Seattle Commercial Real Estate News of the Day

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seattle Times Daily Journal of Commerce Headline
New Gates Foundation headquarters reflects charity’s roots 20 trees removed for tower at Western and Columbia
County jobless rates in April fall from year ago, state reports People watched from sidewalks and windows last week as crews cut down 20 trees on the site at Western Avenue and Columbia Street that will soon house Goodman Real Estate’s 16-story apartment project called Colman Residence.

The trees ringed the former parking lot, providing shade and greenery in spring and summer. They were about 30 feet tall and 12 inches in diameter.

One mature tree that is planted within the sidewalk near the intersection of Western and Marion will be preserved. That tree is in the public right of way, so it is considered public property. The DJC offices are located across the street from the site.

Bryan Stevens, spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Development, said more trees could have been retained if they had been planted within the sidewalk. The trees that were removed were on private property.

It’s rare in downtown Seattle to find a site with as many trees as the Goodman lot had. Stevens said it may have seemed like they were publicly owned trees but they weren’t. “On private property unless there’s a requirement to preserve it, the property owner does have the right to remove those trees.”

Goodman plans to plant 30 new trees along Western Avenue and Marion Street. Marion has been designated a green street by the city, meaning new projects along it are required to add greenery and have setbacks.

The planned trees will be between eight and 15 feet tall, and 19 will be on private property. The rest will be planted in the right of way as street trees. They will include thornless honey locust and musashino columnar zelkova.

In general, if trees are planted in the public right of way and must be removed the Seattle Department of Transportation assigns them a dollar value. In a previous article, Shane Dewald of the Seattle Department of Transportation said old trees are a public asset worth between $10,000 to $20,000 each. The city does not assign values to trees on private property.

Tree regulations vary across the city. In commercial areas in other parts of Seattle, the city must first determine if trees are “exceptional,” based on their size and significance. Exceptional trees can only be removed if their retention would significantly impede a new development.

The exceptional tree rule does not apply in downtown. Stevens said the trees at Western and Columbia would not have been deemed exceptional in another part of the city because their trunks were less than two feet in diameter.

“For downtown zones, there are no regulations regarding exceptional trees. Downtown is an area where we saw the greatest opportunity for maintaining tree canopy coverage and increasing that coverage by planting in the right of way, and in the public realm,” Stevens said.

Stevens said it is unclear whether any development could have occurred if the 20 trees remained on the Goodman site. He said trees usually have a critical root zone that is about half the width of the canopy. Retaining the trees would likely have been a challenge for any developer since they were planted along three sides of the site.

Trees don’t begin to neutralize carbon until they are between 10 and 15 years old, and they don’t start to absorb significant amounts of stormwater and rainwater until even later.

Current tree regulations have been in place since 2001. In 2007, then-Mayor Greg Nickels issued an Urban Forest Management Plan challenging Seattle to address the shrinking urban forest canopy. The plan proposed increasing tree canopy coverage from 23 to 30 percent citywide by 2030.

Stevens said the city determined the best opportunity to increase tree canopy is in single-family zones, so it is concentrating its efforts there. But current tree standards won’t achieve the canopy growth needed.

The Department of Planning and Development recently proposed a new tree credit system for single-family projects undergoing redevelopment. The point system encourages preserving or planting larger trees, but that work is on hold until 2012.

The city also put a policy in place that says all city-maintained trees that are removed must be replaced with two new trees; provides free trees to Seattle residents in target neighborhoods; and supports the Green Seattle Partnership, a program that managed 87,000 hours of volunteer time to restore natural areas.

Goodman Real Estate plans to plant 30 new trees along Western Avenue and Marion Street. Marion has been designated a green street by the city, meaning new projects must add greenery and have setbacks.

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About CRE Northwest

Specialist in office & investment real estate in Seattle & the Eastside
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