Seattle Tree Ordinance Update Priorities – 2017

In 2009, the Seattle City Council issued Resolution 31138 instructing “…the Department of Planning and Development to submit legislation by May 2010 to establish a comprehensive set of regulations and incentives to limit the removal of trees and promote the retention and addition of trees within the City of Seattle on both private and public property…”
It is now 8 years later and there is still no new ordinance. DPD presented 2 drafts that did not follow the suggestions of the Seattle City Council to strengthen tree and urban forest protection but instead sought to remove protections. The Seattle City Council needs to take decisive action to protect our urban forest.

Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest – Seattle Tree Ordinance Priorities 2017

1. Permit System – Require permits to remove trees on both public and private property so we can keep better track of tree loss and gain. Require 2 week posting of tree removals as SDOT currently does.

2. Tree Replacement – A no net loss of trees requires that tree replacement be required for all significant and exceptional trees removed including during property development. This would be a canopy impact fee to compensate for the removal of existing canopy not replaced on site. The city tree canopy goal is 30% by 2037; the long term goal is 40%.

3. City Urban Forestry Account – Fees collected for tree replacement that cannot be done on site and fines for violating city tree ordinances would go into a city dedicated tree replacement fund that would pay for planting and maintaining trees elsewhere in the city. Donations and grants would be accepted to also plant more trees, acquire land, easements or set up land trusts to protect trees.

4. Urban Forestry Canopy Impact Assessment – Prior to development, a canopy impact assessment would be done on any proposed development to detail existing trees, their species and size so that equivalent replacement can occur. This would be on all trees over 6 inches dbh.

5. One City Department Overseeing Urban Forestry -To facilitate city wide coordination, oversight responsibility for our urban forest and trees should be consolidated in one city department that has a priority of protecting trees and not a conflict of interest.

6. Registration of Arborists with City – Arborists and other cutting trees down would be required for more accountability and compliance with a tree ordinance

7. Emphasis on Native Trees – Planting of more native tree species and less exotics would help preserve native vegetation and associated wildlife as well as provide more ecosystem services.

8. Special Protection – Because of their unique value extra protection should be given to tree groves, exceptional trees, critical areas and natural areas.

9. Incentives and Public Education – Proving incentives and educating the public should be part of the city effort to increase tree canopy coverage.

10. Stronger enforcement and Fines – To ensue enforcement of tree regulations and rules for those violating the law, the city needs to enact stronger penalties and fines.

Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest, www.friends.urbanforests.org, Chair – Steve Zemke, stevezemke@msn.com


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