E-mails needed now – Contact Council and Mayor on Updating Tree Ordinance


Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Dear Tree Protection Advocates,

The Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee will be meeting at 9 AM on Wednesday, Sept 19th.  There is a 20 minute section at the end of the meeting devoted to the proposed tree ordinance update.  There is a 10 minute public comment period at the beginning of the Committee meeting. Attend the committee meeting if you can but sending an e-mail addressing their questions in the new Council memo and any other concerns you have is our suggested priority action now.

Here is the new Seattle City Council memo:

Policy considerations regarding proposed tree regulations bill – Sept 19, 2018

This needs to be compared with the Seattle Urban Forestry Committee recommendations of August 31, 2018.

LEG Tree regulation updates ORD D7 and August 16, 2018 Central Staff Memo Summary of proposed tree regulation bill and identified issues

*The questions below are cut and pasted excerpts from the Council memo. Suggested answers to the questions are in bold type.

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

Update from 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.”

Action Alert – Public Hearing on Tree Ordinance Update This Wednesday, Sept 5th

The Seattle Land Use and Zoning Committee of the Seattle City Council is holding a Public Hearing on its proposed draft Tree Ordinance:

 Wednesday, Sept 5, 2018
9:30 AM to 11:30 AM (sign up starts at 9 AM)

Seattle City Hall, City Council Chambers,
600 4th Ave, Seattle,WA 98104

Please come and testify or send a letter to the Mayor and City Council.

jenny.durkan@seattle.gov and Council@seattle.gov

Issues to comment on:

  1. Allow more time for possible changes. analysis of impacts, and public input on the current tree ordinance draft by delaying final action to the beginning of 2019 as recommended by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission (See more detail below)
  2. Put back existing protections for Exceptional Trees –  “An exceptional tree is a tree that: 1. Is designated as a heritage tree by the City of Seattle; or 2. Is rare or exceptional by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural/historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of grove of trees “.  Lower the threshold for large exceptional trees to 24 ” diameter at 54 inches high (DBH).
  3. Limit removal of trees to no more than 2 per year on developed property.
  4. Put back the prohibition on cutting down trees greater than 6″ DBH on undeveloped lots
  5. Base tree permits on diameter and species of trees, not tree canopy measurements. 
  6. Require all trees 6″ DBH and larger that are  removed to be replaced on site or off site or a replacement and maintenance  fee be paid to the city.
  7. Require 2 week posting and yellow ribbons on trees for all permits for removal;, include on line public posting of applications and permit approvals.

You can see a more detailed explanation of the pros and cons of the proposed Tree Ordinance here: 
Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest Analysis of Pros and Cons of Draft Tree Ordinance

Ordinance Language for Repeal and Replacement of SMC 25.11 – Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance  now called the Tree Regulation Bill – August 16, 2018  
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Coordinating Committee – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Coordinating Committee –

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

John Barber

Tawny Bates

Maria Batayola

Richard Boerth

Richard Ellison

Katy Griffith

Corinne Holister

Wendy Oberlin

Kevin Orme

Heidi Siegelbaum

Lance Young

Steve Zemke

Comments on Draft Tree Ordinance (Draft D7) – David Moehring

RE: Draft Tree Removal Ordinance
Comments by David Moehring 8/31/2018
Please enter into the public record for the September 5th Hearing.
 Copy to:

The Honorable Rob Johnson, Chair of Planning, Land Use & Zoning Seattle City Council

