FOLLOWUP: Where East Admiral tree-cutting investigation stands; City Attorney’s Office says ‘could be a felony’

IMG_2684
(Saturday WSB photo by Tracy Record – south end of area where trees were cut)

4 PM: We’ve obtained new information today about the investigation of more than 100 trees cut on city-owned Duwamish Head Greenbelt slopes in East Admiral. First report came from The Seattle Times late Friday night; we published a much-commented followup on Saturday (including maps showing exactly where it happened). Today – first weekday since this all came to light, though it happened weeks ago – we contacted the City Attorney’s Office with some questions. City Attorney Pete Holmes had gone out to the site on Saturday and met with City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. Holmes’ spokesperson Kimberly Mills has just sent the replies to our questions, which included, how did the city find out about it, where does the investigation stand, and even, what ARE those metal tags on the stumps for? Mills writes:

A neighbor in the area contacted SDOT arborist Nolan Sundquist in January to alert him to some number of trees being cut.

Early last month a private attorney for two of the area homeowners wrote the Parks Department, seeking a way to, in my words, make things right with the City. We do not know who actually cut the trees or how many homeowners were in the group seeking their services.

That letter was forwarded on Feb. 14 to our Torts Section, which hired a private company to determine what it would take to reforest the area (which is about 1.5 acres (two-thirds SDOT and one third Parks).

(Saturday WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)
The tags were placed by (the company).

We also asked if there’s an SPD report number for this. Not yet, Mills replied, but says Holmes “has asked that the matter be investigated.” She quotes him as adding, “We’re going to make sure the City is made whole as well as try to deter future conduct,” and calling the area “incredibly fragile.”

Mills notes that “the estimated damages are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is way out of our misdemeanor ballpark. This could be a felony.” If you have information that might help in the investigation, call SPD’s non-emergency number, 206-625-5011.

P.S. If you saw helicopter activity over east West Seattle earlier – it’s related to this, as TV helicopters took their first chance for aerial views of the damage.

ADDED 5 PM: Just out of the WSB inbox:

I am sharing this statement on behalf of a client who, along with other neighbors, hired a landscaping business to top and prune some trees to improve the view from their respective residences. After limited discussions with the contractors, my client returned from an out-of-town trip to find the scene shown in the news reports: To our clients’ surprise and dismay, several trees were cut at or near the base, as opposed to just limited pruning work.

I was retained soon thereafter, with instructions to disclose this work to the City, offer to restore any damage caused by the work, and coordinate full restoration of the site with the City. We hired an experienced urban forester (who used to work with the City on this exact type of site restoration) to advise on an appropriate scope of work to restore the site. We reported the cutting work to the City in a letter dated February 5, 2016. We shared our urban forester’s conceptual restoration proposal with the City Attorney’s office on March 9, 2016, and offered to provide a detailed restoration plan (complete with tree size, species, placement and ongoing care obligations) from our client’s urban forester when the City was ready to review it.

We understand the City is still evaluating its options, as well as what work will be necessary to restore the damage to this site. We believe the work affected far fewer than the 150 trees and the “one acre” of City-owned land that has been cited in the news reports. I believe this is because the City’s current damage assessment for this hillside includes another area of cutting (immediately to the south on the other side of some blackberry bushes) that was not done by our client’s contractors. In any event, our client remains ready, willing, and able to work with the City to restore the area affected by their contractors’ work.

In sum, these neighbors made a mistake by authorizing this work. They have the utmost respect for City Parks and its property, and commit to make every effort to make this right. After discussing this matter in detail with the urban forester they retained, my clients are optimistic that the site can be fully restored.

Clayton P. Graham
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

269 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Where East Admiral tree-cutting investigation stands; City Attorney's Office says 'could be a felony'"

  • flimflam March 28, 2016 (4:08 pm)

    wow – from the post it sounds pretty clear that a few homeowners are responsible for this, at least, and maybe more….this is disgusting and I truly hope the city makes an example out of whoever is to blame.

     

    there was recently a post about the city getting tough with folks bordering on city park lands that have over =stepped their bounds – this terrible act is in a whole other category. 

  • Scott March 28, 2016 (4:11 pm)

    It would be very frustrating if these homeowners get away with buying their way out of the situation as it now appears was their plan. 

  • JanS March 28, 2016 (4:15 pm)

    so, when those homeowners were talking about this, planning this, and then carrying through, did not one of them even think about bringing up the fact that what they were planning was illegal? Did they just not give a damn? or realize how fragile that hill is, and how it could affect  it?there is a lot of water in that hollside. Note the wetness of the street below at almost all times in places, and the water running inthe gutter… and they did it anyway? Yes, a felony…and I hope to hell they have the best homeowners insurance they could buy. And whoever they hired? If they actually have a business, they should lose their license…go sell insurance, or something…geez..what selfishness :(

    • colleen March 28, 2016 (5:09 pm)

      “so, when those homeowners were talking about this, planning this, and
      then carrying through, did not one of them even think about bringing up
      the fact that what they were planning was illegal?”

      Quite so. I think it would be interesting to discover if the atty was retained before or after the trees were cut.  

      • Mike March 30, 2016 (1:43 pm)

        I believe in the letter it says they hired the attorney after they returned from there “out of town trip” to discover the trees were all cut down.  I’d be interested to find out how long they’ve lived in the area personally.  They say they have the utmost respect for the Cities Parks but as many have stated if they were talking about doing this at all and it’s on Cities Property then they were essentially plotting to break the law intentionally.  

  • JanS March 28, 2016 (4:16 pm)

    oh, and thanks to the neighbor who initially reported  this.Too bad the city didn’t move faster.

  • abby March 28, 2016 (4:27 pm)

    I’m hoping for sleepless nights for those responsible, prior to public humiliation and prosecution!

  • Jissy March 28, 2016 (4:32 pm)

    Must be the “do whatever the hell you want” types and ask forgiveness later.  Reminds of a particular builder on Beach Drive.  

    • WSB March 28, 2016 (4:57 pm)

      I’ve just received a statement from a local lawyer regarding *part* of this. Adding to the story momentarily.

  • Waikikigirl March 28, 2016 (4:36 pm)

    Near my mom in laws house we noticed the same tree cutting (not as severe as this) and thought it was the home owners above that did it…Marine view Dr and SW Roxbury St just south of Endolyne Joe’s but in this case they just let the trees fall, no removing of them! What are they thinking when they do this sort of stuff, don’t they even think the hillside might slide???

    Sad and disgusting.

  • Ray March 28, 2016 (4:37 pm)

    Would be a shame if all the plants/trees on their property were to mysteriously be cut down overnight.

  • Kyle March 28, 2016 (4:38 pm)

    So, did they do this on their own, or hire contractors?  Or did they just hire laborers?  I have a hard time believing any contractor would go ahead and do this without a permit, without checking with Dept of Natural Resources, or without some geotechnical engineering guidance.

  • JJ March 28, 2016 (4:38 pm)

    It’s no different than what Robin Loudin did in middle of night to clear view, nobody ever gets punished. 

  • andrewwantcookie March 28, 2016 (4:40 pm)

    I suspected all along that the entire neighborhood – or at least all of those benefiting – were in on this.  No other way to keep it quiet.

    I’m guessing that their defense is going to be that they tried to work with the city to maintain their highly taxed view property, but when the city didn’t respond they took it upon themselves.

  • lookingforlogic March 28, 2016 (4:40 pm)

    Time to reassess their property values, make them pay for replanting, fines perhaps criminal charges.

    It is exhausting to constantly deal with “I’m so sorry, but I needed/deserved/am ENTITLED.  It is more profitable to beg for forgiveness than seek permission.

  • JS March 28, 2016 (4:41 pm)

    So the property owners have a better view, but that will change after their home slide down the hill. What the bleep were they thinking?

  • Chuck March 28, 2016 (4:48 pm)

    The work itself looks sub-par and rushed. Seems to me a legit company would have cut all the way to the ground, and/or hauled away the debris. I’m guessing this could have been a “midnight massacre,” perhaps even done by the (jerk) homeowners themselves.  Electric saws powered with long extension cords from someone’s house would cause a spike in an electric bill. A possible smoking gun? I can’t wait to read about these selfish people being  called out publicly, charged and fined (or even sentenced). They deserve everything they get. 

  • Alan March 28, 2016 (4:51 pm)

    Wow, more than one person thought this was a good idea?! The thing I like about that is that this now becomes a conspiracy to commit a crime, which tacks on a little extra.

  • Myrmyr March 28, 2016 (4:57 pm)

    “Follow the money.” Who benefits from this travesty?

  • DawgtiredWS March 28, 2016 (4:57 pm)

     A BIG Thank You to the neighbor that reported the crime. It can be a difficult thing to do but you did the right thing and I believe the community will be grateful for your actions.  West Seattle is a great place to live and you are just trying to keep it that way. Thanks again.

  • KT March 28, 2016 (4:59 pm)

    A neighbor in the area contacted SDOT arborist Nolan Sundquist in January to alert him to some number of trees being cut.

    For crying out loud it is March 28th, what the hell has the City of Seattle been doing since then?????he area contacted SDOT arborist Nolan Sundquist in January to alert him to some number of trees being cut.’  

    • Earl March 29, 2016 (9:53 am)

      What is the use of calling the authorities to report a crime in progress when the perpetrator is above the slope, above the law., above the 99th percentile of income, and beneath contempt.

  • D. Radke-Bogen March 28, 2016 (5:00 pm)

    OSO, should be easy enough to remember. These ignorant people can’t just patch things up with the city for a few thousands.

    I remember a slide on the east side of Queen Anne. The slide crossed Aurora wiping out a gas station, left 4-6 feet of mud on the roadway, continued almost to Dexter were it left one house rolled off its foundation and laying on its roof. The slide exposed new construction at the top which may have injected water into the slide area.

    Instead of fines the perps should be required to set up an insured slide insurance fund for the home owners down stream from the clear cut. If there’s no slide within 40 years the accrued funds would go go the city.

  • montanapup March 28, 2016 (5:07 pm)

    I’m floored. This is beyond words. Seattle has been sold.  In the future, I’ll do first and ask for forgiveness later – IF, I get caught……..

    http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/homeowner-responsible-for-chopping-down-153-trees-told-city-about-destruction/

  • Pam March 28, 2016 (5:10 pm)

    Critical habitat.  Inexcusable vandalism.   Should be liable for current damage, restoration and any future damage caused by instability of the hillside.    An attack on our public lands.

  • Oakley34 March 28, 2016 (5:10 pm)

    Their story is what it smells like.  Unfortunately,  to some money makes that stuff smell sweeter.  

  • Alex March 28, 2016 (5:18 pm)

    “I am sharing this statement on behalf of a client who, along with other neighbors, hired a landscaping business to top and prune some trees to improve the view from their respective residences. After limited discussions with the contractors, my client returned from an out-of-town trip to find the scene shown in the news reports: To our clients’ surprise and dismay, several trees were cut at or near the base, as opposed to just limited pruning work.”

    So, to follow this pathetic excuse to its logical conclusion, were ALL the neighbors “out of town” at the same time while the contractor was out there “over pruning?” 

    Typical high-priced lawyer statement, spreading the lie that this was all just a big mistake and misunderstanding.  And for the lying homeowners’ sake, I also hope your lawyer takes criminal cases

  • tt March 28, 2016 (5:24 pm)
    Super convenient to play "blame the contractor". 

    • Michael in West Seattle March 29, 2016 (8:27 am)

      Sad but true- the Contractor IS to blame for not getting permits and still performing the  job. If an Electrician wires a house or a Plumber puts in some pipes anywhere in Seattle WITHOUT a permit the job gets Red Tagged-shut down until an inspector clears it AFTER proper permits (if granted) paid for and fines to boot. Any Contractor with any experience knows what is legal to do and what is not. This is a question of $’s vs Morals. The Co-Conspirators (homeowners) bear the ultimate blame and shame for this selfish move on land that is not theirs to defile. As an tax paying Citizen of King County I am angered that this has happened to “My”/ “Our” small patch of remaining urban forest- sacrificed  for the “view” from the porch of a few selfish, entitled morons. Justice for this travesty I say!!!!!!!

  • HTB March 28, 2016 (5:27 pm)

    So let me get this straight. Homeless people camped under freeways, leaving garbage, human waste and needles everywhere, completely trashing our beautiful city are able to do so with no repercussions at all.

    Chopping down trees to improve your view? Lock them up and throw away the key!

