E-mails needed now – Contact Council and Mayor on Updating Tree Ordinance


Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Dear Tree Protection Advocates,

The Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee will be meeting at 9 AM on Wednesday, Sept 19th.  There is a 20 minute section at the end of the meeting devoted to the proposed tree ordinance update.  There is a 10 minute public comment period at the beginning of the Committee meeting. Attend the committee meeting if you can but sending an e-mail addressing their questions in the new Council memo and any other concerns you have is our suggested priority action now.

Here is the new Seattle City Council memo:

Policy considerations regarding proposed tree regulations bill – Sept 19, 2018

This needs to be compared with the Seattle Urban Forestry Committee recommendations of August 31, 2018.

LEG Tree regulation updates ORD D7 and August 16, 2018 Central Staff Memo Summary of proposed tree regulation bill and identified issues

*The questions below are cut and pasted excerpts from the Council memo. Suggested answers to the questions are in bold type.

On September 19, 2018 the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee (Committee) will continue discussion of key issues regarding the proposed legislative update to the tree regulations of the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC 25.11), also known as the tree code.

Policy questions in the memo:

• Should the unit of measure for tree removal permitting be tree canopy cover or tree size per species?
Permits should be based on tree species and size of tree removed, not on canopy cover which is hard for people to measure and only deals with canopy cover area, not tree canopy volume which is the best measure of environmental services provided.

• Should the regulatory standard applied to tree removal permits  be specified in detail in the tree code, or provided in a SDCI
Director’s Rule according to guidelines established in the tree code?
Standards should be expressed in detail in code, not set at some future time by an SDCI Director’s Rule.

• Should the tree code proposal maintain or modify the existing  definition of exceptional trees?
Maintain the current definition of exceptional trees and reduce the upper threshold size to 24″ DBH from 30″ DBH  to be considered  exceptional. Current definition – An exceptional tree is a tree that is designated as a heritage tree by the City of Seattle or is rare or exceptional by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural/historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of grove of trees.

• How should the proposal prohibit the removal of exceptional trees  along with protecting significant trees? For example, should exceptional trees be special instances of significant trees, with  stronger protections, or should they be provided a different status in the code?
Maintain current prohibition on  cutting down exceptional trees on developed property unless a hazard tree.

• Should the Committee consider directing SDCI to minimize minor tree  removal permit fees and expedite processing of these permits to  encourage compliance and improve data collection?
Simplify process. Continue current prohibition of removal of exceptional trees on developed lots unless a hazard tree. Use minor permit for cutting down 1 or 2 significant non exceptional trees outside development. 
Limit number of significant non-exceptional trees on developed property that can be cut down to maximum of 2 per year. Require 2 week posting on site and on-line for all trees, including yellow ribbon around trees as SDOT does. Major permit required for cutting down any tree during development.

• According to what standards should the value of trees proposed for  removal be determined, for both the purposes of required mitigation  and for enforcement?
Simplify the process. 
Require replacement of all trees 6′ DBH and larger that are removed during development and outside development in all zones regardless of canopy on lot. All trees count toward city canopy goal regardless of how many trees are on a lot or in what zone they are in.

• What factors matter when setting the value of trees, for example:  carbon sequestration, shade, storm-water, market costs, maintenance
costs, and the age of the tree?
Base replacement on size of tree removed. Increase, as Portland, OR does,  the number of trees required for replacement as the size of the tree removed increases. Require more trees be replaced for native trees as in the current draft and also for evergreen trees which provide year round environmental services. Encourage replacement with native trees and evergreen trees wherever possible.

If you can’t testify tomorrow, send an e-mail.  They are not voting tomorrow in committee, so an e-mail can be sent after the committee meeting and will still be very helpful input in getting your voice heard. They need to hear from all of us that we want much stronger tree protection as well as an ordinance that is easy for people to understand and comply with.  The above answers can be incorporated in an e-mail. Feel free to add your own comments. 

Send e-mails to Council@seattle.gov and jenny.durkan@seattle.gov.  Thanks.

Steve Zemke- Chair
Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance.- a joint project of Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and TreePAC.

PS-  Financial donations to support our campaign should be made to TreePAC.     Click here to Donate.

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