City to fine homeowner for tree removal

Tree removal crews cut down a large Monkey Puzzle tree at the corner of NW 60th and 9th Ave. last week. Today, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development tells My Ballard that they’re preparing to fine the homeowners for removing an “exceptional tree” without a permit.

An exceptional tree is defined “by virtue of its size, species, condition, cultural or historic importance, age, and/or contribution as part of grove of trees,” explains the city rule (.pdf). In this case, a Monkey Puzzle tree is exceptional if it measures over 1 foot 10 inches in diameter at 4.5 feet above the ground.

“We’re anticipating a violation,” said Alan Justad, Deputy Director of DPD, explaining that the removal required a permit. “They needed to go through the approval process.” Justad says the fine will be based on the estimated market value of the tree, which he expects may total “several thousand dollars” for a tree that size, although the final amount is still being calculated. Fines also typically involve a restoration requirement, he said.

Some neighbors were disappointed in the new homeowner’s decision to take down one of the largest Monkey Puzzle trees in the city, while others supported the move, explaining the tree was in danger of damaging the house.

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

197 thoughts to “City to fine homeowner for tree removal”

  1. If people had just left it alone and not complained so much, these homeowners would probably not be the subject of all of this drama and subjected to a fine.

  2. Wow.

    Doesn't the company who cut it down bear some responsibility as well? I would have thought that they would make sure all the paperwork was in order before showing up to do the job.

  3. If the city can fine someone for removing the tree – then do the help pay for pruning and other maintenance? If not then they should get out of other's business.

  4. Amen. It seems to be the contractor's responsibility to take care of permits, etc. Now maybe they're subject to potential litigation on the part of the homeowner (to recoup fines and fees) and the city (for permit violations)?

  5. You have got to be kidding me. Absolutely ridiculous. This dumb ass city is going way over board to find more money for its bloated financial needs. Don't be fooled, this is all about the money and nothing else. I'm tired of this city overstepping its bounds.

    I vote, and now that corporations can quiet me with their unlimited funds going to there favorite causes I don't see things ever getting better.

    Just leave us alone, really we can do fine without you. Michael McGinn and the city council.

  6. serves 'em right if you ask me.

    and no, this was not the responsibility of the company that did the work–lame excuse.

    shouldn't expect to cut down a giant tree anytime you damn well please. this isn't the 20's any more pal.

  7. /sarcasm on

    I am sure none of the posters on MyBallard had anything to do with reporting these folks to the city. We're so neighborly we wouldn't do that.

    /sarcasm off

  8. What the hell happened to property rights?! This is absolutely absurd.

    If the city actually does follow through with a fine I encourage the homeowners to let the public know. I hope that empowers the public to poison as many “exceptional” trees as possible in the arboretum. Let's see how the city feels about that. Google “girdling a tree” for instruction.

  9. This is bogus. That tree overwhelmed the entire lot that little house is on. It isn't a native and is not very useful for any native wildlife. Pretty sad and a great example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions (badly written laws).

  10. I hope the homeowners go public with this. It's their property and they should have every right to remove any tree. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would donate to help them pay this fine.

  11. Cry me a freakin' river…

    1) Property Owner Rights: The ordinance in question can be appealed. It's not an blanket oppression of anybody's “blood and land rights” so stop whining. Failing to observe is simply laziness or active irresponsibility/malice, like not getting a building permit or digging a trench in your yard without first consulting utilities.

    2) Tree Removal Company: They damned well should have been aware of the regulations that govern their business. They are no less excusable than an unlicensed electrician or sub-code plumber. Chances are they put their desire for the owner's business ahead of the regulation in the hopes no one would notice. Time to pay the piper.

    3) MyBallard Are Tattletales: Get over it, community based news and community responsibility go hand in hand. If they had anything actively or passively to do with this coming to the attention of the city, then so be it. Stop getting upset with whistle-blowers. Hasn't that trend caused enough problems in this country?

    4) Invasive Species: Invasive species are an issue for great concern… when they displace existing species. I hardly think that an otherwise barren plot of cultivated lawn grass qualified. If you really care about encouraging native species, there is a planting effort tomorrow at Discovery Park. Go there. Maybe you can pick me out if you still have real griefs (or real convictions).

  12. It is pretty common for a major city to monitor tree cutting, especially when the tree is rare and somewhat large. See… for an example. I am actually surprised Seattle has such a policy, since they seem to overlook other issues so readily.

    I actually think they owner should have submitted a permit request and consulted with state/local arborist officials (if such an agency exists). I do agree that an property owner does have a right do do as they wish, but should consider consequences, community, nature, etc. In this case a large fine is justified. This tree was one of the largest, if not the largest, in Seattle or perhaps even the Northwest. I am sure some agency may have wanted to monitor the tree.

    I see that others on this forum seem to think since it was not native that anything goes. Well, although I may agree with that idea somewhat, does someone have the right to exterminate a rare, perhaps endangered species of eagle nesting in a yard, for example. probably not. Most family pets and many plants in gardens are not native or white people for that matter.

    I think the initial forum on this subject missed the real issue.

  13. The “Tree Ordinance” in its present form has been in effect for about 7 years now. Just another step in slowly relinquishing our property rights to the Collective. Excuse me, I better go out and measure the trees in my yard. Where did I put my chain saw?

  14. I think that is a very interesting point… very interesting. Just because something is big doesn't mean it should be here in the first place.

  15. Not that anyone reads all the posts, but the tree law is only about 2 years old. It's is a pain for people doing construction or remodeling and as other have mentioned the city take no responsibility. So, if you want to have a large tree removed you need a certified tree person (arborist) to assess the tree. The tree needs to be fair or have some reason for it to be removed. Then you get the owners permission and the city permission.

    Amazingly, you insurance company can make you get your neighbors signature that their tree represents a threat to your home and property. More or less stating that if your tree falls on my house you will owe me… such and such $.

    The whole tree law exists because so many view h0mes have removed tree's and the “Emerald City” is far from green. I think there are 75% less tree's in Seattle now then there were in 1960 or 1970. At least that is what I remember from the Seattle Times.

    What is sad is that there are hundreds of people in Ballard breaking code and building without permits all the time. And who can blame them when DPD can take a year to get a permit and by the time you get it you most likely have tons of additional soft costs. Most professional and commercial companies know every loop hole and short cut to get around DPD. I didn't see DPD handing out many fines when people were flipping homes left and right in Ballard and all over Seattle.

    The best part about DPD is that the city is the only projects that get pushed though, only the public has to wait.

  16. Suggesting that people damage trees in the Arboretum is reprehensible. This is a valuable collection of plants that may be enjoyed by the citizens of Seattle and anyone in the world. I can't even imagine the juvenile mind that would think that is appropriate under any circumstances – I am embarrassed that we even share a name. And just so you know: the city doesn't own the plants in the Arboretum, the University of Washington does. I believe the owners do have the right to expect that the professional arborist they hired is aware of needed permits. When I was considering taking a tree out, the arborist I consulted told me I would need a permit. I expect they will consult a lawyer.

