Northwest NEWS

September 6, 1999

Editorial

Sorenson Sales Agreement

   After reviewing the Draft of the Sales Agreement for the Sorenson property between the Northshore School District and the City of Woodinville, it has become obvious that one of the paragraphs the School Board inserted is nothing more than window dressing and doesn't require anything new from the City. All it does is ask it to abide by regulations already in place which they would have to follow anyway.

   The following is a letter I wrote to each one of the members of the School Board. If you agree, I encourage you to do something similar to let them know how you feel, and then try to attend the next City Council Meeting on Sept. 13th and Board meeting on Sept 14th when they are scheduled to approve and sign the agreement:

   [Letter begins.]

   Northshore School Board,

   On behalf of the more than 500 families who are members of PRO Parks, I'd like to thank you for all the work you've done on the Sorenson property sales agreement.

   Unfortunately, the small paragraph referring to the mitigation of the Playfields doesn't go near enough to guaranteeing the continued existence of the fields. It is quite general and ambiguous and doesn't require the City of Woodinville to do anything more than what is mandated by their present ordinances.

   Perhaps it is my fault, and that of the many people who contacted the Board, for not being clear enough on what we wanted done. The ultimate goal and wish of the parents and children of the Northshore School District is that the playfields remain as such for posterity. We do not want them moved, replaced, developed, changed or "mitigated" in any way.

   The "mitigation" clause has no real urgency or deadlines associated with it. There is nothing in it requiring the City to replace the playfields immediately so that our children aren't left without a place to play for several years. It could well be 5 or 10 years after the Playfields at Sorenson are lost before other ones are built. Besides, there isn't any comparable land available in the Woodinville area. Northshore Youth Soccer has been looking for years for land in the area to develop fields and none could be found. Mitigation is a pipe dream.

   We want language in the agreement that requires the City to keep the Sorenson Playfields as such forever. If New York City can keep and see the value of Central Park (which is located at the center of the most expensive real estate in the world), the City of Woodinville should be able to put in writing that they intend to do the same for the Sorenson Playfields.

   If the City of Woodinville is not willing to do this, we ask you not to sell the playfields and continue to keep them available to our children until a buyer who agrees to this condition appears.

   We suggest that the Northshore School District start looking at the Playfields as more than just a "longstanding community resource" which can easily be traded, sold, or replaced. The parents of Northshore look at it as invaluable in the education and well being of our children.

   Besides the obvious lessons of teamwork, self-reliance, and how much fun physical activity can be, our children are developing a lifestyle that will take them away from drugs, inactivity, and anti-social behavior. This translates into real dollars that we save in the long run.

   Right now, 60% of King County's budget is dedicated to law enforcement and punishment. We believe this is due in large part to the lack of programs and activities to keep our youth busy and occupied in healthy pursuits. Over and over again, our children keep saying that there aren't enough things for them to do. Taking playfields away from them will only make things worse.

   When we first approached the School Board with our concerns about Sorenson, we were told that you couldn't discuss the particulars because the negotiations were secret, and that the process would reach a public stage where we could discuss it more openly. It now seems that this process is moving at breakneck speed and there won't really be any time for significant input from the community.

   The Draft of the agreement has not been made public and copies aren't easily accessible to interested parties. It is apparent that the deal is done and that there is very little that we, the parents, can do; but we cannot stand for that. We have to make sure the playfields are kept for our kids.

   Most of us live outside of the city limits and won't have any legal rights to demand anything from them once the deal is done. "You can't fight City Hall" is a truism that has been proven over and over again. We are relying on you to make sure that the wishes of your constituency to keep the fields are guaranteed. If you won't listen to us, what chances do we have that the City will?

   It is apparent from the sales agreement that the School District is a very motivated seller, because it can use the money for other projects including the Superintendent's wish to build a Performing Arts Center. But do not trade one activity for another. Don't sacrifice the playfields and set aside the more than 6,000 kids who use them for a couple of million of dollars.

   Let us once again offer our help and support in saving the Sorenson Playfields. A group of interested individuals representing Northshore Youth Soccer, Woodinville Little League, Woodinville West Little League, Kenmore Little League, South Bothell Little League, FC Alliance, Woodinville Historical Society, Woodinville Senior Center, and PRO Parks are willing to meet with you to come up with a workable solution before your scheduled approval of the agreement on the 14th of September.

   Don't let promises and good intentions take the place of common sense. Make sure, in writing, that the playfields are kept for our kids. Don't let the lure of 6.5 million dollars blind you to the fact that the parents and the children would rather have the fields than the money. Please let us know, by replying to this e-mail, what else you are willing to do to ensure that the playfields become a legacy to the children of Northshore. The Members of PRO Parks are anxious to hear from you.

   [Letter ends.]

   Here's a list of the Northshore School District Board members and how you can get a hold of them:

Jorge Barrera, Woodinville PRO Parks