In early 2006, after three years discussing it internally, Camp Fire USA put historic Waldo Hospital up for sale. They contacted nobody in the community at the time. The community found out when their real estate agent placed a story in a July edition of the Puget Sound Business Journal. The Executive Board of the Maple Leaf Community Council met with Camp Fire's executive director in early August 2006, offering to help raise money for building repairs, find funding to buy the building, or find a developer who would treat the site with historic and environmental sensitivity. Camp Fire stated they were "interested only in making as much money as possible" from the sale. A second meeting with Camp Fire a few months later ended the same way.

Prescott Development submitted a bid believed to be above $7.5 million to purchase the property. Prescott planned 39 homes on the site and the destruction of Waldo Forest. Camp Fire turned down a $6.5 million dollar bid from a developer who committed to save Waldo Forest. Subsequently, a number of organizations and companies have approached the community interested in purchasing the property.

Community members participated in a City-mandated process to determine whether Waldo Hospital and the grounds were historically significant. Community members won a unanimous nomination. Camp Fire then spent, according to comments they made in the press, over $65,000 to hire lawyers and "experts". This expense, combined with improper meeting conduct by the Landmark Preservation Board, combined to manufacture a decision against designating Waldo Hospital as a landmark. Camp Fire incorrectly told their members a landmark designation would have prevented the sale of the property. To the contrary, landmark preservation would have unlocked significant tax benefits to responsible developers. Re-development of landmarks is a thriving business in the Puget Sound area.

The process then moved to Early Design Review, where Prescott development presented initial plans to the Design Review Committee. There were three of these meetings, each attended by better than 50 interested citizens. Public testimony was provided at each. As a result of the public testimony and Design Review Committee members discomfort with their plans, Prescott exited Early Design Review with no endorsement or permission for building code departures, as was their goal.

Prescott essentially ignored nearly all of the important design review guidance. The homes are huge (30-35' tall) and not especially inventive architecturally (particularly where facing the future reservoir park). Over half the trees on the site will be removed and 20% of what is left will be permanently harmed by the location of 8 of the townhomes. The refuse situation is inadequate and does not account for recycling. No plans exist for mitigating increased traffic, parking, or pedestrian safety. No special plans exist for protecting the reservoir during demolition and construction.

Prescott subsequently entered the Design Guidance phase of the design review process. At the first Design Guidance meeting, the Design Review Board addressed most of the same issues outstanding since the second design guidance meeting. Prescott simply hadn't resolved most of them. Among specific requests, the Board asked Prescott to remove all the unit garages from 85th and 86th to address the height, bulk, and scale issues identified at the first design guidance meeting. They requested the single units be moved to the outside of the property and the duplex units moved inside for the same reasons. A number of other concerns, all left over from the early design guidance process, were addressed. This resulted in Prescott being asked to come back for a second Design Guidance meeting.

At the beginning of the second meeting one month later, the head of Design Review for the city (Vince Lyons) and the city permit planner assigned to the project (Scott Kemp) stood up prior to any comment or any presentation by either Prescott or the community, and declared this was to be the last design review meeting. This is odd since the Design Review Board was created to be an independent body. Despite the fact Prescott did not remove all the unit garages, and did not move duplex units to the exterior, and did not address many of the issues outstanding since the second design guidance meeting, the Board followed the instructions of Mr. Lyons and Mr. Kemp and voted the development out of design review.

Despite the loss of trees and findings of lead above safe limits in the building and surrounding soil, DPD decided there was no significant environmental harm to the project. They conditioned the project with some minor, developer-controlled rules to avoid damaging the 32 trees (of 108) the developer is saving and told the developer to form an air quality monitoring plan to deal with the toxic lead dust that will result from the demolition. The city required no plan to deal with the lead contamination in the soil. In fact, they left it up to the developer to come up with the particulars of the plan.

The Maple Leaf Community Council challenged the decision to the Hearing Examiner. During the process of preparing for the hearing, the community discovered that Prescott provided materially misleading information to the city in their permit applications. Instead of a 350 sq. ft. tree canopy surplus (due to planting trees on the site) they claimed throughout the entire process, there is actually a 1600+ sq. ft. canopy deficit. Prescott counted the diameters of the trees they were planting and just the radius (half the diameter) of the trees they were cutting down. Evidence presented in the case appears to suggest this was no accident. They also hid the extent to which the units would interfere with the canopy of current and newly planted trees. Expert Witnesses provided unrefuted challenges to the lead dust control "plan" suggested by the developer.

Despite this, the Hearing Examiner found for the city. Her decision did not address important arguments presented by the community. It also ignored City and State laws.

Next, the community asked Mayor Nickels to grant clemency for Waldo Woods. He responded by saying he thought the developer did as good a job as could be expected and said that the only recourse left to the community was to sure the city in King County Superior Court.

The Maple Leaf Commnunity Council took the Mayor up on his offer, filing suit in King County Superior Court under the specialized and rather arcane LUPA statutes. Dave Mann of Gendler & Mann represented the community. In May 2009, Judge Timothy Bradshaw sides with the Maple Leaf Community, finding inadequate protections for the community from toxic dust due to demolition.

Shortly after the decision, Prescott backed out of their deal with Camp Fire. The Maple Leaf Community Council reached out again to Camp Fire, with similar results. In the three-plus years that had passed while fighting Prescott's environmentally harmful development plans, they had been contacted by a number of groups interested in sensitively developing the property. Despite Camp Fire's attitudes, they began referring these organizations to Camp Fire as potential buyers. During the process, they learned of offers in the $5 million range back in 2006 from non-profits interested in creating a school on the property. These offers were turned down by Camp Fire even though they represented a 500% gain on what they paid on the property without environmental consequences.

In July 2009, the Menachem Mendel Seattle Cheder Day School announced they acquired the property for a reported $3.5 million. MMSC reaches out to the Maple Leaf Community Council almost immediately. The plan for the property is to remodel Waldo Hospital into a school. MMSC expresses interest in saving the trees despite receiving a tentative offer of $1 million from a developer for that portion of the property.

In March 2010, the Seattle City Council passes an ordinance creating a conservation easement for Waldo Woods. The effect is the permanent preservation of Waldo Woods. This was made possible through a $300,000 King County Conservation Futures Grant secured in 2007 by the Maple Leaf Community Council and the willingness of the Seattle Parks Department to hold the conservation easement.

(Click here for a complete timeline of events)

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