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

Developers should not be exempt in new ordinance to protect Seattle’s trees 

Press Release – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance 

June 4, 2018

 Developers should not be exempt in new ordinance to protect Seattle’s trees 

by Steve Zemke and Susanna Lin

Look around at any development site in Seattle, and you will usually find it clear cut of any trees or vegetation that used to be there. Given the record breaking development boom we are experiencing, and the City Council preparing to add more density with upzones across Seattle, and it becomes clear that protecting our trees in the face of rampant development should be of the upmost importance.

With the current proposal to increase density through zoning changes in 27 urban villages and multifamily zones across Seattle, the City was required to produce an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS to evaluate the negative impacts this increase in density may produce.

The EIS produced by the City says that the Tree Protection ordinance and regulations are sufficient to deal with trees during development. Yet the Tree Regulations Research Project done internally last year by the City said that “Current code is not protecting trees.” “We are losing exceptional trees (and groves) in general.” “Development and hardscape increase result in tree loss. Conifers and large tree species are coming out with deciduous and dwarf species are coming in.” The inadequacy of our current tree protection is one of the issues in the MHA EIS appeal.

While the Tree Regulations report was cited in the bibliography, its conclusions are not discussed in the EIS and its conclusions are contrary to what the EIS said. In the draft EIS they mentioned in the bibliography the Tree Regulations Research Project report, but put no link to it. It was not publicly available. The report contradicted what the City said in the EIS. The report was finally secured through a public records request after failed attempts to have it discussed by the city at the Urban Forestry Commission.

With increased development occurring, our trees and urban forest are being removed at a faster pace but adequate mitigation is not in place to replace the benefits trees provide like cleaning our air we breathe and reducing storm water runoff. Seattle needs to require developers to replace trees removed or pay a fee to the city to replant them. The city needs to update its existing tree ordinance to require this. 

Councilmember Rob Johnson has a proposal to update to Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance, which would require private homeowners to get permits to remove trees and replace trees removed but would not require developers to do so, according to the draft outline in a memo he had Council staff discuss last week before the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee.

Here are the recommendations the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance made:
Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

Here are the recommendations the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission made:
Tree regulations update “Trees for All” proposal recommendation 

Here is the memo from City Council Central Staff and Rob Johnson that needs strengthening:
Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations

Tree Regulations Research Project – Final Report  March 31, 2017

Councilmember Johnson is trying to get this passed by August, the same timeline he is working on for the MHA upzone legislation. Johnson in his memo from Council staff, however, proposes exempting developers from having to get permits to remove trees and replace them on site or pay the city to do so elsewhere. He also supports a 12″ threshold DBH rather than 6 ” DBH which would cover 45% of the trees on single family lots.

E-mails to the Mayor and City Council are needed now as Councilmember Johnson is proposing releasing a draft on June 20th at the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee. We are trying to put pressure on the Council to do the right thing by:

  • Including developers in all zones in tree protection requirements
  • Doing canopy assessments prior to issuing construction permits
  • Requiring permits to remove any tree over 6 ” DBH
  • Requiring replacement on site or pay into a city Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund for all trees removed
  • Requiring all Tree Care Professionals to be licensed as SDOT already does
  • Remove the exemption of lots less than 5000 sq ft from complying with the current Tree Protection Ordinance.

Additional material added 6/5/2018

Tree Canopy Assessment– Sustainability & Environment Sub-Cabinet

Clarification of Canopy Cover Assessment Statistics 3/23/2011


Action Needed June 1-7, 2018 Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance 

Dear Friends of Trees,

Can you show your support for trees next week?  Let us know. We need people to show up and speak for stronger tree protection at these Seattle City Council Hearings:

Monday June 4, 2018 10 AM – Press Conference by Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance at City Hall outside Council Chambers, City Hall, 500 4th Ave. Come! We need you!  Invite others!

Monday June 4, 2018  10:30 AM – give public comments at the MHA Select Committee at Council Chambers in City Hall, 500 4th Ave This is the full City Council discussing the Mandatory Housing Legislation.  Testimony at the beginning of the meeting needs to address that issue. It’s fairly simple.

What to say:

1. With the increased development occurring, we need to add stronger  protection for trees in the MHA ordinance.

2  Require that developers get permits to remove all tree 6″ DBH and larger and that they replace all trees removed either on site or they pay a replacement and maintenance fee to the city to replant the lost trees. Green factor is not an  adequate substitute for trees. We need to grow our canopy, not mow it down.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018 9:30 AM – give public comments to Rob Johnson’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee, Council Chambers, City Hall, 500 4th Ave on his proposed Tree Ordinance Update. Note that the Council memo on the update was not available until the beginning of the last meeting and say you want to comment on it now before he releases a draft on June 20, 2018.

