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Monday, September 15, 2008

No Tree Is Safe

posted by on September 15 at 16:43 PM

Save the Trees—a group of North Seattle residents who recently won a court ruling halting the Seattle School District’s plan to remove a grove of trees from Ingraham High School’s campus—is rallying the troops again after a developer apparently cut down a patch of trees in North Seattle over the weekend.


In a letter, Save the Trees spokesman Steve Zemke says:

The first lot is a pile of tree trunks and branches where a number of trees have just been cut down including a Douglas fir some 80 years old as well as healthy madrone trees.

[T]he developer appears to have jumped the gun on cutting down and destroying all the trees and vegetation on this site before the final permits were granted.

This action points out the urgent need to pass an emergency tree protection ordinance prohibiting cutting down trees like this until environmental and land use review has been completed.

Developers win again and again. Trees lose again and again.

Save the Trees will hold a press conference at the site this Sunday at 10:00 AM.


RSS icon Comments


It must be nice to have trees being cut down as *the* most important issue in your life.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | September 15, 2008 4:46 PM

With developers getting desperate to clear their balance sheets of unused land, nastiness like this might become pretty common. It's a good time to tighten the leash if we can.

Posted by tomasyalba | September 15, 2008 5:10 PM

It must be nice to sit back and post snarky comments about people who give a shit enough to get off their ass and do something to make the world a little better.

Oh, wait. It is nice, isn't it? Carry on.

Posted by elenchos | September 15, 2008 5:12 PM

Look, I used to work for an arboretum. I'm all about mother earth, native plants, green space when it makes sense. I garden with an eye towards what's sustainable and native and will be growing a lot of my own food next summer. But some of this just smacks of rich people fighting for green space in their neighborhood. We're dealing with that in Baltimore where the wealthiest 'hood is fighting an old-folks home because rich people in their mansions might have to listen to some sirens once in a while or their kids will have to go to the park where the black people are to sled. It's NIMBYism with a green streak.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | September 15, 2008 5:19 PM

Cutting down a healthy madrona should be always punishable by amputation at the hips.

Posted by Fnarf | September 15, 2008 5:27 PM

i can point at 6 or 7 trees from my kitchen that need to die. now.

planting doug firs like fence posts, and then TOPPING them, isn't "caring for the earth".

its not just trees; i see houses that need destroying, too.

Posted by max solomon | September 15, 2008 5:32 PM

This should be an icon for just why Rossi's developer backers are mostly evil, and why it would be environmental suicide to put that lot any closer to the governors' mansion.

Posted by kinaidos | September 15, 2008 5:53 PM

A response to cutting is planting

This group needs to take a neighborhood and plant thousands of new trees, tailored to site and species

I will send 50.00 to help and come dig holes

Posted by Al | September 15, 2008 6:24 PM

I saw some of this on KOMO yesterday. The developer, face to face with Zemke, said " I offered to sell you the property. If you wanted to keep the trees why didn't you buy it?" Good question.

The developer is putting in a nursing home so it is hardly a case of luxury condos versus environment. Activists like Zemke need to come p with money to compensate people who own land and trees he is concerned about.

I am very much pro-environment but these trees are 3rd growth firs on lots that were logged off a hundred years ago and re-logged around 30 or so years ago. This property has been designated as commercial for decades. Large trees are wonderful things but there needs to be some rationality to preserving stands of them.

Posted by inkweary | September 15, 2008 6:32 PM

What must be understood is that the penalty to the developer is nothing compared to the wind-fall from the development of the land with out the trees. So the developer pays a fine of $5000 or so, the trees are gone gone gone. The easy way, REAL easy way to stop the cutting of urban trees is to take the financial incentive out of the equation. Fine the developer serious money for preemptive logging. Of course the city would NEVER do such a thing as new house are new tax revenue and the ability to pay for the services we all want and like. Follow the money and it comes right back to YOU.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | September 15, 2008 7:02 PM

So ridiculous. I have more photos and video on my blog. It makes my heart cry.

Also, for the sake of's not clear what the builder is doing, 100% making seniors home or otherwise.

