New Tree Rules for Single-Family Homes in Seattle

New Tree Rules for Single-Family Zones

Large treeOn April 19, new rules went into effect for tree planting and protection requirements in single-family zones. The recently passed Mandatory Housing Affordability Ordinance 125791 made several important changes to tree protection requirements in the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 25.11, Tree Protection, and SMC 23.44, Single Family Zone. Those changes are:

  1. SMC 25.11.040, Restrictions on Tree Removal, no longer includes an exemption from the exceptional tree designation or from requirements for tree removal on single-family lots less than 5,000 square feet. The exceptional tree rules now apply to all sizes of lots in single-family zones, including the residential small lot category. Trees can now be removed only under the same criteria that apply to lots greater than 5,000 square feet.
  2. The residential small lot (RSL) zone is now a part of SMC 23.44, Residential, Single-Family.
  3. The tree planting, retention, and protection requirements for single-family zones, formerly located in SMC 23.44.008.I, are now in a new section, SMC 23.44.020.  The “caliper inch” planting or retention requirement for lots zoned as single-family 5,000, 7,200, and 9,600 remain the same (SMC 23.44.020.A).  Planting or tree retention requirements for RSL lots is different. It is based on a point system and providing street trees is now required (SMC 23.44.020.B).  Unlike the other three single-family zones where street trees can be counted toward the planting or retention requirement, street trees are not counted toward the on-site requirement in RSL zones.

For more information about tree protection rules, see our Tree Protection Code webpage.

article copied from SDCI website  – New Rules for Single-Family Zones

Seattle City Council Adopts MHA Resolution – Section on Trees

On March 18, 2019 the Seattle City Council passed CB 119444 – Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation.

As part of that legislation they passed a Companion Resolution –  RESOLUTION 31870 calling for additional measures by the City and its partners that complement mandatory housing affordability (MHA) implementation to promote livability and equitable development, mitigate displacement, and address challenges and opportunities raised by community members during the MHA public engagement process.

Section 6 of that resolution dealt with updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance.

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 across Seattle. Potential measures may include, but are not limited to, the following:

A. Retaining protections for exceptional trees and expanding the definition of exceptional trees.
B. Creating a permitting process for the removal of significant trees, defined as trees  6 inches in diameter at breast height or larger.
C. Adding replacement requirements for significant tree removal.
D. Simplifying tree planting and replacement requirements.
E. Maintaining tree removal limits in single-family zones.
F. Exploring the feasibility of establishing a in-lieu fee option for tree planting.
G. Tracking tree removal and replacement throughout Seattle.
H. Providing adequate funding to administer and enforce tree regulations.
I. Requiring that all tree service providers operating in Seattle meet the minimum certification and training requirements and register with the city.

This is an affirmation by the Seattle City Council of their current intent to update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance SMC 25.11. The Seattle City Council in 2009 passed a similar resolution but never updated the ordinance. It’s now 10 years later.

Unfortunately the Councilmember leading the effort, Rob Johnson, resigned on April 5, 2019.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has agreed to take over the update of the ordinance. The goal is to complete the drafting process of a new ordinance and have a vote by the end of September at the latest. In October and November the Seattle City Council shifts to drafting and adopting the City Budget.

  • 7/15/2019 Update – the timeline now appears that the draft Tree Protection Ordinance Update will be submitted to the Seattle City Council in September, have 2 hearings the 1st and 3rd Wednesday from 2-4 PM in the Council Chambers before Councilmember Sally Bagshaw’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee and be voted out of Committee the 1st week in December and passed by the full Council the 2nd week.
  • 11/14/19 Update – Council never introduced a draft. Update moved to 2020. Another delay – over 10 years since Council first passed a resolution to update Tree Protection Ordinance. Two more resolutions passed since then urging update.

