Ryan Calkins for Seattle Port Commissioner – Position #1 –Response
2017 City Council Candidate Questionnaire Urban Forest & Green Space
1) IMPACTS FROM PORT OPERATIONS. Many environmental issues are part of the Port’s jurisdiction, including airport and waterfront maintenance, shipping impacts, waterfront use and adjacent land development, oil and coal transportation through the City; the Key Arena and a potential SoDo stadium.
What do you perceive as key environmental and open space issues before the Port? How would you handle them different from the other candidates, with an eye to protecting the local tree canopy specifically on Port-controlled property?
While the Port Commission may not be a high profile role, it carries a great deal of responsibility. The impact the Port can have on addressing global climate change, the long term health of our regional economy, and our environment means that we need strong, progressive leadership on the commission. Additionally, the Port controls and owns a great deal of land. My experience as a business owner who relied on the Port, as a nonprofit professional working with immigrants and communities of color to build equity, and as a father who believes it is my responsibility to confront climate change head on all prompted me to run. It also distinguishes me from my opponent, who supported letting Shell use the port terminal for its Arctic drilling fleet.
The footprint of the airport is unlikely to change, and so the focus of the Port should be increasing efficiency within the existing facility. Projects such as NorthSTAR and the new International Arrivals Facility will help the airport to accommodate growing numbers of passengers. I support efforts to modernize the airport and takeoff and landing procedures to reduce fuel-consumption and noise and to get passengers to and from SeaTac efficiently and with as little disruption to neighboring communities as possible.
2 . LOSS OF OPEN SPACE AND TREES WITH DEVELOPMENT BACKGROUND: Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Over the last two years, a 25 % increase in new apartment buildings often resulted in the loss of single-family homes with both open space and trees. In 2014, as Seattle reported 5,546 acres of parks and natural areas, the Trust for Public Lands ranked Seattle’s open space ratio among the lowest of the 200 largest U.S. cities, at 188th – that’s 12th from the bottom.
QUESTION: How can the Port influence the loss of open space, and even to increase open space and greenbelts/tree canopy, as Seattle grows and densifies?
As one of the country’s fastest growing cities, Seattle is facing competing priorities between housing affordability, open space, and supporting a strong and thriving economy that is welcoming to new businesses. I believe the Port can be a tool for building a more equitable, thriving community by smartly balancing those priorities. The Port-owned land may provide opportunities for new open space, greenbelts, and tree canopy. I am particularly interested in expanding the tree canopy in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which have a lower percentage of trees than other areas (according to the 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment).
3. SURPLUS CITY UTILITY PROPERTY PRESERVED AS NEW PUBLIC OPEN SPACE BACKGROUND: The Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan calls for the addition of 1400 acres of open space by 2035 to accommodate population growth.
QUESTION: What is your opinion of this goal? How might surplus Port properties be preserved as public green and open spaces? What ideas do you have to achieve and/or exceed this goal?
I support Seattle’s focus on protecting and expanding open space, especially as the City grows. We must balance the needs of the City alongside surplus properties. I support analyzing these surplus Port properties for their potential community benefit, including for park and open space. I also support existing programs, such as SDOT’s Gardening in Rights of Way (GROW) program that translate unmaintained ROWs into productive landscapes. The GROW program may be able to be replicated by the Port for similar spaces, and I support exploring such opportunities.
4. UPDATE THE INTERIM TREE ORDINANCE BACKGROUND: Currently, the Department of Construction and Inspections (DCI) is responsible for updating the 2009 interim tree ordinance. Eight years have now passed since they were directed to do so, with no action on their part.
QUESTION: How can the Port support updating the Tree Ordinance?
I am interested in learning more about the Port’s ability to create it’s own tree policy, covering many of the topics addressed in this questionnaire. I’m interested in working with the Urban Forestry Commission and the incoming administration to understand how the Port can help achieve this important goal. And in short, I support City action to issue a final tree ordinance!
5) LOSS OF TREE GROVES WITH PORT MAINTENANCE. The Port of Seattle started cutting down trees. Nearly 3,000 trees are to be removed from SeaTac and surrounding areas by 2018. During the first phase of the project, the Port will cut trees on Port of Seattle property only. It will last until March 1. Replanting efforts — made up of dwarf tree specifies and shrubs — will begin shortly thereafter. The tree-cutting is part of the Port’s “Flight Corridor Safety Program”, which is to ensure that planes land safely. The Port says that if the trees are not removed, the Port could be fined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the airport can be shutdown.
