Once again, SDCI is hosting our popular Seattle Home Fair. We’ve moved our Home Fairs from winter to fall! We wanted to be able to answer your questions in time for you to apply for, and receive, that construction permit for your planned spring/summer renovation project. We’re holding six virtual lectures on October 14, 2023. There’s also an in-person event at the Filipino Community Center on October 21, 2023, from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
The City of Seattle is committed to protecting our urban tree canopy. Canopy cover is one important measure of the health of the urban forest. Urban trees provide numerous ecological, economic, and social benefits, including wildlife habitat, neighborhood livability, and improved public health outcomes.
The Seattle City Council recently passed Council Bill 120534 establishing new tree protection requirements on private property in Seattle. The new regulations went into effect on July 30, 2023. It is important for property owners, tenants, developers, and tree service providers to understand the new regulations to know when a tree is protected and when a tree may be removed. We are currently developing public information to help explain the new regulations. Please watch for updates on our Trees & Codes website, including links to any new or revised Tips and Director’s Rules.
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.
Seattle has made considerable progress in planning for housing growth in both its comprehensive plan and land use codes. In recognition of that progress, the Washington State Legislature has amended (Senate Bill 5412) the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) to help reach those goals by expediting the review of development that includes housing. As of July 23, 2023, most projects proposing additional housing units will be exempt from SEPA review, including several types of residential and mixed-use developments that would have previously undergone SEPA review. This SEPA change does not affect other SDCI discretionary approvals, such as Design Review, that may be required for specific proposals. This SEPA amendment will be in effect until September 30, 2025, when the Seattle Comprehensive Plan Update provides new housing growth targets and updated SEPA thresholds.
The Seattle City Council recently passed Council Bill 120534 establishing new tree protection requirements on private property in Seattle. The new regulations will become effective on July 30, 2023. It is important for property owners, tenants, developers, and tree service providers to understand the new regulations to know when a tree is protected and when a tree may be removed. We are currently developing public information to help explain the new regulations. Please watch for updates on our Trees & Codes website, including links to any new or revised Tips and Director’s Rules.
In June, SDCI conducted two public webinars on the draft Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Retrofit Technical Standard. This document is the first step in establishing minimum seismic standards for the earthquake retrofit of Seattle’s 1,100 vintage brick buildings which are prone to collapse in an earthquake due to lack of structural reinforcements. The draft URM Retrofit Technical Standard will inform the future mandatory retrofit ordinance. Be sure to check out the slides and recordings from these presentations.
To support building owners that are eager to begin the retrofit process, SDCI is moving forward with adopting components of the draft URM Retrofit Technical Standard with Director’s Rule 6-2023, Alternate Method for the Seismic Improvement of Unreinforced Masonry Buildings (URMs). The draft Director’s Rule is available now for public comment.
On May 24, 2023, the State Building Code Council (SBCC) held a special meeting to discuss the 9th Circuit that found the City of Berkley’s Energy Code violated federal preemption over state rules and a new lawsuit against the State Codes for a similar violation. In the new lawsuit, several organizations are seeking to prevent enforcement of the Washington State Energy Code’s ban on natural gas appliances that are regulated under the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.
After several years of collaborating with seismologists, geologists, and geotechnical and structural engineers, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) is sharing its draft Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Technical Standard. This document is the first step in establishing minimum seismic standards for the earthquake retrofit of Seattle’s 1,100 vintage brick buildings which are prone to collapse in an earthquake due to lack of structural reinforcements.
In 2021, an effort spearheaded by the Alliance for Safety, Affordability, and Preservation (ASAP!) and Councilmember Herbold resulted in the passing of Joint Resolution 32033. That resolution declared the intent of City Council and the Mayor to establish a mandatory retrofit program and directed SDCI to develop a retrofit standard. While a mandatory ordinance is still a few years away, this Technical Standard will serve as a voluntary option for URM owners wanting to retrofit their building. This Technical Standard will be used to develop a future mandatory retrofit ordinance.
SDCI and Washington state update their adopted construction codes every three years. The current updates creating the 2021 series of codes for SDCI and Washington state where slated to be adopted and implemented by July 1, 2023. However, SDCI’s proposed updates will be delayed.
The 2021 Seattle Construction Codes effective date of July 1, 2023 is delayed to no sooner than Monday, October 2, 2023 to accommodate a City of Seattle legislative review process which is longer than anticipated this code cycle.
In April, 2022 the City of Seattle passed regulations to help protect our urban canopy. Those regulations require tree service providers to register with the City of Seattle before conducting commercial tree work, consultations on private property and posting a public notice on-site for any tree work beyond minimal routine maintenance. In February 2023, the City passed additional legislation to modify and clarify those regulations. See the SDCI tree code webpage for the detailed registration and notice requirements.