Remembering How Waldo Woods was saved in Seattle in 2010

MLCC – Press Release – Waldo Woods Permanently Preserved

March 17, 2010


** Waldo Woods Permanently Preserved **

(SEATTLE, WA) – The Maple Leaf Community Council Executive Board is pleased to announce the permanent preservation of Waldo Woods.

Ordinance 116794 was passed by the Seattle City Council Monday, March 8. Confirmation was received today that Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn has signed the legislation. This ordinance represents the last step in the process where the Seattle Parks Department takes possession of a conservation easement for Waldo Woods. The effect of the conservation easement is the permanent preservation of Waldo Woods, an urban grove of mature, native Douglas firs.

“When we started this process nearly four years ago,” stated Waldo Woods Working Group head David Miller, “we didn’t know whether we’d be successful or not. Through the support of hundreds of people from across Seattle, today we’ve managed to permanently save this unique grove of trees.”

The Maple Leaf Community Council applied for a King County Conservation Futures grant three years ago in the hopes of saving Waldo Woods, an intact and healthy 80 tree grove on the eastern 1/3 of the Waldo Hospital property at 15th Avenue NE and NE 85th Street in the north Seattle Maple Leaf neighborhood. The council succeeded in its pitch, and secured a $300,000 grant from King County to preserve Waldo Woods.

In March 2009, the Maple Leaf Community Council won a court case proving the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) did not adequately assess the significant environmental impact and harm to surrounding residents from the planned demolition of historic Waldo Hospital. Shortly after the loss in court, the developer planning to remove the building and most of the trees and replace them with forty townhomes averaging $650,000 each terminated their plans.

That’s when the Menachem Mendal Seattle Cheder (MMSC) Day School stepped in and bought the property with the intention of remodeling the building into a new school. They agreed to preserve Waldo Woods, and worked closely with the Seattle Parks Department and the Maple Leaf Community Council to make that happen. MMSC will trade over $600,000 in development potential for the $300,000 in King County Conservation Futures money, using this money to help remodel Waldo Hospital into their new school.

“Our community generated enough visibility for this project to result in today’s outcome,” noted Maple Leaf Community Council President Marc Phillips. “We’re very proud our effort, joined by other groups across the city, also resulted in better tree grove preservation rules for all of Seattle.”

Conservation easements do not actually transfer ownership of the property, only the development rights on that property. MMSC retains ownership of the property and will make a portion of Waldo Woods accessible to the public. MMSC, Parks, and the Maple Leaf community will cooperate to manage and maintain Waldo Woods on an ongoing basis.

The Maple Leaf Community Council would like to thank Seattle City Councilmembers Richard Conlin, Nick Licata, Tim Burgess, Tom Rasmussen, Sally Clark, and Sally Bagshaw; King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson; Seattle Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher; MMSC’s Mark Goldberg; Parks Department staffers Chip Nevin and Don Harris; David Mann from the law firm of Gendler & Mann; Kathy George formerly with Cassady Law; and the hundreds of people from across Seattle who wrote letters, attended dozens of meetings, and donated money. Without considerable support from these people, this would never have happened. A special acknowledgement to Mayor Michael McGinn and the entire Seattle City Council for rapidly moving this legislation through the process.

# # #


Maple Leaf Community Council Waldo Woods Working Group subcommittee
David Miller, Chair
Maple Leaf Community Council Executive Board
Marc Phillips, President

Seattle’s draft 2045 Comprehensive Plan

The following comments to Seattle’s draft 2045 Comprehensive Plan are in regards to legislation passed last year by the Washington State Legislature on Comprehensive Plan requirements.

  1. In the Climate and Environment Section, p 149, of the draft One Seattle Comprehensive Plan,  the heading Tree Canopy, should be changed to Urban Forest and Tree Canopy. 
  2. Discussion – Seattle’s urban forest and  tree canopy is fundamental… add “climate resiliency”

Rationale for adding urban forest is legislative amendments noted in text below. Highlighting is mine (SZ) for pointing out specific sections. Underlined areas are new to the State Growth Management Act.

The Washington State Legislature in 2023 passed E2SHB 1181 – AN ACT Relating to improving the state’s climate response through updates to the state’s planning framework.

Section 1.(14) Climate change and resiliency. Ensure that comprehensive  plans, development regulations, and regional policies, plans, and  strategies under RCW 36.70A.210 and chapter 47.80 RCW adapt to and mitigate the effects of a changing climate; support reductions in  greenhouse gas emissions and per capita vehicle miles traveled; prepare for climate impact scenarios; foster resiliency to climate  impacts and natural hazards; protect and enhance environmental,  economic, and human health and safety; and advance environmental  justice. …

Section 3.(3) The comprehensive plan of a county or city that is required or chooses to plan under RCW 36.70A.040 shall consist of a map or maps,  and descriptive text covering objectives, principles, and standards used to develop the comprehensive plan. The plan shall be an internally consistent document and all elements shall be consistent with the future land use map. A comprehensive plan shall be adopted and amended with public participation as provided in RCW 36.70A.140. Each comprehensive plan shall include a plan, scheme, or design for each of the following: (1) A land use element designating the proposed general  distribution and general location and extent of the uses of land, where appropriate, for agriculture, timber production, housing,  commerce, industry, recreation, open spaces and green spaces, urban and community forests within the urban growth area, general aviation  airports, public utilities, public facilities, and other land uses.  The land use element shall include population densities, building intensities, and estimates of future population growth. The land use element shall provide for protection of the quality and quantity of groundwater used for public water supplies. The land use element must give special consideration to achieving environmental justice in its goals and policies, including efforts to avoid creating or worsening environmental health disparities. Wherever possible, the land use element should consider utilizing urban planning approaches that promote physical activity and reduce per capita vehicle miles traveled within the jurisdiction, but without increasing greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere in the state. Where applicable, the land use element shall review drainage, flooding, and stormwater runoff in the area and nearby jurisdictions and provide guidance for corrective actions to mitigate or cleanse those discharges that pollute waters of the state, including Puget Sound or waters entering Puget Sound. The land use element must reduce and mitigate the risk to lives and property posed by wildfires by using land use planning tools, which may include, but are not limited to, adoption of portions or all of the wildland urban interface code developed by the international code  council or developing building and maintenance standards consistent with the firewise USA program or similar program designed to reduce  wildfire risk, reducing wildfire risks to residential development in high risk areas and the wildland urban interface area, separating human development from wildfire prone landscapes, and protecting  existing residential development and infrastructure through community wildfire preparedness and fire adaptation measures.

