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. https://www.portland.gov/code/11/50/050
  • 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.

2023 Seattle Mayor Harrell’s Draft SDCI Tree Protection Ordinance Issues

2023 Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s Draft Tree Protection Ordinance – Issues 

We support the following provisions in the 2023 SDCI draft Tree Protection
Ordinance:
1. Lowering the upper limit for exceptional trees to 24” Diameter at Shoulder Height (DSH) from 30” DSH
2. Requiring street trees be planted whenever development would add one or more principal dwelling units on a lot
3. Continuing protection for exceptional trees less than 24” DBH and tree groves and heritage trees
4. Continuing prohibition on removal of trees 6” DBH and larger on undeveloped lots.
5. Requiring replacement of all 12” DSH and larger trees removed by developers
6. Requiring an in-lieu fee for developers to replace trees 12” DSH and larger that cannot be replaced on the development site.
7. Requiring in lieu fees be used to replace and maintain newly planted trees removed by developers
8. Limiting removal of 6”-12″ DSH significant outside development to two trees in 3 years.
9. Protected trees and replaced trees are covered by a covenant.
10. Requiring 5-year maintenance for relocated or required replacement trees
11. Requiring 6-day advance notice online of all 6” DSH and larger trees proposed for removal by Tree Service Providers, posting on site on day of work and remaining for 5 days after removal.
12. Creation of 3 new SDCI positions to monitor and assist in implementing and enforcing provisions in the ordinance draft.

Key provisions that need to be revised or added to the draft tree protection ordinance:  

 1.Require 20% lot allowance for “tree preservation and tree planting areas” in multifamily areas and 40% lot allowance for 1-4 units in the neighborhood residential zone as Portland Oregon does in their family 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. https://www.portland.gov/code/11/50/050

  2. Remove the guaranteed “85% lot development area” provision.  If the current middle housing legislation passes in Olympia, almost all of Seattle would be affected by this change, with a significant loss of tree canopy city wide. The city needs flexibility to evaluate development and protecting trees lot by lot, not one size fits all circumstances. 

 3.  Require a Tree Inventory of all trees 6” DSH and larger and a Tree Landscaping Plan be submitted by developers, as Portland Oregon does, prior to any building permits being approved. This information fits with collecting in lieu fees prior to issuing building permits and facilitates reporting and tracking of tree loss and replacement, rather than city workers having to pull this information from site plans. Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order asked for data on trees removed and replaced. Getting this information up front from developers is the best way to do this. 

 4. Require developers throughout the total development process to maximize the retention of existing trees 6” DSH and larger with adequate space for trees to grow and survive. The current draft removes consideration of protecting 6”-12” DSH trees and also removes them from site plans. Keep them on the site plans and protect them during development.  Trees 6” DSH and larger represent 45% of trees in the NR zone according to Seattle’s Ecosystem Values Report. Most of these trees are established potential replacement trees for existing large trees that die. Trees 12” DSH and larger only represent 18% of the trees in the NR zone. A diversity of ages and species for trees is essential for a healthy urban forest. 

 5. Retain definitions and use of exceptional and significant trees. Remove the confusing and biased proposed new classification of trees as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, and Tier 4. The use and understanding of trees as exceptional has been in the tree ordinance since 2001 and described in more detail in the 2008 Director’s Rule. 16-2008. Significant trees are understood to be those 6” DSH and larger that are not exceptional. Many other cities, including in this region, use these definitions.  

 6. 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 services trees provide as they increase in size. One for one replacement is no equivalency for what is lost as trees increase in size.  Require that tree replacement numbers increase with the size and canopy volume of the removed tree. such that in 25 years or less they will reach equivalent canopy volume lost – either on site or pay a replacement fee that also increases with the size of the tree removed. Just requiring replacement with a tree or trees that “results upon maturity, in a canopy cover, that is roughly proportional to the canopy cover prior to removal” ignores the services the tree provides and would have continued to provide if not removed.  The fact that removing an 80-year-old tree takes 80 years to reach any equivalency to what was lost, needs to be considered in responding to the climate crisis and climate resiliency needs. No language is added to specifically consider the size of trees removed and the ecosystem services lost when a tree is removed.  One reason to increase the required number of trees to be replanted or pay a higher in lieu fee when trees are replanted is to compensate for the magnitude of the tree loss and the multiple decades and cost it takes to replace them 

 7. Increase in lieu fee schedule to require the $17.87/square inch in-lieu fees to start with 12″ DSH trees rather than 24″ DSH trees. In-Lieu fees need to adequately cover the city’s additional cost of planting and maintaining the trees for 5 years. 

 8. All replacement in lieu fees and fines should go into a One Seattle Tree Fund as stated in Mayor Harrell’s ‘s Executive Order. It should be a dedicated Tree Planting and Preservation Fund like Portland, Oregon has (not into SDCI’s budget). The Fund should be added to this draft. The Fund should report yearly on its budget to the City Council and Mayor. The One Seattle Tree Fund should be overseen by the City Urban Forester located in OSE because the distribution of funds would be interdepartmental. Allow the One Seattle Tree Fund (Tree Planting and Preservation Fund) to also accept fines, donations, grants, purchase land, set up covenants and for educational purposes as Portland, Oregon does. 

 9. The role of the new City Forester position created by the Seattle City Council in OSE should be defined in this ordinance. 

 10. Create an Urban Forestry Division within SDCI with additional staff as recommended in a separate budget provision or expand the Urban Forestry staff and responsibility in the Office of sustainability and Environment for independent oversight of trees. 

