FOLLOWUP: City announces $440,000 settlement in two of three lawsuits filed for illegal West Seattle tree-cutting

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(Part of the illegally cut site, photographed in spring 2016)

When we published this followup three weeks ago on the status of the East Admiral illegal-tree-cutting, one year after it first came to light, we noted that the city said the investigation remained active. And today, the city has announced that two of the three lawsuits it filed last fall have been settled, while the third is proceeding. Here’s the news release:

The City has settled one of two civil suits against West Seattle homeowners who the City alleged hired people to cut down a swath of a greenbelt in late 2015 or early 2016 to improve the homeowners’ views.

The unpermitted tree cutting near the 3200 block of 35th Ave. SW occurred in environmentally critical areas on a steep slope below the defendants’ homes. In its two lawsuits, the City alleges that two separate groups of people are responsible for cutting two distinct groups of City trees. Between the two groups, about 150 trees of varying sizes, including many big-leaf maples and Scouler’s willows, were felled and left crisscrossing the area.

According to the settlement, two couples – Stanley J. and Mary E. Harrelson and Marty and Karrie Riemer – will together pay the City $440,000 regarding one of the decimated areas. The City’s suit regarding the other area is ongoing, and unaffected by this settlement.

Today the City amended the complaint in that action, which previously named Kostas A. and Linda C. Kyrimis, to add the following defendants: Nancy Despain, Wendy Sweigart, Leroy Bernard, Joyce Bernard, Charles King, Shirley King and Bruce Gross. The Kyrimises were recently given criminal immunity for their statements in the lawsuit regarding the tree cutting by the City and King County in exchange for their full cooperation in discovery, including sharing the identities of their neighbors who are alleged to have shared the cost of tree-cutters with the Kyrimises.

With the first case resolved, the Parks and Recreation Department will use the settlement proceeds from the Harrelson/Riemer suit to begin remediating the slope.

“We have met our three goals – to recover damages and penalties that make the City whole financially and deter future cutting, to hold people accountable for the destruction, and to make the public aware that laying waste to public lands in whatever form will bring consequences,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said.

“All of Seattle was disappointed to learn that hundreds of trees were illegally cut down in West Seattle—this was a violation of code and Seattle’s values,” said Mayor Murray. “With today’s announcement, we can begin to turn this unfortunate event into an opportunity. The settlement will pay for the replanting of the trees and will provide resources for the City to hire youth from West Seattle to help restore the greenbelt, connecting them to the local environment and green jobs.”

“Today, we see that actions result in consequences,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park). “I’m hopeful this settlement — 60% higher per tree than the 2003 case in Mount Baker — will deter future rogue clearcutting. In Seattle, those with financial means can’t count on small settlements to pave the way towards increased views and property values. Trees in our greenbelts are precious natural resources that maintain soil stability, thus lessening the risk of landslides, and maintain air quality by absorbing carbon. We must protect them.”

“I was absolutely outraged last year when I learned someone clearcut an entire hill in one of our public green spaces,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle), Chair of the Council’s Parks Committee. “I commend the City Attorney’s Office for its vigorous pursuit of just compensation. We will not tolerate the razing of City-owned trees for the sake of an improved view. Not only does the quality of our air depend on trees, but the structural stability of our hillsides does as well.”

“This settlement represents our reasonable, best efforts to hold those responsible for the illegal tree cutting accountable. As stewards of one of the largest parks and recreation systems in the country, our goal is to preserve and protect parkland,” Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jesús Aguirre said.

“Trees are not only nice to look at, but they play a crucial role in managing storm water, stabilizing slopes, providing habitat, reducing air pollution, and contributing to neighborhood character,” Aguirre said. “The funds from this settlement will be used to restore the lost trees and damaged land, as well as to support urban forestry restoration at Duwamish Head and programs that engage youth in forest restoration work in West Seattle. Since the beginning, we have been committed to securing the best outcome on behalf of Seattle park users and tax payers. This settlement offer demonstrates our strong commitment to protecting parkland from illegal acts of destruction.”

