Currently viewing the tag: "Urban Forestry"

Seattle City Council

 

The Seattle City Council has unanimously passed it’s updated Street Tree Ordinance. There were no amendments – if changes are desired in legislation it’s necessary to get them done in Committee before they come to the full Council for a vote. Thank you to everyone who took time to write or contact the Seattle City Council on this issue.

You can view the adopted Ordinance # 117745  by clicking on this link.

The gist of the bill is that permits will be required to remove or do major trimming to street trees and  tree replacement is required for trees removed “if site conditions permit”.
Applying for a permit to remove a street tree does not mean it will be removed.
A tree can only be removed if it is a hazardous tree, poses a public safety hazard, is in a condition of poor health or poor vigor or cannot be successfully retained due to public or private construction or development conflicts.
Notice of an application to remove a tree must be publicly posted at the site for 14 days and public comment will be accepted before the Director makes a decision.
Any person violating the act shall be subject to a fine of up to $500 per day.
In addition any person who destroys, injures  or mutilates a street tree may be subject to a fine equal to the appraised value of the tree and if the violation is willful or malicious, the penalty may be trebled.
All tree service providers engaged in pruning, removing or otherwise treating street trees shall register annually with the Department of Transportation.
Any major pruning, removal or treatment of street trees by a Tree Service provider shall be certified by an ISA certified arborist or ISA certified worker.

You can read the full ordinance to get more details. If you have concerns about specific language or its interpretation you should let Nolan Rundquist at the SDOT know as they will be preparing CAMS or Client Assistance Memos to explain details to the public to clarify issues which may be confusing.

Nolan Rundquist, the City Arborist at SDOT has been working many years to get this ordinance drafted and passed and should be thanked for sticking with it. Also the Seattle Urban Forest Commission helped in reviewing the proposal as well as members of the public. And Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin deserves special recognition for leading the Council effort to enact this update.

Next up in the next few months will be the 5 year update of the Urban Forest Management Plan which is being renamed  the Urban Forest Stewardship Plan.

The third component of the urban forest updates is the private property tree ordinance proposal.  DPD  (Seattle Department of Planning and Development) has said they will release a new draft sometime in June and we can expect the issue will be before the Seattle City Council for a vote early next year.

So far this has been the hardest component of the urban forest updates to reach agreement on because of DPD’s bias toward development as its mission rather than the protection of trees. This is why efforts need to be continued to move oversight of trees to the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE).  DPD’s prime mission is to help developers build projects, not protect trees. To get maximum protection, tree oversight needs to be in a department where they have an advocate to speak for them and OSE’s mission is most consistent with that.

Keep updated on Seattle tree and urban forestry issues by following  Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest   

Save the Trees- Seattle

Action Alert

Support a Stronger Tree Protection Ordinance for Seattle

 The Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has released a draft tree ordinance that they want the Seattle City Council to pass.  While it has some good points, it unfortunately weakens our current protection of trees and tree groves in Seattle and will result in further decreasing our urban forestry infrastructure that benefits all citizens by reducing storm water runoff, cleaning our air of pollutants, sequestering carbon, providing habitat for wildlife and many other benefits.

DPD’s draft proposal can be seen here:

www.seattle.gov/dpd/planning/trees

The following is a brief evaluation by Save the Trees-Seattle of the pluses and minuses of the DPD proposal. Most of the proposal deals with trees during the development process and needs to be expanded to better protect trees outside development. We need to do better to save our trees.

Some good things in the draft:

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

2. Requiring an online permit to remove trees larger than 24″ diameter breast height (dbh).

3. Implementing a 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 the current ordinance.

5. Higher credit is 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 many trees previously classified as exceptional

3. A permit system for trees smaller than 24″ dbh. Portland Oregon will cover all trees 10”dbh and larger.

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. Trees need an advocate for their protection and Seattle Public Utilities or the Office of Sustainability and the Environment make more sense for overseeing protecting trees in the city

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 Requirements to id all trees on property in development plans.

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

You can see more extensive detail on these concerns in comments delivered to the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission and posted here:

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

http://www.majorityrules.org/2012/07/seattle-dpds-latest-draft-tree-ordinance-needs-strengthening-part-2.html

Trees in Seattle need your help and support to survive.  Only about 14% of the trees in Seattle are larger than 24” dbh. This proposal would allow all trees less than 24” dbh to be cut down in Seattle!

Please send in comments in your own words expressing your concerns. Your voice needs to be heard to help protect Seattle’s trees for future generations.

Comments will be received through Oct 1, 2012. To have maximum effect, besides sending comments to DPD at

Brennon.Staley@Seattle.gov

you should also forward them to the Urban Forestry Commission at

Sandra.Pinto_de_Bader@seattle.gov

and to the Seattle City Council members at

bruce.harrell@seattle.gov

jean.godden@seattle.gov

mike.obrien@seattle.gov

nick.licata@seattle.gov

richard.conlin@seattle.gov

sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov

sally.clark@seattle.gov

tim.burgess@seattle.gov

tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov

and to the Mayor at

mike.mcginn@seattle.gov

Please bcc  stevezemke@msn.com so we can track public comments being sent in.

Join us on facebook by liking our page – “Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest”.

Financial contributions to support our campaign for a stronger tree ordinance are needed.

Make checks out to Save the Trees-Seattle and send them to:

Save the Trees-Seattle, c/o Steve Zemke, 2131 N 132nd St, Seattle, WA 98133

e-mail us at stevezemke@msn.com

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

To Shoreline City Council

June 18, 2012

Regarding Amendments to Code regarding Trees

Dear City Council and Mayor:

I want to urge your support for Ordinance No 640 as in Attachment A-1 as recommended by the Planning Commission.

While I do not believe the amendments go very far in terms of protecting trees in the future, they are a step in the right direction.  The proposals from staff labeled as Attachment A-2 in the May 21st Council memo for Agenda item 8(a) at your June 18, 2012 meeting  do not take into account future development or the lack of precision in your canopy calculations in your March 2011 Canopy Assessment. That study noted that it has a 2 foot resolution and the earlier study had a 90 foot resolution.  The earlier data are called approximations – I could not find what the range of accuracy was. The study does note that a “1% increase would take approximately 6000 trees with a mature crown diameter of 30 feet”.  Thus if the earlier value was 32% or 33% canopy cover you’re talking about 6000 to 12,000 trees being removed.

If you do not require some type of tracking of trees being removed you have no good way of tracking your success and how many trees you need to replace just to keep at the same level of canopy.  This is why a tree removal permit would help.  And a requirement that trees being removed be replaced either on or off site would help you to maintain canopy.  But saying you can remove 6 trees in 3 years and not be required to replace them says you are going to lose canopy over time.

I find the most recent comments by the Innis Arden Club as not credible.  They are arguing for being able to remove trees with no regard for the impact on storm water runoff, habitat value, noise screening, air pollution reduction as biased by their position that “ view” trumps all other considerations.  Innis Arden is only one area of Shoreline and they need to join the rest of the Community of Shoreline in working to protect the common urban forest and the values it provides to urban living.

One example of their lack of scientific credibility is their statement that there is no justification for protecting 30”DBH trees.  Tree Services magazine for example notes that:

One hot issue in cities now is managing storm water. Only the big trees have the capacity to intercept about 80 percent of a 1-inch rainfall, compared to small trees, which intercept only 16 percent. “To a storm water engineer, a large tree is the perfect management system,” said Kirwan.

Large trees in urban areas, however, are on the decline—about 25 percent of city tree canopy has disappeared in the past 30 years according to a satellite image analysis conducted by American Forests (www.americanforests.org), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group. The organization estimates that 634,407,719 trees are currently missing from metropolitan areas across the United States as a result of urban (and suburban) development.

In terms of pollution, big trees are sorely being missed in cities. They remove 60 to 70 percent more pollution than small trees, and they can also absorb more than 1,500 gallons of water a year. They also keep temperatures down. In Atlanta, Ga., for example, where 380,000 acres of trees have been cut down in the city and surrounding areas in the past 30 years, the average temperature is 5 to 8 degrees higher than surrounding woodlands. “http://www.treeservicesmagazine.com/article-1300.aspx

This is just one example of why big trees need to be protected and why you need to put in place measures to maintain or increase canopy and trees in Shoreline.

