Letter to SDCI and Seattle Mayor regarding attempted illegal tree removal

The following letter points out the need for tree removal permits in Seattle. Without them trees can be illegally removed and most of the removals happen without the ability for anyone to respond. Many go unnoticed or not reported, this was only caught because of a neighbor being aware in advance of the attempted illegal removal.
Many other cities require permits to remove trees. Seattle in most cases does not on private property. Tree Removal and Replacement Permits have been required for the last 9 years by the Seattle Dept. of Transportation. The Seattle Dept. of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) has no permit system to remove trees. The SDCI Director has long had the authority to require permits to enforce the Tree Protection Ordinance (SMC 25.11.090) but has chosen not to do that.
The Seattle City Council needs to add a requirement for permits to remove trees 6″ DBH and larger. A permit system can significantly reduce illegal tree cutting and can also provide the city with needed tracking on tree loss and replacement bot outside development and during development.
Hello Director Torgelson,
It is critical that SDCI provide enforcement services for illegal tree cutting on weekends and holidays. Illegal tree removals are intentionally scheduled for days when there is no enforcement. Stumps of exceptional trees are ground out immediately to ensure no evidence remains.
The KIRO7 news story linked below highlights a practice tree advocates know is widespread. Developers buy a property, then arrange for it to be illegally stripped of trees prior to the closing. These removals usually occur on holidays and weekends. Below is a KIRO7 story from this holiday weekend.
Here are specifics on the attempted removals at 827 NE 98th. I am also submitting this to the SDCI portal:
The property is currently owned by Sojourner Land Trust and the home was occupied until recently by “Lou” a principal in the trust. Lou informed her neighbors Cheryl and Sam Kordick several months ago that she was selling her property to a developer.
Arborist Andy Crossett, Tree Frog LLC, 206-310-8254 visited the site during the week of 3/28/22. He met Ms. Kordick and told her he worked for a developer. He stated the property had “two exceptional Douglas firs of DBH above 30” in the back, and that he would also examine a large fir in the front.
On 5/27/22, Ms. Kordick received a text from Lou stating that “the trees will be coming down this weekend” and “I wish the buyer could take care of this after the sale but now we’ve run out of time” and “we don’t need permits.” Ms. Kordick reached out to tree protection advocates who checked the permit portal and saw that no permit was evident.
On 5/28/22, tree protection advocates went to Ms. Kordick’s home, where Southfork Tree Service had arrived. “Brian” of Southfork confirmed that he would be removing the two firs in back and that “we are licensed, bonded and insured” and “we have permits” which he could not produce when asked. Sam Kordick requested to speak with the new owner and was given a contact for “Bobby at Legacy” who was not reachable.
A small crowd gathered in the Kordick’s yard to watch the tree removal. One person stood directly underneath the tree canopy which prevented its removal. Workers said “we can’t take it down because you’re in the way” several times. As they were leaving, Brian shouted “all I did was prune it!”
Attached are photos of the Southfork truck and workers. A 28-minute long video of the cutting activity is at this YouTube link; the conversation between workers and bystanders starts around minute 21:  https://youtu.be/WvpLzVwdC34
In this dual climate-change and housing crisis, the way forward is to build more housing while retaining our large trees. We won’t be able to do this if we allow unscrupulous people to decimate our urban forest on weekends and holidays.
Kind regards,
Sandy Shettler
“There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It’s called a tree.” – George Monbiot

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