  17. Agreed. If I were a new homeowner, I would have been oblivious to such a law.
    But a company who's business is cutting down large trees should have known that sometimes cutting down large trees like this is a illegal. Perhaps we should find out the company's name.

  18. I have watched seven forest-sized trees on Sunset Hill grow 10-15ft. a year since 2001. They are over 150 feet tall, old, not topped nor wind-sail pruned and they block dozens of views. They are not bird friendly nor are they neighbor friendly.

    We are not foresters in this neighborhood–we are gardeners. These lone trees suffer in windstorms. HUGE trees belong in forests.

  19. If the city is so concerned about preserving trees, why does it take almost a year or more to get permits out of DPD?

    Another lame-o cash grab by the city. This was not a native tree and could have caused significant property or personal damage had it fallen. The owners should appeal this ridiculous fine.

  20. Typical City business…they can dictate everything you need to be doing for their “property” but will lend no help. Careful about those free trees offered; you will get them, plant and tend them, but when they become a problem they will not “allow” you to remove them…at least not without replacement and the threat of fines.

  21. yeah, yeah. they'll be coming for your moonshine still and your daughters next. Tell me about some more conspiracies, fred117.

  22. Most cities in the Puget Sound area have some sort of tree protection/minimum tree density code. The property rights gripe is absurd, it's a typical zoning issue. Zoning is regulation of private property and it's been recognized by the courts and enforced by municipalities since the 1920's.

  23. So I just spent about 30 minutes online at the DPD's website and while I found information regarding the rules and regulations of cutting down trees (large then 6 inches, taller then 4 1/2″ feet), NO WHERE does it say how to get in contact with someone to come out and let you know if the tree IS in face ok to cut down. It seems this home owner had a company cut this tree down, If they aren't able to make the call, I'm not for sure who to get in contact with. I have a HUGE pine tree in my back yard and some of my foundation is cracking and while I've gotten estimates to get it cut down (no one has told me I can't!), I'm now worried I may get fined.

    Maybe instead of saying we can't cut trees down and saying if we do we'll get fined, how about provide the information so this doesn't happen again.

  24. Not native but not invasive either. These trees are native to Chile at the same latitudes as Seattle, so are native to the climate, and are interesting big trees. I understand the “my land my business” argument, but big trees make the whole neighborhood better and they out live a dozen owners of the same home.

  25. Sarah, that's the most irresponsible post I've seen in months here. Even if you were being sarcastic, there are enough yahoos out there that might take your idiotic suggestion seriously. Get a clue.

  26. Dawn Hemminger, president of the East Ballard Community Association, said she noticed them preparing to take the tree down on her way to work.

    The tree removal company tried to convince the new owners of the property to simply prune the tree, as it was still very healthy, but they wanted to tear it out, Hemminger said.

    She said she is upset the tree is coming down and thinking about the generations of children who spent their youth climbing it.

    From the Ballard News Tribune

    Maybe Dawn had something to do with reporting this?

  27. I'm pretty sure they knew it was there when they bought the house and if they thought that they would only want the house with the tree gone they should have looked into things before they bought it.

  28. It takes a year to get permits because they are poorly funded. We don't pay state income tax here and we have similar property taxes to states that do. I'm pleasantly surprised the government can function at all.

  29. How about they just plant some shrubs and call it even. I promise a bunch of smaller plants will still produce oxygen and they won't sent large, dangerous branches careening towards houses during a windstorm.
    Maybe they should have tried putting a plaque on it to indicate to the new owners that it had significance. Of course, they'd actually have to figure out what significant fact to write on it other than an arbitrarily selected diameter and height.

  30. Last week it was…WHAT? KILL A COYOTE??? WHAT ABOUT HIS SOUL??

    Hey uber-liberals….put your bike and backpacks down and go get a JOB. Take personal responsibility for the well being of yourself and your family, not your neighbors tree.

  31. BS, the DPD is funded by the (expensive) fees it charges for permits.

    Not everything is about your dream to turn WA into CA with property, sales and income tax.

  32. seems to me that the city is picking and choosing which laws they want to enforce. how nice if they were to enforce all not just ones that neighbors bring to their attention.

  33. Sarah is advocating breaking state and possibly federal laws in her post that says
    “I hope that empowers the public to poison as many “exceptional” trees as possible in the arboretum. Let's see how the city feels about that. Google “girdling a tree” for instruction.:
    Sarah, you are now likely being investigated for advocating these crimes. I'm making sure the state knows about this post, and it's quite simple to track down people via their comments.

  34. The homeowners should be grateful to the city. It's still cheaper to get fined than to have to pay for all new plumbing due to the root system interfering with their pipes or have to pay for a new roof due to the tree or branches falling on the house. The City Subjective Opinion Knows Best!

  35. First of all It is not a native tree! Second how do we know they weren't going to replant several native trees to create their own puzzle and leave the monkeys in the zoo. I

  36. like in my hood people build these big ugly plain box no personality houses then move away because they wanted to make a buck and leave this eye sore forever with no regard to other people or the personality of the area .

  37. The city of Seattle has no right to fine someone for removing a tree from their property ever! I don't care if its a 1,000yr old tree. Unless the city wants to pay for the cost of the roots getting in their sewer system or the cost of the water main breaking or the homeowners insurance in case the tree comes crashing through the roof or if it falls over after a heavy rain and heavy winds. And who the heck would ever think you'd need a permit to cut down a tree? People realize that over a million trees were just cut down for Seattle families to enjoy Christmas last month, right?

  38. Don't defend these morons on some sort of Libertarian garbage. Trees effect a community and some individual idiot should not have the right to cut down a hundred year old part of the neighborhood because they feel like. it. Fine them big time. Good for the community for complaining and standing up for the neighborhood.

  39. I'm going through this with my neighbors. I managed to halt it last spring thanks to the new 3-tree limit. But they are determined to remove the tree this year. You can see this tree from most of the block. It's an exceptional birch, about 50 feet high with a 2-3 foot trunk span. They managed to get a few branches off last year before the city arrived and stopped them. They got away with it because they called it “pruning.” Not. I would love to see Ballard Tree Service get fined because they knew the law and continued cuttiing until they were stopped.

    I feel very strongly that people should have to get a permit to have large trees removed from their property and that the tree removal company should be held responsible, and fined, when this kind of thing happens.

  40. The homeowners can sue the city and they will win (if fined)- First of all the purpose of the law is to protect trees- “on sites undergoing environmental review.” If someone can explain to me how a home in Ballard is on a site “undergoing enviornmental review.” Is the city doing an enviormental impact study in the area? no.

    Personally I think someone in the city didn't read the rule to clearly, and this has been blown way out of proportion. I'm sur when the homeowners attorney sends a letter to the city the fine (Or threat of one) will go away. It would never hold up in court. It's too bad the homeowners have to go through all this stupid bs.

  41. I tend to agree with you. The property owners have some rights and trees do break the sewer lines, foundations and sidewalks. Property owners have to pay for those repairs. Getting a permit for a mainline and a contractor costs a bundle. Does the city or your neighbors help pay to repair your sewer, gutters or roof?