 11. Expand the existing Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Tree Removal and Replacement Permit Program using the Accela database system to include SDCI to cover all significant trees 6” DSH and larger, and all exceptional trees, on private property in all land use zones, removed both during development and outside development. The proposed ordinance remains a complaint-based system relying on citizens which has been proven to not be effective in code compliance. SDCI only has 2 arborists who are mostly deskbound.to check site plans and in the field. 

 12. Require SDCI to submit quarterly reports to the Office of Sustainability and Environment on tree removal and replacement as currently required by other City Departments and as required yearly by Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order 

 13. Extend ordinance to cover all land use zones, including Highrise, Industrial, Downtown and Institutions 

 14. Allow city certified inspectors to enter property if necessary to ascertain any illegal tree activity 

 15. Expand the required tree protection covenant to include a replacement requirement for a tree that dies. Make it a permanent “protected tree planting site” for the life of the building. 

17. Remove or clarify language of tree drip line “may be irregular in shape to reflect variation in branch outer limits” Dripline is used to determine tree protection area and branches shortened in some areas may not reflect root structure or may have been removed in certain areas if tree has been limbed up. 

 18. Require that maintenance of relocated and replacement trees include “watering as needed” 

 19. Require street trees be planted if ADU’s are added to a lot. ADU’s, particularly Detached ADU’s, reduce space for trees on site and increase tree removal and are currently exempt from original lot coverage limits in NR zone. 

 20. Remove the 1000 square feet addition to an existing structure exemption requiring planting street trees. Additions increasing the building footprint are removing existing or potential tree planting and preservation space. 

 21. Give the SDCI Director the authority to reduce or waive any fees assessed by this ordinance, taking into account a homeowner’s financial circumstances or ability to pay. 

 22. Split the purpose and intent section. Add to intent “address climate resiliency and reduce heat island impacts across the city” 

23. Require removal of invasive plants, like ivy, scotch broom, and holly from development sites to help stop the spread of invasive species in our city that add to maintenance costs and replacement of dying trees.  24.  

4/3/2023 draft – Please contact Steve Zemke stevezemke@friends.urbanforests.org with any additional issues, concerns and/or corrections, regarding the above document. Thanks 

Key provisions that need to be revised or added to the draft 2023 Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance Update:

Key provisions that need to be revised or added to the draft 2023 Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance:

Key provisions that need to be revised or added to the draft tree protection ordinance:

1. Require 20% lot allowance for “tree preservation and tree planting areas” in multifamily areas and 40% lot allowance for 1-4 units in the neighborhood residential zone as Portland Oregon does in their family residential zone. Portland passed legislation in 2020 to allow up to 4 plexes in their neighborhoods after the state mandated zoning updates. Portland responded in Nov 2022 to update their tree protection legislation. Note – Make changes in 25.11.070 to create “tree retention and tree planting areas”
https://www.portland.gov/code/11/50/050

2. Remove the guaranteed “85% lot development area” provision. If the current middle housing legislation passes in Olympia, almost all of Seattle would be affected by this change, with a significant loss of tree canopy city wide. The city needs flexibility to evaluate development and protecting trees lot by lot, not one size fits all circumstances. Note – Remove 85% lot guarantee in Section 25.11.070

3. Require a Tree Inventory of all trees 6” DSH and larger and a Tree
Landscaping Plan be submitted by developers, as Portland Oregon does, prior to any building permits being approved. This information fits with collecting in lieu fees prior to issuing building permits and facilitates reporting and tracking of tree loss and replacement, rather than city workers having to pull this information from site plans. Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order asked for data on trees removed and replaced. Getting this information up front from developers is the best way to
do this. Note – see Portland Tree Inventory and Tree Plan

4. Require developers throughout the total development process to maximize the retention of existing trees 6” DSH and larger with adequate space for trees to grow and survive. The current draft removes consideration of protecting 6”- 12” DSH trees and removes them from site plans. Keep them on the site plans and protect them during development. Trees 6” DSH and larger represent 45% of trees in the NR zone according to Seattle’s Ecosystem Values Report. Most of these trees are established potential replacement trees for existing large trees
that die. Trees 12” DSH and larger only represent 18% of the trees in the NR zone. A diversity of ages and species for trees is essential for a healthy urban forest.
Note – “Continue through the entire development process the goal of maximizing the retention of existing trees” that was introduced during platting and short platting in SMC23.22.054A and 23.24.040.A.7

5. Retain definitions and use of exceptional and significant trees. Remove the confusing and biased proposed new classification of trees as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, and Tier 4. The use and understanding of trees as exceptional has been in the Tree Protection Ordinance since 2001 and described in more detail in the 2008 Director’s Rule. 16-2008. Significant trees are understood to be those 6” DSH and larger that are not exceptional. Many other cities, including in this region, use these definitions. Note – retain the existing definition of “exceptional tree” in SMC.25.11 and significant tree as proposed in the 2022 draft Tree Protection Ordinance Remove the tier designation and classify trees as Heritage, Exceptional, Large Significant Trees (!2” DSH to-less than 24” DSH) and Small Significant Trees {6” DSH to less than 12” DSH)

6. 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 services trees provide as they increase in size. One for one replacement is no equivalency for what is lost as trees increase in size. Require that tree replacement numbers increase with the size and canopy volume of the removed tree. such that in 25 years or less they will reach equivalent canopy volume lost.  Waiting 80 years to replace an 80-year-old tree is too long. Note – Insert replacement requirements into first sentence of 25.11.090 A.

7. Increase in lieu fee schedule to require the $17.87/square inch of trunk in lieu fees to start with 12″ DSH trees rather than 24″ DSH trees. In-Lieu fees need to adequately cover the city’s additional cost of planting and maintaining the trees for 5 years. Note – Insert language into Section 25.11.110 “The Director shall establish a voluntary in lieu fee if tree replacement cannot take place on site, that starts at 12” DSH of trunk and increases each inch at $18.87 per square inch of trunk and is adjusted annually by the Director.

