Seattle Again Delays Enacting New Tree Protection Ordinance

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Seattle Again Delays Enacting New Tree Protection Ordinance

Dear Tree Protection Advocates,

Unfortunately once again the Seattle City Council and Mayor are doing what they have done for the last ten years. They are again, while trees continue to be cut down, opting for more studies rather than passing an updated Tree Protection Ordinance now. We already know the tree ordinance isn’t working to save trees according to the City’s  recent Tree Regulations Research Project Report and other information.

The  Seattle Urban Forestry Commission has been working for the last 10 years  providing the Mayor and City Council  with recommendations and in June, at the Council’s request, provided them with a draft ordinance update based on these recommendations and recent Council resolutions on what should be addressed.  Rather than consider this draft, they want to start over.

On Wednesday, Sept 11, 2019, the Council Finance and Neighborhoods Committee will meet from 2-4 PM in Council chamber to discuss and pass another resolution: 

Res 31902 A RESOLUTION declaring the City Council’s and the Mayor’s intent to consider strategies to protect trees and increase Seattle’s tree canopy cover. 
Central Staff Memo
Summary and Fiscal Note

Rather than starting  over we urge the Council to consider adopting, after review, the Urban Forestry Commission’s June 2019 draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance.

Here is the Draft Urban Forestry Commission’s Ordinance:
Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance  

You can send the Mayor and City Council a quick e-mail urging they adopt the Urban Forestry Commission’s draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance.  We have lost enough trees in Seattle already.  We do not need more studies for another year as trees continue to be cut down every day.

Go to 
Send an e-mail by clicking on the Take Action button.
Add your own comments to personalize the message.

Steve Zemke

Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance – a Project of Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and TreePAC.

PS  Help is needed now with donations to fund our campaign.
Click on the donate link below to give a campaign donation via to help update the tree ordinance. Money will help pay for yard signs, printing and other expenses.Thanks.

  Donate here


Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest 
Tree PAC
Don’t Clearcut Seattle


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Resolution urging passage of Seattle UFC draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance

Resolution in Support of Seattle Urban Forestry Commission’s 

 Draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance

Whereas Seattle is not only losing its big trees but many others as developers frequently are scraping lots clean of trees to maximize their building sites, and

Whereas Seattle is not requiring developers to replace all exceptional trees and trees over 24” DBH (diameter at 54” high) removed, as prescribed by SMC 25.11.090, and

Whereas, unlike Portland and other major cities, Seattle has not instituted a Tree Removal and Replacement permit system on either developed property or property being developed but only relies on a complaint-based system on developed property that is not protecting trees, and

Whereas the Seattle City Council (“the Council”) voted in 2009 and again in Resolution 31870 in April 2019 to support updating its Tree Protection Ordinance,and

Whereas in 2017 in its Tree Regulations Research Report, the city  found that “Current code is not supporting tree protection” and “we are losing exceptional trees (and groves) in general.”, and

Whereas Seattle’s trees and urban forest are vital green infrastructure in Seattle that reduces air pollution and stormwater runoff, reduces climate change impacts like heat island effects, provides essential habitat for birds and other wildlife, and is important for both physical and mental health for people living in Seattle, and

Whereas the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission has drafted, at the suggestion of several Council members, an updated Tree Protection Ordinance that is consistent with the eight recommendations the Council adopted in Section 6 of Resolution 31870 in April 2019, and

Whereas the draft ordinance would:

  1. Increase protections for Seattle trees and tree canopy volume by requiring tree removal and replacement permits for all significant trees (over 6” DBH) removed on both developed property and property being developed on all land use zones in the city;
  2. Require 2 week posting of tree removal and replacement applications on site as SDOT does;
  3. Require  tree replacement on site, which in 25 years, is equivalent to the tree canopy volume removed or require a fee paid into a Tree Replacement and Preservation Fund to plant and maintain for 5 years the trees elsewhere in the city;
  4. Retain current protections for exceptional trees and reduce upper threshold for exceptional trees to 24” DBH;
  5. Allow no more than 2 significant non-exceptional trees to be removed over 3 years on developed property;
  6. Require registration of all tree services providers with the city;
  7. Track all significant tree loss and replacement; and
  8. Provide adequate funds to administer and enforce the ordinance.

Therefore, be it resolved that we support the efforts of the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance to update and strengthen Seattle’s current ordinance. We urge the Mayor and Seattle City Council to pass the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission’s June 15, 2019 draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance and to enforce it.

