Priority Talking Points on Amending Mayor Harrell’s 2023 draft Tree Ordinance

Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

Talking Points for Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance Update testimony before the Land Use Committee

  • Remove the guaranteed  “development area of 85%.” for lowrise, midrise, commercial and mixed zones. If middle housing legislation passes in Olympia, all of Seattle will be up zoned  by the state as multifamily. It will seriously reduce space for trees on building lots in the city. Seattle City planners need flexibility to save trees for healthy communities.
  • Require 20% lot allowance for “tree preservation and planting areas” in multifamily areas and 40% tree lot allowance for 1-4 units in the neighborhood residential zone.  Portland passed legislation in 2020 to allow up to 4plexes  in their neighborhoods after the state mandated zoning updates. Portland responded in Nov 2022 to update the tree protection legislation.
  • Require a Tree Inventory of all 6″ DSH and larger trees and a Landscape Plan prior to any Building Permit being issued.
  • Require “maximizing the retention of existing trees 6″ DSH and larger” throughout the entire development process. Urban forests need a diversity of tree ages and species to be healthy and sustainable.
  • Require all in-lieu fees for trees that can’t be preserved or replaced on site to be based on the square inches of trunk starting at 12″ DSH to equalize their value based on size. Larger fees can both serve as a disincentive to remove trees and also more fairly compensate for the increasing ecoservices value lost by the city as trees get larger. In-lieu fee should be $17,87 per square inch for all removals 12″ DSH and larger.
  • Require for replacement 2 trees for 12-24″ DSH trees removed, 3 trees for 24 – 36″ DSH and 4 trees for above 36″ DSH for more equivalency of the increasing value of ecoservices trees provide as they increase in size. One for one replacement is no equivalency for what is lost as trees increase in size. Mayor Harrell’s Executive order 2023-03 requires the city to replace any healthy tree removed at a 3:1 ratio.
  • Keep the long standing and widely used exceptional tree and significant tree nomenclature.  Remove the term “tiers” and give trees their dignified names back, like exceptional and significant, so the community can continue its relationship with trees, rather than thinking of them only as numbers.

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