150 Trees and Me Supports a Stronger Tree Ordinance in Seattle

I am Carolyn Rodenberg, Chair of 150 Trees and Me, a workgroup of One Sustainable Planet. We follow the lead of Plant for the Planet and climate science that tells us to plant trees as well as to lower our carbon emissions.

Tuesday, it was 88 degrees in Seattle. Nice summer day? – No, it’s springtime –that was May 4th! The last ten years have been the 10 hottest years in recorded history, and each year is hotter than the last one.

Excessive heat causes health problems and can even cause death. “Many people don’t realize that there are more deaths attributed to urban heat in the United States than all other natural disasters combined”, so says Vivek Shandas, an Associate Professor
of Urband Studies and Planning at Portland State University (“Turning down the heat, turning up the green” August, 2015). We need our trees to provide shade and thermal comfort to help keep us healthy.

When it rains, it can pour – So, we need our trees to intercept rain as it falls, and to hold water in the ground to reduce slides and flooding. We need our trees to capture air pollution particulates and turn them into breatheable air and carbon.

We need our trees for our trees for a sense of community, connection with nature and our mental health. Trees protect us, let’s protect them!

150 Trees and Me is a coalition member of the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance in Seattle, WA.

Seattle Audubon Speaks out for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Dear Seattle City Council,

We urge Seattle City Council to support the Trees for All initiative, and recommendations made by the Urban Forestry Commission to strengthen the protection of trees in the city of Seattle. We commend Rob Johnson for proposing a more transparent system for acquiring tree permits to take trees from our city, a focus on replacing cut trees with new trees that will contribute to our urban canopy, and a focus on increasing our urban canopy in less advantaged neighborhoods.

The Seattle Audubon Society is Washington State’s oldest environmental conservation organization, founded in 1916. We represent approximately 4,000 local members. One of our key priorities is to advocate and lead urban habitat preservation, which aims to restore Seattle’s urban tree canopy across the city. We support stronger regulations for tree removal, a focus on offsetting development, and working towards urban equality in our environment. We believe a framework like the Trees for All campaign outlined by Councilman Rob Johnson will move the city towards an equitable increase in Seattle’s tree canopy. In addition to this initiative, we hope the city will decide to include trees with 6” or greater DBH as a threshold in tree replacement strategies. We also urge you to consider small lots of land as many single family homes are small or are being subdivided into smaller lots.

Seattle Audubon has been working with partner organizations across the city to preserve the urban forest as part of the commitment made in signing the Urban Bird Treaty, for the conservation of wildlife (particularly avifauna), and for the health of Seattle residents. Seattle’s urban tree canopy provides habitat for nesting birds, and food for our migratory and resident species. In addition to connecting birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway, Seattle’s urban canopy provides important connections for wildlife between green spaces. Trees are also important for improving air quality and are important in offsetting climate change. As Seattle’s population increases, it is critical that we continue to preserve our city’s trees and increase our tree canopy particularly in low income and immigrant communities.

Please make protecting and increasing Seattle’s trees a priority.

Sincerely,
Megan Friesen, PhD

Seattle Audubon
Conservation Manager
May 15, 2018

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

The following organizations have endorsed the campaign for a stronger Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance. They support a permit system to remove any tree 6 inches diameter and larger on both private and public land and on developed land and land undergoing development. They support requiring equivalently sized trees be replanted either on site or pay a mitigation fee to cover the cost of the city replanting the tree and maintaining it. The goal is not just a no net loss of canopy but increasing Seattle’s tree canopy over time.