Johnson, Herbold & O’Brien Lay Out Path Forward on Tree Protection Legislation

Update – posted on Rob Johnson’s Trees for All page

Johnson, Herbold & O’Brien Lay Out Path Forward on Tree Protection Legislation

Commit to protecting exceptional trees, maintaining Seattle’s reputation as a ‘truly Emerald City’

September 12, 2018

Members of the Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee issued the following statement specific to the City’s forthcoming tree ordinance earlier today:

“The benefits of tree canopies are numerous: a cleaner, more resilient environment, and a more beautiful and equitable city are among them. Management of trees is part of the complex challenge necessary to preserve these important benefits. In response, the Council’s PLUZ committee has discussed a framework which aims to create stronger stewardship of the trees we have, allow our canopy to keep pace with growth and greater density, and plant more trees in neighborhoods that lack them.

“We share a common goal with many of our constituents to protect our environment and grow our tree canopy. Together with the community we have been seeking stronger protections for our city’s trees in order to meet our goal of at least 30% tree canopy coverage in Seattle. This approach inspired us to propose a new requirement for permits to remove significant trees, while also requiring those who remove trees to replace them.

“From the start we’ve been committed to crafting this proposal in an open manner. We’ve hosted three public meetings on the proposal and went to great lengths to include the public at the ‘table’ by releasing working drafts for community input. In our collective experience with Council policy-making, it is unusual for draft legislation to be released to the public and discussed in committee before a bill is officially introduced. We’ve taken this approach because of our shared desire to incorporate input we receive before introducing legislation. We have already included much of what we’ve heard, including lowering the threshold for tree replacement to 6” in diameter, requiring certification for tree service professionals and extending these protections to all zones throughout the City.

“We’ve also heard that the community is interested in taking more time to consider this draft legislation, and that adding new replacement requirements was not enough protection for exceptional trees. In response to that critical input, last week Chair Johnson made a commitment to take more time with this legislation. All three committee members also strongly agree with advocates that we must maintain and strengthen the current protections for exceptional trees.

“In addition to maintaining and strengthening protections for exceptional trees, the committee will continue to consider important issues including the method we use to measure trees, protections for tree groves, funding to properly enforce the ordinance, and more. We all believe that these can be resolved with the community through the normal legislative process. Some of these issues will be discussed at the September 19th, 2018 meeting of the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee meeting. We plan to continue consideration in December after our budget process wraps up.

“It’s our hope that this approach will serve to incentivize preservation of trees as our city grows, and will maintain Seattle’s reputation as a truly Emerald City.”

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

Title
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)

Urge Seattle City Council to Add Tree Mitigation Amendment to MHA Ordinance Draft

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Action Message from Steve Zemke – Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Dear Tree Protection Advocates,
The Seattle City Council will be considering amendments to the proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Ordinance this Friday May 8, 2019. We need your help to urge the Seattle City Council to support and adopt an amendment proposed by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission to help mitigate for trees lost during development. They will be holding a public hearing Feb thursday Feb 21 and take a fianl vote on Feb 25, 2019.  Click here to see schedule.

This amendment would  increase tree mitigation for trees lost during MHA implementation as proposed in Executive Order 2017-11 – Tree Protection by Mayor Burgess in 2017 and addressed as mitigation to be implemented in the final MHA Environmental Impact Statement. Unfortunately, both  the language to require a replacement fee for trees removed  during development and not replanted on site, and language to track tree loss and replacement as proposed by Mayor Burgess, have not been incorporated in the current MHA ordinance draft.

Please e-mail the following message to the Seattle City Council and the Mayor to support and pass this amendment. You can cut and paste the following text in an e-mail, add your name and your own message. Mail to Council@seattle.gov and jenny.durkan@seattle.gov Thanks.

Dear Seattle City Council,

Please add the following amendment proposed by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission to the proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability Ordinance   The language proposed is within the scope of the final Environmental Impact Statement as discussed in section 3.6.3 MITIGATION MEASURES. To sustain our urban forest it is essential that trees removed during development be replaced. The proposed amendment addresses that issue.