Parks expects to complete the majority of restoration work on the site in 2017, with work to begin in the next month or two. Holmes said the City appreciates that both sets of homeowners consistently expressed an interest in resolving the issue short of trial, and worked cooperatively with the City towards a fair resolution.

Had the Harrelsons and Riemers not been so cooperative, the City would have sought a greater recovery. On a per tree basis, this recovery is significantly higher than the amount recovered in the City v. Farris matter based on 2003 tree cutting. That case involved 120 trees and settled for $500,000, or $4,166 per tree. This case involved 66 trees, and the settlement amounts to $6,667 per tree.

“We accept responsibility for a portion of the cutting that took place in the area described as ‘Site A’ in the City’s Complaint for damages, as disclosed to the City in early 2016,” the Harrelsons said in a statement.

The Riemers said: “We have taken responsibility for our fraction of the tree cutting from the very beginning and are glad we were able to successfully resolve this with the City.”

As part of the Harrelson-Riemer settlement, the City will assign its rights to pursue the tree cutters, Forrest Bishop and John Russo, to the Riemers and Harrelsons. The tree-cutters hired by the Kyrimises and others remain unknown.

In the two complaints filed last fall, the City sought relief on several grounds, including timber trespass, damage to land, trespass, negligence, environmentally critical areas violations, violations of the parks code and violations of the city’s tree and vegetation management in public places code.

On its damages theories, the City generally alleged that the defendants and/or their agents cut down trees on City property without permission when they should have known better. The extensive tree cutting damaged the trees and the underlying land. On its code violation theories, because the cutting took place on City property and some occurred in City right of way, the cutters or their employers were required to obtain a number of permits before they cut any trees. No permits were issued to authorize the cutting.

We’ve also received documents from the city and will be adding those shortly.

ADDED 12:51 PM: Here they are:
Amended complaint against Kyrimises (and others)
Riemers’ settlement document
Harrelsons’ settlement document

65 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: City announces $440,000 settlement in two of three lawsuits filed for illegal West Seattle tree-cutting"

  • William April 19, 2017 (1:15 pm)

    $440K sounds like a lot of money, but it is probably less than the value that the two properties increased from improved views – as a result of the illegal act.  At least the city is getting something. Hopefully, it is enough of a financial penalty to deter others and not encourage others to make the “investment”.  

    Interesting the property owners of the suit not yet settled “ratted out” their “partners” in crime.  That, will hopefully cause people to think twice before inflicting harm on the public.  

  • Hot Coffee April 19, 2017 (1:17 pm)

    Wow – so one couple rats out the others. That’ll make for an interesting Block Party this year!

    • ACG April 19, 2017 (2:31 pm)

      That’s exactly what I was thinking!!

    • Hot Coffee April 19, 2017 (2:55 pm)

      Just saw KIRO’s coverage from last night and they interviewed a very sweet sounding woman named Shirley King who was stated as being a nearby homeowner who had nothing to do with the cutting. She just prayed things would get back to normal. Did she honestly not know she’d be named this morning?? Or are there two Shirley Kings round about there?

  • Diana Pozzi April 19, 2017 (1:19 pm)

    While it is nice that there was some degree of justice with those involved in hiring those who actually cut the trees, I think it is just as important to go after the tree cutters–who should have known better.  The tree cutters should have known about the legalities of what they were being hired to do and face stiffer penalties for going along with it.  No agreements should have been reached without naming those who did the cutting of the trees.  Those names are known by those involved.  I’m sure they knew who they were writing checks to.

  • Morris April 19, 2017 (1:22 pm)

    Agreed. They liberated million dollar views for $220K.

    They got it all back and more through high property valuations.

    • Chuck April 19, 2017 (1:37 pm)

      Yeah, maybe, but that only comes if and when they sell. In the meantime, I’d imagine they’re having to find $220K cash, as how would you come up with these funds otherwise? Perhaps a home equity loan on the home’s “new” loan value? Regardless, $220K (IMO) is no slap on the wrist. Very glad the city took action. And keep on rolling over, neighbors–more need to be held accountable! Selfish, expensive undertaking by all. 