The Honorable Mike O’Brien

The Honorable Lisa Herbold

The Honorable Lorena Gonzalez

The Honorable Sally Bagshaw,

The Honorable Lorena Gonzalez

The Honorable Debora Juarez

The Honorable Teresa Mosqueda

The Honorable Lorena Gonzalez

The Honorable Kshama Sawant

 Dear Mr. An and Mr. McConaghy,
Please explain how and why the “Draft Tree Protection Ordinance” and program mislabeled “Trees for All” results in the proposed removal of  tree protection – making it easier for new home builders to remove trees without replacing them.
There are too many examples of reduced tree protections being proposed within the new ordinance. Please provide a citywide open forum. It is unjust to allow just ten (10) minutes of researched feedback on this significant issue! Most important, how may a City Council propose reductions in tree protection while disregarding the State requirements for an environmental impact study?
A Case in Point:
The proposed ‘tree protection ordinance’ weakens tree protection the most where the most of Seattle’s “urban forest” exists – single-family zoned lots which hold almost two-thirds of Seattle’s trees. Although the City proposed changes places additional burdens on existing home owners, it removes all barriers to tree removal from new home builders. Yet, Seattle does not suffer so much the residents yielding chain saws. The damage is done by the home builders clear-cutting established groves and significant trees. The new ordinance allows this to happen with the complete removal of section 23.44.008 paragraph ‘I’ from the Seattle Municipal Code.
For years, Seattle codes required that NEW houses on single-family zoned lots maintain their heart of the urban forest. If, however, this environmentally smart code section is not maintained as it is today, retaining existing trees and/or planting new trees in a size that is proportionate to the lot area will no longer be required. …. the significant risk of striking this current tree retention and refurbishment requirement,…. Specifically, if one builds a new house on a typical 5,000 square foot lot, then they also must retain and/or plant enough trees so that the total of all trees measured are at least 10-inches in width (measured at a set location). If that 5,000 square foot lot already has and will retain existing trees that at least total 10-inches in width – then no additional new trees are required to be planted. That seems in part a fair incentive to retain existing mature trees that do so much more for the micro-climate of Seattle than some convoluted “green factor”!
Why might some councilpersons likely be promoting the removal of this enduring tree retention / replanting code section? We all need to know. I suspect that without the existing trees being in the way on residential development lots (where most of Seattle’s Urban Forest exists), it makes the forthcoming changes to Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) easier to be achieved.
For reference, I have copied and pasted the relative text that is shown by Mr. McConaghy to be completely struck from the Seattle Municipal Code — which will definitely have a potential for significant environmental impacts.  This text is at the bottom of the message – below the illustrative diagram.
Yes, Trees for all …including new development sites!
 David Moehring AIA
3444 23rd Ave W
Member, TreePAC

Draft Seattle Tree Ordinance Needs Improvement

Draft Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance (Version 5b) needs improvement and needs to add back current protections that were removed! 

 On August 1st Councilmember Rob Johnson released the first draft of an updated Seattle tree ordinance and a new Council memo.

Draft Tree Regulation Update  – August 1, 2018

Central staff memo – proposed tree regulation bill  – August 1, 2018

SMC 25.11 – Tree Protection Ordinance being repealed

The draft tree ordinance is not a finished product as there are sections referenced but missing and links and numbers missing in the text.

While it incorporates a number of positions that the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission and numerous other organizations  urged the city to include, like tree permits for all trees 6 ” DBH and above and fees to replace trees in all zones, it also removes major tree protections that are in the current ordinance. It repeals much but not all of the current ordinance without including the repealed language in the draft which makes it difficult for people to track the changes.

Reading the bill by itself, it appears to be a good draft until you  realize what has been removed. You have to search though

to ascertain what was repealed and what was kept.

What  is added, changed or removed:

