Comments by Tina Cohen Certified Arborist on the NPI/Tree PAC Tree Poll

Tina Cohen, Certified Arborist Northwest Arborvitae Seattle WA 

 I’m Tina Cohen and I’m a retired Certified Arborist. In my career I worked with both developers and tree preservationists.  

 I’ve been very discouraged by the cognitive dissonance of climate change and continued tree removal. If asked, most people will tell you they love trees and then add: BUT if they’re in the way or messy or remotely a hazard, then they should be cut down. Developers would tell me how much they love trees and at the same time they would remove all of them for a project.  

 Our existing large trees are a cheap and effective way to combat localized climate change. Besides providing obvious shade, they sequester carbon and help prevent erosion and flooding. UW’s Kathy Wolf and USDA Forest Service have done endless studies proving the value of trees.  Large trees provide more benefits than small trees. The Seattle Municipal Code should reflect this and only allow removals if a tree is a hazard under existing conditions (not future development). 

 I urge the City to follow their existing code and in addition:  

  • During development permitting, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection, SDCI, must require design modifications to allow adequate root and canopy space for saved trees. This is already allowed in the Directors Rule. Otherwise the trees will not survive long term. 
  • The Seattle Department of Transportation currently requires credentials for arborists working on Right of Way trees. The City should adopt the same.  
  • Replacement trees should be required if there’s adequate space for the roots and canopy at maturity (50 years). Otherwise change the design or add trees elsewhere.  
  • I agree with the Urban Forestry Commission that Seattle needs a central tree portal or department for permits and inspections. Currently it’s spread among several departments.  
  • We can have development AND trees, however McMansions and other projects that cover an entire lot are not compatible with tree retention. The Code should be changed to require more open space (less lot coverage) to allow for large trees.  

 In conclusion, our elected officials have long delayed the update to Seattle’s Tree Ordinance, and SDCI fails to enforce our existing code. We need to change this before every tree is cut. 

 Tina Cohen, ISA Certified Arborist #PN0245A 

ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualified 

Member American Society of Consulting Arborists 

Registered Consulting Arborist #473, retired 

Statement by Josh Morris of Seattle Audubon on NPI/Tree PAC Tree Protection Poll

Statement: July 2021 Tree Protection Polling Results by Josh Morris of Seattle Audubon

Sept. 15, 2021 

Seattle Audubon is a 105-year-old environmental nonprofit that advocates and organizes for cites where people and birds thrive. Since neither people nor birds can thrive without a healthy, growing, and well-distributed urban forest, protecting Seattle’s trees is important to realizing our mission.  

Trees, especially big mature trees, are icons of the Pacific Northwest. Many people love our trees and want to protect them at a greater level than we currently do. We see that clearly from the overwhelming support for improved tree protection, planting, and funding among participants in Northwest Progressive Institute’s July 2021 poll. 

The results show more than 80% of respondents in support of maximizing tree retention during planning and development, and in support of focusing urban forestry investments in low-income and historically redlined neighborhoods. The first is needed to slow the threat of indiscriminate tree loss, and the latter is needed to address a glaring environmental injustice.  

These results come as we increasingly recognize trees as important community assets whose benefits extend well beyond the parcels in which they are rooted. They promote good health and well-being. They bring bird song into our neighborhoods. They keep us cool in the heat and help prevent flooding. Trees are essential. And they are threatened in great numbers across Seattle from weak policy and weaker action.  

Despite more than a decade of promises, Seattle leaders have failed to improve tree protections. Seattle can densify, prevent sprawl, protect more trees, and plant more new ones. We just have to plan for it. Washington, D.C., for example, continues to increase both population density and tree canopy cover through strong tree protections, dedicated funding, and coordinated urban forestry management. We can learn for their example. We can and should do better by our urban forest and for the communities, present and future, that depend on it. 

Seattle Audubon hopes these poll results encourage City leaders to act and hold each other accountable for adopting improved tree protections without further delay. 

 Please send questions to Joshua Morris, urban conservation manager: joshm@seattleaudubon.org 

 

Comments by Steve Zemke – Tree PAC Chair on NPI/Tree PAC Seattle Tree Poll

Press Conference – Seattle City Poll shows strong support for updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance

Statement by Steve Zemke – Chair TreePAC

Results released today of a Poll done by Change Research in July for the Northwest Progressive Institute included questions regarding increasing protection for trees in Seattle. The responses showed strong support for updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. TreePAC and other community groups and citizens have been urging Seattle mayors and City Council members for 12 years to update the ordinance. Their repeated delays and reluctance to act is strange considering the polls strong support for increasing tree protection.  The polling firm Change Research noted the strong support.

Steve Zemke, Chair of Tree PAC and a former member of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission for 6 years, said the response confirmed strong public support for action now. The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission has been advocating for the city to act since it was formed in 2009.

Steve Zemke said. “The Mayor and Seattle City Council should take heart in these poll results and move forward quickly to update and strengthen protections for trees and Seattle’s urban forest. The public wants action now after 12 years of delay by city officials.”

The poll focused on issues repeatedly raised by members of the public and the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission and incorporated in the 2019 Seattle City Council Resolution 31902 – A RESOLUTION declaring the City Council’s and the Mayor’s intent to consider strategies to protect trees and increase Seattle’s tree canopy cover.

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission even produced in 2018 a draft updated Tree and Urban Forestry Protection Ordinance for the Seattle City Council and Mayor to consider but that was ignored by the City. Over a thousand e-mails were sent to city officials by citizens urging action. An on-line petition signed by over 5270 people also was sent to the city urging action.

Zemke noted, “With increasing climate impacts affecting citizens in the city, officials need to act now to stop the unnecessary loss of exiting trees and plant more trees in those areas with low tree canopy. To do otherwise is to ignore both science and the health and welfare of Seattle residents. With better planning, Seattle can continue to add needed housing that is affordable while also maintaining and growing its tree canopy. It is not an either/or situation. We can and must do both.”

Jessica Dixon, Plant Amnesty Board member, at NPI/TreePAC press conference on Seattle Tree Poll

Tree Pac Poll Release Comments
By Jessica Dixon
Plant Amnesty Board Member
9/15/21
The 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment estimated that the total number of trees 30”
in diameter and greater, or what the city defines as exceptional trees at just over 6,000
trees remaining in the city. These are the trees that do the heavy lifting when it comes
to carbon sequestration, intercepting stormwater and mitigating the heat island effect.
Incredibly, 5 years later, Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) is
just beginning to track the steady loss of these trees due to development. It is clear
that the prevailing approach to building on a site in Seattle continues; developers
ignore the existing trees as they develop their building plans and then scrape the site of
all the trees and understory as they build. Unlike many cities, including Portland,
Seattle, does not require tree removal permits or fee-in lieu payment for trees removed!
The latest proposal for the Talaris property, where in order to shoe horn 55 Single
Family lots onto this site by removing 155 exceptional trees, is business as usual!
The imperative of responding to climate change makes it clear that we cannot afford to
continue business as usual. We cannot afford to loose any more of our exceptional
trees, and we are here today to make the point that people in Seattle overwhelmingly
support stronger protections for our mature trees and our urban forest. We need
our city leaders to advance urban planning, public investment and city codes that allow
for and encourage more creative housing solutions and that plan for and protect our
vital urban forest.

Press Release by NPI/Tree PAC on Poll Supporting Updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance

New Seattle poll findings: Voters overwhelmingly favor policies to protect and expand city’s tree canopy

Wednesday September 15th, 2021

For Immediate Release

Contact Andrew Villeneuve
Executive Director
Northwest Progressive Institute

This morning, at a press conference at the Talaris site in north Seattle, the Northwest Progressive Institute and TreePAC announced the release of several new findings from NPI’s July 2021 survey of the Seattle electorate that show overwhelming majorities of voters want their elected representatives to strengthen Seattle’s tree ordinance and protect the Emerald City’s urban forests.

The first question asked:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Seattle’s tree protection ordinance should be strengthened to include increasing tree planting in low income and previously redlined neighborhoods with insufficient tree canopy to reduce heat island impacts and counter climate damage?

82% of respondents said they agreed, while 11% said they disagreed. 7% were not sure.

The second question asked:

Please indicate your support or opposition for each of the following potential ideas for updating Seattle’s tree protection ordinance.