So I urge you to consider these issues carefully and realize that pressures to remove the urban forest trees will only increase.  Now is the time to act to put in place to protect trees, not keep the status quo or weaken  protections that will cause more problems and costs for future citizens living in Shoreline .

 

Steve Zemke

Chair – Save the Trees – Seattle

Note added:

On June 18, 2012 the Shoreline City Council by a vote of 4 to 3 did approve most of the recommendations of their Planning Commission, including reducing the numbers of trees that could be removed in a 3 year period from 6 on all lots to a variable 3-6 depending on lot size.  They also required a permit to remove trees over 30 inches in diameter at breast height.

for more information see – Of Paramount Importance – “Shoreline’s Trees: A triumph of Hope Over Fear”

June 11, 2012

To the Shoreline City Council

Regarding your proposed Tree Code Amendments, I wish to express my concern that they appear to do little to add tree protection to Shoreline.  My wife and I have owned a rental house in Shoreline for about 15 years.  My observation has been that trees continue to come down and replacement trees are not planted. One neighbor next door removed an evergreen tree taller than their house and a mature Mountain ash.  No replacement trees were planted. Several older Douglas firs have also been cut on other properties in the neighborhood and these are only ones I saw cut down and had firsthand knowledge of.

These first hand observations lend concern to your Urban Tree Canopy Assessment of March 2011. While the accuracy of evaluating canopy area has significantly improved by the 2009 study, I find it difficult to accept any statement that canopy cover is about the same as in 1992 and 2001.  As the study acknowledges the earlier studies are “rough estimates of canopy and impervious land cover based on coarse 30 meter resolution land use data “.  30 meters is over 90 feet or about a third of the length of a football field. Later it says that the 30% values for canopy “are approximates” and “This data is generalized and therefore not to be compared to the more detailed CITYgreen data.”

What this says to me is that you have a much more detailed and more accurate analysis based on the 2009 data that indicates a present value of about 30.6% canopy. This is below your stated goal of 35%. What you do not have are reliable comparison points because of the lack of resolution of the previous studies. You also state a goal of not losing more canopy.

Besides reducing the number of trees that can be removed over a three year period based on lot size you are really not increasing tree protection in my view.  This is particularly true when one considers that removing the prohibition on removing trees from undeveloped lots will increase the probability of more trees being removed. This is a step backwards and increases the probability of trees in remaining groves being reduced.

You put in place no mechanism for tracking trees being removed which is what a permit system does.  Requiring permits for trees over 30 inches to be removed only deals with one segment of the trees in the city. A 30 inch Douglas fir is going to be about 75 years old and 100 feet tall.  One problem here is that by only giving some protection to the oldest trees you allow younger replacement trees to be cut.  What happens when the old trees die if you do not have replacement trees to take their place. A healthy urban forest needs a range of tree ages and sizes for both replacement as old trees die and also for varied habitat for birds and insects. Bird species typically stratify in trees such that older Douglas firs for example actually have 3 different vertical layers of bird habitat.

I believe a permit system is the best way to track tree loss and also understand the health of your urban forest. It also functions to educate people about the value of trees. Such a system is important in maintaining a diverse habitat for wildlife and replacement. Such a permit system does not have to be cost prohibitive but can be set up as an online system with approval given online. Google street maps for example have street views which can be used to visually see things from a street level as well as Google maps viewing from space.

It also seems imperative if you don’t want to lose canopy and trees that you must require replacement of equivalent trees either on site or off site. While canopy may increase due to existing tree growth, without replacement you are decreasing the absolute number of trees as well as the potential diversity of trees.  From a stormwater runoff sense coniferous trees provide value year round.  Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall.  They provide little help in the winter. This is another reason to track tree loss, to see which species and what size trees are being cut down.

Another issue that needs to be considered is the use of native trees for replacement trees.  Native trees are supportive of native insect and bird species as well as adapted to climate and rain conditions in the NW.

Tree canopy as defined in your 2009 study is also only two dimensional whereas the value and worth of canopy to the urban forest is also based on canopy volume.  Cutting tall old conifer trees and replacing them with small trees like street trees are not an equivalence in value to the city in terms of the benefits different size and species of trees provide to the city and its residents.