  42. What about a fine for the Removal company? Seems they always get off? A professionally run company knows about the permits needed! Start fining the tree companies and they'll be no more of this!

  43. If the city likes this tree so much they should buy the property. There must be something in the water making the city people sick in the head. Cover several square miles with concrete, buildings, houses, and then complain when a tree gets cut down. I can hardly stop laughing.

    They allow houses to be built a few feet away from each other and cut down nearly every tree in sight and then react when someone wants to remove a tree? Who owns the property, the city or the homeowner? The city should make the homeowner an offer he can't refuse, tear down the house, and put up a plaque for the deity (tree).

  44. How do you propose the city enforce every law in every instance? Would you like to pay higher taxes for the city to hire people to cruise through neighborhoods looking for violations?
    The homeowner broke the law. The neighbors informed the city. The city is investigating. Seems that the system worked in this case.
    As far as the question of the relative value of non-natives, that's a matter of opinion in this situation, not a matter of law. Not everyone is a native species snob.

  45. Um. You can't really climb those trees without sustaining some pain. It would be like climbing a thorn bush.

    Me thinks someone has been drawn in by someone's vague recollection of their youth. I would hope the president of the EBCA or any other association would exercise more common sense.

  46. The homeowners can sue the city and they will win (if fined)- First of all the purpose of the law is to protect trees- “on sites undergoing environmental review.” If someone can explain to me how a home in Ballard is on a site “undergoing enviornmental review.” Is the city doing an enviormental impact study in the area? no.

    Personally I think someone in the city didn't read the rule to clearly, and this has been blown way out of proportion. I'm sur when the homeowners attorney sends a letter to the city the fine (Or threat of one) will go away. It would never hold up in court. It's too bad the homeowners have to go through all this stupid bs.

  47. What a silly argument. Do you think the government should help pay your car payment just because it requires auto insurance?
    There is a community benefit to protecting large trees. That's the rationale behind ordinances protecting large trees. If you don't like the law then you work to change it. You don't get to just ignore the laws you don't like. That's not how it works in civilization.
    To argue that the individual holds no responsibility to the larger community is one that may play out in the middle of nowhere where there is no community, but not in an urban setting. Don't want to be held accountable to the larger community? Then move out to the middle of nowhere, and you won't have to answer to anyone.

  48. There are laws on the books that have been there for years. People complained to the city that someone was breaking the law. The city responded to their complaints. How, exactly, is that a case of the city “overstepping its bounds” to “find more money for its bloated financial needs”?
    Some people look for conspiracies that just aren't there.

  49. You know Sean, he's the guy who will pay to repair your sewer lines from root damage or rebuild your roof when this sucker comes down. He's a true collectivist.

  50. You’re as dumb as your argument, really payments vs. insurance metaphor…please.

    If when you do purchase anything the city should have provided a provision on the home owner contract protecting the property so any new purchaser would have to agree too. Ta Da!!!! Take the city to court!

  51. OMGDS I grew up with those trees The new owners should be booted from ballard They are very spectacular trees. The is another one directly west of 72nd and 32nd Those Trees define ballard. I lived in bvallard for the first 23 years of my life I am a true ballardite. Fine away. MY biggest fears have just been proven Right. I have been gone for 3 years and ballard is a Yuppie dump full of richie richies that should not touch the ground there. I am of Norweigen decent. One of the last few left. Those trees can live upwards of 500 years and the thickness its probably a 50 to 70 year old tree a relec. okay here a question if the the tree is healthy with a deep root system there is a 90 percent chance the tree wont topple taking the tree out will also make the ground around it more suspetible to degenreation. well I hope people here have enough sence to not ever do anything like this unless it is is really in danger. all the trees that have toppled in ballard have been dead or dying or planted in a bad spot like near bulk heads….

  52. Is this America?

    Can you landscape your yard without going to jail?

    I guess we all learned a lesson here…if you want to change the landscaping in your yard, go out in the middle of the night and dump toxins on the tree…then a few months later it will be dead and you can cut it down…

    Companies are not required to get the permits, unless that was contracted into part of the deal. The home owner is required to get the permits.

    But who would think that you have to get a permit to landscape? Especially if it was a tree that they planted!

    Crazy! Seriously, is this America? Where is freedom?

    I laugh at the argument “every city has a tree ordinance, what's the big deal?”
    -Ok, everyone is stealing from the citizens…so it is ok?

    I remember the guy in Seattle after the huge windstorm in 2006 who got a massive ($12,000) fine for cutting up a tree that went across the road because he didn't have a permit…

    People–it is a tree that this person owned. It is his. His property. Not mine.

    I realize that I am in the soviet republic of seattle, but come on!

  53. I think big trees like that are beautiful whatever the species. They clean the air and absorb pollutants like CO2.

    I also think we as a community should do all that we can reasonably do to protect and expand our urban forest canopy.

    I would also encourage folks that are thinking about removing a large tree because of safety fears, to first consider a good pruning and consultation with an arborist to verify the tree really is healthy, can be maintained and can sustain through strong wind storms.

    Tree are our friends.

  54. Doggril, I have a huge tree that I need to have cut down (I JUST moved in). I can't afford to have it trimmed every couple of years but If i cut it down now, its only about $3,000. But now the city is going to fine me, but if I can't cut it down, and I can't afford to trim it, who's going to do the trimming for me? I shouldn't have to be held responsible for TRYING to help myself (and my neighbors) out now, when later on the tree or a LARGE banch comes down in a few years and I'm out even more!

  55. It is not the responsibility of the contractor who did the job. It is the home owner's responsibility to take care of all permitting prior to the work being started. Depending upon the work, you may be able to negotiate with the contractor and have said contractor take care of any permits/inspections.
    Like any other law in the city, state or country, ignorance of the law does not responsibility from obeying the law.
    Some people find it easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. For people like this, a fine is the usual punishment/deterrent.

  56. If you can't cut it down, and can't afford to trim the tree you probably purchased the wrong house for your financial situation. Doesn't sound like a City of Seattle problem. Do you even know if your tree fits into the “exceptional tree” category? Do you know if there are other options?

  57. I guess homeowners never really own their property anymore. Heaven forbid you cut down a tree even though it is creating a problem for the homeowners. We all might want to check how low we can mow our grass too. Ooops, my door is red, is that ok? I'm thinking about planting roses but my neighbor five houses down has allergies, am I being too confrontational if I plant them? Give me a break freaks!

  58. Nope, my insurance company would.
    If we are so worried that a tree “might” topple in a storm, why don't we just cut 'em all down before they get too big and scary?!?!? Does anyone know if the tree was dead? I'm pretty sure if the tree was dead or sick, if the right channels were used, there would be no issue or story.

  59. What about the tree removal company? If they are in the business then they know the rules and the process of getting a permit. Why isn't the city going after rogue tree services that knowingly violate the law? The owners and the tree removal company should both be fined.

