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Additional Comments to Urban Forestry Commission – regarding Seattle DPD’s latest draft tree ordinance updates

July 18, 2012

Steve Zemke Chair-Save the Trees- Seattle

 

Are DPD’s proposed revisions to our tree code the best we can do? It is important to compare them with what others are doing and one example is the new ordinance passed by Portland, Oregon last year.  Portland’s adopted code is much stronger than that proposed by DPD for Seattle.

On April 13, 2011 Portland, Oregon adopted much stronger tree protection regulations to protect their urban forest. The ordinance became effective May 13, 2011 and the actual regulations go into effect on Feb 1, 2011.  You can see the ordinance here:

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/index.cfm?&a=3457132 page summary
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/350786?&login=1Title 11 Trees Portland, Oregon

Portland currently has about a 26% canopy cover and has a goal of reaching 33%.

Their new ordinance consolidates tree rules under one title.

It addresses both public and private trees, both during development and outside development.

A City Forester is responsible for trees outside the development process and acts as a consultant during the development process with their development agency and also with a “responsible Engineer” overseeing utility, street trees and other public trees.

A two tier permit system to remove trees is established, applications being in writing or online.

Prior exemption for single family lots removed because of confusion.

It applies to street and city trees 3” or larger in diameter and private trees 12” or larger in diameter

private trees in some special zones 6” or larger also covered

Tree for tree replacement required for most permits, with inch for inch replacement or mitigation on 20 “‘ or larger trees.

A fee is assessed to process applications.

Tree permits must be posted on site.

Applicants can appeal city decisions on tree permits.  Public can appeal decisions on trees 20” or greater or more than 4 trees per year 12” or larger.

Development process focuses on saving large healthy trees, native trees and groves.

Building permits require 1/3 of trees on site 12” or larger to be retained or mitigated.

Building permits require meeting tree density standards and achieving baseline canopy goals.

These are a few of the provisions in Portland’s tree ordinance. It is important to note that this ordinance was developed in a much more open and public process than DPD’ has used. We ask again that DPD post all meetings open to the public on their website so that citizens in Seattle can find opportunities to listen to the discussion and give feedback to the City.  We also ask that DPD publicly post all comments submitted on their website, like Shoreline recently did, and like what is happening currently on comments on the Urban Forest Management Plan Update.

for ezrlier comments see:

http://www.majorityrules.org/2012/07/seattle-dpds-latest-draft-tree-ordinance-needs-strengthening-part-1.html

The following comments were submitted by Save the Trees – Seattle to the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission regarding the Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s latest draft Tree Ordinace. You can see the draft proposal here: www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/trees

Preliminary Comments to the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission –

regarding latest DPD draft of tree ordinance

July 18, 2012

Save the Trees-Seattle

Our initial observations: This draft is a disappointment but not unexpected considering DPD’s previous proposal. DPD spends the bulk of the 56 page draft ordinance on specific provisions regarding sites where they are issuing building permits and very little on protecting trees outside the development process.

While there are some good additions, like requiring all projects to add street trees, this provision already exists in most zones. They are adding it for Single Family Residential and Institutions. And while it appears they are now requiring permits to remove exceptional trees which they define as over 24″ in diameter, at the same time they remove any limitations on removing any trees smaller than this and also remove protections for tree groves. Brennan Staley made the comment at the UFC that one analysis showed that only 14% of the trees in the city were over 24″ dbh, meaning that 86% of the trees could be removed outside the development process with no limitations.

Their old definition for removing trees was that they would be saved unless they limit the development potential of a lot. They are now saying an exceptional tree will be saved “unless the location of proposed principle (sic) structure would not allow an adequate tree protection area…” It’s just a different way of saying the sane thing.

By simplifying their definition of an exceptional tree to one 24″ in diameter they are removing protections for many trees that the Director’s Rule 16-2008 on Designation of Exceptional Trees classified as exceptional with a much smaller dbh depending on the tree species. Madrona trees for example were classified as exceptional at 6″ dbh and Quacking aspen at 12″ and Pacific dogwood at 6″. They would no longer be exceptional under DPD’s new proposal.

Currently people are able to remove 3 trees a year from their property. This is way too many but DPD removes all protections for trees less than 24″ in diameter . The current system is not acceptable because the number needs to be less and because we need a permit system to track loss and hopefully slow loss by educating people on the value of our trees. Vancouver, BC, eg, limits removal to 1 per year. Shoreline’s recently passed ordinance varies the number based on lot size.

