2017 Seattle Election Issues

TreePAC – 2017 Seattle Election Issues- Urban Forest & Green Space


Tree and urban forestry issues currently involve:

  • Trees, tree canopy and open space lost due to development
  • Need for stronger regulations to reduce tree loss and increase replacement
  • Increased funding for tree maintenance, new plantings, community education and canopy/greenspace including improvements in disadvantaged communities and communities of color citywide.

1) Seattle needs to protect, maintain and increase its tree canopy and open space. The city needs to aggressively propose ways to do so, including specific programs and funding mechanisms.

 2)  Currently 8 separate departments oversee aspects of Seattle’s tree canopy and the one with the biggest conflict of interest (Department of Construction and Inspection, or DCI) often gets the final say. Change and consolidate this process to an objective, science-based department without a conflict of interest.

 3) Seattle’s ‘interim’ tree ordinance dates from 2009 and was never meant to be permanent. Seattle needs to update and enact a permanent comprehensive ordinance now following from Council Resolution 31138.

 4) The 2009 interim ordinance protects tree groves of 8 or more 12“ in diameter, yet DCI in the past proposed trying to remove even this protection – instead, the city should expand protection to include smaller groves that include one or more exceptional or heritage trees.

5) Heritage and exceptional trees citywide, particularly conifer trees, have a number of continual, 24-7 beneficial environmental and habitat benefits, and need more protection beyond their current recognized but otherwise uncertain status.

 6) Portland, Vancouver BC, Lake Forest Park, and other cities all have much stricter and protection-based tree ordinances and permitting processes than Seattle. SDOT already follows a permitting/replacement system for public street trees – both of these need immediate, serious consideration for other city departments and to counter tree loss as rampant private development goes unchecked.

 7) Seattle needs more dedicated, protected funding for public greenspace and tree canopy, including for tree maintenance, protection, and planting new trees.

 8) The previous city goal to maintain current level of park acreage per resident of the city needs to be restored. This requires adding 1400 new acres of open space by 2035. Currently the city is instead auctioning off its surplus property to the highest bidder.  Developer fees should be implemented to support a Tree Canopy Replacement Fund, making developers pay for development costs to the city.

 9) Increase Seattle tree canopy cover from 28.2% to 40% by 2037 based on metrics and science.

10) Require DCI to do urban canopy impact assessments for all private development before approval.

11) 72% of the tree canopy is on private property, yet few processes exist to encourage and incentivize private tree protection and stewardship, including new planting of native trees and habitat creation. Act on this.

12) The 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment found that in city neighborhoods with lower amounts of tree canopy, more of the population tends to be people of color and have lower incomes. Improving Seattle’s tree canopy and greenspace is directly related to economic and social justice – Seattle needs to take stronger action consistent with other high priority city goals in this area.