Trees in Eastlake

Opportunities to strengthen 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 with trees capable or growing to a similar large size.

In the last decade the Mayor and City Council greatly reduced the size of yards required around new multifamily residential buildings, precluding large new trees from the developments that are consuming the Eastlake neighborhood and its trees. On public land, Seattle City Light removes or harmfully prunes trees that interfere with overhead utility lines, rarely considering proposals to relocate the lines. Even where there are overhead lines, 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.

The tree protection provisions of the Seattle Municipal Code (known as the Tree Ordinance) 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.

The ECC board of directors unanimously approved a June 24, 2018 letter to the Mayor and City Council, offering detailed suggestions for a stronger tree ordinance, and ECC was one of the parties in a successful administrative appeal that caused the City Council to drop its claim that the then-weak revision proposals did not need environmental analysis. Three Councilmembers began work on a stronger tree protection ordinance but unfortunately all retired from the City Council without completing this work. A majority of the new 2020 City Council has pledged to adopt a stronger Tree ordinance. Taking the lead in 2020 are District 6 City Councilmember Dan Strauss and Eastlake’s own District 4 City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, both newly elected in 2019.

The Coalition for a Stronger Tree Ordinance has renewed its efforts and is holding a series of meetings to inform and involve the public. The Coalition is calling on the Mayor and City Council to adopt the Seattle Urban Forestry Commission’s 2018 draft Tree and Urban Forest Protection Ordinance, available at http://urbanforests.us18.list-manage.com/track/click?u=058456c188494f0a5cf3a8c0e&id=a35651945d&e=a1c7793e2d For background or to be added to the contact list, see http://friends.urbanforests.org, http://TreePAC.org and http://www.dontclearcutseattle.org. Other links are on Facebook: Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest, Tree PAC, and Don’t Clearcut Seattle; Twitter: TreePAC.org, urbanforests, and DontClearcutSeattle; and Instagram: DontClearcutSeattle and FriendsofSeattlesUrbanForest. See also below for contact information to reach the 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 info@eastlakeseattle.org. 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 http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/get-involved/contact-the-mayor (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: alex.pedersen@seattle.gov, dan.strauss@seattle.gov, andrew.lewis@seattle.gov, tammy.morales@seattle.gov; teresa.mosqueda@seattle.gov, lisa.herbold@seattle.gov, lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov, debora.juarez@seattle.gov, and kshama.sawant@seattle.gov.

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 http://www.seattle.gov/council or by calling 206-684-8888.

Eastlake 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 info@eastlakeseattle.org.