    It’s called priorities – and the things that cause WS residents to get mad and take action are mindbogglingly out of whack with what they should be.

    • colleen March 28, 2016 (5:58 pm)

      What a great idea. Those big houses would make  some really wonderful transitional housing for the homeless. 

    • Highland Park March 28, 2016 (6:18 pm)

      Your logic is upside-down.

      The only penalty you can impose upon a homeless person is to take away a few more of his needles.  But he’ll always be ahead of you.  (note: it has become passe to put a homeless person/family onto a Greyhound bus with a one-way ticket to Tallahassee)

      It was abundantly clear(no pun intended) from first revelation exactly who was at the root (again, no pun intended) of this clear-cutting operation, AND those people CAN be penalized commensurate with their upcoming felony conviction.

      The moronic cover-up letter/operation shared above, in which the guilty parties suggest that they somehow had the authority to “authorize” such a debacle, is only further indication of their complicity and guilt in the matter.

      Felony conviction upcoming

    • Deep breath and calm down March 28, 2016 (6:50 pm)

      Thank you. I knew I lived in a ridiculously liberal city but good god. The outrage and remedies in this comment section are comical. That many maple trees never existed on that slope until the original native  trees were cut down. If you look many of those maple trees aren’t that mature. They’re clearly offshoots. Gives the city the opportunity if they were smart to replant the hillside with more diversity of trees that are truly native northwest species. Which means the city probably will want to take the fine and put in a bike lane or buy another bike sharing program.

       

      • Jane March 29, 2016 (9:23 pm)

        You are the first person who has made sense. Big leaf maples are junk trees. And judging by the pictures these trees were anything but mature. Replant with some attractive native species and it’s all good. 

      • LC March 30, 2016 (7:34 pm)

        You seem surprised by the virtual witch hunt here on the blog! Just wait until the homeowners are identified by name and see what happens then – they will have to move out of town!

    • Tabatha March 29, 2016 (6:12 pm)

      Thank you HTB!!!   I was thinking I was the only one in WS with common sense!  I completely agree.  I keep wondering how this is “disgusting” but downtown smells like a urinal and nobody cares.  Let’s all work on our priorities.  Seattle was falling apart long before a few trees were cut down.

  • AA March 28, 2016 (5:29 pm)

    So their clients thought it was ok to top and trim trees that didn’t belong to them? Sure.

    • Kay Cook March 30, 2016 (9:09 am)

      Not too many years ago, several trees on the hillside above my home on Harbor Avenue were poisoned. The City was notified, and documentation of poisoning was provided by the State. It is and was obvious which property benefited from a tree less, unobstructed view.

      We erected a large banner which stated, “Trees poisoned for View”.

      The sign received national attention and could be seen as far away as down town Seattle. The position taken by the City was and is, unless it can be proven who did the crime, they can and will do nothing, and they did nothing. The obvious benefactor made no difference.  (they sold the following year) The second mistake the property owners, in this case,  have made is admitting it. I’m surprised  their attorney did not advise them to, “Say nothing”. I suggest that the City develop a workable plan using  arborists and environmental scientists,  that will assist  property owners  in these cases. (Who have trees, that have totally blocked their  high tax paying view) Until this happens, people will continue to do what they do,  top, clear cut and poison. The present position by the City of “No touch”, isn’t working. 

      Kaly Cook

  • JS March 28, 2016 (5:31 pm)

    The property owners had no legal right to cut anything on that property. How convenient that there was no supervision of the client(s) contractor.  This is going to get messy, as in mud slide.

     

  • Carole March 28, 2016 (5:32 pm)

    So the atty letter references his client along with other neighbors, then claims his client returned from out of town to the destruction. Convenient cop out.  Were  ALL the neighbors out of town during the cutting? Does this atty represent just one client or all of the referenced neighbors? It begs the fact that they had no right to prune or top ANY trees without a permit. Selfish and entitled indeed.

    • RayWest March 28, 2016 (6:21 pm)

      Yeah, I had a pretty good laugh when I read that lame-ass phoney excuse. Typical lawyer defense.

  • Jissy March 28, 2016 (5:32 pm)

    Mr. Graham:  I call an acre of BULL*%~T!  And raise you another 158 piles of tripe!!  Crooked Finger pointing to boot-GAG

  • H March 28, 2016 (5:33 pm)

    Just saw news home owners have a attorney. Beyond irritated if there home slides down the hill and crashes into on coming traffic. Oh I forgot they wanted a view, and they have a attorney. 

    • WSB March 28, 2016 (5:58 pm)

      That’s all in the followup above – lawyer’s entire statement.

      • Jake March 28, 2016 (6:01 pm)

        Wish I could “like” your comment, WSB!

  • Diane March 28, 2016 (5:34 pm)

    this all makes so much more sense now; I live just 2 blocks up the hill; I know some of the neighbors on that block, very nice people; for now, I prefer to believe the attorney’s explanation; and grateful to hear it was not some evil scenario; perhaps human error

    • Joe Szilagyi March 28, 2016 (6:20 pm)

      Human error vs malicious intent does not absolve of full repercussions.

    • scout 15 March 28, 2016 (6:34 pm)

      Diane, you do realize that to even “prune” on that property, you would need to have written consent from the city. If that was not obtained (it appears not), then any work was illegal, making these “nice peoples” story highly suspect. 

    • Alan March 28, 2016 (6:54 pm)

      Diane,

      It is common for a car thief, caught driving the car, to claim that he borrowed it from a friend and did not know it was stolen. Of course, he cannot remember his friends name. The police actually let them off with that excuse, not because they believe them but because they cannot prove otherwise.

      Your neighbors are doing the exact same thing, but with an expensive attorney. If you believe this story, then you are either an exceptionally loyal friend, or you are gullible. Let me know if you would be interested in some property on the Alaska Way Viaduct. I’m letting it go cheap.

    • raywest March 29, 2016 (9:54 am)

      Diane, if you believe that, I have this bridge in New York I’d love to sell you . . . I mean, come on. Just because you know them and claim they are “nice people” that excuses what they did. ice people do bad things all the time. It is always the rich ones who think they can charm and buy their way out of trouble. I’ve never seen a more sorry, self-serving “mea culpa” in my life.  Offering up a “solution” to “make it right” is only a lame attempt to minimize what these self-entitled people did wrong, and knew was wrong. They do not deserve to get off lightly or cheaply.  I’m sick of this “slap on the wrist” justice that goes on all the time. The city needs to start sending stronger and clearer messages that this will not be tolerated. 

    • Alex March 29, 2016 (11:49 am)

      Well, “nice people” have the capacity to do very bad things. Happens a lot. Especially when they have others to make excuses for them – paid, or unpaid.

      And in this case, if they were nice but also HONEST, those neighbors would be owning up to their illegal activities rather than hiring somebody to lie on their behalf. 

  • KatherineL March 28, 2016 (5:35 pm)

    “hired a landscaping business to top and prune some trees to improve the view from their respective residences.” 

    May I point out that topping trees ruins and may kill them. At the very least, it weakens them. They had no more right to “just” top them than to cut them down.

    Maybe they could take up bird watching. Then the trees would BE the view. Oh, wait, it’s too late now.


    • Overthere March 28, 2016 (9:00 pm)

      No, that is not true, pruning them can and will make them stronger. Topping them can cause them to build a more robust root structure and larger. Pruning or topping if done correctly will increase the health of the tree.

      Where I live, is similar slope overlooking lake union there is a greenbelt the city refuses to do maintenance on we have had several trees die due to non native species crawling up the trees. We asked the several times to have the non native species removed without a return call, when the trees died no returned phone calls. After a year of inaction by the city and the dead trees starting to break apart we had them removed at our expense. The city does not take care of these areas. They could care less.

  • forgotmyname March 28, 2016 (5:37 pm)

    They’ve lawyered up already?  Well, we know how this ends.  The homeowners will claim they thought they could do this or that it was a mistake.   The city’s attorneys will cut a deal with the homeowners.  They’ll get a hand slap misdemeanor ticket and be forced the pay restitution.  The city will claim victory and the homeowners can set on their decks with now unobstructed views and talk about how they were the real victims. Everybody wins…

    Oh, except Miguel and his single hand painted pickup lawn business who will bear the brunt of the blame and punishment.  Oh, except the taxpayers who will be forced the pay the difference between the negotiated ‘restitution’ and the actual cost of replanting.  Oh, except the citizens of Seattle who will have hillside of stumps to remind them not to question their betters.

    • MsD March 28, 2016 (6:28 pm)

      Exactly.  Seattle seems to be the perfect place for the aggressively entitled to get by with anything they choose to pull.  The powers-that-be seem to be terrified of confrontation or upsetting those that act in their own best interests to the detriment of everyone else.

  • S March 28, 2016 (5:47 pm)

    Make sure the trees are replaced with equal-height or taller trees, in the same location. Lawyer says it has a reforestation plan complete with “tree size, species, placement.”…I bet their plan is to reforest with short trees that don’t grow tall enough to block their new view, or with placement that doesn’t block their views, or with deciduous trees that will shed leaves and give them a winter view? I wonder if the lawyer would be willing to share this reforestation plan with WSB. 

  • S March 28, 2016 (5:50 pm)

    Also, who are the homeowners and who is the landscaper? Or will they be allowed to hide behind the lawyer?

    • Joe Szilagyi March 28, 2016 (6:18 pm)

      Once it’s into SPD hands, County Prosecutor hands, or someone figures out the exactly correct string of public records requests to string out, it’ll be on the West Seattle Blog, the Seattle Times… everywhere.

      Whomever did this, authorized this, and actually did the cutting is going to be named. There is no way for that exposure to be avoided in the end. 

      • WSB March 28, 2016 (6:32 pm)

        The lawyer’s statement regarding the plans, letter, etc. came in right at 5 pm – I published it immediately upon receipt – so I have not had the chance to ask the city attorney’s office for the documents. That’s what I’ll be doing first thing in the morning, and if they decline to provide them, I’ll be filing a PDR as soon as I can. If this were a construction site, for example, all manner of documents and correspondence would be available online, filed routinely – that’s how we get many development and business stories. But without there being a court file already opened, none of this is likely to be available online and will have to be requested/PDR’d. – TR

  • Todd March 28, 2016 (6:01 pm)

    I’d sure like to be able to go onto property I don’t own and start doing some trimming/cutting/pruning. I wonder if my neighbors would mind?  The property owners who got together to hire whoever did it? How fast would they have a lawyer if someone was doing it to them? Before you got back on your side of the fence. It is ironic that the houses above the hillside will be the ones most at risk from the de-stabilization that will come next winter…

  • AMD March 28, 2016 (6:05 pm)

    That attorney response is ridiculous.  The way he lays out the events he makes it sound more like the work of organized crime than misguided homeowners.  Yes, let’s all take a “vacation” while Timmy the Tree Topper whacks a couple trees.  They can’t prove it was us!

    .

    They hired people to do something illegal for purely selfish reasons.  They’re responsible for the repercussions regardless of what their conversation with the “contractor” was.

    Leaving town while someone else does the dirty work for you does not absolve you of blame.  

  • KNEEDLER March 28, 2016 (6:11 pm)
    Neighbors plural? Gross. I guess we all know those responsible do in fact have enough money to fix it. 
    I hope the city attorney will stand up for our public lands and not roll over like they did when Federal judge Jerome Farris cut down ~120 cherry and maple trees in Coleman Park. In addition to tons of community service, I’m thinking those responsible should pay for taller, more mature trees and undercover to be brought in.  Since I don’t think we can kick them out of the city (I wouldn’t object), a fence along the property line to discourage further encroachment. With enough money it can be done. Make it happen.
    • Joe Szilagyi March 28, 2016 (6:17 pm)

      If Pete Holmes, City Attorney, lets the perps walk on this like Tom Carr did that judge, Pete Holmes is going to be absolutely tossed out of office like Tom Carr was. 

  • Joe Szilagyi March 28, 2016 (6:15 pm)

    Arrest ’em all; let the jury sort it out. 

  • flimflam March 28, 2016 (6:15 pm)

     riiiiiiight. the trees magically came down when the folks sounding responsible were “out of town”. gosh, who knows how this could have happened?

  • Tree Lover March 28, 2016 (6:16 pm)

    I agree with Chuck. I am familiar with arborist work and clearly this is a hack job. A legitimate contractor would have known better and asked for permits. Let the punishment fit the crime? Perhaps they should be forced to live with a view of a gas station mart for 10 years?