2nd change – In the Land Use Element General Development Standards: 

 Policies LU 4.8 Use following phrasing.  

 Use urban forest and tree requirements to preserve and enhance the City’s physical, aesthetic and cultural character and to enhance the value of the trees and urban forest in addressing stormwater management, pollution reduction, climate resiliency and heat island mitigation.

Steve Zemke

Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

SHB 1078 fails to pass in 2024 WA Legislature

SHB 1078 failed to get voted out of the Washington State Legislature this year. Below is the e-mail we sent Legislators. We will be working on this issue to get it passed next year.

E-Mails Needed to support  tree replanting by developers! 

We need your help. Substitute House Bill – SHB 1078 is stuck in the House Appropriations Committee in the Washington  State Legislature.  It would  require the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish optional model ordinances and recommendations for the use of tree banks to replace trees removed during development, including criteria for siting tree banks to replant trees and providing best practices for maintaining newly planted trees.

We continue to advocate that developers maximize the retention of existing trees during development. Increased  density requirements, however, are  making it more difficult to retain trees on building sites. This bill is urging cities to replant new trees to increase climate resiliency and environmental equity when trees cannot be saved on building sites.

While SHB 1078 is an important step in pushing for tree replacement requirements, the use of the term “tree banks” is confusing and has different meanings, including trees in nursery situations and tree stock development. We urge the terminology change from “tree banks” to “tree replanting areas”.

We are urging  Legislators to replace the definition of “Tree Banks” in the bill with the following:

“Tree Replanting Areas” can be designated by a community to replace trees removed that cannot be retained or replanted on site. To compensate for tree loss, tree replanting programs shall provide for the payment of a fee in lieu to cover the cost of buying, planting, maintaining, and watering replacement trees to ensure their survival.” Please send an email today to urge the House to add these changes and to pass SHB 1078 this session!

Don’t Clearcut Seattle has a pre-written e-mail you can quickly sent them. Feel free to add your own comments. 
Thank you for supporting our urban forests!

Master Builders Lobbying reported on Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance

The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) registered in 2022 and 2023 with the city of Seattle regarding  Lobbying on updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance – from Public Records on Seattle 

Note – bolding of parts of subject of lobbying was done  to highlight lobbying areas related to trees and updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance.
Subjects of Lobbying During Period
Subjects Lobbying regarding potential revisions to Seattle tree ordinance and related matters. Amounts listed both to lobbyist and to lobbying entity include total billings to client for lobbying and legal work.
Compensation To Lobbyist $451.35
Compensation To Lobbying Entity $2655

7/1 -9/31/2022 -amended report 

Subjects of Lobbying During Period
Subjects Lobbying regarding potential revisions to Seattle tree ordinance and related matters. Lobbyist believes that he did not have more than four lobbying contacts in Q3, but is reporting in an effort to provide maximum transparency and compliance. Amounts listed both to lobbyist and to lobbying entity include billings to client for lobbying and legal work.


Expenditures for Period
Compensation To Lobbyist $413.1
Compensation To Lobbying Entity $2430
Reporting Period
Start 4/1/2023
End 6/30/2023