Something Shoreline should look into is setting up a tree wiki like San Francisco and Philadelphia have.  It is an excellent tracking tool for change and a great educational tool for citizens, students, community groups and others.  You can check these out at these two links:

http://urbanforestmap.org/  and http://phillytreemap.org/

Seattle Audubon currently has a grant to start up a tree map wiki in Seattle. Joining this effort by adding Shoreline would be a great asset for both cites in trying to evaluate and protect the urban forest resources both have. I urge you look into this.

Steve Zemke

Chair – Save the Trees – Seattle

Note added for update:

On June 18, 2012 the Shoreline City Council by a vote of 4 to 3 did approve most of the recommendations of their Planning Commission, including reducing the numbers of trees that could be removed in a 3 year period from 6 on all lots to a variable 3-6 depending on lot size.  They also required a permit to remove trees over 30 inches in diameter at breast height.

for more information see – Of Paramount Importance - “Shoreline’s Trees: A triumph of Hope Over Fear”

There is some exciting news out of Portland, Oregon. Earlier this year they completed a lengthy several year process to enact a new Urban Forest Ordinance to significantly increase protection for trees and tree groves in their city. It has incorporated many of the features tree advocates have been asking for here in Seattle, including a requirement for tree permits to remove trees on both public and private property, tree replacement required for trees removed on private property and shifting most or all of tree oversight out of DPD (Department of Planning and Development).

Portland removes tree oversight, except during development on private property, out of their Development Agency to their City Forester.They developed their new ordinance through their “Citywide Tree Policy Review and Regulatory Project“. As noted on their 2 page summary sheet, their involvement and collaboration involved “more than 1000 hours with their stakeholder group, 250 meetings in the community, two sets of open houses, five-month joint Planning Commission/Urban Forestry Commission hearing process and ongoing collaboration between six City Bureaus“.
Portland has slightly less population than Seattle, has a larger area and is striving for 33% canopy cover. (Seattle current goal is 30% in the Urban Forest Management Plan)

What is significant about Portland’s proposal is that Portland is doing a lot of what DPD says we can’t do here or doesn’t want to do. Portland is expanding their permit system to include both public and private trees.  They are requiring permits (which are a way of tracking tree loss and gain) for public trees 3 inches and larger in diameter and for private trees 12 inches and larger in diameter with some overlay areas using 6 inches and larger diameter.

They are requiring tree for tree replacement for most permits, with inch for inch replacement on larger trees and groves. Seattle currently has no such replacement requirements for most trees removed on private property which makes it difficult to comply with the City Comprehensive Plan which actually calls for no net loss of canopy and increasing our tree canopy to 40%.

Portland divides their tree protection process oversight by allowing their Development arm to oversee tree protection during development and their City Forester to oversee all other tree protection. This would make sense also in Seattle as DPD is only involved with about 1% of the city’s land in any given year that is being developed. As the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission noted in their review of DPD’s proposed tree regulation changes earlier this year, DPD did not address protection for 99% of the city’s land in any given year.

Portland has taken the regional lead in setting the new standard for comprehensive urban forestry protection and Seattle needs to look closely at what Portland has done and the public process they used to arrive at their new ordinance. It is a very different model than DPD has proposed. Portland’s new ordinance is the way many other cities in our region are moving in increasing protection of trees and their urban forest. It is the way Seattle needs to move.

Links to new Portland, Oregon tree regulations:

summary of new tree regulations adopted 2011
text of new tree regulations adopted 2011

 

NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

In a brief decision, King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle recently ruled against the appeal of Save the Trees-Seattle to prevent clear cutting a quarter of a grove of 70 year old, 100 foot tall Douglas fir, western red cedar and western madrone tress in an uncommon plant habitat at Ingraham High School in North Seattle. This was despite the fact that only a few hundred feet away the Seattle School District had identified in a Master Plan a large open lawn area as a future building site.

The decision clearly says that in Seattle trees have no legal standing. Judge Doyle’s decision in essence says that development of any property in the city trumps tree protection and preservation. The Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s stated policy is that they are all for protecting trees unless it limits the development potential of a lot. In this instance Judge Doyle is saying it does not even matter if there are alternative locations close by on the site that the building could be moved to or even if habitat is uncommon.