  • GoodNeighbor March 28, 2016 (6:16 pm)

    It’s interesting, looking at county records for the yellow house that is pictured in both of these stories, it looks like the couple that own the house made a lot of money in both real estate and property management. If that is the case, how could they possibly not know the law as it would apply here, as well as how to manage contractors?  I really hope the city makes an example of all involved…

  • yippee! March 28, 2016 (6:18 pm)

    I know a great new location for a cell phone tower with lots of bright red blinking lights! It’d pay us taxpayers back too! Maybe a few towers! Then that view can forever be remembered for “how it used to be before we destroyed the public property”

  • JayDee March 28, 2016 (6:19 pm)

    As in yesterday’s thread, fine them more if the Big Leaf Maple trunks are missing.  The City should also contact the King County property assessor and make sure their property taxes reflect the improved view. And lastly, committing the crime and then lawyering up should not affect their criminal liability.  But like the Totem Pole thief, I fear they will get off.  I hope the fine is in the 100s of thousands of dollars if only to send a message.  10 years ago, at the north end of  Admiral near 36th and Stevens that many of the alders had been topped.  Maybe they will be warned…

  • RayWest March 28, 2016 (6:23 pm)

    Part of the punishment: black out any window in their houses that overlook their lovely view.

  • scout 15 March 28, 2016 (6:23 pm)

    Davis, Wright, Tremaine is a great firm. Here is hoping that the homeowners  had City permits for the “pruning gone wrong” story.  I personally suspect that the contractor’s did exactly as instructed.  

    More lawsuits should occur if they damage the integrity of the hillside, threatening other home owners property.

    In one word: Hubris!!!!!

    • Overthere March 28, 2016 (9:04 pm)

      And the point of pimping DWT is?

  • Alan March 28, 2016 (6:24 pm)

    “I was out of town. The guy that I hired to scare my wife wasn’t supposed to kill her. I’m a nice guy. Aren’t there some poor people that you should be arresting?”

  • Protect Public Greenspace March 28, 2016 (6:34 pm)

    PROSECUTE! Let the courts decide!

  • scout 15 March 28, 2016 (6:40 pm)

    My final comment to the WSB. Why is this story not on the Crime Report?

  • Qbert March 28, 2016 (6:48 pm)

    Put an RV safe lot where the trees used to be. 

    • wsea98116 March 30, 2016 (5:12 pm)

      Haha! 

      Oh Qbert- that’s a great idea!

      They could set pilings, then bring the RV’s in by helicopter..

  • AA March 28, 2016 (6:58 pm)

    The trees around the ones that are cut look to be 20-40′ high.  You can’t simply replant trees that tall and expect them to survive. So if the homeowners just pay a fine and replant the hillside they will still “win” because they will have an improved view for decades. Jail time in addition to everything else is the only way they will learn or others will be dissuaded from doing this in the future.

    • KNEEDLER March 28, 2016 (7:32 pm)

      These guys seem up for the job: http://www.treemover.com/gallery

      • AA March 28, 2016 (8:11 pm)

        That would be great, but all those sites pictured are flat with semi-truck/crane access. The WS site has no access and is steeply sloped. Maybe if they bulldozed one or two houses…lol

         I like that link to the solution that town on the English coast came up with, large screens as tall as the trees were with the reason for the screens, you are criminals (basically), spelled out in signs on them. Seems fair.

         

  • Chuck March 28, 2016 (7:02 pm)

    Even if the homeowners pay to reforest this area it will be many years, perhaps decades, for it to return to what it was.  All the while they’ll be basking in their newly improved views.   They probably figure it will be worth the investment.   Maybe they’ll change their minds when the public spotlight focuses on them and their West Seattle neighbors picket in front of their houses. 

  • Alan March 28, 2016 (7:03 pm)

    I would be interested in knowing if the” neighbor in the area contacted SDOT arborist Nolan Sundquist in January to alert him to some number of trees being cut.” was one of the neighbors involved and, if not, if the neighbors hired the attorney to contact SPR only after being contacted by SDOT. That would help to clarify whether the interest was in righting a wrong or just trying to minimize the punishment once they knew they had been caught.

    I can’t imagine how poor the communication would have had to have been to have a little pruning turn into clear-cutting. It can’t be said too many times that even pruning without a permit would be illegal.

    • KT March 28, 2016 (8:14 pm)

      Big difference in voluntary disclosure vs disclosure because you know the city is coming knocking.

  • DH March 28, 2016 (7:26 pm)

    @HTP. Yes! Its a matter of motivation. The damage the homeless due is because they lack resources and don’t really have other options. Some rich person destroying the environment for a view is disgusting! Kudos to the person that  reported it and shame on those that did this. Pathetic, greedy @¢&+-$. It makes me sad. A “mistake.” Really!?! Let’s call it what it was, a crime. 

  • chemist March 28, 2016 (7:41 pm)

    Must have been a heck of a bargain thinking you were getting trees topped and debris cleared from your property and instead they just ran around hacking things such that big stumps and most of the cut trees were left behind.

  • SOI March 28, 2016 (7:53 pm)

    Well the homeowner hired not just any DWT lawyer, but one of their best land use/real estate attorneys.  He’s in on Sound Transit and other big projects in the area.  

    Expect the citizens to be the losers here. We’ll be paying. The homeowners can afford the fine. No jail time. Probably no felony either. That’ll be the actual guy with the chainsaw. 

    We’ll be told how the restoration will be even better for this critical area than what it was. Besides the trees are maple.  Non-natives. You know, not a lost. (Though I spot a few evergreens mixed in there and other species too, but let’s not ruin a good narrative.)

  • Mongo March 28, 2016 (8:04 pm)

    If any of you actually believe that what happened is not exactly what they intended, with an expectation they’d have to pay for replanting the area (at lower heights which preserve their view for another 20 years) — then I have a large bridge I’d like to sell you (or maybe a friend in Nigeria who needs to get money out of the country).

    Regrettably, the spineless city government officials will roll over on this one, as they always do…

  • Roxy March 28, 2016 (8:09 pm)

    You can’t get a permit for to work on property you don’t own.  High penalties calculated on the size of each tree should cloud the title on the property so the can’t sell this (these) VIEW property(ies). If not, don’t forget at election time! It’s up to the City Attorney to decide how to proceed. Callous disregard for the law is egregious and requires serious consequences. 

  • Michael March 28, 2016 (8:13 pm)

    I say build a nasty wall behind these homes using the downed trees.  Make this wall high , obtrusive, view blocking, on their property, and precarious. Hang a sign on the wall facing these homes reminding them of this event. It will be the responsibility of those involved to maintain this monstrosity until the hillside is made whole.

  • Eeyore March 28, 2016 (8:20 pm)

    I am restoring a steeply sloped section of the Olmstead Legacy, so I have done a good deal of work addressing an identical issue – except I got the permits to do mine, and I didn’t clear cut. Steep slopes require a different approach, density of planting, and a lot of maintenance and watering or it will not succeed.

    Here are a few recommendations for you to consider and if warranted, pass along:

    1.These people did this for the view, assuming they’d pay a fine and greatly add to the value of their homes. Deny them that. Find a way to erect BIG, TALL signs in the view corridors from the offending houses. Facing their windows and right in their views. The signs will remind them daily that their actions were not acceptable, and should also decrease the value of their homes. Leave the signs up until the new trees block the view.

    2.Regardless of what they might say, or any crocodile tears they may shed, these people clearly believe that they are above the law and can afford any fines. Make them pay for a professional firm to replant BIG conifers that will grow up and cover the slope, especially at the top of the hill and along the property lines. Big trees are expensive. Don’t worry about density, I’ll get to that. 

    3.Add up:

    a.the cost of the trees, their transportation, and their planting;

    b.include the cost of a tree service to come and water the trees

    c.use water from the offending homeowners. It is critical that these new plants be watered for at least three years or they will just die. This watering will consume a LOT of water. The homeowners who had the trees cut will see their water bills go up substantially but without water, the trees will not survive. 

    d.The tree service should return for at least three years at least weekly to water during the dry season, and check on the survival rate of the newly planted trees and shrubs, replacing any – at the homeowner’s expense, and following up with those until they are firmly established.

    4.The trees and shrubs to be planted SHOULD NOT BE BIG LEAF MAPLES. Big leaf maples are relatively short-lived trees that grew back after all the hillsides were originally logged and not replanted with conifers. 

    5.Use this as an opportunity to plant a diverse selection of large conifers including Western Red Cedar, Douglas fir, grand fir, hemlock, and noble fir. Plant them on average 5-7’ centers. That is dense, but it will create a forest. Over time the strongest trees will grow up and compete with each other – the skinnier, weaker trees will slow down and die off – leaving the stronger trees. This is not for landscaping and aesthetics – this is what a forest does after a fire. Intersperse the big trees (5-6’ tall) with younger, 18” to 2’ tall trees.Trees die – make sure there are plenty to fill in fast.

    6.Also plant understory plants like vine maples, Sword ferns, salal, Oregon grape, and various native plants and shrubs that bloom and produce berries – like huckleberries, salmon berries, snow berries, plums, etc. (Birds eat berries and insects, so restore their habitat asap too.)

    7.The King County Conservation District people can help you get plants – they just had their bare root sale a few weeks ago – and they have suppliers on tap right now.

    8.DO NOT let the English Ivy, or wild clematis or Blackberries or any other invasive species get established or thrive if they are already there. If they exist, include their removal (and its cost) in the restoration project. Ivy kills more plants than any single thing – and can destroy a restoration project.

    9.Get on with this restoration NOW – literally, RIGHT NOW. Do not wait for summer or Fall. The homeowners should be paying for their mistake immediately, and should keep on paying for the water and the maintenance until this is fixed.

    10.Put liens on their houses until the forest is completely restored.

    11.If anyone tells you that this approach uses too many plants or that they should be spread out or that maples are fine – then question their competence. Plants die, and on that slope you want as many different NATIVE root systems growing like crazy ASAP. Native plant roots ‘like each other’, and will form an interlocking mesh. Maples shade out good plants, and their roots are not particularly nice to anything but English Ivy, which kills everything on the hill with the exception of some ferns. This wants to be a dense, conifer forest like it was 200 years ago asap.

    12.Make sure Pete Holmes takes this all the way to court. Do not settle, a little public shame is a good thing. A VERY public process that tells everyone what the penalty was is also a very good thing. The key is that they are denied any benefit and pay ALL the costs of restoration done by a professional crew to ensure that it is done right and the plants grow back thick and fast.Let the neighborhood help with policing and protecting the project.

    • WSGuy March 28, 2016 (8:33 pm)

      Agree in full.

      • Poppy March 28, 2016 (9:25 pm)

        Please send this to Pete Holmes, Ed Murray and the City Council Rep that covers this district.

    • ChannelingLewisBlack March 28, 2016 (8:34 pm)

      I like your thinking.  Perhaps we should route the WS extension of light rail on an “El” platform behind their houses – give them a view like Jake and Elwood had…

    • cjboffoli March 28, 2016 (9:05 pm)

      It seems the conifers are already starting up on their own.  Another image from the cut that I observed on Saturday morning.

    • Fauntleroy March 28, 2016 (9:16 pm)

      None of us know what the restoration plan looks like, but why would we assume that it’s not as thorough as what you’ve mentioned? These people have turned themselves in. They haven’t asked for mercy or lenience.  

      • S March 28, 2016 (10:15 pm)

        They turned themselves in two weeks after they were reported by a neighbor. With their story about being out of town, landscaper’s fault, etc, they are making excuses and asking for lenience.

    • Botany enthusiast March 28, 2016 (9:59 pm)

      Abies grandis and Noble firs are  not found naturally at this elevation and do not thrive at sea level.   

      • Chris Stripinis March 29, 2016 (10:21 am)

        I think you’re right about Noble fir being at higher elevations but there’s quite a bit of grand fir (Abies grandis) that grows at sea level.  Lincoln Park is full of it.

  • Community Member March 28, 2016 (8:31 pm)

    @Deep Breath and Calm Down @SOI

    You are mistaken. Big Leaf Maples and Vine Maples are actually valuable native trees.

    • Deep breath and calm down March 28, 2016 (8:47 pm)

      Thanks for pointing that out. Only problem is I never said they weren’t. They are several other trees that can be added to the hillside to return it to what it looked like 150 years ago. That would include maple trees but not in the number they are now. But thanks again. 

