if you’re going to have that message tattooed there!

Fourth, in the current climate of ‘We’re All Gonna Die!’ as represented by the current crop of “environment activists”, merely proposing “riparian remediation” without any description of your concept leads me (and I am sure others as well) to the idea that you would have the creek remediated to its original condition. That, after all, would be the closest to ecologically correct as humans could get.

Fifth, the use of fossil fueled busses and their related spills combined with the impermeable asphalt, I assume are your major complaints with this facility. Both of these issues can easily, if not inexpensively, be addressed with current paving and propulsion technologies. As much as I sympathize with your concerns, I too would tend to align myself with the status quo. As a representative of “The People”, more than the creek must be considered in this project. As always, I believe the primary issue is the funding. Without funding, all of the best practices in the world are just dreams. That is not to say you should abandon your efforts. I am saying that perhaps a more focused approach dealing with one issue at a time (i.e. the purchasing of hybrid busses or the use of LNG as a fuel) in the operation of the Bus Barn may get you further toward your over-all goals.

As it stands, you are barking up a tree with no bobcat.

There is a lot of racket but even were the hunter to arrive, he would have nothing to shoot.

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Tip Johnson

Jan 31, 2019

It’s just so obvious the creek is a bad place for a bus barn. Besides possible water quality impacts and lost habitat opportunities, just the emissions from all those buses starting and warming daily is probably a measurable adverse impact on the neighborhood (Their fleet of 69 buses with, say, 6 liter diesel engines idling at 1500 rpm will pollute over 10,000 cubic feet of air per minute).  A less residential area would be more suitable.  The city’s growth, mostly in the north, will dictate the district’s future service requirements.  Why wouldn’t they consider something more central to future needs?

The district might also consider what they are teaching their students, our kids, with their entrenched position abstract from any semblence of ecology.  And where are the brains anyway?

I like to think we select intelligent people with some level of vision to direct our school board, housing authority and city.  Yet I have seen no integrated attempt to take this opportunity toward a win/win or win/win/win result.  Will we just plod along sadly making the least possible effort to improve our systems and footprints?

It’s not too far fetched to imagine some senior housing, better riparian habitat and significantly  improved neighborhood air quality resulting while the district achieves a much better long-term facility and the city sees some much needed infill near existing essential services.  Instead of digging in their heels, officials should look forward and work together to find a solution superior to more of the ‘same as it ever was’.

It sure would be nice to see some leadership from those who might consider taking the reins of this fair city.

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Alex McLean

Feb 08, 2019

I cannot agree more, Tip, and it perpetually has blown my mind the level of intransigence and lack of creative vigor that local leadership has so far put into this. It is, just flatly, a “no-brainer” that housing and a freakishly stout riparian buffer are the ideal goals here—the same goals that the York Neighborhood, Greenways program, and Public Works Department have, in their various approaches, advocated for for over a decade now.

Mr. Lau implies there is no bobcat in this tree, but taken in the context of what a moral and engaged civic culture SHOULD envision for this site I end up seeing nothing but a 3.8-acre, absolutely GIGANTIC bobcat staring us in the face.

It shouldn’t blow my mind, or make me wallow in dumbfounded depression, but I just cannot at all fathom why this idea of HOUSING AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION is the Rubicon elected leadership around here will not cross—I don’t think it used to be that way around here: I think opportunities like this used to be embraced and tackled with some elegance and duty: And I cannot think of two subjects, so beautifully tied together on this property, that are more pressing or vigorously prattled about over local lattes or microbrews.

Lau and others lament my “tone” or the urgency of my repeated refrains. I don’t have much to apologize for: I’ve been massively engaged, one way or another, with both housing issues and with environmental causes locally for nearly 30 years now. If I’m an advocate for either, there is no more classic “low hanging fruit” than this parcel and the opportunities it could provide to this community. And, while I sympathize that nobody wants to hear the shrill bandwidth I’m pumping out here, I feel it is worth reminding someone that I have been beating this goddamn drum since May of 2018—I first presented renderings, funding options, and the core issues at stake on this parcel directly to City Council in May, and first approached the School District with similar proposals in August. The HOWLING FACT that expressly zero has been done by any elected official since then has been mind-wobblingly surreal to me: The School District is going to bid, as we speak, and there has been zero rebuke for what anyone within 1,000 miles of a ballot can see is both officially and literally a “Non-Conforming Use” of this site.