Expenditures for Period
Compensation To Lobbyist $23000
Compensation To Lobbying Entity 0
Subjects of Lobbying During Period
Naomi Lewis 4/17/23 CB# 120534 Nathan Torgelson 4/17/23 TRAO delays Nathan Torgelson, Marco Lowe, Kye Lee 4/17/23 TRAO delays Liz VanBemmel 4/19/23 Water meter delay Liz VanBemmel 4/20/23 SPU delays Kye Lee, Marco Lowe, Liz VanBemmel, Caia Caldwell 4/24/23 Ops meeting Evelyn Chow, Devin Silvernail 4/25/23 CB# 120534 Steven Ellis, Councilmember Nelson 4/25/23 CB# 120534 Erin House, Councilmember Mosqueda 4/25/23 CB# 120534 Liz VanBemmel 4/26/23 Meeting agenda Steven Ellis, Councilmember Nelson, Councilmember Mosqueda, Eric House, Devin Silvernail, Councilmember Morales 4/26/23 CB# 120534 Nathan Torgelson 4/26/23 CB# 120534 Marco Lowe, Liz Van Bemmell 4/26/23 Meeting agenda Nathan Torgelson 5/1/23 TRAO delays Kye Lee 5/2/23 CB# 120534 Kye Lee 5/3/23 CB# 120534 Councilmember Nelson, Steven Ellis, Councilmember Mosqueda, Erin House 5/3/23 CB# 120534 Solana Granados, Devin Silvernail, Councilmember Morales 5/4/23 CB# 120534 Kye Lee, Marco Lowe, Liz VanBemmel 5/10/23 Building code Marco Lowe 5/11/23 Impact Fees Wayne Barnett 5/11/23 Annual Builders Event Kye Lee 5/18/23 Energy Code Nathan Torgelson 5/18/23 Building material issue BrynDel Swift 5/19/23 CB# 120534 Councilmember Strauss 5/22/23 CB# 120534 Councilmember Lewis 5/22/23 CB# 120534 Liz VanBemmel 5/23/23 Meeting agenda Councilmember Nelson 5/23/23 CB# 120534 Councilmember Strauss 5/23/23 CB# 120534 Liz VanBemmel 5/24/23 SDCI tech fee Marco Lowe, Kye Lee 5/24/23 City Parks Dept Kye Lee 5/26/23 Energy Code Sent to various city employess, then forwarded to others 5/30/23 Annual Builders Event Faride Cuevas 5/31/23 CB# 120534 Andrew Lewis, Naomi Lewis, Faride Cuevas, Bradley Wilburn 6/1/23 Annual Builders Event All Councilmembers, Mayor’s office, SDCI, Bradley Wilburn, Andy Higgens, 6/2/23 Annual Builders Mixer Nathan Torgelson 6/26/23 TRAO follow-up Elizabeth Sheldon 7/5/23 SIP Lite review Alex Chen 7/6/23 SPU water connections Debra Sutey 7/17/23 Seattle Fire Department Marco Lowe, Ops Team, Department Directors 1/17/23, 2/24/23, 3/24/23, 4/27/23, 5/25/23 Monthly Homebuilder working group City Staff from various departments 1/18/23, 2/15/23, 3/15/23, 4/19/23, 5/17/23, 7/19/23 Monthly permitting meeting with builders Kye Lee, Marco Lowe, Liz VanBemmel, Caia Caldwell 1/23/23, 2/23/23, 3/27/23, 4/24/23, 5/22/23, Monthly Ops Meeting Marco Lowe, Nathan Torgelson, Kye Lee, Jessyn Ferrell, Naomi Lewis, Eric House, Devin Silvernail, ALL City Councilmembers 4/21/23, 5/4/23, 5/23/23 B.O.T.H. Coalition

Reporting Period
Start 1/1/2023
End 3/31/2023


Expenditures for Period
Compensation To Lobbyist $23000
Compensation To Lobbying Entity 0

Name Date Subject Kye Lee 1/5/23 SDCI issue Kye Lee 1/11/23 SIP lite Kye Lee 1/13/23 SDCI issue Marco Lowe 1/13/23 Permit dashboard Kye Lee 1/18/23 TRAO delays Marco Lowe 1/18/23 Design Review Liz VanBemmel 2/1/23 Permit dashboard Marco Lowe, Caia Caldwell 2/2/23 SCL thresholds Marco Lowe 2/2/23 SPU Connection Times Marco Lowe 2/3/23 SPU Connection Times Marco Lowe 2/7/23 Watermain extensions Marco Lowe 2/15/23 Tech fees Caia Caldwell 2/16/23 SCL vacancy rates Kye Lee 2/21/23 Tree ordinance Kye Lee 2/24/23 Accela edits Marco Lowe 2/27/23 SBC Presentation Marco Lowe, Kye Lee 2/28/23 Seattle4everyone tree talk Greg Spotts, Shana Larson 2/28/23 Site walk-through Kye Lee 2/28/23 Lidar study Marco Lowe 2/28/23 Permit decline Marco Lowe, Kye Lee 3/2/23 SBC Presentation Marco Lowe, Kye Lee 3/9/23 Tree policy discussion All Councilmembers, Mayor’s office, SDCI, OSE 3/9/23 BOTH Coalition letter Kye Lee 3/9/23 SBC Presentation Caia Caldwell 3/10/23 Micro-housing tour Kye Lee 3/10/23 Capacity test Marco Lowe 3/10/23 SCL rumors Kye Lee 3/13/23 environmental policy Kye Lee 3/15/23 SDCI permitting delays Kye Lee 3/17/23 Current tree codes Liz VanBemmel 3/20/23 SPU Connection Times Kye Lee 3/20/23 CB# 120534 Kye Lee 3/21/23 Accela updates Liz VanBemmel 3/22/23 Agenda for HB working group Kye Lee 3/22/23 CB# 120534 Marco Lowe 3/22/23 CB# 120534 Councilmember Nelson 3/28/23 CB# 120534 Councilmember Nelson 3/28/23 CB# 120534 Kye Lee 3/29/23 CB# 120534 Councilmember Strauss 3/30/23 CB# 120534 Marco Lowe, Ops Team, Department Directors 1/17/23, 2/24/23, 3/24/23 Monthly Homebuilder working group City Staff from various departments 1/18/23, 2/15/23, 3/15/23 Monthly permitting meeting with builders Kye Lee, Marco Lowe, Liz VanBemmel, Caia Caldwell 1/23/23, 2/23/23, 3/27/23 Monthly Ops Meeting

Reporting Period
Start 10/1/2022
End 12/31/2022

Expenditures for Period
Compensation To Lobbyist $5458

subjects of Lobbying During Period
Subjects Townhome reform legislation CB120394, DRAFT of new tree ordinance Affordable housing exemption from design review CB120464 Need for more missing middle housing

Reporting Period
Start 7/1/2022
End 9/30/2022
Expenditures for Period
Compensation To Lobbyist $5458
Subjects of Lobbying During Period
Subjects townhome reform legislation #120394, DRAFT of new tree ordinance Need for more missing middle housing
Reporting Period
Start 4/1/2022
End 6/30/2022


Expenditures for Period
Compensation To Lobbyist $5458
Subjects of Lobbying During Period
Subjects upcoming tree ordinance legislation, missing middle housing, MHA reform
Reporting Period
Start 1/1/2022
End 3/31/2022
Expenditures for Period
Compensation To Lobbyist $5458
Subjects of Lobbying During Period
Subjects Tree Ordinance, Tree provider registration legislation, SDCI Omnibus.
Reporting Period
Start 1/1/2021
End 12/31/2021
Expenditures for Period
Compensation To Lobbyist $105,228.00
Subjects of Lobbying During Period
Subjects MHA, tree ordinance, townhome reform, density rounding.