      • Overthere March 28, 2016 (9:09 pm)

        Interesting, that is not what it looked like a 150 years ago. This area has been replanted in the last 50 years if not a lot less.

  • cj March 28, 2016 (8:31 pm)

    That area is protected from flooding and drainage into the water way by the trees that were cut down.   I hope they find a way to protect the land for more than the view before its too late.

  • ChannelingLewisBlack March 28, 2016 (8:32 pm)

    In an unrelated story, the mayor’s office is preparing a proposition to add a property tax levy to reforest the area, fund a consultancy to study whether there is a need for more SDOT arborists to go along with the more police officers to actually respond to calls and enforce the laws, and to build new Pronto bike racks at the top and bottom of this newly-created bike path.  The rack will be 3x as large at the bottom of the hill since no one is expected to actually ride them back up the hill.

    All of this to show – if a tree falls in a protected area of a city greenbelt, does it make a sound?

  • Kravitz March 28, 2016 (8:46 pm)

    Now that I’ve read the above, it makes me even more disgusted. The legal speak, the convenient “out of town trip” of the homeowners took while the “pruning and topping” turned into the felling of over 100 trees. Give me a break. Do the homeowners and their attorneys really think we’re all that naive? Congratulations, fellow West Seattle unneighborly neighbor. You’ve just made yourselves even more repellant to your community. It almost seems like the perfect punishment really, to be scrutinized on this forum and despised by your neighbors and complete strangers alike. I hope the view is worth living with the humiliation and shame you’ve brought on yourselves. Don’t ask your community for help when your monstrosity slides off the bluff. 

    • Alex March 29, 2016 (11:54 am)

      It’s sad that so many people value the pricetag of the view over the neighborhood ecosystem.

      But that’s often the case for those who move in and move out every five years or so, cashing in on their equity and heading off the the next $1.5 million house in whereverland, USA

  • dcn March 28, 2016 (8:50 pm)

    I like the idea of the city putting up big view-blocking signs (on city property) reminding the homeowners that they committed a crime. Someone previously posted this story from Australia about city officials who did block views with signs: 

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/councils-are-hitting-back-at-residents-who-poison-trees-to-preserve-their-ocean-views/story-fni0cx12-1226950413637

    The signs should stay up until the forest has regrown and blocks their view once more. And, of course, the cost of the signs and the cost restoring the forest should fall on the homeowners.

  • chemist March 28, 2016 (8:54 pm)

    I must have missed the part where the lawyer mentioned how the landscapers obtained a permit for removing trees in an Environmentally Critical/steep slope Area, as the city requires http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/Publications/CAM/cam242.pdf . Even on a non sloped area, developed properties are limited to 3 trees removed a year (and that’s presuming they’re not exceptional) without review/permits.

  • Jethro March 28, 2016 (9:01 pm)

    Perhaps it was Bark Beetles… with Chain Saws!

  • run_dmc March 28, 2016 (9:02 pm)

    I live around the corner from this spot, but far enough away that even though I work from home I didn’t hear the cutting occur.  I would encourage everyone who can to actually go to the site – on the very end of 35th st SW where it dead ends to see the cutting themselves.  Pictures cannot do it justice.  It’s a mammoth clearing and a truly awful sight.  Also, whoever did it was clearly interrupted and left most of the trees just lying around so that there are stumps and dead tree trunks/branches everywhere.  It looks like the aftermath of a powerful hurricane and was definitely the work of someone who got caught, had knowledge of guilt and left in a hurry.

    Many things about the story from the neighbors’ attorney do not ring true from seeing the site and living in the neighborhood and just plain common sense.  Many of the people abutting that site have lived in the neighborhood for a while.  I can’t believe they could have rationally thought that it would be ok to do anything to the trees in that greenbelt – even “topping” or “pruning” them – by themselves.  Second, we’ve had people come out to prune trees on private property.  It’s not that expensive.  (We’ve never paid to “top” trees though which sounds less like a hair cut and more like an amputation).  What happened to the trees on that site, even without the trees being hauled away, looks like a significant amount of expensive work.  What contractor gets paid to “prune” trees or even “top” them and then goes off on their own without getting paid upfront, so on their own dime, to chop down hundreds of trees at what has to be a hefty cost??  It makes no sense and the attorneys should be ashamed of themselves for trotting out this nonsense.

    These homeowners should not be allowed at this point to come up with their own “plan” to “reforest” or whatever slovenly make-whole plan they’ve devised.  They need to keep their plans and the city should tell them to stop blaming a rogue contractor, levy hefty punitive fines AND make them pay for what the city – and the city only – deems to be restorative. 

     

  • Fauntleroy March 28, 2016 (9:05 pm)

    Why is it so hard to believe these folks are telling the truth? They made a mistake, they turned themselves in (a while ago, BTW,) and they are proactively trying to fix the damage they did, and appear to be willing to pay to fix the problem as well as any fines. I have to believe that they are human, they are sick about it, and they are trying to do the right thing. They self reported almost immediately, and not because a neighbor “turned them in.” 

    Why is it that some folks immediately assume that because these folks might have financial resources, they are disingenuous in their desire to right their part of this wrong? I might also add that it appears that they are the only ones in the “group” of neighbors to come forward and claim their part.  Why must we assume that these people are trying to game the system?  

    Also, it should be noted, comparisons to the Judge Farris logging are without merit. Judge Farris fought tooth and nail to avoid paying his fines (and only did so after the sale of his home, many years later.) It seems like these folks are trying to do the right thing –  why don’t we let them? 

    • run_dmc March 28, 2016 (9:43 pm)

      Because, Fauntleroy, common sense and logic dictate that the story currently told by their attorney makes no sense.  See my comment above.  No contractor, particularly a venal one, would get paid to “prune” trees and then take on the expense on his/her own to clear cut hundreds instead.  They were told and paid to cut down the trees.  The site clearly looks like someone got caught in the middle of work and left in a hurry.  This – again – is evidence of guilt. 

      At this point, we do not know AT ALL that the homeowners are  “willing to pay to fix the problems and pay fines.”  Their attorney’s letter didn’t say anything about them paying fines and only said they they’ve hired someone who has come up with a plan to pay for an “appropriate” restoration.  They are already trying to use wiggle room to not pay for full cost of the devastation they’ve created.  And, if they are allowed to get out from this – who do you think is going to pick up the rest of the full cost??

       If I were on their jury, I would give them the benefit of reasonable doubt.  But, as another homeowner in the neighborhood and a taxpayer, I don’t have to refuse to use common sense to realize they are trying to get away with something they know they did wrong and hold them financially -fully- accountable.

       

       

      • Fauntleroy March 28, 2016 (10:21 pm)

        I didn’t read it as wiggle room. I read it as we’re coming to the table with a potential solution, but you (the city) may have your own. 

        These people aren’t the first to take matters into their own hands when it comes to views & trees on public property (that doesn’t make it right.) Some of the cutting on the slope, where many of the photos are taken from, isn’t part of the work they hired. 

        These families are our neighbors. They live in our community. They made a mistake(s.) Until proven otherwise, they seem to be willing to fix it.  

        • Beth March 28, 2016 (11:12 pm)

          What you are calling a mistake is actually a crime. When people commit a crime they don’t get to “come to the table with a potential solution.”  What they do get is to take the sentence handed down to them by the appropriate government officials.  

          • Ben March 29, 2016 (1:56 pm)

            True. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Whether one knows the law or not, one lives by the law. I am interested to see what (if anything) happens to these “neighbors”.

          • sam-c March 30, 2016 (9:28 am)

            I think it is incredibly arrogant of the property owners/ law firm to expect us to believe they really didn’t realize that what they were doing was wrong. Come on !

    • Kathy March 28, 2016 (9:44 pm)

      If they are telling the truth , they did something illegal  – hire someone to prune trees in a city owned greenbelt Topping of those trees would have had a negative environmental impact, as others above have stated. That alone is reason to condemn them. They had no right to touch those trees, at all.

      Also, if we believe their story, why didn’t one of these neighbors supervise the work? That would have been their responsibility. 

       

      These people did something illegal and immoral and they deserve the public flogging as well as some serious legal consequences for their actions. 

    • AMD March 28, 2016 (9:46 pm)

      Because “trim a few trees” turning into clear-cutting well over 100 seems a big “miscommunication.”  Because being out of town when the work happened seems a terrible coincidence.  Because I’m disinclined to give the benefit of the doubt to admitted law-breakers when the parts of their story don’t make sense.  Because they are happy to help pay–for THEIR version of how the area should be re-landscaped.  

      I believe they’re sick about the attention being drawn to it.  When I do something that I know is wrong and I’m sorry, I don’t hide behind a lawyer, blame other people, and otherwise try to deflect attention.

      Nothing about the lawyer’s statement sounds like it’s coming from someone who genuinely cares what they did to the ecosystem and the stability of the hillside.  It sounds like someone who has decided to begin mounting their defense in the court of public opinion in hopes it will help their case with the city.

    • S March 28, 2016 (10:23 pm)

      Fauntleroy, they didn’t report almost immediately. They reported after they were turned in. Which isn’t really reporting when you’ve already been caught.

    • Downtown March 30, 2016 (3:54 pm)

      Fauntleroy, you are overlooking the fact that it was illegal for them to alter those trees at all, let alone cut them down.  They should be in jail, because they knowingly committed a crime, defacing property they didn’t own.  How is it different than your neighbor demolishing part of your house for a better view?

  • run_dmc March 28, 2016 (9:09 pm)

    Plus – can I just say THANK YOU to WSB (and of course to the Seattle Times) for bringing attention to this story.  Please keep following it so we know these homeowners aren’t either let off the hook or get a slap on the wrist.  Those of us in the neighborhood will help with updates too.

  • Wscommuter March 28, 2016 (9:19 pm)

    Actually, the attorney’s story locks in their version of events nicely.  Since he claims it is the contractor’s fault, then surely the contractor will step up and pay the (statutory) treble damages (I’m guessing $500K+) … But wait, then the contractor would have a work order directing “only certain topping and pruning” … And only on private property.  

    .

    And if (of course) that paperwork doesn’t exist, then the “we were all on vacation/blame the bad contractor” story has a few holes in it.  

  • Mimi March 28, 2016 (9:21 pm)

    These homeowners hired someone to break the law and now they are trying to pin this on that worker. Absolutely disgraceful behavior.  The don’t respect the law, nature or workers. I can’t wait for their names to be released and for the public shaming to begin. 

  • sc March 28, 2016 (9:31 pm)

    How about putting up a big blue tarp that blocks their view forever!

  • Steven March 28, 2016 (9:54 pm)

    It’s an extremely dangerous hillside for 1000’s of people commuting daily on Admiral.

    The criminals take 35th south down to the bridge so they don’t care about this hit and run. 

    But can we blame them they were “out of town” what a joke…Attorney up.

  • GunnerDDog March 28, 2016 (10:13 pm)

    From personal experience living in a sensitive slope area, when I’ve contacted DPD to report cutting trees, there has been ZERO interest in following up. As someone who lives at the bottom of the slope, that’s not a fun experience trying to convince the City they should be concerned someone is illegally cutting trees.

    • Dead Acer March 29, 2016 (8:51 am)

      GennerDDog,

      If you actually filed a complaint, it will show up on the DPD ‘s   info on the property..  If your complaint was formally filed,  there will be a case number assigned.

      As someone who has dealt with several of these complaints, I can assure you DPD does in fact follow up, whether right or wrong.

      DPD has a hotline and internet forms for filing formal complaints

  • Jason March 28, 2016 (10:13 pm)

    This is almost unbearable. The property should be left and maintained in its current condition as a reminder to everyone how these people respect their neighbors. Good luck selling it then. That’s what they deserve. 

    • raywest March 29, 2016 (10:19 am)

      Leaving it “as is”  would have no affect on the devaluing the properties for future sales. All it does is give the current owners the view they wanted in the first place. and relieve them of taking responsibility for restoring the site. It does not seem to sink in that this is now a serious danger zone for landslides. It cannot remain “as is.”

  • canton March 28, 2016 (10:25 pm)

    So a group of homeowners get together, pool some money, for an illegal clear cut. Did the group hire the lawyer before or after they got caught. Then hire a “forestry professional” to assess the damage and “recommend” a suitable( for the owners), plan to fix the disaster. The lawyer suggested among other things, “erosion control measures”. So do they expect, after blatant illegal activity, they can remedy erosion control for their property by using public land? Most common folk follow the law, for fear of prosecution, not those that can manipulate the system. With their $$$

    • Joe Szilagyi March 29, 2016 (6:31 am)

      “So a group of homeowners get together, pool some money, for an illegal clear cut. Did the group hire the lawyer before or after they got caught.”

