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New Street Tree Ordinance in the Works (Continued from SDOT blog December 22, 2011)


A tree-lined Seattle street in autumn

SDOT Urban Forestry is developing a new street tree ordinance.  We have held three public meetings so far, and response is overwhelmingly positive.  Residents who attended brought up the need for more education and outreach, better enforcement against people who illegally remove trees, and better public notice when the city removes its own trees. Comments on online forums and neighborhood blogs have been more negative, but many concerns are addressed once the ordinance is fully explained. There is a public comment and outreach period underway (which may be extended) to address community needs and to improve the ordinance. The ordinance will be revised and improved in response to community feedback.  Below I have included an FAQ, based on comments received so far.

In order to reach more residents, we plan to hold several meetings in January.  The meeting schedule is available here:  ( Additional meetings may be scheduled.  If you would like to have SDOT Urban Forestry give your community group a presentation on this ordinance, please use the online feedback form to give us the details.  Once the public comment period is concluded, SDOT Urban Forestry staff members will respond to comments and update the ordinance and street tree manual as necessary.  Next the Ordinance will go to the Seattle Mayor and City Council, likely to involve a round of public hearings before Council.


Q: How much do permits cost?

A: Permits for planting, pruning and removing trees is free.  If tree companies working on arterial streets need to significantly divert traffic, they may be charged for a traffic control plan.

Q: The ordinance says that trees removed should be replaced with the same species-what if I want to plant a different species?

A:  Often trees have to be removed because the species is not appropriate for the site, or is short-lived.  In those cases, Urban Forestry staff will work with you to select a better species.

Q: Is tree work going to be more expensive with the new ordinance?

A: Proper tree work will not be more expensive.  Many tree care companies already comply with the ordinance, and the ordinance will not make their services more expensive.  However, companies that damage trees through topping, or improperly cutting branches will not be permitted to work in the right of way.  Improper pruning and illegal removal will result in fines.

Q: Why is the City forcing me to maintain my street tree all of a sudden?

A: You are currently responsible for your planting strip.  Current SDOT policy requires that you maintain street trees adjacent to your property, unless they were planted by the City, although that is not specifically mandated in the old ordinance.

Q: How do I know whether the trees are my responsibility?

A: Before the ordinance is approved, there will be a publicly available street tree map.

We encourage everyone to read the ordinance and street tree manual and provide feedback here: