Comments Regarding Draft Director’s Rule 21-2017 –  Calculating Tree Valuations and Civil Penalties for Tree Protection Code Violations 

Comments Regarding Seattle DCI Draft Director’s Rule 21-2017 – 

Calculating Tree Valuations and Civil Penalties for Tree Protection Code Violations

For this Director’s Rule to be successful we believe that SDCI needs to implement a permit based system for tree removal.

The current prohibition in SMC 25.11 from cutting down exceptional trees and removing more than 3 six inch or more DBA non-exceptional trees per year and other limits to tree removal are mainly based on a complaint system that is not working. While having the ability to impose fines for violations that are reported, most violations have and will go unreported, which does not help to deter trees being removed illegally.

 The recent Tree Regulations Report by OSE and SDCI confirms that serious problems with compliance are a result of the current complaint based system. One ominous trend is reports we are hearing of realtors/developers requiring property owners to remove trees prior to a sale being completed on properties that are going to be developed. The proposed six-month prohibition on tree removal prior to development, while a significant improvement, is still a complaint based system that will be difficult to monitor without a permit system.  With a permit based system, tree removal prior to development can be monitored which will reduce the number of violations.

A better system to protect trees under the existing ordinance is to require the use of a permit system for all trees over 6 inches in diameter. This provides a check on the possible removal of more than 3 significant trees a year that are not exceptional, will reduce the number of exceptional trees being cut by providing confirmation as to whether a tree is exceptional or not before they are cut down, reducing the loss of exceptional trees which are protected under SMC 25.11.

The language in SMC 25.11.100 already gives SDCI the authority it needs to issue permits and other conditions to replace the current mainly complaint based system with a permit system.  In fact DCI already issues permits for Hazard Tree Removal and under the ECA Restoration Plan Application

“SMC 25.11.100 Enforcement and penalties

A. Authority   The Director shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter, to issue permits, impose conditions, and establish administrative procedures and guidelines, conduct inspections, and prepare the forms necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.”

 A comprehensive permit system would allow more careful and timely consideration of exceptional trees removed as hazard trees before they are cut rather than trying to determine this after they are cut. While a permit for a hazard tree exists, many people are not aware of it.  Over 70 different tree species with different diameters DHA are listed in Director’s Rule  16-2008 Designation of Exceptional Trees.. A permit requirement for all trees will significantly reduce exceptional trees being removed without verification.

 SDOT currently has in place a permit system and posting requirement that is working to stop illegal tree cutting in the right of way. Other cities have also implemented successful permit systems, including Lake Forest Park, WA; Portland, Oregon; Sammamish, WA; Atlanta, Georgia; and Vancouver, WA.   

Also, we recommend requiring arborists and other tree care people to register with the city as SDOT currently does for tree care providers..  This allows them to be informed of current tree laws and ordinances and sign that they agree with city tree policies and regulations, have a Washington State Contractor’s license and Seattle Business License, and have a certificate of insurance license with Seattle listed as an additional insured.  This puts the main responsibility on compliance with Seattle’s tree ordinance on tree service providers rather than expecting individual property owners to understand all the laws and regulations.

As to the actual calculation of tree appraisal values, we are not certain why these values do not start at 100% and be adjusted downward based on actual evaluations in the field. Minimally we think a 100% valuation should be placed on a tree being an exceptional tree either individually or in a tree grove.  Also we think that conifers should get a higher valuation based on their year round ability to reduce stormwater runoff and mitigate air pollution and carbon dioxide utilization and reduction. In addition, consideration of location besides reducing heat effects on buildings and air pollution from high traffic areas should consider air pollution reduction from a health impact like higher asthma occurrence in areas with fewer trees like South Park and Georgetown.

Also as to penalties, consideration should be given to owner’s ability to pay and reduction in penalty based on what is replanted either on or off site that is comparable to the loss of the tree or trees. And the responsibility of tree care providers understanding Seattle City laws and their responsibility in complying with the laws before commencing work needs to be taken into consideration.  A second or multiple violations should result In higher penalties and suspension of their registration with the city and ability to do work in the city.

Steve Zemke     Chair – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

Response to Ingraham High School Classroom Addition Draft SEPA Checklist Jan 2018

Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest -Response to Ingraham High School Classroom Addition Draft SEPA Checklist Jan 2018

Westward View into Northwest Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

Healthy Madrone Shoot arising from Stump #110 – labeled “protect potential for new growth” when previous addition was built in 2011.

