Beginning July 30, Seattle’s new tree protection ordinance will take effect for all trees on private property. The new tree code (Ordinance 126821) strikes a balance by protecting and growing a healthy tree canopy citywide and addressing inequities in tree canopy distribution that impact historically underserved communities while supporting housing production needed during a homelessness and housing crisis.
As shown in the Office of Sustainability and Environment’s 2021 Tree Canopy Assessment, most tree loss is occurring outside of development and in areas zoned Neighborhood Residential (formerly Single Family) and Parks and Natural Areas. Losses in these two areas account for 78% of the total canopy loss between 2016 and 2021. The assessment also showed the canopy loss is not happening equitably, with neighborhoods most impacted by racial and economic injustices starting with less canopy coverage and losing more canopy than the citywide average.
Under the new ordinance, the City will add tree protections for over 157,000 more trees by limiting removal of trees on properties not undergoing redevelopment and requiring replacement for any tree removed that is 12” or greater in diameter. Removal of hazardous trees will also require tree replacement, and there are new incentives for property owners and builders to retain trees.