Regardless, who ever lives there would probably appreciate a tree or two that are over a year old but I guess they don't get that choicer because it was cheaper to cut them down.

Posted by Kyle Freeman | September 15, 2008 7:20 PM

#1, Balt-O-Matt - No one thinks trees are the most important thing in life. You can't trivialize our actions. It's like me saying to you, "It must be nice that posting negative comments on SLOG is the most important thing in your life."

There are plenty of other great things that we enjoy. It's not fair to pigeon hole Zemke when he leads a very happy life with his family. We all will continue to do after the fight for the trees concludes with a stronger city law.

Posted by Kyle Freeman | September 15, 2008 7:25 PM

(a) why does Mr. Zemke say "APPEARS to have jumped the gun...before the final permits were granted?" (emphasis mine). It should not be difficult to establish whether a clearing and grading permit has been approved and picked up, or not; (b) I'm no botanist, but, for arbutus, we say "Madrona" here, not "Madrone;" (c) @10, rich indeed is the blithe assumption that the mere opportunity to develop one's land assures a "windfall;" and (d) hey Jonah, your piece seems to lack one of the Ws, which are among the only things I ever learned about journalism--WHERE the f***ck is this? Merci.

Posted by fixo | September 15, 2008 8:35 PM

What's the difference between Sarah Palin and the Onceler?

Nothing! Nothing at all!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | September 15, 2008 8:41 PM

#9, This lot is zoned single family 7200.

Posted by Renee | September 15, 2008 8:51 PM
Posted by Renee | September 15, 2008 8:55 PM

#13, 12301 5th Ave NE

Posted by Renee | September 15, 2008 8:57 PM

@16 and 17. Thanks Renee! Facts!

Posted by fixo | September 15, 2008 9:31 PM

@12. Fair enough. My background is from working at an Arboretum. We dealt constantly, and I mean constantly, with ill-informed members of the public and their righteous indignation towards the wanton destruction of invasive shrubs and our attempt to rehabilitate the native ecosystem of our area. When we had to remove an immense stand of pines (it makes this event look small in comparison) because of disease and the fact that the dying trees made walking on trails extremely dangerous for the public, we were accused of, wait for it, clear cutting and logging and profiting (!!!) from it. We did not such thing.

Yes, this issue is different. But often this sort of thing reeks of rich people trying to keep some green space in their neighborhoods or being overly upset about losing some green space. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Is it sad to lose trees? Sometimes, yes. But I gotta say that I don't really mind seeing a Tree of Heaven bite the dust or watch someone rip out a buckthorn shrub.

The focus on the trees is what gets me, and it's a semantic issue I guess. Don't focus just on the trees. Focus on whether or not the ecosystem itself is healthy.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | September 16, 2008 6:53 AM


One more thing. From your blog: "The developer did unrepairable damage to a green belt that residents need for aesthetics and to shield the highway noise. What can the city do to stop this from happening again?"

This sort of thing reeks of NIMBY, and it appears that's not what you are all about. You care about trees, and that's great. But as someone who dealt with the public when we were removing invasive shrubs to make the ecosystem healthier, I found that keeping the focus on the loss of habitat for wildlife (especially birds and small mammals) and on how losing tree canopy in urban areas can have unpleasant consequences can bring more people on board. The other issues (noise, aesthetics) are important but might not be the things to focus on.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | September 16, 2008 7:05 AM

It's fascinating how this post contrasts with the post condemning Palin for not aborting Trig. Apparently your concern for life doesn't apply to unborn human babies. Stay classy.

Posted by clockwork | September 16, 2008 8:19 AM

I don't see a problem here. You guys just think that saving trees is more important than saving children. Let's see..... yeah, that makes sense.

Posted by thisguys4life | September 16, 2008 8:35 AM

Some of the mistakes have been caught above but are worth repeating. The land is not zoned commercial. DPD's website showed no approval for construction or tree cutting. The owner has no application in for a "nursing home". The only application is for a single family home. I noticed the trees cut on Saturday and checked the information as best I could given the city offices being closed. That's why I put "appears" because I could not get any more information on Saturday.

