Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance Update Issues

Proposed revisions to Draft D7 for discussion – Nov 2018

Require permits to remove any tree over 6 inches DBH. Base permits on measuring tree diameter and species identification, not canopy area as proposed in the draft.

Limit to 2 the number of significant, non-exceptional trees that can be removed per yr on developed property to 2 trees/year. Alternative is to allow x diameter inches per year e.g. 10 inches/year.

Adopt a policy of no net loss of canopy/year and a goal to increase canopy.

 No exemption on replacement for trees removed on lots over zone goal for canopy as this over time results in a net loss of canopy. The zone goal is an average, with lots above and below this average in tree cover.

Simplify replacement by requiring that all trees removed over 6” DBH, both on developed lots and lots being developed, in all zones, must be replaced, either on site, or by paying a replacement and maintenance fee to the city.

The permit should be called the tree removal and replacement permit. Current draft would let homeowner or developer plant trees off site. Consider removing the provision that a homeowner or developer plant trees off site as this gets very hard to track. Instead pay the city to do this with a fee in lieu to ensure proper trees are planted and maintained.

Current draft requires homeowners and developers removing a tree/trees below canopy zone goal having to bring canopy up to zone goal. Apply this to developers, not homeowners.

Draft starts with 2:1 replacement at 6″ DBH as the city does but has no increase in numbers as the tree removed gets larger. There are two reasons for increasing the number of trees for replacement increasing as the size of the tree increases – many newly planted trees do not survive and the larger DBH trees are older trees that take much longer to replace in equivalency.

The number of trees required as replacement increases as the size of the tree removed is increased. This is what other cities like Portland OR, Medina WA, and Mercer Island do. Medina 6-10 inches – replant 1 tree,10-24 inches -replant 2 trees, 24 inches and larger – replant 3 trees; Mercer island adds over 36 inches – replant 6 trees.

Target for tree replacement numbers to reach equivalency in 20 years per arboriculture standards. Draft says 25 years.

Target replacement to increase conifers, native trees and trees determined to respond best to climate changes

All replaced trees shall be considered significant when planted. (draft provision 25.11.122E)

Protect larger and older trees by reinstating the current exceptional tree protections.  Use the definition given in Director’s  Rule 2008-16.   ”An exceptional tree is a tree that Is designated as a heritage tree by the City of Seattle; or Is rare or exceptional by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural/historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of grove of trees.”

Add the words “habitat value, ecological and environmental services” to the definition.

Lower the upper threshold for exceptional trees as recommended by the UFC  to 24″ DBH from 30″ DBH to protect more older. larger trees.

Continue existing protection that exceptional trees on developed property cannot be removed unless they are hazardous.

Require hazard trees to be replaced. (Maybe 1 for 1)

Put back prohibition on removing trees greater than 6” DBH on undeveloped lots.

Set up database system to track all tree loss and replacement in one database for all property, both developed and developing. Not “Maybe included with another SDCI permit” – must be tracked).

Minor permit – 1 or 2 significant non-exceptional trees outside development, hazard tree .  Major permit – trees during development

Application and permit posted on public city website Sign up list for people and neighborhoods to be notified when applications are filed.

Permit application with tree species and diameter DBH shall be posted on site and available for public to see as SDOT currently does. Yellow ribbon must be visibly placed around tree proposed to be removed.  Two weeks posting for application, then 1 week posting for trees approved to be removed. Applies to both minor and major tree removal permits, including during development. (Current draft only has posting for “approved permits”)

Time of tree planting in fall/winter – Mercer Island – “Timing.  Replacement trees shall be planted in the wet season (October 1 through April 1) following the applicable tree removal or in the case of a development project, completion of the development work, provided the city arborist may authorize an extension to ensure optimal planting conditions for tree survival”

Lots undergoing development shall be free of invasive plant species prior to approval of final landscape and tree planting approvals.

Determination of trees and tree canopy on a development site shall be that which has existed for 2 years prior to the development application being submitted as determined by LIDAR, Google Earth, or Google Street maps or other means by the city.

For purposes of this chapter and it’s enforcement by the city, the city shall have the power to access any property, public or private, as it may reasonably deem necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.