  • added – requires permits for removing trees greater than 6″ DBH in all zones of city
  • added – requires tree replacement if canopy falls below Urban Forestry Management Plan canopy goal for zone that lot is in
  • added – requires fee in lieu if trees cannot be replaced on site
  • added – tree care providers must sign statement they  have read and are familiar with tree regulations
  • added – increases penalties for illegal tree removal
  • added – on site posing required (2 days – minor permit, 2 weeks – major permit)
  • major change –  going from a concept of tree removal to canopy removal.  Canopy is a much less precise measurement  dependent on LIDAR studies which are really a vegetation cover analysis, not a tree cover analysis. The 2016 LIDAR analysis measured canopy at 8 feet which can include a lot of shrubs like laurel bushes. And while a tree trunk may be on one lot, the tree’s canopy can actually be on two or more lots depending on location of the trunk.The city should stick with tree removal, not canopy removal which crosses lot lines.
  • changed – SMC 25.11.090 requiring developers to replace all trees over 24′ DBH and that are exceptional. It replaces it with requiring developers to replace all trees over 6′ DBH but only up to the canopy goal in that zone. This will result in a net loss of trees where the original canopy is greater than the average for the zone. (Note – SMC 25.11.090 was very seldom enforced by the Seattle Building Department it appears since it was passed in 2001).
  • removed – designation and protection of exceptional trees which are the largest trees of a species. The current ordinance said developed  property owners can not remove exceptional trees unless they were hazardous. The change significantly reduces protection for large trees. From Director’s Rule 16-2008 – “An exceptional tree is a tree that: 1. Is designated as a heritage tree by the City of Seattle; or 2. Is rare or exceptional by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural/historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of grove of trees and trees …”
  • removed –protection of tree groves (they were added as exceptional in 2008). Tree groves no longer protected.
  • removed – a limit of 3 trees per year being removed  which were significant (over 6 ” DBH) but not exceptional. Draft sets no limit on number of trees that can be removed.
  • removed – prohibition of cutting down any tree over 6″ DBH on an undeveloped lot. Limit would now be by zone allowing a fully treed lot to have its  canopy reduced significantly without requiring tree replacement above the canopy goal for that zone, eg  100% canopy cover to 20% in the multifamily zone would be allowed with no replacement required.

A SEPA Analysis is required under state law. It would require filling out an environmental checklist which is not very detailed.  The City would probably come back with a determination of non-significance    With the major changes proposed and the uncertainty of what the impacts of a drastically revised draft as currently written would be, requiring an EIS would make sense. There  will be a two week comment and appeal time.

If the city responds by putting back the removed provisions mentioned above from the current ordinance and required tree replacement for all trees removed over 6″ DBH either on site or off site in all zones, regardless of whether it is a major or minor permit,  while keeping the canopy goals for coverage of lots, then  this would be a strengthening of the existing ordinance. However, as written right now, it appears to  significantly reduce  protection for existing large trees and allows canopy coverage to decrease in zones. A Douglas fir that is 80 years old that is cut down takes 80 years to replace an equivalent canopy. Every tree removed is a loss to the existing canopy coverage and only over a long period of time can it be replaced. Not all trees replaced survive.

According to the Tree Regulations Research Project Phase 1 Summary, the city deals with about 10,000 permits/year. A recent Seattle Times article put the building permit number last year (a busy one) at 7000.  Most of these have trees associated with them. The proposal for major tree permits under the current draft, which are probably mostly during development, would require a detailed tree inventory and tree report identifying trees on site by species and size so identifying exceptional trees would be no problem.

The question is how many minor tree permits are expected and my guess is far less.  It really does not seem it would be a big problem identifying tree species for minor permits, making the “too difficult to determine tree species” not a credible argument compared to the benefit of protecting exceptional trees.

Using canopy goals in the 2013 Urban Forest Stewardship Plan would result in lower goals than actual canopy cover measured in 2016 LIDAR Study in 2 zones. Institutional canopy cover measured in 2016 was 25%, UFSP goal is 20%. Multifamily canopy cover measured in 2016 was 23%, UFSP goal is 20%. LiDAR study also showed higher canopy cover in Developed Parks and Parks Natural Areas than listed as canopy goals.

The Urban Forestry Management Plan is currently being updated and the zone goals could increase. Canopy measurements are actually an average value across a zone meaning lots with more trees average out with lots with less trees – all lots do not have identical canopy.

Trees for All  Timeline now is for a single Sept 5, 2018 public hearing and possible vote by the Planning,  Use and Zoning Committee on Sept 19, 2018. If the full Council does not vote by the end of Sept this proposal will be back before the Council in January as they deal with the budget for next year in October and November.

Now is the time to let Mayor Durkan and the Seattle City Council know that the current draft is not acceptable as proposed but needs to be further revised. Current protections that were removed need to be added back. The ordinance  needs to be based on individual tree removal, not canopy in terms of replacement.

