Needed Tree Protection Still Lacking in MHA Legislation

Seattle Still Has Not Passed Needed Tree Protection After Ten Years

For 10 years Seattle has been saying it is going to update its Tree Protection Ordinance. While the Seattle City Council’s proposed goals on passing an updated Tree Protection Ordinance in its Concurrent Resolution 31870 to CB 119444 (see below) are laudable, in 2009 it passed a similar resolution, Resolution 31138, but after 10 years has not acted to follow through with passing new legislation.

Resolutions do not protect our urban forest as development continues to remove trees. While the City Council resolution proposes significant changes, the Seattle City Council needs to act to actually update its current Tree Protection Ordinance SMC 25.11, not just pass another resolution.

Seattle also continues to flagrantly ignore its existing requirement in SMC 25.11.090 since 2001, mandating developers replace all trees 24 ” DBH and larger and all exceptional trees removed during development.The MHA Ordinance does not address the issue of tree replacement not occurring.

SMC  25.11.090 – Tree replacement and site restoration.

  1. Each exceptional tree and tree over two (2) feet in diameter that is removed in association with development in all zones shall be replaced by one or more new trees, the size and species of which shall be determined by the Director; the tree replacement required shall be designed to result, upon maturity, in a canopy cover that is at least equal to the canopy cover prior to tree removal. Preference shall be given to on-site replacement. When on-site replacement cannot be achieved, or is not appropriate as determined by the Director, preference for off-site replacement shall be on public property.
  2. No tree replacement is required if the (1) tree is hazardous, dead, diseased, injured or in a declining condition with no reasonable assurance of regaining vigor as determined by a tree care professional, or (2) the tree is proposed to be relocated to another suitable planting site as approved by the Director


One only needs to ask 2 questions to determine that most large or exceptional trees removed during development have not been replaced as required by SMC 25.11.090:

“Where are the replacement trees that were required to be planted the last 18 years.”

If the developers did not replant the trees, how much money did the city get from the developers to replant the trees and where are they?”

Council Concurrent Resolution 31870 to MHA Ordinance CB 119444 – section 6 on trees:

Section 6. The Council recognizes the environmental, social, and economic benefits of  Seattle’s urban forest and commits to working with community members and City departments  to update the City’s tree regulations, advancing the goals of the Urban Forest Stewardship Plan. Potential measures may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Retaining protections for exceptional trees and expanding the definition of exceptional trees.
  2. Creating a permitting process for the removal of significant trees, defined as trees 6 inches in diameter at breast height or larger.
  3. Adding replacement requirements for significant tree removal.
  4. Simplifying tree planting and replacement requirements.
  5. Maintaining tree removal limits in single-family zones.
  6. Exploring the feasibility of establishing a in-lieu fee option for tree planting.
  7. Tracking tree removal and replacement throughout Seattle.
  8. Providing adequate funding to administer and enforce tree regulations.


Seattle City Council Resolution Number: 31138

A RESOLUTION concerning policies for the protection of trees on public and private property within the City of Seattle, stating the Council’s priorities for legislative and Departmental actions to increase the overall health, quality and the extent of trees within the City of Seattle.

Status: Adopted as Amended
Date adopted by Full Council: August 3, 2009
Vote: 8-0 (Excused: Clark)

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