DPD does nothing to mitigate loss of non-exceptional trees. The problem remains that tree protection should not be under DPD. It should be administered by a department that has a vested interest in saving trees and can be an advocate for doing that, not a Department whose main mission is to help people develop their property and find ways to make it easier for them to remove trees. Possible Departments with more of a mission to save trees include Seattle Public Utilities, Office of Sustainability and Environment and the Parks Department. DPD could still oversee the process of tree protection during development but not over private trees outside development.

Some good things in the draft:

1. Adding single family homes and institutions undergoing development to list of zones that must add street trees.

2. Requiring an online permit to remove trees larger than 24″ dbh.

3. Implementing tree removal application fee for exceptional trees to help cover cost and evaluation

4. Removing single family home lots smaller than 5000 sf from not being covered by new ordinance.

5. Higher credit given for evergreens saved or planted during development

What is missing from this draft:

1. Protection of tree groves

2. Protection of trees smaller than 24″ dbh, including trees previously classified as exceptional

3. A permit system for trees smaller than 24″dbh

4. Extending the permit system for exceptional trees to include public trees

5. Consolidating oversight, regulation and enforcement in a Department without a conflict of interest like DPD has.

6. licensing and training for arborists and tree removal companies

7. posting completed tree removal applications on line and posting of property

8. requiring disclosure of exceptional trees on property by real estate agents when property is sold

9. incentives to save trees like utility rebates

10. replacement of trees removed so there is no net loss of canopy over time, except some during development for not meeting credits

11 requirement to id all trees on property in development plans.

12. more emphasis on native trees and habitat values in tree plantings and preservation

It is important to note that Portland has approved a much more far reaching ordinance last year to protect their trees citywide that goes into effect in 2013.

At the last Urban Forestry Commission meeting Brennon Staley, the DPD lead for the new draft tree ordinance, asserted that if his version is enacted we would have the strongest tree ordinance of any large NW city. I do not agree.

I forwarded this post last September to the UFC noting that Portland has made significant moves in their urban forestry protection efforts, including protections for private trees on single family lots.

http://www.majorityrules.org/2011/09/portland-oregon-leads-the-way-in-protecting-its-trees-seattle-needs-to-follow.html

Here are the two pertinent links in that post, You’ll have to log in to the city website to access them. Because the bulk of the new tree ordinance does not go into effect until next year (2013) it appears the new ordinance does not come up easily in a Google search of Portland’s tree policies. This may be the result of an effort by Portland to not confuse the public as to what they are currently required to do.

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/index.cfm?&a=345713 2 page summary

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/350786?&login=1 Title 11 Trees Portland, Oregon

I will be providing more detail on Portland’s law in my public comments later but wanted to give UFC members a chance to check out the links before today’s meeting. We can do a lot more to protect private trees than DPD’s current draft proposes.

Steve Zemke
Chair – Save the Trees -Seattle
stevezemke@msn.com

Trees removed from Ingraham High School in 2011

 

Trees being cut at Ingraham High School in 2011

Citizens file public records request for Mayor McGinn and DPD to disclose who is involved in drafting legislation to significantly reduce protection for trees in Seattle

On Friday, May 25, 2012 Save the Trees-Seattle filed public records requests with the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and with the Office of the Mayor regarding their roles in implementing and carrying out the directives in Seattle City Council Resolution 31138 and to find out who else is involved.

Resolution 31138 passed August 3 2009 and requested “that the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) submit legislation by May 2010 to establish a comprehensive set of regulations and incentives to limit the removal of trees and promote the retention and addition of trees within the City of Seattle on both private and public property, including city park land. DPD shall consult with all city departments that own lands that will be affected by these regulations or incentives.”

However in response to this resolution DPD submitted a scoping document in 2011 that mostly ignored the issues and direction that the Seattle City Council asked to be considered. Instead they  proposed dropping all existing regulations to protect significant trees and tree groves in Seattle. saying that all that was needed were incentives and education. This is contrary to the direction most other cities are moving.

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission and tree advocates strongly objected to last year’s scoping document’s conclusions and the flawed public review process that DPD held. When asked, DPD’s representative on several occasions publicly stated that they did not have to tell the public where and when public meetings were being held where people could give input. They would not post on the city’s website the places and times publicly paid city workers were discussing the proposed ordinance. They then tried to claim that they sought public input.