  • Increasing protections for significant and exceptional (large) trees
  • Adding replacement requirements for significant and exceptional tree removal
  • Creating a city tree planting and preservation fund
  • Requiring tree care providers (arborists) to meet minimum certification and training and register with the city
  • Creating a permitting process for removal of significant trees (trees greater than six inches in diameter at four and a half feet high)

All of the ideas presented received support, ranging from 78% to 57%. Opposition ranged from 13% to 28%.

The third question asked:

Cities like Austin, Texas require developers to maximize the retention of existing trees throughout the planning, development, and construction process, while Seattle allows building lots to be cleared of trees during development. Do you support or oppose requiring Seattle developers to maximize the retention of existing trees throughout the planning, development, and construction process?

81% of respondents said they supported this idea, while 11% were opposed. 7% were not sure.

Complete answers to all three questions are available via this Cascadia Advocate post.

The poll of 617 likely August 2021 Seattle voters was in the field through Monday, July 12th, through Thursday, July 15th. All respondents participated online. The poll was conducted by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a modeled margin of error of 4.3% at the 95% confidence interval.

“We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to work with TreePAC to research an important cause that doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” said Northwest Progressive Institute founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve.

“Voters are ready and eager for their elected representatives to take action to defend and protect the Emerald City’s urban forests. The next Mayor and Seattle City Council must prioritize updating and strengthening Seattle’s tree ordinance.”

“The Mayor and Seattle City Council should take heart in these poll results and move forward quickly to update and strengthen protections for trees and Seattle’s urban forest. The public wants action now after twelve years of delay by city officials,” said Steve Zemke, Chair of TreePAC and a six-year former member of the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission.

“With increasing climate impacts affecting citizens in the city, officials need to act now to stop the unnecessary loss of exiting trees and plant more trees in those areas with low tree canopy. To do otherwise is to ignore both science and the health and welfare of Seattle residents. With better planning, Seattle can continue to add needed housing that is affordable while also maintaining and growing its tree canopy. It is not an either/or situation. We can and must do both.”

“The loss of exceptional and other trees is a tremendous blow to our beloved Seattle, and in particular, our beloved Beacon Hill majority people of color, immigrants and refugees community. We adopted El Centro de la Raza’s Air and Noise Pollution Community Action Plan that calls for us to ‘plant trees.’ But what is the use of planting trees to increase our canopy, if the current trees, especially exceptional ones, are cut down willy-nilly? We need the trees for our health to filtrate the air and noise pollution. This is an environmental, health, and climate injustice issue. We need to stop, think and do what is right for our beloved city of Seattle,” said Maria Batayola of El Centro de la Raza.

“Despite more than a decade of promises, Seattle leaders have failed to improve tree protections,” noted Joshua Morris, urban conservation manager for Seattle Audubon. “Seattle can densify, prevent sprawl, protect more trees, and plant more new ones. We just have to plan for it. Washington, D.C., for example, continues to increase both population density and tree canopy cover through strong tree protections, dedicated funding, and coordinated urban forestry management. We can learn from their example. We can and should do better by our urban forest and for the communities, present and future, that depend on it.”

Previous findings from the poll are available from NPI’s Cascadia Advocate.

Additional contacts for this press release

Comments by Steve Zemke
TreePAC- Chair

Comments by Maria Batayola
Beacon Hill Council  – Chair

Comments by Joshua Morris
Seattle Audubon – Urban Conservation Manager-

Comments by Jessica Dixon 
Plant Amnesty – Board Member

Comments by Tina Cohen 
Northwest Arborvitae – Certified Arborist

About NPI
The Northwest Progressive Institute is a regionally focused nonprofit working from Washington, Oregon, & Idaho to constructively transform our world through insightful research and imaginative advocacy. NPI was founded in 2003 and is based in Redmond, Washington. NPI’s July 2021 survey of the Seattle electorate is its first local poll and builds on the organization’s six year track record of credible, accurate statewide research polling.

Northwest Progressive Institute
8201 164th Avenue NE, Suite 200, Redmond, WA 98052-7615  | Twitter: @nwprogressive

Seattle Tree and Urban Forest Ordinance Update – Handout July 2019

Action Needed Now to Protect Seattle’s Trees and Urban Forest

 Urge Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle City Council members to provide strong leadership now to pass legislation this year to significantly strengthen Seattle’s current Tree Protection Ordinance.