8. All replacement in lieu fees and fines should go into a One Seattle Tree Fund as stated in Mayor Harrell’s ‘s Executive Order. It should be a dedicated Tree Planting and Preservation Fund like Portland, Oregon has (not into SDCI’s budget). The Fund should be added to this draft. The Fund should report yearly on its budget to the City Council and Mayor. The One Seattle Tree Fund should be  overseen by the City Urban Forester located in OSE because the distribution of funds would be interdepartmental. Allow the One Seattle Tree Fund (Tree Planting and Preservation Fund) to also accept fines, donations, grants, purchase
land, set up covenants and for educational purposes as Portland, Oregon does. Note – Establish a new section for One Seattle Tree Fund and pattern it after Portland’ Oregon’s Tree Planting and Preservation Fund.

9. The role of the new City Forester position created by the Seattle City Council in OSE should be defined in this ordinance. Note – add to Definitions and state that City Urban Forester shall oversee the One Seattle Tree Fund

10. Create an Urban Forestry Division within SDCI with additional staff as recommended in a separate budget provision or expand the Urban Forestry staff and responsibility in the Office of Sustainability and Environment for independent oversight of trees. Note – Add a separate provision – SDCI Urban Forestry Division

11. Expand the existing Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Tree Removal and Replacement Permit Program using the Accela database system to include SDCI to cover all significant trees 6” DSH and larger, and all exceptional trees, on private property in all land use zones, removed both during development and outside development. The proposed ordinance remains a complaint-based system relying on citizens which has been proven to not be effective in code compliance. SDCI only has 2 arborists who are mostly deskbound to check site plans and in the field. Note – Add a separate section setting up a Tree Removal and Replacement Permit System for monitoring and tracking both removal of trees during development and outside development by Nov. 2023.

12. Require SDCI to submit quarterly reports to the Office of Sustainability and Environment on tree removal and replacement as currently required by other City Departments and yearly as required by Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order 2003-03

13. Extend ordinance to cover all land use zones, including High-rise, Industrial, Downtown and Institutions

14. Allow city certified inspectors to enter property if necessary to ascertain any illegal tree activity. New provision – Tree Code Enforcement Officers shall have
the authority to pursue violations of this ordinance as allowed by law.

15. Expand the required tree protection covenant to include a replacement requirement for a tree that dies. Make it a permanent “protected tree planting site” for the life of the building.
Amend in SMC 25.11.060 -D3. Require covenants shall run with the land and shall be recorded in the king County’ Recorder’s Office for the remainder of the life of the building, << or the remainder of the life of the tree>>. Add Tree protection covenants are “protected tree retention and tree planting areas”. If a tree dies or is removed from a “protected tree retention or tree planting area it shall be replaced with an equivalently sized tree or trees.

16. Remove or clarify language of tree drip line “may be irregular in shape to reflect variation in branch outer limits” Dripline is used to determine tree protection area and branches shortened in some areas may not reflect root structure or may have been removed in certain areas if tree has been limbed up. Note – Change in definitions

17. Require that maintenance of relocated and replacement trees include
“watering as needed” Note – Add to 25.11.090.B.1 in first sentence after
maintenance, add Including watering as needed

18. Require Street trees be planted if ADU’s are added to a lot. ADU’s reduce space for trees on site and increase tree removal. They are currently exempt from original lot coverage limits in the NR zone. Add in Sections 1,2 and 3 of current ordinance draft.

19. Remove the 1000 square feet addition to an existing structure exemption requiring planting street trees. Additions increasing the building footprint are removing existing or potential tree planting and preservation space. Delete in Sections 1,2 and 3 of current ordinance draft, e.g. 23.47A.016.B.2.b and 23.48.055 D.2.3.b.3. Not sure where this is in NR1, NR2, and NR3 zoning code. Maybe its an add  “street trees required for an addition”.

20. Give the SDCI Director the authority to reduce or waive any fees assessed by this ordinance, taking into account a homeowner’s financial circumstances or ability to pay. Note – Add as sentence to SMC 25.11.090 see Portland Financial Assistance for Tree Permit Application Fees

21. Split the purpose and intent section. Add to intent “address climate
resiliency and reduce heat island impacts across the city”

22. Require removal of invasive plants, like ivy, scotch broom, and holly from development sites to help stop the spread of invasive species in our city that add to maintenance costs and replacement of dying trees.  Note – Add to 25.11.090

23. Add to Section 1. Section 23.44.020,
C.1.a. Improve public health and safety
C.1.g. Increase climate resiliency
C.1.h. reduce urban heat island impacts
C.1.i. increase environmental equity

24 Add to section 2. Section 23.47A.016
B.1.a. Improve public health and safety
B.1.g. Increase climate resiliency
B.1.h. reduce urban heat island impacts
B.1.i increase environmental equity

25. Add to Section 3. Section 23.48,055
D.1.a. Improve public health and safety
D.1.g. Increase climate resiliency
D.1.h. reduce urban heat island impacts
D.1.i. increase environmental equity

26. Add back definition of excessive pruning – “Excessive Pruning” means removing one-fourth (25-percent) or more of the functioning leaf, stem, or root area of a tree in a single growing season. Exceptions are when clearance from overhead utilities or public improvements is required to abate a hazardous condition or other public nuisance. Excessive pruning does not include normal pruning that follows National Standards Institute (ANSI) “A-300 Pruning Standards” and companion “Best Management Practices for Tree Pruning” published by the International Society of Arboriculture