  60. Hey Sarah-you touch one of those trees and you will be pursued relentlessly. Relentlessly….
    In fact are you advocating the destruction of public property ? You need a visit from the enforcers.

  61. Who exactly died and made you the analytical genius of the world johnstewart? Maybe you should get a job at a bank so you can look at every mortgage app and analyze the tree maintenece and laws before approving it?

  62. i hope you're speaking for tree contractors specifically. i know a home owner can pull their own permit for water, electric or construction or a reputable contractor can do the foot work. you're in a gray area when you say “It is not the responsibility of the contractor who did the job” your monicker is deceptive.

  63. Where does this so-called duty towards community end? Are there limits to that? (Will they dictate what color your house can be in order to please the community? Or how many cars you can park? Or ban political signs on your lawn? etc. etc.) The socialist, collectivist concept of duty to community can be used incrementally by the government to gradually impose greater and greater restrictions on the use of private property until essentially the use does not exist. This happened in the King County rural area. Incrementally, the restrictions reached a point, in 2004, where the County took away the use of 65% of all parcels over 2-and-a-half acres. At great expense of time and money, the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights brought that through the courts until it came to the Washington Supreme Court, which declared that unconstitutional. At what point will the citizens of Seattle City stop their government from restricting private use of private property? If you can't use it, you don't own it.

  64. Don't tell me the owners didn't know they needed a permit! And I'm with you when it comes to the tree removal service and their need to check that all permits are in order! The sad part is that the tree is gone! So, the bottom line is – the owners take a little heat but the tree is gone!

  65. Union of Soviet Socialist Seattle Republik (USSSR)

    Should have killed the tree and ordered the city to take it away or face a lawsuit!!

    Don't worry though, the bums in Gilman Park were not disturbed

  66. I would be careful making accusation without first-hand proof. Although we can state our opinions, we cannot state something that make not be true. So what if she had, which I personally doubt. If the reporter had not, I would have reported it.

    On the subject of permits: There is a reason why such issues are monitored by the city. This prevents land owners from building 10 story structures where not permitted, from dumping gasoline in holes, killing wildlife at ones own whim.

    This issue was a community, landmark, and nature issue. I hope the owner gets a large fine. Had they obtained a proper permit, this would not be news or a subject of debate. The owner would have the tree gone, if permitted, and we all would just have to bite it and frown.

  67. I inherited the house from my grandfather. I didn't buy it. So now I have a FREE house, but a HUGE tree I don't think I'll be able to afford down the line.

    You shouldn't be so quick to made assumptions.

  68. Wow, folks have lots to say about this. As a general rule of thumb, it's always best to check w/ local government before removing a tree. Tree permits are a cinch to obtain if you follow the proceedures. Just be glad you don't live on Mercer Island. Out there you need a permit and a visit from the city arborist to remove ANY tree.

  69. This is ridiculous. The city should be ashamed of itself.
    Some homeowner in the 1920s made a poor decision about where to place a tree, eighty years later it is jeopardizing current house/sidewalk, and the current homeowners are responsibly handling the situation.

    If the city were routinely enforcing this law, you would think that the experts involved would be informed enough to ensure the homeowner went through the permit process. In this case, they didn't get good info from either the tree service or should have been advised by the Seattle City Light crew which would have had to handle the power line clearance (as seen in the photos). Any fine would be just to make an example out of this homeowner, as it seems highly unlikely they would have failed in their bid to remove the tree given that it is encroaching on the house.

  70. His point is still valid regardless of where you got the house from. Not having the money to properly maintain your property is not an excuse to not do it. You would be fined by the city if you let your yard grow into a jungle and the planing strip to overgrow. Owning a home is expensive, and is not the right option for everyone. If you can't maintain it or afford a permit to have it properly removed, then it doesn't sound like the right house for you.

  71. Sweet Jesus you people have big problems over there Ballard, I am glad I live here in the CD where teens are kicking in front doors in the middle of the day and robbing each other at bus stops. Get a handle on what some real community issues are and quit sniveling .

  72. The sad part is not that this tree is gone, the sad part is that people exist that think it is OK to enact and enforce silly laws about trees on private property. If this tree were holding a hills together, I could see it. This is about the communities aesthetics. Laws like this are how the Republicans keep getting power, because they highlight the communist ideology inherent in the Democratic Party. I am sorry, they do not call themselves Communists anymore, they call themselves “Progressives”.

    You want a Peruvian tree in your neighborhood? GO BUY ONE.

  73. Wow. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. The city fines you if the tree is cut down and fines you if they decide it's a “hazard.” Just another money generator for the city.

  74. “first consider a good pruning and consultation with an arborist to verify the tree really is healthy..”

    That's really the crux of it isn't it? People need to be educated and not just listen to whatever the tree company tells them. They obviously have a conflict of interest.

    We just went through a similar situation here in Crown Hill. About two years ago, some new people bought a house built in 1914. In their front yard was an enormous Douglas fir that was clearly as old as the house, if not older. (Later, after it was down, I counted 110 rings on the stump).

    Trimming done by the electrical utility started a whole tragic chain of events. As usual, they did a horrible job trimming it. At our block party, the owner told me he wanted to get the other side trimmed to make it look better. That was completely understandable.

    Enter Ballard Tree service. They were happy to trim it up for him for over a thousand bucks. Oh, they also mentioned that, gosh that's a really big tree for a city neighborhood, wouldn't it be horrible if it fell on your house, or heave forbid, your neighbor's house? With that seed of fear planted, it wasn't more than a year before they were back, and now here comes down the biggest tree in the neighborhood.

    I called the DPD the day the tree was being trimmed and was told there was nothing that could be done and that “sometimes these things happen”. This was a native tree, over 3 feet in diameter. It seems the city is responding to the media attention to this particular tree, and not applying the law in a fair manner. If they were, they would have either fined my neighbor or have ignored this whole incident in Ballard.

    My intention in calling them was not to have my neighbor fined. It was to prevent a magnificent tree from coming down. Please people, talk to an arborist to understand the situation with your trees. Not all trees are in the right place or the right kind of tree, and may need to be removed at some point.

    But asking your local tree service what to do, is the fox guarding the chickens. And we don't have have nearly enough trees or chickens to go around.

  75. Sounds like many other issue regarding the city and their fictitious ordenances that are passed and seldom if ever enforced . Most of these people responding need to “GET A LIFE” this is not our major concern for the North West, Although some will lead you to believe it is. Property rights has been a long standing issue all over this nation and only in Seattle do they abuse this right for homeowners. A lawsuit would put this issue on its ear. Nobody wants to spend the time and money..The best is to JUST GET OVER IT!!

  76. Kat, if your tree is in the right of way (e.g. in the planting strip) and you want to remove it, the city advises that you apply for a permit, which is $101. Here's a link to info on getting a permit:…. If your tree is not in your planting strip, but you think it falls under the category of an exceptional tree as stated in the pdf that myballard provided a link to, then you really should call the city and have their arborist assess it. Even if it falls under the exceptional category, but is deemed a risk if it stayed, you could still be able to remove the tree. If you're looking for advice, but not from the city, then I recommend contacting PlantAmnesty ( and they can recommend very good (and affordable) arborists that you can consult with.

