Developers should not be exempt in new ordinance to protect Seattle’s trees 

Press Release – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance 

June 4, 2018

 Developers should not be exempt in new ordinance to protect Seattle’s trees 

by Steve Zemke and Susanna Lin

Look around at any development site in Seattle, and you will usually find it clear cut of any trees or vegetation that used to be there. Given the record breaking development boom we are experiencing, and the City Council preparing to add more density with upzones across Seattle, and it becomes clear that protecting our trees in the face of rampant development should be of the upmost importance.

With the current proposal to increase density through zoning changes in 27 urban villages and multifamily zones across Seattle, the City was required to produce an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS to evaluate the negative impacts this increase in density may produce.

The EIS produced by the City says that the Tree Protection ordinance and regulations are sufficient to deal with trees during development. Yet the Tree Regulations Research Project done internally last year by the City said that “Current code is not protecting trees.” “We are losing exceptional trees (and groves) in general.” “Development and hardscape increase result in tree loss. Conifers and large tree species are coming out with deciduous and dwarf species are coming in.” The inadequacy of our current tree protection is one of the issues in the MHA EIS appeal.

While the Tree Regulations report was cited in the bibliography, its conclusions are not discussed in the EIS and its conclusions are contrary to what the EIS said. In the draft EIS they mentioned in the bibliography the Tree Regulations Research Project report, but put no link to it. It was not publicly available. The report contradicted what the City said in the EIS. The report was finally secured through a public records request after failed attempts to have it discussed by the city at the Urban Forestry Commission.

With increased development occurring, our trees and urban forest are being removed at a faster pace but adequate mitigation is not in place to replace the benefits trees provide like cleaning our air we breathe and reducing storm water runoff. Seattle needs to require developers to replace trees removed or pay a fee to the city to replant them. The city needs to update its existing tree ordinance to require this. 

Councilmember Rob Johnson has a proposal to update to Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance, which would require private homeowners to get permits to remove trees and replace trees removed but would not require developers to do so, according to the draft outline in a memo he had Council staff discuss last week before the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee.

Here are the recommendations the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance made:
Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

Here are the recommendations the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission made:
Tree regulations update “Trees for All” proposal recommendation 

Here is the memo from City Council Central Staff and Rob Johnson that needs strengthening:
Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations

Tree Regulations Research Project – Final Report  March 31, 2017

Councilmember Johnson is trying to get this passed by August, the same timeline he is working on for the MHA upzone legislation. Johnson in his memo from Council staff, however, proposes exempting developers from having to get permits to remove trees and replace them on site or pay the city to do so elsewhere. He also supports a 12″ threshold DBH rather than 6 ” DBH which would cover 45% of the trees on single family lots.

E-mails to the Mayor and City Council are needed now as Councilmember Johnson is proposing releasing a draft on June 20th at the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee. We are trying to put pressure on the Council to do the right thing by:

  • Including developers in all zones in tree protection requirements
  • Doing canopy assessments prior to issuing construction permits
  • Requiring permits to remove any tree over 6 ” DBH
  • Requiring replacement on site or pay into a city Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund for all trees removed
  • Requiring all Tree Care Professionals to be licensed as SDOT already does
  • Remove the exemption of lots less than 5000 sq ft from complying with the current Tree Protection Ordinance.

Additional material added 6/5/2018

Tree Canopy Assessment– Sustainability & Environment Sub-Cabinet

Clarification of Canopy Cover Assessment Statistics 3/23/2011

 

Action Needed June 1-7, 2018 Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance 

Dear Friends of Trees,

Can you show your support for trees next week?  Let us know. We need people to show up and speak for stronger tree protection at these Seattle City Council Hearings:

Monday June 4, 2018 10 AM – Press Conference by Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance at City Hall outside Council Chambers, City Hall, 500 4th Ave. Come! We need you!  Invite others!

Monday June 4, 2018  10:30 AM – give public comments at the MHA Select Committee at Council Chambers in City Hall, 500 4th Ave This is the full City Council discussing the Mandatory Housing Legislation.  Testimony at the beginning of the meeting needs to address that issue. It’s fairly simple.