Preliminary evaluation of the draft 2023 Seattle SDCI tree ordinance update

The following is a preliminary evaluation of the draft 2023 Seattle SDCI Tree Protection Ordinance update. 3/17/2023
  • 2023 Draft tree protection ordinance update being presented to the city is now a tree and housing ordinance. “An Ordinance relating to tree protection: balancing the need for housing production and increasing tree protections and amending Sections 23.44.020. 23.47A.016, 23.48.055,23.76.004. 23.76.006 and Chapter 25.11 of the Seattle Municipal Code.
  • The 2023 draft tree ordinance has been significantly changed from the 2022 draft. Many of the changes follow those recommended by the Washington building industry.  Neither the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission or the public was presented with the proposed ordinance changes to discuss them prior to their release, the same as with the 2022 draft.  Not all of the documents have been presented or are readily accessible to the public including any new Director’s Rules, or An Expanded Summary of Code Changes or SDCI Director’s Report – Tree Legislation March 6, 2023. Also not available is a detailed comparison of the changes made from the 2022 draft on which a determination of non-significance was made.
  • Removed definition of exceptional trees in current ordinance. They would now just be called Tier 2 trees
  • Removed definition of significant trees that was in 2022 draft last year.
  • A proposed renaming of trees would create confusion and bias by deleting the common definition of trees as either exceptional or significant. It would classify trees as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier 4. The Tier number goes up as the size of the tree decreases. Many other cities use the exceptional and significant terminology as has Seattle for many years. A Tier classification is not terminology used by other cities and should be rejected.. The re-classification is an attempt to diminish the public perception of the value of trees by removing common nomenclature the public understands and will hurt efforts to protect and plant trees.
  • Removes protections for significant  that are 6 – 12 inches DSH. These trees would be  called Tier 4 trees. They would no longer be required to be on development site plans and could be removed during development without the city considering them for protection. Previous language talked about protecting potential exceptional trees. Many are potential replacement trees for our urban forest as older trees die. This is also a loss of critical data needed to track tree loss and replacement as required by Mayor Harrell’s Executive order.
  • The proposed ordinance does not cover trees in the industrial or downtown areas and is only updated for institutions when they develop a new Master Plan.
  • Buildings would be allowed to cover 85% of the lot in multi-family zones, eliminating space for trees. Seattle’s Neighborhood Residential (formerly single-family) zone is poised to become a multi-family zone if the state middle housing bill passes.
  • A new street tree requirement would only apply to homes where single-family houses are built, not new multifamily family housing in neighborhood residential zone.. The Building Industry lobby in the Washington State Legislature is pushing for townhouses and other multifamily housing in Seattle’s neighborhood residential zone. All housing built, regardless of the housing zone, should be required to plant street trees.
  • Added definition of a Tier 1 tree as a heritage Tree. There are only about 178 in Seattle according to SDOT map. A separate number of 131 has been mentioned. They should continue to be under the definition of exceptional trees.
  • When no new development is proposed on developed property, two Tier 3 trees (12″ DSH to 24″DSH non-exceptional) in 3 years may be removed in Neighborhood Residential, Lowrise, Midrise, Commercial and Seattle Mixed Zones.  Says no more than three Tier 3 and 4 trees may be removed in any one year period in all other zones. Doesn’t say what those zones are but High Rise and Industrial are not listed in previous sentence. 
  • Does not require tree inventory and landscape plans be done prior to issuing building permits like Portland, Oregon requires. This means no data is being collected on tree loss or replacement on site. Site plans are not in an accessible data form, requiring city workers to retrieve and put in a database system increasing costs for the city. Developers should submit the data in the form of a tree inventory as Portland Oregon requires. . And the draft does not require 6 -12 inch DSH trees to be on site plans. This is inconsistent with other City Departments like SDOT which requires permits to remove 6″ DSH trees and larger. Mayor Harrell’s Executive requires this collection of data. It needs to include tree species, DSH, tree health, and the reason for removal to help assess changes in the city’s tree canopy.
  • Only recording 12″ DSH and larger trees is only about 18% of Seattle’s trees in neighborhood residential zone.  6″ DSH trees represent about 45% of trees in neighborhood residential zone according to Seattle Forest Ecosystem Report
    • Still only requires developers plant one or more trees for trees removed. Replacement  at maturity must roughly equal canopy area lost. The number of trees required for replacement for an 80-year-old tree when only one for one replacement is required is not any equivalency in terms of canopy volume and environmental benefits lost. Replacement of one tree to reach equivalency takes 80 years, assuming it survives.  As far as we know no more than “one for one” tree replacement has ever been required. No data records are kept on tree replacement. Replacement language was first in the 2001 Ordinance but only within the last several years has SDCI put language to that effect in their client assistance memos.  No fund or records exists of any funds collected by the city to replant trees off site in public areas. Also no records of trees planted off site exist that I am aware of. There is no database record of trees replaced on site. No replacement required for non-development removal of trees.
  • Draft ordinance does not set up a separate Tree Planting and Preservation Fund but only has SDCI collecting the funds. Portland Oregon has a Tree Planting and Preservation Fund administered by the City Forester, maintained as a separate fund and  independent of their general fund or building department. Mayor Harrell’s Executive order 2023-03 One Seattle Tree Plan – Growing and Fostering an Equitable Tree Canopy on Public Land orders the creation of a One Seattle Tree Fund but it is not in the draft. It should be located in the Office of Sustainability and Environment under the oversight of the City Urban Forester to insure oversight and independence. Portland Oregon’s Fund is overseen by their urban forester, independent of their building department 
  • Language reverts to only requiring 3 days posting online for Tree Service Provider work. The City Council just passed an ordinance to require 6 business days’ posting online. The six business days need to be maintained. The online reporting also needs to require tree species and reason for tree removal for all work done, not just “deciduous trees” as reported in some instances.
  • New – in lieu fees collected for replacing trees 12″ DSH and larger during development. No reference to trees removed outside development for tree replacement. Portland requires at least one tree be replanted for trees removed outside development.  In-lieu fee amount to be decided by SDCI Director’s Rule. In lieu fees appear to have changed significantly from the draft Director’s Rule X-2022. Significant, non-exceptional trees 12″ DSH and larger in lieu fee have increased to $2833. Exceptional Trees are based on $17.87 per square inch. Portland, Oregon charges $450/diameter inch. A 24″ diameter tree in Seattle would have an in-lieu of $8,080, in Portland it would be $10,800.
  • No requirement for property owners to get a permit to remove a tree, unlike SDOT and many other cities require. The Ordinance update remains a complaint-based system by citizens which has been proven to not be very effective. SDCI has only 2 arborists who it appears do not have time to do field checking. SDCI relies on project planners to do any checking in the field it appears but there is no requirement they be arborists or city foresters.
  • The City urban forester position approved in the city budget and responsibilities is not included in the ordinance and needs to be added. The City Urban Forester should oversee the One Seattle tree Fund  proposed by Mayor Harrell. Also the fund is proposed to look for outside funding as Portland does for their fund.
  • Draft Director’s Rule X-2023 Designation of Tier2 Trees (Previously Exceptional Trees) does not mention tree groves.
Please send any corrections or additional evaluation to stevezemke@msn.com to help complete this document. Thanks.