  77. Good grief! This is not right. leave these homeowners alone. How many people actually knew this was even a law. I have to wonder why no one is asking the tree service why the proceeded to cut without seeing a permist.

  78. I agree, the company who cut down the tree should be held partly to blame if the owner is going to be given a citation. It was a beautiful, if odd, tree. The law itself seems rather obscure though, I doubt the city ever informed the owner of such.

  79. I don't have any daughters but how did you know about the still? Are you in any way connected with the Trilateral Commision, Coyote Joe?

    Seriously though, the chilling effect of this ordinance is that anyone with trees in their yard should consider “nipping them in the bud” before they find themselves in this person's situation. As far as appealing the ordinance, when was the last time you fought DPD and won, Joe? And how much in attorney fees did it cost?

  80. Good point, Kat. I recommend contacting an arborist or landscape architect. Either professional should be able to identify the specie of tree you have and tell you what you have and if it falls in the scope of the tree preservation ordinance. Further, an arborist can make a determination of the health of the tree and whether it presents any danger to you or your neighbors. That also could be important information in your application. Good luck!

  81. There's an astounding number of people on this thread that seem to have no idea what it means to live in a modern city. Or even a modern country. There's been nothing approaching “abosolute property owner rights” in America for generations, and given many people's cavalier attitude towards waste disposal or sound construction techniques, good thing too.

    Also, how “laws” work, i.e. “Ignorance is no defense, etc.”, seems a bit of a mystery to some folks. General rule of thumb: are you thinking of hiring a contractor? Permits are likely required, and building/land use codes will probably come into play. Call the city and say “Gee, I have no idea–do I need a permit for this?”, and you will be referred.

    Note: this process may take more than “30 minutes of searching on the internet.”

  82. Are you kidding me? If you got a house for free I highly doubt you would sell it so you can move into a condo or live in an apartment. Anyways, I want to maintain my property, by cutting it down, and plating other trees. Something I can handle in the future.

    Mowing my yard requires one investment, a mower. Or I can pay someone like $30 to mow it. That's something I can handle.

    I don't see why I can't spend $3k now (which I CAN afford now), so down the future I'm not paying $1,500 every two years to get it trimmed. That does not mean I cannot take care of a house, just that I would rather deal with something now then to face a huge expense down the road.

    I guess I'll just have to hope the city will give a permit.

  83. That's WHY I live in Ballard. I don't need to worry about issues like you're having. Thanks for the reminder though. One persons issue is someone else's snivel.

  84. Oh, boy. Here comes the court test. Please tell us where to mail donations to the homeowners for legal costs against the Bolshevik City of Seattle that thinks they own the property. Whether you like the Monkey Tree or not is irrelevant. So is if you support more greenery or not. The fact is that this is private property and the owners cedrtainly have the right to do what they want to it within reason. Taking down a tree is within reason.

  85. Since when does “landscaping” fall under zoning laws? This will not stand up if the owners fight it. And it shouldn't. The tree is part of the property which is private, not public. Only Eco-commies in Seattle think they own everybody else's private property.


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  88. If you live in a neighborhood (presumably with NEIGHBORS who are also interested in their neighborhood), which is presumably part of a city, which presumably has laws governing zoning, buildings, safety, access, appearance, animal control, health, businesses, demolition, noise, etc., etc., then no, you do NOT have unlimited or exclusive rights to the property you own, despite however much you paid for it or pay in taxes and maintenance. It's part of living in a COMMUNITY, with all of the benefits and drawbacks that entails, including laws, restrictions, and regulations, which were put in place by the people of your community – including, sometimes, YOU YOURSELF.

    Don't like it? Go buy a parcel of land far away from any meddling people with their silly rules and try living there. If you can find such an ungoverned place. Maybe the moon? Nope, that's regulated too. Looks like you're screwed.

  89. I am glad that this is bringing this issue to everyone's attention. So amazing how a tree like this gets noticed and the owners possibly fined for it's removal, when a whole grove of exceptional trees (100 year old hardwoods) in the Broadview area were cut down along with one which was not even on the property but an adjoining property. They could not be saved even through applying to the city for them to be named exceptional trees.
    Maybe more publicity like this will help to bring to the public awareness that trees matter to more than just the property owner and that there is a city department that issues permits for tree removal. Perhaps it will be decided that the tree was causing enough damage that it warranted removal. Plants do out grow their places. I am sure whoever planted that one many years ago was not thinking clearly about how big it would get! The trees mentioned above however were on a lot without buildings. Even to build they did not all need to be removed.

    In response to the person below who says that since it was not a native tree it should not be an issue, does that apply to the rare chinese tree at the Arboretum that was cut down by someone wanting a Christmas Tree? This was one of very few in the world. There are some very extraordinary nonnative plants around.

    Let's raise awareness and save our extraordinary trees from unnecessary removal!

  90. Sorry one last comment, as I read more of the debate below….
    Whoever suggested that you “trim” a large mature monkey puzzle tree is probably misguided as they do not require pruning unless they have major limbs that are dead or diseased, so I am presuming that you were thinking you could reduce it's size and keep it from growing over your house further? hmmm probably not a good idea and a situation that will create an ugly tree and possibly an unhealthy one. Usually attempting to reduce the size of a plant through pruning causes more growth….I am somewhat knowledgeable but not as knowledgeable as a Certified Arborist. I hope that is who you consulted with. There are lots of people out there giving advice in order to make big bucks. I recommend Tree Solutions….no not my company but one I know and trust. In the meantime Giant Monkey Puzzle tree R.I.P.

  91. Homeowner: “Will you please come and take down this tree?”
    Arborist: “Sure! That's a big tree. Do you have permits X, Y, and Z?”
    H: “No.”
    A: “You'll need those before we can start. Would you like us to get them for you?”
    H: “Yes, please. Thanks.”
    A: “OK, here's our all-inclusive estimate, including timeframe.”
    H: “Great!”

    So what's the problem here, people? Homeowner has their reasons (whatever they are). Contractor is reputable and knows his job and the rules (and should be held culpable if he doesn't). City (that's all of us, you know, not some hostile entity from far beyond) is satisfied as to permitting. Neighbors grumble to no avail because the rules were followed.

    Any monetary consequences should be faced by an incompetent contractor, even if the homeowner has to bear the legal responsibility, unless the signed contract specifically states that the homeowner has taken care of permitting, etc.

    Lesson learned: Research your contractor before you hire him, and read the contract before you sign it.

  92. Property rights are not unlimited. How would you like it if I bought the house next to yours and decided to exercise my rights by painting the place neon pink, ceasing all yard maintenance, parking a primered Camaro on cinder blocks in the front lawn and adding a 5 story addition? Suddenly I suspect you wouldn't be so big on property rights.

  93. “She said she is upset the tree is coming down and thinking about the generations of children who spent their youth climbing it.”