You can send comments to jenny.durkan@seattle.gov and council@seattle.gov

Why Seattle’s Green Factor is Green Washing

What is Green (Space) Factor and why is it Green Washing in Seattle?

“The Green Space Factor (GSF) is a planning policy tool that originated in Berlin and has been adopted and adapted in a number of other cities in Europe and North America to encourage urban greening. GSF schemes work by assigning a factor of between 0 and 1 for various surface cover types, with sealed surfaces given 0 and the most natural cover, 1. To calculate a GSF for a site, the factor for a particular surface cover is multiplied by its area. This is repeated for each surface cover type. The multiplied sums are added together and then divided by the overall site area to give an overall GSF score for a site of between 0 and 1. A planning authority can set a minimum target (typically 0.3, although this varies according to the type of development and class of land use). This can provide certainty to developers as to what is expected from new developments in terms of urban greening. It can also identify planning proposals with insufficient quantity and functionality of greening in order to encourage improvements to a proposal. It can also be useful in determining the scale and benefit of subsequent improvements to plans.”

Why Seattle’s GreenSpace is Green Washing?  They take land with trees on them and remove them to develop a lot.

“A GSF is usually applied to development proposals on previously developed land which has little or no existing natural surfaces. GSF schemes are not an alternative to planning policies that are intended to ensure the protection of a sufficient quantity of existing parks, natural habitats and other green open spaces, however GSF can be used as a tool to show how development may change a site or as a way of comparing proposals for a site.”*

Both quotes from Urban Greening Factor for London, Greater London Authority 7/24/2017

*The highlighting of the second paragraph is mine. Green factor is not meant to be a substitute for a requirement that trees removed from a site and not replaced on site must be replaced elsewhere, which is a policy the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission is on record supporting and what SMC 25.11.090 was intended to do.

Unfortunately for the last 17 years Seattle’s Building Department (currently called Seattle Department of Planning and Development)  has  not consistently enforced this provision or kept a record of where trees planted as a result of this provision might be or of their survival if they were planted. There does not seem to be a fee system to pay the city to replace any of the trees removed if developers can not replant on site which raises the question if the city has planted any trees under 25.11.090.

With the current ordinance updates being considered, the Urban Forestry Commission is recommending that all trees 6 inches DBH and larger removed during development must be replaced on site or a fee in lieu be paid to the city to replace the trees elsewhere. The goal is to be certain our urban forest continues to increase in canopy cover and that is difficult to do if we are achieving a net loss of trees over time.

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission on July 11, 2018 wrote a letter to the Mayor, City Council and City Auditor urging DCI to enforce the provisions of 25.11.090 and lower the threshold to 6 inches DHH when they update SMC 25.11 – Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. Re:SMC 25.11.090 -Tree Replacement and Site Restoration 

Join the Coalition for a Stronger Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance

Join the Coalition for a Stronger Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance

Join the Coalition for a Stronger Seattle Tree Protection Ordinance

 The Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance is working to update Seattle’s current Tree Protection Ordinance. Some 32 organizations have joined our effort so far and we would welcome you also joining us. The Coalition has agreed to a number of items we feel need to be addressed in an updated tree ordinance. We are asking groups to review the letter and if you agree, forward it to the Mayor and City Council, signing on behalf of your organization. Councilmember Rob Johnson is intending to release a draft in the next several weeks and we need organizations to respond now.

Testimony on MHA EIS Regarding Impacts on Seattle’s Urban Forest before Seattle Hearing Examiner

Steve Zemke

MHA EIS Hearing Examiner Appeal Testimony June 28, 2018

Question – Who are you?

My name is Steve Zemke. I am a member of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission serving in the wildlife biologist position. I am not speaking representing them today but as the chair of TreePAC, an urban forest conservation advocacy organization. I am the Chair of other organizations including the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance and Friends of the Seattle Urban Forest.

Question – What are your qualifications?

I have a BA in Biology from Case Western Reserve University and a MA in Biology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. I spend an additional several years at the University of Washington’s College of Fisheries doing graduate work.

