Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance Update Issues

Proposed revisions to Draft D7 for discussion – Nov 2018

Require permits to remove any tree over 6 inches DBH. Base permits on measuring tree diameter and species identification, not canopy area as proposed in the draft.

Limit the number of significant, non-exceptional trees that can be removed per yr on developed property. to 2 trees/year. Alternative is to allow x diameter inches per year e.g. 10 inches/year.

Adopt a policy of no net loss of canopy/year and a goal to increase canopy.

 No exemption on replacement for trees removed on lots over zone goal for canopy as this over time results in a net loss of canopy. The zone goal is an average, with lots above and below this average in tree cover.

Simplify replacement by requiring that all trees removed over 6” DBH, both on developed lots and lots being developed, in all zones, must be replaced, either on site, or by paying a replacement and maintenance fee to the city.

The permit should be called the tree removal and replacement permit. Current draft would let homeowner or developer plant trees off site. Consider removing the provision that a homeowner or developer plant trees off site as this gets very hard to track. Instead pay the city to do this with a fee in lieu to ensure proper trees are planted and maintained.

Current draft requires homeowners and developers removing a tree/trees below canopy zone goal having to bring canopy up to zone goal. Apply this to developers, not homeowners.

Draft starts with 2:1 replacement at 6″ DBH as the city does but has no increase in numbers as the tree removed gets larger. There are two reasons for increasing the number of trees for replacement increasing as the size of the tree increases – many newly planted trees do not survive and the larger DBH trees are older trees that take much longer to replace in equivalency.

The number of trees required as replacement increases as the size of the tree removed is increased. This is what other cities like Portland OR, Medina WA, and Mercer Island do. Medina 6-10 inches – replant 1 tree,10-24 inches -replant 2 trees, 24 inches and larger – replant 3 trees; Mercer island adds over 36 inches – replant 6 trees.

Target for tree replacement numbers to reach equivalency in 20 years per arboriculture standards. Draft says 25 years.

Target replacement to increase conifers, native trees and trees determined to respond best to climate changes

All replaced trees shall be considered significant when planted. (draft provision 25.11.122E)

Protect larger and older trees by reinstating the current exceptional tree protections.  Use the definition given in Director’s  Rule 2008-16.   ”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.”

Add the words “habitat value, ecological and environmental services” to the definition.

Lower the upper threshold for exceptional trees as recommended by the UFC  to 24″ DBH from 30″ DBH to protect more older. larger trees.

Continue existing protection that exceptional trees on developed property cannot be removed unless they are hazardous.

Require hazard trees to be replaced. (Maybe 1 for 1)

Put back prohibition on removing trees greater than 6” DBH on undeveloped lots.

Set up database system to track all tree loss and replacement in one database for all property, both developed and developing. Not “Maybe included with another SDCI permit” – must be tracked).

Minor permit – 1 or 2 significant non-exceptional trees outside development, hazard tree .  Major permit – trees during development

Application and permit posted on public city website Sign up list for people and neighborhoods to be notified when applications are filed.

Permit application with tree species and diameter DBH shall be posted on site and available for public to see as SDOT currently does. Yellow ribbon must be visibly placed around tree proposed to be removed.  Two weeks posting for application, then 1 week posting for trees approved to be removed. Applies to both minor and major tree removal permits, including during development. (Current draft only has posting for “approved permits”)

Time of tree planting in fall/winter – Mercer Island – “Timing.  Replacement trees shall be planted in the wet season (October 1 through April 1) following the applicable tree removal or in the case of a development project, completion of the development work, provided the city arborist may authorize an extension to ensure optimal planting conditions for tree survival”

Lots undergoing development shall be free of invasive plant species prior to approval of final landscape and tree planting approvals.

Determination of trees and tree canopy on a development site shall be that which has existed for 2 years prior to the development application being submitted as determined by LIDAR, Google Earth, or Google Street maps or other means by the city.

For purposes of this chapter and it’s enforcement by the city, the city shall have the power to access any property, public or private, as it may reasonably deem necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.

Performance Evaluation of ordinance – “The tree program manager shall collect and maintain all records and data necessary to objectively evaluate whether progress is being made toward the stated goals of this ordinance. An annual summary and analysis of the evaluation, and recommendations for action shall be prepared at the direction of the tree program manager and presented to the City Council. The City Council shall consider the report and recommendations and take all actions deemed necessary to accomplish the goals of this ordinance. These actions may include, but are not limited to, revision or amendment of this ordinance or the adoption of other resolutions or ordinance.”

Send your comments to and


Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance                                                                                    SteveZemke – Chair                                                                                 


Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance Update Issues — 1 Comment

  1. I live on 6th Ave W. on Queen Anne. They are cutting a tree down across from my house. It’s an old tree. Is there anything I can do??