TreePAC 2017 Seattle Candidate Questionnaire
Bob Hasegawa for Seattle Mayor Questionnaire
Urban Forest & Green Space
Tree and urban forestry issues currently involve:
1) Tree, canopy and open space lost due to development
2) Need for stronger regulation to reduce tree loss and increase replacement
3) Increased funding for tree maintenance, new plantings, and community education.
1. LOSS OF TREES AND OPEN SPACE WITH DEVELOPMENT
BACKGROUND – Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. New apartment buildings are often replacing single family homes resulting in a loss of both trees and open space. The Seattle Times recently noted that “the city is on pace to see more apartments built this decade than the previous 50 years.”
QUESTION – What do you propose the city should do to maintain and increase its tree canopy and open space to accommodate the needs of an increased population as Seattle grows and densifies?
Our city’s public spaces are our most important assets, and as more and more people continue to move to Seattle they will become of increasing value. Seattle has to protect and maintain our tree canopy and open spaces and we have to find ways to finance efforts to protect our tree canopy as well as our open spaces. One idea would be to charge developers impact fees, and have a portion of the fee go specifically towards funding the upkeep of our public spaces and tree canopy.
2. CONSOLIDATE URBAN FORESTRY IN ONE CITY DEPARTMENT OR AGENCY
BACKGROUND – Currently trees and urban forest maintenance and protection is overseen by 8 different City Departments, with frequently conflicting missions. The City Auditor in 2009 stated that the “City’s current approach to trees lacks top leadership.” Unifying “all City Departments behind a single vision through clear and demonstrated leadership of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE)” was recommended.
QUESTION – Would you support unifying tree and urban forest management under a single department or agency like OSE or a City Forestry Department that does not have a conflict of interest in protecting trees as, for example, DCI does?
It is my understanding that even though there are eight departments oversee aspects of tree and urban forest management, DCI often gets the final say. This is preposterous conflict of interest, and a massive waste of tax-payer money. Plus DCI having the final say on tree and urban forest management is like Putin having the final say on US election results. As mayor, I would change and consolidate the process so that it is an objective, science based department that does not have an inherent conflict of interest.
3. UPDATING SEATTLE’S 2009 “INTERIM” TREE ORDINANCE
BACKGROUND – While other cities around the country have been updating their tree ordinances through an open public process to protect their urban forests, Seattle turned to one city department, DCI, to do so. It has been 8 years since the Seattle City Council passed an interim tree ordinance. They directed the Department of Construction and Inspections (DCI) to come up with a new ordinance draft under Council Resolution 31138. To date no new ordinance has been passed.
QUESTION – Would you support the Mayor and City Council adopting a more open and inclusive process to finally come up with a comprehensive urban forestry ordinance? One example would be appoint a citizens committee to prepare a draft urban forest ordinance, like the Seattle Parks Legacy and Green Spaces Citizens Advisory Committees did. How do you envision this process would move forward?
Seattle’s 2009 tree ordinance was never meant to be permanent, and has not kept up with the times. A cornerstone of my campaign has been promoting a more open and inclusive decision making process across all levels of city government. This is why I want to bring back the neighborhood councils and promote participation in the decision making process. I wholeheartedly believe that the vast majority of Seattleites want to protect our natural beauty, and would actively participate in the process if it was made more accessible. I believe that with the rapid rate of growth Seattle is facing, we need to ensure that our urban forestry plans are keeping up with the rapid rate of growth.
4. PROTECT TREE GROVES
BACKGROUND: Seattle’s interim tree ordinance protects existing groves of trees (group of 8 or more trees 12” in diameter) but DCI has proposed removing this protection in the past.
QUESTION – Do you support continuing the current policy of protecting tree groves to conserve habitat and canopy cover?
I support it, and which actually suggest that we expand the protection to smaller groves that include one or more exceptional/heritage trees.
5. BETTER PROTECTION OF HERITAGE AND EXCEPTIONAL TREES
BACKGROUND – Larger trees, (especially conifers in winter months) provide tremendous ecological value to Seattle’s green infrastructure, by reducing storm water runoff, cleaning pollutants from the air, and providing animal habitat. Like Portland and other fast growing cities, we continue to lose our magnificent trees across the city, with no end in stop.
QUESTION – Do you support giving greater protection to large trees like Heritage Trees and Exceptional trees? How would you provide this protection?