      • Peter April 19, 2017 (2:47 pm)

        Most likely the settlement is with their homeowners insurance and won’t cost them a cent more than their deductible. 

        • CandrewB April 19, 2017 (5:47 pm)

          Their insurance would claim willful misconduct and the homeowners would be crazy to pursue it.

  • Swede. April 19, 2017 (1:30 pm)

    Gives the ‘Million dollar view’ more meaning. 

    Is the money going to be used to fix the hillside, or other neighborhood beautification? Or just into Seattle’s general fund?

    • WSB April 19, 2017 (3:11 pm)

      That’s explained in the news release. The former.

  • T Rex April 19, 2017 (1:47 pm)

     And they will be the frst to sue the city if there damn houses slide. 

    I am betting they knew they would get fines, admitted freely to it and had the money set aside for the settlement. But, they still have their beautiful view don’t they.

    What a bunch of a**holes.

     

     

    • WSB April 19, 2017 (1:51 pm)

      I have only had time to graze one document so far but it appears to waive the right to any such suits. (Added 2:38 pm – I’ve read both now. In both, the defendants – the Riemers and Harrelsons – waive any such suits for the next eight years.)

  • Mo April 19, 2017 (2:45 pm)

    Interesting.  I notice Pemco Insurance is listed on the settlement document.  Does this mean some or all of whatever they end up paying (after recovering some of the settlement from the tree cutters who they now have the right to pursue) could get paid by Insurance?  That would be an interesting twist if they literally pay nothing.

    • WSB April 19, 2017 (3:07 pm)

      Two things on that:

      #1 – PEMCO is mentioned in the context of the settlement meaning the city can’t sue them from here on out in connection with this.

      #2 – As for whether this is something an insurance policy would cover – willful wrongdoing by the policyholder(s)? On adjacent property that the policyholder did not own or rent? Seems unlikely but perhaps a reader who works in the insurance industry can tell us whether that’s possible. Otherwise, one point of note in the settlement papers – they have to fork over the cash within two weeks. Haven’t ever heard of an insurance settlement moving that fast.

      • Sna April 19, 2017 (6:44 pm)

        This would be a liability claim, so it would apply to damage to another’s property, but the PEMCO contract has this clause:

        Liability for property damage “Which may reasonably be expected to result from the
        intentional or criminal acts of an
        insured or which in fact are
        intended by an
        insured. This applies regardless of whether
        an
        insured is actually charged with, or convicted of, a crime;
        or”

        There would be an negotiation whether the property damage was intended. The homeowners intended to cut trees, but didn’t intend to cause a claimable event.  It’s not clear cut (no pun intended) to me if the claim would be denied.  

         

        • WSB April 19, 2017 (6:51 pm)

          Thank you. Someone else also took the time to send an explanation, via e-mail. Always something new to learn!

    • Hot Coffee April 19, 2017 (4:46 pm)

      Could be because one of the defendants works for them?  Could the house maybe even be owned/held by it?

      http://insurance-agents.credio.com/l/805003/Nancy-De-Spain

      • WSB April 19, 2017 (6:45 pm)

        PEMCO is mentioned only in the documentation of the settled suits. That person was added to the documentation of the not-settled suit, which does not mention PEMCO. All of those documents are linked at the end of our story, above. Meantime, you don’t ever have to speculate about property ownership – you can check ownership of any property by looking it up in the King County Parcel Viewer.

  • SWinWS April 19, 2017 (3:01 pm)

    I don’t know how I feel about this whole destruction of property by privileged co-conspirators  (especially on public lands) and a simple fine (albeit hefty to some) produces justice–they benefited overall and probably still didn’t forfeit standing/property in the community of other privileged people.  I don’t believe in draconian punishment but, this stinks of special privilege and the defendants calculated this in their decision when they collaborated (to some degree).   I think what enrages the public most, is that if this were “them,” they would likely suffer harsher consequences that what the city settled for.  I think there is a precedent here; and, whether this is a deterrent to the destruction of property or seen as a minor nuisance fee (for risky behavior) in order to reap the rewards of a great view.    