Buses are parked as close as 25 feet to this salmon-bearing creek.

The School District sprays the blackberries there, with God-knows-what, and puts up signs to warn employees to stay away.

The soil, the packed gravel on this site, slopes towards the creek and, for over a decade, departments in charge of maintaining the riprap and long-term health of this creek have wanted to get in there and repair the spalling and mangled Gabbion baskets, once filled with rocks, that have blown apart over the years and now allow free-form erosion ... but there is no goddamn room, between the razor-wire fence and the creek, to do anything other than stare at this embarassment and fret that “nothing can be done here ... alas ... but we might try again in 20 years?”

And the City of Bellingham is complicit in all of this: There are buses, right now, parked on City property within that razor-wired fence: Within that Critical Area zone: For decades.

Your point about air pollution is very salient. Diesel buses, from my research, get only 4-7 miles per-gallon. During winter months, when air pollution lingers and condenses, these buses need to heat up—they idle and gurgle and puke out fumes. The neighborhood, immediately adjacent, knows this for what it most emphatically is: a heavy industrial use smashed next to their residential zone.

Your point about housing, also, is very salient: Where else, in this city, will the Bellingham Home Fund find almost completely undeveloped acreage, on level ground, so close to its urban core and its trail system? I’d argue that, aside from the Waterfront District, there is no better parcel for valid exploration and, because I’m rigorous, have proposed as much directly to the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners in some desperate hope to end-route around the deaf ears of electeds.  (Their mission statement: “To provide quality, affordable housing for low and moderate income families, elderly households, and persons with disabilities through innovative resource development and responsible stewardship of our housing and fiscal resources.”)

Members of our rag-tag coalition went on a recent tour of the Bus Barn facility and were sufficiently horrified by the conditions they witnessed. I’ve been in the construction trades for decades and, from what I saw, there is no doubt this facility would be shut down by OSHA immediately if any jurisdictional hammer were to drop upon it and, for health and safety concerns alone, be condemned and vacated—It is appallingly, almost comically, bad in there.

So nobody, ever, has disagreed that the School District shouldn’t rebuild their aging and decrepid facility—They should have done so decades ago if they ever gave a damn—but it remains true that this site is wildly innapropriate for the heavy uses and demands they are putting upon it: They, also, should have found a more appropriate site, which could meet their needs and growth, decades ago. In light of the sudden urgency they’ve found to move their District Headquarters, it is amazing to me that they have held the health and safety of their transportation employees with this level of disregard.

The tour, of course, was meant to impress upon us the dire NEED for a $3.5 million upgrade. But, given the absolute shabbiness and filth of how this place has been run for 63 years I would make the observation that, more than anything, it proves how unmanageable and irresponsible this operation has been for decades and decades and decades—ripping buses apart, cleaning them, draining oil ... all of it is just a messy and cumbersome affair. To do all of this work mere feet from gravel aprons, and so close to the damn creek, should really beg the inquiry of how it is remotely possible this site is not, in fact, massively contaminated.

That, to me, now explains their utter intransigence and silence on why they refuse to move and find a better long-term investment: They know, without doubt, that this facility is going to be a huge embarassment once the community and official soil surveys reveal what 63 years of incessant, near daily, use has inflicted upon this soil.

Ron Cowan and Dr. Greg Baker likely know this very well—these aren’t dumb people—and they are relying heavily on the clout of their agency to muscle politicians and thorough inquiries back into the wormhole of obdurate silence. What it all means, conveniently enough for them and other leaders, is we will forever have this Bus Barn as the ecological benchmark for how we treat the rest of the creek.

“Want to slap a wall of luxury condos atop the creek’s estuary and give us a 50 foot-wide ribbon of greenery and trails? Sure, no problem—look at what we call ‘normal’ around here!”

 

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