Trees in Eastlake

Eastlake Community Council asks your help in strengthening Seattle’s tree protection ordinance

The Eastlake neighborhood once had a profusion of large trees in private yards and along the streets. But in recent decades, many of our large trees have been cut down or damaged in their prime by public agencies or private property owners, and it is harder than ever to get them replaced.

The City Arborist (located in the Seattle Department of Transportation) does not allow the planting strips along streets to be newly planted with conifers like Douglas fir, cedar, or sequoia, on the grounds that in their early years the lower branches can block the sidewalk and parked cars. And in the last decade the Mayor and City Council have greatly reduced the size of yards required around new multifamily residential buildings, precluding large new trees from the developments that are consuming the neighborhood and its trees.

The tree protection provisions of the Seattle Municipal Code were last updated in 2009 and are notoriously weak. In 2017 the City’s Tree Regulations Research Project warned: “We are losing exceptional trees and groves.” And: “Development and hardscape increase tree loss. Conifers and large trees are coming out with deciduous and dwarf species coming in.”

The City report called for system of permits before trees can be removed; and that replacement trees be required. Such a system is already in place in many cities, among them Portland, Oregon and locally Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Redmond and Sammamish. It is past time for Seattle to join them.

City Councilmember Rob Johnson was formerly taking the lead in developing a tree protection ordinance, but resigned in Marchg 2019. City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has taken the lead. She has not made clear whether she agrees with Johnson’s former position to require a removal permit for any tree with a diameter of more than twelve inches; and that a removed tree be replaced on or near the site unless payment is made to a Tree Replacement Fund. The Eastlake Community Council agrees with TreePAC that this proposal would actually weaken the current tree ordinance, which protects trees as small as six inches in diameter.

The Eastlake Community Council board of directors unanimously approved a June 24, 2018 letter to the Mayor and City Council, urging a much stronger tree ordinance. ECC joined a coalition of many non-profit groups as well as the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission (a City body) urging that a removal permit be required for any tree with a diameter of at least six inches; that lots less than 5000 square feet no longer be exempt from tree regulations; and that developers be required to start with a tree assessment and to have an approved tree replacement plan before a project is approved. Steps are also needed to protect and promote large trees on the planting strips along streets.

The Eastlake Community Council appreciates Councilmember Bagshaw’s efforts, and urges her to be open to public interest proposals such as found at and See next section for contact information for Bagshaw and the other City Councilmembers and the Mayor.

How to reach the Mayor and City Council members to express your views

Whatever your views, it is important to exercise your rights as a citizen by communicating with our elected Mayor and City Councilmembers. And please send a copy to the Eastlake Community Council at Doing so alerts ECC to your concerns so we can keep you informed and involved about follow-up.

Mayor Jenny Durkan accepts comments from the public by e-mail. You can also leave a comment on-line at (the system will reject any message of more than about 500 words). You can also reach Mayor Durkan by letter (which can be longer!) at 600 Fourth Avenue, 7th floor, P.O. Box 94749, Seattle, WA 98124-4749, or by fax at 206-684-5360. The Mayor’s reception phone is 206-684-4000.

Be sure to communicate with the nine City Councilmembers individually, rather than by a group e-mail or letter (which is far less likely to be heeded). The City Council e-mail addresses are as follows:,,,,,,,, and

You can also reach the City Councilmembers by letter at 600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd floor, P.O. Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025, or by fax at 206-684-8587. Each Councilmember also has a voice mail number listed at or by calling 206-684-8888.

Trees: inventory, protection, and planting
[Click here for inventory form and instructions]
[Click here for 2013 Eastlake Tree Walk guide]

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. — Joni Mitchell

The Eastlake Community Council is working to inventory Eastlake’s trees, plant new trees, and protect existing trees where possible. It is all too easy to take trees for granted. Yet they provide habitat for birds and other creatures, clean air, slope stability, shade, beauty, and noise insulation.

Trees grace our public spaces, and can greatly increase the value of private property. Agencies are less likely to remove trees on public property if the neighborhood is aware and organized. Property owners are less likely to remove a tree if they know more about it. Locations lacking trees can be identified for an appropriate addition.

Let’s find out the diversity, quantity, and condition of trees growing in the neighborhood before we lose them. A start was the June 1, 2013 Eastlake Tree Walk. Click above or here for that day’s guide, which was prepared with the help of Tree Ambassador volunteers Penny Kriese, Debbie Lematta, and Philip Stielstra. The guide includes a walking map with photos and descriptions of 56 different tree species found along just five blocks of the Eastlake neighborhood, dramatizing the importance of trees to our local environment.

Please volunteer to help with ECC’s inventory of Eastlake trees. You can identify the trees on your property, your block, in a park, or anywhere else in Eastlake. Click above or here for the inventory form and instructions, including books and web sites for help in identifying and measuring trees, and how to contact ECC with questions. Thanks for helping with this important project! We’ll contact you about the results.

ECC welcomes questions about Eastlake trees, and suggestions of what more we can do to understand, protect, and promote trees in the neighborhood. Contact us at or (206) 473-2849.

Click on any item in this column

About ECC

Neighborhood resources

Social media and blogs

Emergencies, public safety, and government