I do support giving greater protection to heritage and exceptional trees, and I believe that we could provide this protection by using the extra financing capacity of my proposed Public Bank to purchase land on which groves of these trees grow and turn them into public land trusts. This is just one idea, but I am more than open to other suggestions on how to protect our natural resources.
6. TREE REMOVAL PERMITS, NOTICE, and REPLACEMENT REQUIRED
BACKGROUND – Cities like Portland, Oregon; Lake Forest Park, WA; Vancouver BC and Atlanta, GA have passed much stronger urban tree ordinances requiring private landowners to do things like obtaining permits to remove trees, with a 2 week street posting of permits before trees can be removed, and either replacement on- site, or paying into a Tree Fund to maintain and replace the trees off-site. As SDOT already does this for street trees, there is already an established and approved processes in place for all city agencies and entities to adopt if they chose.
QUESTION – Would you support a permit process for tree removal on private property in Seattle, including posted notice and replacement on or off site for trees removed to help stem the loss of trees in our city?
I think like with all things, there needs to be moderation. I think every city department should follow SDOT’s permitting/replacement system, by that same token we as a city our going to have to continue expanding and building new places for people to live as the demand currently outweighs the supply. This doesn’t mean however, that we give developers a free pass to chop down every tree without recourse. As I mentioned in a previous question, I think requiring developers to pay impact fees and using portions of the fees to pay for supporting our urban forestry plans as well as planting new trees to replace the old should be required.
7. FUNDING FOR PUBLIC TREE MAINTENANCE
BACKGROUND – Deferred maintenance results in the costly loss and replacement of trees and landscapes, and slope failures in critical areas are very expensive to repair.
QUESTION – Do you support dedicated funding for the maintenance of public green spaces, including increased funding for the Green Seattle Partnership so that the goals to restore our parklands, greenbelts, and critical areas can be met? If so, how would you act to address these goals?
I do support this, and I have a three pronged solution on how to fund these goals. First, charge developers impact fees as they have to shoulder some of the responsibility for the increased growth here in Seattle. Secondly, we need to have a real estate speculation tax so that people can’t purchase homes and then leave them unoccupied to artificially inflate the price of housing in the area, and thirdly we need to establish a Public Bank here in Seattle that will allow us to leverage our existing funds to support our infrastructure projects. Utilizing these three sources of increased funding will allow us to provide dedicated funding for the maintenance of our public green spaces.
8. FRUIT TREES SPECIAL MAINTENANCE FUNDING
BACKGROUND – Seattle is one of the very few urban environments that still boasts an extensive and diverse urban fruit tree canopy. Last year, over 36,247 pounds of fruit was gleaned by City Fruit from public and private property, and donated into the emergency food system.
QUESTION – Do you support funding to continue the maintenance of fruit trees on public land and harvesting fruit from private property for food?
Absolutely, fruit is an essential part of a well balanced nutritional diet and I think that the city should encourage healthy lifestyles.
9. SURPLUS CITY PROPERTY PRESERVED AS NEW PUBLIC OPEN SPACE
BACKGROUND – The Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan removed a previous city goal to maintain the current level of park acreage per person. That goal would have required the addition of 1400 acres of open space by 2035 to accommodate population growth. The city is currently selling surplus property to the highest bidder rather than adding it to open space for Seattle residents. A recent commentary in the Seattle Times noted that “Seattle decided a long time ago that it wouldn’t require growth to pay for growth with impact fees. At least 80 cities in Washington think otherwise, including all the big eastside cities, and impose impact fees.”
QUESTION – Would you support the use of impact fees on developers to help pay for both surplus city property and other property to purchase open space and parkland to help maintain public access for recreation and green space as our population grows?
100% and it is in fact one of my main platform points. Seattle is one of the only large cities in the country that does not charge impact fees, and it is high time that we put an end to that. Developer impact fees should be utilized to support a Tree Canopy Replacement Fund.
10. INCREASE CANOPY COVER GOAL TO 40% AND ADD METRICS TO ASSESS CANOPY VOLUME AND URBAN FORESTRY HEALTH
BACKGROUND – Seattle currently has a 28 percent 2 dimensional area canopy cover according to a 2016 City study of trees 8 feet tall or higher. The Seattle’s Urban Forest Stewardship Plan’s goal was set 10 years ago at 30 % canopy cover by 2037. The Seattle Comprehensive Plan targeted a long term 40% goal, as recommended by the American Forestry Association.
