TreePAC 2017 Seattle Mayor Candidate Questionnaire
Urban Forest & Green Space
Name: Jessyn Farrell
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?
We should start by setting an ambitious goal to expand the tree canopy to 40% by 2037. To achieve this goal, we should provide encouragement, incentives, and support for landowners to preserve and expand the tree cover on their property. And most importantly, we should preserve and expand the tree cover on public property. That means maintaining existing City lands and parks, and also adding parks. Looking forward, we should increase access for all to parks within walkable distance. We can achieve this through a combination of acquisitions, public-private partnerships, and other creative solutions depending on location. We also have to approach the tree cover strategically, replacing invasive species with natives and other species that are well adapted to surviving in a city environment, while improving diversity of both age and species. Finally, we must fund studies of potential game-changers like the I-5 Lid so that we are keeping future possibilities open for expanding the tree cover in new and unexpected places.
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?
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. As Mayor, I would recommend a broad-based, community-oriented process that starts with a citizen-led panel to best inform the process and help our city come to an open and comprehensive ordinance.
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?
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. We could potentially protect them by requiring a higher fee for the permits to remove them, by requiring that their removal be counterbalanced by the planting of several trees, or by prohibiting removal except when dangerous.
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?
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. We should be actively searching for progressive sources of revenue for greenspaces, whether through the proposed income tax on high earners, or if that is delayed in the courts, exploring carbon taxes or capital gains taxes. In addition, I would institute impact fees on developers and use the revenue to pay for infrastructure and land use projects, including parklands and greenbelts.
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?
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?
Yes, absolutely! See my previous answer.
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?
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?
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?
We should start off with education so that homeowners learn about the valuable ecological services their trees provide to them and to their community, and how best to care for them. As for incentives, we should expand the Trees for Neighborhoods program to pay for preserving or planting trees, like the Port of Seattle is piloting now in communities around the airport. We should also provide incentives in the zoning code–for example, reducing setback requirements or increasing density allowed–in exchange for preservation or expansion of the tree cover on the property.
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.
Environmental justice is part and parcel of how I view environmental leadership. There is no question
that the intersection of socio-economic conditions and exposure to environmental hazards–including a lack of access to greenspaces and to the benefits that a robust tree cover offers–greatly hinders access to opportunity in lower-income communities and communities of color. The first step we need to take is to involve these communities from the beginning in crafting government plans to address the problems. In addition to city-wide programs, we need to be creating flexible, creative programs that take into account the experiences and cultural practices of all communities, including immigrants and refugees, and that directly address their concerns. This means reimagining the Trees for Neighborhoods program, for example, so that it better serves the needs of these communities. At the same time, we need to make environmental education and job opportunities more accessible to people of color. One step we can take is to integrate tree canopy goals as well as race and social justice goals into citywide internship programs for youth.
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.
One day in high school, my friends and I climbed the tallest Douglas fir we could find in Shoreline. To our surprise, from our lofty perch we could see all the way to downtown Seattle! This moment of discovery has stayed with me ever since. When I reflect on it now, I’m struck by how integral trees are to our urban landscape and how easy it was for me to take them for granted. There are so many compelling and concrete reasons to preserve and expand tree cover–economic, health, and environmental–that I don’t want to forget that most basic one: the urban forest is a major part of what makes Seattle our home.
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.
I’m hands down the only candidate in this race with a clear, progressive track record of legislative accomplishment. I’m proud to have received a 100% rating from WCV during my whole time in the State House. Seattle has not had a truly effective, progressive, environmental Mayor in our history who has placed this as a very top priority in our city’s development and growth. This has motivated me throughout my career, and the opportunity to lead in Seattle on a bold environmental, low carbon, smart growth agenda, is an area of overwhelming opportunity for our City at a time when we’re seeing federal retrenchment.
Thank you for your participation! Please return the questionnaire by email by July 14, 2017 to Steve Zemke, Chair of TreePAC at email@example.com . Questionnaires will be posted at www.TreePAC.org,