TreePAC 2017 Seattle Mayor Candidate Questionnaire
Cary Moon for Seattle Mayor
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?
Measure tree canopy and monitor it closely, push for maximum possible protection of existing mature trees, ensure 5 to 1 replacement for trees lost to development, focus new tree planting and canopy expansion in lower income communities.
Regarding access to open space, as mayor I would examine the potential of increasing new development near both transit lines and existing underused parks, since the cost of buying new land for parks is more and more prohibitive in our city. If building new parks is unaffordable, how can we make sure new growth is accessible to existing parks?
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?
Yes, that sounds very promising and I would support doing so.
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?
Yes, that sounds like a great approach. We need to tend our tree canopy and always look for ways to increase biomass and ecological biodiversity in our city. Have an expert commission develop a proposed strategy and ordinance sounds viable and effective, and I would support doing so.
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?
Yes, in principle, and I would like to learn more about the details of how this protection currently works and understand the reasoning behind the proposal to remove this protection.
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?
Yes. Building an inventory of heritage and exceptional trees, and establishing guidelines to protect them, is worth pursuing.
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?
Yes, I would examine these ordinances and develop viable best practices as the basis for an ordinance for Seattle.
7. FUNDING FOR PUBLIC TREE MAINTAINCE
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 greenspaces, 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?
Yes, this should be a priority within the Parks Department budget, and the City can continue to work with community groups and advocacy partners to secure the funding and organize volunteer work crews.
In addition, the city should establish standards for larger soil volume requirements for street trees in urban areas and commercial streets to improve the health and longevity of these trees that also contribute to the tree canopy.
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. This program is one of the loveliest things about our city. Humble, generous, healthy, and inclusive.
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?
I support the use of impact fees in Seattle, and would work to find the right level of fee and best targeted investments for generated revenue. It’s important to strike the right balance so the fee doesn’t exacerbate the escalation of housing prices and the proceeds are focused on highest returns given the neighborhood growth issues.
I believe there are many competing needs for surplus public land, and each parcel is different. Some could be useful for affordable housing production, and some might be better suited for various types of open space and improving green / ecological infrastructure. As mayor I would prioritize examination of surplus public land and consideration of the range of proposals in the public interest. And would avoid selling off public land to private interests.
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?
Yes, I would support raising the target and considering more thorough canopy analysis, ensuring the value of more thorough data is worth the expense.
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?
Yes, as mayor I would strongly support this and examine what the barriers are.
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?
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?
Offering a range of the most beneficial trees for free, and hosting community based tree-planting and green stormwater management seminars and work parties.
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 underserved communities in order to facilitate increased forest canopy.
I would focus efforts as described in #10, 11, 12, and 13 on increasing tree canopy in these neighborhoods.
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.
My favorite tree memory is not a memory at all, but the present moment. During super busy times like this period of running for mayor, I am dependent on the calming and centering power of the natural environment. Being next to a tree, even for a minute, brings my distracted mind back to clarity and focus.
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.
My education as a landscape architect and my professional work as an urban planner and urban designer makes me a long-time champion of trees and robust ecology in the built environment. I co-founded and led the People’s Waterfront Coalition, saving 22 acres of public land in the heart of Seattle’s downtown core. One of the many accolades I received for this work had the headline “What’s the Emerald City doing with a concrete shoreline?” which describes the motivation and purpose of the advocacy effort pretty accurately.
My work to build the vision, generate public will and plan the new waterfront was featured in the PBS documentary Edens Lost and Found. I won numerous civic awards for leading this effort that is now resulting in an ecologically rich, socially active civic space at the heart of our city, reconnecting downtown Seattle to Elliott Bay.
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,