Links to three recent NPI polls on support for trees in Seattle

Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest Response to Seattle City Council’s Passage of Tree Ordinance Update –


Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest Response to Seattle City Council’s Passage of Tree Ordinance Update 


The passage by the Seattle City Council of CB 120534 on May 24, 2023 culminates a 14-year effort to update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. While there are many good provisions in the new ordinance, it has evolved with the assistance of the Master Builder of King and Snohomish County with a focus on tree removal and replacement over increased protection of Seattle’s trees on private property as Seattle builds more housing.

Missing from CB 120534  is any sincere effort to maximize the retention of our existing trees during development, especially large mature trees. While the ordinance greatly reduces the removal of trees outside of development; besides saving a few heritage trees, it allows developers to continue their clear cutting of lots to maximize their building potential and profits.

Without increased efforts to maximize the retention of existing trees across the city during development, all areas will see a significant decrease in tree canopy, increased adverse health impacts, a decrease in climate resiliency and increased heat island impacts. Areas currently with low canopy and environmental inequity will only get worse as they will also lose trees during development.  

The Council bill now guarantees developers an 85% guaranteed lot development area in Low Rise zones and 100% in Mid Rise, Seattle Mixed and Commercial Zones. This will leave no space for trees in most cases. It will result in significant new tree loss. For example, the 2021 Seattle Canopy Study noted that the Seattle Mixed Zone currently has a 12% canopy cover.

People need trees where they live for healthy communities and healthy houses. The new ordinance prioritizes a policy that will create housing without requiring trees. Living close to trees dramatically improves our health. Lower rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease and cancer, improved pregnancy outcomes, better mental/emotional health and improved cognitive function are all correlated with living near trees.

While replacement trees during development can be planted on site if there is space, most will be planted off site in public areas like parks and along streets through paying the city an in-lieu fee. Few trees if any will be retained in multifamily zones. New trees will need decades to provide the benefits our existing trees provide now.

There is no requirement for developers in Seattle to have a tree retention and planting area like Portland, Oregon passed last year. They did this after complying with Oregon’s legislation in 2020 that said Portland had to allow 4-plexes in single family zones.  Portland provides an option to save a 20% tree retention and planting area in multifamily zones and 40% in their family residential zone. New trees are expensive to plant and maintain for 5 years. The Seattle Parks Dept. says it would need to spend $4000 to plant, maintain and water a replacement tree for 5 years. Replacement trees also have low survival rates—our existing trees are already established.

Large trees shading housing and the immediate area can be the difference between life and death during heat waves, but this ordinance promotes the removal of trees near homes being built.    Summer heat events are coming more frequent and are expected to increase with climate change. According to The New York Times, some 600 people died during the Northwest’s 2021 heat dome event.

Areas with large trees can lower temperatures 10 degrees or more as shown by numerous studies. Seattle did not investigate the impacts of tree loss on lots guaranteed 100% development areas in their 2022 DNS and 2023 Addendum. They did not consider the potential impacts of the state passing legislation like HB 1110 even though “middle housing” legislation came close to passing the previous year and was introduced in this year’s legislative session. HB 1110’s passage requires middle housing of 4-plexes and up to 6-plexes near frequent transit across Seattle including in the Neighborhood Residential zone.

Current development practices result in significant tree loss, which will worsen as new housing is built without space for trees on lots. Seattle’s 2021 canopy study showed a 50% decline in tree canopy on multifamily lots that were developed. Multifamily zones currently only have a 23% canopy cover. Washington state’s new middle housing bill, HB 1110, will expand multifamily housing throughout the city. Seattle has a 30% canopy goal by 2037 but has never produced a plan on how to reach that goal.

Most middle housing currently being built in Seattle (mostly townhouses) already exceeds the 85% low rise guaranteed development area and has at most a few small trees in the street planting area.  Seattle’s 2021 canopy study showed a 50% decline in tree canopy on multifamily lots that were developed. Washington state’s new middle housing bill, HB 1110, will expand multifamily housing throughout Seattle.

New housing CAN be built WITH trees: Many of Seattle’s trees grow on the edges of lots that tear down existing housing and should not be an obstacle to development. Other trees on the lot can be worked around in many cases by repositioning new buildings.

Last year, developers in the Master Builders Association  of King and Snohomish County Hearing Examiner appeal of Mayor Harrell’s 2022 draft ordinance presented no evidence that building added significantly to the cost of housing. This was the conclusion of the Hearing Examiner in the 2022 Master Builders of King and Snohomish Counties’ legal action after three days of testimony and considering the evidence, the Hearing Examiner concluded that the “Appellants’ arguments that the Proposal will increase the costs of development and will have negative impacts on the City housing supply were based on speculation, not any actual quantitative analysis that was introduced into evidence.”

Frontline communities, including South Seattle, will bear the brunt of a tree ordinance which misses the mark. Frontline communities already have low tree canopy and has lost more trees, faster, than other parts of Seattle. While the new ordinance focuses tree re-planting on these communities, which is a good start, it will also promote inequitable and unsustainable building practices by allowing the removal of the few large trees left in these areas.

Polls show that two-thirds of Seattle voters are concerned about tree loss as housing density increases and believe that Seattle needs to BOTH build new housing and do a better job of protecting its existing trees.

Seattle can do better and that is why more work is needed to address tree loss by maintaining more existing trees where people live as Seattle increases its housing supply. The city needs to seriously consider adding provisions to the tree ordinance like “maximizing the retention of existing trees” and “requiring a Tree Inventory (Arborists Report) and Tree Plan up front before building permits are issued” like  Portland Oregon does.

