Updated Comments on Tree Ordinance Amendments proposed to be voted on by the Land Use Committee on May 4th

e-mail sent to Seattle City Council
Dear Councilmember Dan Strauss,
Concerns regarding amendments are based on Wednesday, April 26 amendment sheet, which is the latest the public has seen.
We have not seen any updates on amendments on the Land Use Committee Agenda sent out today, May 1 for the two scheduled meetings on May 4th, so these comments are based on last week’s update.  Only 2 of the 9 sections had revisions last Wednesday and actual amendment language was still not available in most cases.
A2 – Why allow for 100% lot coverage in MR, commercial and SM zones? Do we want zero tree zones and more heat islands? This was not discussed in the 2023 DNS or 2023 Addendum. The 2021 canopy study says the multifamily zones haves a 23% canopy cover, the commercial/mixed use has a 12% canopy cover. Why put in things that guarantee tree removal. Other cities are struggling to add trees.
A4 – A guaranteed 85% lot coverage needs to be removed. The 2023 Addendum to the 2022 DNS did not take into account the impacts of HB 1110 and other state legislation that makes the ability to retain trees much more difficult. The Hearing Examiner last stated that the balance of keeping trees and increasing housing were both goals in the Comprehensive Plan and that last year’s draft balanced these goals. Now new provisions are being added that will remove more trees. Existing trees are the survivors.  Replacing them is costly and removing their current benefits in an increasing climate crisis.
A4, A-5, and A6 – A guaranteed 85% lot development area needs to be removed. Keep the flexibility using FAR as the current ordinance language provides to let tree retention, protection and planting be decided lot by lot depending on what trees are on the lot and moving building placement if possible.. Exceptions can be made for greater building lot coverage if conditions permit but there is no flexibility for trees with an 85% guarantee for development area.   Existing townhouses less than 15 feet wide have been built in Seattle. Retain flexibility in design and lot placement on site development
A-7 Support creation of Tree Preservation and Planting Areas of 20% for multifamily areas and 40% for Neighborhood Residential areas like Portland, Oregon has done. With state legislation requiring allowing 4 plexes and 6 plexes across most of Seattle having passed the State Legislature with HB 1110,  Seattle will never reach 30% tree canopy but will shift to 23% or less currently in the MR zone. We need trees where people live, in their neighborhoods, for a livable city.
B-7 Allow the in-lieu fee fund to be the One Seattle Tree Fund proposed by Mayor Harrell. Allow it to both preserve and plant trees like Portland, Oregon does. Add to tree replacement, that funds can also be used to protect existing trees, including tree groves,  by use of covenants and land purchases and donated land to create neighborhood dedicated tree parks and protected tree areas.
B-10 Expand the possible options to be explored to include creating a Climate and Environment Dept that has an Urban Forestry Division. The goal shall be to give Green Infrastructure protection and enhancement as an important focus on livability in the future of our city. We are facing an impending climate crisis and need to think of new ways to address the future by thinking boldly.
C-2 – Rather than “request SDCI modify its practices to consider trees at the beginning of the tree permit process” require that they do by requiring a tree inventory and a tree (landscaping plan) plan be submitted with a request for a development permit. Other cities like Portland, Oregon do this. Mayor Harrell has said we need data to make good decisions, and this is one way to get data. Require that developers maximize the retention of all 6″ DSH trees and larger (not just 12″ DSH and larger) throughout the entire development process. Six inch DSH trees are established trees, survivors, that have a head start on growing larger and do not need $4000 or more spent to plant and maintain for 5 years.
D-7 As written, there are 2 problems here.  This provision could apply to vacant lots which were to have no trees removed unless hazardous, and if a developed lot, why allow removal of more trees just because a lot has 40% trees.  This was not discussed in the DNS or addendum and states no compelling reason to allow this loophole to remove more trees.
E-4 would require a lot of replacement trees. Certainly 1:1 (which may become equivalency in the distant future) is not an answer. The UFC recommended 2 for 1 for trees 12-24″DSH , 3 for 1 for 24-36″ DSH and 4 for1 for trees over 36″ DSH Mercer Island has 1 for < 10 ” DSH, 2 for 1 for 10″ -24″ DSH ,3 for 1 for 24″-36″ DSH , and 6 for 1 for over 36″ DSH and exceptional trees.
E-5 and E-10 address the same issue and should be combined.
F-3 – Should include two violations in a year for any illegal tree cutting rules, eg two violations of removing a Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 trees or more than two Tier 4 trees in 3 years.  Minor violations, like paperwork or address violations should have fines but not push a company out of the city. Let fines increase with multiple minor violations if necessary for corrective action by a company.
F-4 – Several reasons to keep 15% or greater canopy area and branches 2 ” diameter as reportable work – It is consistent with SDOT procedures, allows collection of data of canopy removal (both canopy area and canopy volume loss), and allows SDCI and public ability to check on tree trimming work. Likely outcome of change will be much less tree trimming work will be reported as reportable work.
G-6 – Change “require consideration” to “require” Tree Protection Areas must be set up for all Tier 1 – Tier 4 trees on neighboring property whose root zones are also on the lot where the development is occurring. This includes both public and private trees.
H-4 – Opening up options to remove Heritage Trees besides being hazardous reduces them to Tier 2 trees -Exceptional Trees.
Keep Heritage Trees non-removable unless they are a hazard tree. There are not that many of them and most are said to be street trees.
I-4 As proposed by Urban Forestry Commission, amend the Tier System to include the currently used nomenclature to make it easier for the public to understand. eg Tier 1 – Heritage Trees,, Tier 2- Exceptional Trees, Tier 3 – Significant Trees 12-24″ DSH and Tier 4 Trees – Significant Trees 6-12″ DSH. We are aware of no other city that has a Tier System which creates confusion and de-emphasizes the value of the trees to the public.
Steve Zemke
Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest

Comments are closed.