Unlike Shoreline which last year conducted a public process to receive citizen input on their proposed tree ordinance and posted citizen comment on the website, DPD only “summarized” what input they received and did not release or post what citizens and others actually submitted. They did not as far as we could tell record most public comments at meetings we attended or have a form for people to respond to nor did they take notes of most comments. In other words we did not really see a public record being kept of public input.

A DPD representative who is the point person to the Urban Forestry Commission informed the Urban Forestry Commission earlier this month that DPD has now drafted a new proposed tree ordinance. This was news to the Urban Forestry Commission as none of them appeared to have been involved in reviewing or writing this new proposed ordinance even though there are many experts on the Urban Forestry Commission.

Who drafted this proposed ordinance which we are told will be released in July for public comment? The recent article in the Seattle Times entitled “Developer interests guide mayor Mayor’s growth proposals” seems to answer the question – Mayor McGinn’s shadow government which is operating out of the public eye. No one in the urban forestry and tree protection community was involved to our knowledge.

This secretive cabal of special interest adviser’s to McGinn is operating outside the public eye and without public scrutiny. Yet DPD’s Head – Diane Sugimura is involved and that probably explains how last year’s flawed tree protection proposal supposedly written by DPD and that represents the developer’s position and would have removed protection for most trees in Seattle and that opposed a tree permit system to remove trees,  came to be the exact opposite of what the Seattle City Council requested. DPD’s proposal pushed for deregulation rather than protection for trees and Seattle’s urban forest.

There will always be differences of opinion on proposed legislation but a process that is a sham and shuts out the public, but listens to special interests, has no place in Seattle. It has no credibility. That is why we are seeking information so that the public knows who is driving this effort to deregulate tree protection in Seattle.  We believe the City Council needs to remove the drafting of a new tree ordinance from DPD which has a conflict of interest in representing development interests and not tree protection. They get revenue from issuing building permits, not saving trees.

Seattle Public Utilities or the Office of Sustainability and the Environment would be better city Departments to propose draft legislation and oversee such legislation. Nine city Departments deal with tree issues.   A combination of the Urban Forestry Commission, the Planning Commission and the Parks Commission would not have a conflict of interest  in overseeing a public review process of proposed legislation. DPD did a terribly flawed process and is not to be trusted.

This flawed DPD faux public process is in danger of being repeated again. This is the wrong way to draft legislation. Seattle should look to Portland as an example where a public process involved public meetings conducted jointly by their Urban Forestry Commission and their Planning Commission and received strong public support.

Legislation crafted by special interests behind closed doors has no place in Seattle and needs to be rejected. It’s up to the City Council to step in to change this flawed process. DPD and their developer interests have a conflict of interest in drafting a tree protection ordinance and should not be in charge of doing so.

Maybe it’s time to check if Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn is still carrying his Sierra Club Card. His Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has issued a controversial draft proposal, entitled City of Seattle Proposed Tree Regulations Dated July 14, 2010.

Unfortunately the proposal represents a complete reversal of recent tree protection legislation passed by the Seattle City Council and signed by McGinn’s predecessor, Mayor Greg Nickels. The proposal calls for ending all protection for mature trees in Seattle. It would rescind Director’s Rules 16-2008 which protects exceptional trees in Seattle.

It would also repeal the interim tree ordinance passed last year by the City Council which among other things protected tree groves and limited the number of trees which could be cut down in any given year. DPD’s proposal runs counter to Resolution 31138, passed by the Seattle City Council last year calling for strengthening trees protections, not weakening them. And it ignores most of the problems identified by the City Auditor in 2009 entitled “Management of City’s Trees Can be Improved.”

Seattle’s urban forest and trees comprise an important component of Seattle’s green infrastructure. Our urban forest reduces costs to taxpayers by reducing storm water runoff and cleaning pollutants from the air we breathe. It provides habitat for wildlife, screens noise and reduces weather impacts. Seattle’s urban forest has been in decline in recent decades, losing canopy and mature trees.

The report was prepared in secret without a public process and is being marketed by DPD as the best way to increase our urban forest canopy. Comments will be accepted until Oct 31, 2010. The report proposes that instead of regulation, the city rely on education and incentives to protect trees. Unfortunately there are no good examples of places where this approach has worked.

Other cities are strengthening their tree regulations rather than proposing eliminating them. Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission has reviewed the preliminary draft report and does not support the approach being proposed by DPD. They note that the proposed DPD framework would eliminate protections for trees on 99.5% of Seattle’s property and only apply to the .5% of property being developed each year. Once a building site is complete, there would be no ongoing protections for trees under DPD’s proposal.