    Seriously? Dawn is either an idiot or clueless. Sounds like yet another whiner longing for the “good old days” which never really existed to begin with.

  94. “Property rights are important. “

    Yes, but they should also be limited just like free speech should be limited (or maybe you're dumb enough to think it should be OK to yell “fire” in a crowded theater?) Do you really think it should be acceptable for property owners to do whatever they wish with their property? Think about that for a second.

  95. Funny thing, I never said that the contractor shouldn't have discussed with the homeowner the possible need of a permit. A good contractor would have and perhaps the owner waived it off.
    Either way, it is the homeowner's responsibility to do his/her homework beforehand.
    We live in a society of nobody wanting to take responsibility for their actions. We pass the buck and try to blame someone else. The bar is to blame for a drunk driver? The store is to blame for a cracked sidewalk in front and someone not watching where they put their feet? The school is to blame for some bully at a bus stop beating up on another kid?
    Again, ignorance of the rules is no excuse for ignoring them.

    I always discuss possible permits with the homeowner prior to doing work. Sometimes I get the permits, other times the homeowner elects to do so. This news story did not go into details about any discussions between the homeowner and tree cutting service provider.

  96. My monicker is not deceptive. I am a General Contractor. While I personally do discuss permitting with the homeowner, sometimes they elect to have me pull permits, other times they choose to do it themselves.
    This article does not state the discussion between the homeowner and the tree cutting service prior to the job.
    I've posted more the the response below this.

  97. How can Chile be at the same latitude as Seattle? Latitudes are the lines parallel to the Equator, Longitudes are the lines that run from pole to pole. But even then, the Longitudes of Seattle and Chile are not close.

    Seattle: +47 Lat, -122 Long
    Santiago: -33 Lat, -70 Long

  98. Just find out if your tree qualifies as an “exceptional tree” according to the City. Perhaps not and you're home free… (pun not really intended).

  99. I'm glad there are some fellow private property advocates out there. My house sits on my (and, well, mostly the bank's) land, and as such the gov'mint got no right to say what I do with it.

    So tomorrow I'm cuttin gdown all of MY trees and erecting an oil derrick in my backyard. When I strike black gold I'm gonna have Dick Cheney oil wrestle a whole class full of nude 8 year old girls on the front lawn. This spectacle will then culminate in a snuff film (don't worry, Cheney's the only one who's not walking away).

    When the cops come I'll explain that it's my property and, (say it like Cartman) “whateva, whateva, I'll do what I want!”

  100. think about where you living. this is seattle….

    your free speech argument is out the window. people can yell anything here. and have you seen some of the properties in seattle? can you say white trash? slum lord? blue tarps?

    thanks, i did take a moment.

  101. Really? Care to put that to the test? Go into SeaTac and yell “I have a bomb”. Let's see if you get away with it. I'd bet good money it wouldn't end well for you.

    As for properties, I live next to a rental house that the owner/slum lord has basically told us he has no plans to maintain. Actually his exact words were “Why the f*** should I care, I don't live there.” It's because of people like this I don't believe in unlimited property rights (and chances are few rational people do!) Fortunately, we do have laws with regards to building codes and that's why I've filed a complaint with the city pointing out some major code (and safety) violations. Yes, there are property rights but with those rights come responsibilities. Sometimes the Libertarian nutters seem to forget this.

  102. What Ballardemican means is that Chile and Seattle are roughly the same distance from the Equator which would indicate similar weather patterns/flora/fauna. That seemed pretty obvious to me.

  103. You bet I would! I would rather live in a condo I could afford to take care of properly than a house I couldn't.

    Wait until spring and you get that first infestation of moisture ants (my 2nd house) or you go to replace a leaky toilet and find the sub floor is rotted through and the entire bathroom floor needs to be replaced, and it's your only bathroom (1st house). $750 a year will be the least of your problems.

    Home ownership is expensive. You can't often mitigate your long term maintenance with short term solutions.

    Btw, if you want to cut down a tree because it's blocking all your sun, makes a huge mess, is damaging your sewer lines, go right ahead. But doing it because you don't want to pay to take care of it is sad. It was there long before you, have some respect for the history of your Grandfather's home.

  104. Just saw your post about it being a pine and possibly cracking the foundation. Much more valid argument than “I don't want to pay for maintaining it.” Too bad, but if it's compromising the integrity of the house, removing it might be your best answer and the city should recognize that with a permit.

  105. I live on this particular block and can say, that tree was awesome and what-not.
    however, it was very large and very soon it's root system would probably start doing
    to the street what it already is doing to the sidewalk, destroying it.
    Who, then, would get fined? If that tree was in a forest or park, cutting it down would have
    been a tragidy.

  106. I'm an Arborist who owns a small tree service here in Seattle. I have worked in this city as an Arborist for the past 8 years. I have a few things to say.. The superficial first.
    1. You cannot climb a monkey puzzle tree. I have pruned two of these in my career. I have removed one. They are covered in sharp thorns arranged in circular disks. The upper 75% of the trunk is covered in thorns as well. I heard on the radio a neighbor talking about her fond memories of neighborhood children climbing the tree and how she had a tree fort in the tree. As I said before, I've pruned two of these trees and removed one. Every time I was wearing head to toe protection including a helmet and two pairs of gloves. Every time I was stabbed numerous times. At the end of the day when I removed my clothes I looked like I had been dragged through a blackberry briar. The jobs were worse for the groundmen, whose j0b it is to haul off the removed branches. Monkey puzzle branches have cylindrical rows of sharp thorns that point outward and down the branch. This makes it impossible to grab a monkey puzzle branch from the butt end and drag it. The branch must be grabbed at the tail end and dragged awkwardly backwards to the chipper were it is again flipped over and precariously fed into the chipper. In addition to the difficult drag, the monkey puzzle branches explode when they hit the ground sending thousands of thorns in every direction. I have never done a monkey puzzle were the groundman was not a bloody mess. So this should clear up any confusion about whether children were playing in the trees or not. They were not.
    2.Every Arborist worth his salt will attempt to discourage the homeowner from removing a tree unnecessarily, or mal-pruning a tree. Ex. topping a tree. This is exhausting, as the level of ignorance about trees and tree pruning is staggering. At least half the customers I have had, I've had to talk out of removing healthy trees or mal-pruning them. However some people cannot and will not be dissuaded from removing their trees. What do I do in such a situation? I do what any Arborist worth his salt does. I cut the tree down. The bottom line is, it's there property, and it's their right to do whatever they want with it. I'm a highly skilled proffesional, and better the tree gets removed by me or someone like me, rather then someone who has no idea what there doing. I may disagree with the homeowner, but at the end of the day it's their decision. Or at least it should be, if this is still a free country based on individual freedom and property rights.