Seattle’s urban forest is an integral and vital part of our city.  It provides many benefits and amenities to those living in our city. Research has shown that retaining existing trees and planting new trees is one of the best ways to mitigate our climate crisis.    Trees help clean our air and enhance public health, reduce stormwater runoff, decrease the impacts of heat and wind, provide habitat for birds and wildlife and give us a connection with nature in our neighborhoods.

Seattle’s rapid growth is reducing these beneficial impacts as trees are removed. It is urgent that Seattle act now to stop the continued loss of trees, particularly large trees and exceptional trees and tree groves, and to promote environmental equity as we replace and plant more trees to increase our tree canopy.

Urge the Mayor and City Council to adopt the draft revisions for the Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance that the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission submitted in June 2019 to Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and the Seattle City Council. The updated draft would:

  1. Expand the existing tree removal and replacement permit program, including 2-week public notice and posting, as used by the Seattle Department of transportation (SDOT) – to cover all trees 6” DBH and larger on private property in all land use zones, both during development and outside development.
  2. Require the replacement of all trees removed that are 6” DBH and larger with trees that in 25 years will reach equivalent canopy volume – either on site or pay an in-lieu fee into a City Tree Replacement and Preservation Fund. Allow the Fund to also accept fines, donations, grants and set up easements.
  3. Retain current protections for Exceptional Trees and reduce the upper threshold for exceptional trees to 24” DBH, protect tree groves and prohibit trees over 6”DBH being removed on undeveloped lots. 
  4. Allow removal of no more than 2  significant non-exceptional trees in 3 years per lot outside development
  5. Establish one citywide database for applying for tree removal and replacement permits and to track changes in the tree canopy.  Post online all permit requests and permit approvals for public viewing.
  6. Expand SDOT’s existing tree service provider’s registration and certification to include all tree service providers working on trees in Seattle.
  7. Provide adequate funding in the budget to implement and enforce the updated ordinance.

Please let the Mayor and City Council know you support the 7 items above by copying  and pasting them in an email to send to the Mayor and Seattle City Council in support of updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance. They need to hear from you. Add your own personal comments and reasons for support.

Send to jenny.durkan@Seattle.gov, council@Seattle.gov
 and to the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission for posting as public comment Sandra.Pinto_de_Bader@Seattle.gov 

 Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance

www.Friends.UrbanForests.org

www.TreePAC.org

www.DontClearcutSeattle.org

 

Seattle City Council Passes Resolution to Update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance

On March 18, 2019 the Seattle City Council passed CB 119444 – Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation.

As part of that legislation they passed a Companion  RESOLUTION 31870 calling for additional measures by the City and its partners that complement mandatory housing affordability (MHA) implementation to promote livability and equitable development, mitigate displacement, and address challenges and opportunities raised by community members during the MHA public engagement process.

Section 6 of that resolution dealt with updating Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance.

Section 5. The Council recognizes the environmental, social, and economic benefits of Seattle’s urban forest and commits to working with community members and City departments to update the City’s tree regulations, advancing the goals of the Urban Forest Stewardship Plan across Seattle.
Potential measures may include, but are not limited to, the following:
A. Retaining protections for exceptional trees and expanding the definition of  exceptional trees.
B. Creating a permitting process for the removal of significant trees, defined as trees  6 inches in diameter at breast height or larger.
C. Adding replacement requirements for significant tree removal.
D. Simplifying tree planting and replacement requirements.
E. Maintaining tree removal limits in single-family zones.
F. Exploring the feasibility of establishing a in-lieu fee option for tree planting.
G. Tracking tree removal and replacement throughout Seattle.
H. Providing adequate funding to administer and enforce tree regulations.
I. Requiring that all tree service providers operating in Seattle meet the minimum certification and training requirements and register with the city.

This is an affirmation by the Seattle City Council of their intent to update Seattle’s Tree Protection Ordinance SMC 25.11. The Seattle City Council in 2009 passed a similar resolution but never updated the ordinance. It’s now 10 years later.

Unfortunately the Councilmember leading the effort, Rob Johnson, resigned on April 5, 2019. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has stepped up and said she will now take  the lead in updating the ordinance.

The goal is to complete the drafting process of a new ordinance and have it adopted  by the end of September at the latest. In October and November the Seattle City Council shifts to drafting and adopting the City Budget.