Tag Archives: Urban Forestry Commission

Comments Needed on DPD’s Proposed Tree Ordinance for Seattle

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:


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:



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


you should also forward them to the Urban Forestry Commission at


and to the Seattle City Council members at










and to the Mayor at


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

Who is behind the effort to deregulate tree protection in the city of Seattle?

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.

University of Washington Arboretum Clearcuts Trees While Others Celebrate Earth Day

This past week while others were celebrating Earth Day, at the University of Washington Arboretum they were busy clearcutting an area to remove some 34 trees. Many of them were mature trees that had been around for 50 or more years.

A sign posted on the corner of Arboretum Dr and Lake Washington Blvd claimed that the mature trees including big leaf maple and Douglas fir trees did ” not contribute to the horticultural collection” but made no mention that the removal of these trees obviously contributed to the continued loss of Seattle’s urban forest canopy.

Click on  the link here to see the short  video by Michael Oxman.  Most of the trees have already been cut but you can listen to the chainsaw as some of the fallen trees are cut up to remove them.

The city’s concern for loss of our forest canopy has increased in the last several years as the realization has sunk in that the city has lost some 50% of the forest canopy we had in 1973.  Then some 40% of the city was forested, now it is anywhere from 18% to 23% depending on which study you look at.

The sign noted that the Project master plan was adopted by the City Council and Mayor in 2001. Back then few people were concerned about the loss of the City’s forest canopy.

The land the arboretum is on is owned by the Seattle Parks Department but the trees are owned by the University of Washington. But city taxpayers have contributed some $2.5 million to the project as part of the recent Parks and Open Space Levy. The current clearcutting area is only part of the Arboretum long range plans which involve the removal of many more trees.

The arboretum’s removal of the trees is part of creating the Pacific Connections Garden with this particular area to be a Chilean focal forest.  Some 72 Chilean trees will be planted in the area.

A memo from the Parks and Recreation Dept. gives cursory detail of the trees to be removed. No measurement of tree age or height or canopy is given. A list of trees to be planted and an accompanying picture seems to indicate a significant loss of native habitat and canopy when compared with the replacement tree picture. No detail is given as to the ultimate size of the replacement trees but the habitat value to native bird species and other animals displaced by the removal of native trees is likely not minimal.


Count Botanical Name Common Name Size Native?

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 12-18″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 18-24″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 18-24″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 24-30″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 6-12″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 6-12″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 24-30″ Y

1 Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple 6-12″ Y

1 Arbutus menziesii Madrone 12-18″ Y

1 Juniperus occidentalis Western Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus occidentalis Western Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus scopulorum Telleson’s Blue Weeping Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus scopulorum Telleson’s Blue Weeping Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus Sp. Columnar Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Juniperus them Columnar Juniper 6-12″ N

1 Pinus cembra Swiss Stone Pine 12-18″ N

1 Pinus cembra Swiss Stone Pine 6-12″ N

1 Pinus x ‘Mercy’ Pine 18-24″ N

1 Populas trichocarpa Cottonwood >30″ Y

1 Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas Fir 6-12″ Y

1 Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas Fir >30″ Y

1 Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas Fir 24-30″ Y

1 Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas Fir >30″ Y

1 Quercus vacciniifolia Huckleberry Oak 6-12″ N

1 Quercus vacciniifolia Huckleberry Oak 6-12″ N

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 24-30″ Y

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 24-30″ Y

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 24-30″ Y

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 24-30″ Y

1 Thuja plicata Western Cedar 18-24″ Y

Total 34

IV. Tree Replacements


Count Botanical Name Common Name Size Native?










Total 73

Review of the decision paper by David Graves in 2007 entitled “Analysis and Decision by the Superintendent of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the project reveals that up to 550 trees in total will be removed from the arboretum. It states that “The trees to be removed include “native Matrix” forest that consists of trees, shrubs and ground cover that are largely self seeded” In the next paragraph it states that “The Arboretum is not a natural forest, it is a plant collection managed to preserve and protect worldwide species …”

Just what is a “natural forest” if not trees, shrubs and ground cover that is largely self seeded.

