West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The city is investigating another case of illegal tree-cutting in north West Seattle’s Duwamish Head Greenbelt.
Seattle Parks confirmed to WSB that there is an “ongoing investigation” involving tree-cutting on city-owned land near a popular informal roadside viewpoint in North Admiral, at Sunset and Seattle.
Two area residents told us about a letter sent to “neighbors,” seeking information about the tree-cutting, which the city believes happened in February. One neighbor sent us images of both sides of the letter, which Parks spokesperson Christina Hirsch confirmed to WSB is authentic.
This is the photo in the letter:
Above that photo, the letter begins:
We need your cooperation to resolve an illegal use of park property: unauthorized treecutting in Duwamish Head Greenbelt. This tree-cutting violates Seattle Municipal Code 18.12.070 and the responsible person(s) are subject to fines to cover the cost to replace the trees and maintain them until they are established.
The second page includes this “ground-level” view of the site where the illegal tree-cutting happened:
The letter continues:
We need the cooperation of neighbors and concerned park users to be the “ears and eyes on the ground” to ensure the protection of our valuable open space, keep our park areas safe, and maintain a peaceful environment for all the public to enjoy.
If you have any information about who cut the trees, or if you observed any tree-cutting activity anywhere within the park, please phone me directly at 206-615-0932. Verbal information given can remain anonymous by request and is not subject to public disclosure.
Senior Property Agent, Seattle Parks and Recreation
We called Gholaghong after receiving the letter via text, and he indicated he was heading into a meeting but would reply with more information soon. We subsequently received a note from Hirsch only confirming that the letter was for real, that the investigation was ongoing, and that she was looking into the answer to our question about how many trees were cut.
A visit to Seattle/Sunset did not yield a firsthand view of the reported tree-cutting – the slope down from the street side is extremely steep, and the downslope view is blocked by overgrown including blackberry vines. County files indicate the city bought the 2 1/2-acre site for less than a quarter-million dollars in 1992.
We will continue trying to find out more about this case, which emerged one month after The Seattle Times first reported on a large-scale case of illegal tree-cutting in east Admiral, also in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt. We have continued to follow up on that case, but there is nothing new to report, and no word yet of charges.
West Seattleites were clearly not going to let the rain keep them away from the Recycle Roundup at Fauntleroy Church last Sunday. Judy Pickens reports a big haul:
West Seattleites braved Sunday’s downpour to bring 11.5 tons to the spring Recycle Roundup at Fauntleroy Church for responsible recycling by 1 Green Planet. It was one of the largest collections since the church’s green committee started the roundup in 2010. The fall roundup will be Sunday, Sept. 25.
Last fall’s RR brought in 9 tons, following a 10-ton day last spring.
At Fauntleroy Church (9140 California SW), the rain’s not stopping the twice-yearly Recycle Roundup, on until 3 pm today. We stopped by in the first hour and found people dropping off everything from an old TV antenna to an exercise cycle.
There’s no charge to drop off your recyclables as long as they’re on the list; the church’s Green Committee coordinates this every spring and fall with recycler 1 Green Planet and will of course accept donations to cover their expenses, but that’s totally voluntary. They have one request: Please DON’T wait until the end of the day – after 2:30, there can be a long line.
(WSB photo from past Recycle Roundup)
Getting ready for West Seattle Community Garage Sale Day (three weeks from today!) and realizing not everything is sellable, even at the low-low-low-make-an-offer level? Or, just de-cluttering in general? One more reminder – tomorrow is the spring edition of the twice-annual Recycle Roundup in the Fauntleroy Church parking lot at 9140 California SW. 9 am-3 pm. Drop your recyclables off for free, as long as they’re on this list (which also points out what the church Green Committee‘s Recycle Roundup partner 1 Green Planet definitely WON’T take). One more thing: The earlier you can get there in that six-hour window, the better.
Celebrate Earth Day weekend by helping out with a community cleanup. We’re mentioning the ones we’ve heard about – yesterday, we featured Saturday’s North Delridge cleanup, and today, this announcement from the Highland Park Elementary School PTA:
Saturday is the second annual HPE Earth Day Cleanup. This year we are working together with the Playground Planning Committee to both clean up the school and design our future playground. The Earth Day portion of the event will meet at the front of the school from 9:00 – 12:00, rain or shine. Come prepared to clean up and beautify the school grounds. The playground planning portion of the event is from 8:00 – 4:00. Come to either event, or both. Stay for 30 minutes, or all day! Coffee and lunch will be provided.