DPD is presenting their draft proposal to the Regional Development and Sustainability Committee of the Seattle City Council this afternoon, August 17, 2010 from 2 PM to 4 PM. The Urban Forestry Commission will also be discussing at this meeting their problems with the proposal. They have prepared a written response to DPD’s proposal.

Neighborhood and environmental activists across the City are outraged by the proposal. They held a public meeting at the Broadview Library on August 8, 2010 and decided to organize a Coalition effort to draft a citizen’s alternative to DPD’s proposal. The consensus of the meeting was that the DPD proposal was so extreme and contrary to public opinion and went in the opposite direction from that which other cities are moving; that DPD could not be trusted to prepare a forward looking and comprehensive proposal that addressed the need of the city to protect and expand our our urban forest and trees.

The organizations and community representatives meeting decided to consolidate and focus their efforts to enact a strong urban forestry ordinance under one umbrella group. The group agreed to organize under the auspices of Save the Trees-Seattle which has been fighting to save the old trees at Ingraham High School for the last two and one half years. Save the Trees-Seattle also came up with the idea of Seattle having an Urban Forestry Commission based on science. The City Council created the Urban Forestry Commission last year and they have been meeting since January. Save the Trees – Seattle also worked to pass the interim tree ordinance enacted last year.

The new coaltion under the name Save the Trees – Seattle established a legislative committee which will be putting together a citizen’s draft ordinance. They will be seeking public input and welcome tree advocates and others from around the city to participate in the process. They will send their draft proposal to various groups and organizations around the city for review and will be speaking before interested organizations, seeking public feedback.

Coalition members of Save the Trees –Seattle have agreed on some preliminary proposals that they believe should be incorporated in any comprehensive urban forestry and tree ordinance. These include:

1. Maintain and expand protection for exceptional trees and tree groves

2. Expand current permit system for street trees to include all trees over 6 inches in diameter on public and private property; 2 week posting of permits on internet and visible sign on site, appeal process

3. Comprehensive regulations that cover both public and private sectors

4. Consolidate oversight, regulation and enforcement in an independent department other than DPD, that does not have a conflict of interest

5. License and train all arborists and tree cutting operations; with fines and suspension for violations of law

6. Give priority to native trees and vegetation to help preserve native plants and animals

7. Emphasis on habitat and ecological processes and soil as part of urban forestry

8. All real estate sales to require disclosure of exceptional trees on property or all trees requiring a permit to remove

9. Define canopy cover in terms of volume and area

10. Rebate on utility bills based on exceptional trees (or all trees over 6 inches in diameter) on property; property owners file to get rebate like they file for senior’s property tax exemption

11. Meaningful and descriptive site plans that show existing and proposed trees to scale.

The coalition will meet again on August 29, 2010 at the Broadview Public Library from 1:30 to 4:30 PM.

The Seattle Departmant of Planning and Development (DPD) is proposing new tree regulations that would eliminate current protections for exceptional trees, tree groves and most other trees. The proposal was developed in secret without a public process. 

The draft proposal was prepared in response to last year’s City Council Resolution 31138 . The DPD proposal is inadequate and does not meet the pressing needs of preserving and enhancing Seattle urban forest and trees. It represents a significant step backwards in protecting this valuable infrastructure of our city.

It is important to note that the very first directive in Resolution 31138 in Section 1 is not met in several ways by DPD’s “City of Seattle Proposed Tree Regulations dated July 14, 2010. The resolution states that “The City Council requests that the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) submit legislation by May 2010 to establish a comprehensive set of regulations and incentives to limit the removal of trees and promote the retention and addition of trees within the City of Seattle on both private and public property, including city park land.”

The report does the opposite by proposing the repeal of the interim tree ordinance, removal of protections for exceptional trees and relying only on incentives to protect trees. 

DPD’s proposal is not legislation but only a report. In the introduction it states that “The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is proposing to revise Seattle’s regulations governing trees on private property.” The report completely ignores the public component of protecting the urban forest. If urban forest regulations are to be effective, public and private entities must follow the same regulations.

Resolution 31138 directed DPD to look at “establishing additional protections for all City-designated exceptional trees”. This seems pretty clear, yet DPD’s response is to propose eliminating any protections for exceptional trees. This would represent a major reversal and repudiation of the goals of protecting unique species, old trees and others currently classified as exceptional. This is unacceptable.