Please let the Mayor and City Council know that your organization has adopted this resolution. Send your message easily and quickly by going to and click on the link “Organizational Support”

We will also add your organization’s name to our list of organizations supporting adopting the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission’s draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance.


Action Needed Now on Draft Tree Protection Ordinance

Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

Urge Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle City Council members to provide strong leadership now to pass legislation this year to significantly strengthen Seattle’s current Tree Protection Ordinance.

Seattle’s urban forest is an integral and vital part of our city.  It provides many benefits and amenities to those living in our city. Research has shown that retaining existing trees and planting new trees is one of the best ways to mitigate our climate crisis.    Trees help clean our air and enhance public health, reduce stormwater runoff, decrease the impacts of heat and wind, provide habitat for birds and wildlife and give us a connection with nature in our neighborhoods.

Seattle’s rapid growth is reducing these beneficial impacts as trees are removed. It is urgent that Seattle act now to stop the continued loss of trees, particularly large trees and exceptional trees and tree groves, and to promote environmental equity as we replace and plant more trees to increase our tree canopy.

Urge the Mayor and City Council to adopt the draft revisions for the Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance that the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission submitted in June 2019 to Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and the Seattle City Council. The updated draft would:

  1. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit program, including 2-week public notice and posting, as used by the Seattle Department of transportation (SDOT) – to cover all trees 6” DBH and larger on private property in all land use zones, both during development and outside development.
  2. Require the replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with trees that in 25 years will reach equivalent canopy volume – either on site or pay an in-lieu fee into a City Tree Replacement and Preservation Fund. Allow the Fund to also accept fines, donations, grants and set up easements.
  3. Retain current protections for Exceptional Trees and reduce the upper threshold for exceptional trees to 24” DBH, protect tree groves and prohibit trees over 6”DBH being removed on undeveloped lots. 
  4. Allow removal of no more than 2  significant non-exceptional trees in 3 years per lot outside development
  5. Establish one citywide database for applying for tree removal and replacement permits and to track changes in the tree canopy.  Post online all permit requests and permit approvals for public viewing.
  6. Expand SDOT’s existing tree service provider’s registration and certification to include all tree service providers working on trees in Seattle.
  7. Provide adequate funding in the budget to implement and enforce the updated ordinance.

Please let the Mayor and City Council know you support the 7 items above as recommended by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission by copying  and pasting them in an email to send to the Mayor and Seattle City Council in support of updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. They need to hear from you. Add your own personal comments and reasons for support.

Send to,

 and to the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission for posting as public comment  on the UFC draft ordinance –

Thank you for your help.

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Good News – Tree Protection Ordinance Update this Year is a GO!

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Dear Tree Protection Advocates,

We have passed a big hurdle. On Wednesday Councilmember Sally Bagshaw came to the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission. She told the Commission that she met with Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday. Mayor Durkan has agreed to move forward this year with  Councilmember Bagshaw and the City Council on working to pass an update to SMC 25.11 – the Tree  Protection Ordinance.

The tentative schedule will be a very tight one. But things are coming together and if we continue to let the Council and Mayor know that the people in Seattle urgently want a stronger tree ordinance that works, we can make it happen!

So one first step is to thank Mayor Durkan and Councilmember Sally Bagshaw for moving this legislation forward now. Thank them by sending an e-mail to: and

A key component was the work of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) in providing a draft revision of the Council’s last tree ordinance draft to Councilmember Sally Bagshaw as she requested. When Councilmember Bagshaw was asked on Wednesday if she saw any problems with the draft, she responded with a no. She gave the UFC  permission to  circulate the  UFC draft and here it is. The first 5 pages of the document below is an outline of what is in the draft, followed by the actual UFC draft ordinance.

Draft UFC revision to Council D7 draft – Tree Regulations:
Tree and Urban Forest Protection and Land Use Regulations

The plan moving forward is for the Council and City Departments to review the draft, have the City Attorney review the draft, complete a SEPA review, file the draft with the Council Budget and Neighborhood Committee chaired by Councilmember Bagshaw by the beginning of September, circulate the draft for public comment including holding  forums in September in both North and South Seattle, put adequate  funding in the budget to fund implementation of the ordinance  and pass the Legislation in the first two weeks of December after the budget is adopted.

So there are a lot of steps in this process, but it is moving. We can do this but we need to coordinate our efforts as tree advocates so that we can speak in unison and work in unison to be most effective.

Join us at our meeting tomorrow Sat. July 6th to discuss the next steps.