Maybe this mass scale removal of fully grown trees and urban forest was business as usual in the past but the University of Washington’s Arboretum clearcutting is only the latest example of many jurisdictions having trees but each acting independently without regard to thecurrent  overall health of Seattle’s urban forest.  These include the Army Corps of Engineers along the ship canal and the Seattle School District at Ingraham High School. Their efforts all contribute to increased loss of existing forest canopy.

They all have higher purposes and goals.  Trees and their associated habitat and the current urban forest canopy are frequently expendable in pursuit of those goals. These are issues that the City and the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission need to examine if they hope to come to grips with how the city can preserve and increase Seattle’s urban forest.

for additional information on the plans of the Arboretum see:

Washington Park Arboretum and Green Space Levy Project Information

Washington Park Arboretum Pacific Connections Pro Parks Project Information


> Determination of Non-Significance Analysis

> SEPA Checklist

> SEPA Appendices

> Figure 1: Vicinity Map

> Figure 2: Garden Sketch

Looking for Members to Join the new Seattle Urban Forestry Commission

Yesterday it was announced that the Seattle Mayor and Seattle City Council are seeking members for the newly created Urban Forestry Commission. The press release, a fact sheet, and the ordinance establishing the Commission can be found here:


Anyone interested in serving on the Commission should submit a letter of interest and resume by September 18, 2009. Details about the Commission membership and the selection process can be found in the fact sheet on the link above. The Seattle City Council and Mayor are seeking members with specific areas of expertise so please have a look at the fact sheet to help identify people who you think might be interested. Please help spread the word so we can get qualified people appointed..

The positions on the Urban Forestry Commission are:

The Commission is comprised of nine members:

Position 1: A wildlife biologist, preferably with expertise in ornithology

Position 2: An urban ecologist, preferably with expertise in the field of restoration ecology

Position 3: A representative of a local, state, or federal natural resource agency or an accredited university

Position 4: A hydrologist or similar professional, preferably with expertise in the study of natural drainage, climate or air quality, or a combination thereof

Position 5: An arborist, with one or more of the following qualifications:
• Board Certification as a Master Arborist or Municipal Specialist from the International Society of Arboriculture; or
• Certification by the American Society of Consulting Arborists; or
• Background and experience in Tree Risk Assessment from a credentializing agency or a professional organization.

Position 6: A landscape architect, with certification from the International Society of Arboriculture

Position 7: A representative of a non-profit or non-governmental organization whose mission is to advocate for preservation or enhancement of urban forests, wildlife habitat or similar natural systems

Position 8: A representative of either the development community, including developers, builders, architects, or realtors, with experience in projects developed under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), or a representative from a non-city utility

Position 9: An economist, financial analyst, Washington State licensed real estate broker, or any other similar professional, with expertise preferred in land use planning, environmental planning, or either residential or commercial development.

Creation of the Urban Forestry Commission is an example of how citizen concern and action over the continued loss of Seattle’s trees is effecting change in how our city is functioning. The continued threat of the unnecessary destruction of a conifer/madrone rare plant habitat at Ingraham High School resulted in the formation of a city wide effort called Save the Trees-Seattle to save the 75 year old 100 foot tall trees at Ingraham and help to protect trees across the city..

I am the Chair of the Group and at a meeting of the King County Democrats several months back I suggested to Seattle City Council member Nick Licata that what we needed to help protect Seattle’s Urban Forest was an Urban Forestry Commission like Portland Oregon has.

Nick said he liked the idea and two weeks later he introduced legislation to create an Urban Forestry Commission for Seattle

The bill went through numerous revisions, several public hearings and received comment from many citizens. In the end the Seattle City Council unanimously passed the resolution supporting the creation of the Urban Forestry Commission comprised of technical experts to help advise the Mayor and the Seattle City Council on urban forestry issues.

Council member Licata played a critical role in the process by not just introducing the bill but guiding it through numerous revisions and compromises to finally get the bill enacted.

So now the work begins on getting a functioning commission. Please help spread the word and urge people you know who are qualified to apply to be on the new Urban Forestry Commission.

Seattle City Council Acts to Protect Urban Tree Canopy

The following press release was issued today by the Seattle City Council after they voted on two measures to increase tree protection in Seattle.