List of Organizations Endorsing the “Action Needed” Letter to Seattle City Council and Mayor Durkan 

Beacon Hill Council
Beacon Food Forest
Broadview/Bitter Lake Community Council
City Fruit
Eastlake Community Council
Faith and Climate Action
Fremont Neighborhood Council
Friends of Bradner Park
Friends of Cheasty Greenspace
Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest
Greenwood Exceptional Tree Group
Greenwood-Phinney Greenways
GROW
Heron Habitat Helpers
Interurban Trail Tree Preservation Society
Licton-Haller Lake Greenways
One Sustainable Planet
150 Trees and Me
Phinney Ridge Community Council
Plant Amnesty
Plant for the Planet
Seattle Audubon
Seattle Green Spaces Coalition
Seattle Nature Alliance
South Park Neighborhood Association
SUN – Seniors United for Neighborhoods
The Na’ahllahee Fund
Thornton Creek Alliance
TreePAC
Wallingford Community Council
The Wilderness Society
46th LD Democrats

The following groups have written their own letters in support of a stronger tree ordinance:

Heron Habitat Helpers
Lake City Neighbood Alliance
Seattle Audubon Society
Seattle Green Spaces Coalition
Seattle Nature Alliance
Thornton Creek Alliance
Washington Environmental Council

Press Release on Updating Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

Press Release – May 16, 2018

For more information  – Steve@friends.urbanforests.org

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.

Tree Size Triggering Requirement for Permits to Remove Trees

Below are some examples of the minimum tree size that triggers the requirement to get a permit to remove 1 or more trees in various cities.

City threshold for permits for tree removal:

Annapolis, MD – 5 inches DBH (Diameter Breast Height – 4.5 feet)

Atlanta, GA – hardwood trees – 6 inches DBH; pine trees – 12 Inches DBH

Kirkland, WA – 6 inches DBH

Lake Forest Park – WA 6 inches DBH

Lake Oswego, OR – 6 inches DBH

Mercer Island, WA  – 10 inches DBH

Medina, WA  – 6 inches DBH

Portland, Oregon – 12 inches DBH

Redmond, WA – 6 inches DBH

Sammamish, WA conifer tree – 8 inches DBH; deciduous tree – 12 inches DBH

Shoreline, WA – 8 inches DBH – conifers, 12 inches DBH – deciduous

Vancouver, BC – 20 cm (7.8 inches DBH)

May 2018 Action Plan for Updating Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

May Action Plan – Keep Seattle Green – Protect our Trees

Reach out to supporting groups – emails to their members, newsletter articles, posting on organization websites, FB. Ask to be copied with the article, posting, etc. Enlarge contact list of supporting organizations – environmental groups, community councils, Democratic organizations,sustainability groups, equity groups. Meet with key leaders – ask about how we can get their support/endorsement (give talk, pp, leaflet, newsletters, website and social media)

Arrange Seattle Councilmember meetings – starting with Johnson, O’Brien, Herbold and Gonzalez (alternate) on Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee. Include other CouncilmeMmbers, ayor and Staff. Send e-mails to the Council and Mayor on a regular basis. Individual emails to each Councilmember personalize your contact.

Show up for coalition meetings – Get names and contact of newcomers
Sat. May 12, 2018 12 PM – 2PM Broadview Public Library, 12755 Greenwood Ave N.
Sat May 26, 2018, 3-5 PM Northgate Public Library, 10548 5th Ave NE.

Organize press conference Wednesday 5/168:45 AM for 9 AM press Conference
prior to 9:30 AM Planning, Land Use and Zoning meeting. Broaden Press contacts. Create list. Make contact with individual press people to brief them on issue. Organize letters to the editor. Be sure message and outreach is coordinated with campaign

PUSH for BIG turnout Wednesday May 16, 2018 – 9:30 am
to influence the PLUZ Committee, and the Seattle City Council to pass a strong tree ordinance. Rob Johnson will be doing the initial briefing at this meeting. PLUZ meets 1st and 3rd Wednesdays

Send e-mails, speak and attend Urban Forestry Commission meeting 5/9.
Send emails and speak about a strong tree ordinance. Also, thank the UFC for providing leadership in pushing to update the Tree Protection Ordinance over the last 9 years. Following meetings – 1st and 2nd Wed of month,3 PM – 5 PM Rm 2750, Seattle Municipal Tower

Yard sign campaign – concentrate on well-traveled streets and neighborhoods

Concentrate on main points when speaking – strong support to Councilmember Johnson and Seattle City Council for updating our Tree Protection ordinance. Emphasize that we are losing trees during development; that we need to require equivalent replacement for lost tree canopy to increase our tree canopy to 30%. Our proposal follows his main points but provides more details for a more effective
ordinance. Remember anything you say in public can wind up in the media so stay on point. If you have personal experience of problems with the current ordinance mention them and how what we are proposing will make things better.