To right of NW addition to school is 23.5 in DBH Douglas fir in Northwest Grove area to be cut down along with smaller fir trees planted as mttigation for previous addition

The tree analysis and plan outline and other appendix information was not posted on line as of the community meeting on Thursday January 11, 2018.  I first received a copy of the full draft SEPA Checklist with Appendix  from the school district on Friday Jan 12, 2018 .  Because  the appendix to the SEPA analysis was not online or easily available, as was acknowledged at the January 11, 2018 meeting,  you need to extend the comment period. In this day and age the public should not have to go to the Broadview Public Library or the School District Office or pay to be sent a copy of the complete document even if it was clear that more information was available. It was not immediately clear to me that an Appendix was missing and that  I would have to search it out to see the information used to fill out the checklist. I do not believe I am alone in experiencing concern that the full document was not readily available.

The second major problem is that part of the proposed construction area is in the “Northwest Tree Grove”which was designated as an “uncommon plant habitat” by a Seattle Hearing Examiner” as a result of a previous SEPA evaluation for the BEX III classroom addition on the West side of the school. This is not mentioned in the SEPA Checklist.

The third major problem is that no mitigation is proposed for the removal of the trees on the north lawn or the 22.5 inch DBH Douglas fir (#109) tree proposed being removed or for at least 4 “non significant” Douglas fir trees planted as mitigation for the previous BEX III Project or the Madrone sapling growing out of #110 “stump – Protect Potential for New Growth ” also identified in the BEX III Project or other trees planted for mitigation but that died and were not replaced. The city is working to increase tree canopy and this project is decreasing tree canopy.

Further detail:

The tree report and the draft SEPA analysis  neglect completely to mention that the west end of the  proposed new building will intrude into the Northwest Tree Grove area that went through a school district and Seattle Hearing Examiner process when they built the BEX III addition on the west side in the Northwest starting in 2009 -2011.  The Seattle Hearing Examiner Ann Watanabe in a May 4, 2009 decision declared that the “Northwest Grove is an uncommon plant habitat under the SEPA policy …The northwest grove is uncommon account of the conifer/madrone/salal association which is present, and the relative scarcity of that association” In 3 areas new madrone shoots are currently  growing. One of these is from stump  (tree 109) which would be removed by the current proposal. See attached photos.

The intrusion into the Northwest Grove starts just west of the sidewalk entry from N 135 to the Westside addition built under BEX III.  This area includes 2 separate areas where mitigation Douglas firs were planted. One spot has 2 Douglas firs and the other has 2 Douglas firs along with salal and Oregon grape clumps. Additional mitigation trees, Douglas fir and western red cedar  were planted in this area and other parts of the Northwest Grove but died and were not replaced.

In addition to removing a tall 23.5 inch DBH  Douglas fir (tree 109 )from this Northwest Grove area  they are removing a healthy madrone shoot with 2 stems  totaling 2.75 inches DBH. This shoot is coming out of a stump (Tree #110) that was labeled in BEX III as   “stump -Protect Potential for New Growth”  in the Seattle School District Ingraham High School Renovation, Demolition and New Construction Second Addendum to Revised 2008 SEPA Checklist Nov 19, 2009. There are only two other areas in the Northwest Grove where madrone shoots are coming up. (see photos) It is not clear how trees and an area deemed to be protected can now be removed.

Other trees will also be cut down and cleared from the North lawn area. A number of these were also part of the mitigation for the BEX III intrusion into the Northwest Grove.   But nowhere in the tree report by Tree Solutions,which also did the arborist report in 2009 for the intrusion into the Northwest Grove of trees for the BEX III project,  is any mitigation being proposed for any of this new tree removal except re-planting street trees being removed under this project, which the city explicitly requires.

Nowhere is there mention of the previous intrusion into the Northwest Grove, its impact on the Northwest Grove size and tree removal then and protections and mitigation measures put in place as a result for that project. The Seattle School District is once again intruding into the Northwest Grove as delineated in BEX III which was designated as an “uncommon plant habitat” under SEPA. This time they has proposed no  mitigation for this new project or acknowledged that they are removing mitigation put in place for the previous project or acknowledged that many of the trees and shrubs planted as mitigation for BEX III have died on the school campus and have not been replaced in the Northwest Grove or elsewhere on the school campus.

The School District needs to implement a more environmentally sensitive and responsive plan than what is being proposed.  They need to honor the previous mitigation agreed to and propose serious mitigation for the  new actions that are sustained. They need to replace canopy lost on an equivalent basis with new trees and replant trees and vegetation that died  since BEX III was completed that was part of that mitigation process  agreed to for that project.

Steve Zemke

Chair – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

Chair – TreePAC

Note – Comment period has been extended to Jan 29, 2018.

