Index page

 Proposed Changes by DPD (Dept of Planning + Development):

Here is the summary of the "City of Seattle's Proposed Tree Regulations" report as prepared by DPD 

Here is the full proposal entitled "City of Seattle Proposed Tree Regulations"    from the DPD's website: 
Here is the "Summary of Pacific Northwest Municipal Tree Regulations"  prepared by consulting arborist Elizabeth Walker of Sound Tree Solutions & DPD. This summary includes a matrix of some of the various components of tree regulations in place in other cities.
From David Miller, Maple Leaf Community Council
Dear Neighbor – 

In our successful four-year fight to save Waldo Woods, we worked very hard to create stronger tree rules so no other neighborhood would have to go through what we went through. In a lead or supporting role, and with the backing of neighbors like you who wrote supportive letters by the hundreds, we saw passage of two Seattle City Council Resolutions calling for stronger tree rules, an Interim Tree Ordinance that strengthened tree rules, a new DPD Director’s Rule (2008-16) that protects tree groves, and the creation of a science-based Urban Forestry Commission to advise the city on tree rules. 

We should all be proud of this progress. The rules are not perfect, and DPD is still too hesitant in enforcing them, but these are steps in the right direction. 

We’ve known for a number of years Seattle’s tree protection rules were under review. We were dismayed when DPD rolled out their updated tree ordinance “framework” proposal over the last few weeks. 

  • Gone are any protections for large, exceptional trees.
  • Gone are protections for tree groves.
  • Gone are protections for trees outside the development process, protections we won with the Interim Tree Ordinance.

This is unacceptable, and we need your help to make sure DPD’s proposal is substantially rewritten to actually protect Seattle’s existing trees. We need you to write a letter. 

On August 17, a Seattle City Council committee will hear initial testimony on DPD’s proposal. The City’s own Urban Forestry Commission has already said the proposal is not acceptable. The Maple Leaf Community Council has said the same. Many other tree and neighborhood organizations around the city have said the same. 

You can help by adding the voice of regular citizens. Please email the city officials below (and copy us). The basic points we need to get across are: 

  • You want stronger tree protections as opposed to DPD’s plan of no protections at all.
  • You want protection for our large exceptional trees and tree groves.
  • You want your Emerald City to be a leader in tree protection rules, not moving backwards compared to other cities.

Again, please send your comments to these city officials: 

Mayor Michael McGinn – 
Council President Richard Conlin – 
Council Land Use Chair Sally Clark – 
Brennon Staley at DPD – 

Please also send us a copy at We’ll bundle the comments and present them formally at a meeting of the Urban Forestry Commission and other forums for commenting on these rules. 

DPD’s plan does have some positives. Moving the tree code into the rest of the land use/permitting code is smart. A scoring system for minimum tree use when a single family lot is redeveloped is an interesting approach. Modifications to the problematic Green Factor equation used in higher density zones are welcome. All these are good ideas with some added work, but the positives are outweighed by the fact DPD’s proposal doesn’t actually preserve groves or our largest trees. 

If you have any questions about the proposed tree rules, please don’t hesitate to hit reply or use the MLCC email address above. We can answer them as best we can. 

For more information, here are some links (all are PDFs): 

DPD’s Proposed Tree Ordinance Framework 

Urban Forestry Commission’s Response Letter 

Maple Leaf Community Council’s letter 

"Management of City Trees Can be Improved"
Office of City Auditor of Seattle, May 15, 2009
This report details many of the problems regarding how Seattle currently regulates trees and our urban forests, including the fact that "The City's management is decentralized among 9 City Departments with tree management or regulatory responsibilities" 
A Guide to Community and Urban Forestry Programming
June 2009, Washington State Department of Commerce
Evergreen Communities Partnership Task Force
Urban Tree Conservation: A White Paper on Local Ordinances
Sept 2007, Montgomery Tree Committee. 68 pages
This paper deals with ”conservation of urban forests on private land” and is one of the best overviews I have found. It discusses and compares many different ordinances and approaches it from a holistic viewpoint, looking not just at trees but also biodiversity and ecosystem concerns.
Tree Ordinance Development Guidebook 
Sept 2005 by the Georgia Forestry Commission, Urban and Community Forestry Program. 25 pages 
This Guidebook is not very long but it has a good overview, including a Tree Board/Tree Ordinance Evaluation, and a Resource List. 

Guideline for Developing and Evaluating Tree Ordinances
International Society of Arboriculture, Oct 2001. 181 pages
 a real compendium of information on tree ordinance issues