Sources of information:

www.friends.urbanforests.org
also FB page – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest
www.TreePAC.org 
also FB page – Tree PAC

Seattle Urban Forestry Commission Makes Preliminary Recommendations on Updating Tree Protection Ordinance

On April 11, 2018 the Seattle Urban Forestry adopted the following letter:

Seattle Urban Forestry Commission
Weston Brinkley, Chair • Joanna Nelson de Flores, Vice-Chair
Tom Early • Megan Herzog • Craig Johnson • Sarah Rehder
Sandra Whiting • Andrew Zellers • Steve Zemke
April 11, 2018.
Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilmember Rob Johnson
Seattle City Hall
600 4th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98124

RE: Tree regulations update recommendation

Dear Mayor and Councilmember Johnson,
The Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) commends the Mayor and Councilmember Johnson for providing the impetus to move forward the Tree Protection ordinance update. The UFC is excited to support the City in this important effort.
Seattle recognizes the important role trees play in our densifying city. The UFC is interested in finding ways to allow for flexible management of trees by property owners, while protecting trees and accomplishing the City’s urban forestry goals.
The UFC has provided input in support of an update of the tree protection ordinance over the years (copies of such letters of recommendation can be made available if so desired).

The UFC recommends addressing the areas listed below in an updated tree protection
ordinance. More detailed input will be forthcoming:

1. Keep protection of groves and exceptional trees.
2. Reinstate a policy of no-net-loss of tree canopy with a goal of increasing canopy.
– Explore incentives for tree retention and deterrents for tree removal.
3. Establish a fee-in-lieu program (separate from the City’s General Fund) for tree
replacement, maintenance, and tree protection enforcement.
4. Establish a tree removal permit system to track and monitor tree loss and             replacement.
– This could be accomplished by expanding SDOT’s current tree permit system.
– The code update is an opportunity to require invasive plant removal from sites
undergoing development.
5. Require an urban forest canopy impact assessment for development sites.
6. Establish a tree service provider registration/certification to cover all tree
work one in Seattle.
7. Include environmental equity considerations.
8. Remove the exception from the tree protection code for single-family lots smaller
than 5,000 sf.
9. Establish financial guarantees to ensure tree survival.
10. Include requirements to follow current industry standards and best management
practices for tree selection and care.
– Including how a hazard tree determination is done.
11. Terms to be clearly defined: Canopy area, Canopy volume, DBH, Excessive pruning,
Fee-in-lieu, Hedge, Invasive, Major pruning, Off-site replacement, Pruning,
Seattle Comprehensive Plan, Seattle Urban Forest Stewardship Plan, Significant
tree, Tree, Tree permit, Tree protection area, Tree Replacement and Maintenance
Fund, Tree service providers, Urban forest canopy impact assessment, and Volume.

We appreciate your commitment to Seattle’s urban forest and look forward to working with you on this matter.

Sincerely,
Weston Brinkley, Chair                                                                                                      Steve Zemke

Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

Dear Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council Members, 

We urge you to provide strong leadership now to significantly strengthen Seattle’s tree ordinance to protect our trees and urban forest. 

Seattle’s urban forest is an integral and vital part of our city.  It provides many benefits and amenities to those living in our city.  Trees help clean our air and enhance public health, reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate climate change, decrease the impacts of heat and wind, provide habitat for birds and wildlife and give us a connection with nature in our neighborhoods.

Seattle’s rapid growth is reducing these beneficial impacts as trees are removed, particularly during development across our city. It is urgent that you act now to stop the loss of trees, particularly exceptional trees and tree groves, and to promote environmental equity as we increase our tree canopy.

