LETTER: Neighbor upset with Kennedy High School’s new athletic field

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader and originally sent to the City of Burien. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Department of Community Development:

With reference to the proposed land action stated above the intent of this letter is to express my concern with the planned development and expansion of Kennedy High School’s field master plan. There are a number of concerns from lighting, sound, parking, increased traffic flow, and loss of neighborhood property value all of which will negatively impact my quality of life as well as my neighbors. I am asking that the city of Burien not allow the expansion of Kennedy High School’s athletic field.

The proposed lighting for the project is six 70 foot light towers on the football field and four 50 foot light poles on projected tennis courts. This would need a variance as it extends the height and setback zoning. I would ask that careful consideration is made with a decision of this magnitude. These zoning standards were set to maintain the buffer and impacts on our residential neighborhood. There have never been artificial lights on Kennedy’s athletic field and the impact from this proposal would be severe. My living room window is 200 feet from the projected light pole design.

An additional impact would be amplified noise from a proposed sound system on the field, up to 1800 spectators, and bands or music playing during the events. Kennedy High School has never hosted a varsity football game on their field and only had a capacity of roughly 150 for junior varsity game and practice. Witnessing the sound level of games at their current Highline Memorial Stadium, the impact would be severe to the neighborhood and significantly affect our quality of living.

Another major impact to the approval of the projected athletic complex will be parking. Currently Kennedy High School does not have sufficient parking for normal school days and smaller events (500-1000 students). Numerous police reports have been filed and vehicles towed for parking in right of ways along with blocking roads due to this. Having a varsity football game and other proposed events with 1800 attendees will severely impact our residential neighborhood.

The impact from additional traffic from this large athletic complex will significantly increase the risk to residents and children in our neighborhood. Currently there are no traffic control devices, sidewalks, or the room to facilitate this projected athletic complex. I would ask the City of Burien to carefully consider the safety and impact on the quality of life to myself and to my neighbors if this project is approved.

I met with key stakeholders of Kennedy High School, their architects, and systems contractors at a public meeting regarding the proposed athletic field project. After the meeting I invited all of them to my residence (13657 3rd AVE S.), to truly understand the impact this project would have on my quality of living. When they arrived they made it clear that there would be significant impact from light, noise, traffic, and that my residence was going to be impacted the worst. They also advised me that Kennedy was paying them to design and build and athletic complex and that is what they were going to do, but that it would have a significant impact.

I also extend an invitation to any and all parties involved with making this decision on this project to visit my home. It will be very apparent how significant the impact will be by looking from my front window where 70 foot light towers, sound systems, and 1800 spectators will be looking into my window, along with a heavy increase of traffic on our streets. Your decisions will have a severe impact on my quality of life along with my neighbors.

Kennedy High School has also made it very clear that they will be allowing other entities use of their field for private events. Since the renovation of their athletic field surface there has been increased use of private athletic leagues. Kennedy was also served a stop work notice as they tried to install seating capacity for 1000 along with three announcer booths without permitting. When I met with Kennedy High School at their neighborhood meeting, President Prato advised they in fact would not be using the field for private events; this was a false statement as these events have continued as recent as 7/9/2015. Kennedy’s field has never been used for private sporting events until the surface was renovated. With the proposed project and its features, a field that has constant private sporting events along with school activities, there will be a significant impact on our quality of living and safety.

With the proposed building of an athletic complex and its features that are against current zoning regulations there will be a negative impact to my property value along with others in my neighborhood. The current RS 7200 zoning for my neighborhood along with Kennedy High School’s property should be respected to maintain the quality of life in a residential neighborhood. The proposed project belongs in a commercial area with zoning that allows such structures and setbacks.

I also ask that consideration be made to Kennedy at considering the use of Highline Memorial Stadium as they have used during their entire existence of the school. Highline Memorial Stadium was recently renovated and has the capacity to handle such events. Approving this project and its features to build an athletic complex directly into a residential neighborhood is a poor choice. Please contact me with any questions regarding this major decision. I would also request that I be contacted and receive copies of any decisions made towards this project.

Thank you,
Will Spruill

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20 Responses to “LETTER: Neighbor upset with Kennedy High School’s new athletic field”
  1. Question Authority says:

    As a graduate of that institution I find it necessary to respond to your concerns/complaint. Growth happens, did you live there when the school was built in 1966, or did you move in after the fact and just now notice there’s a school next door? What about the ever increasing noise from SR 509, did you contact WSDOT and complain to them also? You should look at the bright side here, a school makes a pretty decent neighbor unless you think that dumpy auto body wrecking yard next door adds some value to your property. Here’s an idea, sell out and move, everybody wins.

    • Will Spruill says:

      I’ve lived at the same location for 15 years and enjoy the neighborhood. I’ve never had an issue with SR 509 so there’s never been a need to contact the DOT. I also don’t understand why I should be forced to move due to a neighbor wanting to build an athletic complex that doesn’t comply with zoning standards and impacts my life. I encourage you to read my letter and truly understand the facts here.