We appreciate that the city has a goal to collect more data to make better decisions as asked for by Mayor Harrell to help it respond to the impacts of tree loss, climate change and increased housing over time. Requiring developers to file tree retention, tree loss and tree replacement information online prior to a building permit being issued as Portland does is critical to obtaining accurate information. Permits to remove trees as many other cities require will also help. We need a stronger Tree Protection Ordinance that also increases retention of existing trees, not one that mainly emphasizes tree removal and then replacement on public lands during development. Trees where people live are vital for healthy communities and healthy living.

For more information contact: Steve Zemke


Tree Protection Polling Results – Seattle. WA

Tree protection polling insights

Prepared for the Seattle City Council by the Northwest Progressive Institute team

May 3rd, 2023


Councilmembers, NPI thanks you for your work with Mayor Bruce Harrell to improve climate resilience and strengthen protections for Seattle’s trees. Keeping the Emerald City emerald is an important and laudable objective, but we won’t reach it unless we provide meaningful legal protections to protect more of our existing tree canopy. As you know, a mature tree takes a lifetime to grow. Merely requiring new trees to be planted somewhere else when a mature tree is cut down does not provide a 1:1 replacement. 

We need actionable strategies for tree retention – and for those strategies to be successful, we need to ensure trees are viewed by the law as community amenities rather than obstacles to development. That is why the work you’re currently doing to update Seattle’s tree protection ordinance is so important. 

Trees and more housing go hand in hand. Research keeps demonstrating that access to nature and the outdoors is good for our mental and emotional health. Our built environment can’t just be concrete, asphalt, steel, and glass.  And as our PNW summers become hotter, it’s going to be particularly important that new Seattle residents have access to shade. Urban forests are not a luxury – they are a necessity. 

This memo will walk you through the data that demonstrates that what we’ve just said in the preceding three paragraphs are the strongly held beliefs of an overwhelming majority of Seattleites. Across three different surveys conducted in the past eighteen months, we have repeatedly found massively robust majorities for almost every single tree protection idea that we asked about. 

On many issues that we research, we see a sharp divide among the public. But here, we see widespread agreement that spans the ideological and political spectrum. Washington is the Evergreen State and Seattle is the Emerald City. We are national leaders in environmental protection. We have a strong conservation ethic. Here, we believe the trees are the view. It’s very important that our policies reflect these values. 

Two-thirds of Seattle voters are already concerned about tree and canopy loss

In our most recent survey of the Seattle electorate, conducted in January 2023, in advance of the February 2023 special election, we asked a representative sample of 

QUESTION: How concerned are you about tree and canopy loss in your neighborhood and the city as housing density increases to meet Seattle’s growing population?


40% Very concerned

29% Somewhat concerned

18% Not too concerned

12% Not concerned at all

1% Not sure

Aggregated toplines:

68% Total Concerned

31% Total Not Concerned

Breakdown by council district for this question: 


Breakdown Citywide D-1 D-2 D-3 D-4 D-5 D-6 D-7
Very concerned 40% 51% 38% 37% 44% 33% 42% 26%
Somewhat concerned 29% 28% 24% 32% 23% 30% 32% 28%
Not too concerned 18% 14% 27% 20% 21% 24% 15% 13%
Not concerned at all 12% 7% 11% 10% 12% 8% 11% 32%
Not sure 1% 0% 0% 0% 0% 5% 0% 2%
Total Concerned 68% 79% 63% 69% 67% 63% 74% 54%
Total Not Concerned 31% 21% 37% 30% 33% 32%% 26% 44%
Net Concerned 37% 58% 26% 39% 34% 31% 48% 10%


Of those who said they were concerned, we asked this follow-up question:

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: You stated you are concerned about losing trees in your neighborhood and the city. How important is having trees and nature in determining where you live in Seattle?


77% Very important

20% Somewhat important

2% Not too important

0% Not important at all

98% Total Important

2% Total Not Important

Seattle voters are not at all opposed to building more housing. But they want to see new apartments, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and the like built without destroying what’s left of our urban forests. 

Trees are important to increasing climate resiliency, Seattle voters say

In a subsequent question in our January 2023 poll of the Seattle special election electorate, we asked respondents to tell us about the role of trees in the city. Nearly all respondents agreed that trees are important to everything from reducing noise to providing visual beauty. What was particularly interesting was that 72% said trees were very important to increasing climate resiliency. The intensity we saw there was only exceeded by providing habitat for birds and wildlife (80% say trees are very important for that.)

QUESTION & ANSWERS: Please indicate how important you think trees are to each of the following:


Important Total Important Total


Very Smwt Not Too At All
Increasing climate resiliency 72% 21% 6% 2% 92% 8%
Reducing air pollution 71% 22% 6% 1% 93% 7%
Reducing stormwater runoff 65% 28% 6% 1% 93% 7%
Habitat for birds and wildlife 80% 16% 3% 1% 95% 5%
Reducing heat island impacts 72% 20% 7% 1% 92% 8%
Noise reduction 54% 34% 10% 2% 88% 12%
Mental and physical health 67% 26% 5% 2% 93% 7%
More pleasant to walk and bike 65% 26% 7% 2% 91% 9%
Visual beauty 69% 27% 3% 1% 96% 4%

Across the lake, voters in Bellevue likewise see tree protection as key to building a livable city, along with more housing

In August of 2022, the Northwest Progressive Institute commissioned – in partnership with the Housing Development Consortium, Sightline, Complete Streets Bellevue, and Eastside For All – a poll of Bellevue city residents that focused on housing. In that survey, Change Research asked 475 Bellevue residents what attributes should be prioritized in the city’s future housing. 