Comments should be e-mailed to

Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess signs Executive Order to Increase Tree Protection

From This Week in the Mayor’s Office – Oct 13, 2017

Protecting Seattle’s Tree Canopy

Mayor Burgess signed an Executive Order focused on strengthening Seattle’s protections for trees on private property today. The order directs the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to better implement existing tree regulations through:

• Strengthening the existing regulations through new and updated Director’s Rules;

• Increasing penalties for illegal tree cutting; and

• Developing a fee-in-lieu program to mitigate tree loss

Further, the order asks City staff to explore how Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) policies could support Seattle’s urban forestry goals.

“Seattle’s tree canopy is a treasure that provides critical health and economic benefits to our city,” said Mayor Burgess. “It must be protected, nurtured, and expanded. As we grow as a city, we must also grow our commitment to be good stewards of our urban forest.”

Beyond policy, the preservation of Seattle’s tree canopy also relies on engagement from local communities. Head to Sam Smith park on Saturday, October 14, to celebrate Arbor Day with City staff and community members by planting new trees and embarking on a guided tour of Seattle’s urban forest. The Seattle Arbor Day celebration is a free, family-friendly event open to the public.

Seattle Arbor Day Celebration
Saturday, October 14, from 8:30 am – 12 pm
Sam Smith park, across from 2800 S. Massachusetts St.

*Note: The activities will be northeast of the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and S. Massachusetts St. Parking is limited to adjacent streets.

Click here to visit the Trees for Seattle homepage.

Lake Forest Park Buys 5 Acre Woods from Seattle Public Utilities for Park

Press Release


September 29, 2017

Lake Forest Park and City of Seattle Come Together

to Save 5 Acre Woods

September 28:

After two years of intense negotiation and advocacy by community groups, the Lake Forest Park City Council has voted unanimously to purchase Five Acre Wood from the City of Seattle. The 5.6-acre parcel is the city’s last remaining tract of undeveloped land, and will now become an urban forest park. The City Council also resolved to sign an agreement with Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation, to develop plans for fundraising and a long term park.

Seattle Public Utilities had held the land for many years as a potential site for a future water reservoir. The lush, mature forest, wetland and stream provide wildlife habitat, tree bank and potential for nature trails that will continue to benefit residents of Lake Forest Park and the City of Seattle. It also contributes to the health of Lake Washington.

Seattle Green Spaces Coalition worked with Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation on community outreach and fundraising efforts. Contributions to purchase the land were also made by King Conservation Futures, the Tulalip Tribe, and many individuals.

We credit the leadership of Lake Forest Park City Council, Seattle Public Utilities and Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation for recognizing the value of green space in urban areas. We also applaud their ability to work together to retain this green space.

The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition works to keep public lands in public hands for public benefit. We help or spearhead efforts to create public-private partnerships, and public policies that foster maintaining the green spaces that keep our urban environments livable. The City of Seattle owns more than 400 acres of surplus public land, and each site has powerful potential benefits for public use.

Contacts: (all available for interviews and to provide additional materials)

· Mary Fleck, Co-Chair, Seattle Green Spaces Coalition 206.937.3321 /

· Elaine Ike, Co-Chair, Seattle Green Spaces Coalition 206.933.0163

(Photo left to right: Deputy Mayor Catherine Stanford, Kim Josund, executive member Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation, mayor Jeff Johnson, Natalie-Pascal Boisseau (Board member Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation) City Council member Tom French) PressRelease.LFP

Make Developers Pay for Tree Canopy Loss!

Action Alert – and Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

With the tremendous growth going on in Seattle, trees are more threatened than ever. Developers are clamoring for fewer restrictions and are winning as the Seattle City Council continues to assist developers in their push for more housing and especially affordable housing.  Current legislation before the City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee, CB 119057 modifying the design review process, is set to be moved on in committee, this Tuesday, Sept 19th at 9:30 AM. It will speed up the design review process and make more administrative decisions rather than citizen review.

The current tree protection ordinance is out of date and has been in interim status for 8 years. Its way past time to update it as development interests put increased pressure on tree loss.   Besides repeatedly recommending the City update its interim tree ordinance, The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission has made 2 recent specific recommendations to the City Council to act on now.

  • The first recommendation is to track tree and canopy removal per project. Specifically, the Commission recommends tracking significant tree removals, exceptional tree removals, and removed canopy coverage, in square feet, as part of a complete application.Without this data, the City cannot accurately quantify tree and canopy removal and implement appropriate tree planting efforts. See the Commission’s previous letter of recommendation dated June 25, 2014 (enclosed).
  • The second recommendation is to provide a fee-in-lieu option for projects unable to replace trees equal to the number of trees and amount of canopy removed by a project. There is a lost public benefit associated with the removal of public and private trees which impacts human psychology, ecosystem services, public health, and neighborhood character. A tree removal fee-in-lieu option should be similar to the alternative compliance option for stormwater mitigation yet deposited in an Urban Forestry Account to fund planting and maintaining for long-term, healthy trees in Seattle.