Comments on Seattle’s 2021 Tree Canopy Assessment Final Report

Comments on Seattle’s 2021 Tree Canopy

Assessment Final Report

  1. The City of Seattle 2021 Tree Canopy Assessment Final Report was produced by the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment using findings from the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab report. However, the interpretation of data was done by unnamed people in the city of Seattle, who wrote or reviewed the “final report”.  The University of Vermont collected some of the data but are not the authors of the report. 
  2. The report defines tree canopy as “The layer of leaves, branches and stems that provide tree coverage of the ground when viewed from above.” Not mentioned is that the measurement is done at 8 feet above the ground. This is in contrast to US Army Corps of Engineers, who defines the Tree strata as starting at 20 feet in height, and the shrub/sapling layer from 3-20 feet in height  https://www.sas.usace.army.mil/Portals/61/docs/regulatory/Workshop_Vegetation_Fall2011.pdf PlanIt.GEO in a recent zoom meeting responded to a question saying that most canopy analysis including ones they do are at done at 12 feet and higher.
  3. So, the City of Seattle canopy actually includes all shrubs and hedges such as laurel, holly and rhododendron bushes that frequently are over 8 feet high, and smaller saplings. The canopy measured would  more accurately be described as “tree and shrub cover.”
  4.  Although asked and confirmed before the report was released that the report would look at tree canopy volume, the report has no such analysis despite LIDARS ability to do so. This is important as tree canopy volume is a more accurate measure of the environmental services trees can provide to cities, as compared to tree canopy area.
  5. While the report defines a large (exceptional) tree as > 30 inches diameter, it does no analysis of large trees gains or losses, and neglects to compare any changes in large exceptional trees over the time period. 
  6. The report mentions trees planted by the city but provides no data on any survival rates of the trees planted. Also, the number of trees removed by SDOT or Parks is not given, only the number of new plantings. 
  7. The report looked at tree loss during development but only looked at development projects that were begun and completed from 2016 and 2020. The actual tree loss calculation should have looked at all projects that begun between 2016 and 2020 for the most accurate results, not just those that were started and completed.  What is missing are projects that begun in that time period but were not completed. This is important as trees are usually removed at the beginning of projects, so the actual tree loss is likely significantly higher than what was reported. Also, if the next 5-year analysis follows the current calculations, projects begun before 2021 but not completed until 2021 or later will not be in the next analysis, leaving a gap in calculating tree loss during development. 
  8. Key data points in Table 4 in the Appendix show that the total redeveloped parcels in the  neighborhood residential zone saw a 33.6% loss of tree canopy acres and the total  redeveloped parcels in the multifamily zones saw a 49.6% reduction in tree canopy.  Issues of concern for future canopy loss include middle housing legislation being considered by the Washington State legislature which would basically convert most of Seattle’s neighborhood residential zone to the multifamily zone. Update – The Washington State Legislature passed HB 1110 requiring Seattle and other large cities in Washington State to allow building of 4-plexes and 6-plexes near frequent transit .Also, ADU legislation was passed in Seattle in July 2019 for the neighborhood residential zone which allows 3 units of housing (main house, attached ADU and detached ADU) o be built on any lot, increasing potential for additional tree loss with increased building lot coverage. 
  9. Figure 8 is in contrast to other references on trees and urban Island heat impacts. Figure 8 is a scatter plot showing the relationship between maximum afternoon temperature and percent tree canopy, and the report somehow concludes that “…at the hexagon scale on a hot day (where a hexagon is the size of several city blocks) hexagons with 26% tree canopy experienced temperatures that were 1-degree lower than hexagons with no canopy.” This interpretation is misleading as to the on the ground results and is an example on how statistical analysis can be misused. See references below for additional information: 
  •  The original report “Seattle and King County Washington Heat Watch Report” done in 2020 reported as high as a 24-degree F temp difference across the county. The analysis of heat impacts is much more nuanced and is affected by a number of things like time of day, tree canopy, buildings and pavement, closeness to water and size of area considered. The “one-degree lower statement” unfortunately is contrary to what many other researchers have found and clearly misrepresents the temperature differences between areas with trees and those not having trees. 
  • NPR – “In Seattle the difference between the coolest and hottest neighborhoods could be as much as 14.5 degrees, according to a 2019 NPR analysis of surface thermal data from NASA and US Geological Survey satellite imagery from summer days in the last decade.” 
  • King 5 June 23, 2021  “Areas of King County with more paved landscapes and less tree canopy are feeling the heat more intensely than less urbanized areas, according to a new study from King County and Seattle. More urbanized areas were as much as 20 degrees hotter due to an abundance of hard surfaces like parking lots, rooftops and streets which absorb heat, 
  • According to Portland State University research – “While testing solutions that reduce urban heat, the study … showed that paving over places that previously had a lot of tree canopy could raise the temperature as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit on a summer day. Nearby neighborhoods would experience a spillover effect.” Portland State University Study Demonstrates How Plants, Trees, and Reflective Materials Can Reduce Extreme Heat of City Neighborhoods, 2019
  • New York Times – Hidden Toll of the Northwest Heat Wave: Hundreds of Extra Deaths, Aug 11, 2021, ” During the deadly heat wave that blanketed Oregon and Washington in late June, about 600 more people died than would have been typical , a review of Mortality data for the week of the crisis shows.”  
  • Note – A draft of the 2021 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment was not circulated for public comment prior to its release.  
comments by Steve Zemke and Rich Ellison
TreePAC and Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest
March 6,  2023
updated July 14, 2023

