Steve Smith, owner of the Seattle Drum School, is shown at the building in north Seattle on May 4, 2013. (seattlepi.com photo used with permission)
As music education in Seattle Public Schools has continued to wither away, the Seattle Drum School on 15th Avenue NE and NE 125th Street has grown. For the past 27 years the school has educated students on an expanding list of musical instruments and voice lessons. The school’s 40 teachers currently teach about 600 students..
Voice teacher Lorrie Ruiz, left, works with student Heather Newton during a lesson at the Seattle Drum School in north Seattle on May 4, 2013. (seattlepi.com photo, used with permission)
But recently, owner Steve Smith has struggled with City of Seattle officials, casting doubt on the future of the much-loved north Seattle business.
The Seattle P-I reports that as the school grew, they took over more rooms in the aging two-story building they occupy behind the Brown Bear Car Wash. The now-deceased landlord partitioned the rooms, yet never applied for building permits, as he moved the school into an ever-expanding space in his building.
The P-I said that each year the school passed fire inspections when visited by the fire marshal. But after they added a performance space in the rear of the building —and a complaint was filed— a visit in 2011 by a Department of Planning and Development inspector noted Smith’s space needed major upgrades.
First reported by The Stranger last week, Smith said that his school may be forced to close if ordered to comply with upgrades ordered by the Department of Planning and Development. Smith said the City of Seattle appeared to change the classification of his business to classification “E.” Smith told The Stranger that change “subjects us to the same safety requirements and other standards as a public school that’s publicly funded, with 30 kids per classroom.” He said that most of their business consists of a single professional offering services to a single client, in one room at a time.
Smith told The Stranger that the City of Seattle had started legal proceedings against the business.
However, after the initial stories were published in The Stranger and on KOMO/4 (video report embedded below) the DPD responded that they just needed clarification and that they now do not believe fire suppression sprinklers are needed.
“We’re not going to require an onerous update to a building if it’s not needed for the safety of occupants,” department spokesman Bryan Stevens told the P-I. “We support local business, but our mission is to make sure that the occupants of a building are safe. The only way we can verify that is through review of a building permit.”
So for now the City of Seattle will keep the school classified as fine arts school, something that doesn’t subject them to the same safety requirements as a school. But the City has not ruled out fines for the delays in permits.
You can see a KOMO/4 story on the Seattle Drum School below.
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