Please contact the Committee members before Tuesday if possible, either by e-mail or phone,   and urge them to act on these recommendations. They can also be contacted after Tuesday urging support for passing a strong tree ordinance. If you are able to come to the committee meeting on Tuesday in Council Chambers in City Hall, there is a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. –  Chair    206-684-8808    206-684-8802   206-684-8803     206-684-8802


Steve Zemke – Chair – and Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

P.S. for additional information see:

Seattle Urban Forestry Commission letter – Design Review Program Improvements – CB119057

Friends of Seattle Urnban Foest and TreePAC letter –

Concerns about CB 119057 modifying design review process

Seattle Urban Forestry Commission – Comments on Design Review Improvements – CB119057

Seattle Urban Forestry Commission
Tom Early, Chair • Steve Zemke, Vice-Chair
Weston Brinkley • Leif Fixen • Megan Herzog • Craig Johnson
Joanna Nelson de Flores • Sarah Rehder • Andrew Zellers
September 13, 2017.
Councilmember Rob Johnson
City Hall
600 4th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98124

RE: Design Review Program Improvements – CB119057

Dear Councilmember Johnson,
The Urban Forestry Commission commends the intent of the Design Review Program
Improvements. A city should continually re-examine its procedures in order to efficiently meet its goals. Based on the Commission’s review, the proposed changes conflict with the goals of the City’s Urban Forest Stewardship Plan (UFSP), specifically to reach 30% canopy cover by 2037. In light of this, the Commission makes two recommendations to the proposed Design Review Program Improvements, which should also be applied to the current permit review procedures such as clearing and grading.

The first recommendation is to track tree and canopy removal per project. Specifically, the Commission recommends tracking significant tree removals, exceptional tree removals, and removed canopy coverage, in square feet, as part of a complete application. Without this data, the City cannot accurately quantify tree and canopy removal and implement appropriate tree planting efforts. See the Commission’s previous letter of recommendation dated June 25, 2014 

The second recommendation is to provide a fee-in-lieu option for projects unable to replace trees equal to the number of trees and amount of canopy removed by a project. There is a lost public benefit associated with the removal of public and private trees which impacts human psychology, ecosystem services, public health, and neighborhood character. A tree removal fee-in-lieu option should be similar to the alternative compliance option for stormwater mitigation yet deposited in an Urban Forestry Account to fund planting and maintaining for long-term, healthy trees in Seattle.

These recommendations are intended to aid the UFSP’s monitoring goals and provide an offsite approach to mitigate tree canopy cover loss due to development. Thank you for the
opportunity to provide comments on the proposed Design Review Program Improvements
described in CB119057.

Tom Early, Chair

Concerns about CB 119057 modifying Seattle design review process

Concerns about CB 119057 modifying design review process

Testimony before Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee

Sept 11. 2017

Steve Zemke – Chair – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and TreePAC

CB 119057 was submitted to the Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee on August 15 to significantly modifying the Design Review process. The purpose is to shorten and reduce much of the design review process for large projects and make administrative and hybrid decisions decisions instead to speed up developers building more projects to meet housing needs. Exceptional trees would then in some decisions be an administrative or hybrid decision by DCI instead of public review.

Right now we are getting no significant return on trees lost and what you are proposing will accelerate the loss. Below are two recommendations critical to this bill.  If you add this in this ordinance it will be a big leg up on also revising a private tree ordinance to help protect and enhance our urban tree canopy. You have to act now.  If you do not developers will continue to remove Seattle’s tree canopy and Seattle and its citizens will loss while developers pay nothing for the removal.

– The need to track tree loss by requiring an Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment for all development as recommended by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission.

– Mandate replacement on or off site of all tree canopy lost or payment into a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund with tree value based on a professional appraisal as approved by the Council of Professional and Landscape Appraisers.

Starting on page 36 of the proposed ordinance the full design review removes all the current design review criteria and says “the Director may establish by rule, the information that the applicant shall present” Then removed on the next page are an initial site analysis, a drawing of existing site conditions that included all tree over 6 inches and species and a number of other conditions. The existing requirements should be retained and expanded to include the canopy impact assessment,

On page 43 the Administrative design review process also eliminates all the existing site evaluation requirements. They should remain.  Then add that “the administrator can add additional requirements.”

