The full Seattle City Council on Monday , June 30, 2008 unanimously passed Resolution 31065 to help protect the remaining tree groves in the city of Seattle from being cut down. The resolution is an attempt to clarify the city’s current tree protection policies which are very weak and have only emphasized protection of exceptional individual trees.
The city has continued to lose tree cover . Between 1973 and now the city’s tree canopy has gone from 40% to 18%. The Council is trying to reverse this situation by protecting existing trees and planting new trees. Two recent proposed projects have pointed out the weakness and flaw in the past city tree policies.
A Seattle School District renovation proposal at Ingraham High School in North Seattle to add new classrooms to replace portables threatens some 62 Douglas fir, western red cedar and madrone trees that are over 75 years old. The School District without public input decided to build the new addition in the grove of trees rather than around the corner on the North side of the school where an open lawn exists.
In the Maple Leaf community in North Seattle neighbors are fighting cutting down most of a grove of old trees at the former site of the Waldo Hospital. The old hospital is being razed and a block of houses is being put on the site.
Below is the Resolution passed by the Seattle City Council.
A RESOLUTION requesting the Director of the Department of Planning and Development to submit legislation to extend the City’s tree protection efforts to include groves or groups of trees or other vegetation that are determined to have substantial ecological, educational, or economic value and to update existing Director’s Rules in support of these efforts.
WHEREAS, Section 25.05.675(N) of the Seattle Municipal Code allows for preservation of trees as mitigation when a project would reduce or damage rare, uncommon, unique or exceptional plant or wildlife habitat, wildlife travelways, or habitat diversity for species of substantial aesthetic, education, ecological or economic value; and
WHEREAS, Director’s Rule 06-2001 focuses on individual trees and how the SEPA policy interacts with SMC chapter 25.11, the Tree Protection Ordinance, which also focuses on individual trees; and
WHEREAS, the language of Section 25.05.675(N) is not restricted to preserving single trees nor does it suggest restricting mitigation to a single tree; and
WHEREAS, the policy intent of the Council, as stated in SMC 25.05.675(N)(1)(a), is to have decision makers mitigate impacts resulting from the loss of plant or wildlife habitat, wildlife travelways, or habitat diversity for species of substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological, or economic value; and
WHEREAS, development impacts in the City have significantly contributed to a reduction of our urban tree canopy from 40% in 1972 to 18% today, as documented in the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) completed by the Office of Sustainability and Environment in 2007; and
WHEREAS, the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) identifies an urban tree canopy goal of 30% for the City of Seattle to be achieved by 2037 and in Seattle’s most recent Comprehensive Plan amendments (Ordinance 122610), the Council adopted a goal of a 1% per year increase in urban tree canopy coverage up to 40% , and this goal is consistent with the urban tree canopy goal recommended by American Forests, the nation’s oldest non-profit citizen’s conservation organization; and
WHEREAS, the Council adopted a new Comprehensive Plan policy in Ordinance 122610 stating the City’s objective to strive to achieve no net-loss of tree canopy starting in 2008; and WHEREAS, mitigating the cumulative impact of the loss of Seattle’s urban tree cover by planting new trees will take decades; and
WHEREAS, climate change, effects of runoff to our streams, lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound, and air quality are issues of immediate importance; and WHEREAS, an environmentally and fiscally superior way to reach Seattle’s urban tree cover goal of 40% is to make every reasonable effort to prevent the loss of trees;
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE, THAT: Section 1. The City Council requests that the Director of the Department of Planning and Development promulgate or amend department rules to identify, consider, recognize and protect groves or groups of trees that provide rare, uncommon, unique or exceptional plant or wildlife habitat, or wildlife travelways, or habitat diversity for plant species of substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological or economic value, for the purpose of evaluating and mitigating development proposals; and Section 2. The Council requests that the Director of Planning and Development submit legislation to extend the City’s tree protection to include groves or groups of trees that are ecologically interdependent, including groups that may contain exceptional trees as defined in SMC chapter 25.11.
Adopted by the City Council the 30th day of June, 2008, and signed by me in open session in authentication of its adoption this 30th day of June, 2008.
President of the City Council