Council approves new tree protection guidelines Implementation begins in 2010, establishes an Urban Forestry Commission

SEATTLE – The City Council today unanimously passed two measures to improve the management of the city’s trees and strengthen protections to ensure the health, quality, and overall coverage of Seattle’s tree canopy.

Resolution 31138 asks the Department of Planning and Development to write a new tree protection ordinance. It outlines specific policy initiatives that the Council believes critical to successful urban forest management. Council Bill 116557 establishes a nine-member Urban Forestry Commission to advise the mayor and Council and help educate the public on urban forestry issues.

“Our urban trees are an incredibly valuable resource — and we must act if we want to keep them,” said Council President Richard Conlin. “The review by the City Auditor told us that the city must improve our system for protecting and managing trees. We need updated code that recognizes the economic, environmental, and social values that trees offer.”

Both measures are in response to a dramatic 50 percent loss of tree cover over the last forty years. The city continues to lose mature trees that provide cooling shade, improve air quality, provide wildlife habitat, sequester climate changing carbon, help with drainage issues by retaining water and improve property value.

“The Urban Forestry Commission will provide well-rounded expertise to assist the city in protecting and expanding our tree canopy while accommodating growth,” added Councilmember Nick Licata.

A report by the City Auditor in 2009 highlighted that most of the implementation work outlined in the Urban Forest Management Plan has not been completed.

Resolution 31138 requests that DPD write new regulations that consider preventing tree removal in required yards and setbacks, create a permitting system and fines for non-permitted tree removal, provide clearer direction for tree relocation and develop incentives for retention. It also asks DPD to consider Transfer Development Rights to developers, giving them more flexibility for creative solutions to Seattle’s urban canopy crisis.

The Urban Forestry Commission will include a community group representative, experts with technical backgrounds in wildlife biology, arboriculture, landscape architecture, and a representative of the development community. It will be staffed by the Office of Sustainability and Environment.

Seattle City Council Creates Urban Forestry Commission

The Seattle City Council today unamiously passed by 8-0 votes two measures designed to help protect Seattle’s urban forest. The two measures were Resolution 31138 to improve City tree policies sponsored by Councilmember Conlin and Ordinance 116577 to create an Urban Forestry Commission that was sponsored by Nick Licata.

Councilmember Licata sent out the following e-mail:

“I believe we must expand our urban forest canopy. Our urban forest provides benefits to drainage, air quality such as CO2 reduction, as well as aesthetic benefits. It also provides useful shade on the 95+ degree days we had last week.

The Urban Forest Commission can assist the City in meeting the challenge of expanding our tree canopy while increasing residential density, as foreseen in the Seattle Comprehensive Plan, by providing broad-based expertise.

The Urban Forestry Commission passed by the EEMU Committee would have nine members: a wildlife biologist, an urban ecologist, a representative of a local, state, or federal natural resource agency or an accredited university, a hydrologist, an arborist, a landscape architect, representative of a non-profit or NGO whose mission is to advocate for the urban forest, a representative of the development community, and an economist or real estate broker, preferably with expertise in land use or environmental planning.

The Urban Forestry Commission has the following duties:
* to provide recommendations regarding City plans, major or significant policy recommendations, and any City department’s recommendations related to urban forestry, arboriculture, and horticulture;

* to provide recommendations on any Urban Forest Management Plan, or similar document designed to provide policy direction on preserving and protecting the City’s urban forest habitat;

* to provide recommendations on legislation concerning urban forest management, sustainability and protection of trees on public or private property;

* to review and comment on any proposal to inventory trees within the City of Seattle;

* Monitor implementation of City plans and policies related to the urban forest, and provide review and comment to the Mayor and City Council

* to educate the public on urban forestry issues;

* to review programs for identifying and maintaining trees with significant historical, cultural, environmental, educational, ecological or aesthetic value; and

* comment on the proposed Office of Sustainability and Environment work program, and any work by any City interdepartmental advisory body relating to the Urban Forest.

In addition, the Urban Forestry Commission will consider making recommendations for items included in the resolution, including incentives for developers to preserve existing trees and/or plant new trees. While I understand some might prefer to not have developers represented on this commission, it would be difficult to carry out this task, and reach practical, sensible incentives that can be used by developers to preserve and add to our urban forest canopy without their being represented.