    • 56bricks April 19, 2017 (8:57 pm)

      So, as always, it’s easier (and more profitable) to ask for forgiveness than permission.  $$$RULE

  • Joan April 19, 2017 (3:19 pm)

    So , hopefully the greenbelt will be replanted, and the poor homeowners will lose the view they paid so dearly for! LOL.

    I don’t understand the involvement of home insurance. Weren’t the trees cut on city  property? Why would insurance cover any of it? Plus, it was illegal. Wouldn’t that negate any insurance coverage?

    • Sna April 19, 2017 (8:43 pm)

      Driving drunk is illegal too, but your insurance will cover losses if that causes you to get into an accident.  It’s not really black and white.  Gets down to policy language, prior case law, the specific facts of the incident, and how much the insurance company wants to spend fighting the case.  

    • Chandra April 20, 2017 (5:13 pm)

      We have a greenbelt behind us, and technically our property extends into the greenbelt making us the “owners” of it and it would fall under our homeowners insurance. However, the trees are the city’s and we are not allowed to cut them down – so we just look at them.  

      I wonder if the owners will try to sell the houses while the value is high and the land is unstable? Oh, I just feel so bad for any new home owners to that hillside!  

  • anonyme April 19, 2017 (4:33 pm)

    They need to replant with some tall, super fast growing trees that look and smell bad.  Either that, or set up a homeless encampment on the rubble behind those homes.  Heck, plenty of firewood available!  From what I understand, the view that was exposed was of the Duwamish industrial area.  Was it really worth it?

    The guys who cut the trees may have had their civil lawsuits settled by being included with their employers, but I don’t see that making them exempt from criminal prosecution.  A permit is required to prune or cut any tree on public property, and the burden is on the contractor to obtain that permit.

    • Jethro Marx April 19, 2017 (5:09 pm)

      Sounds good, but your punishment of choice is homeless neighbors, which is an oxymoron, but also makes sense on so many levels. Strange world, this, where being surrounded by trees and people can be viewed as the stick so many seem to pine for. What, pray, is the carrot?

  • Samuella Samaniego April 19, 2017 (5:16 pm)

    Thank you SWINWS. I share a very similar disposition. Its pretty awful to consider the fact that this was obviously a crime, premeditated by people with adequate resources, and unless my first read of the documents is incorrect, it appears their penalty is entirely a fine. Granted, (I hope) they are embarrassed about being busted for their decisions, but I find it objectionable they are not at least required some form of appropriate court ordered community service. If nothing else, an extended service requiring them to pick up litter in addition to the fines does not seem unreasonable.

    Again, I hope I am simply overlooking or misunderstanding something in the documents and they are in fact required to fulfill a court order for community service. 

  • WenG April 19, 2017 (5:19 pm)

    Slap on the wrist when you consider the value of these homes and the assets of the home owners. $1m sounds about right, but our mayor with memory problems says:

    MyNorthwest: “Now the healing can begin…nearly half-million dollar
    agreement is going to pay for removing the damaged trees, stabilizing
    the greenbelt and replanting trees. The benefits for our urban forests
    are indisputable — they sequester carbon dioxide, they remove pollution
    from the environment, they reduce energy use in residential buildings.
    All these benefits tally up to carbon reductions in the millions of
    metric tons.”  

    His standard  “values” script ignores the low ball settlement. Then there’s this:  “About $100,000…will help fund a youth summer program and a green jobs program that hires young people from economically struggling communities. Murray has spearheaded both programs as mayor.”  

    Will they be homeless youth or refugees? That depends on which group will be more politically healing to him.  I won’t even raise the most troubling youth-related issue that Ed refuses to address.  This settlement is unlikely to stop the next home owner with a view from doing the same thing. 