What to say:

1. With the increased development occurring, we need to add stronger  protection for trees in the MHA ordinance.

2  Require that developers get permits to remove all tree 6″ DBH and larger and that they replace all trees removed either on site or they pay a replacement and maintenance fee to the city to replant the lost trees. Green factor is not an  adequate substitute for trees. We need to grow our canopy, not mow it down.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018 9:30 AM – give public comments to Rob Johnson’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee, Council Chambers, City Hall, 500 4th Ave on his proposed Tree Ordinance Update. Note that the Council memo on the update was not available until the beginning of the last meeting and say you want to comment on it now before he releases a draft on June 20, 2018.

What to say:

1.    Urge that developers be required to get permits for all development projects just as they are  suggesting homeowners do.  Everyone removing trees needs to get permits,  Developers should not be excluded. Its a question of fairness.

2.     The permits should be required for all trees 6 inches in diameter at breast height. This would cover about 45% of the trees on single family lots.

3.     All trees 6″DBH and larger should be replaced, either on site or by paying a tree replacement and maintenance fee to the city to replant them in the neighborhood or elsewhere as needed in the city. We can’t grow our canopy if we are removing it faster than it’s growing. 

4.     Tree care professionals should be licensed.

Background reference material:

website with lots of information and links on trees and tree ordinances, including Seattle’s – www.friends.urbanforests.org   

Here are the recommendations the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance made: Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

 Here are the recommendations the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission made: Tree regulations update “Trees for All” proposal recommendation 

 Here is the memo from City Council Central Staff and Rob Johnson that needs strengthening: Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations

 Here is the city report that said the current ordinance is not protecting  trees: Tree Regulations Research Project – Final Report  March 31, 2017

 Steve Zemke – Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

steve@friends.urbanforests.org

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Please let Carolyn Rodenberg, who is helping coordinate these events,  know if you can attend either of these two days.  If you can’t attend either day, please e-mail  the Mayor and the City Council,  expressing your support for a stronger tree ordinance than what they are currently proposing. Thanks.

E-mail  carolynrodenberg@mindspring.com. 

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance sends letter to Mayor and City Council

Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

Dear Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council Members, 

We urge you to provide strong leadership now to significantly strengthen Seattle’s tree ordinance to protect our trees and urban forest. 

Seattle’s urban forest is an integral and vital part of our city.  It provides many benefits and amenities to those living in our city.  Trees help clean our air and enhance public health, reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate climate change, decrease the impacts of heat and wind, provide habitat for birds and wildlife and give us a connection with nature in our neighborhoods.

Seattle’s rapid growth is reducing these beneficial impacts as trees are removed, particularly during development across our city. It is urgent that you act now to stop the loss of trees, particularly exceptional trees and tree groves, and to promote environmental equity as we increase our tree canopy.

We urge you to act now by updating our current tree ordinances and regulations as follows:

  1. Adopt a policy of a net increase of Seattle’s tree canopy each year to reach the city’s current goal of 30% tree canopy.  This requires maintaining and strengthening current protections for both significant and exceptional trees, tree groves, Heritage trees, environmentally critical areas and natural areas.
  2. Require the replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with equivalent sized trees (e.g. small, medium or large) – either on site:  or pay the replacement and maintenance mitigation costs into a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund. Allow the Fund to accept fines, donations, grants and for acquiring land and setting easements and Tree Protection Trusts.
  3. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit, 2-week notice and posting system used by SDOT – to cover all public and private trees 6” DBH and larger on both public and private property in all land use zones. Allow removal of no more than 1  significant non-exceptional tree per lot per year.
  4.  Establish one citywide database when applying for tree removal and replacement permits and to track changes in the tree canopy.  Post online all permit requests and permit approvals for public viewing.  Expand SDOT’s existing tree map to include all the trees in the city that are removed and replaced.
  5. Require a detailed Urban Forest Canopy Assessment for all development projects prior to any development beginning. This detailed tree inventory should be entered into a public database.  Replacement trees should be based on equivalent tree size at maturity.
  6. Expand SDOT’s existing tree service provider’s registration and certification to include all tree service providers working on trees in Seattle. 
  7. Consolidate tree oversight into one city entity: The Office of Sustainability and Environment, as was recommended by the Seattle City Auditor in 2009.  Give OSE the additional authority needed to ensure that trees have an independent advocate for their protection to avoid conflicting goals in other city departments.
  8. Emphasize native trees and vegetation, particularly conifers, to maximize sustainability and environmental services.  Require the removal of invasive plants during development. Increase incentives for protecting trees and provide public assistance for property owners who need help complying with the city ordinance. To increase compliance increase penalties, fines and enforcement. Ensure environmental equity in maintaining and increasing our tree canopy across the city.