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Campaign Planning Workshop on Updating  Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance in 2019 
Saturday July 6, 2019 10:15 AM to 12:15 PM
Broadview Library, 12755 Greenwood  Ave NE, Seattle, WA

Also help is needed now with  donations to fund our campaign.
Click on this link to give a campaign donation to  update the tree ordinance via today. Thanks

  Donate here

Steve Zemke

Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance – a Project of Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and TreePAC.

websites – and

facebook – Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest  and facebook – Tree PAC

Seattle Urban Forestry Commission submits Draft Tree Protection Ordinance Update to Council

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw to Champion Tree Protection Ordinance Update

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, who Chairs the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee, has agreed to pick up the effort to update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. The legislation was being pushed by Councilmember Rob Johnson for the last year and a half. Johnson resigned earlier this year after the Seattle City Council passed the Mandatory Housing Affordability Ordinance he was pushing.

Councilmember Bagshaw met with the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission last month and urged them to send her a draft for her to consider. On June 14, 2019 four members of the Urban Forestry Commission met with her – Weston Brinkley the UFC Chair, Stuart Niven – Arborist, Josh Morris – NGO position (Seattle Audubon) and Steve Zemke -Wildlife Biologist. (Sandra Whiting -Urban Ecologist had also participated in the drafting but was not present).  They presented Councilmember Bagshaw  with the draft they had prepared.

Draft – Tree and Urban Forest and Land Use Regulations.

Outline of UFC Draft Tree and Urban Forestry and Land Use Regulations June 14, 2019 draft

Seattle’s Tree Ordinance on the Move Again

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance Update is on the move again. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has agreed to move this legislation forward, after Councilmember Rob Johnson resigned from the Seattle City Council earlier this year.

Councilmember Bagshaw met with the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission last month and asked them to produce a draft update of the ordinance. A new draft is being finalized, based on the Seattle City Council’s previous work, the current ordinance,  the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission’s  work and the issues the City Council agreed with in the accompanying City Council Resolution passed  as part of the MHA Ordinance.

A drafting committee of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission will be presenting their draft to Councilmember Bagshaw and Council staff on Friday June 14, 2019.

The Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance will be meeting the next day, Saturday, June 15th, to discuss what’s in the draft and what comes next. You’re invited to come and participate in the discussion.

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Briefing on Tree Protection Ordinance Update
Saturday June 15, 2019 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Lake City Library, 12501 28th Ave NE, Seattle, WA

Looking forward to seeing you Saturday..

Steve Zemke

Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance – a Project of Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest and TreePAC.


New Tree Rules for Single-Family Homes in Seattle

New Tree Rules for Single-Family Zones

Large treeOn April 19, new rules went into effect for tree planting and protection requirements in single-family zones. The recently passed Mandatory Housing Affordability Ordinance 125791 made several important changes to tree protection requirements in the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 25.11, Tree Protection, and SMC 23.44, Single Family Zone. Those changes are:

  1. SMC 25.11.040, Restrictions on Tree Removal, no longer includes an exemption from the exceptional tree designation or from requirements for tree removal on single-family lots less than 5,000 square feet. The exceptional tree rules now apply to all sizes of lots in single-family zones, including the residential small lot category. Trees can now be removed only under the same criteria that apply to lots greater than 5,000 square feet.
  2. The residential small lot (RSL) zone is now a part of SMC 23.44, Residential, Single-Family.
  3. The tree planting, retention, and protection requirements for single-family zones, formerly located in SMC 23.44.008.I, are now in a new section, SMC 23.44.020.  The “caliper inch” planting or retention requirement for lots zoned as single-family 5,000, 7,200, and 9,600 remain the same (SMC 23.44.020.A).  Planting or tree retention requirements for RSL lots is different. It is based on a point system and providing street trees is now required (SMC 23.44.020.B).  Unlike the other three single-family zones where street trees can be counted toward the planting or retention requirement, street trees are not counted toward the on-site requirement in RSL zones.

For more information about tree protection rules, see our Tree Protection Code webpage.

article copied from SDCI website  – New Rules for Single-Family Zones

Seattle City Council Adopts MHA Resolution – Section on Trees

On March 18, 2019 the Seattle City Council passed CB 119444 – Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation.

As part of that legislation they passed a Companion Resolution –  RESOLUTION 31870 calling for additional measures by the City and its partners that complement mandatory housing affordability (MHA) implementation to promote livability and equitable development, mitigate displacement, and address challenges and opportunities raised by community members during the MHA public engagement process.

Section 6 of that resolution dealt with updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance.