We urge you to act now by updating our current tree ordinances and regulations as follows:

  1. Adopt a policy of a net increase of Seattle’s tree canopy each year to reach the city’s current goal of 30% tree canopy.  This requires maintaining and strengthening current protections for both significant and exceptional trees, tree groves, Heritage trees, environmentally critical areas and natural areas.
  2. Require the replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with equivalent sized trees (e.g. small, medium or large) – either on site:  or pay the replacement and maintenance mitigation costs into a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund. Allow the Fund to accept fines, donations, grants and for acquiring land and setting easements and Tree Protection Trusts.
  3. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit, 2-week notice and posting system used by SDOT – to cover all public and private trees 6” DBH and larger on both public and private property in all land use zones. Allow removal of no more than 1  significant non-exceptional tree per lot per year.
  4.  Establish one citywide database when applying for tree removal and replacement permits and to track changes in the tree canopy.  Post online all permit requests and permit approvals for public viewing.  Expand SDOT’s existing tree map to include all the trees in the city that are removed and replaced.
  5. Require a detailed Urban Forest Canopy Assessment for all development projects prior to any development beginning. This detailed tree inventory should be entered into a public database.  Replacement trees should be based on equivalent tree size at maturity.
  6. Expand SDOT’s existing tree service provider’s registration and certification to include all tree service providers working on trees in Seattle. 
  7. Consolidate tree oversight into one city entity: The Office of Sustainability and Environment, as was recommended by the Seattle City Auditor in 2009.  Give OSE the additional authority needed to ensure that trees have an independent advocate for their protection to avoid conflicting goals in other city departments.
  8. Emphasize native trees and vegetation, particularly conifers, to maximize sustainability and environmental services.  Require the removal of invasive plants during development. Increase incentives for protecting trees and provide public assistance for property owners who need help complying with the city ordinance. To increase compliance increase penalties, fines and enforcement. Ensure environmental equity in maintaining and increasing our tree canopy across the city.

———————————————————————————————————————
Note: Above is the final version of the Letter to the Mayor and City Council that organizations are being asked to sign onto as part of a citywide coordinated effort to show strong support for updating Seattle’s existing Tree Protection legislation.

In the current proposal as outlined by Council staff on May 16, 2018, Councilmember Johnson, is not proposing to require developers to replace most trees lost during development while requiring homeowners to replace all trees larger than 12 inches DBH. Yet development is where most trees are being lost. Everyone needs to be treated the same, not letting developers evade most mitigation for trees lost.  Also the threshold needs to be 6″ DBH not 12″ DBH which would only cover 18% of the trees on single family lots.

When your organization signs on to the letter above please send notification to Steve@friends.urbanforests.org along with the person signing for the organization and their position.

Also for both organizations and individuals please copy and paste the letter text above the note and include it in an email you send to the Mayor and Seattle City Council in support of updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. They need to hear from you. Be sure to add your own concern about developers being exempt in the current proposed ordinance update that homeowner would have to comply with. Urge that permits need to start at 6 inches DBH which would cover 45% of the trees in single family zones.

Send to jenny.durkan@seattle.gov and council@Seattle.gov

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

friends.urbanforests.org, TreePAC.org

corrections made to notes after May 16, 2018 when more details became public with release of the Seattle Central Council staff memo – “Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations”

 

Use the Tree Regulations Research Project Recommendations to Guide Updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance

Letter sent to Seattle Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council

Seattle last year completed a study on whether our current tree ordinance and regulations were working.

Among other findings the Tree Regulations Research Project concluded in their final report last year that:

Current code is not supporting tree protection.”

“We are losing exceptional trees (and groves) in general. Most in Environmental Critical Areas with most tree loss in landslide-prone areas.”

Development and hardscape increase result in tree loss. – Conifers and large tree species are coming out with deciduous and dwarf species are coming in.”

The report with the findings recommended a 3 tiered process of potential action:

“Final Recommendations: 

Project final recommendations included three levels:

I. Existing regulations with improvements 

• Code improvements

• Process improvements 

• Other opportunities

II. Permit system and protect additional trees

• All of 1, and 2

III. Permit system “Plus” and protect more trees 

• All of 1, 2, and 3 Incentives proposed are intended to be considered in all three options

Mayor Burgess’s Executive Order 2017-11 Tree Protection  – “An Executive Order directing City Departments to improve departmental coordination, strengthen enforcement and adopt new rules and regulations to improve and expand protections for Seattle’s urban trees and canopy coverage” only covered part of the many recommendations in Option I.