What to say:

1.    Urge that developers be required to get permits for all development projects just as they are  suggesting homeowners do.  Everyone removing trees needs to get permits,  Developers should not be excluded. Its a question of fairness.

2.     The permits should be required for all trees 6 inches in diameter at breast height. This would cover about 45% of the trees on single family lots.

3.     All trees 6″DBH and larger should be replaced, either on site or by paying a tree replacement and maintenance fee to the city to replant them in the neighborhood or elsewhere as needed in the city. We can’t grow our canopy if we are removing it faster than it’s growing. 

4.     Tree care professionals should be licensed.

Background reference material:

website with lots of information and links on trees and tree ordinances, including Seattle’s – www.friends.urbanforests.org   

Here are the recommendations the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance made: Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

 Here are the recommendations the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission made: Tree regulations update “Trees for All” proposal recommendation 

 Here is the memo from City Council Central Staff and Rob Johnson that needs strengthening: Draft Updates to Seattle’s Tree Regulations

 Here is the city report that said the current ordinance is not protecting  trees: Tree Regulations Research Project – Final Report  March 31, 2017

 Steve Zemke – Chair – Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance


Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

 If you can’t attend either day, please e-mail  the Mayor and the City Council,  expressing your support for a stronger tree ordinance than what they are currently proposing. Thanks.

Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance sends letter to Mayor and City Council

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

Dear Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council Members, 

We urge you to provide strong leadership now to significantly strengthen Seattle’s tree ordinance to protect our trees and urban forest. 

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.  Trees help clean our air and enhance public health, reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate climate change, 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, particularly during development across our city. It is urgent that you act now to stop the loss of trees, particularly exceptional trees and tree groves, and to promote environmental equity as we increase our tree canopy.

We urge you to act now by updating our current tree ordinances and regulations as follows:

  1. Adopt a policy of a net increase of Seattle’s tree canopy each year to reach the city’s current goal of 30% tree canopy.  This requires maintaining and strengthening current protections for both significant and exceptional trees, tree groves, Heritage trees, environmentally critical areas and natural areas.
  2. Require the replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with equivalent sized trees (e.g. small, medium or large) – either on site:  or pay the replacement and maintenance mitigation costs into a City Tree Replacement and Maintenance Fund. Allow the Fund to accept fines, donations, grants and for acquiring land and setting easements and Tree Protection Trusts.
  3. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit, 2-week notice and posting system used by SDOT – to cover all public and private trees 6” DBH and larger on both public and private property in all land use zones. Allow removal of no more than 1  significant non-exceptional tree per lot per year.
  4.  Establish one citywide database when 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.  Expand SDOT’s existing tree map to include all the trees in the city that are removed and replaced.
  5. Require a detailed Urban Forest Canopy Assessment for all development projects prior to any development beginning. This detailed tree inventory should be entered into a public database.  Replacement trees should be based on equivalent tree size at maturity.
  6. Expand SDOT’s existing tree service provider’s registration and certification to include all tree service providers working on trees in Seattle. 
  7. Consolidate tree oversight into one city entity: The Office of Sustainability and Environment, as was recommended by the Seattle City Auditor in 2009.  Give OSE the additional authority needed to ensure that trees have an independent advocate for their protection to avoid conflicting goals in other city departments.
  8. Emphasize native trees and vegetation, particularly conifers, to maximize sustainability and environmental services.  Require the removal of invasive plants during development. Increase incentives for protecting trees and provide public assistance for property owners who need help complying with the city ordinance. To increase compliance increase penalties, fines and enforcement. Ensure environmental equity in maintaining and increasing our tree canopy across the city.

