How Developers Helped Shape Seattle’s Controversial Tree Protection Ordinance

Published by DontClearcutSeattle on

Article by Eric Scigliono, Investigate West, July 19,2023

Eric Scigliono traces the involvement of the Master Builds of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) in the drafting of the developer-friendly tree “protection” ordinance passed by the City Council in May 2023.

Marco Lowe was the MBAKS government affairs manager prior to becoming Bruce Harrell’s Chief Operating Officer.

In February 2022, Mayor Harrell introduced a tree ordinance drafted by SDCI under his predecessor, Jennie Durkan. Apparently MBAKS didn’t like it….

Eric goes on to say:

The Master Builders, however, sued to block the draft ordinance, claiming it would make development “expensive, uncertain and problematic” and have “severe impacts on housing and other elements of the environment.” In August 2022, the city’s hearing examiner rejected their appeal, finding that the Master Builders hadn’t shown that saving trees would drive up housing costs.

The Master Builders meanwhile set out to join and sway the effort rather than fight it. They offered their own proposal, trumpeting several feel-good gestures: a “citywide tree fund” that would collect fees to remove large trees and “award them where possible to organizations that focus on BIPOC youth tree education,” and “strategic tree planting” to form “pollination pathways for birds, bees, and other insects.” But their proposal also included a sweeping provision to let builders and homeowners “remove any tree… for any reason” — as long as they got permits and paid into the tree fund.