Press Release on Updating Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

Press Release – May 16, 2018

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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.

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