The problem remains that DCI’s mandate is to help builders build. Exceptional and other trees will continue to be lost as they are given minimal value in this process. If trees limit the full development potential of the lot they can be removed. The city suffers canopy loss but there is no requirement that the developers compensate the city for the loss of existing canopy.

You need to include a provision that if trees cannot be saved developers need to pay into a Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund to compensate the city for the ecological and environmental benefits currently provided by a healthy urban forest. If developers are not required to compensate the city, it will be impossible to require compensation from homeowners or anyone else in the future for loss of exceptional trees.

Other cities have established tree funds.  Here are two examples.

Here for example is language from Portland Oregon’s Tree Ordinance for a Tree Planting and Preservation Fund.

11.10.070 Fees. A. Generally. The City Council may establish and amend by ordinance permit, inspection, review, enforcement, in-lieu of planting or preservation, appeal and other fees as necessary to sustain the development permit, tree permit, and other Development Service or Urban Forestry programs. All fees, charges, civil penalties, and fines established by authority of this Title will be listed in the Portland Policy Documents. B. Fees in lieu of planting or preserving trees. Where allowed by other provisions of this Title, a fee may be paid into the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund in lieu of planting or preserving trees. The fee per tree is the entire cost of establishing a new tree in accordance with standards described by the City Forester. The cost includes materials and labor necessary to plant the tree, and to maintain it for 2 years. The fee will be reviewed annually and, if necessary, adjusted to reflect current costs. See Section 11.15.010 for more information on the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund.

“11.15.010 Tree Planting and Preservation Fund. A. Purpose. The purpose of the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund is to facilitate tree planting, to ensure mitigation or tree replacement when tree preservation or tree density standards are not met on a particular site, and to advance the City’s goals for the urban forest and equitable distribution of tree-related benefits across the City. B. Expenditures. Money in the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund may be used only as follows: 1. To plant trees on public or private property, including streets, in the same watershed as the site from which the funds were collected. Planting trees includes the cost of materials and labor necessary to install and establish a tree for a 2 year period; 2. To purchase conservation easements for the perpetual retention of trees and tree canopy. Such conservation easements shall allow the City to replace trees that are removed when they die or become dangerous; and 3. To acquire land to permanently protect existing trees or groves. ”

Woodinville is a local city that has established a Tree Fund.

21.50.040 City Tree Fund established.

(1) Fund Established. A City Tree Fund is established for the collection of any funds used for the purpose and intent set forth by this chapter.

(2) Funding Sources. The following funding sources may be allocated to the City Tree Fund: payments received in lieu of supplemental plantings; civil penalties collected pursuant to this chapter; agreed-upon restoration payments or settlements in lieu of penalties; sale of trees or wood from City property; donations and grants for tree purposes; sale of seedlings by the City; and other monies allocated by City Council.

(3) Funding Purposes. The Tree Board shall provide recommendations with each budget to the City Council for approval of how the fund will be allocated. The City shall use money received pursuant to this section for the following purposes:

(a) Acquiring, maintaining, and preserving wooded areas within the City;

(b) Planting and maintaining trees within the City;

(c) Identification and maintenance of heritage trees;

(d) Establishment of a holding public tree nursery;

(e) Urban forestry education;

(f) Urban forest canopy coverage assessment; or

(g) Other purposes relating to tree and woodland protection and enhancement as determined by the City Council. (Ord. 611 § 8 (Att. A), 2016; Ord. 589 § 2, 2016)

There is more in  CB 119057 that is of concern but along with the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan and HALA, DCI’s mission and policies are  intent on helping developers build faster and more intensely. For 8 years DCI and Seattle  Mayors and the Seattle City Council have ignored updating protection for private trees but has been very adept at finding ways to help developers. Trees should have standing in the city, not just developer’s “rights”. Seattle needs an independent city department or agency whose mission it is to save and protect trees and advocate for their role in the city structure and life.  Tree protection should be in a separate Department from DCI as DCI’s prime mission to help builders build things.  DCI has a severe conflict of interest and this legislation is one more example of reducing protection for trees. The most logical location would be in the Office of Sustainability and Environment which should be expanded to a full City Department.


Mandatory Housing Affordability Draft EIS Comments

MHA Draft EIS Comments by Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

August 7, 2017

From Steve Zemke – Chair Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

To:  Office of Planning and Community Development
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019

The Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest appreciates the recognition and analysis that the MHA Draft EIS did in its study, emphasizing the significance and importance of our urban forest in keeping Seattle a livable city and recognizing the many positive ecological, environmental, aesthetic and health benefits a healthy urban forest provides. Seattle is striving to increase its urban forest canopy to 30% by 2037. The longer range goal in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan remains a 40% canopy goal.