Performance Evaluation of ordinance – “The tree program manager shall collect and maintain all records and data necessary to objectively evaluate whether progress is being made toward the stated goals of this ordinance. An annual summary and analysis of the evaluation, and recommendations for action shall be prepared at the direction of the tree program manager and presented to the City Council. The City Council shall consider the report and recommendations and take all actions deemed necessary to accomplish the goals of this ordinance. These actions may include, but are not limited to, revision or amendment of this ordinance or the adoption of other resolutions or ordinance.”  www.Phytosphere.com

Send your comments to jenny.durkan@seattle.gov and Council@seattle.gov

 

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance                                                                                    SteveZemke – Chair              www.friends.urbanforests.org                                                                                       SteveZemke@Friends.UrbanForests.org

Seattle Tree Ordinance Update – Next Steps

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Join other tree protection advocates this Saturday October 27th for a public coalition meeting to discuss and review proposed changes needed to strengthen the current Tree Ordinance draft proposed by the Seattle City Council. 

We will be working on developing a coordinated community response to their proposal  – a united front is our best way to enact a strong ordinance. The Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee will take up amendments to their draft in December after the Council will has adopted their Budget for next year.

The Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

will be meeting

Saturday, October 27, 2018 from 11 AM to 1 PM
at the Montlake Public Library, 2404 24th Ave E in Seattle

Read more here:
What’s Next for Seattle’s Tree Ordinance?
current draft Tree Ordinance – version D7

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.

Steve Zemke

Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance – a Joint Project of the Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and Tree PAC.

www.Friends.UrbanForests.org and www.TreePAC.org

facebook – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest  and facebook – Tree PAC

Donations are needed to support the efforts to update the Tree Ordinance and can be made through TreePAC. Click on the following link –  Donate Here

J

What’s Next for Seattle’s Tree Ordinance Update?

The Seattle City Council heeded public input and has decided to slow down their rush to update SMC 25.11 – Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance by the end of September . This will give more time for public input and scrutiny. The public needs to continue to send in their concerns and suggestions on how to make the ordinance more effective. The Seattle City Council and the Mayor are currently focused this month and next month on adopting their 2019 Budget. They will again take up the Tree Protection Ordinance after the Budget is adopted.

You can help us get a stronger ordinance by continuing to contact the Mayor and the SeattleCity Council with your concerns and suggestions. Their e-mails are:

jenny.durkan@seattle.gov and Council@seattle.gov

Below are our  suggestions  of changes needed in the current draft they are working with labeled as version D7 that we believe would significantly strengthen the draft ordinance.

Major changes to draft Ordinance being proposed:

Retain the emphasis in the current ordinance by adding back to the draft ordinance the  priority of saving existing trees rather than concentrating on how to remove trees and replace them. This means protecting exceptional trees from being removed unless they are  hazard trees.

Exceptional trees are the largest trees of their species and the survivors over time. Exceptional trees should be defined as trees that are exceptional because they are a Heritage tree as defined by the city or rare or exceptional by virtue of their  species, condition, cultural/historical importance, age, habitat value, environmental or ecological services provided to the city and/or are part of a grove of trees.The upper threshold for becoming exceptional should be 24 inches DBH.

Use a tree diameter and tree species criteria for issuing a tree removal and replacement permit. The tree canopy approach proposed in Draft D7 requiring property owners not just to measure the canopy of the tree to be removed but all the trees on your lot is a time consuming process that ignores property lines, the size and importance of the tree involved, and would result in the loss of many exceptional trees over time.

Limit removal to a maximum of two significant trees, non-exceptional trees per year. Prohibit the removal of any trees over 6 inches DBH on an undeveloped lot. Allow any exceptional tree that is determined to be a hazard tree to be removed.

All significant trees (trees greater than 6 inches DBH), including hazard trees, that are removed on any lot, whether  a developed lot or a lot undergoing development, in any zone in the city must be replaced either on site, off site or a fee in lieu paid for the city to replace the tree. 

The goal is not just to have no less loss of canopy but to increase it. Tree replacement requirements shall increase as the diameter and canopy volume of the tree removed increases. An example of such a system would be would be 1 tree for a 6-12 inch diameter tree, 2 trees for 12 -24 inch trees,  3 trees for 24 -36 inch trees and 4 trees for trees greater than 36 inch DBH. The reason for the number of trees increasing is that the goal is to try to replace the lost canopy volume over a 20 year cycle and also that all trees do not survive over time. Replacement trees should be targeted to increase conifers, native tree species and trees determined to respond best to climate change.

