environmental design

pla | Phillip Lehn Architect

Since Rinpoche was not willing to sue the City of Edmonds and its engineers and since Edmonds' engineers and lawyers were not willing to serve the City and themselves more honorably by simply considering the new evidence, acknowledging what was self-evident, and helping us fix the problems they caused, we were not able to recover any of our investigation’s expenses, much less the property’s lost value. The drainage channels eroded from the ravine to the scarp and the new cracks along the bluff’s upper edge began to heal themselves as soon as the City’s new pipe intercepted its 25-year-old storm water infiltration system. The landslide itself was a much bigger and more lasting problem. The significant size and destructive force of Greenness’ February, Friday the 13th 1998 landslide cast a lasting fool’s shadow on the commonly owned and shared park’s long-term stability and viability. This seemingly improbable setback was soon followed by several more. The dot com bust and 9/11 shocked and disrupted the global and local high-tech economies and caused widespread unemployment, which further diminished the value of Greenness’ lots, and made it more difficult for me to find and keep a job.


As soon as he beheld the landslide’s devastation for the first time, Migyur Rinpoche gave up all hope of realizing a house and meditation retreat center at Greenness and instructed me to sell the land as soon as I could. I listed all three of GTi’s undeveloped view lots and began what eventually became 6 years of uncompensated park maintenance and marketing. I dropped prices, interviewed and hired different realtors, and prepared and revised multiple graphic sales presentations. Unfortunately?, no one was interested in buying any part of a commonly owned and shared park that had suffered such a landslide.


In response to the gossip prone urgings of some of his Taiwanese followers and benefactors, who for reasons of their own claimed it was "inappropriate" for to him to remain President of GTi, Rinpoche felt compelled to give up his majority ownership of GTi’s stock, his Presidency, and Mariam's and my small stipend. Rinpoche offered to give me all of his shares but to preserve an important part of Rinpoche’s historic connection with our family, GTi, and the Pacific Northwest, I offered instead to share the corporation’s ownership equally with Gnendak Shak, Rinpoche’s grandnephew. Gnendak, who I met and trusted since first meeting Rinpoche in the early nineteen eighties, agreed to share GTi’s stock equally and that should a conflict ever arise between us, Rinpoche would break the tie and decide the outcome.


To conceal their predecessors’ foolish decision to require the infiltration system (storm water should have been piped to the City’s storm sewer from the beginning), their own misguided efforts to increase the system’s collection area, and their many openly hostile efforts to resist and ignore GTi’s investigation, the City Engineer and his assistant simply refused to acknowledge the significance of GTi’s many discoveries. Those discoveries included a 25-year-old check print of the developer’s original construction drawings directing him to “show rock dry-well”, 25-year-old letters from neighbors complaining of erosion damages suffered from the development’s original storm runoff, letters from the former City Engineer and City Attorney purporting to address the neighbors’ complaints, soil samples dug every 10 feet along the 100-foot-long infiltration system showing progressively darker soils the closer they were to the storm water’s outfall at the ravine’s south end, photographs of the compacted earth dam, which the City Engineer tried to pass off as a sedimentation filter, and of course, Associated Earth Science’s conclusive dye test, which proved the infiltration system’s direct connection with the landslide.  


By deliberately making a fair and reasonable resolution of our justifiable claims prohibitively expensive, the City’s lawyers cleverly won their game to shield the City from having to pay us anything for the many profound financial losses and hardships that their and their predecessors' actions caused us and our neighbors to suffer. The ruinous spectacle of their massive landslide made most fear that our land would never be safe. Since Greenness was conceived as a commonly owned and shared residential park, ownership of any lot included part ownership of the common amenities along the bluff.  Suddenly every lot was riskier to own and any sale, now or in the future, would be forever much harder, take longer, and sell for much less. Ultimately in many different ways, the slide contributed greatly to the subsequent foreclosure and repossession of all three (possibly four) of GTi’s undeveloped view lots, and the money and time it caused Rinpoche, his family, and his many monks and nuns to lose, most certainly contributed to the extreme stress that caused him to suffer his near fatal and still paralyzing stroke.


While the statute of limitations (3 years?) soon absolved the City of its legal liabilities, its moral liabilities will remain a serious stain on Edmonds’ character and reputation until its wrongdoings are acknowledged and settled fairly. The City Engineer and his assistant never apologized for resisting instead of assisting our investigation and no one from the City has ever formally or informally expressed any gratitude for GTi's perseverance, in the face of their determined resistance, to investigate and discover its huge, hidden, and long forgotten storm water infiltration system …  a system now known to have destabilized the bluff for 25 years and to have finally precipitated Greenness' massive 2/13/98 landslide.  Who knows? Had GTi not persevered, the lives and property of those living above and below the bluff might have already suffered even greater losses.


Epilogue II

six years later

I first met Bert Bradley in 2004, six years after the slide. Bert was a bright, inquisitive, idealistic, and argumentative commercial flooring subcontractor and fellow early member of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, who wanted to distinguish himself as a “Green” or more environmentally responsible developer and general contractor by financing and building custom designed spec houses on both of GTi’s upper lots. Since Rinpoche had waited so long to get any of his money back, since Bert professed to share GTi’s goals and Greenness’ shared park concept enthusiastically, and since he offered to finance the construction of Greenness’ first house himself,  Gnendak and I agreed to sell him both lots for $275,000 per lot or $550,000. Bert offered to pay $180,000 down, and because Rinpoche’s didn’t like and had even eliminated the practice of charging interest throughout his part of Tibet, GTi offered to finance Bert's $370,000 balance interest free.

pla | Phillip Lehn Architect - Deceember 7,  2018