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