    • JanS April 20, 2017 (12:38 am)

      Dear WenG….who gives a rats behind whether they are homeless or refugees. We are all immigrants…please, please, please remember that…even if we might be 3rd generation, 4th generation, etc. They are youth, our next generation…and all equal…they could be black, white, green, yellow, from Canada, from Albania, from Southeast Asia, from the Middle East.Why is that even a thought?

      As far as the perpetrators of this are concerned, I don’t know the Harrelsons. But we all know who the Riemers are. I am saddened, disgusted, that Marty Riemer, who has been a public name in West Seattle, from hosting tree lightings, to other community activities, even had the thought enter his mind to do this. Shame on him, using his white privilege to think that he was above the law. I have lost all respect for him. 

      @Chemist. Marty Riemer was proud of his drone, used his Facebook page to show different videos he made with it around West Seattle. His page disappeared immediately after the story broke.

      • HTB April 20, 2017 (10:30 am)

        White privilege? Come on – race has nothing to do with this.

        • JanS April 20, 2017 (1:06 pm)

          HTB…white privilege has more meaning than just color of the skin…you don’t get it….maybe you should just call it “status” privilege ….

    • Claudia April 21, 2017 (7:48 pm)

      Agreed. The million dollar amount (each) seems more fitting in my mind, too. This was a premeditated criminal activity. Nobody can claim innocence by saying they didn’t know it was illegal..and even if they didn’t,  ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. Imagine, “Gosh, officer, the speed limit is only fifty? I had no idea.”  This settlement is more likely to encourage more clear cuts, rather than discourage them.  Very disappointing ruling.

  • anonyme April 19, 2017 (5:41 pm)

    SS, I think your community service suggestion is excellent.  An appropriate task might be requiring these special folks to remove invasive ivy from trees in our parks and public spaces.

  • Dr. Fifth's April 19, 2017 (6:19 pm)

    “…They liberated million dollar views for $220K.

    They got it all back and more through high property valuations….”

    “..Gives the ‘Million dollar view’ more meaning…” 
    Absolutely not true.  The Riemers and Harrelsons views did not change at all.
    The fact that the city attorney’s office has been harassing the parties and requiring payment within 2 weeks as well as a significantly higher price per tree, indicates that there were individuals in that city office who were acting from some sort of personal agenda.
    • Melissa Huelsman April 19, 2017 (6:58 pm)

      Anyone who defends these criminals who destroyed public property for their own personal benefit and who should have had a criminal charge on their records, but cries “political agenda” as an excuse is just as bad. Save it for the country club where you can all look down on the rest of us who respect public property and trees.

      • Fauntleroy April 20, 2017 (12:50 pm)

        What does the “country club” have to do with any of this? So people that belong to” country clubs” are above the law or are less law “abiding” or don’t value nature and public spaces? How did this become a battle of socioeconomic differences?  The judgements made about people behind the safety of a key board…and yes, I belong to a “country club.”   My family golfs (probably another demographic that adds to my criminal potential profile.) We also pay our taxes. Try to be good neighbors. Support local charities. Participate in our community.  We work. We read the blog. We obey the law. NONE of that makes me any better than any one else, or less worthy of the benefit of the doubt that everyone should have.

    • MC April 19, 2017 (7:35 pm)

      Your friends destroy 150 trees with no regard for the impact to the environment, the public safety of our neighbors(record rain on a deforested slope) or simple human decency and it’s city officials that are the ones to be called out here? Considering that there could have been criminal charges brought against these people I think the city let them off easy–far too easy. There should have been public service attached to this penalty to remind these people that they live in a community, a pretty great one at that, and their actions impact all of us.  Your defense of their morally corrupt behavior is disgusting. 

    • chemist April 19, 2017 (7:49 pm)

      There was a youtube video of a drone taking off, scanning the view, and then landing at the Reimer’s house when this all started.  It was made private on youtube shortly after the story broke.  If they didn’t expect the view would change, I doubt the video would have been removed.

    • JanS April 20, 2017 (12:42 am)

      Harrassing them? Are you serious? They BROKE THE LAW !!!!!  They thought they were above the law because of status. They weren’t being harrassed, they were being investigated because of what they did, and the city was deciding what “punishment” should take place. I have no sympathy for them. Get over yourself.