HPE is at 1012 SW Trenton. The Highland Park community also has a series of neighborhood cleanups planned – more on that later – and if you’re looking for volunteers for your cleanup, we’d love to help; e-mail the information to firstname.lastname@example.org – thanks!
11:29 AM: Thanks to the texter who sent that photo just as we were heading out to check on this art installation under way right now on Alki. The display has been in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar for tomorrow for a while, since it’s an official Earth Day event, but it’s so big that it’s being assembled today, sponsored by the thrift-shop chain Value Village, “using thousands of pieces of used clothing to represent the amount of clothing that ends up in the landfill.” VV is hoping you’ll instead be inspired to “reuse and recycle.”
1:51 PM: Just back from Alki. This is happening east of the Bathhouse, across from Pepperdock, on part of the north side of the path and continuing down onto the beach. A closeup look reveals messages like this:
The installation is striking, from any direction:
We were asked via Instagram what happens to the hundreds and hundreds of pounds of clothing after the installation’s run tomorrow is done. (update) A VV spokesperson says the clothing all came from the chain and afterward: “Each piece of clothing will be sent back to Savers/Value Village to be sorted through the typical process at their local recycling center in Fife.”
(WSB file photo)
Another big West Seattle event for de-cluttering is getting close – just five days until this Sunday’s spring edition of the Recycle Roundup that Fauntleroy Church‘s Green Committee presents twice a year. Here is the official list of what you can drop off (and what you can’t) in the church parking lot at 9140 California SW 9 am-3 pm Sunday (April 24th). No fees. If you have questions even after checking the list, it includes contact info you can use to ask the church’s event partner, 1 Green Planet. Otherwise – just show up!
That’s the first of the “surplus substations” in West Seattle to officially start the journey to greenspace – the former Delridge substation at 23rd SW and SW Findlay. It’s now at the heart of the Delridge Wetlands and Stewardship Project, and community volunteers were there Saturday as part of the multi-site Duwamish Alive! event.
This document on the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association website explains what the project is all about – including plans for the site to include a community garden and to be an outdoor classroom for students from nearby Louisa Boren K-8 STEM.
DNDA’s Willard Brown (above), who’s leading the project, offered words of welcome as well as elaboration on plans for the site:
The “next generation of stewards” mentioned on Saturday morning was already represented, working with the Nature Consortium on an art project:
Also there were reps of other partner organizations – including City Light, whose senior environmental analyst Rory Denovan (a West Seattleite), offered a few words too, as did Sharon Leishman of the Duwamish Alive! Coalition and Mary Fleck of the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition. It’ll take a lot of work to make hopes and dreams for the site come true – if you can help, email@example.com is how to check in with Willard Brown and find out how.
The spring edition of Duwamish Alive! has just wrapped up. We stopped at two of the dozen-plus volunteer sites, and this was the first:
Dozens of volunteers gathered before the 10 am work-party start time at Greg Davis Park along Longfellow Creek in North Delridge. Supporting the Duwamish River means supporting its watershed and the waterways that feed into it, like Longfellow. A special 9:30 am kickoff event here included words from 34th District State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (below), who’s hailed as an environmental champion, as well as from Chauncey Foster (2nd below) and Sharon Leishman (3rd below), both from the Duwamish Alive! Coalition:
The main message is that supporting your local urban forest and waterway(s) matters all year long, not just on special days like this one and the fall Duwamish Alive! date – get involved. Every little bit helps – no matter how young (or not-as-young) you are:
You’ll also see “the next generation of stewards” in our second report, coming up in a few hours.
