Seattle’s big trees and more housing – we can and should have more

Comments by Sandy Shettler to One Seattle Comprehensive Plan EIS Scoping Project

We need every option in the One Seattle survey to include protection and support for urban trees. Countless studies have clearly established that urban trees give us cleaner air, cooler summers, and better outcomes on every measurable public health metric. Neighborhoods that lack trees can feel dystopian regardless of density. Conversely, neighborhoods with big trees create a sense of place, serenity and community even if extremely dense. Cohesive, canopied communities like these encourage people to put down roots in urban neighborhoods. People choosing to stay long-term in livable neighborhoods will help Seattle meet regional goals on growth management and transportation emissions.

We can create these rooted neighborhoods by thoughtfully developing around existing big trees. Big trees are valuable because their sheer size enables them to provide the ecosystem and public health benefits we need right now. Developers know how to preserve large trees through creative design and partnering with arborists to ensure trees remain healthy through the construction process. Local government can help with financial incentives to preserve and care for trees (“treebates”) as well as design flexibility for incorporating trees. Together with a stronger tree protection ordinance, programs like these would help remove incentives for developers to clearcut lots, and make tree retention the norm.

We also need to invest in our future urban forest by planting trees now. Seattle’s historically lax tree protection has stripped trees from all parts of the city, but especially in lower-income communities where people can’t afford AC needed to mitigate heat. Our comprehensive plan should right this historical wrong and plan for a future where everyone can live among big trees and enjoy the health and connection to nature they

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