Teresa Mosqueda for Seattle City Council – Position#8
TreePAC 2017 Seattle Candidate Questionnaire
Urban Forest & Green Space
Tree and urban forestry issues currently involve:
1) Tree, canopy and open space lost due to development
2) Need for stronger regulation to reduce tree loss and increase replacement
3) Increased funding for tree maintenance, new plantings, and community education.
LOSS OF TREES AND OPEN SPACE WITH DEVELOPMENT
BACKGROUND – Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. New apartment buildings are often replacing single family homes resulting in a loss of both trees and open space. The Seattle Times recently noted that “the city is on pace to see more apartments built this decade than the previous 50 years.”
QUESTION – What do you propose the city should do to maintain and increase its tree canopy and open space to accommodate the needs of an increased population as Seattle grows and densifies?
This would require a multipronged approach. We want to protect and enhance the natural beauty of our city, improve tree cover and canopy, and be able to promote environmentally responsible development that protects natural areas outside of our city from sprawl. I propose planting trees to replace trees lost to development. When designers are looking to build a structure, we should strengthen policies that protect existing trees and protect the largest amount of green space possible. I believe in creative solutions in preserving our city’s natural beauty and being able to handle the influx of folks moving here.
CONSOLIDATE URBAN FORESTRY IN ONE CITY DEPARTMENT OR AGENCY
BACKGROUND - Currently trees and urban forest maintenance and protection is overseen by 8 different City Departments, with frequently conflicting missions. T he City Auditor in 2009 stated that 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 (OSE)” was recommended.
QUESTION - Would you support unifying tree and urban forest management under a single department or agency like OSE or a City Forestry Department that does not have a conflict of interest in protecting trees as, for example, DCI does?
I think that a City Forestry Department OR an office within OSE is needed. We do want a unified, efficient branch of our government working to protect our environment.
UPDATING SEATTLE’S 2009 “INTERIM” TREE ORDINANCE
BACKGROUND - While other cities around the country have been updating their tree ordinances through an open public process to protect their urban forests, Seattle turned to one city department, DCI, to do so. It has been 8 years since the Seattle City Council passed an interim tree ordinance. They directed the Department of Construction and Inspections (DCI) to come up with a new ordinance draft under Council Resolution 31138. To date no new ordinance has been passed.
QUESTION - Would you support the Mayor and City Council adopting a more open and inclusive process to finally come up with a comprehensive urban forestry ordinance? One example would be appoint a citizens committee to prepare a draft urban forest ordinance, like the Seattle Parks Legacy and Green Spaces Citizens Advisory Committees did. How do you envision this process would move forward?
I do support adopting an open process for the ordinance. I believe that transparency and community input are paramount in any decision making process – this is how we hold our government accountable. I believe in the brilliance of our communities. If elected, I would gather grassroots environmental organizers and folks who have been involved in this work to come together to create an updated draft for the ordinance.
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 in the past.
QUESTION - Do you support continuing the current policy of protecting tree groves to conserve habitat and canopy cover?
Yes, I support it.
BETTER PROTECTION OF HERITAGE AND EXCEPTIONAL TREES
BACKGROUND - Larger trees, (especially conifers in winter months) provide tremendous
ecological value to Seattle’s green infrastructure, by reducing storm water runoff, cleaning
pollutants from the air, and providing animal habitat. Like Portland and other fast growing cities, we continue to lose our magnificent trees across the city, with no end in stop.
QUESTION - Do you support giving greater protection to large trees like Heritage Trees and Exceptional trees? How would you provide this protection?
I support protecting large and historic trees. I am glad that Exceptional Trees are already protected on both undeveloped and developed property (25.11.040), and I believe Heritage Trees should have similar protections. I do think this code can be updated and modernized, and that we can do more to protect large trees as we continue to develop the city at a rapid rate. For one, we need to ensure that development standards are being met, and that all developers go through the process of obtaining permission to remove large trees. Tree preservation requires working with arborists and other experts to determine when policies can be adjusted to better protect our Seattle trees, and my door will always
be open to those knowledgeable and passionate about tree policy.
TREE REMOVAL PERMITS, NOTICE, and REPLACEMENT REQUIRED
BACKGROUND - Cities like Portland, Oregon; Lake Forest Park, WA; Vancouver BC and Atlanta, GA have passed much stronger urban tree ordinances requiring private landowners to do things like obtaining permits to remove trees, with a 2 week street posting of permits before trees can be removed, and either replacement on- site, or paying into a Tree Fund to maintain and replace the trees off-site. As SDOT already does this for street trees, there is already an established and approved processes in place for all city agencies and entities to adopt if they chose.
QUESTION - Would you support a permit process for tree removal on private property in
Seattle, including posted notice and replacement on or off site for trees removed to help stem the loss of trees in our city?
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 dedicated funding for the maintenance of public greenspaces, including increased funding for the Green Seattle Partnership so that the goals to restore our parklands, greenbelts, and critical areas can be met? If so, how would you act to address these goals?
Yes. It is extremely important that we prioritize the maintenance of public greenspaces, as failing to address their upkeep costs the City more than it would to just maintain them. I will work to make sure the City develops a comprehensive plan detailing open spaces in need of maintenance and when they will be addressed. It’s important that the City is accountable for necessary upkeep, and the Green Seattle Partnership is a great way to ensure the plan is implemented. Bringing together City resources, nonprofits, and other stakeholders is an important way to make sure every greenspace is restored, revived, and preserved.
FRUIT TREES SPECIAL MAINTENANCE FUNDING
BACKGROUND - Seattle is one of the very few urban environments that still boasts an extensive and diverse urban fruit tree canopy. Last year, over 36,247 pounds of fruit was gleaned by City Fruit from public and private property, and donated into the emergency food system.