It is important to note that the American Forestry Association, which came up with the original 40% recommendation recently stated “According to a national analysis by U.S. Forest Service researchers David Nowak (also on our Science Advisory Board) and Eric Greenfield, a 40-60 percent urban tree canopy is attainable under ideal conditions in forested states.” (

Calculating Total Tree Canopy loss under Scenarios 1, 2 and 3 is necessary to understand impact of MHA additional canopy loss.

Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest disagrees that the proposed development of additional housing under MHA is not significant. The impact is cumulative, added on top of the projected growth of housing under the 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The draft EIS by not stating the projected canopy loss under existing projections presents a very misleading and incomplete analysis of the changes occurring in this study area through 2025 when the additional affordable housing units will be added.

The baseline for the EIS should start with the current urban forest canopy in the study area as of 2016 when last studied so that the total projected change over time can be calculated under alternative 1 –No action.  Under alternative 1 some 43,631 new units are projected to be built and significant tree canopy will be lost.  The statement on page 3-284 is thus very misleading stating “The resulting change in canopy cover is assumed to be static.” The projected tree loss through 20125 under scenario 1 is nowhere quantified in the draft EIS.   The premise that “This study does not quantify tree loss resulting from current development patterns” is not acceptable because without understanding the total tree canopy change in the area through 2025 it is impossible to put in perspective the impact of the change that would result from the additional development proposed under HALA.

When you add in the additional housing units proposed under alternative 2 (17,709) and alternative 3 (17,479) they comprise about 28% of the total new growth in the area. To evaluate the addition of this growth to the area under study you have to add it to the projected growth already assumed under Scenario 1 through 2025.  If you have not assessed the impact of the growth quantitatively under Scenario 1, it is impossible to then state that this additional growth will have no significant impact.

Scenario 2      17,709/63,070 =28.1%

Scenario 3     17497/62,856 =27.8%

Rounding up to 28% and assuming the tree loss in alternative 1 is at the same rate (not necessarily true) as alternative 2 and 3 you get the following projected canopy acreage loss as

Loss current development under scenario 1 plus additional loss scenario 2:

Scenario 2 – total tree loss through 2025

28% x total tree loss = 5 acres canopy     total tree loss = 17.86 acres low estimate

28% x total tree loss = 11 acres canopy    total tree loss = 39.29 acres high estimate

Scenario 3 – total tree loss through 2025

28% x total tree loss = 8 acres canopy       total tree loss = 28.57 acres low estimate

28% x total tree loss = 16 acres canopy    total tree loss = 57.14 acres high estimate

By way of size comparisons, please note the following city parks and their acreage:

  • Seattle Japanese Garden – 3.5 acres
  • Myrtle Edwards Park – 4.8 acres
  • Freeway Park – 5.2 acres
  • Olympic Sculpture Park – 9 acres
  • Kubota Gardens- 20 acres
  • Northacres Park – 20.7 acres
  • Volunteer Park – 48.4 acres
  • Schmitz Park – 53.1 acres

It is in error for this EIS to not provide any information on the total tree loss in acreage through 2025 that is projected for Alternative 1, 2 and 3 due to the total development projected under each of the scenarios. Please provide the total projected tree loss in scenarios 1, 2 and 3 so that we can understand the total tree and canopy loss in each of the scenarios through 2025 relative to the additional tree loss projected in scenarios 2 and 3 that would be added.

No analysis made of potential acreage lost due to development that could be used for increasing tree canopy to meet city canopy goals.

The city is striving to increase its tree canopy. This means looking for places where no trees exist or where more trees could reasonably be planted. While the EIS evaluates existing canopy that would be lost, no analysis is made of the loss of potential canopy area for planting trees that if planted would help the city reach both its short term and aspirational goals. SDOT for example has looked at potential planting sites to help increase tree canopy. The reality is that as increased intensive development occurs the number of potential planting sites that could be used for planting trees is permanently lost as building density increases and covers more lot area.

What amount of potential planting area is lost due to this increased development under scenarios 1, 2, and 3?

Need to evaluate changes in growth projections and potential housing units over time based on low and high growth in recent history

The development projected under Alternative 1 should really be a range of projected low and high development in housing units.  It is impossible to project development impacts out 8 -10 years with precise accuracy as Seattle has found in other projections when growth has greatly exceeded expectations in recent years.