Resolution 31138 passed tree protection guidelines, with City departments due to report back to the City Council in 2010 on various tree-related policy questions.”

Mayor Nickels Supports Urban Forestry Commission

The Seattle City Council is currently in the process of passing legislation to create an Urban Forestry Commission. A bill introduced by Councilmember Nick Licata is currently before the City’s Environment Committee for a vote. It is expected to pass this afternoon and go before the full Council for a vote in 2 weeks.

Mayor Nickel’s has sent a letter to folks supporting the Urban Forestry Commission expressing his support. Below is the text of the letter.

Dear Friend:

Thank you for your letter and your support for Seattle’s urban forest. Maintaining and enhancing our urban forest is important to Seattle’s environment quality and community livability.

As you may know, I have adopted the goal of achieving an average of 30% canopy cover across the entire city. We recently reassessed our tree canopy and learned that after decades of tree loss, our canopy cover increased slightly to a current level of about 23% between 2002 and 2007. While we are pleased with our progress, we also are aware that more needs to be done to realize our vision of a thriving, sustainable urban forest.

I support the proposed Urban Forest Commission and look forward to working with its members. The majority of tree preservation and planting potential is on private property, and input from a commission will help inform the city’s overall approach to boosting the urban forest. Advice on any proposed legislation also will be a key role for the Commission. I look forward to hearing the Commission’s suggestions and input on a range of options before we move forward with a specific legislative proposal.

Thank you again for taking the time to write. If you have questions, please contact Tracy Morgenstern in the Office of Sustainability at (206) 386-4595 or tracy.morgenstern@seattle.gov.


Mayor of Seattle

Seattle Needs an Urban Forestry Commission

Right now eight different Seattle departments deal with trees. There is no overall coordination or vision. While an Urban Forestry Management Plan has been drafted, it has never been approved by the Seattle City Council. A just released Report by the Seattle City Auditor entitled Management of City Trees can be Improved noted that it would help if all the city department tree efforts were consolidated in one place for oversight and coordination.

One way to do this is to establish an Urban Forestry Commission which could review existing plans like the Urban Forestry Management Plan and also new legislation to protect existing trees in Seattle and work to increase trees overall.

Council member Nick Licata has proposed creating just such an Urban Forestry Commission. Places like San Francisco and Portand both have Urban Forestry Commissions.

Here are 4 points I think such legislation needs to include in Seattle:

i. The concept of habitat and green infrastructure should be incorporated into the urban forestry language in the ordinance. The issue is not just about trees. This is where the idea of saving exceptional trees falls short because urban forestry is about saving the green infrastructure, not just individual trees. That means saving habitat for plants and animals which include trees but also vegetation, soil, birds and other animals that live in the habitat. It is about preserving ecosystem functioning which deals with larger concepts like community structure and watersheds. Trees are an important component of these but an urban forest is comprised of more than just a bunch of individual trees.

ii. The makeup of the Urban Forestry Commission should be by areas of expertise rather than organizations. It should be comprised of people with the ability to provide expert opinion and evaluation on urban forestry issues, not just political positions. The development community, for example, already has significant input and influence in departments like DPD. Some other departments seem to lack the expertise in house to evaluate urban forestry issues. Areas of expertise on the Urban Forestry Commission should include ecology, urban planning, arboriculture, landscape architecture, horticulture, and urban forestry.

iii. The Urban Forestry Commission should be an advocate for preserving Seattle’s urban forest. It should not be another tool for development interests or other special interests to exert their influence. The Urban Forestry Commission should be a counterbalance to forces pushing for development at any cost, regardless of the impact on the environment. To do that you have to be sure that the Commission is not stacked with members whose main concern is not sound urban forest management.

iv. The Urban Forestry Commission should represent expertise on urban forestry issues and be able to present scientific and factual information to the Mayor and City Council on legislation. The Urban Forestry Commission can be a place where proposals and projects can be reviewed for sound science, ecological considerations, sustainability and consistency with existing environmental laws, not a place to balance competing political views. It does not and should not have to decide between competing political interests. That is the role of the Mayor and City Council.