  • wscommuter April 19, 2017 (9:19 pm)

    I know nothing about this lawsuit, but the civil damages paid sound about right, money-wise, for similar situations.  I am speaking from ignorance about this situation – all I know is what I’ve read on WSB (thank you  – great coverage as always), but I do know that such damages are about par for timber trespass situations and this many trees.  

    Again – my ignorance – but most likely Pemco or any other insurer isn’t paying much, if anything.  Folks above have it right – most homeowner policies have an exclusion for intentional torts and crimes (here, this was both).  But it is possible the homeowners thought of an angle to claim a right to coverage and it is possible that a carrier threw in some money to extinguish that claim (WA is a tough state for insurance companies which deny coverage wrongly).  Sometimes that happens if an insurance company can buy off risk cheaply.  

    As to the idea of community service or some other penalty like that – sounds nice, but only possible in a criminal prosecution (and I know nothing about where that is at).  This settlement is for a civil – not criminal – legal proceeding.  Only money can change hands, mostly, in a civil lawsuit.  

    Glad to see serious consequences to this terrible situation

    • ACG April 19, 2017 (10:19 pm)

      wscommuter- I always appreciate your legal input and explanations here on the blog. Thanks for taking the time to do so!

  • Jeannie April 20, 2017 (2:54 am)

    Had the Harrelsons and Riemers not been so cooperative, the City would have sought a greater recovery” — “so cooperative” has a way too positive connotation. They “cooperated” because they got caught. They “cooperated” because it would lower their penalty. Sort of like a convicted con “cooperating” with the police so his sentence would be reduced. 



    • Fauntleroy April 20, 2017 (12:25 pm)

       Not true. Go back and read the history of this. The Harrelson’s turned themselves in, along with a mitigation plan to repair and replant the slope. Almost immediately.

  • Scott C April 20, 2017 (8:50 am)

    First of all, let me point out that I think the people involved behaved in a deplorable fashion. 

     However, the lack of awareness of the economics in this situation is astounding.  The whole “they got a million dollar view” for cutting down those trees ignores a few critical facts:

    1) There are houses available at this very moment with significantly better views (unobstructed Seattle skyline, unobstructed Sound/Olympics) with prices in the 1.2 to 1.4 million dollar range.  Yes…they are million dollar plus houses, but to claim the view itself is worth a million dollars makes no sense…unless you think that you can buy a house without a view in West Seattle for 200k.  Yes, there is an increase in value based on a better view…but that 440k takes a big old haircut out of that increase.

     2)  Value is only realized when an item is sold.  Even if the owners tried to flip these houses tomorrow, a buyer and their real estate agent would a)  Be concerned about the stigma of these houses, and b) Realize that any improved view was temporary.  Those trees will grow back, even if not re-planted.  Our area has very aggressively growing native (and invasive..but that’s another story) trees that would quickly erase any improved view.  What’s more, any possibility of a future variance to request a legal removal/trimming of those trees is WAY of the table.  There might have been a chance of view improvement in the past, but it’s not happening now.

     3)  They are going to be re-planted.  Which means nature will get some help.  The affected parties may have an improved view for a while, but it’s going away.  Meanwhile, the fines are never coming back, and the stench of this situation will be with them forever. 

     Not saying they didn’t get what they deserve.  What they did was illegal, self-involved, and disrespects not only those of us in WS, but the entire community.  I hope that they lose a lot of sleep over this…but these types of people rarely do.  So, the fact that they are losing a lot of money pleases me.  But I do think that hyperbole and class envy does not serve this situation.  My two cents. 

     

     

  • JanS April 20, 2017 (1:14 pm)

    Scott C…have you seen the value of these people’s homes? One increased in value over $13,000 in just the last 30 days according to Zillow. One of the homes is valued at almost $2mil, swimming pool, sauna, not too shabby.  I don’t envy them or their (lack of) class. They can have those homes (they gotta pay the taxes, too – no thank you). But let’s not feel too sorry for these privileged people.