Section 6. The Council recognizes the environmental, social, and economic benefits of Seattle’s urban forest and commits to working with community members and City departments to update the City’s tree regulations, advancing the goals of the Urban Forest Stewardship Plan across Seattle. Potential measures may include, but are not limited to, the following:

A. Retaining protections for exceptional trees and expanding the definition of exceptional trees.
B. Creating a permitting process for the removal of significant trees, defined as trees  6 inches in diameter at breast height or larger.
C. Adding replacement requirements for significant tree removal.
D. Simplifying tree planting and replacement requirements.
E. Maintaining tree removal limits in single-family zones.
F. Exploring the feasibility of establishing a in-lieu fee option for tree planting.
G. Tracking tree removal and replacement throughout Seattle.
H. Providing adequate funding to administer and enforce tree regulations.
I. Requiring that all tree service providers operating in Seattle meet the minimum certification and training requirements and register with the city.

This is an affirmation by the Seattle City Council of their current intent to update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance SMC 25.11. The Seattle City Council in 2009 passed a similar resolution but never updated the ordinance. It’s now 10 years later.

Unfortunately the Councilmember leading the effort, Rob Johnson, resigned on April 5, 2019.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has agreed to take over the update of the ordinance. The goal is to complete the drafting process of a new ordinance and have a vote by the end of September at the latest. In October and November the Seattle City Council shifts to drafting and adopting the City Budget.

  • 7/15/2019 Update – the timeline now appears that the draft Tree Protection Ordinance Update will be submitted to the Seattle City Council in September, have 2 hearings the 1st and 3rd Wednesday from 2-4 PM in the Council Chambers before Councilmember Sally Bagshaw’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee and be voted out of Committee the 1st week in December and passed by the full Council the 2nd week.
  • 11/14/19 Update – Council never introduced a draft. Update moved to 2020. Another delay – over 10 years since Council first passed a resolution to update Tree Protection Ordinance. Two more resolutions passed since then urging update.

Johnson, Herbold & O’Brien Lay Out Path Forward on Tree Protection Legislation

Update – posted on Rob Johnson’s Trees for All page

Johnson, Herbold & O’Brien Lay Out Path Forward on Tree Protection Legislation

Commit to protecting exceptional trees, maintaining Seattle’s reputation as a ‘truly Emerald City’

September 12, 2018

Members of the Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee issued the following statement specific to the City’s forthcoming tree ordinance earlier today:

“The benefits of tree canopies are numerous: a cleaner, more resilient environment, and a more beautiful and equitable city are among them. Management of trees is part of the complex challenge necessary to preserve these important benefits. In response, the Council’s PLUZ committee has discussed a framework which aims to create stronger stewardship of the trees we have, allow our canopy to keep pace with growth and greater density, and plant more trees in neighborhoods that lack them.

“We share a common goal with many of our constituents to protect our environment and grow our tree canopy. Together with the community we have been seeking stronger protections for our city’s trees in order to meet our goal of at least 30% tree canopy coverage in Seattle. This approach inspired us to propose a new requirement for permits to remove significant trees, while also requiring those who remove trees to replace them.

“From the start we’ve been committed to crafting this proposal in an open manner. We’ve hosted three public meetings on the proposal and went to great lengths to include the public at the ‘table’ by releasing working drafts for community input. In our collective experience with Council policy-making, it is unusual for draft legislation to be released to the public and discussed in committee before a bill is officially introduced. We’ve taken this approach because of our shared desire to incorporate input we receive before introducing legislation. We have already included much of what we’ve heard, including lowering the threshold for tree replacement to 6” in diameter, requiring certification for tree service professionals and extending these protections to all zones throughout the City.

“We’ve also heard that the community is interested in taking more time to consider this draft legislation, and that adding new replacement requirements was not enough protection for exceptional trees. In response to that critical input, last week Chair Johnson made a commitment to take more time with this legislation. All three committee members also strongly agree with advocates that we must maintain and strengthen the current protections for exceptional trees.

“In addition to maintaining and strengthening protections for exceptional trees, the committee will continue to consider important issues including the method we use to measure trees, protections for tree groves, funding to properly enforce the ordinance, and more. We all believe that these can be resolved with the community through the normal legislative process. Some of these issues will be discussed at the September 19th, 2018 meeting of the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee meeting. We plan to continue consideration in December after our budget process wraps up.

“It’s our hope that this approach will serve to incentivize preservation of trees as our city grows, and will maintain Seattle’s reputation as a truly Emerald City.”