Property owners outside development should be able to apply for a minor Tree removal and replacement permit for the removal of 1 or significant non-exceptional trees or a hazard tree. Developers will have to apply for a major tree removal and replacement permit which includes preparing a detailed tree inventory for  the site and a replacement landscaping plan. Developers shall, like homeowner be required to replace all trees they removed, either on site, off site or pay a fee in lieu system. If the lot canopy cover is below the goal for that zone, developers shall, at a minimum,  be required to retain and  plant sufficient trees to ensure that the lot reaches the zone canopy goal.

These are some of the major changes under consideration by tree advocates. Feel free to contact us with your suggestions. Send to steve@friends.urbanforests.org.

See reference material below:

Draft D7 of the “Tree Regulations Update Ordinance” 

Policy considerations regarding proposed tree regulation bill 
Council memo -September 19, 2018 the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee

Adopted letter  – Re: Draft Tree protection ordinance update – Seattle Urban Forestry Commission – August 31, 2018

 

Seattle City Council Delays Action on Draft Tree Ordinance

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Great news. The Seattle City Council has decided to slow down passage of an update to Seattle’s existing Tree Protection Ordinance. The Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee was rushing to get something passed before the Seattle City Council started their yearly October/November Budget Process. They will now next meet in December with possible action the first of next year. This is a positive step to allow more review and changes before a final decision is made

Your support and efforts have helped to make this possible. We need your help now to help fund our containing efforts. Contributions made to TreePAC will go to support our efforts. Click on the link below to help:

Click here to Donate

Thanks

TreePAC and neighborhood groups urged the Seattle City Council to slow down. One key issue was that the Council’s latest draft removed existing protections for exceptional trees including Heritage Trees and tree groves, undeveloped lots,and limits on the number of trees that could be removed per year. This represented a step backwards in protecting Seattle’s trees. These protections need to be put back in the proposed ordinance.

The Seattle City Council had completed an Environmental Checklist as required by the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). The Seattle Department of Construction and and Inspections (SDCI) then issued a Determination of Non-Significance( DNS) regarding the draft Tree Ordinance.

The Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance, along with TreePAC and other environmental and neighborhood groups, filed an appeal to the City Hearing Examiner regarding the city’s DNS. We believed that the draft tree ordinance as written would have had a significant negative impact on the city’s trees and urban forest.

As we were gearing up to start the appeal process, SDCI decided last week to withdrew the DNS. This successful challenge by us means that the city will now have to do a new SEPA Analysis based on a revised draft ordinance.

Our goal now is to work with the City Council and the Urban Forestry Commission and Coalition supporters and others to push for stronger tree protections in the proposed bill.

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission outlined their concerns in an August 31, 2018 letter to the City Council:
UFC letter – Recommendations regarding Draft Tree Protection Ordinance D7

The Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee Sept 19, 2018 memo:
Policy considerations regarding proposed tree regulation bill

Please urge the Seattle City Council to support the recommendations of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission. Send your comments to jenny.durkan@seattle.gov and council@seattle,gov.

As more specific language and amendments to the draft are developed we will keep you informed.

Again thanks for your continued support. Your efforts have helped to make possible all that we have done. Contributions made now to TreePAC will go to support our ongoing efforts. Click on the link below to help:

Click here to Donate now

Thank you!

Steve Zemke – Chair
Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance – a joint Project of TreePAC and Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

Appeal of DNS on proposed Seattle Tree Ordinance update filed, City withdraws DNS


The following appeal of the determination of non-significance (DNS) regarding the proposed draft tree ordinance D7 by the Seattle City Council was filed on Sept 13, 2018. On Sept 24, 2018 the Department of Planning and Development withdrew the DNS.

BEFORE THE HEARING EXAMINER

FOR THE CITY OF SEATTLE

In Re: Appeal by TreePAC, Greenwood Exceptional Trees, SCALE (Seattle Coalition for Affordability Livability and Equity), Beacon Hill Council Seattle, Fremont Neighborhood Council, Mt Baker Community Council, SUN (Seniors United for Neighborhoods), University District Council, and Wallingford Community Council, of the August 23, 2018 Determination of Non-Significance by Chanda S. Emery AICP, Senior Planner, Department of Construction and Inspections. NOTICE OF APPEAL Non-Project Action Amending Seattle Municipal Code (SMC), including repealing and replacing Chapter 25.11

I. INTRODUCTION

Appellants are public interest and community based organizations in Seattle with an interest in working with the City of Seattle to improve the structure, implementation and effectiveness of the City’s codes regarding the protection and restoration of the City’s urban forest and its functions expressed as tree density, health, diversity, and distribution.