As the Urbanist noted recently, “The 2010 Census pegged Seattle at just 608,660, meaning we’ve grown by nearly 100,000 new people in just six years … Housing supply tends to lag behind housing demand; it could be in the coming years supply finally approaches demand. About 10,000 apartments are set to open in 2017, and more than 12,000 more are slotted for 2018. At the very least, with record-setting apartment growth expected, we have ample reason to expect the population growth trend to continue. Since King County averages 1.8 people per apartment, we could see growth in excess of 20,000 per year continue a bit longer if those expected apartments are filled.” (

What is the estimated range of housing units under scenarios 1, 2 and 3?

Mitigation Recommendation – To track tree and canopy loss require Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment on all development

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission asked DPD in a letter dated June 25, 2014 and also in a letter dated June 10, 2015 to do an Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment on all development so that tree and canopy loss could be tracked. The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission also sent detailed comments on the draft EIS for the Seattle 2015 Comprehensive Plan urging this action. Our recommendation was not included in the final EIS proposed mitigation.   This recommendation should be included as mitigation assessment in this MHA EIS as a condition for proceeding so that canopy and ecological function lost can be more accurately followed and compensated for during development.

From the June 10, 2015 letter of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission ( :

“The Commission has discussed several ideas to improve submittal documentation and final reporting for projects under DPD’s permitting.

  • Currently, the City, through OSE and the Urban Forestry Interdepartmental Team, keeps track of the number of trees planted and removed on public property every year. The Commission recommends tracking trees lost on private property undergoing development to assist in determining where we are gaining or losing trees and canopy. This would add information to the overall city canopy coverage assessment data. By knowing more about canopy trends on different types of land, we can better direct policy and programming to ensure we are on track to meet our 30% goal.
  • What would help the City better understand what is happening with tree canopy protection and enhancement is to require that all development projects submit an Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment prior to any construction project being approved.

The Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment would include a map of the property with the trees numbered, canopy area of trees drawn, and trees to be removed clearly labeled. Under current guidelines it would minimally require that all trees 6 inches DBH (diameter at breast height) or larger be inventoried on the property. The suggested data points required would be:

  • Species: speaks to size of canopy and amount of storm water benefit.
  • DBH: speaks to age of tree and canopy coverage.
  • Tree Height: speaks to canopy volume and amount of environmental benefit.
  • Canopy Width (area): speaks to canopy volume and amount of environmental benefit.
  • Tree Condition: speaks to overall forest health and environmental impacts.
  • Photographs of the trees on the parcel and adjacent properties.
  • Canopy coverage as a percent of area pre- and post-project development.”

Please consider and discuss benefits of using Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessments as part of development process.

Mitigation Recommendation – Update City Tree Ordinance to require replacement on or off site of tree canopy lost or payment into City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund

In terms of loss of ecological function due to canopy loss, mitigation options to be explored should include total compensation of both canopy loss and ecological function projected such that trees that are nor replaced on site should be mitigated by compensation into a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund for replacing and maintaining trees elsewhere.  Development should pay for losses to the city’s green infrastructure that transfer development impact costs onto the general public while developers pocket the profits.

It is not acceptable that the costs of mitigating for tree and canopy loss should be picked up by all city taxpayers rather than the developers who are removing existing tree canopy the city is trying to maintain and increase. This EIS should recommend that Seattle update its existing tree ordinance to reverse the ongoing tree and canopy loss by the rapid development occurring in Seattle.

Please consider and discuss creation of a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund for mitigation of projected tree canopy loss.

Reference Links needed

Please provide links to references where they are missing on documents that are not readily available to the public including:

  • City of Seattle. 2017a. Tree Regulations Research Project—Phase II Final Findings and Recommendations. March 27, 2017.
  • Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR). 2011. Seattle’s Parks and Recreation 2011 Development Plan.
  • Adopted November 28, 2011. Resolution: 31336. Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR). 2016. 2016 Seattle
  • Recreation Demand Study. Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR). 2017. 2017 Parks and Open Space Plan, May Draft.


Submitted by Steve Zemke

Chair – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest


Seattle Urban Forestry Commission Raises Questions about Mandatory Housing Affordability Draft EIS

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission has issued the following comments in response to the Mandatory Housing Affordability Draft EIS. Comments are due by August 7, 2017.

The letter below is the text of the letter dated August 2, 2017.