Despite Seattle City law saying that priority should be given to protecting uncommon, unique, or rare habitat, the Judge’s decision ignored a Seattle Hearing Examiner’s decision that the NW Grove is an uncommon plant habitat in the city of Seattle. It is a remnant of a conifer madrone forest in the City of which only 52 acres remain elsewhere. The species diversity present at the Ingraham site, some 14 different tree and shrub species, is comparable to that at the other major site where this plant community exists, namely at Seward Park in South Seattle.

What is disturbing about the decision is that it supports DPD’s tacit authority to ignore City tree protection laws and gives more impetus to DPD’s current proposal to actually remove from current city law, all protections for trees outside development. In any given year only 1% of city property is being developed. That means that 99% of the City’s trees in any given year would have no protection.

DPD’s proposal was reviewed by Mayor McGinn before it was released. It would remove all protection for exceptional trees and for tree groves. It is a death warrant for our city’s trees and will make it impossible to reach our goal of increasing the city’s tree canopy over the next 20 years or so.

The proposed clear cutting of the trees at Ingraham High School is just a continuation of the unofficial policy of the City of Seattle to prioritize development by any means over protection of our urban forest infrastructure. And now DPD wants to formally make it City law to prevent citizens from even questioning the misplaced priorities of the City.

Citizens need to speak out against this senseless slaughter of trees and our urban forest infrastructure without regard for the social, environmental and economic costs of this loss and the loss of what citizens value in living and enjoy in a city with trees and a vibrant urban forest.

Send an e-mail to Mayor McGinn and all 9 members of the Seattle City Council and urge they reject DPD’s proposal and instead work to add additional protections to the interim ordinance passed last year by the City Council.

Councilmembers’ e-mail adresses:

tim.burgess@seattle.gov
sally.clark@seattle.gov

richard.conlin@seattle.gov

sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov

jean.godden@seattle.gov

mike.obrien@seattle.gov

nick.licata@seattle.gov

bruce.harrell@seattle.gov

tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov

Send a letter: Mayor’s Office, Seattle City Hall 7th floor, 600 Fourth Avenue, P.O. Box 94749, Seattle, WA 98124-4749

Resolution of the battle to save the Ingraham Tree Grove is moving forward. On Friday, King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle turned down the Seattle School District’s petition to remove the Court Injunction put in place by Judge Erlick two years ago to prevent the Seattle School District from cutting 70 trees in the grove to end further environmental review.

Judge Doyle also denied the Seattle School District’s request for a $187,000 bond. It should be noted that Save the Trees-Seattle has in fact lowered the cost of whatever is built at Ingraham, not increased the cost. The bid, eg, for the compressed west addition came in at $6.5 million dollars. That’s $3.5 million less than the original estimated cost by the Seattle School District.

Save the Trees-Seattle agreed to consolidate the two cases before the court. The original case was an appeal of the School District’s Hearing Examiner process arguing that an EIS should have been performed and that a DNS was not appropriate.

The second case was an appeal of the City of Seattle inadequate mitigation of the Project. City law calls for giving a priority to protecting rare and uncommon plant and animal habitat. The City Hearing Examiner agreed the NW Tree Grove was an uncommon plant habitat in Seattle but did not require the Seattle School District to move the Project to another site on the campus.

Save the Trees- Seattle argued that moving the project to save the NW Tree Grove was one of the legal mitigation options the City had but did not exercise, despite the fact that the School District’s BEX Project manager agreed under oath that the Seattle School District could build the Project on the open North Lawn and not have to cut down any mature trees.

The Seattle School District continued to deny that the North Lawn was feasible to build on until forced to acknowledge while under oath the existence of an internal e-mail obtained through public records disclosure that the North Lawn Area was actually considered a future building site for a 2 story addition to the school. Save the Trees – Seattle argues that the School District should build there now and save the NW Grove from being cut down or diminished in size needlessly.

The consolidated case is now scheduled to be heard before King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle on Nov.5, 2010 at 11 AM. Save the Trees- Seattle has been working now for almost 3 years, trying to save the NW Grove.

NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School Before Fence Was Put Up

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.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.