SMC 25.11.090 – Tree replacement and site restoration (A)
“Each exceptional significant tree (six inches DBH and larger) and over two (2) feet 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 20 years, in a canopy cover volume that is at least equal to the canopy cover volume 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 a fee-in-lieu shall be paid to the City to replace and maintain the tree or trees in the neighborhood where they were removed or elsewhere as needed in the city. The City shall enter all significant trees on site, trees removed, and trees replaced into SDCI’s current database system; noting tree species, common name, DBH, height, condition and location.

Please add this amendment to the final Mandatory Housing Affordability Ordinance. Tree replacement is important to not lose tree canopy.  Can we count on you to support and vote for this amendment?  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Continuing the Fight to Update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance – Coalition Meeting Feb 2nd

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Dear Tree Protection Advocates,

We ended last year in a stalemate as the Seattle City Council put off action once again on moving ahead with updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. They say they will start again after they pass the MHA (Mandatory Housing Affordability) Ordinance in March. However we are now into year 10 since the City Council first passed a resolution in 2009 to update the current tree protection ordinance and are again put on the back burner.

We need to step up our  efforts and we will discuss options this Saturday at our next meeting. Unfortunately while the last Seattle City Council draft D7 had some good components, like permits for removing trees and requiring replacement, at the same time it removed protections for exceptional trees, including tree groves, limits on number of trees that can be removed per year and prohibitions on removing trees over 6 inches DBH on vacant lots Please attend our next meeting as we discuss plans for moving forward.

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance Meeting
Saturday Feb. 2, 2019   10 AM – 12 Noon
Northgate Public Library. 10548 5th Ave NE, Seattle

Agenda
introductions
status of current ordinance
basic provisions that need to be in updated ordinance
status of amendments to MHA ordinance
City Council support
schedule moving forward:
outreach efforts
Mayor
City Council
City Council Elections
community support
media outreach
next steps

This should keep us busy for our scheduled time. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Donations made to TreePAC will be earmarked for this effort. Click here to go to the TreePAC donation page  .
Steve Zemke
Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance – a Project of Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and TreePAC.

www.Friends.UrbanForests.org and www.TreePAC.org

facebook – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest  and facebook – Tree PAC

Seattle Urban Forestry Commission Letter to City Council on MHA Legislation Regarding Mitigation for Tree Loss.

January 9, 2019.
MHA Council Committee
City Hall
600 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98124
RE: Amendments to MHA Ordinance
Dear Councilmembers,
The Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) would like to provide additional input as you undertake amendments for the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Ordinance.

The UFC is concerned about the feedback loop between all the different pieces of tree
protection legislation currently being considered. The Tree Protection Ordinance (currently on hold) affects Green Factor, its Director’s Rule, and the MHA Ordinance.

The UFC still feels mitigation measures proposed on the MHA EIS are not enough, especially being that the Tree Protection Ordinance is on hold. Available space for trees is being significantly reduced as part of MHA. The UFC believes the City needs to be more intent in protecting existing trees and requiring tree replacement. Other efforts that would support successful tree protection would include:
1. Clearly defining what a tree is (as done in version D7 of the Draft Tree Protection
Ordinance).
2. Including protection for all significant trees 6” in diameter and larger (not just
exceptional trees) removed during development in all zones.
3. Establishing a fee-in-lieu option to fund tree replacement when it’s not possible to do
on site.
4. Replacing significant trees removed on site or paying an in-lieu fee to the City to
cover replacement and maintenance costs in the neighborhood or elsewhere in the city
as needed (SMC 25.11.090).
5. Establishing the tree replacement requirement to be calculated based on canopy
volume lost and tree species and size at maturity (in 20 years).
6. Setting a minimum canopy cover requirement per property, including Residential Small
Lots.
7. Capturing all data on significant tree retention, loss, and replacement into the City’s
database.
8. Properly funding enforcement for tree protection to be effective.
9. Considering previous input provided by the UFC on the Green Factor Director’s Rule
letter of recommendation and Draft MHA Ordinance recommendations, which was
based on the current draft DR and additional changes might be warranted.