QUESTION – Do you support funding to continue the maintenance of fruit trees on public land and harvesting fruit from private property for food?
Yes. Seattle’s agricultural production is a unique aspect of our city that we should take pride in.
SURPLUS CITY PROPERTY PRESERVED AS NEW PUBLIC OPEN SPACE
BACKGROUND - The Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan removed a previous city goal to maintain the current level of park acreage per person. That goal would have required the addition of 1400 acres of open space by 2035 to accommodate population growth. The city is currently selling surplus property to the highest bidder rather than adding it to open space for Seattle residents. A recent commentary in the Seattle Times noted that “Seattle decided a long time ago that it wouldn’t require growth to pay for growth with impact fees. At least 80 cities in Washington think otherwise, including all the big eastside cities, and impose impact fees.”
QUESTION – Would you support the use of impact fees on developers to help pay for both
surplus city property and other property to purchase open space and parkland to help maintain public access for recreation and green space as our population grows?
Yes, as the population grows so will the need for trees, parks, and open space. Finding the balance between need for in-fill, affordable housing and critical importance of parks and open space is the fundamental challenge facing our growing city. I believe we can be deliberate and smart in our planning to maximize the value of underutilized and surplus properties.
INCREASE CANOPY COVER GOAL TO 40% AND ADD METRICS TO ASSESS CANOPY VOLUME AND URBAN FORESTRY HEALTH
BACKGROUND - Seattle currently has a 28 percent 2 dimensional area canopy cover according to a 2016 City study of trees 8 feet tall or higher. The Seattle’s Urban Forest Stewardship Plan’s goal was set 10 years ago at 30 % canopy cover by 2037. The Seattle Comprehensive Plan targeted a long term 40% goal, as recommended by the American Forestry Association.
QUESTION - Do you support raising Seattle’s 2037 area canopy goal to 40% and increasing measured data to include 3-dimensional canopy analysis and forest health?
Yes. Additionally, I think it is important we use the best, most modern data analysis tools to secure healthy trees and forests.
MEASURING CANOPY CHANGES WITH EACH DEVELOPMENT PERMIT
BACKGROUND – In 2015 the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission recommended that DCI do a detailed Urban Forest Canopy Impact Assessment (UFCIA) for all properties undergoing development, providing information on all trees >6” DBH both before and after development. Yet, to date they have not responded.
QUESTION – Would you implement such a requirement?
Although I am not familiar with the specifics of how the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission recommendation would be implemented, I agree that we need to better understand the effect development has on our large trees and what we can do to mitigate negative effects of that development. Data on changes in canopy coverage, height, species, etc. would be valuable in tracking forestry preservation now and in the future.
TREE CANOPY REPLACEMENT FUND
BACKGROUND - During development is when most trees are lost in the city. 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?
Yes, this is important for tree preservation and protection.
INCENTIVES FOR PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERS TO PLANT TREES
According to the 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment, a significant amount of the city’s
urban forest is situated on single family and multi-family residencies-which contributes to
72% of the city’s overall canopy cover.
QUESTION - What suite of community incentives and/or policies would you propose that will encourage private landowners to plant native trees to reduce storm water impacts, improve air quality and sequester carbon, as well as to provide habitat for urban birds and other wildlife?
There is no doubt that planting more trees and creating greater canopy cover leads to better environmental outcomes for our city. Trees have economic benefits and promote healthy communities. As such, I do think we should incentivize getting the community more involved in planting trees. I would start by promoting the Trees for Neighborhood program. Families, neighborhoods, and communities have access to free trees, mulch, watering bags, and expert insight and training. This is a great program that deserves more attention for its potential to improve our City’s ecosystem!
RACE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE
The 2016 Seattle Tree Canopy Assessment found there is a statistically significant inverse
relationship between tree canopy and both people of color and people within 200% of the
poverty level. The report found that in Census tracts with lower amounts of tree canopy more of the population tends to be people of color and have lower incomes.
QUESTION - Given this relationship, how can the city work to identify opportunities to work with underserved communities in order to facilitate increased forest canopy.
I think this would be an important opportunity for community leadership. Working with communities of color and low income folks to create community events like tree planting, that foster a sense of ownership and increase education around the importance of the tree canopy. Partnering with community organizations like Got Green would be an incredible way to bridge racial justice work with environmental justice work.
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 storm water runoff, habitat for wildlife and quality of life for communities. Trees (especially older, larger, mature trees and forest canopy) are a significant factor in helping to reduce carbon emissions on an ongoing basis.
QUESTION: Share with us your favorite tree or urban forest memory and why you support
continued investment in trees as a community resource.
Growing up, there was a large tree in a park close to my house. It was extremely tall, had a thick trunk and lush dense leaves. I have very fond memories of playing with my sister Tania and the other children in the neighborhood in and around the tree. We would spend our summer days climbing up high into the branches of the tree and making up fairy tale characters. It was the hub for the children in our neighborhood. The tree served as the meeting spot for all of our games and is an important pillar in my childhood memories. This is a perfect example of why we must work diligently to protect our tree canopy. They are more than aesthetic fixtures, they serve as hubs for community and inspire creativity
and curiosity amongst our kiddos.
Please add any clarifications or comments you would like to convey to us regarding the
questions above, or on protecting trees and the urban forest and open space in general.
Thank you for your participation! Please return the questionnaire by email by July 14, 2017
to Steve Zemke, Chair of TreePAC at email@example.com . Questionnaires will be posted at www.TreePAC.o