(2015 photo by Ron Creel – that long greenbelt in the middle of the photo, west of the river, is the West Duwamish Greenbelt)
Lots happening in West Seattle tomorrow, but nothing bigger than the spring edition of Duwamish Alive!, the twice-yearly mega-work party to help the Duwamish River and its watershed. As already previewed here, the multi-site restoration/cleanup party has a big 9:30 am kickoff at Greg Davis Park in North Delridge. From 10 am-2 pm, hundreds of volunteers will help out at sites from West Seattle to Tukwila. Not too late to sign up here. We’re told one of the West Seattle sites most in need of some more helping hands is Pigeon Point Park (next to Pathfinder K-8 School), where you can help the West Seattle-headquartered Nature Consortium continue restoring part of the West Duwamish Greenbelt. You can go directly here to let them know you’ll help there!
(WSB photo from Duwamish Alive! in 2014)
Discussion of recent news stories has included a lot of concern for our area’s greenspaces. If you share that concern, here’s a simple way to take action: Be part of Duwamish Alive! next Saturday (April 16th). Choose one of the sites on this list – in and near West Seattle – and sign up. One special focus here is along Longfellow Creek – more details in the announcement you can read in full after the jump:
As reported here last night, the first official public discussion of the West Seattle illegal-tree-cutting case is set for this Thursday morning at the next meeting of the City Council’s Parks, Seattle Center, Waterfront, and Libraries Committee. According to the just-published agenda, the presenters will be Seattle Parks Superintendent Jesús Aguirre, Transportation Director Scott Kubly, and, from the City Attorney’s Office, Joseph Groshong. The presentation is about more than the West Seattle case – as shown in the slide deck above, which accompanies the agenda, it’s titled “Tree Stewardship Presentation,” but if you scroll through to page 4, it moves to information about vandalism and enforcement, and then the West Seattle case on page 7. If you can’t be there in person – one incentive: the agenda includes a public-comment period – you will be able to watch live via the Seattle Channel, cable 21 or online at seattlechannel.org.
As first reported here last Friday, the City Council got a closed-door briefing today on the West Seattle illegal tree-cutting case. We checked afterward with Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who had told us this was going to happen. Her reply: “The briefing was an Executive Session briefing about the legal strategy moving forward. What I can say is that the City Law Department is fully engaged in pursuing remedies that include both civil and criminal penalties and are working with SPD in the investigation necessary for both. Sorry for nothing new to report specifically, but I think it’s a testimony to the Council’s serious consideration of these actions that we all received a briefing.”
Herbold did actually mention one specific new item – she says the tree-cutting situation will be discussed, publicly, at Thursday morning’s meeting of the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries, & Waterfront Committee (9:30 am, City Hall). No agenda yet. Herbold’s not a member of the committee but plans to attend.
The photo (which was accompanied by a similar one, except the flower is white) is from Jeremy Puma in Sunrise Heights, who writes:
My son and I found these beautiful trillium flowers growing in the woods at Lincoln Park (Saturday). Wonder if you would be open to reminding your readers that these ephemeral beauties are threatened natives, and picking the flowers will kill the plant?
Some trilliums are threatened or endangered; It’s best to enjoy the flowers with eyes and/or a camera.
That’s an excellent reminder to tread lightly in general in our natural areas.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
We have yet to get an incident number from SPD, though we requested it today.
City Attorney Pete Holmes, meantime, is expected to brief the City Council on the tree-cutting case behind closed doors on Monday.
That’s according to City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, with whom we spoke during a break in her second round of “district office hours” this afternoon in The Junction. The agenda for Monday’s weekly council “briefing” meeting ends with two separate items labeled only “executive session on pending or potential litigation” – executive session means it’s closed to the public.
Herbold also noted that she has called for a look at the current laws and penalties and whether they could be toughened, as has been called for in this citizen-initiated online petition.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Whether or not they’re directly responsible for the illegal tree-cutting in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt, nearby property owners may be taxed for it, sooner rather than later.
Checking the status of the investigation and other revelations, we found out today from City Councilmember Lisa Herbold that the King County Assessor has received a “constituent request (to) increase 2016 real-estate tax to reflect View Property status.” She says the Assessor’s Office already “has sent division directors out to visit the site and will be sending an appraisal team out shortly.”
Speaking of valuation, Herbold told us there’s something else that she’s emphasizing to the City Attorney’s Office and others who are investigating:
I want to be sure the evaluation of the value of the trees takes into account the role the trees play in maintaining soil stability in an environmentally critical area by absorbing water, thus lessening the risk of landslides onto a major arterial.