    3. Having a mature monkeypuzzle tree in your yard is in itself a legitimate reason to cut the tree down. A certain segment of the population of Seattle seems to forget that we live in a city, not a forest. Having a large maturing tree in your yard poses a significant threat to your property and your safety. All trees will eventually fall down. Yes this tree could have been thinned and deadwooded, making it safer and less susceptible to a blow over, but that is not a failsafe to a disaster occuring. Case in point, the massive windstorm of 2006, when rain saturation and sustained high winds caused the blow over of many heathly, previously thinned trees. Secondly, as I have already stated, a monkey puzzle is a pain in the ass to clean up after, maybe they didn't want to deal with it. Maybe they wanted more light. Point is, agree with the removal or not, it's not anyone's decision but the homeowners. Or at least it shouldn't be…

    -Well that was more then I intended to write. In closing I'd like to wish the owner of said tree service the best of luck… And remind those Ballardians that their neighborhood, as all of Seattle and it's glorious suburbs, was once an old growth rainforest, and was deforested to make room for them to live, and if that's making you feel guilty, you should be protesting the expansion of such townships as the Issquah highlands and the Sammamish plateau, not your poor neighbors yard maintenance efforts.

  107. I want to know what makes you people think that regulating this persons property is acceptable. I'm sure he has or is paying for and being taxed on this property. I think the people that are pursuing this non-crime should worry about there own lives and keep there noses out of other peoples business!!!!!!!!!!

  108. The difference here is you are causing direct harm to others with your example.

    Tree removal is not causing direct harm to anyone else in the neighborhood.

  109. Too many people have this idea that the DPD and the city in general is this evil oligarchy but whenever I've called DPD or gotten inspections they've been super helpful and nice. Just call 'em up and ask before you even apply for the permit and they'll tell you what's what.

  110. I've found that you don't really “fight” DPD unless you are doing something really stupid, wrong, or both. Usually they have a very good reason for denying something or just want minor changes in the name of safety.

  111. apollo




    since the zoning is there to protect you more than it is there to take your freedom. Don't get all america up in everyone's face when you don't know what you're talking about.

  112. I suspect the homeowners will appeal the fine. If they don't and the city fines them for the size and age of the tree they'll be screwed. Way more money than replacing a sewer line.

  113. sbaked1598, You obviously don't care about community so perhaps you would be happier living out in a sparsely populated area. You'll need to really get out there deep though, because in all my experience of living out amongst the property rights crowd they are the absolute worst neighbors.

  114. Yeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaw! That's how you country boys greet each other right? Then tip your giant cowboy hats and put your thumbs behind your WWF sized belt buckles? Then get all brokeback mountain on each other? Really? That's not how it is?
    How many other stupid hyperbolic stereotypes can we cram into the argument?

    In all seriousness the issue that you mention of dense building is why the city has acted to preserve the remaining trees. Because we have a lot more people living in close proximity to each other we need to have a certain amount of regulation so that we can have a thriving community without allowing one person's actions to unduly impact everyone else.

  115. Dawn is neither an idiot, clueless or a whiner, and you shouldn't assume that quotes found in local papers (or blogs, for that matter) are accurate. Dawn has done more to promote neighborhood involvement and improvement in East Ballard than anyone I know.

  116. exactamente — these trees are native to about -45 degrees lat. South, and their place in the ecosystem is similar to that of our native big trees. I meant to say that they fit in well and don't compete aggressively w/ native species, so they are not invasive troublemakers.

    Think of them as Finnish, not as Californians :)

  117. Just when I thought your post could get no better, you threw in that last sentence. Bravo.

    Can anyone recommend an Arborist? My neighbor has a Doug Fir that is ill and tall and will fall unless we do something to help it. We are prepared as neighbors to split the cost.

  118. I could argue that eveeryone entered the party voluntarily, so get off my porch, but alright then:

    With my snuff film profits I will build a new house on MY property with MY money. It will be 300 feet tall and depict an exact, photographic likeness of Ron Jeremy's money maker in money-making mode, warts and all. Every day at noon and midnight it will ooze a couple hundred gallons of icing from a centrally located chimney.

    Since it is MY property and MY house and others are not being directly harmed I absolutely should have the right to do this, right? To build a giant, spurting erection house visible for miles, and right next door to you, and maybe a church and daycare center?

    Of course not — the simple absolutist arguments about property rights crumble in the face of community standards and the common good. My point is that if you aren't arguing about relative degree of public vs private rights in this case you likely stopped paying attention after the 6th grade.

    I think there should be strong individual property rights. For instance I disagree with the Supreme Court decision to allow private comercial developer to exercise forcible emminent domain take overs of private property when the commercial project would help revitalize a neighborhood. If some lone holdout wants to stay in a rundown area then private companies need to find somewhere else to build a Jamba Juice, no matter how much of an unreasonable tool the holdout is.

    But big trees give a neighborhood character and definition. They outlast almost all homeowners and make the hood a nicer place to live for everyone, raise the local property values, etc. Because of this ordinance Ballard will be much more beautiful in 20 or 30 years. So we agree to limit rights to cut certain trees down, as we limit many other activities on private property.

    A good friend once told me when he bought a house: “this is all mine, except the big trees — I just get to take care of them until the next steward comes along.” I think this is a mature attitude.

    If one can cut down any tree on one's lot in our neighborhood, it most certainly will be done eventually as a result of owners coming and going. The trees will not be able to keep up with the capricious whim of some. In effect then a minority gets to defacto tyrranize the majority, and that can't be what liberty is all about even to a libertarian, right?

  119. Thanks for the positive feedback. I'd be glad to look at any trees you have, I'm an Arborist and own a small tree service. I'd prefer for the time being to not put the name of my tree service up here lest it be dragged into any controversy. Send me an e-mail though… and I'll come out and take a look a the tree right away. Now is a great time to have tree work done. Due to the slowness of the season, I can give you a great price. Thanks again for the reply…

  120. Again, all of you arguing that a property owner should be able to do anything they want with/on their property are either disingenuous or not clear thinkers.

    The argument here is about the degree to which public benefit ought to supercede individual property rights. Some of you have made pretty good arguments for why an individual's right to cut a tree outweighs the community's right to improve the quality of the neighborhood in general (e.g. big trees don't improve a hood, they do but their potential harm and cost balance against that, there should be no right to communal goods [this one is very hard if you work it through], etc).

    Bald neighborhoods look like crap. I'm not gonna hug one but I'm glad we keep the big trees standing in Ballard, even if that means I need to maintain/put up with the ones on my lot.

  121. Thanks for standing up for me. I was misquoted. I did not say anything about climbing trees that I remember, and I didn't make an effort to correct the Ballard News Tribune. That is partially my fault.

  122. Attention big tree lovers. I have a large evergreen on the south side. The day after I sweep, there are needles all over everything. Anything in the driveway gets sap on it. I have no sunbeams in my house. It is one af 7 large trees on that edge of the lot. Walnut, locust, ash, red cedar. and the laurel. It's a constant souurce of frustration and depression.

    I would love to take it down but perhaps I could just limb it up. I am near 70th and 27th and if anyone would like to help me limb it up so at least I could enjoy the sun, then I would not have to take it down. I need a cherry picker and I have the cutting tools. I am thinking a lodgepole pine haircut.

