Seattle City Council Again Delays Updating Tree Protection Ordinance

Update – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Seattle City Council Again Delays Tree Protection Ordinance

Regretfully we end 2018 without an update to Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. The Seattle City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee (PLUZ) had announced in Nov 2017 that they were going to once again attempt to update Seattle’s Tree protection Ordinance.  In December of 2017 TreePAC and Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest again joined with other community groups to coordinate a renewed effort to update Seattle’s Tree ordinance.

By August of 2018 the PLUZ Committee had produced 2 public drafts of  a new ordinance and an least 8 internal drafts.

In late September, the Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee agreed with the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission and with TreePAC and other community groups and individuals  that the city needed to slow down and draft a new Tree Ordinance that actually protected existing trees as well as requiring trees that were removed be replaced.

In October and November of 2018 the Seattle City Council dedicated its time and effort to drafting and passing  the City Budget. Unfortunately after this was completed, the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee decided to shift their attention and staff to other legislation and delay further action on the Tree Protection Ordinance until after they pass their Mandatory Housing Affordability Ordinance. They have now tentatively said they would again work on the tree ordinance in the second quarter of 2019.

The Seattle City Council is now entering its tenth year since they passed  Council Resolution 31138 urging an update of SMC 25.11 – the Tree Protection Ordinance. The Coalition for a Stronger tree Ordinance will continue to meet as an organization to build support across Seattle for a stronger tree ordinance as well as work with the City Council, Mayor and the Seattle Urban Forest Commission on specific language.

The Coalition continues to urge supporters to continue to contact the Mayor’s office and the City Council on a regular basis to urge they finally enact a strong tree protection ordinance and enforce it.

You can contact the Seattle Mayor at and the Seattle City Council  at

The main points to emphasize to them is that an updated ordinance must:

  1. Maintain protections for Exceptional Trees –  “An exceptional tree is a tree that: 1. Is designated as a heritage tree by the City of Seattle; or 2. Is rare or exceptional by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural/historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of grove of trees “. 
  2.  Lower the threshold for large exceptional trees to 24 inches diameter at 54 inches high (DBH).
  3. Require removal permits for all trees 6″DBH and larger in all  property zones across the city for both developed lots and lots undergoing development. 
  4. Base tree permits on diameter and species of trees, not tree canopy measurements.
  5. Require all trees 6″ DBH and larger that are  removed to be replaced on site or  a replacement and maintenancefee be paid to the city.
  6. Require 2 week posting and yellow ribbons on trees on site for all permit applications for removal. Include on line public posting of applications and permit approvals.
  7. Limit removal of significant trees non-exceptional trees to no more than 2 per year on developed property.
  8. Maintain the prohibition on cutting down trees greater than 6″ DBH on undeveloped lots.

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