Laurelhurst Community Club                                                    

Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

 

 

March 14, 2003

 

 

 

Arthur R.M. Nowell, Chair

Advisory Review Committee for UW Executive Vice President

Dean, College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences

University of Washington

Seattle, Washington  98195

 

RE:  Weldon Ihrig

 

Dear Dean Nowell:

 

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in your committee’s administrative review of Weldon Ihrig. 

 

Relationship/Interaction:  I have had the pleasure of working with Weldon since about late 1996 or early 1997.  This was at a time when the City had proposed a regulatory scheme to govern the University that was not supported by either the University or its neighboring communities.  The University, through Weldon Ihrig, reached out to the neighborhoods to address the many issues with the City’s proposal.  This was the first time ever that anyone that I work with can recall that the University had taken steps to work on issues of such enormous impact in partnership with its neighbors. 

 

The City put its proposal on hold and allowed the University and its neighbors to work together for an 18-month period to negotiate a proposed City-University Agreement to govern the master planning process, annual reporting, traffic and transportation issues, responsibilities of the City-University-Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC) and other matters.  The final proposal submitted to the City involved hundreds of compromises and was ultimately approved by the City and the Board of Regents.

 

Weldon provided excellent leadership and guidance to others at the University with whom neighborhoods worked, including Jan Arntz, T.C. Richmond and Peter Dewey.  These individuals were committed and motivated to reach a positive result because of Weldon’s example and ability to facilitate a consensus-building process.

 

It was not an easy undertaking for Weldon to take on the responsibility of working with leaders of a dozen community groups in this process.  Weldon demonstrated a remarkable willingness to listen and to compromise, while remaining a staunch advocate for issues of importance to the University.  Someone else in his position might have thrown up his or her hands, but not Weldon.  Without his leadership, this successful process would not have been possible.

 

I have had other interactions with Weldon in the past few years including participation in periodic meetings of community leaders called by Weldon to address various issues.  The 1998 City-University Agreement provides for discretionary meetings between the University and leaders in surrounding communities impacted by University growth and expansion.  These meetings were helpful in continuing a dialogue between the University and its neighbors and promoting a partnership in solving common issues.

 

Finally, Weldon was instrumental in developing a compromise to improve the appearance of the Ceramic Metal Arts Compound, located at the entrance to Laurelhurst.  The ugly building with cyclone fence walls, glaring lights on all night highlighting art materials or what many would consider a junk pile and flat surrounding terrain with no landscaping was a blight on our neighborhood.  This building generated almost as many concerns as the initial proposal to site the Indoor Practice Facility along Montlake Boulevard.  Working together a compromise solution was devised to fill in the cyclone fencing with awning material, install planted berms, replace the nearby rusted and worn out fencing and install switches to turn out the lights when nobody was working in the facility.  Weldon made this happen and provided excellent direction to Doug Jennings, the project manager.

 

The above are a sampling of the experiences I’ve had working with Weldon Ihrig.  I hope you will find my insights helpful.  One of the things I like best about Weldon is that he is a straight shooter.  I may not always agree with him, but have enormous respect for his integrity and honesty.

 

Leadership:  The ability of the University to expand and grow to fulfill its mission and accommodate enrollment and other demands depends in part upon recognizing and addressing the potential adverse impacts upon surrounding communities.  Yes, the University provides wonderful amenities to our communities and the City and contributes to the economic vitality of the University District and the region.  But compromises are often necessary to maintain the livability and vitality of neighborhoods and to generate support for the University.  Weldon has played a key role in forging a partnership between the University and its neighbors.  He is an extremely capable leader and an asset to the University.

 

University’s Effectiveness in Working with the Community:  The last year and a half or so has been a challenging time to work with the University.  This has been due to the recent master planning process which has become very adversarial and the University’s efforts to work behind the scenes with the City to eliminate the “lease lid” with no involvement of impacted communities.  The wonderful groundwork laid by Weldon Ihrig in partnering with the University’s neighbors is in jeopardy. 

 

At the conclusion of the master planning process, neighborhood groups were no longer working directly with Weldon.  As a result or for other reasons, problems developed.  For example, the master planning process was characterized by what in our view were violations on the part of the University of the quasi-judicial rules governing the process—rules designed to ensure fairness to all parties.  We were disappointed that the University chose not to play by the rules.

 

Despite the fact that under the Council’s preliminary decision on the master plan the University was getting almost everything it had asked for, University staff involved in the process continued to push for more.  Instead of following the example of Weldon in compromising and recognizing legitimate concerns of the surrounding communities, the University worked to reverse the minor concessions provided to neighborhoods.  As a result, there is now an appeal before the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board. 

 

Elimination of the UW lease lid is another example of the University’s current unwillingness to work with its neighbors.  Provisions relating to the lease lid were a major compromise in the 1998 City-University Agreement.  Neighborhoods agreed to increase the permitted leasing area to accommodate the University’s needs and to allow leasing to house patients and families of patients of the UW Medical Center.  The University’s efforts to seek changes directly from the City to amend the City-University Agreement with no involvement of the neighborhoods demonstrate little regard for its neighbors and their legitimate concerns. 

 

Despite the current posturing of the University on its master plan and the lease lid, we have had positive experiences working with certain segments of the University on other matters.  We have an excellent and supportive relationship with the UW’s Center for Urban Horticulture.  We provide a representative to the Husky Stadium Advisory Committee and receive positive feedback that the University is considering our concerns about transit, traffic and congestion issues.  We have worked together on such issues as the University Area Transportation Study and the TransLake Washington Project.  Because of the enormous impact of the master plan and elimination of the lease lid on our community and in the area, however, relations are now strained.  We hope that this will change and that we can again partner with the University in addressing the many issues we jointly confront. 

 

I hope you will find my answers to the questions you asked helpful.  Thank you again for contacting me.

 

Sincerely,

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

jeannieh@serv.net