Amend Washington State HB 1181 to include Urban and Community forests

Testimony to Washington State Legislature
My name is Steve Zemke. I am the current Chair of Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and Tree PAC. I recently completed serving 6 years on the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission.  Over 20 years ago I was the campaign manager for I-547 which was a precursor to the Washington State Legislature passing the GMA in 1990. I am speaking in support HB 1181

I have a simple ask. Please add the words “urban and community forests” to HB 1181.  They are critical to climate resilience in our urban areas.

Urban forests are also a budget and appropriations issue. Hilary Franz is requesting $8 million in the budget for urban and community forestry, The Federal Government is also adding millions to the states for urban and community forestry.

 

In Nov 2022 at the Partners in Community Forestry Conference in Seattle, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said, “Our urban forests are no longer a nice-to-have. They’re absolutely a must-have. Our urban forests are no longer a preferred line item on our budgets. They’re actually a testament to whether we are truly fulfilling our moral responsibility to an economically, environmentally, and socially just society.””

Here are my suggestions of where references to “urban and community Forests” could be inserted in HB 1181.

Page 6, line 13 – In the Land Use element add after open spaces and green spaces, “urban and community forests”,

In the same paragraph on the Land Use element , add sentence – “The land use element must evaluate urban and community forest canopy and its role in climate resilience, reducing heat island impacts, providing health benefits, and ecosystem services.”

P 17, line 37 Insert in last sentence. Identify, protect and enhance “urban and community forests “and natural areas to foster resiliency to climate impacts , as well as areas of vital habitat for “plant and animal diversity,” safe passage and species migration

page 6  Section 1. (10)  Environment is more than air and water quality. It should include “healthy soil and plants and animals”

Thanks for considering this.

Our urban forests are a key component to keeping our cities livable as we increase housing. Trees are essential for climate resilience. With good planning we can have both trees and housing in our urban areas. It is not a question of one or the other. We can have both. This legislation needs to detail the necessity of cities and towns to incorporate their urban forests and trees as part of their climate resiliency plans as we also grow our housing supply.

Steve Zemke

HB 1078 as written would allow developers to clearcut lots across the state!

Letter sent to House Local Government Committee members
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2023 4:47 PM
To: Davina.Duerr@eg.wa.gov <Davina.Duerr@eg.wa.gov>
Subject: Concerns regarding HB 1078 to void tree and urban forest ordinances during development

Dear Representative Duerr,
This bill needs to be amended or rejected.  If passed as is, it will become known as the Washington State Urban Clearcutting Bill.
This approach to override city and town tree and urban forest ordinances was in last year’s middle housing legislation and it has been pulled it out as a separate bill because it was controversial at the time. Adding “tree banks” to get people to support it now does not change the issue of removing existing trees that could be saved. in many cases with better planning. Trees and density can co-exist – it is not trees or housing we need both and can do that.  People need trees where they live to have healthy communities.
As written HB 1078 reads as a state mandate that would allow developers to override city and town tree protection ordinances that require tree retention or planting trees on a building site. It would allow developers to legally clearcut lots with trees and tree groves, not replant any trees on site, and create new blighted areas and heat islands.

HB 1078 directs that city and town tree ordinances “must allow an option that allows obligations for the protection and management of these trees imposed by the ordinance to be satisfied by the use of a tree bank”

HB 1078 implies that any city regulations to retain or plant trees on a building site can simply be ignored by paying a fee into a tree bank.

The bill declares “In regulating the removal of trees during development, however cities sometimes impose regulations that limit or prevent development opportunities that would provide additional housing, even if the removal of trees in these circumstances would not impair the health of the community.”

HB 1078  makes two false assumptions.
The first false assumption is that removing established trees in “noncritical areas will not impair the health of a community”

The area you remove trees from will lose climate resiliency and environmental services. Existing established trees provide heat island reduction, reduced storm water runoff, decreased air pollution, physical and mental health benefits, wildlife habitat, noise reduction and a sense of place. This occurs lot by lot and can extend to neighborhood impacts also.