  • Jim P. April 20, 2017 (1:49 pm)

    Unless the people who did this are charged the money needed to *fully* restore things to the way they were before, they are getting off far too lightly.

    The only thing that should be mitigated for cooperation would be criminal, penalties.

    If a bunch of $10/three foot high sapling trees are planted, the people who did this win as they get their improved view for many years to come at a nice discount.  May even be able to write a chunk of the fines off their taxes as an uninsured loss so they get a nice dessert after their main meal.

    (Admittedly this is outside my scope of knowledge but I’ll bet much depend son exactly how the legal settlement is worded and whether they are admitting guilt.)

    I really get frustrated when people do this stuff and then get a wholesale “Good customer” discount and those of us harmed are left paying the difference or, in this case perhaps, not having hundreds of mature trees for many decades to come.

    Likely they quite deliberately hired unlicensed and unknown tree cutters who have long since scampered across the state lines/some country’s borders once they found out they’d be charged along with their clients.

    You can hire someone to wield a chain saw easily enough.  The total lack of clean up and care for the work indicates these were unlikely to be professional anythings and a licensed pro would have wanted some evidence the people hiring him or her had legal rights to that land and the needed permits to clear it this way.

    Some guys you hire at a casual labor pick-up spit won’t do any of that.

    • Joel April 20, 2017 (4:02 pm)

      Jim….When you are cutting trees in the dark at 3 am the job may not be as tidy as one would expect.

  • zark00 April 20, 2017 (2:16 pm)

    Thank you Scott – you are 100% correct.

    The wackadoodle value people are attributing to the view is nuts.

    We have an unobstructed view from Vashon all the way up the mountain range – and it’s not worth even remotely close to $1M, or $500K, or $100K – it increases the value of the home about $40k – that’s it – so stop with the “these people paid $220K for a MILLION DOLLAR VIEW” – that’s  a flat out out lie.  If you really think a view is worth a million dollars you have a very poor grasp of the value of a dollar and/or how real estate is priced.

    Don’t believe me?  Go call your agent and ask them!

    In addition – the Riemers view didn’t change – reread that bit – DID NOT CHANGE.  They weren’t out for a better view and the persecution West Seattle folks have leveled on them is way out of proportion for the “crime”.

    Yeah, it pissed me off too – but the reactions here especially piss me off even more and have turned me to feeling more sorry for these people being torn apart by their former friends and neighbors.  It’s $220K PER FAMILY!! Can you afford that?  I certainly can’t – that would ruin me.  And if you think these people are so rich that $220K doesn’t hit them very very hard, you are so wrong.

    I for one – can forgive them. They are paying the price in more than just dollars. 

    WSB please try to do some kind of follow up where you talk to the people involved and see how this has really impacted their lives.  I believe our hate has driven some of them out of their homes – literally, I suspect they were forced to move because they were scared for their families safety.  Might just be a rumor, but that’s that I heard.

    • WSB April 20, 2017 (2:41 pm)

      We asked for comment months ago – through lawyers and also a direct request to publicly available contact information – and they are still welcome to respond now. We answer the phone, text, e-mail, social media, even snail mail, and it’s all here on the site.

      http://westseattleblog.com/contact

  • Sherry April 20, 2017 (6:39 pm)

    It would be great if the city took the money and replanted some very tall mature trees, strategicly placed.

  • West Seattle Sun April 20, 2017 (8:19 pm)

    I have followed this destruction of public property from day 1 and it still seems to polarize readers.  I have to keep looking back at the pictures and compare it to the comments and penalties.  What I see in the pictures and throughout most view ridges in Seattle are Maple saplings.  I don’t see this tragic loss of property that many are trying to qualify and quantify as a national treasure.  These are basic s–t trees that sprout up and grow like blackberry bramble or wild bamboo.  These are not old growth sequoias, cedars or magnolias to be brutally honest.  They were not planned, planted or managed by the Parks Department.