Beacon Hill Council Seattle Supports Stronger Tree Ordinance

May 18, 2018 Tree Ordinance Press Conference

Good morning. Thank you for coming today.
My name is Maria Batayola and I chair the Beacon Hill Council. No one disagrees that
trees are very important in general. For our neighborhood, trees are critical. Here’s
why.
Beacon Hill is 6 miles long and 1 to miles across. We have 35,000 residents who are
80% people of color, 44% immigrants and refugees with 36% not speaking English well,
and 1out of 5 of our neighbors are low income. The City considers us a vulnerable
population.
From a race and social justice perspective, we are the only neighborhood in Seattle that
has the multiple mobile emissions of air and noise pollution that is impacts our health.
Our air and noise pollution challenges from all directions – 120,000 cars travel daily on I90,
250,000 cars on I-5, MLK and Rainier. Seattle is number 10 in traffic congestion in
the nation. We are under the flight path with airplanes flying over us every 2 to 3
minutes. The Port of Seattle projected steep increase in air travel and cargo flights.
The noise decibel level in Beacon Hill is in the 70’s, well above the City’s 55 decibel
maximum by day and 45 decibel at night, and above the FAA’s 65 decibels
overall. Sadly, we are not eligible for air and noise mitigation funding.
The established health impacts for air pollution include asthma, reduce lung capacity,
eyes/nose/throat/lungs irritation, heart disease and cancer, while the health impacts for
noise pollution are heart disease, sleep disturbance, stress, general annoyance and
lower math and reading test scores for schools without insulation, along with other
factors.
Our trees generate fresh air and act as a noise barrier. Let’s dispel the idea that the
displaced trees from housing density development can be mitigated by planting trees in
the south end. This is not a social injustice fix. It is equally unfair to our neighbors up
north to do so. Every Seattle resident, either a resident, homeowner and/or renter,
deserves a healthy environment.
We need an effective Tree Ordinance immediately. We are facing a proposed Brick Pit
development for 120 housing units on the Duwamish greenbelt by I-5 that will take out
20 acres of trees. We strongly encourage Councilman Rob Johnson to enhance his
proposed Tree Ordinance with our Coalition’s recommendations to ensure its
effectiveness.
The ordinance needs to go farther to protect all both of our personal and planetary
health and well-being. Thank you.

Beacon Hill Council is a member of the Coalition for a Stronger Tree ordinance

150 Trees and Me Supports a Stronger Tree Ordinance in Seattle

I am Carolyn Rodenberg, Chair of 150 Trees and Me, a workgroup of One Sustainable Planet. We follow the lead of Plant for the Planet and climate science that tells us to plant trees as well as to lower our carbon emissions.

Tuesday, it was 88 degrees in Seattle. Nice summer day? – No, it’s springtime –that was May 4th! The last ten years have been the 10 hottest years in recorded history, and each year is hotter than the last one.

Excessive heat causes health problems and can even cause death. “Many people don’t realize that there are more deaths attributed to urban heat in the United States than all other natural disasters combined”, so says Vivek Shandas, an Associate Professor
of Urband Studies and Planning at Portland State University (“Turning down the heat, turning up the green” August, 2015). We need our trees to provide shade and thermal comfort to help keep us healthy.

When it rains, it can pour – So, we need our trees to intercept rain as it falls, and to hold water in the ground to reduce slides and flooding. We need our trees to capture air pollution particulates and turn them into breatheable air and carbon.

We need our trees for our trees for a sense of community, connection with nature and our mental health. Trees protect us, let’s protect them!