Sufficient tree canopy was the second-highest ranked attribute overall, after cost/affordability. 

QUESTION & ANSWERS:: Which of the following attributes should be prioritized in Bellevue’s future housing? Select the three that are most important to you.


2 3 Not Ranked Total Ranked Avg. Rank
Cost / affordability: Bellevue needs homes that low and middle income families can afford to rent or purchase – and that nonprofit developers can afford to build 32% 9% 9% 50 50 1.6
Sufficient tree canopy: Bellevue needs homes that are built responsibly, with mature trees left standing in order to ensure that neighborhoods remain connected to the natural environment 13% 9 14% 64 36 2.0
Walkability and density: Bellevue needs homes that are within walking distance of common destinations like grocery stores, pharmacies, schools, restaurants, and churches 9% 13 12% 65 35 2.1
Range of sizes: Bellevue needs homes in a range of sizes, including homes that provide more space than a studio apartment but less space than a millennium mansion 10% 14 10% 66 34 2.0
Proximity to transit: Bellevue needs homes that are well served by buses and trains so that residents aren’t forced to buy or lease a car to get around 7% 15 11% 67 33 2.1
Low environmental impact: Bellevue needs homes that are built with high levels of insulation, sustainably-sourced materials, energy efficient appliances, and heat pumps 9% 9 7% 76 24 1.9
Multi-generational dwellings: Bellevue needs homes that can comfortably support more than a single family, or multiple generations of a family 7% 8 10% 76 24 2.1
Local developers: Bellevue needs homes that are built by locally based developers who have a stake in the city’s future and take the time to obtain and utilize community input 4% 7 8% 81 19 2.2
Home office space: Bellevue needs homes that allow residents to work remotely from a dedicated home office, as opposed to a shared space like a living or dining room 4% 5% 6% 85 15 2.1

Tree retention as a strategy for increasing the availability of affordable housing

Additionally, in response to a separate question, the survey found that 64% of Bellevue residents support relaxing restrictions like building height limits for projects that preserve existing mature trees on the property rather than cutting them down. 29% were opposed and 7% were not sure. 

QUESTION & ANSWERS: The Bellevue City Council is considering a number of ideas to increase the availability of affordable housing throughout the city’s mostly residential neighborhoods. Please indicate whether you support or oppose each of the following policies.


Support Oppose Not Total Total Net
Strg Smwt Smwt Strg Sure Support Oppose Support
Relax restrictions like building height limits for projects that preserve existing mature trees on the property rather than cutting them down 32% 31% 11% 18% 7% 64% 29% 35%

Voters across the state feel similarly

In NPI’s most recent statewide survey, conducted in March of 2023, our other frequent pollster Public Policy Polling asked the following question of 874 likely 2024 Washington general election voters:

QUESTION: The Legislature is considering several bills to address Washington’s housing crisis, including legislation that would make it easier for developers to build missing middle housing like duplexes or low-rise apartments. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose including tree protection requirements in these housing bills to maximize the retention of existing mature trees on parcels being redeveloped and ensure that new trees get planted in low canopy areas to improve climate resiliency and environmental equity?


49% Strongly support

17% Somewhat support

9% Somewhat oppose

14% Strongly oppose

10% Not sure

Aggregated toplines:

66% Total support

23% Total oppose

That’s close to 3-to-1 support vs. opposition. 

In the King County subsample, the numbers were:

55% Strongly support

18% Somewhat support

7% Somewhat oppose

10% Strongly oppose

10% Not sure

Aggregated toplines for King County: :

73% Total support

17% Total opposition 

The need for updated tree protections in Seattle

In our July 2021 poll of the Seattle electorate, Change Research asked 617 respondents (likely Top Two voters) if they wanted to see Seattle’s tree protection ordinance strengthened, specifically to bolster tree equity. 82% said they strongly or somewhat agreed that the ordinance should be strengthened. 

QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Seattle’s tree protection ordinance should be strengthened to include increasing tree planting in low income and previously redlined neighborhoods with insufficient tree canopy to reduce heat island impacts and counter climate damage?


 57% Strongly agree that Seattle’s tree protection ordinance should be strengthened

25% Somewhat agree that Seattle’s tree protection ordinance should be strengthened

4% Somewhat disagree that Seattle’s tree protection ordinance should be strengthened

7% Strongly disagree that Seattle’s tree protection ordinance should be strengthened

7% Not sure

Aggregated toplines:

82% Total agree

11% Total disagree

Ideas for protecting trees

In that same survey, we asked about this set of ideas for protecting trees:

QUESTION & ANSWERS: Please indicate your support or opposition for each of the following potential ideas for updating Seattle’s tree protection ordinance.


Support Oppose Not Total Total Net
Strongly Somewhat  Somewhat Strongly Sure Support Oppose Support
Increasing protections for significant and exceptional (large) trees 52% 25% 6% 7% 9% 78% 13% 65%
Adding replacement requirements for significant and exceptional tree removal 47% 29% 6% 7% 11% 76% 13% 63%
Creating a city tree planting and preservation fund 47% 30% 7% 8% 8% 77% 14% 63%
Requiring tree care providers (arborists) to meet minimum certification and training and register with the city 41% 34% 7% 6% 11% 75% 14% 61%
Creating a permitting process for removal of significant trees (trees greater than six inches in diameter at four and a half feet high) 31% 26% 14% 14% 15% 57% 28% 30%

Seattle has already enacted legislation requiring tree care providers to meet minimum certification and training and register with the city. Kudos on that!

In our July 2021 survey, we next asked: 

QUESTION: Cities like Austin, Texas require developers to maximize the retention of existing trees throughout the planning, development, and construction process, while Seattle allows building lots to be cleared of trees during development. Do you support or oppose requiring Seattle developers to maximize the retention of existing trees throughout the planning, development, and construction process?