    Once again, I keep looking back at the pictures and these are Maple saplings that grow like weeds everywhere. Their root systems are still in the ground and this hyperbole/exaggeration is borderline laughable.  They are sustainable/replaceable/low value and only carry value in the minds of people who want to bury these homeowners.

    There are many homeowners in Mount Baker who have asked the City Parks Department to manage their trees.  That means controlling the unplanned growth in public vistas and adjacent to homes.  Maybe this could have been handled better or maybe not?  Some would argue these wild saplings pose a fire hazard.  City fire zoning prevents homes from being built to close to one another.  These trees could be considered a fire hazard if you really want to play the game of pushing back.

    I’m not interested in debating this scenario but I wanted to offer a contrarian position to the folks brandishing digital pitchforks and keyboard torches.  These Maples will grow back naturally just like they did before they were cut.

    • flimflam April 21, 2017 (9:16 am)

      what you say may be true, but the homeowners can’t just do things like this when they want – not even their property…

  • Curate April 21, 2017 (12:33 am)

    Is “slut tree” a commonly used term in arborist circles? If not, can we not use it here please?

    • WSB April 21, 2017 (12:55 am)

      Apparently not. Sorry, I meant to check on that. “Trash tree,” yes.

  • Artsea April 21, 2017 (7:06 am)

    No time to read ALL the comments here, so could someone please tell me the reason these people cut down all these trees?  I’ve read it wasn’t to improve the view from their homes.  Or the eventual selling prices of these homes.  So …what reason did they have for doing it?  Surely not just because they didn’t like the types of trees that were growing there.

  • steve April 21, 2017 (8:23 am)

    this is a very large cash fine. justice has been served. to those of you who criticize this fine for being too low, take a look at your bank account. if you have less than $440K in cash, stop talking.

  • Alan April 21, 2017 (9:10 am)

    Anyone with 440K in cash should be talking to a financial advisor to ask what it really should be in.

    I think this settlement was fair. I was starting to doubt the city was pursuing it and I hope the city is harder on those that were less honest about their involvement.

  • Tuxedo junction April 21, 2017 (5:45 pm)

    The article says the 2 families together will pay $440,000.00. Many of you here have no idea about the facts of this case or what portion each family will pay. Don’t crucify someone unless you know ALL the details.

    There’s more to this than meets the eye. Let’s be neighborly rather than accusatory.

  • SM April 21, 2017 (8:09 pm)

    I wish that even one of you knew the Harrelsons. They are, without question, the most generous, selfless, kind and giving family that I have ever met. They are self made, and share what they have with others to such a degree that it is shocking. They made an HONEST mistake, and when they saw the damage that had been done, immediately notified the city in an effort to rectify the situation. To villify these wonderful people is both laughable and sad. To claim that their property value has gone up due to the mistake, in the hottest market in the nation, even more outrageous. All of you self righteous saints that have never made an honest mistake; take your own inventory and give this amazing family a break. 

  • Rusty Olson April 22, 2017 (7:03 am)

    Great coverage WSB.

  • steve April 22, 2017 (2:08 pm)

    Seems excessive to me. The roots are all still intact, which means they will all regrow.   If the roots are intact, there’s no danger of the slope giving way.  At least no more than usual.  I know the mobs just want to hang everyone, but looking at this picture, I’d swear these will grow back in no time. Any tree specialist out there? Chime in please.

  • Fisherman April 22, 2017 (3:44 pm)

    I get it that this was public land but I’m willing to bet all of you on your soap boxes had no clue where this area was before this. Makes you feel better to pile on. Based on the original WSB report that heavy equipment had to be brought in to even get to the area it’s clear the city did not maintain, and indeed, neglected this area. So where’s your anger at that?? It’s also clear that none of you tree lovers were in there  maintaining  these trees. Where were you?

    • Question Mark April 22, 2017 (6:16 pm)

      Really? Your argument is these homeowners banded together to maintain a neglected city greenbelt? That’s a whopper that would take a tanker truck of milk to swallow …

  • Double Dub Resident April 22, 2017 (9:35 pm)

    Meanwhile, police officers were injured in Seattle

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