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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Interurban Trees! A Remarkable Result of People Power

Westminster Triangle is a neighborhood that cares a great deal about its trees. 
High Tension lines and lower capacity lines
below on City Light right of way.
City Light claims the trees may cause
electrical outages or accidents,
but neighbors point out discrepencies in
City Light policies and the differences
between the High and Lower capacity lines.
The neighbors point to the values the trees provide
including screening, water retention, air quality and
carbon capture.

But Seattle City Light didn't realize they needed to work with the immediate neighbors and how much they care, before they proposed a plan to cut at least 40 significant trees (originally proposed 100) along the Interurban Trail. 

Last week a remarkable thing happened at a public meeting Seattle City Light had hosted at the behest of the City of Shoreline. The meeting was held at the Westminster Assembly church with at least 60 neighbors and concerned citizens attending.

The public simply refused to accept the answers and assertions of City Light, that cutting the 40 trees was just going to happen!
Community Activist Lance Young, and neighbor
on the trail confronts City Light staff and
paid mediator Cathy Allen.
A community activist was born when neighbor, Lance Young realized that his new property would be drastically impacted by City Light's plans. He and others formed a new group called "Interurban Trail Tree Preservation Society", and did amazing outreach, research and advocacy. they came to the meeting well prepared with facts and passion. They've collected over 500 signatures in a petition. They measured the right-of-way, and GPS points for all of the trees that are targetted. They lobbied city staff, city council and Seattle officials. They contacted certified arborists and other experts. They did their homework and were prepared.

At the meeting, paid mediator (normally a political consultant) Cathy Allen, tried to control the meeting and limit discussion to 2 minutes each. But, Lance Young was able to confront her and other City Light presenters with a barrage of facts and City Light's own policies, and show that they were completely unprepared. For instance, City Light did not even have any real replacement tree plan available and their own arborist was not present. City Light's staff were at once stating the were "tree lovers" and next stating that the trees had to be cut down. And they were sometimes combative towards the members of the public. The citizens were to a person, extremely articulate and passionate and were not willing to accept the time limits to questions or discussion.

One point raised repeatedly by neighbors was why couldn't City Light continue to prune or trim the trees as has been done for decades and which preserved the "screening" the coniferous canopy provides.
City Light did not have an adequate response.

Rep Cindy Ryu, who is also a property owner next to the trail stated that one of the problems with this plan is that we in Shoreline pay 6% higher rates than Seattle ratepayers and yet we have no democratic representation on the decision-making process. Shoreline/LFP PATCH did extensive coverage of this meeting last week and can be read here.
Rep Cindy Ryu (32nd dist)
speaks to the attendees while
Cathy Allen looks on.
ph cred- PATCH

The outcome of this meeting was amazing when a City Light manager, took over the meeting and announced that they were now going to come up with a new plan to "work with the community".
Lance Young lives with his wife right next to
the Interurban Trail and has an amazing
specimen of a Big Leaf Maple in front of his home.

Lance Young is a trail and white water rafting tour guide and cares deeply about the trees.

Meanwhile  he has formed a group called -
Interurban Trail Tree Preservation Society
They can be reached at -
Lance Young;

They will be outreaching to neighbors, City Light and City of Shoreline to work for solutions to save as many trees as possible and to work towards a comprehensive tree ordinance and Urban Forest Canopy goal for Shoreline.

But, there have already been breakdowns in communication, despite the supposed agreement to work cooperatively. Last Friday a City Light crew from their Real Estate division came out, after the meeting and began hacking away at lower limbs of some of the trees for some kind of survey. There has since then been contacts that "mistakes were made" and more promises to work with the neighbors on a better plan.

There is also apparently a meeting planned with city staff and City Light at which possibly some councilmembers may attend. This meeting is to discuss communication issues on this and other matters.
It is unclear whether this is a public meeting.

It is obvious that much more work needs to be done before trust is fully restored between all parties.


  1. Is it time for the City Council to pull their collective heads out of the sand and recognize that trees matter to residents of Shoreline? Everyone who attended this meeting should pay very close attention to how the vote this fall. The current council has, at best, a hands-off record. Perhaps they should reconsider while some trees are still standing.

  2. This is indeed great news! Thanks to all who attended and to Rep. Ryu for speaking up.

  3. @ Anonymous 2:37 PM:

    To see what the City has allowed in the past year, take a look at the intersection of 8th Ave NW and Richmond Beach Road.

    Looking southwest, Innis Arden now has a wide water view due to removal of many mature trees for their new "gateway".

    Looking northwest, the Sundquist lot has been clear-cut of all but the fringe of trees left at the perimeter. A lot more than 2 trees per year have been cut earlier this summer - WITH City's blessings via a permit.

    As Councilmember McConnell stated publicly at the Briarcrest Candidates' Forum last week: Shoreline "reeks of sustainability." "Environmental Sustainability" was taken off of our city's Council Goals under McConnell's watch. Under the guise of McConnell's brand of niceness, tree-cutting with a vengeance occurs in Shoreline.

  4. Great points Anonymous! And very sharp observation about the lack of currently effective tree legislation.

    Shoreline can do much better! Thanks for caring!

  5. How about undergrounding the wires, so there would be no potential conflict between trees and power lines? There are important other advantages of undergrounding.

    This may seem to be an expensive alternative, but only if we keep on undervaluing trees and the great range of functions they perform.

  6. I live at 145th and 20th NE and a few days ago, maybe the 26th, I saw a truck with several (10-12) large cut trees. Were these taken from the interurban trail? They were very tall and lovely trees once...

  7. People power is strong enough to bring down the forces of nature, and to stand up for them and stop them from ever being harmed. I truly hope we choose to protect, instead.

    -Samudaworth Tree Service