QUESTION – Do you support raising Seattle’s 2037 area canopy goal to 40% and increasing measured data to include 3-dimensional canopy analysis and forest health?
I do, so long as we find ways to ensure that the canopy is spread out equitably across the city. South Seattle has the worst environmental quality of anywhere in the city, and I would work to ensure that they are able to have access to the health benefits that come with having higher tree density.
11. MEASURING CANOPY CHANGES WITH EACH DEVELOPMENT PERMIT
BACKGROUND – In 2015 the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission recommended that DCI do a detailed Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment (UFCIA) for all properties undergoing development,
providing information on all trees >6” DBH both before and after development. Yet, to date they have not responded.
QUESTION – Would you implement such a requirement?
12. TREE CANOPY REPLACEMENT FUND
BACKGROUND – During development is when most trees are lost in the city. Currently there is no requirement during development for ‘no net loss of canopy’ for new or existing property development.
QUESTION – Would you support developers being required to replace either on-site or off-site a canopy equivalent for trees removed, by either planting new trees or paying into a City Tree Fund to compensate for ecological value lost by the trees being removed?
Yes. Growth needs to pay for growth, in all aspects.
13. INCENTIVES FOR PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERS TO PLANT TREES
According to the 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment, a significant amount of the city’s urban forest is situated on single family and multi-family residencies-which contributes to 72% of the city’s overall canopy cover.
QUESTION – What suite of community incentives and/or policies would you propose that will encourage private landowners to plant native trees to reduce storm water impacts, improve air quality and sequester carbon, as well as to provide habitat for urban birds and other wildlife?
I think we could find ways to give tax breaks to private landowners that plant native trees as this will reduce storm water impacts on our city sewage systems, improve air quality and cut our carbon footprint, and provide habitats for urban birds and other wildlife so that we have a flourishing ecosystem.
14. RACE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE
The 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment found there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between tree canopy and both people of color and people within 200% of the poverty level. The report found that in Census tracts with lower amounts of tree canopy more of the population tends to be people of color and have lower incomes.
QUESTION – Given this relationship, how can the city work to identify opportunities to work with under served communities in order to facilitate increased forest canopy.
Environmental sustainability is an economic and social justice issue. As a manufacturing area, South Seattle has the worst environmental health indicators in the city. Its also no surprise that someone in South Seattle has a shorter average life expectancy than someone living in North Seattle. I am all about equity, and I believe that the city has a duty to consistently seek to improve the health and well being of all its residents. I think the city first and foremost needs to actually go into the underserved communities and hear directly from the residents what they need. The city has become so topdown that they don’t even bother asking what the people need, but rather just tell them what’s best for them. We need to bring all voices to the table so that we can make plans with the full knowledge and perspectives of the community.
15. YOUR PERSONAL STORY OF A TREE
BACKGROUND – Trees and open space offer a number of community benefits – increased housing values, decreased rates of crime, offering protection against climate change, reducing air pollution that contributes to health problems like asthma, filtering and reducing storm water runoff, habitat for
wildlife and quality of life for communities. Trees (especially older, larger, mature trees and forest canopy) are a significant factor in helping to reduce carbon emissions on an ongoing basis.
QUESTION: Share with us your favorite tree or urban forest memory and why you support continued investment in trees as a community resource.
When I was younger, I was a boy scout in a troop that was led by Nisei Veterans from WWII. I was fortunate enough to not only learn survival and leadership skills from these decorated veterans, but also the importance of living with and protecting nature. I remember one particular camping expedition where we went and saw some of the clear cutting that had taken place and it always stuck with me how we as humans consistently destroy the planet for profit. This lesson on the importance of protecting the environment has been a key contributor to my track record of protecting the environment as a legislator, which is why I am proud to say that over the course of my almost 15 years in the legislature I have a 96% approval rating from Washington Conservation Voters (which I believe is either the highest or second highest rating in the Senate).
Please add any clarifications or comments you would like to convey to us regarding the questions above, or on protecting trees and the urban forest and open space in general.
Thank you for your participation! Please return the questionnaire by email by July 14, 2017 to Steve Zemke, Chair of TreePAC at firstname.lastname@example.org . Questionnaires will be posted at www.TreePAC.org,