Further, trees maintain air quality by absorbing carbon —an important issue in West Seattle, which sits adjacent to SODO and the Duwamish industrial area. The Green Cities Research Alliance 2012 Report, Seattle’s Forest Ecosystem Values, has additional information about Seattle’s trees, estimated to have a replacement value of $4.9 billion — an important capital asset.
If you’ve been away or are otherwise just tuning into this, The Seattle Times broke the news last Friday night that the city was investigating the illegal cutting of more than 100 trees on parcels owned by the city Parks and Transportation Departments in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt, north of 35th SW and northwest of 34th SW/City View.
We followed up on Saturday and on Monday, which is when the City Attorney’s Office disclosed the cutting was brought to the city’s attention in January, and that a lawyer for at least one of the guilty parties had written to the city about it in early February. We published a statement from lawyer Clayton Graham in our Monday report. We now also have a copy of his February 5th letter and the proposed restoration-plan outline, both obtained from the City Attorney’s Office. Here’s the letter (PDF); below is the restoration-plan outline, which Graham said on Monday was provided to the city on March 9th. The city stresses that it has NOT approved the plan; we publish it to show you what was proposed before this all came to light:
RESTORATION ACTIVITY OUTLINE
Hire contractor approved by SPRD for following activities:
SITE PREPARATION Spring/Summer 2016
Install erosion control along perimeter of site per SPRD and DPD guidelines
Move cut logs to accommodate work and utilize as erosion control and terraces as possible
Invasive Shrub/Vine Removal following SPRD guidelines within perimeter of exposed canopy
Invasive Tree Removal/Herbicide (if necessary) under SPRD guidelines within perimeter
Broadcast Herbicide (if necessary) under SPRD guidelines within perimeter
Mulch to a depth of no greater than 6” consisting of arborist chips, straw or burlap will be installed across area to suppress weeds, increase moisture retention and limit erosion potential
PLANTING Fall/Winter (2016)
Install trees, shrubs, groundcovers in species and numbers as prescribed by Green Seattle Partnership – SPRD guidelines for similar sites.
Planting will be done in the suggested mosaic for the site with adaptation for existing native plants.
Location and species of trees planted to be determined based on discussion with City staff and owners’ urban forester.
IRRIGATION Winter/Spring (2016)
Installation of a temporary water reservoir and drip irrigation system in the spring is requested. Water will be supplied by adjacent property owner
If system is not approved contractor will be engaged for 3 seasons of watering and continued invasive species control and erosion monitoring
ESTABLISHMENT WEED CONTROL Spring-Summer (2017-2020)
Invasive weed control and plant health monitoring will be contracted for three growing seasons to assure success of plantings and site
Again, that is what the one unidentified homeowner proposed in early February, and it has not been approved by the city. Graham’s Monday statement said he and his clients “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.” (Since that apparently has not yet been received by the city, we’re asking Graham if his client would make it public.)
Whether it’s from that plan or not, will the city take any action to start restoring the cut slopes before it’s decided whether those responsible will be prosecuted, and how they will be penalized? We asked the Parks Department that question yesterday and are still awaiting the answer.
Finally, if you haven’t already seen it in our previous story’s comment thread, this online petition is in circulation, asking the City Council to toughen the laws governing incidents like this.
If we get any more new information today, we’ll add it to this story.
ADDED 4:59 PM: Parks spokesperson Christina Hirsch‘s reply to our question about whether any immediate restoration work is planned:
Right now we are working with our own restoration experts and are also consulting with outside advisers to figure out the plan to restore this area. This is a unique situation and restoration will be a challenge, both because of the scope of the damage and because it is such a sensitive and environmentally critical area. Because the situation is so severe, it could take years to get the area back to where it needs to be. Restoring this area is something that we need to do and we are working diligently with our team to put together a plan. We don’t have a complete timeline for restoration, but we do know that restoration in this area will not be something we can complete in one attempt; we will have to work on restoration on an ongoing basis.