Another criticism of the report is that it approaches urban forestry protection only from the sense of trees, not urban forestry. It ignores the ecological component of the interrelationship of plants and animals and the need for habitat protection. The impact of individual tree decisions is never in isolation but affects communities of plants and animals and their ability to survive.

The interim tree ordinance gave protection to groves of trees; yet no mention is made of this in this report. Many species of birds, insects and other animal’s survival depends on the retention of native plant species, including but not limited to “trees”. It is well known that the diversity of plants and animals increases as habitat patch size increases. The proposal removes interim protection for tree groves.

Also the whole definition of canopy analysis is dated ecologically. Canopy needs to be defined in terms of canopy volume. In an aerial photo a 100 year old 120 foot tall Douglas fir could appear to cover the same surface area as a group of 5 or 10 street trees yet the canopy volume would be hugely different.

This report needs to take into consideration these concerns of biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability. Many of these concerns are addressed in a 68 page report by the Montgomery Tree Committee entitled “Urban Tree Conservation: A White Paper on Local Ordinances”

An inherent conflict of interest exists in having DPD develop and oversee urban forest and tree regulations. It represents an internal conflict of interests. DPD’s primary mission is to help people develop their property. As noted in a recent public presentation by a DPD employee, the DPD’s interpretation is that trees can be saved unless they prohibit the development potential of a lot. As such DPD’s mission is clear and trees lose.

Seattle’s urban forest needs an independent advocate for its protection. The most likely candidate is to vest tree regulation and oversight in one city agency, not nine as is currently the situation. The Office of Sustainability and Environment is the most logical choice. The recent city Auditor’s Report in 2009 entitled “Management of City Trees Can be Improved”, concurred with this view when it stated that the City “Unify all City Departments behind a single mission through clear and demonstrated leadership by the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. The City’s current approach to trees lacks top leadership with the authority and accountability to ensure implementation of the Urban Forestry Management Plan.”

Another directive is to look at “establishing a requirement to obtain a permit before removing any tree in any residential, commercial or industrial zone”. Again pretty clear, yet DPD’s response is to oppose this, despite other cities requiring permits before trees can be cut down. Seattle already has a requirement to get a permit to cut down or prune privately planted and maintained trees in the public right of way, like the parking strip in front of one’s home. The permit is administered by SDOT, the Seattle Department of Transportation. The report makes no mention of this.

What is needed is to expand this current tree cutting permit to include all trees on public and private property that are above some minimum diameter. Many cities use a 6 inch diameter. Of course a special case needs to be dealt with in replacement trees that are planted as the result of, e.g., a land use action. Many of these trees will be less than 6 inches in diameter for a number of years.

Permits could be several tiered, with a list of exceptional trees being much more difficult to remove. There is no enforcement now of cutting of exceptional trees because DPD operates with a complaint based system, rather than a permit system. It is a dismal failure. By the time you hear the chainsaw, it is impossible to save exceptional trees or any other trees.

Permits could be applied for on the internet, and posted for at least a week before final approval and for a week afterwards so that the public and the city have a chance to check them out. Atlanta, GA requires a 2 week posting period. For a large tree like a 70 year old Douglas fir, a week or two is a small time indeed. Signs should also be posted, visible to the public in the vicinity of the tree to be cut. Neighbors on adjoining properties should be notified since frequently tree disputes are about whose tree it really is. A way to question or appeal the tree cutting should be set up, requiring at least a second opinion by the city or another arborist.

To eliminate the requirement that property owners know every nuance of the law, tree arborists doing business in the city should apply for a special tree cutting license, be professionally certified and attend a briefing by city officials on our tree laws and regulations. If trees are removed contrary to the law, the city could then go after the arborists with fines, and for repeat offenders or multiple violations, revocation also of their license. Most homeowners are not going to cut down large trees on their property because of damage and liability issues. They will probably hire someone.

One possible incentive system could be patterned after the senior exemption for property owners. The senior exemption is not automatic but property owners have to fill out an application and not exceed certain income levels. A rebate or reduction in water and sewer bills for maintaining trees and forested area could be made available but people would have to apply for them, listing tree species and sizes. This would help to establish the connection between trees and the benefits they provide property and home owners and the city.

Unfortunately the DPD report was prepared in secret without any major public input. It did not represent an open process or even examine many issues brought up in resolution 31138. And it is by no means comprehensive. Besides some of the major concerns we’ve brought up, any urban forestry or “tree” regulation is subject to the details in how the law would actually be written. The devil is in the details and there are very few details in this report.