Each appellant will be adversely impacted by enactment of the proposed ordinance notwithstanding the determination by the responsible official that it is not likely to have any significant adverse environmental impacts. Together Appellants represent many thousands of Seattle residents who will be significantly and adversely impacted by the proposed non-project action amending Seattle Municipal Code (SMC), including repealing and replacing Chapter 25.11.

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E-mails needed now – Contact Council and Mayor on Updating Tree Ordinance

 

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Dear Tree Protection Advocates,

The Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee will be meeting at 9 AM on Wednesday, Sept 19th.  There is a 20 minute section at the end of the meeting devoted to the proposed tree ordinance update.  There is a 10 minute public comment period at the beginning of the Committee meeting. Attend the committee meeting if you can but sending an e-mail addressing their questions in the new Council memo and any other concerns you have is our suggested priority action now.

Here is the new Seattle City Council memo:

Policy considerations regarding proposed tree regulations bill – Sept 19, 2018

This needs to be compared with the Seattle Urban Forestry Committee recommendations of August 31, 2018.

LEG Tree regulation updates ORD D7 and August 16, 2018 Central Staff Memo Summary of proposed tree regulation bill and identified issues

*The questions below are cut and pasted excerpts from the Council memo. Suggested answers to the questions are in bold type.

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Action Alert – Public Hearing on Tree Ordinance Update This Wednesday, Sept 5th

The Seattle Land Use and Zoning Committee of the Seattle City Council is holding a Public Hearing on its proposed draft Tree Ordinance:

 Wednesday, Sept 5, 2018
9:30 AM to 11:30 AM (sign up starts at 9 AM)

Seattle City Hall, City Council Chambers,
600 4th Ave, Seattle,WA 98104

Please come and testify or send a letter to the Mayor and City Council.

jenny.durkan@seattle.gov and Council@seattle.gov

Issues to comment on:

  1. Allow more time for possible changes. analysis of impacts, and public input on the current tree ordinance draft by delaying final action to the beginning of 2019 as recommended by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission (See more detail below)
  2. Put back existing protections for Exceptional Trees –  “An exceptional tree is a tree that: 1. Is designated as a heritage tree by the City of Seattle; or 2. Is rare or exceptional by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural/historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of grove of trees “.  Lower the threshold for large exceptional trees to 24 ” diameter at 54 inches high (DBH).
  3. Limit removal of trees to no more than 2 per year on developed property.
  4. Put back the prohibition on cutting down trees greater than 6″ DBH on undeveloped lots
  5. Base tree permits on diameter and species of trees, not tree canopy measurements. 
  6. Require all trees 6″ DBH and larger that are  removed to be replaced on site or off site or a replacement and maintenance  fee be paid to the city.
  7. Require 2 week posting and yellow ribbons on trees for all permits for removal;, include on line public posting of applications and permit approvals.

You can see a more detailed explanation of the pros and cons of the proposed Tree Ordinance here: 
Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest Analysis of Pros and Cons of Draft Tree Ordinance

Ordinance Language for Repeal and Replacement of SMC 25.11 – Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance  now called the Tree Regulation Bill – August 16, 2018  
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Coordinating Committee – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Coordinating Committee –

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

John Barber

Tawny Bates

Maria Batayola

Richard Boerth

Richard Ellison

Katy Griffith

Corinne Holister

Wendy Oberlin

Kevin Orme

Heidi Siegelbaum

Lance Young

Steve Zemke

Comments on Draft Tree Ordinance (Draft D7) – David Moehring

RE: Draft Tree Removal Ordinance
Comments by David Moehring 8/31/2018
PLEASE KEEP IN THE CURRENT TREE REQUIREMENT of SMC 23.44.008 in ITS ENTIRETY IN ORDER TO AVOID NEGATIVE IMPACTS TO THE SEATTLE ENVIRONMENT:
Please enter into the public record for the September 5th Hearing.
 Copy to:

