Lois Martin, Seattle resident and business owner

Canopies of Green Urban Density

Canopies of Green Urban Density

Produced by Brady Lawrence and Martha Baskin

Dense housing policies and strong urban tree protections can co-exist. But only if policy makers recognize the import roles mature trees play to public health and climate mitigation, and enact construction codes that include protecting mature trees during residential construction. The video, “Canopies of Green Urban Density” showcases voices of an architect, bioregional planner and urban homeowner who understand that trees are essential to healthy, climate resilient communities. Originally produced in late 2022, the issue remains critical, as Seattle city leaders punt in passing a strong tree protection ordinance and state legislators consider legislation that would undermine such an ordinance were it passed.

Medowbrook's True-love trees

The True-love Trees

True Love Trees

by Bruce Dear

Meadowbrook’s iconic True-Love trees are at risk! This remarkable cedar-fir couple have been growing as one for almost 100 years along Thornton Creek in north Seattle. Recently a developer has applied to Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to cut them down, in order to build new homes. Yet, a respected local architect has drawn up plans which show how the same amount of housing can be built around these amazing trees and their nearby grove.

Housing shortage: Build, but also retain trees

Seattle Times letter to the editor by Sandy Shettler / Aug 10, 2022

Re: “More regulations on housing push us further from the goal of meeting demand” [Aug. 7, Opinion]:

This Op-Ed perpetuates the false narrative that we can only house new neighbors by cutting down Seattle’s trees. We can and should grow our housing stock and our urban forest at the same time.

Read more…

TreePAC Summer 2022 Newletter

TreePAC August 2022

From Kevin Orme: “Hello and hope you are staying safe. Summer’s here – and with a few heat spells that definitely have gone over typical Seattle weather so far. As you enjoy the sunshine, stay cool and remember to stop to enjoy our urban tree canopy either at home or throughout the city, and advocate for its continued protection and growth”

Read more…

save our trees yard-sign

Don’t Clear-cut Seattle Yardsign Campaign

New Design for Don't Clear-cut Seattle Yardsigns

We’ve redesigned our yard-signs! Our goal is to communicate the role that trees play in creating a healthy community as well as a healthy ecosystem.

Please contact info@dontclearcutseattle.org to arrange a yard-sign pickup or delivery. We currently have pickup locations in the Northgate area, Greenwood, Magnolia, Greenlake, Ravenna, Wedgewood and South Seattle. We hope to have more pickup locations arranged soon to increase coverage in other parts of Seattle.

save our trees yard-sign
Trees - Essential Urban Allies

Trees – Essential Urban Allies

Trees - Essential Urban Allies

by Brady Lawrence and Martha Baskin / November 12, 2020

Brady Lawrence and Martha Baskin interview Kathy Wolf, a well known research social scientist in the UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

In the face of rapid development will the Emerald City recognize the environmental, public health and quality of life services trees provide before it’s too late? Advocates like Wolf, hope they will.

Can a Smart City Get Smart About Trees?

Can a Smart City Get Smart About Trees?

by Martha Baskin / February 24, 2020

Lede: Rapid residential development in Seattle, the nation’s top growing city, is resulting in the loss of thousands of mature trees. The Emerald City isn’t keeping track, but tree advocates are sounding the alarm. They’re calling for the city to update a tree protection ordinance last written in 2009. That was before trees were recognized for their ecosystem and public health benefits and as natural allies in a climate crisis. Can density and trees co-exist? Martha Baskin has the story. 

Narration: Annie Thoe knows this neighborhood of tall conifers and big leaf maple, well. Unlike much of the city, Victory Heights in NE Seattle, has a vital urban forest, groves of Doug firs and western hemlock, whose canopies clean the air and roots keep storm water from flooding into basements and waterways; where merlins, those fierce urban raptors, made a comeback and birds of all kinds find habitat. But it’s changing.

“We’re losing it really rapidly because of the rules in development, the lack of protection of trees.”

Over the last few years lots, some with groves of trees, others with one or two 100 year old trees, have been clear cut to build large homes. Thoe points to a lot where twenty-six trees were removed to build two mini-mansions.

“They’re 3000 or more square feet with a 500 square foot garage.”

Many were on the lots periphery, but city code allows developers to clear to the property lines and build for “development potential”.

Thoe, a renter, is all for density and affordable housing, but most residential development is market rate. Over the last ten years of rapid population growth and changes to zoning, existing tree protections are often ignored or disregarded. Thoe and others want the city council to update an eleven year old tree protection ordinance that recognizes the critical ecosystem and public health services mature trees provide, especially in a climate crisis. At a recent city council hearing, advocates lobbied for a draft written by the Urban Forestry Commission, a city advisory group. Josh Morris, a representative from Seattle Audubon, serves on the commission and testified at the hearing.

“ There’s tremendous public support to turn this around and myriad good reasons to do so. We can figure out how to be denser, more affordable, more equitable, resilient to climate change and leafy too.”

City Council Member Dan Strauss chairs the Land Use and Neighborhood Committee which handles trees and land use codes. Strauss is sympathetic to those trying to protect mature trees having watched the neighborhood where he grew up, Ballard,

“Literally bulldozed in front of me. There were some builders who protected trees and there were some that didn’t”.

Density and tree protection shouldn’t be at odds, he says.

“We need to have the density to create housing for all our new neighbors. We need to protect the trees that we have and we need to re-tree the parts of the city that are currently barren.” 

Back in the Victory Heights neighborhood, Mack Murphy, an architect, talks about the attempt he and several neighbors made to buy an adjacent double lot with 49 trees. They were outbid by a developer who’s preparing to build. Murphy admits protecting trees may make it more difficult and expensive, but it’s possible. He did an initial design,

“that had a little road that meandered  back into there and took advantage of the trees and it could have been lovely and a real asset to the city. Look at the light coming in off those trees right now”

Murphy is familiar with codes required before building which include rules to protect significant trees.

“but somehow they’re not enforced. It gets to some point in the system and then the system just seems to quit working…”

The Department of Construction and Inspection, DCI, is responsible for building permits and tree inspections on residential lots. Of 400 staff, it has two arborists. Chanda Emory, a DCI urban planner, says they’re working on recommendations made by the Urban Forestry Commission to expand the definition of exceptional trees

“and then looking into adding replacement requirements for significant tree removal”

The department is also considering modifying tree removal limits in single family zones. Their priorities are increasing canopy cover in historically underrepresented and low income area of the city.

Given the rapid loss of trees on residential lots under DCI, tree advocates argue tree inspections should be moved to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, which oversees the Urban Forestry Commission. They want a moratorium on cutting trees over 24” inches in diameter and all large conifers. They’d also like the city’s Climate Action Plan to include strategies for mature tree retention and tax incentives for smaller homes that protect mature trees, among other recommendations.

Councilmember Strauss thinks it’s possible to pass a new tree ordinance within the next 9 to 12 months – September through December is consumed by the budget process – but first the whole city family, as he puts it, the Mayor, the Council, DCI and other stakeholders, need to be on board.

“At that point we can re-engage with advocates who should never stop advocating. Advocates absolutely need to keep advocating.” 

It’s likely something Annie Thoe and others trying to protect Seattle’s remaining residential mature trees, plan to do.

“It’s in our hands to protect our trees to treat them as something we need to steward.”

She pauses to listen to the wind in the conifers.

”Not just for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren and generations to come.”

To learn more go to https://www.dontclearcutseattle.org/ or friends.urbanforests.org, https://friends.urbanforests.org/seattles-urban-forest/.

With engineering by Daniel Guenther, this is Martha Baskin. -0-