Tree Protection - Background

SDCI administers and enforces the City's tree protection regulations that apply to private property. (Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Chapter 25.11, Tree Protection). SDCI is also part of the City's Urban Forestry team that is updating the Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) -  for information on this process please visit the UFMP web page

SDCI has completed several tasks to increase tree protections citywide. Recent accomplishments include:

  • Partnered with the City's Urban Forestry Core Team to get support from other departments' certified arborists to advise on tree-related permits, including hazardous tree removal.
  • SDCI hired an additional arborist in 2019 to review applications and assist other reviewers with applications that involve protected trees.
  • Updated informational materials and resources for builders, property owners, and the public related to trees and vegetation management. Materials can be found on our Tree and Vegetation Removal webpage.
  • Adopted Director's Rule 17-2018, Calculating Tree Valuations and Civil Penalties for Tree Protection Code Violations, to improve enforcement of tree protection violations. 

Since the adoption of Resolution 31902, SDCI has accomplished many of the tasks directed by the Mayor and City Council including:

  • Increased education and information: Staff have updated the best practices and advice in the SDCI Tip sheets to further emphasize the value of trees and the tree protection regulations.
  • Improved enforcement: SDCI has adopted a new Director's Rule 17-2018 that clarifies how fees are calculated when trees are cut illegally and increased fines as a greater deterrent.
  • Increased resources and staff training: SDCI hired two arborists to assist in the review of permit applications that involve tree protection or removal, advise on enforcement cases, and provide tree protection information and trainings to plan review and code enforcement staff.
  • Tree tracking: SDCI has been working with Seattle IT staff to develop new business practices and technology updates to track tree removal and planting. This would allow for data-driven analysis of the effectiveness of tree protection regulations.
  • Expanded partnership with the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC): Throughout this project, SDCI staff have met with a subcommittee of the UFC. These deliberative sessions have provided another opportunity for staff to benefit from the expertise of Commissioners.
  • Lidar project award: The City has successfully obtained funding from the US Department of Interior to acquire Lidar data. This data will be used for a canopy cover assessment that will allow us to analyze canopy cover change over time, using our 2016 data as a baseline. 
  • Racial equity analysis and public engagement: SDCI worked with the Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE) to explore strategies to strengthen tree protections. Through October 2021, SDCI and OSE obtained feedback on strategies in City Council Resolution 31902 from BIPOC communities, as well as community organizations, environmental groups, builders, homeowners, tree service providers, and real estate agents. That feedback helped us identify and understand community and stakeholder interests and priorities that will shape and inform our recommendations. To do this, our departments used a two-pronged approach to the community engagement. One approach included an interdepartmental partnership with the Department of Neighborhoods' Community Liaisons to conduct culturally appropriate engagement in their own language targeting the needs and input of low-income and low-tree-canopy neighborhoods. The other approach focused on engaging other key stakeholders to hear their input through online listening sessions.