  2. Katie says:

    I agree with the previous commenter. I too am a Kennedy graduate. You made the choice to not only live next to a school but a private school. So your complaint about Kennedy hosting private sporting events has nothing to do with the city. The city can’t stop them. As life goes on everything changes and evolves. Kennedy is just trying to do that in our ever growing community. And unfortunately for you I think you are in the minority of this growth.

    • Chris says:

      You’re wrong. This isn’t just some trivial new way in which the school intends to use the field, rather this is a significant change, and what they aspire to do will undoubtedly have a adverse impact to the area. My wife and I drove by this evening to get a feel for what this might look like, and we both agreed that there’s NO WAY they will be able to handle the parking.

      The amount of parking Kennedy has now pales in comparison to what Highline Stadium/Mosier Field has. It’s not even close.

      Further, the fact that there is even a comment period about the zone change signifies that the changes the Kennedy proposes are significant and they want citizen input.

      I’ve lived in the city for almost my entire life, and my wife is a Kennedy alum, and both of us are very surprised that Kennedy had aspirations to expand the field area and make an athletic “complex.” At first blush, there just doesn’t seem to be adequate space to do all that they want to do. And again, I simply don’t see how they intend to provide adequate parking spaces for the attendance they anticipate.

      Kennedy has not been a good neighbor with regards to this project, and they have been disingenuous about their intentions–which is why the City of Burien gave them a “Stop Work” order during their first phase. This seems to be consistent with previous projects–like their baseball field improvements–when they tried to complete a major renovation of that fields WITHOUT any permits.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The school should be allowed to use its facilities to their fullest potential. That means being able to host home games. Highline has a great facility, but that’s not a true home game. There is a level of pride that comes from playing on your own field. Now, students will be able to have that experience. As other posters have said, if you thought the school was never going to want to expand, you are crazy. If you are worried about your property value and that of the neighborhood, think about it this way – the nicer the facilities Kennedy Catholic has to offer, the higher the level of clientele they can attract (higher income families etc.), people have been known to move to be closer to good schools, property value starts rising. Maybe a young family that makes good money is looking at housing and they know they want to send their children to a good high school, maybe football is important to them, Bishop Blanchet in Seattle now finally has their lights for their field, but Kennedy Catholic doesn’t, so they choose to go live near Blanchet instead. You could have possibly sold your house to such a family and you could go live where change and progress are unlikely.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand your frustration, my parents just a year ago had a house built in front of them that now blocks most of their view, and now another house is doing an addition that blocks almost the rest of what little view they had left. However, that lot in front of their house sat for sale for 10 years. It was overpriced in their opinion so they decided not to buy it, but they bought their house anyways, knowing this could happen. Now they are thinking about selling. It’s unfortunate, but that’s life. If you didn’t want to ever have the risk of football field lights, then you shouldn’t have picked a house so close to a high school.

    • Will Spruill says:

      You’re clearly missing the point here; I’d have no problem if houses were being built around me blocking views. This project is doing quite the opposite; I’ll end up view a view of 70 foot light towers, 1300 spectators, and PA systems 100 feet from my front window. This project needs significant variances around current zoning; this will impact my living, not block a view.
      Kennedy knows they are land-locked and mentioned this many times. They are the ones that should have bought more property if they ever had future plans to expand to this level.

      • Jimmy says:

        Well if this is such a big deal then you should talk with your neighborhood and start a petition and show Kennedy that your not alone.

        Also you need to keep your facts straight you stated in your letter that’s there going 1800 attending these events but now you say 1300 also you kinda make it sound like this is going to be a constant flow of people all the time 24 hrs a day when it’s really only going be use for a few hours on the weekends and maybe a couple week day games. Also for Kennedy to use highline field that would cause a lot schedule conflicts between highline school district and Kennedy.

        This kinda reminds me of when I was in elementary school and a family lived in a house on the other side of play filed and had a absolute hissy fit when any sports equipment went over the fence. There were times were school staff and security had to go over retrieve the item’s. So if you choose to live next to a school there are certain things you just have to ether deal with or unfortunately look to moving out if going to cause to much stress for you to stay.

  4. Tom says:

    Unless you moved in there before the school was built, your requests hold little water. I do have sympathy that this is going to happen to your property. no one wants that to happen to their property, but it is like buying a condo near the “summer nights at the pier concert series”, then forcing them to move the concerts (unfortunately they did move the concerts)… or buying a condo in pioneer square and when even more bars and nightclubs are built, you complain about the noise. The school is going to have to figure out how to get additional parking as your street should not bear any brunt of overflow; that part is clear. But as for the lights and noise; you bought land next to a very popular private high school. They need to carefully try to mitigate as much traffic and congestion as possible, but have no obligation to stop building upon your say so.

  5. Taxpayer says:

    Kennedy does not have enough room for a sports stadium! The argument is just that simple. Where do all those people park? And shame on you alumni. Do YOU live next door? Will YOUR evenings and weekends be disrupted? This is a revenue issue and Kennedy wants more. Doesn’t the golden rule apply here?

