2023 Draft SDCI Tree Protection Ordinance Issues 3/21/2023
Support the following provisions in the 2023 SDCI draft Tree Protection
1. Lowering the upper limit for exceptional trees to 24” Diameter at Shoulder Height (DSH) from 30” DSH
2. Requiring street trees be planted whenever development would add one or more principal dwelling units on a lot
3. Continuing protection for exceptional trees less than 24” DBH and tree groves and heritage trees
4. Continuing prohibition on removal of trees 6” DBH and larger on undeveloped lots.
5. Requiring replacement of all 12” DSH and larger trees removed by developers
6. Requiring an in-lieu fee for developers to replace trees 12” DSH and larger that cannot be replaced on the development site.
7. Requiring in lieu fees be used to replace and maintain newly planted trees removed by developers
8. Limiting removal of 6”-12″ DSH significant outside development to two trees in 3 years.
9. Protected trees and replaced trees are covered by a covenant.
10. Requiring 5-year maintenance for relocated or required replacement trees
11. Requiring 6-day advance notice online of all 6” DSH and larger trees proposed for removal by Tree Service Providers, posting on site on day of work and remaining for 5 days after removal.
12. Allowing removal of no more than 2 significant non-exceptional less than 12” DSH in 3 years per lot outside of development
Key provisions that need to be revised or added to the draft ordinance:
- Rename SMC 25.11 from Tree Protection Ordinance to Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance
- Require a Tree Inventory of all trees 6” DSH and larger and a Tree Landscaping Plan be submitted by developers as Portland Oregon does prior to any building permits being approved. This information fits with collecting in lieu fees prior to issuing building permits and facilitates reporting and tracking of tree loss and replacement, rather than city workers having to pull this information from site plans.
- Require developers throughout the total development process to maximize the retention of existing trees 6” DSH and larger with adequate space for trees to grow and survive. The current draft removes consideration of protecting 6”-12” DSH trees yet many of these are established potential replacement trees for exceptional trees that die. A diversity of ages for trees is important for a healthy urban forest.
- Keep current requirement that all 6” DBH and larger trees also be on site plans rather than increasing it to only 12” DSH and larger trees.
- Retain definitions and use of exceptional and significant trees. Remove the confusing and biased proposed new classification of trees as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier 4. The use and understanding of trees as exceptional has been in the tree ordinance since 2001 and described in more detail in the 2008 Director’s Rule on Exceptional trees. Significant trees are understood to be those 6” DSH and larger that are not exceptional. Many other cities, including in this region, use these definitions. There was no previous discussion of the need to change the current system.
- Retain the current FAR calculation in multifamily zones and remove the guaranteed 85% lot coverage provision. There has been no public evaluation of the need for or consequences of this change. If the current middle housing legislation passes in Olympia almost all of Seattle would be affected by this change, with a huge impact on tree canopy city wide.
- All replacement in lieu fees and fines should go into a One Seattle Tree Fund as stated in Mayor Harrell’s ‘s Executive Order. It would be a dedicated Tree Planting and Preservation Fund like Portland, Oregon has (not SDCI budget). The Fund should be added to this draft. The Fund should report yearly on its budget to the City Council and Mayor. The One Seattle Tree Fund should be overseen by the City Urban Forester located in OSE because the distribution of funds would be interdepartmental.
- The role of the new City Forester position created by the Seattle City Council in OSE should be defined in this ordinance.
- Allow the One Seattle Tree Fund (Tree Planting and Preservation Fund) to also accept fines, donations, grants, purchase land, set up covenants and for educational purposes as Portland, Oregon does.
- Create an Urban Forestry Division within SDCI with additional staff as recommended in a separate budget provision or expand the Urban Forestry oversight staff and responsibility in OSE for independent oversight of trees.
- Expand the existing Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Tree Removal and Replacement Permit Program using the Accela database system to include SDCI to cover all significant trees 6” DBH and larger, and all exceptional trees, on private property in all land use zones, removed both during development and outside development. The proposed ordinance remains a complaint-based system relying on citizens which has been proven to not be effective in code compliance. SDCI only has 2 arborists who are mostly deskbound.
- Add a provision to require SDCI to submit quarterly reports to the Office of Sustainability and Environment on tree removal and replacement as required by other City Departments and as required yearly by Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order.
- Require that maintenance of relocated and replacement trees include “watering as needed”
- Require that tree replacement numbers increase with the size and canopy volume of the removed tree such that in 25 years or less they will reach equivalent canopy volume lost – either on site or pay a replacement fee that also increases with the size of the tree removed. Just requiring replacement with a tree or trees that “results upon maturity, in a canopy cover, that is roughly proportional to the canopy cover prior to removal” ignores the services the tree currently provides and would have continued to provide if not removed. The fact that removing an 80-year-old tree, eg, takes 80 years to reach any equivalency to what was lost needs to be considered in responding to the climate crisis and climate resiliency needs. No language is added to specifically consider the size of trees removed and the ecosystems services lost when a a new tree is planted as a reason to increase the required number of trees to be replanted.
- Extend ordinance to cover all land use zones, including Industrial, Downtown and Institutions
- Require tree replacement or in lieu fees by developers for trees removed 1 year prior to property purchase
- Allow city certified inspectors to enter property if necessary to ascertain any illegal tree activity
- Require removal of invasive plants, like ivy, scotch broom, and holly from development sites to help stop the spread of invasive species in our city that add to maintenance costs and replacement of dying trees.
- Expand the required tree protection covenant to include a replacement requirement for a tree that dies. Make it a permanent “tree protection planting site” for the life of the building.
- Support additional funding in the budget to implement and enforce the updated ordinance including additional staff in a proposed separate budget amendment.
- Remove or clarify language of tree drip line “may be irregular in shape to reflect variation in branch outer limits” Dripline is used to determine tree protection area and branches shortened in some areas may not reflect root structure or may have been removed in certain areas if tree has been limbed up.
- Require street trees be planted if ADU’s are added to a lot. ADU’s, particularly Detached ADU’s, reduce space for trees on site and increase tree removal.
3/21/2023 draft -Please contact Steve Zemke email@example.com with any additional issues, concerns and/or corrections, regarding the above document. Thanks