Search This Blog

Sunday, August 28, 2011

City Trees Always Under Threat!

Shoreline's Tree Canopy seems to be in the news consistently. Now another row of mature street trees is threatened by City policies.
One of at least FIFTEEN street trees
slated for removal on N 155th in Shoreline.
At least 15 Sweet Gum trees that are likely 4 decades old and just now reaching significant size and canopy breadth, are targetted with special signs announcing their demise and inviting citizens to call a special number.

North 155th is one of many major corridors lined with beautiful street trees in Shoreline, which give it great character.
View of N 155th looking East towards the freeway. The trees
offer a wonderful framing and respite for
pedestrians and drivers.
The policy being carried out by public works staff, is an area by area "sidewalk" enhancement program, designed to eliminate "bumps" that are caused by tree roots pushing up sidewalks. These raised sidewalks cause hazards for pedestrians. These problems are caused, because of inadequate space for the trees to grow. On Aurora, the city and state are spending many millions of dollars with "Silva Cell" tree pits that are an excellent way to prevent this problem. But meanwhile, unimaginative policies are now threatening trees, block-by-block, and year after year.

Shoreline has had many tree controversies over the years. Currently, there are at least two other battles going on over trees, including the Bear Reserve in Innis Arden, and the Interurban Trail/Westminster Triangle, City Light tree cutting proposal. Neither of these is resolved currently.
Shoreline does NOT have a real tree ordinance. Its tree policies are sprinkled throughout the code. In the last several years many citizens have sought to create a true tree ordinance, however the current council has in the last few months declined to work for an improved tree ordinance that would actually protect its trees and to have a goal for increasing the tree canopy. The State passed the Evergreen Communities Act which sought to give cities and counties the tools to create workable tree ordinances that increased tree canopy. Rep Ruth Kagi was the prime sponsor. Lake Forest Park, Edmonds and Seattle all have somewhat more effective tree ordinances.

The benefits of trees are widely known and there are easy online methods of calculating individual trees' values. One is called "I-Tree", a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from USDA. You can analyze your own neighborhood trees' benefits using this software HERE.

In 2010, these policies resulted in the loss of about 15-20 major street trees on 15th NE.
Two large London Plan Trees were saved at
the Ridgecrest/Briarcrest Gateway.
This tree conceals an ugly cell tower.

Now apparently the city is targetting a different location. Citizens should be very wary of these signs and possible loss of trees in your neighborhood.

A reasonable question could be asked as to whether any other alternatives could be carried out, and what is the criteria for cutting these particular trees?

Back in 2010, citizens made a major effort to save a couple of significant trees that serve as a "gateway" to the Southeast Subarea at 15th NE. Two large London Plane Trees were saved and survive to this day because staff looked for a suitable alternative to cutting those trees. The sidewalk was repaired AROUND the roots. 

Most people whom you ask why they moved to Shoreline, will say "schools and trees" and maybe they moved in order to find an affordable house (with trees!)
A reasonable person could ask, how many of these tree massacres do we have to endure?
How many trees can we cut without really jeopardizing our true character?

Hey Shoreline! What is pictured in your logo? Remember?

You can contact the City of Shoreline with your comments at -
Mark Relph, Director -801-2401

or City Council -


  1. These trees are all sweetgums and look to conservatively average about 16 inch diameter at breast height (dbh. According to the National Tree Benefit Calculator at:
    each tree of this species and size in Shoreline intercepts 1,243 gallons of stormwater and sequesters 370 pounds of carbon each year.

    What will do that when they are gone?

  2. We have just learned from a noted arborist at a community meeting last Tuesday that what is important if replacing trees is the acreage or volume of the trees foliage not the trunk count. So if these mature trees are replaced it will take decades to replace the value they provide to the community. It takes one man one day to break up the sidewalk concrete around these trees and replace it with a new flat smooth section, or with paver tiles that will give with future growth. Isn't it better to do a one day repair than a multi-decade tree replacement.

  3. Great points all! I've added the calculator link from I-Tree.
    Thanks for caring about trees in Shoreline!

  4. Thanks for keeping on top of this subject. Since I don't walk on 155th I would have missed these signs. It is very short sighted of the City to have just one means of dealing with this issue. I have photographed, fought and testified on this matter over the years and would like to see it resolved for good, for the good of trees and people. It makes absolutely no sense to destroy a healthy tree that is serving us so well.

  5. Last week at the Briarcrest Candidates' Forum Councilmember McConnell took the credit for the responsiveness of Seattle City Light to the Westminster Triangle neighbors' concerns earlier in the week, in addition to taking full credit for the various subarea plans.

    Will she truly stand up for our communities, or as she stated publicly Shoreline "reeks of sustainability" that it no longer needs to be one of our Council Goals? i.e. is she all talk?

  6. Can safe walkways be provided cost-effectively in a way that is consistent with large trees? I know some people are worried about tripping over roots and falling, but maybe a gravel path could be properly graded and maintained at reasonable cost. I don't know, just one possibility.