As an example the DPD should use as a starting guideline an evaluation of any proposed regulation on the level proposed by The International Society of Arboriculture in its 181 page “Guideline for Developing and Evaluating Tree Ordinances.” A smaller and incomplete checklist was also developed by the Georgia Forestry Commission entitled, “Tree Ordinance Development Guideline”.

Both these reports should act as a starting point to discuss the multitude of issues and specific concerns that need to be addressed in the development of any comprehensive urban forest and tree ordinance that both works and is accepted by the public. The current report is incomplete and unacceptable.

Please contact Mayor McGinn and the Seattle City Council to voice your opposition to DPD’s proposal to remove protections for exceptional trees, tree groves and our urban forest.  Urge that they enact strong legislation to protect our urban forest, increase our canopy cover and protect habitat for native plants and animals.

You can contact them at:

mike.mcginn@seattle.gov seattle.gov
richard.conlin@seattle.gov
nick.licata@seattle.gov
tom.rasmussen@seasttle.gov
sally.clark@seattle.gov
tim.burgess@seattle.gov
bruce.harrell@seattle.gov
jean.godden@seattle.gov
sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov
mike.obrien@seattle.gov

also cc the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission at
tracy.morgenstern@seattle.gov

In a bizarre analysis by the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, it is proposed that Seattle no longer protect its large and old trees.  This is no joke.  They propose incentives as a better way to protect trees, but provide no clear examples or surveys showing this approach works.  They argue that because the current system doesn’t seem to work for them, that we should quit trying. This is like BP after a week saying they couldn’t stop the oil flowing into the Gulf so they were giving up.

Seattle’s current system doesn’t work largely because DPD doesn’t enforce it.  No permits are required by DPD to cut down trees of any size. Under the current interim ordinance someone can supposedly cut down up to 3 trees a year on their property.  Although they are not supposed to cut down exceptional trees (which are detailed in Director’s Rule 16-2008), unless diseased or a hazard, the only way DPD follows up is if someone files a complaint.  Of course by the time you hear the chainsaw it is too late to stop the tree or trees from being cut down.

This is why Seattle needs to put in place an expanded system to require that people get a permit to cut down any tree over 6 inches. I say expanded because we already have a permit program  for removing or pruning privately maintained street trees in the right of way. It is administrated by the Seattle Department of Transportation  (SDOT). Other cities also require permits before trees can be cut down.

The whole idea is to be sure that trees are not removed unnecessarily, that the tree is not really on someone else’s property and that it is not an exceptional tree. An expanded permit system could be required for removal of any tree 6 inches in diameter or larger by private property owners and by the city. Citizens need to know that the city has to follow the same rules as they do. The current DPD proposal only refers to private property.

Permits could be several tiered, with exceptional trees being harder to cut down because of increased fees and more requirements to get approval.  Hazardous or diseased trees would be able to be removed with minimal or no restrictions.

Permits could be applied for on the Internet and posted for a minimum of 1 week before being approved. Physical posting on the property and visible to the public would be required for 1 week before and 1 week after cutting.

Arborists working in the city would be required to certified by a professional group and register with the city.  They would be required to attend a briefing on the city’s tree regulations. If exceptional trees are cut down without approval, arborists would be fined and or lose their license to do business in the city.  It is easier to inform several hundred arborists of our tree and urban forestry regulations than it is to try to inform all the citizens.  Most large trees in the city require an arborist to cut in most cases, few homeowners are skilled enough or able to cut large trees in the city without facing potential damage and liability issues.

DPD’s analysis is flawed because it emphasizes trees as a burden rather than as a part of Seattle’s infrastructure. Our urban forest and its trees and vegetation  reduce storm water runoff, clean the air, reduce noise pollution, provide habitat for birds, insects and other animals, provide aesthetics as a green space and contribute to our quality of life in the city.

We can have trees and development; it is not an either/or situation.  We need to protect our green infrastructure.  Most of Seattle’s canopy increase is coming from increased planting of street trees.  We are losing the large old trees with their much larger canopy volume and resultant benefits to city inhabitants.  DPD proposal is a major step backward. Let the Seattle City Council and the Mayor know that you oppose the current proposal and that they need to put emphasis on retaining our trees.  They represent the green legacy that we need to protect and pass on to future generations living in the Emerald City.

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