150 Trees and Me is a coalition member of the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance in Seattle, WA.

Seattle Audubon Speaks out for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Dear Seattle City Council,

We urge Seattle City Council to support the Trees for All initiative, and recommendations made by the Urban Forestry Commission to strengthen the protection of trees in the city of Seattle. We commend Rob Johnson for proposing a more transparent system for acquiring tree permits to take trees from our city, a focus on replacing cut trees with new trees that will contribute to our urban canopy, and a focus on increasing our urban canopy in less advantaged neighborhoods.

The Seattle Audubon Society is Washington State’s oldest environmental conservation organization, founded in 1916. We represent approximately 4,000 local members. One of our key priorities is to advocate and lead urban habitat preservation, which aims to restore Seattle’s urban tree canopy across the city. We support stronger regulations for tree removal, a focus on offsetting development, and working towards urban equality in our environment. We believe a framework like the Trees for All campaign outlined by Councilman Rob Johnson will move the city towards an equitable increase in Seattle’s tree canopy. In addition to this initiative, we hope the city will decide to include trees with 6” or greater DBH as a threshold in tree replacement strategies. We also urge you to consider small lots of land as many single family homes are small or are being subdivided into smaller lots.

Seattle Audubon has been working with partner organizations across the city to preserve the urban forest as part of the commitment made in signing the Urban Bird Treaty, for the conservation of wildlife (particularly avifauna), and for the health of Seattle residents. Seattle’s urban tree canopy provides habitat for nesting birds, and food for our migratory and resident species. In addition to connecting birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway, Seattle’s urban canopy provides important connections for wildlife between green spaces. Trees are also important for improving air quality and are important in offsetting climate change. As Seattle’s population increases, it is critical that we continue to preserve our city’s trees and increase our tree canopy particularly in low income and immigrant communities.

Please make protecting and increasing Seattle’s trees a priority.

Sincerely,
Megan Friesen, PhD

Seattle Audubon

Conservation Manager

May 15, 2018

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

The following organizations have endorsed the campaign for a stronger Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance. They support a permit system to remove any tree 6 inches diameter and larger on both private and public land and on developed land and land undergoing development. They support requiring equivalently sized trees be replanted either on site or pay a mitigation fee to cover the cost of the city replanting the tree and maintaining it. The goal is not just a no net loss of canopy but increasing Seattle’s tree canopy over time.

List of Organizations Endorsing the “Action Needed” Letter to Seattle City Council and Mayor Durkan 

Beacon Hill Council
Beacon Food Forest
Broadview/Bitter Lake Community Council
City Fruit
Faith and Climate Action
Friends of Bradner Park
Friends of Cheasty Greenspace
Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest
Greenwood-Phinney Greenways
GROW
Interurban Trail Tree Preservation Society
Licton-Haller Lake Greenways
One Sustainable Planet
150 Trees and Me
Phinney Ridge Community Council
Plant Amnesty
Plant for the Planet
Seattle Audubon
Seattle Green Spaces Coalition
Seattle Nature Alliance
SUN – Seniors United for Neighborhoods
The Na’ahllahee Fund
Thornton Creek Alliance
TreePAC
Wallingford Community Council
The Wilderness Society
46th LD Democrats

The following groups have written their own letters in support of a stronger tree ordinance:
Lake City Neighborhood Alliance
Thornton Creek Alliance
Washington Environmental Council

Press Release on Updating Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

Press Release – May 16, 2018

For more information  – Steve@friends.urbanforests.org

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Welcome.  My name is Steve Zemke. I am the Chair of Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and TreePAC.  I am speaking today for a diverse group of 17 organizations across the city that have been working together for stronger tree protection in Seattle.

The current Tree Protection Ordinance was last updated in 2009. Last year the city in their Tree Regulations Research Project reached the conclusion that “The current code is not supporting and growing tree protection. They noted that “We are losing exceptional trees and groves…” and that “development and hardscape increase tree loss. Conifers and large trees are coming out with deciduous and dwarf species coming in.”

They recommended that the city require a permit system to remove trees and that replacement of trees be required when trees are removed. This is what cities like Portland, Oregon; Atlanta, Georgia; and here locally Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Redmond and Sammamish already are doing. Seattle needs to join them.

We commend Councilmember Rob Johnson for his proposed framework to require us to take action now in  Seattle. We urge him specifically to require that the threshold for tree permits be 6 inches in diameter which would cover about 45% of the trees growing in our residential single-family property zone which comprises about 55% of the city’s area.

