Yes, Seattle, we can have both housing and trees

by Naomi Ishisaka, Seattle Times, Aug 14, 2023

….The climate science research organization Climate Central found that of the 44 cities they analyzed, Seattle ranked in the top 5 for increased heat. Half of the city faces an “urban heat island” effect, or temperatures 8 degrees higher than found outside the city. 

It is with this urgency in mind that there was fierce debate over new proposed Seattle tree regulations, called by proponents the “tree protection ordinance.” This measure, which passed the City Council 6-1 in May, overhauled the existing tree ordinance and, according to proponents, would cover up to 175,000 trees, far greater than the 17,700 under the existing ordinance. …

Investigate West photo of a tree

How Developers Helped Shape Seattle’s Controversial Tree Protection Ordinance

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.