Question – How do you mitigate the loss of 3000 trees, trying to balance federal aviation safety standard, with the concurrent loss of uncounted trees with the rapid development in the region? How will you replace those trees and where?
The greatest opportunity for planting new trees in Seattle is on residential property. I fully support the Trees for Seattle program, which grants up to six trees per household. As Port Commissioner, I would be interested in partnering with this program to specifically mitigate the loss of these 3,000 trees. I’m also interested in how industrial areas around the City, many owned by the Port, can contribute to greater tree canopy (currently only contributing 2 percent, according to the 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment).
- 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.QUESTION. How can the Port support a policy of protecting tree groves to conserve these special groupings of habitat and canopy cover?
I strongly support protecting existing groves of native (non-invasive) trees, which provide important habitat, slope protection, and environmental benefits. On Port-owned land, where development may displace tree groves, I support full mitigation as possible.
- BETTER PROTECTION OF HERITAGE AND EXCEPTIONAL TREES BACKGROUND: Larger trees, (especially conifers in winter months) provide significantly more ecological value to Seattle’s green infrastructure, by reducing storm water runoff, cleaning pollutants from the air, and providing animal habitat. QUESTION: Do you support giving greater protection to large trees like Heritage Trees and Exceptional trees on Port properties or in projects that the Port oversees like stadium expansion or construction? How would you provide this protection? How would you ensure enforcement of any tree protection?
Yes, I strongly support giving greater protection to Heritage and Exceptional trees on Port properties where possible. When not possible, significant mitigation efforts are essential.
- TREE “CZAR” FOR CITY DEPARTMENTS 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 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” was recommended. QUESTION: Would you support unifying tree and urban forest management under a single department or agency, so there is one decisionmaker and not a committee of 8 that rarely meets? What department or leader would you recommend, and how could this be achieved?
Communication and cooperation between agency departments is essential. A Tree Czar may prove a useful strategy for organizing all tree-related policies, including those impacting Port activities. As Port Commissioner, I would be eager to see this role emerge from the new City administration.
- 9 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 the Port dedicating more funding for the maintenance of neglected Exceptional Trees and tree groves in public greenbelts and critical areas like wetlands and steep slopes on or adjacent to Port properties? If so, how would you address these goals?
I strongly support tree maintenance funding, including Green Seattle Partnership, which translates thousands of volunteer hours into an improved urban canopy. As Commissioner, I will support collaboration efforts between GSP and the Port.
10 . INCREASE CANOPY COVER GOAL TO 40% BACKGROUND: Seattle currently has a 28% canopy cover (according to a 2016 City study of trees 8 feet tall or higher). The Seattle’s Urban Forest Stewardship Plan’s goal is a 30% canopy cover by 2037. The Seattle Comprehensive Plan targets a 40%, as recommended by the American Forestry Association.
QUESTION: Do you support raising Seattle’s 2037 canopy goal to 40%? If not, why and on what basis?
I fully support the 30 percent canopy cover goal and understand Seattle is currently at 28 percent. Given the enormous pressures of affordable housing and the growth of the region, I believe maintaining and expanding this goal to 30 percent is realistic and attainable. As Port Commissioner, I will work to mitigate reductions in the canopy cover.
- TREE CANOPY REPLACEMENT FUND BACKGROUND: 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?
While the Port may not have a direct role in determining impact fees or replacement requirements for tree removal, we can work to preserve existing trees and mitigate losses by planting new trees on our property.
- 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 stormwater runoff, habitat for wildlife and quality of life for communities. Trees (especially older, larger, mature trees and forest canopy) are also likely the single most effective way to passively reduce carbon emissions at arguably no cost to the City. QUESTION: Share with us your favorite tree or urban forest memory and why you support continued investment in trees as a community resource. I was born and raised in Snohomish County with a backyard that gave out onto a greenbelt (a creek watershed near Picnic Point). I am certain that in my waning moments, as my life flashes before my eyes, many of the memories will be of that forest of alder, cedar, douglas fir, ferns and other undergrowth where my best friend and I built trails, forts and explored the outer edges of our universe as children.