      If this goes to trial, City Attorney Pete Holmes and the prosecutor are going to have a LOT of fun with this question during discovery.
      I wonder if the attorneys are all reading these comments.
  • run_dmc March 28, 2016 (10:36 pm)

    Ugh – the more I think about that attorney letter, the angrier I get at what these homeowners did and now their justifications.  If anything, that letter makes them seem more despicable than when I just thought they were callous and stupid for cutting down those trees illegally.  First, the letter doesn’t acknowledge that “topping” or “pruning” trees not on their property without permission is itself illegal.  They had no right to touch those trees at all and the letter just blithely states that that’s all they really wanted to do as if they were only really the equivalent of driving 26 in a 25 mph zone.  Second, who in their right mind hires a landscaper to do a pretty big job and then schedules it when they are out of town?  How do you know it will get done, or done right, or the way you want it if you are completely gone the whole time it takes place?  That reeks of either outright lying or being out of town for plausible deniability. 

    Then, all the weasel words – “limited discussions with the contractors” only “several trees” “not the acre reported in news reports.”  Well, I’ve been to the site and seen it with my own eyes.  It is cut all the way from the top of 35th ave almost to Admiral.  150 trees is probably an underestimate.  Geezus – what weasels.  (Sorry to all weasels). 

  • Jeanie March 28, 2016 (11:04 pm)

    That letter from Davis Wright Tremaine, a  high-priced mega-law firm, is a classic example of attorney bull–it. Not that all lawyers are evil – far from it – but this stinks. Lies, obfuscations, and all that rot. 

  • Andrew March 28, 2016 (11:21 pm)

    These people did a terrible thing and I hope they are fined heavily. That said, I strongly advise them to shut down all of their social media accounts immediately. As soon as their names are released they are going to receive a lot of hate.  

  • MellyMel March 28, 2016 (11:27 pm)

    The perpetrators made a calculated bet that this would be worth it. 

    If 500k in fines are assessed, but the long term value of multiple homes each gain at least that much, then they will be right. :-(

  • tm March 28, 2016 (11:36 pm)

    Not surprising, the timelines from both the homeowners and the city don’t match…

  • JanS March 29, 2016 (12:15 am)

    The lawyer says that “they” authorized something other than what was done. Here’s my question…why the hell did they think that they had the right to “authorize” in the first place? 

  • AceMotel March 29, 2016 (12:16 am)

    This thread is bringing out the very worst in everyone, on all sides.

    • Molly March 29, 2016 (1:38 am)

      There are no sides. There are homeowners who have demonstrated a gross display of entitlement by breaking the law, killing over 150 trees.  These comments represent an appropriate reaction.

    • s March 29, 2016 (10:26 am)

      And the greater the reaction, the less likely that someone tries to pull something like this again in the future. 

  • Rick March 29, 2016 (12:54 am)

     I wanted to rob a bank of just “a little” amount of money, so you can imagine my surprise when I found $15,000.00 inside the bag taken. I had only planned on “pruning”  the bank of $1500.00. I immediately contacted my attorney to return the originally planned $1500.00. Much like these poorly mistaken neighbors, who will offer any necessary costs to replace the unfortunate trees with 150 saplings. But hey. I keep $13,500.00 and they get their view and inflated home value. Everybody wins!

  • satchseven March 29, 2016 (2:14 am)

    i cannot believe the folks trying to defend this bs they must be friends of family. if murray does not hammer these folks kick him out. do not let these scum off easy

  • Matt March 29, 2016 (5:55 am)

    Public shame is the only price that will deter such blatant illegal activity.  Judge Farris will forever be remembered as the judge who cut down 120 frees in Colman park, not for his illustrious legal career.  That and the $500000 fee the City levied, you have to wonder if it was worth it to him. eventually these people’s names will come out, and I hope they have to squirm at the PTA at the grocery store, at work, etc. 

    • Joe Szilagyi March 29, 2016 (6:29 am)

      Public shame is by itself meaningless unless it affects your business, legal, professional, or political career, and for the wealthy even a $500,000 may not be much against the market value gained in “new view” on the home for the next few decades. The public, city, and legal system can’t do anything about the “new value”. 

      But jail time — real jail time, 24×7 until served, in general population — and a criminal record ARE deterrents. 

  • anonyme March 29, 2016 (6:36 am)

    The lawyer letter is nonsense.  The neighbors were not allowed to cut anything on that property – not one damn twig.  Blaming it on the landscapers is absurd.  That said, the landscapers were legally required to acquire a permit before cutting trees on public property (this includes trees on planting strips, even if the property owner planted them).  This practice is rampant; many of these so-called ‘landscapers’ are themselves unlicensed, and will do anything for a buck.  Annually, thousands of trees in Seattle are cut illegally in this manner.  This IS a felony, and the neighbors should be charged as well as made to pay restitution.

  • Kayo March 29, 2016 (7:26 am)

    I had to get a permit to remove one diseased leaning decorative plum tree from my parking strip (technically city land).  How is it that I knew to do that but these clowns didn’t know they needed a permit to clearcut a section of forest on a city slope?  Sigh.  Hard to believe they were that ignorant to think they could just “top a few trees” without a permit.  I call BS on that.  I don’t care if they didn’t realize the contractor was going to do so much damage.  They knew not having a city permit was illegal.  100%.  There should be a fine in addition to the restoration cost at a minimum.  

  • Melissa March 29, 2016 (7:28 am)

    This will be a very interesting case to see how they are charged since there are two separate issues. 

    Clear cutting trees on property that does not belong to them (property damage).  Then not getting the permits to do this in a environmental critical area.  I wonder how many counts of these charges the City will file since they cut down multiple trees.  Would each tree cut be a separate charge?

  • Greg March 29, 2016 (8:02 am)

    I for one totally believe the lawyers story.  I hired a contractor to remodel my kitchen while I was away on vacation and due to a “miscommunication” he remodeled the kitchen and my neighbors bathroom all for the originally quoted price. Boy was he embarrassed.  

    • colleen March 29, 2016 (8:49 am)

      There are certain….flaws in the lawyer’s story. The lawyer’s client might be useful because that client knows the names of the other homeowners complicit in the scheme and could possibly serve as a witness for the city.   

    • Bryan March 29, 2016 (9:07 am)

      Greg, the lawyer’s letter said they hired someone to “top” some trees and do some pruning. He lost me right there. There is no justification.

    • HappyOnAlki March 29, 2016 (9:43 am)

      Greg, this is the one time I wish WSB had a Like button . . . .

  • John March 29, 2016 (8:16 am)

    Jail time…Jail time…Jail time…. 

     This is horrible!  The homeowners knew this was not their land and they have no right to “trim” the trees for a better view.  They knew this was illegal!  The City needs to make an example of these homeowners and lock them up for a minimum of 12 months…..plus spend the money to restore the hillside. 

    Why doesn’t SPD have a case number yet? 

     

     

  • RT March 29, 2016 (8:55 am)

    Interesting letter from the legal representative for the “client”, clearly aimed at mitigating potential damages for them.  Also makes it clear that pruning was planned with knowledge it would occur on property not owned by the client. In addition to massive penalties including absorbing the full cost of the restoration, I think the folks who ordered this debacle should be put to work, clearing, digging, and replanting the site. Otherwise known as community service. As others have mentioned, there are several other visible areas of radical pruning visible along our green belts. Would be a good time to round up a few more perpetrators and publish their pictures. 

  • Ray March 29, 2016 (9:08 am)

    this could be really bad for those poor homeowners, just because their contractor got overzealous. imagine if a geotech report was done and it determine the hillside too unstable and the city had to condemn the houses at the top of the slope because of life safety concerns?

    • colleen March 29, 2016 (9:36 am)

      The lawyer makes it quite clear that this was a conspiracy between the homeowners.  Hopefully this is a situation in which those responsible won’t be able to blame the hired help.  

  • AN March 29, 2016 (9:08 am)

    Never allow those homes to be insured for landslide….when they go to sell their homes, at the price the view is worth, make sure that they disclose “by the way, this house may never be insured for landslide and you will be responsible for all damages with in a 2 acre radius if there is a landslide”

    Or just put the new West Seattle light rail station on that land….it’s already cleared so the cost is already less. 

  • Macrophylla March 29, 2016 (9:42 am)

    Felony charges.  Huge Fine.  Jail time.

  • Brenda March 29, 2016 (10:06 am)

    We just went and saw the damage done. It’s the most entitled, selfish, blatant disregard for others decision I’ve seen in a long time. 

    it looks like four home owners are involved  

    release their names & addresses !!!!

    Raise their property taxes with their new view!!!

  • pinecone March 29, 2016 (10:11 am)

    I hope, but highly doubt, that they will get charged as criminals. At the very least their views should be blocked– even if that means building a tall canvas or material barrier that blocks all the views from the homes of the people involved. This is entitlement plain and simple. They think they are above the law.  My husband suggests their views get blocked by putting them in jail cells, also a solution.

  • Jim March 29, 2016 (10:41 am)

    After limited discussions with the contractors, my client returned from an out-of-town trip to find the scene shown in the news reports: To our clients’ surprise and dismay, several trees were cut at or near the base, as opposed to just limited pruning work.”  

    Strange that they learn of this from news reports in March while they reported it to the city back in February.  Also they could of seen the damage from their windows/porch but no the news media like the WSB 30 plus days later.  Nothing but lies here!

    • WSB March 29, 2016 (10:51 am)

      Jim – while that was awkwardly written – it’s a direct cut-and-paste, unaltered, and published exactly as we received it, in its entirety – I interpreted it not to mean they were trying to say they learned about it from “news reports” (the first of which, as we’ve mentioned repeatedly because we believe in credit where credit’s due, was the Seattle Times story last Friday night, March 25th), but that the same scene, the slashed slope, is what they claim to have seen for the first time whenever this “trip” ended (while some trees grow “fast,” not fast enough for this scene to have changed much in 1 or 2 months). – TR

  • Aaron March 29, 2016 (10:51 am)

    I’m gonna take my children to go see it. Just to have a talk. Trees, public property, why we have rules…you know basic stuff. This is a good learning opportunity, maybe something good will come out of something SO awful.

     

  • Gatewood March 29, 2016 (10:58 am)

    Were all the neighbors involved “out of town” when this clear cutting took place?  It’s because of  self entitled, self absorbed people like this our country is going down hill.  And speaking of down hill. . . . these houses now have a very good opportunity to end up “down hill”.

  • Amy March 29, 2016 (11:10 am)

    The only thing that I find more disturbing than the sight of all of these trees being cut down is the pitch fork mentality coming from all of my neighbors. If you read the letter from their attorney it states that they did not intend for this to happen, why can’t we give them the benefit of the doubt and put ourselves in their shoes for just a minute? We have no idea what actually happened yet we jump straight for a public stoning for those involved. Lets show some love, compassion, understanding, and a lack of rush to judgement when it comes to our community. It is easy for all of you to sit behind the veil of anonymity and judge these people. To the person above that wants their names and addresses published, what would you hope would happen to these people involved should that take place….? So sad!

    • Neighbor March 29, 2016 (11:21 am)

      Amy,

      Whether someone read the letter from the attorney, or not, has zero bearing on what the content of the letter was, or whether the letter even reflects the actual complicity which is indisputable in this affair.

      Had this been somebody’s pick-up truck, with the emergency brake not set one night, which then rolled down a hill and took-out one or two trees, that would merit your seeming compassion.

      But there is zero chance that “150 trees” illegally destroyed was any sort of an accident.

      So where did you conceive this idea that “we have no idea what actually happened” ??

       

      If the law doesn’t hold these felons accountable, then their neighbors should!

      This need not even cross the boundary of illegality either.

      • Amy March 29, 2016 (11:34 am)

        Here’s the thing, do I think they made a mistake, yes. Do I think that they should be accountable for this mistake, again yes. Do I think that as their neighbors we should direct as much hate, spite, public humiliation, name calling, and speculation that we can possibly muster, no. They are human, they are our neighbors, and we DO NOT know what actually happened. I hope for your sake that you never make a mistake that warrants public comment.

        • Downtown March 30, 2016 (4:01 pm)

          Amy, there was no mistake.  They made a deliberate act.  They deliberately, knowingly broke the law and defaced public property for their own financial gain.  They belong in jail. I have zero compassion for them.  How on earth can you see a mistake here?