The UFC would like to propose specific language changes to SMC 25.11.090 (A), as follows:

Each exceptional significant tree (six inches DBH and larger) and tree over two (2) feet 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 20 years in a canopy cover volume that is at least equal to the canopy cover volume 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 a fee-in-lieu shall be paid to the City to replace and maintain the tree or trees in the neighborhood where they were removed or elsewhere as needed in the city. The City shall enter all significant trees on site, trees removed, and trees replaced into SDCI’s current database system; noting tree species, common name, DBH, height, condition and location,

The UFC would be happy to work with Council to help explore creative ideas and solutions to support Seattle’s urban trees as our city grows and gets denser as well as coordinating the different elements to tree protection regulation currently being considered by the City.

Sincerely,

Weston Brinkley, Chair                   Steve Zemke

cc: Mayor Durkan, Nathan Torgelson, Samuel Assefa, Jessica Finn Coven, Michelle Caulfield, David Driskell, Mi Podowski, Maggie Glowacki, Chanda Emery, Brennon Staley, Vera Giampietro, Urban Forestry Management Team, Urban Forestry Core Team, Sara Maxana, Aaron Blumenthal, Eric McConaghy, Yolanda Ho, Amanda Hohlfeld

see original document here – Re: Amendments to MHA Ordinance 

Tree Mitigation Amendment to MHA Ordinance is Within Scope of EIS

The following email was sent to the Seattle City Council urging they add a tree 

mitigation amendment to their proposed MHA Ordinance.

To Seattle City Council:

Last week the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission  adopted and sent to the Seattle City Council and Mayor  a letter entitled Re:Amendments to the MHA Ordinance Jan 9, 2019.  In the letter was a specific recommended amendment regarding tree mitigation to add to the draft MHA ordinance 119184. It is within the scope of the MHA EIS. TreePAC and others support this amendment and need your help to sponsor it and get it considered by the full MHA Committee. Can you help us? 

 Proposed amendment:   SMC 25.11.090 – Tree replacement and site restoration (A)
“Each exceptional significant tree (six inches DBH and larger) and over two (2) feet 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 20 years, in a canopy cover volume that is at least equal to the canopy cover volume 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 a fee-in-lieu shall be paid to the City to replace and maintain the tree or trees in the neighborhood where they were removed or elsewhere as needed in the city. The City shall enter all significant trees on site, trees removed, and trees replaced into SDCI’s current database system; noting tree species, common name, DBH, height, condition and location.”

References as to why this amendment is within the scope of the MHA EIS:
Under Section 3.6.3 Mitigation Measures in the MHA Final EIS Nov. 2017 Biological Resources Section it states “The following mitigation measures are provided which would reduce impacts.”…

“Executive Order 2017-11: Tree Protection: 
In October of 2017, the Mayor signed executive order 2017-11 directing City departments to improve departmental coordination, strengthen enforcement and adopt new regulations to improve and expand protections for Seattle’s urban trees and canopy cover. …The order also calls for expansion of compliance options to include in-lieu payment options for tree mitigation. Fees from any in-lieu payment will be used for mitigating the loss of canopy cover through replanting and reforestation while prioritizing addressing racial and economic disparities in accessing and enjoying the benefits of urban trees.”  

Burgess’s executive order 20-17 in  “Section 1. Enforcement Adjustment and Procedural Improvements” says “(B) SDCI will require consistent documentation for required tree removal review on private property including mitigating canopy cover loss of trees removed, and monitoring of planted trees for survival. Informational materials and resources for developers, property owners, and the public related to trees and vegetation management shall be updated to reflect this emphasis”

Thanks for your consideration. We are also contacting other Council members asking for their support as we know 5 votes are needed to pass it.

Steve Zemke -Chair Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

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 jenny.durkan@seattle.gov and the Seattle City Council  at council@seattle.gov.

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.