It also did not cover stronger protections that should be in an updated Tree Protection Ordinance that would shift oversight from what is now a complaint based system to one requiring permits up front before trees can be removed.

From the report:

Recommendation on Option II and III

Option II – Permit system and protect additional trees.

This option would include the improvements and incentives included in Option I.

1. Private property tree removal permit 

a. Track allowance for annual removal of three trees >6” 

b. Remove allowance for unlimited tree removal in SF<5,000 

c. Require mitigation 

2. Create tree injury/removal violation penalties 

a. Hold tree service company accountable 

b. Administrative appeal of penalties

 

Option III – Permit system “Plus” and protect more trees This option would include the improvements and incentives from Option I, and the proposed permit, mitigation and penalties in Option II. 

1. Protect tree groves through covenants. Provide support to home owners (from fee-in-lieu).

2. Explore transfer of development rights (within Seattle)

We urge you to follow the lead of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission which in a Nov 1, 2017 letter to the Council and Mayor supported Mayor Burgess’s Executive order and also  stated that “The Commission recommends that the City continue the deliberative process to consider implementation of Options 2 and 3 to further support Seattle’s canopy cover, tree protection, and tree preservation.”

In 2009, the Seattle City Council issued Resolution 31138 instructing “…the Department of Planning and Development to submit legislation by May 2010 to establish a comprehensive set of regulations and incentives to limit the removal of trees and promote the retention and addition of trees within the City of Seattle on both private and public property…”

It’s long past time to comprehensively update Seattle’s Tree Protection legislation – tweaking regulations is not enough.  Act now to Keep Seattle Green.  Protect Our Trees!

Sincerely,

Steve Zemke

Chair TreePAC

Chair – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

steve@friends.urbanforests.org

Action Needed Now to Protect and Enhance Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

Action Needed Now to Protect and Enhance Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

We urge Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council to take action now to significantly strengthen Seattle’s ordinances to protect our trees and urban forest. Seattle’s urban forest is an integral and vital part of our city. The urban forest provides many benefits and amenities to those living in our city, including helping to clean our air, reduce stormwater runoff, increase property values, counter climate change, lessen heat and wind impacts, provide habitat for birds and wildlife and provide nature in our neighborhoods. Seattle rapid growth is reducing these beneficial impacts as trees are removed, particularly during development across our city.

We urge you to take action now by updating our current tree ordinance and regulations as follows:

  1. Adopt a policy of no net loss of tree canopy with a goal of increasing tree canopy. This includes maintaining and strengthening current protections for exceptional trees, tree groves, Heritage trees, critical areas and natural areas
  2. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit, notice and posting system used by SDOT – to cover all public and private trees 6” DBH and larger on both public and private property in all land use zones. Allow removal of no more than 3 significant non-exceptional trees every 4 years.
  3. Require replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with equivalent sized trees (e.g. small, medium or large) – either on site or pay replacement and maintenance mitigation costs into a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund. Allow the Fund to accept fines, donations and grants and allow funds to also be used for acquiring land, easements or set up Trusts to protect trees.
  4. Establish one city wide database system to apply for tree removal and replacement permits. Post permit requests and permits approved on line for the public to see. City should expand SDOT’s existing tree map to include all of the trees in the city that are removed and replaced.
  5. Require a detailed Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment for all development projects – basically a detailed tree inventory report on property before development proceeds. Information would be entered into a public database, including data on replacement using  equivalent tree sizes at maturity.
  6. Expand SDOT’s existing tree service provider’s registration and certification to include all tree service providers working on trees in Seattle
  7. Consolidate tree oversight into one city entity as recommended in 2009 by the Seattle City Auditor who recommended the Office of Sustainability and Environment. Give OSE the additional authority needed to ensure that trees have an advocate for their protection and independence from conflicting goals inherent in other city departments,
  8. Give emphasis to native trees and vegetation, particularly conifers to maximize sustainability and environmental services like reducing stormwater runoff, protecting wildlife habitat and minimizing climate change impacts. Require removal of invasives during development. Increase incentives for protecting trees and provide public assistance for citizens if needed to help comply with the city ordinance. Increase penalties, fines and enforcement for increased compliance.