TreePAC Questionnaire: Stephanie Bowman, Port of Seattle Commission, Position #3
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?
The underlying issue facing the Port of Seattle, at all of its facilities (Sea-Tac Airport, marine cargo terminals, Fisherman’s terminal, cruise ship terminals), is how to maintain operations, which are essential to the region’s economic diversity and prosperity – while not only mitigating the environmental impact but improving long-term environmental sustainability. This requires always balancing the economic return of investment with the social return on investment. For instance, while upgrading Terminal 5 to provide electrical power for marine cargo ships to use during berthing is a substantial financial investment, the long-term return on the air quality for neighboring residents is tremendous. A first step toward managing environmental impacts is to physically contain the footprint of operations, i.e., keep industrial activity within industrial zones. My approach to Port operations is a systems approach: what is the impact in the entire system, whether or not it is on “port property”. A great example of this is managing how people get to and from Sea-Tac airport. While in the past Port staff didn’t believe it was within their purview to pay attention to what happened outside the airport drives, I have championed a systems approach to transportation, which is why the Port is now working closely with Sound Transit to improve access to the airport, in order to reduce the number of SOV vehicles travelling to Sea-Tac. In terms of tree canopy, much of the focus has been around the airport. I believe it needs to be much broader than that, for instance, increasing the canopy around our marine terminals and T-91, as well as along the Duwamish.
2. LOSS OF OPEN SPACE AND TREES WITH DEVELOPMENT
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?
The Port can influence the loss of open space and increase greenbelts and tree canopy through conscious effort to improve the open space the Port already manages – for instance, the Port owns and maintains 21 parcels of park and open space. Specifically, that means planting more trees on these sites, using organic materials for maintenance, etc. However, using a systems approach, the Port can increase its impact by not simply improving the parks we already manage, but looking at all open spaces adjacent to Port property and seeking to increase the tree canopy, for example, in front of Pier 66 (the downtown cruise ship terminal). Additionally, the Port can partner with organizations such as the Trust for Public Land, and use Port
resources to acquire and preserve land in a concerted effort to grow open space, such as along Harbor Island or Pier 48.
3. SURPLUS CITY UTILITY PROPERTY PRESERVED AS NEW PUBLIC OPEN SPACE
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 fully support this goal, although I do think it’s understated – I believe the population growth will exceed the projections of the Comp Plan in a shorter time frame, and – just as importantly – we can and should as a City commit to a goal greater than the 1400 additional acres of green and open space. In addition to the steps taken by the Port during my tenure, such as the establishment this year of the Ecology Fund for tree planting in Sea-tac communities, the Port can 1) inventory its property to determine where surplus land might be used for additional open space, but just as importantly, 2) partner with organizations to acquire and preserve more open space throughout King County, not simply just near Port owned property. Underlying all of this should be the concept of engaging residents in a commitment to tree canopy and open space. A perfect example is in my neighborhood, the Beacon Hill Food Forest. Neighbors took a totally under-utilized piece of city property and have turned it into a fully functioning food forest that provides food for neighbors while also increases the tree canopy. The Port can and should at those sorts of partnerships that engage community members in the land, and not only acquire more property for the sake of owning it. People who are engaged in the land want to protect it!
4. UPDATE THE INTERIM TREE ORDINANCE
QUESTION: How can the Port support updating the Tree Ordinance?
The Port has been a major participant in the Mayor’s Industrial Lands Task Force, which is tasked with working with industrial users and developers to craft city policy on protecting industrial lands. As part of this effort, the Port can advocate for including tree canopy language to be included in any changes to the Comp Plan, as well as updating the 2009 DCI tree ordinance.
5) LOSS OF TREE GROVES WITH PORT MAINTANANCE.
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?
This is an extremely tough issue, as no one, but especially me, wants to see trees removed anywhere, much less near the airport, where in addition to carbon sequestering, they also provide a barrier to noise. However, flight safety is of utmost importance. I supported and still do a precision approach to removal of flight barriers, and a re-planting of two trees for every
one removed for safety. Additionally, I was proud to support the creation of the $5m Ecology Fund, to increasing urban tree canopy coverage in the cities of Burien, SeaTac and Des Moines.
6. PROTECT TREE GROVES
QUESTION: How can the Port support a policy of protecting tree groves to conserve these special groupings of habitat and canopy cover?
I’d like to better understand why DCI is proposing removing the protection of tree groves from the interim tree ordinance, but at a minimum, the Port can and should be an advocate for protecting tree groves, and can add its voice to efforts for protection.
7. BETTER PROTECTION OF HERITAGE AND EXCEPTIONAL TREES
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?
Absolutely! These trees need to be protected, and as a Port Commission we can set policy guidelines to do so on Port property, as well enact substantial financial penalties on contractors and others who remove them from Port property.
8. TREE “CZAR” FOR CITY DEPARTMENTS
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?
Yes, I would support a decision by the City to consolidate tree oversight into a single entity. I believe this could be done by the Mayor (through an executive order). I would need more information before recommending what department or agency this should fall under, but one suggestion is of course the Parks department.
9. FUNDING FOR PUBLIC TREE MAINTANANCE
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?
Yes, I support this, and I believe it can be done through the Port’s annual budget process, which is adopted by the Commission.
10. INCREASE CANOPY COVER GOAL TO 40%
QUESTION: Do you support raising Seattle’s 2037 canopy goal to 40%? If not, why and on what basis?
Yes, I support this goal, particularly if it is equitably distributed throughout the city, but especially in neighborhoods that are currently lacking tree canopy.
11. TREE CANOPY REPLACEMENT FUND
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?
I would support this proposal, but also believe tress should be replaced as close to the area of removal as possible.
12. YOUR PERSONAL STORY OF A TREE
QUESTION: Share with us your favorite tree or urban forest memory and why you support continued investment in trees as a community resource.
There are a lot of stories and memories to choose from! Two that stand out are my love of the forest and trails above Seward Park, where I walked with my dog, Jake, nearly every day for 15 years. The ability to walk through the woods with him in a urban setting was simply priceless. However, my other favorite is the Beacon Hill Food Forest, as mentioned earlier. To see what the land was previously – an empty lot adjacent to a busy street – and to now see if teeming with fruit trees, being cared for by neighbors and nourishing families, is probably my favorite part of living on Beacon Hill.