Seattle City Council to vote on private property tree protections

Some E Roy greenery (Image: City of Seattle)

Lovers of Seattle’s trees are hoping to celebrate Tuesday afternoon as the Seattle City Council is expected to pass legislation requiring tree service providers to register with the city prior to conducting work on private property.

The bill sponsored by Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Dan Strauss would extend requirements already in place for companies that trim and remove trees in the public right of way along streets and sidewalks. It will also require the tree service providers to post notice three days before major pruning or removal of trees above a certain size. Continue reading

Remember those 13th Ave E trees? City sticks to removal plans for sidewalk improvements

(Image: CHS)

With reporting by Ryan Packer

A neighborhood fight to save two 40-foot-tall Norway Maples in the planting strip along Capitol Hill’s leafy 13th Ave E will end with the city deciding to stick to its plans for removal despite taking “a second and third look” at the situation, according to an email from the Seattle Department of Transportation.

CHS reported here on the argument from a group of neighbors and arboreal advocates trying to save the trees that the city said needed to be removed to make way for sidewalk and curb improvements part of redevelopment and construction of new townhouses on the street.

“Despite the follow up step to involve SDOT Engineers in additional Divisions to look with fresh eyes for other options, SDOT has made the determination to allow the removal of these trees,” an email sent Thursday by the city reads: Continue reading

On leafy 13th Ave E, some speak up for two 40-foot trees set to fall for sidewalk improvements — UPDATE

By Ryan Packer

The fate of two Norway Maples along one of Capitol Hill’s most leaf-covered residential streets seems sealed— but some neighbors are hoping to influence the decision at the last minute. 13th Ave E, with its unique curving streetscape, features a lush tree canopy along most of its length.

But a project moving forward to replace two houses currently occupied as duplexes with five rowhouses has led the city toward the determination that two 40-foot-tall trees in the planting strip along 13th cannot stay. With the new homes comes rebuilt curb ramps, and ripping up the sidewalk to install new ramps will do too much damage to the trees, according to the City of Seattle.

“After more than a year of review of the project site and design requirements, there were no options to meet SDOT Traffic or Urban Forestry standards for public safety and accessibility without removal and replacement of the trees,” reads an email sent by SDOT Arborist Ben Roberts that was posted by a concerned neighbor at the site within the past few days. According to the city, a notice was posted alerting nearby residents that the trees would be removed, but that notice is no longer there as of this week.
Continue reading

Seattle heat wave also brings a sad break on E Mercer

Sad break on E Mercer — thanks to reader Mike for the pictures

The toll from this week’s dangerously hot record high temperatures includes a neighborhood favorite in the surprisingly leafy area around E Mercer just below Broadway. CHS’s inbox has been filled with questions about what happened to the neighborhood’s big maple after a city work crew chopped away at its branches Tuesday morning

Late on Monday night, nearly half the tree crashed down on utility wires along E Mercer between Boylston and Belmont. The crew came out to remove the massive failed limbs and cut away others at risk of failure.

“The remaining part of the tree was delimbed at the same time, due to the amount of internal decay that was present, to remove the possibility of failure of the remainder of the tree,” city arborist Nolan Rundquist tells CHS. Continue reading

Take an Earth Day tour with city’s new Seattle Tree Walks app

Visit a Capitol Hill favorite — this huge the London plane in the traffic triangle at the intersection of Belmont, Summit, and Bellevue Pl — to mark Earth Day (Image: CHS)

“We tried to make something that would mimic the actions of the Douglas fir forest that once was on our site—something that would get all of its energy from the sun, all of its water from the rain, and not produce anything toxic,” Denis Hayes, Earth Day founder and father of 15th and Madison’s “living building” The Bullitt Center said in a recent interview.

That fir forest is long gone but a new effort from the city makes enjoying Seattle’s modern urban forest even easier. Trees for Seattle program manager (and CHS reader!) Kym Foley sent over this announcement of the new Seattle Tree Walks app: Continue reading

Pikes/Pines | For Capitol Hill trees, beauty is being comfortable and confident in your own bark

Ponderosa Pine bark (Image: Brendan McGarry)

Dry winds brought down the leaves. Rain is currently making them slick hazards as we walk under an increasingly bare canopy on Capitol Hill. We enter a time of year when you can look up and fully appreciate the magnificent spread of a massive oak and the bright papery bark of a silver birch. I particularly enjoy this opportunity to engage with the barks of plants in winter, both because they pose interesting points about survival, and because they are simply artistically captivating, (especially without those gaudy distractions, leaves).

While it’s likely we all know this, it’s worth saying: Bark exists to protect woody plants, which grow year after year, from harm. Trees, shrubs, and some vines grow bark as a shield from fire, insects, and fungi as well as from freezing temperatures or moisture loss. When that delivery truck mangles the bark of an ash tree on Broadway, it opens up the tree to potential pathogens, gives it less protection from freezing weather, and can even stop it from transferring nutrients if badly damaged. Trees, our main focus here, need bark like we need our skin. Continue reading

Pikes/Pines | The trash trees of Capitol Hill

A canopy of red alders in winter. (Image: Brendan McGarry)

A friend of mine calls alders “trash trees.” He is an arborist, and as a pragmatic person who maintenances trees to fit into the grid, alders aren’t “good” trees. They are fairly weak, short lived, are rot prone, and pop up unwanted. They are also native, and as a result host loads of other species, and possesses a subtle seasonal variability I find a beautiful part of our landscape.

These differences of opinion are well reflected in the blocked up properties of dense, urban Capitol Hill. Based on my observations, some people care dearly about managing every last inch of space, others are willing to let things go wild, and some seem entirely oblivious to the world outside their indoor spaces. (Landscaping is also a privileged act, not simply about “caring” or “not caring”). I wonder how the red alder, Alnus rubra, the common and unassuming tree, fits into our world on the Hill?

There are certainly plenty of alder trees growing around Capitol Hill. They are in the Arboretum, in St. Mark’s  Greenbelt, in Interlaken Park. However, few yards appear to purposefully invite red alders into their limited spaces. Why is this? Continue reading

After more than 140 years of burials, Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery needs a new wall

Lake View still has room (Images: CHS)

Last week, CHS reported on Recompose, the Capitol Hill-birthed startup dedicated to rethinking what happens to our bodies after we die. As if Lake View Cemetery needed something else to worry about, the 147-year-old burial grounds are also in need of some costly repair.

The City of Seattle is reviewing a $1.5 million plan to replace the Capitol Hill cemetery’s dilapidated western retaining wall according to permit documents filed by the nonprofit association that runs the private grounds just north of Volunteer Park. Continue reading

‘Tree-point system’ — In quest to stay leafy, Seattle looks at new canopy protection rules


Seattle homeowners could need a permit to remove some trees from their property and developers would need to follow a “tree-point system” to determine how many trees would need to be planted when there is new construction under a new set of tree preservation regulations being considered at City Hall.

The city’s current tree preservation regulations were developed in 2009, but were considered at the time to be interim rules, said Yolanda Ho, of the city council staff during a May meeting of the council’s Planning Land Use and Zoning Committee.

A set of draft regulations was then developed in 2012, but it didn’t end up going anywhere. Now, the council is trying again to develop a set of rules that could help the Emerald City reach is goal of 30% tree cover. Continue reading

E Pike tree pits are getting filled over with ‘porous pavement’

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What the new permeable pits will look like. (Image: SDOT)

Poor sidewalk tree pits. The tiny patches of dirt that give rise to Pike/Pine’s tree-lined blocks are often ignored receptacles of urban waste until cursed at for tripping up hurried pedestrians.

Now some of those Pike/Pine dirt patches are getting an upgrade. The Seattle Department of Transportation has started installing “flexible porous pavement” over 19 tree pits along E Pike between Broadway and 12th Ave. The goal of the project is to improve pedestrian safety by smoothing over the sidewalk surface while offering greater protection to E Pike’s trees. SDOT promises no trees will be harmed in the installation.

An SDOT flyer about the project says, “this innovative solution is one of several efforts to expand our use of these new materials as an alternative to traditional mulches and tree grates.” The permeable pavement also requires significantly less maintenance work.Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 10.40.38 AM

All sidewalks will remain open during the project. Contractors may take up a few parking spots during the installation, which is expected to wrap-up May 6th. The project is one of the many funded by the $930 million Move Seattle levy, approved by voters last year. CHS previously looked at some of the other levy-powered Council District 3 projects.

Even with healthier reinforced bases, many urban trees will be chopped down before their time. In 2014, Broadway’s big, old tree had to go after it began leaning too far over the sidewalk. A potentially “exceptional” red cedar is also on track to come down to make way for a new development at 19th and Mercer.