  6. Chaz Domingoson says:

    Embrace high school football, track and field and all the other sports you can see from your window. Try to get free admission and make the most out of it. Maybe post game parties at your house………just sayin

  7. Keeping it Real says:

    What is more American then listening to the sounds of a High School football game on a Friday night. Sounds to me like you need to lighten up and enjoy the simple things in life. We have become so uptight as a society.

  8. Alumni says:

    Taxpayer, I am alumni and would love to live right next to the school, then my kids could walk to school. A couple nights a week of lights and pa noise til 11pm at the latest is way better than listening to partying neighbors who wake you up at 1am. Progress is inevitable Will, the field has been there for a very long time. You should have looked ahead with the idea of progress before you bought. Sorry no sympathy here.

    • Taxpayer says:

      Come on Alumni….you went to a good school.
      How does Kennedy fix that issue?

  9. Burien Homeowner says:

    I notice that most of the folks posting in opposition to Mr. Spruill’s letter have the benefit of hindsight bias. If they found themselves in this situation, however, I imagine that “too bad so sad” attitude would change. Should all of us enter into the purchase of a home assuming worst case scenarios regarding our neighbors? Even if we did, it would be difficult for any homeowner to predict that an established school next door would try to build a stadium on property that isn’t zoned for it. I sympathize with you, Mr. Spruill, and I hope that whatever the outcome, your right to “quiet enjoyment” of your property is not compromised.

  10. Will Spruill says:


    The City is required to read and publish every comment made regarding the application during this phase. Please take a few moments before July 24 to send a letter or email to the City of Burien expressing concerns of the land use application for Kennedy Catholic High School.

    Please sign all letters/emails and send to the following by US mail or email by Friday, July 24.

    Stephanie Jewett, AICP
    Department of Community Development City of Burien
    400 SW 152nd Street (Suite 300)
    Burien, WA 98166
    E-Mail: [email protected]

  11. devilsadvocate says:

    Even the devils advocate is opting to stay out of this one..

  12. Anonymous says:

    It seems the main concern is insufficient parking. Kennedy Catholic will only have 5 or 6 home football games a year. All other sports do not draw large crowds, which should not impede parking. This issue is not isolated to Kennedy, but to all communities with a school. Schools all over Seattle have insufficient parking for events (not just sports). Many schools have been approved to upgrade their school or athletic facility throughout the years and the parking remains the same because there is no additional land.

    Kennedy (along with many other schools) will always have neighboring parking issues. Kennedy’s graduation, back-to-school night, grandparents day, etc. already creates an overflow into the neighborhoods. All this for 5 to 6 more nights a year, if that, that may create an overflow of parking? Home owner’s who purchase around schools should understand schools will file for building changes which will in some way impact them. As well, each school will do their best to accommodate the neighbors.

    I’m sure Kennedy would agree to comply with guidelines set around lighting and PA systems much like every other high school does with their neighbors. As well, Kennedy may consider hiring a traffic officer to help with the flow of traffic on those football nights?

    Growth and change is inevitable. I’m hoping a compromise by both parties can be reached.

    • Will Spruill says:

      If Kennedy were only improving the field for a couple home football games there would be less of an issue. They have made it clear this will be an athletic complex for multiple events beyond the school activities such as private football, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, and so on. I don’t see how any city official would approve a private organizations proposal that would have such a large impact on an entire neighborhood.
      Here’s some more food for thought; a typical Kennedy vs Highline/Evergreen/Mt. Rainier game fills Memorial stadium with a capacity of 2500. Kennedy is proposing a seating capacity of 1200 or so; where are the other 1300+ that have attended these games in the past going to sit, park, and so on. Kennedy is more than welcome to purchase my home and make visitor seating out of it; it will be the best seat in the house.

      • Anonymous says:

        I”m guessing you have not attended a Seamount League football game. The average attendance is about 800 people. It’s even more of an advantage to you for the facility to only hold a maximum of 1,200. Football brings in the most attendance. Lacrosse games and soccer games are already being played on the new field. Baseball games, both school and through outside clubs, are currently being played there as well. I don’t believe people are complaining?

        As you state”buy your house” tells me it’s really not about concern for your neighbors, but more about a pay out for you.

        • Jimmy says:

          Will I just looked at your house on google and bing maps and from what google and bing shows that the front of your house is not facing the direction of the field. You do have one back window on the side of your house that is facing the field but you also have a wooden fence blocking the street from view of the window you also clearly have a curtain on that window. So your claim that visitors to the field will be looking in to your front window seems a little false. Then you start out complaining that this is going to be to big for the area but now you want to claim they should build it bigger and the school should buy your house from you. Also wikipedia as of 2012 states that kennedy only had 875 students enrolled my guess is that about 700 of those students are in to some type of sports. This also is multi phase project so they might have plans on building a parking garage in the next phase or future if needed. Then you have to think most sports teams(football,baseball) have what about 50 players on each team so that would be a max of 200 parents then there’s a few students,alumni and other fans. When you were looking into buying your home as other have said you should’ve of thought about the school expanding and if and how much of a inconvenience it could be to you.

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