August 2, 2017.
Samuel Assefa
Director – Office of Planning and Community Development
600 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98124


Dear Sam:
As the City of Seattle drafts policy that seeks to increase urban density and affordable housing to accommodate more people and jobs, protecting and enhancing Seattle’s urban forest is needed more than ever to abate the biological, visual, and health impacts of this measure.
The Urban Forestry Commission commends the MHA Draft EIS for stressing the importance of tree coverage for Seattle, specifically citing the goals outlined in the 2013 Urban Forest Stewardship Plan (UFSP), as well as incorporating the most recently published 2016 canopy cover assessment results.
The Commission, however, disagrees with the MHA Draft EIS determination of no significant impacts to the city’s tree canopy and requests clarification regarding methodology and mitigation measures proposed in the MHA Draft EIS, specifically:

1. What is the projected tree loss in the No Action Alternative of the MHA Draft EIS?
2. Please explain in more detail the methodology used to estimate the projected tree loss in
Alternatives 1 (No Action), 2 and 3 of the MHA Draft EIS.
3. How would a mitigation measure be actionable or enforceable when the UFSP is a policy
document and not a required ordinance?
4. Why is a 0.5% loss of tree canopy considered not significant? The MHA Draft EIS does not cite any authority or precedent for that conclusion.

In addition, the Commission requests a response to the following additional comments regarding the MHA Draft EIS:

Underestimation of tree canopy impacts:

The MHA Draft EIS states that there will be less than a 0.5% decrease in the tree canopy for both Alternatives 2 and 3 compared to the No Action Alternative. The Commission questions the methodology used in the MHA Draft EIS for calculating this assessment for the following reasons:

1. The MHA Draft EIS states, “Tree cover for a given zone was assumed to remain constant over time if the zoning designation stayed the same.” [Page 374] The Commission recommends that the MHA Draft EIS should account for some increase in tree canopy loss in zones that stay the same. MHA will likely incentivize developers to maximize gross floor area (GFA) on a 2  redevelopment sites, and one way a developer can maximize GFA is to develop the site to its fullest development potential.

The MHA Draft EIS does not take into account the effect (i.e. enhancement or increase) of the development potential of a lot in MHA areas when calculating tree canopy loss. We request that the final MHA EIS include a calculation of tree canopy reduction using the full development potential of each lot within MHA areas even if the zoning is not changing.

2. The MHA Draft EIS calculates that 0.5% decrease in tree canopy would result in up to a 5 to 16- acre loss in tree canopy associated with Alternatives 2 and 3. While a 0.5% reduction in canopy seems like a low percentage of loss, in real terms it would generally equate to a loss of 173-555 trees (assuming a typical tree canopy has a radius of 20 feet (1,256 square feet)), which is a potentially significant number of trees. Citing tree canopy loss using an estimated number of trees that are lost would more accurately communicate the likely impacts of the MHA policy to the neighborhood tree canopy.

The MHA Draft EIS does not cite any authority for the assertion that a loss of 0.5% tree canopy (i.e., 173-555 trees) is not significant. The Commission believes a loss of this many trees is a significant impact under Alternatives 2 and 3 that should be mitigated, and that the MHA Draft EIS is unsupported as written.

Inadequate Mitigation Measures:
The MHA Draft EIS states no significant, unavoidable adverse impacts to the tree canopy have been identified, but does list some mitigation measures that would help to avoid and minimize tree canopy loss. The Commission thinks the current mitigation measures are inadequate, and need to be expanded and strengthened.

1. The MHA Draft EIS recommends the City evaluate future urban forestry policies as part of the 2018 UFSP update, but does not include mitigation measures within the context of existing policies such as updating Seattle tree protection code, Seattle Green Factor guidelines, or the Seattle Street Tree Manual. Mitigation measures for tree canopy loss should deal with changing or updating existing regulations and not just recommending evaluation of future policy, which is not enforceable.

Specifically, the Commission recommends requiring mitigation for tree loss to include
replacement of equivalent canopy on- or off-site or paying into a City tree replacement and
maintenance fund.

2. A healthy urban forest can have an outsized impact on reducing the negative effects associated with increased development intensity, as trees (especially street trees) help to mitigate the visual impacts of density and create a more human-scaled environment, as well as providing important ecosystem and public health benefits. While the MHA Draft EIS documents multiple negative aesthetic impacts associated with increased development intensity, the plan does not recommend any mitigation measures focused on increasing or improving the urban forest to mitigate aesthetic impacts of density.

The Commission recommends including stronger, more binding requirements to promote and improve tree coverage in urban village areas. These recommendations could include but are not limited to the following:

1. Expand incentives and development standards to promote street trees in Urban Villages;
2. Update the interim tree protection ordinance to account for the impact MHA will have on
3. Reduce conflict between power lines and street trees;
4. Modify the Seattle Green Factor guidelines to give higher score to preserving healthy existing site vegetation;
5. Assess, monitor, and tally tree loss in the permitting process; and
6. Update the tree code to require retention, replacement, or payment into a City tree
replacement and maintenance fund for all removed trees, including hazardous trees, or trees which die as a result of development impacts or that are planted as project mitigation.

Thank you for your attention. The Commission looks forward to your response.