Alex Pederson for Seattle City Council District 4 – 2019 Questionnaire

TreePAC 2019 General Election Seattle City Council Candidate Questionnaire

  1. SUPPORT FOR COUNCIL ORDINANCE RESOLUTION 31870 As part of the MHA Ordinance passage in March 2019 the Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31870. Section 6 of that Resolution called for updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. Do you support that provision?

Yes __X___ No _____

Optional Comment:   Yes, I support Section 6 of Resolution 31870.  I have supported more tree protections for years. We need accountability with stronger laws and enforcement to protect our city’s tree canopy.  While other candidates talk about planting trees, we must first protect the big ones we have. As you know, the larger trees, especially conifers, deliver the most health and environmental benefits. If we’re serious about addressing climate change, we need to do what we are urged to do by Greta Thunberg and many scientists: protect our trees. Let’s remain the Emerald City!

  1. SUPPORT FOR COUNCIL RESOLUTION 31902 The Seattle City Council on Sept. 16, 2019 passed  Resolution  31902  “declaring the City Council’s and the Mayor’s intent to consider strategies to protect trees and increase Seattle’s tree canopy cover.”  The resolution calls for the city  to update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance in 2020. Do you support this resolution for updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance?         

 Yes __X___ No _____ (But see comment below because Resolution 31902 does not guarantee an updated new ordinance in 2020, yet I believe we need the new ordinance in 2020.)

Optional Comment:  A stronger tree ordinance has already been delayed for too many years. I believe this Sept 2019 resolution (#31902) further delays the new tree ordinance and is too weak. Resolution 31902 states it will “pursue…recommendations” and “identify key issues” and leaves the door open to indefinite delay; I support moving directly to enact a stronger tree ordinance as soon as possible in 2020.

  1. PERMITS FOR TREE REMOVAL AND REPLACEMENT Seattle’s current Tree Protection Ordinance SMC 25.11 is a complaint-based system for developed property. It is not working according to the 2017  Tree Regulations Research Project Report done by DCI and OSE. The report states that Exceptional trees and groves were being lost.  Trees were being removed from Environmental Critical Areas. Large conifers were being replaced with deciduous and dwarf species.  Do you support updating the ordinance to require permits to remove and replace trees, like SDOT does for street trees and like Portland, Lake Forest Park and other cities do for all trees removed?

Yes __X___ No _____

Optional Comment:

    1. The Seattle Department of Transportation requires the posting on site of all tree removal and replacement permit applications for two weeks prior to trees removed. Do you support requiring Tree Removal and Replacement Permit Applications being  posted on site and on-line?

Yes __X___ No_____

Optional Comments:  At least two weeks. In addition, public notices should include information about how to comment, with the deadline to comment at least two weeks after the notice is posted at the location and posted online.

  1. Do you support a Tree Removal and Replacement Permit being posted on site for a week after the tree is removed so that neighbors know it was taken down legally?

Yes __X___ No_____

Optional Comments: At least one week. In addition, public notices should include information about how to obtain information about the removal.

    1. REPLACEMENT OF TREES CUT DOWN – Many other cities require that trees removed, whether on developed property or property being developed, must be replaced. All trees 6” DBH and larger are currently required to be on development site plans. In the single-family zone, trees 6 inches DBH and larger represent about 48 % of the trees.  Do you support requiring tree replacement when trees larger than 6 inches DBH are removed?

Yes __X___ No_____

Optional Comments: Again, the ideal situation is NOT removing the original trees since larger trees have more benefits and new tree is not large.  To clarify, the replacement tree does not need to be in the exact spot as the original tree. In addition, I would be open to requiring replacement with more than 1 new tree since the DBH for new trees is often less than 6 inches DBH.

  1. FEE-IN-LIEU OF REPLACEMENT – Portland, OR and other cities allow for a fee to be paid to replace trees elsewhere if they cannot be replaced on the property where they were cut down. Seattle is considering an option to allow a fee in lieu to be paid to plant a new tree elsewhere and maintain it for 5 years. Replacement of trees in other areas can be sited based on race and social justice considerations. Do you support this option?

Yes __X___ No_____

Optional Comments: My caveat is that we need a strict definition of when a tree “cannot be replaced.”  Unfortunately, we have seen definitions and “in lieu fees” overly used or abused in other programs when, in the context of urban canopy and climate change, the ideal situation is to protect and maintain the existing tree. Therefore, the fee should be set at a high enough level to discourage the removal of the tree in the first place and to fully pay for maintaining the tree and the oversight and administration of the program.  The City could also facilitate retention of existing trees by providing for more flexibility with minor design departures that accommodate the tree.

    1. EXCEPTIONAL TREES are defined as “a tree or group of trees that because of its unique historical, ecological, or aesthetic value constitutes an important community resource”, including large trees, heritage trees and tree groves. They are protected by the current ordinance. Do you support continuing the protection of exceptional trees?

Yes __X___ No_____

Optional Comments: The City could also facilitate retention of Exceptional Trees by providing for more flexibility with minor design departures that accommodate the tree.

  1. LOWER LARGE TREE EXCEPTIONAL THRESHOLD The Urban Forestry Commission has recommended that the upper limit to declare a large tree exceptional be lowered from 30 inches diameter at breast height (DBH) to 24 inches DBH to save more large trees. Do you support this protection of more large trees?