Beacon Hill Council Seattle Supports Stronger Tree Ordinance

May 18, 2018 Tree Ordinance Press Conference

Good morning. Thank you for coming today.
My name is Maria Batayola and I chair the Beacon Hill Council. No one disagrees that
trees are very important in general. For our neighborhood, trees are critical. Here’s
Beacon Hill is 6 miles long and 1 to miles across. We have 35,000 residents who are
80% people of color, 44% immigrants and refugees with 36% not speaking English well,
and 1out of 5 of our neighbors are low income. The City considers us a vulnerable
From a race and social justice perspective, we are the only neighborhood in Seattle that
has the multiple mobile emissions of air and noise pollution that is impacts our health.
Our air and noise pollution challenges from all directions – 120,000 cars travel daily on I90,
250,000 cars on I-5, MLK and Rainier. Seattle is number 10 in traffic congestion in
the nation. We are under the flight path with airplanes flying over us every 2 to 3
minutes. The Port of Seattle projected steep increase in air travel and cargo flights.
The noise decibel level in Beacon Hill is in the 70’s, well above the City’s 55 decibel
maximum by day and 45 decibel at night, and above the FAA’s 65 decibels
overall. Sadly, we are not eligible for air and noise mitigation funding.
The established health impacts for air pollution include asthma, reduce lung capacity,
eyes/nose/throat/lungs irritation, heart disease and cancer, while the health impacts for
noise pollution are heart disease, sleep disturbance, stress, general annoyance and
lower math and reading test scores for schools without insulation, along with other
Our trees generate fresh air and act as a noise barrier. Let’s dispel the idea that the
displaced trees from housing density development can be mitigated by planting trees in
the south end. This is not a social injustice fix. It is equally unfair to our neighbors up
north to do so. Every Seattle resident, either a resident, homeowner and/or renter,
deserves a healthy environment.
We need an effective Tree Ordinance immediately. We are facing a proposed Brick Pit
development for 120 housing units on the Duwamish greenbelt by I-5 that will take out
20 acres of trees. We strongly encourage Councilman Rob Johnson to enhance his
proposed Tree Ordinance with our Coalition’s recommendations to ensure its
The ordinance needs to go farther to protect all both of our personal and planetary
health and well-being. Thank you.

Beacon Hill Council is a member of the Coalition for a Stronger Tree ordinance

150 Trees and Me Supports a Stronger Tree Ordinance in Seattle

I am Carolyn Rodenberg, Chair of 150 Trees and Me, a workgroup of One Sustainable Planet. We follow the lead of Plant for the Planet and climate science that tells us to plant trees as well as to lower our carbon emissions.

Tuesday, it was 88 degrees in Seattle. Nice summer day? – No, it’s springtime –that was May 4th! The last ten years have been the 10 hottest years in recorded history, and each year is hotter than the last one.

Excessive heat causes health problems and can even cause death. “Many people don’t realize that there are more deaths attributed to urban heat in the United States than all other natural disasters combined”, so says Vivek Shandas, an Associate Professor
of Urband Studies and Planning at Portland State University (“Turning down the heat, turning up the green” August, 2015). We need our trees to provide shade and thermal comfort to help keep us healthy.

When it rains, it can pour – So, we need our trees to intercept rain as it falls, and to hold water in the ground to reduce slides and flooding. We need our trees to capture air pollution particulates and turn them into breatheable air and carbon.

We need our trees for our trees for a sense of community, connection with nature and our mental health. Trees protect us, let’s protect them!

150 Trees and Me is a coalition member of the Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance in Seattle, WA.

Seattle Audubon Speaks out for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

Dear Seattle City Council,

We urge Seattle City Council to support the Trees for All initiative, and recommendations made by the Urban Forestry Commission to strengthen the protection of trees in the city of Seattle. We commend Rob Johnson for proposing a more transparent system for acquiring tree permits to take trees from our city, a focus on replacing cut trees with new trees that will contribute to our urban canopy, and a focus on increasing our urban canopy in less advantaged neighborhoods.

The Seattle Audubon Society is Washington State’s oldest environmental conservation organization, founded in 1916. We represent approximately 4,000 local members. One of our key priorities is to advocate and lead urban habitat preservation, which aims to restore Seattle’s urban tree canopy across the city. We support stronger regulations for tree removal, a focus on offsetting development, and working towards urban equality in our environment. We believe a framework like the Trees for All campaign outlined by Councilman Rob Johnson will move the city towards an equitable increase in Seattle’s tree canopy. In addition to this initiative, we hope the city will decide to include trees with 6” or greater DBH as a threshold in tree replacement strategies. We also urge you to consider small lots of land as many single family homes are small or are being subdivided into smaller lots.

Seattle Audubon has been working with partner organizations across the city to preserve the urban forest as part of the commitment made in signing the Urban Bird Treaty, for the conservation of wildlife (particularly avifauna), and for the health of Seattle residents. Seattle’s urban tree canopy provides habitat for nesting birds, and food for our migratory and resident species. In addition to connecting birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway, Seattle’s urban canopy provides important connections for wildlife between green spaces. Trees are also important for improving air quality and are important in offsetting climate change. As Seattle’s population increases, it is critical that we continue to preserve our city’s trees and increase our tree canopy particularly in low income and immigrant communities.

Please make protecting and increasing Seattle’s trees a priority.

Megan Friesen, PhD

Seattle Audubon
Conservation Manager
May 15, 2018