    • Joe Szilagyi March 29, 2016 (11:30 am)

      “If you read the letter from their attorney it states that they did not intend for this to happen, why can’t we give them the benefit of the doubt and put ourselves in their shoes for just a minute?”

      What shoes, Amy? Are you allowed to hire a guy to cut the tree of your neighbors, half an acre from your property line? Are you allowed to top the trees of your neighbor without their consent? If you live across from a public park, are you allowed to do the same there?
      No, no, and no, you are not. 
    • Lindsey March 29, 2016 (11:53 am)

      They absolutely DID intend for this to happen. It’s not as if they dropped a chainsaw off their deck accidentally and hit some branches. They hired someone to do illegal work. I’m not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if you believe their story of a landscaper gone wild, (and no one really does) it wasn’t their land, they knew it wasn’t their land, and they had absolutely no right to hire anybody to do any landscaping there. And now they want to be in control of a restoration plan? Oh hell no.

    • Oakley34 March 29, 2016 (11:59 am)

      Yes we have read the letter, and what I have gleaned is that they are wealthy enough to have one of the more high powered firms in the city do their lying for them.  The homeless deserve our compassion…these entitled people (oh how I want to use a more colorful descriptor)  deserve my dog’s waste on their lawn…to start.

  • JVM March 29, 2016 (11:10 am)

    As a West Seattle homeowner who lives in the landslide area BENEATH the fallen trees, I will be talking with the city about how they plan to protect my property from a landslide caused in part by stripping the trees in the area above my home.

    What has the city been doing during the three months since they became aware the trees were cut down – three months of historic rainfall and heightened landslide risk?

    I’ll bet the landowners didn’t think of the other lives they may be impacting by this egregious act. There is not a responsible landowner living next to a Seattle greenbelt who doesn’t know that the trees are protected for good reason.

    This felony crime cannot be dismissed. This is not just an environmental call to action. There are numerous, sound reasons the responsible parties should be held to the full extent of the laws they broke with this horrible decision – a decision that could have an impact on many of our lives and community for years to come.

    I want to see these irresponsible neighbors each held accountable for whatever involvement they may have had. The investigative process can occur AFTER the arrests are made, as with any other heinous crime. Save the lawyer speak for the courtroom of their peers.

    Meanwhile, the city of Seattle and Ed Murray must get moving on whatever measures are needed to immediately remedy the tattered hillside in an effort to prevent the unspeakable from occurring.

    • Walt March 29, 2016 (2:51 pm)

      You have my sympathies. I feel awful for the neighbors downhill of this travesty. I suggest that you all band together and consult your own lawyer.  Let’s hope the city handles this properly but you might want to be prepared to file your own lawsuit(s) if necessary.

      • Uncle Joe March 29, 2016 (10:23 pm)

        Walt is correct. Please consider consulting your own attorney, as your agenda is unique. It would be wise to assess any increased risks to your property soon.  The costs of corrective remedies, if required, would likely be recoverable.

  • Hawkeye March 29, 2016 (11:13 am)

    How is it that the #ManInTree (who clambered up a downtown Sequoia for a day just a week ago, breaking off some branches and causing temporary angst downtown) was immediately arrested and has already been charged; but there is not even, as far as we know, a police report yet for this massive hillside clear-cutting on public property paid for by some fairly well-off folks, from some two months ago? #NeighborsKillTrees 

    • Dorothy March 29, 2016 (2:56 pm)

      Yes, the inequities between how the poor and mentally ill are treated compared to the rich and entitled are a sad and disgusting truth about our justice system. Those calling for jail-time for these homeowners are justified but naive. They will never serve a day in jail. I do hope they get slapped with heavy fines and lots of public shaming. 

  • lookingforlogic March 29, 2016 (11:25 am)

      It is more profitable to beg for forgiveness than seek permission.

  • Joe Szilagyi March 29, 2016 (11:27 am)

    The thing that remains still so galling about this is that they deliberately hired someone to prune and top the city-owned trees at all, and the letter shows no indication that they understand or accept that this act itself is not allowed to be done. They didn’t own those trees. They were public, municipal property. This is no different than someone who lives on Fauntleroy Way across from Lincoln Park sending contractors into the park to “prune and top” the park’s trees, or if my backyard neighbor decided to send an arborist into my own backyard to “prune and top” the apple and cherry tree I have back there — where the trunks themselves are fifteen feet behind the property line. 

    Then you have your lawyer send a letter to the city admitting that you did it? It all makes no sense.

  • Brenda March 29, 2016 (11:31 am)

    Amy, you are OUT of touch. I’m not hiding behind anything I’ve posted my name. 



    • Amy March 29, 2016 (12:04 pm)

      Hummmm Brenda, maybe we could make them walk around with a picture of a dead tree on their their shirt what do ya think? I truly don’t think I am the one that is out of touch.

      • Shoshana March 29, 2016 (2:38 pm)

        Amy  – what you see in these comments in righteous indignation. These people committed a crime that most of us find very offensive for the many reasons stated throughout this thread. Yes the world needs more love and compassion. Where was the compassion for the trees and for all the neighbors who are going be impacted by the landslides this is going to cause? 

  • Lonnie March 29, 2016 (11:41 am)

    After reading the story in today’s  3/29 Times, it leads one to wonder why the city has not been a little more visible with the details of this incident.  Is someone from the city involved??

  • Ilasdad March 29, 2016 (11:45 am)
    • The anger over this is a little out of hand. They should be fined and repair the slope. The home should be reassessed and they can pay higher property taxes. They aren’t the only view home that has topped tree on that bluff, walk it and look.
    • But really neighbors tone down the mob mentality 
      Wow
    • Amy March 29, 2016 (11:59 am)

      Could not agree more!

      • Joe Szilagyi March 29, 2016 (12:25 pm)

        Amy, if I smashed out $500,000 in windows at the Central Library, should I do jail time? Or is it all OK if I cut a check for $500,000 to the city?

      • Fauntleroy March 29, 2016 (12:34 pm)

        Same. 

  • dsa March 29, 2016 (12:03 pm)

    The hate being shown here is disgusting.  It precludes civil discussion.  Maybe a courtroom would bring out the facts and I normally do not expect that to be the case.

    • duwamesque March 29, 2016 (1:15 pm)

      What “hate” are you talking about? Do you mean the outrage West Seattlites are showing at an illegal clearcut meant to benefit the view of a wealthy few? Comments are reviewed at WSB. Do you have any evidence WSB commenters are hate-mongering or do your sympathies simply lie with the criminals?

  • Chris Stripinis March 29, 2016 (12:12 pm)

    In Scandanavia, speeding tickets are indexed to the violator’s income to make sure that there is an actual deterrent.  (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/03/finland-home-of-the-103000-speeding-ticket/387484/)

    If these homeowners are levied a fine, I hope that it is high enough not to be compensated for by increased property values from the opened-up views.  (Then again, the unstable hillside publicity might affect their property values also.)

  • Glacier Man March 29, 2016 (12:25 pm)

    When you destroy property that is not yours one would expect to be arrested and do a little time in jail, depending on the value of what is destroyed.  I wonder if these people thought that one through, or not?   I wonder if the thought ever crossed their minds that a significant landslide could occur killing someone driving, riding or walking up Admiral Way?  Or, after selling their house to a new unsuspecting neighbor that a family could be killed as the house slides into the liquified mud that could occur because nothing is left to hold in the bank?  I would say that these people are in serious danger of being tried and going to jail.  That will end at some point, but the worry of doing harm to another individual at some future point will follow them their whole lives.   Do these people have kids and what an example to show them.  This is a bad scene all around.

  • WSResident March 29, 2016 (12:26 pm)

    Thank goodness we have a legal system to handle reparations objectively.  If we let the townspeople decide, these homeowners would apparently be tarred and feathered, or beheaded.   I am amazed at how quickly the sharks frenzy around blood in the water on these comment boards.  

    • duwamesque March 29, 2016 (1:04 pm)

      Actually, our legal system often doesn’t handle these cases “objectively,” but instead doles out fines the affluent perpetrators can easily afford to pay, which makes a mockery of our justice system—or, more often, simply turns a blind eye.

      Do you have any evidence for your claim? Who is suggesting decapitation as a punishment or tarring and feathering? Comments so far have mentioned restitution, reforestation, high fences and possible jail time as penalties, all reasonable options considering the nature of the crime. Who are the real sharks here?

    • Alan March 29, 2016 (1:07 pm)

      WSResident,

      I am amazed that you are amazed. This is actually a polite board compared to most. I credit WSB with that, as most newspaper sites quickly give way to trolls. I also think that most making comments that suggest wrapping the house in tarps, painting the windows and such know there is zero chance of that happening and are just venting their frustration.

      There are some of us that have spent years fighting for greenbelt. There are many others that have spent their free time in the greenbelts pulling out invasives and planting native species, frequently in the muddy wet that is Seattle. For those people, the destruction of healthy greenbelt is a cold slap in the face for their efforts. If you have ever had something you loved destroyed, you should recall the impulses you felt at the time and then maybe you would realize just how reasonable your fellow neighbors are being.

    • AMD March 29, 2016 (1:15 pm)

      A lot of concern that I’m reading here is that the issue WON’T be handled objectively by the courts because the defendants have the resources to essentially buy their way out of it.

      I know if I were to clear cut all the the trees in my neighbor’s yard (all 5 of them), I’d be in a world of trouble and facing jail time.  The punishment shouldn’t be lesser because it’s city land and it shouldn’t be different because their expensive lawyer is claiming they only meant to break the law a little.

    • colleen March 29, 2016 (2:17 pm)

      The “sharks” in question are the landowners who conspired to destroy public property  to improve their property values.  What they did was a crime. 

      So, when wealthy, entitled folks steal from the public they had best get used to the idea of LOTS of public animosity and criticism and penalties as severe as we can manage. Otherwise wealthy, entitled people will continue to destroy public property with impunity when it suits them. 

       

  • burb March 29, 2016 (12:35 pm)

    Felony?  ya think?  What about , who cannot afford a Davis Wright Tremaine attorney to prove that, in fact, he hurt NO ONE but those SPD inconvenienced.  I’ll take a pine-cone to the head versus 50 years of environmental destruction for greed.this person

  • duwamesque March 29, 2016 (12:35 pm)

    The comments in this post  are not a mob mentality. WSB readers have a right to be duly outraged at the actions of a privileged few who intentionally committed an act of mass vandalism against our community just to increase their property values and enhance their views. There are not “two sides” to this story. There is no doubt to give the benefit to. We know exactly what happened, the only question being how many of the homeowners who benefited from the clearcut are in on it. There is no room for this to be an honest mistake. This was a deliberate, pre-meditated crime against our community. As others have pointed out, the perpetrators have endangered the lives of those driving on Admiral or who live below the clear-cut because of increased risk of landslides. There is a 0% probability this was any kind of mistake or anything other than an intentional act of profiteering. I can only hope the City prosecutes this crime for what it is—a felony—deserving of jail time. White collar crime needs to be pursued just as vigorously as blue collar crime or entitled aristocrats will continue to treat our public green spaces as their personal estates. Thank you WSB and the community for pointing a spotlight on this heinous, despicable act.

    • sam-c March 30, 2016 (11:40 am)

      Re:  a “privileged few who
      intentionally committed an act of mass vandalism against our community just to
      increase their property values and enhance their views” 

      There are more of these ‘privileged few’ here in WS- I
      bet it happens more than you think. 

      For instance, in 2009, I (and 2 others) happened upon a crew
      parked on SPS property: the southeast corner of A West Seattle ES (not naming the specific one), topping trees and grinding them. One
      guy on the crew said: “It’s something we like to do once in awhile to help
      out the neighbors”- Not really sure who ‘we’ was supposed to be, but
      it certainly wasn’t SPS. (confirmed by the SPS person with us)

       The boundary of the area that this crew was topping trees
      was difficult to identify, but it appeared they were topping trees on SPS’
      little SE corner, the homeowner’s property (with the view), and another
      homeowner (next to SPS’ property).    
       People like their views, I guess. I prefer to keep the
      trees.

      Like Mark shows, probably happens lots of places in WS.