The owner did not offer to sell me the lot. This was part of a longer discussion the owner and I had. What he did was put a for sale sign up and that is what he was referring to. I never saw a for sale sign.
All I saw was a lot being clearcut except for one mountain ash at the back. I wondered why the City of Seattle would approve the almost total destruction of an area that appeared to be a greebelt with Douglas fir and many healthy madrone trees when the City's professed goal by ordinance is to preserve existing trees and increase the city tree canopy 1% a year.

Posted by Steve Zemke | September 16, 2008 10:30 AM

I live two blocks away from this lot. I certainly don't think anyone would classify our neighborhood as "rich" people. The trees in question are part of a larger healthy stand that protects our neighborhood from the sound and unhealthful emissions of the freeway. From my house, the noise from the freeway has increased noticeably with the loss of these trees. That hits my property value and all-too-thin pocketbook. Regardless of what the developer intends to build, the permitting process should have been followed. My thanks to those people who are calling attention to this.

Posted by Karla | September 16, 2008 10:48 AM

Okay, I live 2 blocks from this site (and the increase in road noise from the I5 is noticeable at night. ugh). This is NOT a "rich neighbourhood". This is not a fancy place. It's people with mediocre to decent jobs struggling to raise our kids and pay our mortgages.
Must be nice to live on the other side of the country and act high-and-mighty about a group of hard working folks trying to keep their neighbourhood nice.

Next you'll be complaining that us "rich people" don't like having toxic waste dumped in our yards. "Look at them fancy folks not wanting cancer!"

Posted by Po'boy Jones | September 16, 2008 10:49 AM

protects our neighborhood from the sound and unhealthful emissions of the freeway...That hits my property value and all-too-thin pocketbook.

so you want that property owner to lose money instead of you?

this does sound nimby to me as well. make of that what you will. you don't have to assure me it's not or that your are right. i'm just letting you know how it sounds (as mentioned previously).

oh, and i live in seattle, and have never been too far from unhealthful airplane sound or freeway noise.

Posted by infrequent | September 16, 2008 11:15 AM

I want the property owner to follow the rules. Period.

Posted by Karla | September 16, 2008 11:27 AM

then just say that -- it sounds much better.

Posted by infrequent | September 16, 2008 11:34 AM

The City of Seattle says that since 1972 the tree canopy in the city has gone from 40% to 18% at present. This issue is not just in reference to "my neighborhood". This is a city wide issue and the question is what kind of a city do we want Seattle to be. How can we be an emerald city if we continue to lose trees?

The city really has no meaningful ordinance or law to protect trees and urban green. Removing old mature trees and trees with unique habitat values like madrone trees which band tailed pigeons depend on is happening by default, one tree here, one tree there, a grove here and another there all across the city.

Bit by bit Seattle is changing. It is losing its natural habitat and becoming a city of buildings and concrete and asphalt.

We do have a choice. If you want to see Seattle remain a green city in the literal sense, contact Mayor Nickels and the Seattle City Council and urge that they enact legislation that protects trees in Seattle from being needlessly cut down.

Urge that they enact legiuslation to require the city to work with developers to find ways to build within our natural habitat and end the wholesale unnecessary clearcutting of entire trees groves and lots.

Posted by Steve | September 16, 2008 12:04 PM

Noise, and air pollution are important environmental issues. If these trees, as they appear to be from pictures, were over 100 foot tall the value as Environmental Filters to the neighbors and the developer was tremendous healthwise and financially.

Financially up to a 20% increase in value in property has been lost. Health wise removal of particulates from cars, not limited to CO2 but other pollutants as well is now gone. Storm water runoff and other "minor" city costs which taxpayers will "feel" will also be a part of the results to this action.

It isn't a NIMBY it is a watchdog group trying to keep the city liveable, keep property values, and save tax dollars.

We need more of them.

Posted by mik | September 17, 2008 1:18 AM

fixo, they're referred to as the Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii, Madrone trees, and occasionally "madronas" by some people in Washington State, and "Arbutus" in British Columbia.

Posted by mich3ll3 | September 19, 2008 8:44 PM

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