58% Strongly support requiring Seattle developers to maximize the retention of existing trees

23% Somewhat support requiring Seattle developers to maximize the retention of existing trees

7% Somewhat oppose requiring Seattle developers to maximize the retention of existing trees

6% Strongly oppose requiring Seattle developers to maximize the retention of existing trees

6% Not sure

Aggregated toplines: 

81% Total Support

14% Total Oppose

We can see from the answers to this question that a very large majority of Seattle voters favor requiring Seattle developers to maximize the retention of existing trees as part of their projects. Again, this just shows that Seattleites view trees as community amenities rather than obstacles to development. 

More ideas for protecting trees

In our autumn 2021 general election survey – which anticipated the victories of Mayor Bruce Harrell, City Attorney Ann Davison, and Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Sara Nelson – we asked likely general election voters about another set of tree protection ideas. As before, we found plenty of support.

The following questions were asked of 617 respondents in October of 2021 by Change Research: 

QUESTION: Portland, Oregon requires developers to provide a comprehensive Tree Survey and Tree Plan at the beginning of the building development process. Developers enter the Tree Survey information into a spreadsheet, which facilitates data collection on tree loss and replacement. Supporters say Seattle could follow suit to ensure the city maintains a healthy tree canopy, while opponents say it would be yet another regulation that would slow down development. Do you support or oppose requiring developers in the City of Seattle to complete a Tree Survey and Tree Plan prior to construction permits being approved?


50% Strongly support

24% Somewhat support

9% Somewhat oppose

9% Strongly oppose

8% Not sure

Aggregated toplines

74%Total Support

18% Total Oppose

We then asked: 

QUESTION: Oversight of trees in Seattle is currently overseen by nine city departments. Do you support or oppose creating a new Seattle Department of Environment and Climate that would include a consolidated urban forestry division?


44% Strongly support

28% Somewhat support

6% Somewhat oppose

12% Strongly oppose

10% Not sure

Aggregated toplines:

72% Total Support

18% Total Oppose

Finally, we asked:

QUESTION & ANSWERS: Please indicate your support or opposition for each of the following ideas for updating Seattle’s tree protection ordinance.


Support Oppose Not Total Total Net
Strongly Somewhat  Somewhat Strongly Sure Support Oppose Support
Give priority to planting native and climate resilient trees 66% 23% 3% 3% 5% 89% 6% 83%
Charge developers replacement fees for trees that they remove and don’t replant, with the amount of the fee corresponding to the size of the removed tree to make up for lost canopy 56% 22% 7% 8% 8% 77% 15% 62%
Increase building setbacks to allow larger, street-facing trees to be planted 38% 29% 10% 10% 14% 67% 20% 47%
Reduce the number of significant, non-exceptional trees that can be removed by private property owners from three (3) per year to two (2) in three years 29% 26% 14% 14% 17% 55% 28% 27%
Lower the upper limit for exceptional tree protection from thirty (30) inches in tree diameter to twenty-four (24) inches in diameter 29% 21% 12% 13% 25% 50% 25% 25%


Across all of our public opinion research on tree protection, we have never found less than a majority supportive of any of the ideas and strategies we have asked about for retaining trees and facilitating the planting of new trees. There’s broad, deep, and enthusiastic support for making the Emerald City a national leader in both tree protection and smart density. For this aspiration to be realized, we need an updated tree protection ordinance with teeth in it. The trees cannot speak for themselves, to paraphrase from The Lorax, so it’s critically important that the law speak for the trees. Please use this lens when considering and voting on the amendments that have been submitted to the draft ordinance. 

Thank you for your service to the people of the City of Seattle. 


Please get in touch with us.

Updated Comments on Tree Ordinance Amendments proposed to be voted on by the Land Use Committee on May 4th