I have been involved in efforts over the last 10 years in Seattle pushing for updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. I put forward the original idea of Seattle having an Urban Forestry Commission that Councilmember Nick Licata introduced, and the Seattle City Council passed in 2009. [SMC Chapter 7.32, Ordinance 123052]

I have attended almost all of the bimonthly Urban Forestry Commission meetings since it was formed in 2009 and am currently serving a second 3-year term as a commissioner. I have also attended the yearly Urban Forestry Symposiums held at the University of Washington since they started.

Question – What is your experience dealing with impacts on Seattle’s urban forest?

I have been involved in or aware of numerous examples where development proposals, including by public agencies, have resulted in significant loss of trees, including groves. Some examples include:

Question – Are you familiar with the MHA EIS?

Yes I responded to the draft EIS with comments regarding the adequacy of the EIS in addressing it’s impact on Seattle’s urban forest as discussed in Section 3.6 Biological Resources.

Question – Do you have some exhibits that will help inform your testimony today?

Yes, here is the list of exhibits I rely on and will refer to:

__ Chapter 25.11– City Exhibit 098

__ Tree Protection Regulations – Tip 242 – City Exhibit 060

__ Director’s Rule 16-2008 – Designation of Exceptional Trees – City Exhibit 061

__ 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment – City Exhibit 053

__ Mayor Burgess Executive Order 2017-11 – Scale Exhibit 048

__ Tree Regulations UFC Presentation Nov 1, 2017– SCALE Exhibit 054

__ Tree Regulations Research Project March 27, 2017 slide presentation – Exhibit 58

__ Tree Regulations Research Project Final Report March 31, 2017 – Exhibit 57

__ Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations – City 064

__ Urban Forestry Commission on MHA draft EIS 08 2017 pdf – SCALE exhibit 50

__ Tree Canopy Assessment Sustainability & Environment Subcabinet April 9 2009– FNC Exhibit 32, COS0032951

__ Clarification of Canopy Cover Assessment Statistics March 23, 2011 – FNC Exhibit 25, COS0032199

__ MHA EIS conclusions about impacts of the four alternatives on Seattle Tree Canopy, summary of sections from FEIS Section 3.6

Question – Is Seattle proposing adequate mitigation in the EIS for trees removed?

In the MHA EIS, statements such as in 3.6.3 Mitigation Measures do not match what is really happening to trees in Seattle during development:

“This section has identified comparative differences in the potential for adverse impacts related to disturbances of ECA’s [environmentally critical areas] and canopy by potential future development. However, none of these identified impacts are considered to be significant adverse impacts.”

I do not agree.

At the same time the city states in the EIS that “The city does not have a threshold for determining significance of tree loss.” p 3.338. That is a major problem.

The following sentence in the MHA EIS says —

“Assuming that all tree protection regulations are implemented with future development under the new zoning, the change in tree canopy cover under the preferred alternative is not considered a significant impact.”

This statement is highly speculative and does not match what is happening on the ground in our city. There is no guarantee that major changes will actually be passed by the Seattle City Council.

Nine years ago, the City Council in Resolution 31138 urged the Department of Planning and Development to submit legislation to increase protection for trees and tree canopy. Nine years later there is still no update enacted to do such.

Question – What is the City doing to update the Tree Protection Ordinance and regulations suggested in the MHA EIS?

While the City Council is proposing an update now, there is no draft available for the public to review or for this Hearing Examiner process concerning the adequacy of the MHA EIS to see. There is only a Council memorandum with generalities—no specific ordinance. It is just an outline of concepts. Furthermore, the content that is in the outline does not propose changes that would result in significant improvement to the existing ordinance’s impacts. And it does not reference SMC 29.11.090.

For Single Family and Residential Small lots during development it proposes increasing a tree point system of 1 for 1000 square feet to 750 square feet and having an in lieu fee. For LR, MR, C and industrial it says, “no changes proposed” and some tweaking of green factor. Green factor is about maintaining or replacing some minimal green on a lot after trees has been removed during development but does not at all account for replacement of trees removed in any equivalence during development as required by the current ordinance in SMC 29.11.090.