    Just thought it couldn't hurt to ask.

  123. “Cover several square miles with concrete, buildings, houses, and then complain when a tree gets cut down. I can hardly stop laughing.”

    Yeah, it's not like the property developers have to get any permits or submit to land-use reviews or anything. Ha! Ha! Ha!

  124. Bp posted about the fir tree which I am fairly certain was on my friend's property – quote “We just went through a similar situation here in Crown Hill. About two years ago, some new people bought a house built in 1914. In their front yard was an enormous Douglas fir that was clearly as old as the house, if not older. (Later, after it was down, I counted 110 rings on the stump).”
    First I counted around 89 rings. And, it was an unhappy ugly tree, having had almost all its limbs lopped back, it looked like a toothpick tree. And, I have planted about 4 dozen native bushes, plants, and wild flowers were there used to be turf yard. And – they are replacing that one tree with three. And in another 80- years, when the owner of the house then cuts down one of those trees – you can bitch again.

  125. These same city maggots required me to remove a tree, not on my property, but adjacent to my property last year and pay for it myself. If I didn't they would remove it and charge and fine me. In addition if I don't plant another tree in the same spot, again not my property, I will get fined. These people are pure puss. Get me out of this rat hole.

  126. Quote:
    “How, exactly, is that a case of the city “overstepping its bounds” to “find more money for its bloated financial needs”?
    Some people look for conspiracies that just aren't there.”

    Well, if you want to justify the paycheck you get, you make up reasons for your existence. If your boss calls you in for your annual performance review, you better have a laundry list ready of everything that you did during the year. If you just show up and say that you kept the status quo, you'll find yourself at the front of the line for budget cuts.

    If I were the property owner who got fined, I would paint my house the most obnoxious glow in the dark color that I could find. It's not like you can see the color when you are in your own house.

  127. Ballardemican, you make a good rational argument but the other side has their measured response: MINE! MINE! MINE! ARRRRGH! HULK SMASH!!!

  128. This tree WAS the first specimen of the species listed in Arthur Lee Jacobson's “Trees of Seattle” (2nd ed, 2006) p. 267.

  129. I would like to offer my support for the home owner. I do not know the specifics of the case, however I have had a similar experience with this type of situation. Last May, I had a large doug-fir removed from my front yard. I had three companies bid on the job, and all three told me I did not need a permit.

    I also called the Seattle DPD on their permit specialist hotline and again was told that I did not need a permit for one tree. I mention this to point out that although it is true “ignorance of the law is no defense”, what remedy do I have when the DPD is ignorant?

    Much like the homeowner in the story, a neighbor called in and complained. I know who called, and I even asked him why he called. His answer? “200 years ago there was a lot more trees here”. He is what you would call a fanatic.

    Anyway, in November I received a notice of violation and a fine for $23,500. This was for a 80 year old doug fir. I was told by the woman in charge of my case that I was the second person to receive this type of violation. I know for a fact there are more people since then that have been subject to this violation.

    I have been fighting this since mid-november and am still waiting for my directors appeal, even though the woman at DPD told me there was no appeal process. Sounds like a money grab to me.

    I seen one of the posts here question whether this is an ordinance for the good of the community or a way to balnce the budget. Well, if you read the DPD directors blog, they usually read like a profit and loss statement.

    I'm out over $5000 in legal fees so far. I'm sure the homeowners in this story will soon be in the same situation, unless the city decides this will be a good case to test in court.

    The tree ordinance was revised in April last year, which is why the DPD is now able to hand out these fines like candy. McIver is the only one on the city council who voted against it. I will try to get in touch with these homeowners to share my experience with them.

  130. Well, “stupid and wrong” depends on your point of view. To me this is more an aesthetic issue and less one of public safety.

    My main point wasn't that there was some big conspiracy. I can't stand those arguments. It was that maybe we've given up too much to the City and community (“the Collective”, humorously) regarding trees. The base issue seems to be the existence of the tree ordinance in the first place.

    Property owners should be able to do what they want on their land. On the other hand the community has a right to say what is allowed in it. Zoning, land use and views are some things most of us have agreed the community has a right to restrict us on.

    But it's apparent from this thread the tree ordinance is one we don't all agree on – at least as far as Monkey Puzzle trees go.

  131. Sometimes you get the permits, and sometimes the homeowner elects to do so. That's fine. But what if the homeowner says, “Naah, we don't need no stinkin' permits”? Do you proceed with your heavy equipment (and that looks like a pretty big crane they used there) without any permits? Or do you turn down the job, 'cause it's presumably ILLEGAL to do it without the permits?

  132. Unfortunately, using that logic would turn trees into a liability to the value of the property. Example: you have a 1200sf home valued at $100,000 -but- it's has a large tree that requires trimming and maintenance every 18-24months at a cost of $1500.

    Now homeowners are having to figure in the time/money/aggravation factors involved with maintaining the tree. The majority will choose to buy elsewhere. Of course there will be some who feel the aesthetics of the tree outweigh the costs/hassles. Unfortunately the seller has to wait for that buyer to come along. Also, a savvy Realtor will pick up on such an issue and use it as leverage for price reduction (trust me, I most certainly would).

    Under either scenario the tree has had a negative impact on the property value. So, along come the dreaded “unintended consequences”.

    Homeowners don't want to hurt their property values so they begin considering these “tree hassle” issues more closely when designing or changing their landscaping. The obvious choice to homeowners becomes either (1) stop planting large trees -or- (2) plant them but cut them down before they grow past the threshold to trigger the ordinance. A 3rd but equally depressing scenario is that eventually you begin to find large trees only on more expensive, upscale homes where the value of home itself offsets the cost/hassle of the tree(s) involved.

    Under any of these scenarios the end result is fewer large trees, the exact opposite of the original admirable goal. *sigh*

    Now, you allow the homeowner the freedom to control his own landscaping as he see fit and the entire issue resolves itself. The vast majority of people will leave such trees in place unless there’s a pressing need to remove them. Of course there are some that will cut down a large beautiful tree simply because it interferes with their backyard sun or because they hate leaves. As frustrating as this is, it’s the price we pay to live in a free society with individual property rights. Loose sight of that and you’ll end up missing a whole lot more that just trees.

  133. Protect me from being able to landscape my yard? Protect me by letting the neighborhood snoop spend her days citing neighbors for heinous crimes like trimming (or not trimming) the shrubbery?


    I (or my predecessor in interest) plant a tree…and then when I want to cut it down I need permission? Freedom? Liberty?

    Life, liberty property?

    I forgot, I shouldn't get all “America” here…this is, after all, the Soviet republic of Seattle…

  134. I don’t understand how a city can claim ownership of a tree on private property.
    I can sell the city all my trees and then they are the city’s. Until then they belong to me . I will sell my trees for “several thousands of dollars”. Only then I understand a recompense to the city.

  135. The contractor does not own the land, therefore they are not responsible. It is always up to the property owner to make sure the work is permitted. Besides, Monkey trees are poisoness and so not belong in the Pacific Northwest.

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