The Honorable Rob Johnson, Chair of Planning, Land Use & Zoning Seattle City Council

The Honorable Mike O’Brien

The Honorable Lisa Herbold

The Honorable Lorena Gonzalez

The Honorable Sally Bagshaw,

The Honorable Lorena Gonzalez

The Honorable Debora Juarez

The Honorable Teresa Mosqueda

The Honorable Lorena Gonzalez

The Honorable Kshama Sawant

 Dear Mr. An and Mr. McConaghy,
Please explain how and why the “Draft Tree Protection Ordinance” and program mislabeled “Trees for All” results in the proposed removal of  tree protection – making it easier for new home builders to remove trees without replacing them.
There are too many examples of reduced tree protections being proposed within the new ordinance. Please provide a citywide open forum. It is unjust to allow just ten (10) minutes of researched feedback on this significant issue! Most important, how may a City Council propose reductions in tree protection while disregarding the State requirements for an environmental impact study?
A Case in Point:
The proposed ‘tree protection ordinance’ weakens tree protection the most where the most of Seattle’s “urban forest” exists – single-family zoned lots which hold almost two-thirds of Seattle’s trees. Although the City proposed changes places additional burdens on existing home owners, it removes all barriers to tree removal from new home builders. Yet, Seattle does not suffer so much the residents yielding chain saws. The damage is done by the home builders clear-cutting established groves and significant trees. The new ordinance allows this to happen with the complete removal of section 23.44.008 paragraph ‘I’ from the Seattle Municipal Code.
For years, Seattle codes required that NEW houses on single-family zoned lots maintain their heart of the urban forest. If, however, this environmentally smart code section is not maintained as it is today, retaining existing trees and/or planting new trees in a size that is proportionate to the lot area will no longer be required. …. the significant risk of striking this current tree retention and refurbishment requirement,…. Specifically, if one builds a new house on a typical 5,000 square foot lot, then they also must retain and/or plant enough trees so that the total of all trees measured are at least 10-inches in width (measured at a set location). If that 5,000 square foot lot already has and will retain existing trees that at least total 10-inches in width – then no additional new trees are required to be planted. That seems in part a fair incentive to retain existing mature trees that do so much more for the micro-climate of Seattle than some convoluted “green factor”!
Why might some councilpersons likely be promoting the removal of this enduring tree retention / replanting code section? We all need to know. I suspect that without the existing trees being in the way on residential development lots (where most of Seattle’s Urban Forest exists), it makes the forthcoming changes to Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) easier to be achieved.
For reference, I have copied and pasted the relative text that is shown by Mr. McConaghy to be completely struck from the Seattle Municipal Code — which will definitely have a potential for significant environmental impacts.  This text is at the bottom of the message – below the illustrative diagram.
Yes, Trees for all …including new development sites!
 David Moehring AIA
3444 23rd Ave W
Member, TreePAC

DETERMINATION OF NON-SIGNIFICANCE RELEASED ON NEWEST VERSION OF TREE REGULATIONS ORDINANCE

Its Time to Update Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

DETERMINATION OF NON-SIGNIFICANCE RELEASED ON NEWEST VERSION OF TREE REGULATIONS ORDINANCE (Version D7)

Summary:

Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson’s relentless push to repeal Seattle’s current Tree Protection Ordinance SMC 25.11 has advanced with the release on August 16, 2018 of final language for the proposed new Tree Ordinance (Version D7 – https://www.seattle.gov/council/meet-the-council/rob-johnson/trees-for-all)

Unfortunately the Seattle City Council’s latest version of an update to the current Tree Protection Ordinance  has changed to what we consider a “Tree Removal and Mitigation Ordinance.” There is a big difference between proactive tree retention/protection vs mitigation, which occurs after a tree is cut.  The current proposed ordinance:

  1. Removes any limit on the number of trees that can be removed per year;
  2. Removes the prohibition against cutting down exceptional trees (which are the largest of their species) on developed lots. The definition of exceptional trees includes Heritage trees and tree groves; and
  3. Removes the current prohibition of cutting down any tree over 6″ in diameter (DBH) on undeveloped lots. 

Other details are seen below the meeting announcement – Please try to attend either or both of the meetings below and make your voice heard!
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