Yes __X___ No_____

Optional Comments

  1. DATABASE TRACKING OF TREE REMOVALS The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission has repeatedly recommended that the city use its database system to track all tree loss and replacement, both on developed property and property being developed. Such data will help the city monitor the changes occurring in the urban forest over time. This data would be collected through Tree Removal and Replacement Permits being entered into one system for both trees removed during development and trees removed on developed property. This data will help guide the City’s Urban Forest Management Plans. Do you support the implementation of the database program as directed by Mayor Burgess’s  Executive Order 2017-11 Tree Protection?

Yes __X___ No _____

Optional Comment:  As you know, the 2017 Tree Regulations Research Project Report  documented the need for more thorough monitoring of the Seattle’s urban forest resources. Tree Removal and Replacement permit tracking is just one of a number of measures needed.

  1. ARBORIST REGISTRATION The Seattle Department of Transportation currently requires registration and certification for Tree Care Providers, like arborists, to help ensure they understand and comply with Seattle’s Tree Code and Regulations. Do you support requiring all Tree Care Providers working in Seattle to be registered and certified by the city as Portland already does?

Yes __X___ No _____

Optional Comment:

  1. INVASIVE PLANT CONTROL Removal of invasive vegetation in our city parks has been a long and expensive project for the city under the Green Seattle Partnership. To protect this investment, it is important that invasive species like English ivy and holly trees not get re-introduced from plants in other parts of the city. Would you support all building project landscape plans requiring the removal of all invasive plant species on the property?

Yes _____ No _____

Optional Comment:  I would need to research this issue further as I am not familiar enough with all of the ramifications.  I would certainly support measures to prevent invasive species from new project landscaping.

  1. CITY AUDITOR REVIEW OF COMPLIANCE SMC 25.11.090 currently says “Each exceptional tree and tree over two (2) feet in diameter that is removed in association with development in all zones shall be replaced by one or more new trees, the size and species of which shall be determined by the Director; the tree replacement required shall be designed to result, upon maturity, in a canopy cover that is at least equal to the canopy cover prior to tree removal. Preference shall be given to on-site replacement. When on-site replacement cannot be achieved, or is not appropriate as determined by the Director, preference for off-site replacement shall be on public property.”

This provision, in the Tree Protection Ordinance since 2001, has apparently not been enforced by DCI or its predecessors with any consistency. No funds appear to have been collected by the City to plant off site trees nor does there appear to have been any cumulative record kept of trees removed or total trees replaced either on site or off site to meet the requirements of this provision. Would you support a review by the Seattle City Auditor of the city’s compliance with SMC 25.11.090?

Yes __X___ No _____

Optional Comment:  If we pass a stronger tree ordinance that is acceptable to the Urban Forestry Commission, perhaps this investigation will not be necessary and city government resources should instead be saved to monitor implementation of the new ordinance.

  1. URBAN FORESTRY COMMISSION INVOLVEMENT – The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission at the request Of Councilmembers Bagshaw and Herbold submitted to the Seattle City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan a draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance. The draft started with the last draft by the Seattle City Council staff requested by Councilmember Rob Johnson. It addresses all the issues in the recent City Council resolutions. It represents ten years of positions established by the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission regarding efforts to update the existing Tree Protection Ordinance.  Many of the issues in that draft are topics in questions above.

The City Council passed  Ordinance 123052 in August 2009 establishing the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) “to advise the Mayor and City Council concerning the establishment of policy and regulations governing the protection, management, and conservation of trees and vegetation in the City of Seattle.” One of the responsibilities of the Urban Forestry Commission in that legislation is “To provide recommendations on legislation concerning urban forestry management, sustainability and protection of associated trees and understory vegetation and related habitat on public or private property prior to its introduction and referral to any Council committee”  Will you agree to continue to work with the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission in producing the final update to the Tree Protection Ordinance?

Yes __X___ No _____

Optional Comment:

  1. Some people believe here is a conflict between preserving and planting trees in Seattle and building more housing, particularly affordable and low – income housing. What measures or proposals do you think we could put in place to have more affordable and low-income housing as well as achieve our urban forest and tree canopy goals to keep Seattle a healthy and vibrant city for all?

CommentI do not believe there is a material conflict. The vast majority of trees removed are removed by for-profit real estate developers (or current owners) seeking profit and not building low-income housing.  For truly low-income housing, such conflicts can be resolved on a case-by-case basis (for example, the city could save an exceptional tree by allowing the nonprofit to build an extra story of low-income units in collaboration with the surrounding community).  Moreover, the City’s own environmental justice reviews indicate that open space and trees are important quality of life elements that need to be increased in low income communities. 

  1. Do you have a story or experience regarding trees that you could share with us?

Comment:  Of course I loved to climb trees as a kid and have hiked extensively in forests, but trees have become much more important to me recently.  In researching strategies for addressing climate change as part of my campaign in our Emerald City, Project Drawdown and other science-based sources have further reiterated the importance of trees in not only reducing harmful carbon but also boosting health outcomes. Trees are not only a climate change solution but also a social justice issue that our city must no longer ignore or minimize.

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