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
The beach at Lincoln Park is cleaner tonight thanks to the work of a group from Arbor Heights Elementary. Elise Olson shares the report and photos:
When underwater photographer and author Annie Crawley with Dive Into Your Imagination came to speak to our students a few weeks ago about problems facing our ocean including the proliferation of plastics, which is killing ocean life, 5th graders in Ms. Nall’s class were disturbed by what they learned and set out to do something about it. Today they organized a cleanup at Lincoln Park. 25+ classmates and family members showed up with garbage bags and gloves to collect debris in the park and along the stretch of beach from the waterfront swings to the pool. They found lots of straws, wrappers, bits of Styrofoam, rope, bottles and even a pair of glasses and a shoe!
Elise adds that Ms. Nall “has been a fabulous role model in teaching her kids to move away from just talking and reading about the problems our planet faces and begin to make changes so they become commonplace and be more cognizant of how our actions (AND PURCHASES) have an impact on our world.”
What goes into the Sound can end up inside the wildlife living in its waters – you might recall the Arroyos gray whale as just one example.
(UPDATED 7:27 PM with additional information from Councilmember Herbold)
Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Christopher Boffoli
“Is THAT the clearcut?”
The question came from someone we passed while walking up from the first East Admiral street end where we’d stopped to seek an overview of the city-owned slope where, as first reported by The Seattle Times last night, 100+ trees have been cut illegally.
We were in the wrong place but subsequently found the two street ends where you can see the trees’ remains firsthand: 33rd and City View, where a short trail leads north to an overview of the south end of the area, and the north end of 35th SW, where you can look directly onto the slashed slope. Those areas are below and to the left of the “AW1” designation in the Green Seattle Partnership map we’ve embedded below:
Near West Seattle’s Seacrest Pier, the underwater zone known as Cove 2 is cleaner thanks to an effort led last weekend by 17-year-old Tanner O’Donnell, as part of his senior project for Nathan Hale High School. Our area’s best-known clean-water activist, “Diver Laura” James, worked with him and, along with her “dive buddy” Lamont Granquist, got some of the efforts on video (see for yourself above, and hear from Tanner in the clip).
If you follow Diver Laura on Twitter and/or Periscope, you know there was also an experimental live stream for a while – so watch for more of that in the future. Laura also shares these words of thanks, for “… Larry McLean for doing the honors of being our PADI Project AWARE Foundation Sponsor; Jan Shaw, the best beach-mom of all; and THE HUGEST of thanks to Tanner (and his Mom) for caring so much about our shared waters, and letting me be a part of this project… We should all care so much. As he says, ‘we’re citizens of the earth’.”
That flyer (PDF version here) shows what will, and won’t, be accepted at the next Recycle Roundup at Fauntleroy UCC Church, now just a month away. Judy Pickens sent it along with the early reminder – 9 am-3 pm on Sunday, April 24th, you’ll be able to drop off your recyclables for free, as 1 Green Planet sets up at the church parking lot (9130 Fauntleroy SW) for the day, as they do twice yearly, in partnership with the church’s Green Committee.
SIDE NOTE/QUESTION: If you are – or know of someone who is – planning a SHREDDING event this spring, please let us know as soon as you can – we are frequently asked if one is coming up, but haven’t received any announcements yet.
Love nature? You can do more than admire it … you can help others learn about and enjoy it. From Seattle Parks:
Live the dream – become a nature guide! Do you love sharing nature with others? Are you interested in learning more about the flora and fauna of Seattle’s many public green spaces and parks? You are the perfect candidate for the Seattle Urban Nature Guide program. SUN Guides participate in 30 hours of training and commit to providing 8 programs a year at Environmental Learning Centers and parklands near schools throughout Seattle.
Seattle Urban Nature Guides provide hands-on learning opportunities for school groups, nature programs for families and adults and Discovery Stations for all throughout the city. Volunteers’ backgrounds are as varied as the students they teach – the common thread is their desire to share nature with the greater Seattle community.
The goal of the Seattle Urban Nature Guide Program is to enhance, promote, and foster appreciation of nature by connecting citizens and students with their Seattle Parklands, by providing educational opportunities for all.
Training begins March 29. Deadline for applications is March 8. For additional information, please contact Penny Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-386–4250, or apply online.
We’re told much of the training is at West Seattle’s own Environmental Learning Center – Camp Long.