  • Lisa March 29, 2016 (12:37 pm)

    But the view IS the trees

  • KBear March 29, 2016 (12:43 pm)

    I don’t think the anger is out of hand. This was an intentional act. You don’t cut down 150+ trees on public property by accident or “misunderstanding”. The chance that the nearby homeowners are completely innocent is extremely slight. The story told by their attorney makes little sense. Other property owners who might consider such an act need to know that it will not go unnoticed by the community. The city needs to know that its citizens demand justice. I think most people realize there is a process for that, which involves a thorough investigation and possibly a court trial. Voicing impassioned opinions based on the facts at hand is not the same as literally grabbing torches and pitchforks.

  • soi March 29, 2016 (12:50 pm)

    Calling it mob mentality is a smart way to blunt the criticism.

     People are  angry at the destruction and the poor response from the city in handling this case. The timeline of all this and the city’s molasses, lame response until the publicity firestorm occurred speak volume. Does this city really care about its green belt and what little wild areas left? Our tax dollars are supposed to pay people to keep our public land safe and cared for.  But perhaps this is another public-private partnership where public dollars and land pay for the private enrichment of the few?

    The homeowners’ decision wasn’t a spur of the moment one and ignorance is not going to carry water as an alibi.

    Trees on public property have been topped and cut down without  penalty. People have encroached on public land for their own personal use and gain and in the process often destroyed it. None of that is right. It wasn’t right in the Malheur Refuge takeover. It isn’t right now.  That’s why people are mad. 

    We’ll see if public pressure is strong enough to force the city to pursue criminal charges, fine and seek restitution to restore the damaged area. It’ll be interesting to see if the city will fulfill its responsibility as steward of our public land or will money, good lawyers and having the right access to city hall will win the day. 



  • soi March 29, 2016 (1:04 pm)

     Right. Calling for fines, restitution and criminal charges now equal tar, feathering, and beheading? Nice try.  WSB readers are not ISIS or 18th century colonialists. They are calling for laws on the book to be applied.

  • WSResident March 29, 2016 (1:05 pm)

    Duwamesque, of course you and everyone else have a right to be outraged.  But you also say the other side has no right to say things happened in a different way than you characterize.  Steamrolling anything other than a particular opinion in a public forum is basically instigating a mob mentality.

    • duwamesque March 29, 2016 (1:36 pm)

      I don’t claim the “the other side has no right to say things happened in
      a different way than you characterize.”
      In fact, I would have some respect if the perpetrators publicly admitted what they did, but instead, they hide behind a high-powered attorney, feign ignorance and even blame the contractor. It’s layers upon layers of sleaze and sliminess. This is not a hard-boiled mystery, but a very obvious case of affluenza.

    • Downtown March 30, 2016 (4:10 pm)

      What different way?  They paid someone to illegally deface public property for their own financial gain, and they didn’t bother with permits.  What different way are you imagining?

  • BL March 29, 2016 (1:30 pm)

    “But you also say the other side has no right to say things happened in a different way than you characterize”

    I’d like to go top a few trees in my neighbors yard to serve myself a better view. Given I don’t climb tree’s with a chainsaw, I would have to hire someone to do it for me.

     If I did this, I would expect to be arrested  for trespassing and damaging private property. Is there any other to way to characterize that purposeful action.

    • Beano March 30, 2016 (9:41 am)

      We see a lot of things in this story, but so far there has been zero evidence that anyone “climbed any trees”  to become involved in it.

      So you make no sense when suggesting as much.

      Just where do you find reason to think any trees were climbed ???

      Was it from the photographs?

  • acemotel March 29, 2016 (1:37 pm)

    If only people were so outraged about human beings living in tents and under freeways.  If only people were so outraged about poverty.  If only people were so outraged about the concentration of wealth in the USA.   The clearcutting was a bad, bad thing.  The responsible people should be penalized, fined, jailed, whatever……. But frankly, I am afraid for them, when their identities are made public.   No, I don’t want to see them in the agora to be stoned to death.   I understand why some people like dogs better than humans.

    • KBear March 29, 2016 (2:31 pm)

      Acemotel, I would guess that many of the commenters here ARE outraged by poverty and homelessness. But this discussion is about rich people who think they can get away with whatever they want. Hmmm… maybe these issues are connected!

  • Shannon March 29, 2016 (1:39 pm)

    I don’t think it’s a “mob mentality” to want to see these people prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and I encourage anyone who is downplaying the damage to go take a look at the destruction. It’s a lot easier to downplay this without actually going and surveying the damage, especially when your home is not on the bottom of the hill. How about some compassion for those people? These conspiracy-plotting, selfish neighbors should be ashamed of themselves for not considering how their decision would affect others. I may be “out on a limb” here, but is this what criminal negligence looks like? It’s always a good time to exercise compassion- let’s be compassionate to those who use the roadways and live at the bottom of the hill- they are probably in some danger 


  • Mark March 29, 2016 (1:41 pm)

    These people have been getting away with this for far too long. Since at least 2007.

    Please review:

    1) 6-23-2006 – No recent cuts

    2) 11-8-2007 – First cuts

    3) 4-30-2009 – New cuts

    4) 6-11-2010 – More cuts

    5) 2016

    • KNEEDLER March 29, 2016 (2:44 pm)

      What a rotten bunch. 

    • Concerned Citizen March 29, 2016 (2:44 pm)

      Wow – That is A LOT of evidence

    • Fauntleroy March 29, 2016 (2:48 pm)

      As stated by the attorney, the cuts to the south are not part of the area in question. Looks like someone else on the hill has been working it since 2010. 

      • Oakley34 March 29, 2016 (3:24 pm)

        Wrong.  This is still ‘the area in question’.  The attorney may only be referencing the area cut by his client,  but this doesn’t mean the other cuts aren’t “in question”.  It remains to be seen how they are all related, but at the very least each cut emboldens the next.  Scroll up to the comment with the aerial shots going back years.  

      • colleen March 30, 2016 (9:06 am)

        “As stated by the attorney, the cuts to the south are not part of the
        area in question. Looks like someone else on the hill has been working
        it since 2010. “

        You seem confused.  All of the  cutting on public land is part of “the area in question.

    • Disgusted March 29, 2016 (3:02 pm)

      Mark,

      Please forward these images to SPD and City Attorney!  Do not assume they will do this type of research and the images you have posted are quite compelling.

    • colleen March 29, 2016 (3:39 pm)

      How smart of you and what a compelling piece of visual evidence. Well done.  Did you send this to the City Atty’s office? 

    • AA March 29, 2016 (4:22 pm)

      Very nice work Mark. I agree, definitely share with the city attorney and/or police. Clearly this latest cutting isn’t an isolated incident.

    • Alan March 29, 2016 (5:54 pm)

      Mark,

      That is impressive work. Can you tell me where you were able to obtain those images? It is pretty amazing that you have access to a current day image, short of being CIA, in which case I expect no response from you!

      • Mark March 30, 2016 (7:32 am)

        https://www.google.com/earth/

        Allows you to go back in time.

        • Joe Szilagyi March 30, 2016 (8:36 am)

          Mark, please tell me you mailed this fully with sources to the City Attorney and Council?

          • Mark March 30, 2016 (9:51 am)

            No, but might. I suspect there is nothing they can do. Others can use these images to report as well. 

            Plus, the city doesn’t really seem to care. I’m pretty certain to increase your property value you can cut what you want and where you want without much concern.

            Here’s another example a block south (SW Hinds St & 33rd Ave SW): 1990-2013


            All images are from Google Earth, free software.

          • chemist March 30, 2016 (11:24 am)

            Careful Mark, if you look at the original map WSB posted, some of that area off Hinds is not in the AW2 portion.

          • WSB March 30, 2016 (11:37 am)

            Very specifically, the parcels that are involved here – and mentioned in the February 5th letter from attorney Clayton Graham to Seattle Parks, which we have since obtained in its entirety (the Times quoted from it before Graham’s statement was sent late Monday but I hadn’t seen the entire letter, which we requested from the City Attorney’s Office) and will be in our next followup later today – are 132403-999 and 132403-9086. The latter is owned by SDOT, the former by Parks and Rec. They are the two that we have shown – 9086 is the larger one visible from the street end of 35th, the other one visible if you hike in a bit (an easy walk, unlike the other site) from the street end of 34th and City View. – TR

            Re: 33rd/Hinds in the comment images below, most if not all of that appears to be private land, if you compare it to the Parcel Viewer.

          • sam-c March 30, 2016 (11:55 am)

            re: WSB’s comment re: 33/ Hinds:

            Parcel 7987400710 is not private property

          • WSB March 30, 2016 (11:59 am)

            Right. But the 10,000-sf chunk of land beneath that strip of the Duwamish Head Greenbelt is privately owned and short of going out there with a surveyor, you don’t know where the boundary is (let alone Alan’s point about a possible slide way back when), and it’s confusing at best to mix this all in with the original subject of the story, two specific city-owned lots.

        • Alan March 30, 2016 (10:43 am)

          Mark,

          Thanks for the info. I had been using google earth online, which doesn’t seem to have the history option, so I downloaded Google Earth Pro. I am still not seeing the ability to see images later than last April.

  • rb March 29, 2016 (1:45 pm)

    This whole thing is a little ridiculous. I understand the perpetrators broke the law. but they want to make restitution. fine them. period.

    All this hatred here is unjustified. no wonder they don’t want their names to be known. i could see many of you with torches and pitchforks marching to their house to do who knows what.

    Chill out people. there are other crimes that are worth your anger more than this. 

    • Jon Wright March 29, 2016 (11:21 pm)

      They want to make restitution because they were CAUGHT. If I stole something and got caught, I sure as heck would rather make restitution instead of doing time in the hoosegow, too.

      This is a case of people who do not understand what the responsibilities of living in a society with other people are. Actions have consequences. Public resources belong to the public. No individual’s desires trump the safety and welfare of others. Etc., etc.

      The guy who hands a cashier a note that says “This is a robbery!” and makes off with 100 bucks is going to get 5 years in prison. The people who perpetrated this act against all of us deserve at least that.

  • Brenda March 29, 2016 (1:50 pm)

    Amy, your shirt idea is once again out of touch and weird. 

  • Will S. March 29, 2016 (1:55 pm)

    Cheer up, friends, because expensive lawyers make mistakes, too.  This lawyer’s letter ignores the criminal dimension of the client’s conduct and admits that the client committed many counts of a criminal offense (if one assumes only that the cut trees were located in a critical area).

    Cutting or even topping a tree in violation of Seattle’s critical areas ordinance is punishable as a gross misdemeanor under SMC 25.09.470.  This is a strict liability offense, meaning that the act is a crime regardless of what the perpetrator thought he was doing.  And the client is legally accountable for the conduct of the contractor/accomplice, who the client solicited to top the trees.  So, in a criminal case, the client’s “surprise and dismay” would be irrelevant as a matter of law.

    In addition, the letter exposes the client to an open-and-shut charge of criminal conspiracy (with the contractor; the client’s neighbors may be harder to prove) under RCW 9A.28.040.  And although this criminal conspiracy would also be a misdemeanor, the Supreme Court has observed that conspiracy “is an offense of a grave character, affecting the public at large” even when conspiracy’s objective is a petty offense.  127 U.S. at 555.

    Other commenters have mentioned the availability of triple damages for willful injury to City property, and I assume that’s what the lawyer thinks he’s combating with this astonishing letter.  But the City Attorney’s Office already has more than enough leverage to reach a fair result for the public.

  • Oakley34 March 29, 2016 (2:36 pm)

    Outrage is justified, and I think for the most part fairly measured.  Having been to the site(s) I’d caution anyone from singling out any specific homeowners until the facts are out.  This looks to be a few separate actions, perhaps emboldened by one another or perhaps in collusion.  Who knows?  We don’t, but one expects we will. Lovely day today, though.

  • Eric March 29, 2016 (2:42 pm)

    Well this thread will certainly be one of the top five most popular come year end review time

    • AMD March 29, 2016 (3:46 pm)

      It already topped Fishpocalypse (last year’s top story) by 50+ comments in this thread alone.

  • Marc March 29, 2016 (2:46 pm)

    Looking at these ‘stumps’, these trees have been cut at least twice before. The photos look like a repeat performance. So much of this could have been done with a hand (not chain) saw, if there were enough time.

    Those root structures will not likely die from that. It may take them a few years to make a comeback, bu they will. One concern on a critical slope is the size, weight, and wind resistance of the foliage. Cutting in dormancy is evidence they intended to re-shape, not exterminate. 

    Some species do not take such radical pruning well. I do not doubt every big leaf maple will make big leaves again. Their stored root zone energy will ensure they survive to have this hack job revisited upon them in 3-7 years.