The problem is that DCI and all its former named incarnations of City permitting agencies since 2001 when the original Tree Protection Ordinance SMC 25.11 was passed, have not been complying with all of the mandated directives of that ordinance. The ongoing lack of compliance and ordinance enforcement is not acknowledged in the MHA EIS.

In addition, I can find nothing in the FEIS that addresses how well or poorly other City programs have impacted or would impact  the City’s tree protection and tree canopy goals. The two most important of these City actions are the Design Review program and the proposed ADU (accessory dwelling unit) ordinance with a DEIS comment period that ended Monday of this week.

The current draft updates proposed as outlined in the Council memo continue this subterfuge of disregarding the language in SMC 25.11.090 and saying the city will soon have an ordinance that works to mitigate for any adverse impacts of land use decisions on trees or tree canopy.

Question – Are there places that the provisions of 25.11.090 are mentioned?

It is mentioned in The Tree Regulations Research Project final report (Exhibit 57 – on page 3), “Exceptional Trees and those larger than 24 inches need to be replaced unless they are hazardous” It is also in the Tree Regulations Research Project March 27, 2017 slide presentation – (Scale Exhibit 58 – slide 4). And its in Tree Regulations UFC Presentation Nov 1, 2017 – (SCALE Exhibit 054 p 3) )

The Tree Regulations Research Report was not available to the public even though it was included in the draft EIS MHA references. There was no link to the document in the references in the draft EIS nor was it available in a Google search. It took a public records request to make this document available to read. Even the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission could not get it and was first briefed on it in Nov. 2017, long after the comment period for the draft EIS ended.

I requested in my letter on the draft EIS that a link be added to the reference but that was never done. My comments were never considered until after the final EIS was published. They were not included, and it turned out they had “lost” them. They found my e-mail after I asked why it was not in the final EIS.  They then added it to the online version after the final EIS was published but never provided the link as asked.

The findings of the Tree Regulations Research Project were not discussed in the draft EIS  and contradicted their statements that the current tree ordinance and regulations are working. Among the findings were these conclusions:

Current code is not supporting tree protection.”

“We are losing exceptional trees (and groves) in general.”

Under land use and construction permits they noted:

“Development and hardscape increase result in tree loss. Conifers and large tree species are coming out with deciduous and dwarf species coming in.”

There are many options proposed for increased protections for trees in the Tree Regulations Research Project.

Question – What do SMC 25.11.090 and 25.11.100 direct DCI to do? (City Exhibit 098)

“25.11.090 – Tree replacement and site restoration.

A. Each exceptional tree and tree over two (2) feet in diameter that is removed in association with development in all zones shall be replaced by one or more new trees, the size and species of which shall be determined by the Director; the tree replacement required shall be designed to result, upon maturity, in a canopy cover that is at least equal to the canopy cover prior to tree removal. Preference shall be given to on-site replacement. When on-site replacement cannot be achieved, or is not appropriate as determined by the Director, preference for off-site replacement shall be on public property.

B. No tree replacement is required if the (1) tree is hazardous, dead, diseased, injured or in a declining condition with no reasonable assurance of regaining vigor as determined by a tree care professional, or (2) the tree is proposed to be relocated to another suitable planting site as approved by the Director.

SMC 25.11.100 – Enforcement and penalties.

A. Authority. The Director shall have authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter, to issue permits, impose conditions, and establish administrative procedures and guidelines, conduct inspections, and prepare the forms necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.

B. It shall be a violation of this chapter for any person, firm or corporation to remove, clear or take any action detrimental to trees contrary to or in violation of any provision of this chapter. …..”

Reference to these tree ordinance requirements is absent from the City’s website in reference to developers having to comply with this provision. It is not mentioned in the Tree Protection Regulations – (Tip 242 – City Exhibit 060) or Director’s Rule 16-2008 – Designation of Exceptional Trees – (City Exhibit 061) or other public documents that I have seen.

If the Council’s outline of a new tree ordinance is adopted to replace the above provisions in SMC 25.11.090, it is likely that protection of large trees will become even weaker. These large and “exceptional” trees in the code (SMC 25.11.050), tend to be native conifers like Douglas fir and western red cedar. Their numbers have been declining and there are only a few thousand left in the entire City.

Question – Did you find an indication of City work to evaluate the effectiveness of the City’s ordinances to conserve trees and tree canopy?

Yes. When I was reading the draft EIS, I came across a citation in the references to a research project concerning the effectiveness of the City’s tree conservation ordinances in the bibliography to Section 3.6. On page 5.6 I found this reference:

City of Seattle. 2017a. Tree Regulations Research Project—Phase II Final Findings and Recommendations. March 27, 2017.

But when I looked in Section 3.6 itself, I could not find any reference to it or where it informed the analysis of impacts or need for mitigation. The Urban Forestry Commission asked for and obtained the referenced document and related presentation material.

I believe it was as a result of the Urban Forestry Commission’s action obtaining the research project documents that led to the issuance of Executive Order 2017-11 on October 13, 2017, a month before the publication of the MHA Final EIS. Two of the “Whereas” clauses in the executive order explicitly reference the MHA a reason for the obvious need to improve the City’s tree ordinances to avoide continued significant adverse impacts of development on our trees and tree canopy.

Question – Have you carefully reviewed Mayor Burgess’ Executive Order 2017-11 Tree Protection (Scale Exhibit 048)?

Section 1 B says:

“SDCI will require consistent documentation for required tree removal review on private property including mitigating canopy cover loss of trees removed, and monitoring of planted trees for survival. Informational materials and resources for developers, property owners and the public related to trees and vegetation management shall be updated to reflect this emphasis.”

This is not happening. When I checked with a land use planner last week at the SDCI intake desk for permits for projects to ask what documentation was being kept to monitor tree loss and canopy replacement she noted the only place trees are marked is on the site plans. She showed me the new Acela computer data base for several projects and looked for any data input related to trees. There was none. She even checked suggested additional fields that could be added for input and there was none relating to trees.

She said there was only one arborist responsible for reviewing trees on projects. She noted that it would be very easy to input data on tree species and DBH for trees removed and trees planted and be able to get monthly or yearly updates on what was happening but that they were not doing it.

There also appear to be no updates on printed material or the SDCI website regarding this issue.

Question – Are there other sections of Burgess’s Executive Order that don’t seem to be implemented yet?

Another section of Mayor Burgess’s Executive Order – Section 3 Expanding Compliance Options states:

“SDCI will develop a new Director’s Rule or propose legislation for required tree replacement. The in-lieu payment option may apply to cases where tree mitigation is required. Fees from any-in-lieu payment will be used for mitigating the loss of tree canopy cover through replanting and reforestation while prioritizing addressing racial and economic disparities in accessing and enjoying the benefits of urban trees.”

This only seems to be maybe partly complied with during development when one looks at the Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations memo – (City Exhibit 064). It proposes tree permits and replacement of all trees removed over 12 inches either on site or mitigation in the form of a fee in lieu for the city planting them elsewhere. But this would apply to private property already developed. It is only suggested as an option for single family zone during development as a complement to a point system.

Regardless, these improvements to the City’s tree ordinances are all speculative since the new ordinance is at the very stages of development.

Question – What about the 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment (City Exhibit 053)?

Several issues here. The LIDAR Study stated tree canopy was at 28%. What isn’t mentioned is that what is being measured is vegetative cover at 8 feet high. That includes many bushes and shrubs like the lilac in my back yard or the laurel hedge on my fence line. The Army Corp of Engineers measures trees at 20 feet high. At 20 feet, Seattle’s tree canopy is closer to 26% according to an inquiry made to the OSE.

In addition, the study notes on page 2 that a separate study done using historic data from Google Earth between 2007 and 2015 that there was approximately a 2% loss in canopy. The results between the two methods are not compatible and point out the difficulty of getting a precise measurement and what it means.

The real question is the quality and quantity of tree loss during development and how can we lessen tree loss and mitigate when it happens. The 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy assessment looked at the question of loss during development, but the results are “not statistically valid” because only 10 sample plots being developed were examined in 8 zones. That’s like asking 10 people in each zone or 80 people total who they think should be elected for Mayor or to the City Council. Even with that caveat they stated “a mini-assessment of 80 random parcels found that development led to canopy cover loss.”