The second false assumption is that trees are preventing developing a property but that is seldom the case.  Tree ordinances almost always allow developers to remove trees that limit the development potential of a lot. Seattle’s existing tree ordinance, for example, does not apply to “Tree removal shown as part of an issued building or grading permit as provided in Sections 25.11.060, 25.11.070, and 25.11.080;”

This bill needs to be amended to clarify that developers must comply with local tree protection ordinances to save trees when they can and replant trees removed when they can on site but can use a tree bank or tree mitigation fund or tree replanting fund to plant trees elsewhere as needed if they cannot do it on the building lot.

These replanted trees can be targeted for race and social and environmental equity when they cannot be replanted on the building site. All building sites in the city need to require tree replacement, not just those in “noncritical areas.”  Replanted trees must have equivalence to the size of the tree removed – replacement fees must increase as the size of the removed tree increases to make up for lost ecosystem services of the tree removed.

HB 1078 should also be amended to say that developers must maximize the retention of existing trees on all building sites like Austin, Texas does.   Seattle, e.g., also requires that in its platting and short platting process but needs to extend it to the total building process.

Several additional comments on amending bill:

Recommend changing Tree Bank to a Tree Planting Fund or Off Site Mitigation Fund or similar terminology as recommended by phytosphere.com that covers all trees removed, not just ones removed in “non-critical areas”  
Although “tree bank” has a nice ring to it, it has been applied to a wide variety of programs (and in some cases to organizations). It is certainly legitimate to define the term in a tree ordinance and use it locally in that sense. However, the fact that different jurisdictions use the term in different ways may lead to confusion. In general, we recommend the use of more descriptive (albeit more prosaic) terms such as “tree planting fund” or “off-site mitigation planting” to describe the off-site mitigation tactics that are specified in the ordinance.”
An example of a Tree Planting Fund.; Portland, Oregon has a Tree Planting and Preservation  Fund  11.15.010
A.  Purpose. The purpose of the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund is to facilitate tree planting, to ensure mitigation or tree replacement when tree preservation or tree density standards are not met on a particular site, and to advance the City’s goals for the urban forest and intend to achieve equitable distribution of tree-related benefits across the City.
B.  Expenditures. Money in the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund may be used only as follows:

.  To plant trees on public or private property, including streets. Planting trees includes the cost of materials and labor necessary to install and establish a tree for a 5 year period;

2.  To purchase conservation easements for the perpetual retention of trees and tree canopy. Such conservation easements shall allow the City to replace trees that are removed when they die or become dangerous; and

3.  To acquire land to permanently protect existing trees or groves.

C.  Contributions. Contributions to the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund may occur through a number of means, including:

1.  Payment made in lieu of tree replacement as part of a tree permit issued as stated in Chapter 11.40;

2.  Payment made in lieu of preservation or planting where site or street characteristics or construction requirements make it infeasible to meet the requirements of Chapter 11.50;

3.  Payment of restoration fees for enforcement actions for Private Trees; and

4.  Voluntary contributions.

D.  Administration of the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund. The Tree Planting and Preservation Fund is administered by the City Forester, maintained in a dedicated separate account, and is independent of the general fund. Any balance in the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund will be carried forward into subsequent fiscal years.

HB 1078 seems at cross purposes as stated in the Department of Natural Resources Dec 2022 Newsletter – Tree Link Newsletter – Urban and community Forestry in Washington

“During her remarks last month at the Partners in Community Forestry Conference in Seattle, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said, “Our urban forests are no longer a nice-to-have. They’re absolutely a must-have. Our urban forests are no longer a preferred line item on our budgets. They’re a testament to whether we are truly fulfilling our moral responsibility to an economically, environmentally, and socially just society.”

“Later that morning, Commissioner Franz announced her intention to seek an $8 million investment from the state Legislature when the 2023 legislative session begins in January. Urban and Community Forestry Program staff worked with DNR’s legislative and policy teams to draft a vision for the program that, if funded, will allow DNR to meet the demand for funding and the needs of our urban forests.”

Steve Zemke, Chair –  Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest,                                                former Seattle Urban Forestry Commissioner for 6.5 years

City 2022 Council Initial Balancing Package – Seattle City Budget – items relating to trees and urban forest

Budget balancing amendments proposed on Monday Nov. 14, 2022 – add Urban Forester position to OSE, request for OSE report on tree planting funds needed, added $250,000 for SDOT tree planting,  $500 thousand cut in 2024 for Green Seattle Partnership funding
 