    Glad I do not live there. IF you are going to by a view property, make sure you OWN the view. Otherwise, you may not be able to sell the view you went into debt for, because the local flora had un impeded canopy space, and took it.

  • soi March 29, 2016 (3:06 pm)

    It’s not up to the homeowners to decide the restitution or punishment for the crime. 

    The  homeowners  may try to negotiate a way out vis a vis expensive lawyers and the city, but it has to be a public process, in the courts and part of our judicial system. It needs to be an open and public process. There are rules and laws we agree to live under.  Circumventing this process sets a bad precedent and the fear that this almost happened is why I think this case has drawn so much scrutiny.

    When people not just believe, but see for themselves separate and unequal justice systems, one for the rich and connected and the other, for the rest of us, that’s not a small thing. That’s a fundamental hit to the  foundation to our society.  It’s  a gut hit. Many can argue, we already have that two tier system, but that’s just more reason to stop it. 









  • Patti March 29, 2016 (3:26 pm)

    Guess you’d call these guys tree muggers.  Right?

    • RayWest March 30, 2016 (4:28 am)

      I think “tree butcher” would be more accurate.

  • andrewwantcookie March 29, 2016 (4:20 pm)

    I guess I need to go see this myself because the destruction in the last photo (2016) posted by Mark is not nearly as bad as described.  I thought they cut all the way down to just before Admiral or something.  This appears to be 200ft(?) beyond property lines?  I highly doubt this is landslide worthy either. Look at all the remaining trees!

    Additionally, these are weeds as is evidenced by just how quickly the prior cuts came back.

    Not saying what they did was right, but this is starting to feel like a “get the damn 1 percenters!” type issue.

    • Scottt March 29, 2016 (8:05 pm)

      I would disagree.  Technically, I am probably a 1%er or a 3%er or whatever.  But I would never presume to encroach on public lands for my benefit.  This isn’t about %ers, this is about self involved, entitled people.  And I for one am tired of them in every walk of life.

  • HelperMonkey March 29, 2016 (4:22 pm)

    Between Man in Tree and these entitled fools, trees are having the Worst Week Ever. 

  • CMT March 29, 2016 (4:36 pm)

    To those indicating that the comments are hate-filled, or mob mentality, I disagree. 

    These individuals took it upon themselves to conspire to take illegal action that has far reaching negative consequences solely to enhance the views out of their own windows for their personal gain.  Once caught they offered an “explanation” with more holes than swiss cheese, although they tacitly admit they intended to commit a crime.

    I have no hate at all for these individuals.  I am, however, disgusted by their greed and sad about the damage they caused.   I would like them to be prosecuted because that is the law and for reassurance that this type of conduct is viewed as serious so that maybe others will be deterred.  I would like to see restitution required because this needs to be fixed and the taxpayers should not have to pay for it.

  • Joe Szilagyi March 29, 2016 (4:58 pm)

    For those outraged about this, I created a change.org petition calling on City Council to seriously and dramatically tighten the screws on laws surrounding this. For the interested:

    https://www.change.org/p/council-seattle-gov-change-seattle-s-laws-to-stop-people-clear-cutting-our-forests

    (hopefully this is OK to post)

    • cjboffoli March 29, 2016 (6:50 pm)

      Joe:  I support your activism, as ever. But please remember that photographs do not just magically appear online for you to take and use as free content.  Steve Ringman of the Seattle Times climbed down into that ravine (which I can tell you was not an entirely pleasant endeavor) and created that image.  He at least deserves to be credited for his work. And it is likely a TOS violation for you to republish an image on Change.org that you do not own or have permission to use.

  • Melissa March 29, 2016 (5:01 pm)

    The City indicated that they wanted to be made whole;  Would this include that those involved would be required to have insurance in case there was a slide?  And indemnify the City.  I don’t want to be on the hook for their behavior. 

  • mike March 29, 2016 (5:43 pm)

    The attorney letter is pretty galling.  He’s basically saying the homeowner’s bear only incidental responsibility because the “pruning” they directed got out of hand.  His clients are as outraged as anyone reading this.  They respect Seattle’s parks, and are such good citizens they’re now willing to participate in a negotiated solution.   Rather than criticize we should throw them a parade! HOGWASH!!!   They directed an underling to cut trees on property they knew did not belong to them, and without permission, to open up their view.  They made sure they were out of town when the dirty deed was done.  And now they’re attempting in the most cynical and hypocritical manner to shed responsibility.   The lesson they’re about to receive is just getting started. 

    • mike March 29, 2016 (5:59 pm)

      And to make clear, (due to the obvious outrage this case provokes)  when I say “lesson” in the post above,  I of course mean a lesson taught by the justice system in how to behave in a civilized society.  

  • Roxy March 29, 2016 (7:25 pm)

    More ignorance? From WSB development notes: April 21st – at 8 pm, the board will have its third Early Design Guidance review for six-story, 84-unit 4532 42nd SW, which you might recall is the site where a big tree was cut after the last review, despite the board’s interest in seeing it remain.

    • Joe Szilagyi March 30, 2016 (6:54 am)

      Design Review Board is completely different from this discussion as is our desperate, crushing and critical need for more housing units and more bedrooms to be added somewhere between ASAP and “right now immediately it’s an emergency”. Please don’t conflate or co-mingle to try to blame density and the rare scummy developer on this. These issues are absolutely unrelated.

  • Karen March 29, 2016 (7:25 pm)

    They hired a landscaper to “top trees.”  No good  landscaperwould consent to topping a tree because it is harmful to the tree.  

  • Shebarue March 29, 2016 (8:12 pm)

    I want to see them charged and prosecuted because fines will be meaningless and they knew they were breaking the law. How convenient that they happened to be out of town while the work happened. I want to see them arrested and charged in part because their names will become part of the public record and THAT may actually be the best deterrent to others of this sort. We deserve to know who in our community holds themselves so far above the law and the common good. They deserve a bad reputation. They’ve earned it.

  • canton March 29, 2016 (10:41 pm)

    @rb, there are no torches, or pitchforks. Just a want, for justice and accountability. The names are known, but not shared. Just like any guilty criminal, you want them to face the charges against them in a public forum. And once the facts are sorted out, then the repercussions are enforced by law.

  • Mike March 29, 2016 (11:16 pm)

    Broad leaf trees such as these not only stabilize the slope with their root structure, but also reduce the water content in the soil (called Evapotranspiration, or ET). It’s amazing how much water trees remove, in the order of up to a thousand gallons per year per tree due to ET. Its the reason these areas are called Critical Areas.

    The statement from the attorney proves these homeowners illegally called for removal of a portion (if not all) of the trees which lay on public land, and will likely face criminal charges for doing so.  What in the world were they thinking? 

  • anonyme March 30, 2016 (6:49 am)

    As Karen pointed out, trees should never be topped.  Not only will the health of the tree be seriously compromised, but many species will send up water sprouts that quickly outstrip any natural growth – thereby completely defeating the purpose of topping.  No legitimate arborist would do this.  Unfortunately, there are many, many unlicensed and undocumented ‘landscapers’ who will happily destroy anything you point them toward for a few bucks.

    Trees are a view.  The irony of this is that the ‘view’ that was opened up by this clearcutting is absolutely hideous.  A swath of devastation with a view of an industrial park at the bottom?  What the hell is wrong with these people?

    • Gatewood March 30, 2016 (9:09 am)

      I was wondering the same thing regarding the “view”.

  • j March 30, 2016 (8:13 am)

    Can we please address the illegal tree topping occurring on Marine View Dr between SW Roxbury St and SW 100th St?

    Neighbors slashed the trees there this summer and have been flat topping the tree for years causing them to become diseased and fall over. Potential for slide here too. 

    We’ve always enjoyed the tunnel of trees that hang over Marine View Dr here and it had been disappearing slowly but surely. 

    Also, can we please address the illegal killing of trees on the Duamish greenbelt by ECI Materials? North of Highland Park Way as you are traveling on West Marginal it is about the fourth business on the left (west). ECI Materials has been and continues to be bulldozing dirt up the hill burying the base of trees with several feet of dirt. This kills the trees. Many trees have died and continue to be killed. I filed a report with the city about three years ago. The city did nothing. Check it out as you drive by. Notice the dead firs. It started with dirt on the north end of their property now they are pushing dirt up on the south end of their property.

    Additionally, plugging the bottom of the hill with dirt will not allow proper drainage which has potential for landslide. 

    • AMD March 30, 2016 (1:20 pm)

      If you know of illegal tree trimming, you should report it to SDoT’s urban forestry unit.  It’s not practical for them to actively monitor every tree in their jurisdiction; they need citizens who see something wrong and report it to help.

    • Dead Acer March 30, 2016 (11:27 am)

      Rose,

      There is already an extensive  tree protection ordinance.  If there were no ordinance, we would not be having this discussion.   What these people did was clearly in violation.

      Seattle Municipal Code 25.09 

  • Riggs March 30, 2016 (9:06 am)

    Tree topping kills and damages trees. Even if the folks only wanted “topping”, that is just as bad. See Plant Amnesty for more details.

  • Truthteller March 30, 2016 (11:13 am)

    I walked those woods 2 weeks ago with a friend looking for items stolen from her car. It was difficult to walk in the underbrush and mud and no trails, but there were several white stakes in the ground and pink tags tide to trees.  Someone had been in there. Someone staked and tagged trees. It was someone with experience and forethought about what was going to be cut down. I asked my friend if they were going to develop the area. 

    Also, on Easter Sunday there was still a porta potty on the north end of 35th. Someone had it delivered there for a reason. If it’s gone then it was related to the clear cutting. 

    Finally, the homeowners have hired  Davis Wright Tremaine.  There will be no felony charges, jail time or any other significant repercussions for these homeowners. The city isn’t going to spend the money on discovery or subpoena everyone’s emails and texts. It’s just too costly. Likely a little slap of a 10K fine and that will be the end of it. Exactly as planned by the homeowners.

  • Alan March 30, 2016 (11:43 am)

    Does anyone remember the slide on Admiral circa 2000? I believe that the large open area that you can see on satellite images, north of Hinds & east of 33rd was a result of that slide. You can see in the images that Mark provided above that the area was forested in 1990, then a healing scar in 2002.  The newer concrete retaining wall on Admiral was built as a result. I can’t seem to find record of it, though I recall it was big news when it happened. 

  • Alan March 30, 2016 (12:12 pm)

    The comments have become so nested that it is hard to tell how to reply. WSB is correct that there is a 10,000 sq ft lot on the NE corner of 33rd and Hinds that is private property. The rest is public land. The lot on the NW is exactly the same size, so you can fairly easily eyeball what is public and what is not.

  • wetone March 30, 2016 (2:17 pm)

    Don’t really care if people responsible for tree cutting are rich, poor or did this for the view or any other reason. What I care about are laws were broken and responsible party’s need to held accountable.  But what I think is the biggest issue to this story are people employed by City of Seattle seem to have known about this issue, and look to have swept under the table. I want an investigation to see who at the City of Seattle is involved in this and why no prior action was taken before all trees were cut down. Seems a lot of pieces are missing to this story, and how all this happened……..                       

        On a different note the process of trying to cut or prune trees for residential home owners needs to change.  It’s way to complicated and can be expensive. Keeping many from planting trees as they worry about having to get city involved when they want to  trim trees or change landscape that are damaging building structures and walkways. 

  • WSB March 30, 2016 (2:29 pm)

    Today’s followup:

    http://westseattleblog.com/2016/03/followup-illegal-west-seattle-tree-cutting-brings-assessment-investigation-and-more/

    Couple of interesting points, including the outline of the restoration plan proposed by the attorney-represented party/parties, which I don’t believe has been published elsewhere yet. – TR

  • Ilasdad March 30, 2016 (3:35 pm)

    Well I should spend more time at the admiral viewpoint. The way things are going here my neighbors will ask the city to stop topping those trees as well. 

    Enjoy the nice day everyone. (And thx WSB for this awesome resource)

  • JMSeattle March 30, 2016 (9:22 pm)

    While I would never condone selfishly cutting down trees on public land, some of the comments have prompted me to write my own. Blaming an attorney and calling out a well crafted letter l on behalf of a client is absurd and unfair. The City failed to disclose the matter for just under two months. They took no action. The owner may or may not have had any incentive to disclose the cutting to his attorney or anyone, save for the fact that he or she realized that a mistake was made (a serious and thoughtless mistake, to be sure). 

Sorry, comment time is over.

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann