Jim Pugel for Seattle City Council District 7 – 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?


Optional Comment: It is no secret that carbon emissions are rising all over the world. It is essential that Seattle does its part to help sustain a wide variety of trees, tree canopy, and green spaces to help mitigate pollution, and also because it’s just the right thing to do. Humans need nature, and in a city, that means tree cover — I don’t want my grandkids growing up in grey sprawl without the opportunity to climb trees, play hide and seek in our beautiful parks, or explore the micro-habitats of critters dwelling in trees and bushes. Updating the tree protection ordinance will show the citizens of Seattle that the city is doing what it can to help protect the environment and ensure future generations can enjoy and experience nature.

  1. SUPPORT FOR COUNCIL RESOLUTION 31902 The Seattle City Council on Sept. 16, 2019 passed Resolution 31902 declaring the City Council 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?


Optional Comment: With the skyrocketing rates of construction happening all throughout Seattle and King County, it is vital to update Seattle’s tree protection ordinance in order to help strive for a more green Seattle for the next generations. As well as protecting our trees and ensuring the replanting of trees. The bottom line is that once we lose tree canopy and green spaces, we never get it back and I will make protecting our parks, trees, and urban nature a top priority of mine once elected.

3.            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, yes, yes, yes, yes! 

Optional Comment: I have seen too many trees cut down in my own neighborhood of Queen Anne — trees that were old and beautiful and invaluable to the fiber of our neighborhood. And now they’re gone forever. By requiring permits on the removal of trees holds developers accountable for replacing trees and also allows there to be a discussion on whether or not a certain tree should be taken down. Some trees mean something more than the tree itself, and seeing these giants destroyed can have severe symbolic repercussions to a community. A permitting process at least allows for a proactive conversation and allows neighborhoods to voice their concerns. As opposed to the current system of big developers cutting down canopy and us citizens only able to complain after the fact.


a.       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?


 Optional Comments: By requiring developers to post online gives the public access to see how the city is handling the removal of a tree on a specific construction site. With it being posted online, it holds the company accountable to plant replacement canopy, and enables a transparent discussion to occur between concerned community members, developers, and the City.

b.       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?


Optional Comments: This is another step to showing the people that the city of Seattle is moving towards protecting the environment and is at least acknowledging the loss of our canopy. The bottom line is that the current policy erodes trust in our government because we see the city essentially doing nothing while developers cut down precious natural treasures, leaving us screaming into the winds. We need to re-build that trust, and this is one small step to begin that process.


a.       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?


Optional Comments: Trees are important for too many reasons to list here, and we have to value them as such. If a developer calls for a tree to be removed it is morally and ethically important to have that tree replaced to keep Seattle green and our urban canopy alive.

b.       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             No          

Optional Comments: We need tree canopy throughout our city, but I am hesitant to agree to any policy that lets developers off the hook for cutting down trees. If they promise to pay to replace a tree and they renege, do we have the tools necessary to enforce this policy? I want us to expand tree cover equitably throughout Seattle and absolutely must ensure social justice considerations are taken into account when planning on where to site new trees. But I also want to preserve the trees we have left — there are already too few and fewer every day. Illegally cutting down an exceptional tree for the promise of planting a new tree cannot buy back the memories, emotions, and presence a true neighborhood icon has.

I would love to hear more about this — bottom line, I want MORE trees. You’re the experts, how do we get it done ASAP.


a. 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?


Optional Comments: Exceptional trees are a big part of the aesthetic of Seattle and I will do everything I can to preserve them, in District 7 and in Seattle as a whole.

b. 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?


Optional Comments: Any chance there is to save large trees is vitally important as we grow and our city becomes less and less tree-friendly. To me it seems simple: more trees can be saved with the diameter lowered by 6 inches, so I support it.

7.            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?


Optional Comment: Could not agree more — this is an example of a logical, common-sense policy that needed to be implemented years ago. We are late in protecting our canopy and need to get on this IMMEDIATELY.

8.            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?


Optional Comment: It is important that all tree care providers are properly trained and seek the same goal as the city rather than striving for opposing ends or alternative visions. Not just anyone should be allowed to handle the special trees in our city. It is important the city works with tree care providers rather than against them and ensure we are all doing our best to keep Seattle green, clean, and tree-happy!

9.            INVASIVE PLANT CONTROLRemoval 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?


Optional Comment: It is important not to allow invasive plants to encroach and take over an area, especially where we have already invested time and money removing them. This could ultimately cause native plants to be overwhelmed, and the loss of further trees. It is critical that building projects remove invasive plants, and we should continue investing in the removal of invasive growth.

10. CITY AUDITOR REVIEW OF COMPLIANCESMC 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?


Optional Comment: This is totally unacceptable! As a former cop and Chief of Police, it is infuriating when the City or Prosecutor’s Office refuses to uphold our basic laws and policies. What’s the point of a City Council if they don’t have the spine to enforce their own laws? Not only is it important to pass regulations and requirements to protect trees, it is of the utmost importance to enforce them. By enforcing these regulations and requirements it shows the people of Seattle that we are serious and committed to preserving our tree cover.

11.      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?


Optional Comment: The mantra of my campaign is to LISTEN. In this case, the expert voice our elected leaders must listen to is the Urban Forestry Commission and I will absolutely listen and work for their recommendations once on the City Council.

12. Some people believe there 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?

Comment: This is total BS. We can and must do both. Just like we discussed earlier, we need to take social justice considerations into account when siting new tree cover. It is not fair nor equitable for low income Seattleites to miss out on trees and nature and I truly believe we can work together to find ways of ensuring ALL Seattleites have easy access to trees.

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

Comment: Too many to count. I was lucky enough to grow up in a city full of beautiful trees of all kinds, exceptional, legacy, and everything in between. I want my grandkids to have that same experience, and for that to be possible, we need to act to protect our remaining trees NOW.