Public Hearing today, Tues Nov 15, 5 PM 
 
pages 190 – 199
Budget Action Title: Add $147,000 JumpStart Fund (2023) and $190,000 JumpStart Fund (2024) and 1.0 FTE Strategic Advisor 3 to OSE for a City Urban Forester position
Budget Action Description: This Council Budget Action would add $147,000 JumpStart Fund in 2023 and $190,000 JumpStart Fund in 2024 and 1.0 FTE Strategic Advisor 3 to the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) for a City Urban Forester position. The 2022 Adopted Budget included Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) MO001-A-002-2022 requesting that the Mayor’s Office provide “a report with recommendations for the creation of a ‘chief arborist’ position that would promote the preservation of Seattle’s tree canopy and provide independent oversight of the City’s management of trees, with an initial focus on the preservation of exceptional trees.”
OSE submitted a SLI response (see Attachment A) on September 30, 2022, that provided recommendations for the position’s job responsibilities and qualifications and described opportunities and challenges related to the proposed position. In this response, Executive staff recommended that this position’s title should be City Urban Forester and that it “work with executive leadership and staff across urban forestry departments to establish and/or affirm citywide and department-specific strategy intended to support a healthy and robust tree canopy and urban forest in Seattle; provide an on-going assessment on the efficacy of policies and programs in meeting these goals; and recommend changes as needed to decision-makers.” In addition to the job responsibilities described in the SLI response, OSE is expected to: • Evaluate the City’s rules and regulations and propose changes as necessary to the Mayor and City Council that would provide the City Urban Forester with the necessary authority to accomplish its duties as envisioned; and • Ensure that this position: (1) advances racial equity and environmental justice; (2) oversees and implements the proposed Tree Canopy Equity and Resilience Plan and Seattle’s 2020 Urban Forest Management Plan as one of its core functions; and (3) supports development of policies that will help the City achieve its goals for an enhanced, healthy tree canopy and increased diversity of housing options for Seattle’s residents.
p 206-207
Budget Action Title: Request that OSE provide a report on Citywide funding for tree planting, stewardship, and other urban forestry-related activities
Statement of Legislative Intent: This Statement of Legislative Intent would request that the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) collaborate with the City Budget Office and Urban Forestry Interdepartmental Team (IDT) to develop a report on the City’s funding and expenditures for tree planting, stewardship, and other related activities. Currently, there are nine City departments that have a role in managing Seattle’s urban forest: • OSE coordinates citywide policy development, updates the Urban Forest Management Plan and monitors its implementation, and provides administrative support for the Urban Forestry Commission; • Seattle Department of Transportation manages trees in the public right-of-way; • Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), Seattle Center, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) manage trees on their property; • SPU engages community in urban forest stewardship on both private property and in the right-of-way; • Seattle City Light maintains trees near power lines; • Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) and the Office of Planning and Community Development develop policies and plans; and • SDCI enforces regulations for trees on private property. This distributed structure of the City’s urban forest management functions makes it challenging for the public to have a comprehensive understanding of how the City invests in maintaining and enhancing Seattle’s urban forest. FAS has recently agreed to create a Funding Source code to track revenue from illegal tree removal penalties and ensure that this revenue is used to support tree planting, stewardship, and planning activities. This modified accounting system will be implemented beginning on January 1, 2023. The report should include funding and expenditures for tree planting, stewardship, planning, and other related activities by department. Where possible, the report should provide information over multiple years to help reveal trends. Additionally, the report should offer recommendations for how the City can improve its practices on reporting the requested information moving forward and identify areas where additional funding may be needed so that the City can successfully implement the actions described in Seattle’s 2020 Urban Forest Management Plan
p 211-212
Budget Action Title: Add $250,000 JumpStart Fund (2023) to SDOT to plant trees in the public right-of-way
Budget Action Description: This Council Budget Action would add $250,000 JumpStart Fund in 2023 (one-time) to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to plant and support establishment of trees in the public right-of-way (ROW). Preliminary results from the City’s 2022 Canopy Cover Assessment revealed that canopy cover has declined by 1.7 percent citywide (and by 0.3 percent in the ROW) between 2016 and 2021. This funding should be used to plant new trees in environmental equity priority communities and other areas with low tree canopy cover in Seattle, and tree species should be resilient to climate change and pests.
p 221- 223
Budget Action Title: Reduce proposed funding for the Urban Forestry – Green Seattle Partnership CIP project by $500,000 REET II (2024) in SPR 
Budget Action Description: This Council Budget Action would reduce proposed funding by $500,000 Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) II in 2024 (one-time) in Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) for the Urban Forestry – Green Seattle Partnership Capital Improvement Program (CIP) project. Remaining funding for this CIP project totals $1.2 million in 2024. The revenue forecast adopted by the Forecast Council on November 2, 2022, projects a reduction in anticipated revenues compared to the revenue forecast that was used to develop the Mayor’s 2023-2024 Proposed Budget. This updated forecast reduces the resources available to balance the 2023-2024

Comments on the most recent Talaris Project Proposal

Seattle Talaris Project Needs to Protect More Trees while Increasing Housing Density

This project and the lot size and tree canopy presents a unique opportunity to preserve trees and build more housing. Instead of packing the property with single family housing, it presents an opportunity to call for a rezone to add multifamily housing – and concentrate the units in areas that are either vacant or absent of healthy and exceptional trees.

Building up rather than spreading out could save more trees and natural areas. Extra efforts should be made to maximize the retention of existing healthy and exceptional trees.  Also potential larger trees currently less than 24 inches in diameter  need to be also be saved because there needs to be replacement trees for current exceptional trees that will eventually die. A healthy urban forest needs both a diversity of tree species as well as tree ages.

The project is close to the University of Washington to the southeast and University Village and transit to the northwest. It should be considered for selective rezoning

The eagle habitat area should be enlarged both for the eagles and because cottonwood trees are brittle and houses and yards should not be in a drop or fall zone of branches and trunks.

Where trees are removed that are healthy, they should be replaced with 2 or more trees whose canopy equivalence is reached in 20-25 years. Removing a 50-70 year old tree that is  currently providing significant environmental services to the community is hard to replace. Replacing it with a 6 foot tall Douglas fir will take some 50-70 years to reach any equivalence at the time lost, while if the removed tree had continued to grow, it would be 100-140 years old.

The climate crisis is such that there will be no significant benefits from  replanted trees in the near future when we need them. Replacement is also assuming the replanted tree survives.

Portland Oregon currently says that any tree over 20 inches in diameter removed must be replaced inch for inch. If not replaced on site, a fee of $450/inch must be paid.

Even Seattle public trees removed must be replace two for one. And trees need to be watered during summer for 5 years to help ensure survival. They do not all survive.

Any trees planted should prioritize native trees to provide habitat for birds and other animals. The same goes for shrubs and other plants. Planted trees should grow large enough to help shade hardtop areas like roads and sidewalks to reduce heat island impacts. Also trees and shrubs should be selected that will best tolerate climate change.