Question – Did you find other data the City had regarding tree loss during development?

A more detailed assessment -Tree Canopy Assessment Sustainability & Environment Subcabinet April 9 2009 – (Fremont 32 COS0032951) done on 2,262 redeveloped parcels between 2002 and 2007 pointed to a significant loss of 29% of trees removed on these parcels. 40% of existing trees were removed on SF lots and 70% of existing trees on MF lots. Current development is much more intense across our city and more lots are being divided and less land is available on site to keep or replace trees.

The city needs to be called to task for ignoring SMC 25.11.090 and start replanting all exceptional trees and trees over 24“DBH removed during development. Other cities like Portland, Oregon and Atlanta, Georgia have set up permit and tree replacement programs for trees removed during development as well as for already developed properties.

Seattle should lower the threshold to 6 inches DBH as recommended by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission. The current draft in Councilmember Johnson’s committee does not do this; it uses a 12 inch minimum, which will eliminate protection for a huge number of Seattle’s trees.

Changing to 6 inches would help to make up for the canopy replacement lost due to not implementing SMC 25.11.090 over the last 17 years! Here in our region Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Redmond and Sammamish have set up tree permit and replacement systems.

Question – Have you evaluated the EIS conclusions regarding the likelihood of significant impacts?

Yes. Each of the four alternatives in the FEIS has a statement concerning the likelihood of significant impacts.

To start with, the initial statement, in the “no action” alternative, concerning the impacts of the current code and the City’s enforcement of it (or the lack of enforcement) says, “The resulting change in canopy cover is assumed to be static.” and “This study [2016 canopy study prepared for the MHA EIS] does not quantify tree loss resulting from current development patterns.”

This is a troubling statement because it implies that there are not adverse impacts on trees and tree canopy happening under current legal and on the ground conditions. This is clearly not true. (SMC 29.11.090 is clearly not being complied with).

By making this statement, the EIS is failing to establish a baseline against which to compare the three very similar action alternatives.

Each of the statements concerning the likely impacts of the actions alternatives contains the words “not considered a significant impact.” The MHA proposal is explicitly intended to increase development capacity on substantial acreage all over the City. It is absurd to say that these changes will not have a significant increased adverse impact on Seattle’s urban forest.


Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance Meeting July 7, 2018

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance meeting – please attend

Saturday, July 7, 2018  10:15 AM – 12:15 PM
Beacon Hill Library, 
2821 Beacon Ave S, Seattle

Current timeline according to Councilmember Rob Johnson is to release a draft ordinance by the end of July, complete a SEPA analysis in August, have public hearings in August and possibly a vote by Sept 15th. 

Coalition Agenda for July 7th will discuss:

  1. meeting with Councilmember Rob Johnson
  2. status of draft legislation issues
  3. major campaign discovery regarding current ordinance
  4. upcoming press conference – probably next week
  5. e-mail campaign to Mayor and City Council
  6. increasing Coalition members – currently 30
  7. media outreach
  8. volunteer help needed
  9. brainstorm ways to increase visibility of campaign

upcoming meetings:

Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee meeting
Wed, July 18, 2018 9:30 AM
Seattle City Council Chambers, 600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Saturday, July 21, 2018  11:15 AM – 12:15 PM
Queen Anne Library, 400 W Garfield, Seattle

Note all Coalition meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend, your support is needed for us to be successful.  We welcome your help.

more information – links also posted to www.friends.urbanforests.org

Seattle’s current Tree Protection Ordinance SMC 25.11

Rob Johnson’s Trees for All Tree Ordinance Timeline  June 20, 2016

June 6, 2018 Urban Forestry Commission response:

Comments to the May 11, 2018 Council Central Staff Memorandum “Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations.”

 Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations, Seattle City Council Central Staff,  May 11, 2018  – memo discussing proposed updates

Action Need Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest – Handout

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance members

Steve Zemke
Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance
Kevin Orme – TreePAC