We support Johnson’s proposal for tree replacement on site or payment into a Tree Replacement Fund to pay the city for the cost of replacing equivalent trees. We also support the use of a single tree portal on the City’s website.

These issues are also supported by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission.  In addition, the Commission recommends, and we support requiring tree care professionals to be registered with the city, for developers to do a tree assessment before starting development and include a tree replacement plan. We support the removal of the current exemption for lots less than 5000 square feet.

We believe the city can do much better. We commend Rob Johnson taking the lead in starting the dialogue on this issue and urging us to better protect existing trees while also  growing our urban forest across the whole city to benefit all people living here.

Tree Size Triggering Requirement for Permits to Remove Trees

Below are some examples of the minimum tree size that triggers the requirement to get a permit to remove 1 or more trees in various cities.

City threshold for permits for tree removal:

Annapolis, MD – 5 inches DBH (Diameter Breast Height – 4.5 feet)

Atlanta, GA – hardwood trees – 6 inches DBH; pine trees – 12 Inches DBH

Kirkland, WA – 6 inches DBH

Lake Forest Park – WA 6 inches DBH

Portland, Oregon – 12 inches DBH

Redmond, WA – 6 inches DBH

Sammamish, WA conifer tree – 8 inches DBH; deciduous tree – 12 inches DBH

Shoreline, WA – 8 inches DBH – conifers, 12 inches DBH – deciduous

Vancouver, BC – 20 cm (7.8 inches DBH)

May 2018 Action Plan for Updating Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

May Action Plan – Keep Seattle Green – Protect our Trees

Reach out to supporting groups – emails to their members, newsletter articles, posting on organization websites, FB. Ask to be copied with the article, posting, etc. Enlarge contact list of supporting organizations – environmental groups, community councils, Democratic organizations,sustainability groups, equity groups. Meet with key leaders – ask about how we can get their support/endorsement (give talk, pp, leaflet, newsletters, website and social media)

Arrange Seattle Councilmember meetings – starting with Johnson, O’Brien, Herbold and Gonzalez (alternate) on Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee. Include other CouncilmeMmbers, ayor and Staff. Send e-mails to the Council and Mayor on a regular basis. Individual emails to each Councilmember personalize your contact.

Show up for coalition meetings – Get names and contact of newcomers
Sat. May 12, 2018 12 PM – 2PM Broadview Public Library, 12755 Greenwood Ave N.
Sat May 26, 2018, 3-5 PM Northgate Public Library, 10548 5th Ave NE.

Organize press conference Wednesday 5/168:45 AM for 9 AM press Conference
prior to 9:30 AM Planning, Land Use and Zoning meeting. Broaden Press contacts. Create list. Make contact with individual press people to brief them on issue. Organize letters to the editor. Be sure message and outreach is coordinated with campaign

PUSH for BIG turnout Wednesday May 16, 2018 – 9:30 am
to influence the PLUZ Committee, and the Seattle City Council to pass a strong tree ordinance. Rob Johnson will be doing the initial briefing at this meeting. PLUZ meets 1st and 3rd Wednesdays

Send e-mails, speak and attend Urban Forestry Commission meeting 5/9.
Send emails and speak about a strong tree ordinance. Also, thank the UFC for providing leadership in pushing to update the Tree Protection Ordinance over the last 9 years. Following meetings – 1st and 2nd Wed of month,3 PM – 5 PM Rm 2750, Seattle Municipal Tower

Yard sign campaign – concentrate on well-traveled streets and neighborhoods

Concentrate on main points when speaking – strong support to Councilmember Johnson and Seattle City Council for updating our Tree Protection ordinance. Emphasize that we are losing trees during development; that we need to require equivalent replacement for lost tree canopy to increase our tree canopy to 30%. Our proposal follows his main points but provides more details for a more effective
ordinance. Remember anything you say in public can wind up in the media so stay on point. If you have personal experience of problems with the current ordinance mention them and how what we are proposing will make things better.

Sources of information:

www.friends.urbanforests.org
also FB page – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest
www.TreePAC.org 
also FB page – Tree PAC