e-mail sent to Seattle City Council
Dear Councilmember Dan Strauss,
Concerns regarding amendments are based on Wednesday, April 26 amendment sheet, which is the latest the public has seen.
We have not seen any updates on amendments on the Land Use Committee Agenda sent out today, May 1 for the two scheduled meetings on May 4th, so these comments are based on last week’s update.  Only 2 of the 9 sections had revisions last Wednesday and actual amendment language was still not available in most cases.
A2 – Why allow for 100% lot coverage in MR, commercial and SM zones? Do we want zero tree zones and more heat islands? This was not discussed in the 2023 DNS or 2023 Addendum. The 2021 canopy study says the multifamily zones haves a 23% canopy cover, the commercial/mixed use has a 12% canopy cover. Why put in things that guarantee tree removal. Other cities are struggling to add trees.
A4 – A guaranteed 85% lot coverage needs to be removed. The 2023 Addendum to the 2022 DNS did not take into account the impacts of HB 1110 and other state legislation that makes the ability to retain trees much more difficult. The Hearing Examiner last stated that the balance of keeping trees and increasing housing were both goals in the Comprehensive Plan and that last year’s draft balanced these goals. Now new provisions are being added that will remove more trees. Existing trees are the survivors.  Replacing them is costly and removing their current benefits in an increasing climate crisis.
A4, A-5, and A6 – A guaranteed 85% lot development area needs to be removed. Keep the flexibility using FAR as the current ordinance language provides to let tree retention, protection and planting be decided lot by lot depending on what trees are on the lot and moving building placement if possible.. Exceptions can be made for greater building lot coverage if conditions permit but there is no flexibility for trees with an 85% guarantee for development area.   Existing townhouses less than 15 feet wide have been built in Seattle. Retain flexibility in design and lot placement on site development
A-7 Support creation of Tree Preservation and Planting Areas of 20% for multifamily areas and 40% for Neighborhood Residential areas like Portland, Oregon has done. With state legislation requiring allowing 4 plexes and 6 plexes across most of Seattle having passed the State Legislature with HB 1110,  Seattle will never reach 30% tree canopy but will shift to 23% or less currently in the MR zone. We need trees where people live, in their neighborhoods, for a livable city.
B-7 Allow the in-lieu fee fund to be the One Seattle Tree Fund proposed by Mayor Harrell. Allow it to both preserve and plant trees like Portland, Oregon does. Add to tree replacement, that funds can also be used to protect existing trees, including tree groves,  by use of covenants and land purchases and donated land to create neighborhood dedicated tree parks and protected tree areas.
B-10 Expand the possible options to be explored to include creating a Climate and Environment Dept that has an Urban Forestry Division. The goal shall be to give Green Infrastructure protection and enhancement as an important focus on livability in the future of our city. We are facing an impending climate crisis and need to think of new ways to address the future by thinking boldly.
C-2 – Rather than “request SDCI modify its practices to consider trees at the beginning of the tree permit process” require that they do by requiring a tree inventory and a tree (landscaping plan) plan be submitted with a request for a development permit. Other cities like Portland, Oregon do this. Mayor Harrell has said we need data to make good decisions, and this is one way to get data. Require that developers maximize the retention of all 6″ DSH trees and larger (not just 12″ DSH and larger) throughout the entire development process. Six inch DSH trees are established trees, survivors, that have a head start on growing larger and do not need $4000 or more spent to plant and maintain for 5 years.
D-7 As written, there are 2 problems here.  This provision could apply to vacant lots which were to have no trees removed unless hazardous, and if a developed lot, why allow removal of more trees just because a lot has 40% trees.  This was not discussed in the DNS or addendum and states no compelling reason to allow this loophole to remove more trees.
E-4 would require a lot of replacement trees. Certainly 1:1 (which may become equivalency in the distant future) is not an answer. The UFC recommended 2 for 1 for trees 12-24″DSH , 3 for 1 for 24-36″ DSH and 4 for1 for trees over 36″ DSH Mercer Island has 1 for < 10 ” DSH, 2 for 1 for 10″ -24″ DSH ,3 for 1 for 24″-36″ DSH , and 6 for 1 for over 36″ DSH and exceptional trees.
E-5 and E-10 address the same issue and should be combined.
F-3 – Should include two violations in a year for any illegal tree cutting rules, eg two violations of removing a Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 trees or more than two Tier 4 trees in 3 years.  Minor violations, like paperwork or address violations should have fines but not push a company out of the city. Let fines increase with multiple minor violations if necessary for corrective action by a company.
F-4 – Several reasons to keep 15% or greater canopy area and branches 2 ” diameter as reportable work – It is consistent with SDOT procedures, allows collection of data of canopy removal (both canopy area and canopy volume loss), and allows SDCI and public ability to check on tree trimming work. Likely outcome of change will be much less tree trimming work will be reported as reportable work.
G-6 – Change “require consideration” to “require” Tree Protection Areas must be set up for all Tier 1 – Tier 4 trees on neighboring property whose root zones are also on the lot where the development is occurring. This includes both public and private trees.
H-4 – Opening up options to remove Heritage Trees besides being hazardous reduces them to Tier 2 trees -Exceptional Trees.
Keep Heritage Trees non-removable unless they are a hazard tree. There are not that many of them and most are said to be street trees.
I-4 As proposed by Urban Forestry Commission, amend the Tier System to include the currently used nomenclature to make it easier for the public to understand. eg Tier 1 – Heritage Trees,, Tier 2- Exceptional Trees, Tier 3 – Significant Trees 12-24″ DSH and Tier 4 Trees – Significant Trees 6-12″ DSH. We are aware of no other city that has a Tier System which creates confusion and de-emphasizes the value of the trees to the public.
Steve Zemke
Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

Documents Relating to Seattle Draft Tree Protection Ordinance April 26, 2023

The Seattle City Council is in the processing of updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. Wording for specific amendments is happening now. Final discussion and adoption of amendments will take place at two Special Land Use Committee meeting on Thursday May 4th, 2013 at 9:30 AM and 2 PM meetings

CB 120534 AN ORDINANCE relating to tree protection; balancing the need for housing production and increasing tree protections; and amending Sections 23.44.020, 23.47A.016, 23.48.055, 23.76.004, 23.76.006, and Chapter 25.11 of the Seattle Municipal Code.

Briefing, Discussion, and Possible Amendments

Full Text: CB 120534
Summary and Fiscal Note
Summary Att 1 – Expanded Summary of Code Changes
Director’s Report
Draft Directors Rule 2023-XX – Tier 2 Trees
Draft Directors Rule 2023-XX – PIL
2023 Tree Hearing Schedule
Tree Protection Presentation (3/22/23)
Tree Protection Presentation (3/29/23)
Central Staff Memo
Central Staff Presentation (4/7/23)
Tree Protection Presentation (4/7/23)
2023 Tree Hearing Schedule (updated)
Central Staff Memo (4/21/23)
2023 Tree Hearing Schedule (updated v2)
Full Text: CB 120534 v2
Full Text: Word v.2 for editing
Table of Amendments v2 (added 4/26/23)


2023 Seattle Tree Protection Poll Briefing by NPI

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”January 2023 Seattle Tree Protection Findings Briefing Packet”]
Click on bottom of slide above to see results NW Progressive Institute – January 2023

See also::

Second set of Seattle tree protection poll findings affirms voters value urban forests –  NW Progressive Institute – Dec 20, 2021

Seattle voters overwhelmingly favor policies to protect and expand the city’s tree canopy  – NW Progressive Institute – Sept 15, 2021