Meeting report: City Light’s West Seattle tree-trimming plan


See the orange and blue on that map? It marks all the West Seattle streets where Seattle City Light crews will work over the next few months to clear tree branches from power lines. This was one of several maps shown at City Light’s open house at Hiawatha Community Center tonight. Only a trickle of turnout, but if you’re in the targeted area, City Light spokesperson Scott Thomsen says you will get direct notification — City Light workers have already started going door-to-door to tell residents what’s going on and what they can expect to happen; if you’re not home when they stop by, they’ll leave an info-card hanging on your door. The “blue” area will be tackled first, starting within the next couple weeks (loosely described, this includes parts of Seaview, Morgan Junction, Genesee Hill, and most of Beach Drive); City Light managers say the work will last about two months before they move on to the areas on the map in orange. The only significant section stretching east of California Ave is south of Fairmount Park; one spur that travels almost all the way to the eastern edge of West Seattle is along Brandon. If you have a tree that’s within 10 feet of a power line, you will be offered the option of pruning (which in most cases will entail fairly dramatic branch removal) or taking out the tree entirely (and replacing it with something unlikely to grow into the line). And it’s all in the interest of preventing further power-outage catastrophes like what happened around West Seattle in the December 2006 windstorm; trees too close to power lines, City Light says, are the number one cause.

13 Replies to "Meeting report: City Light's West Seattle tree-trimming plan"

  • credmond January 30, 2008 (12:14 am)

    I’m pretty happy with City Light so far this year. The changes and upgrades they’ve made since last summer have allowed me to have electricity even when many around me didn’t. This suggests that City Light is getting a real grip on both issues facing them – an unhappy service community and what appears to be a maintenance-starved infrastructure.

  • Huindekmi January 30, 2008 (7:48 am)

    WSB, do you know if that map is available online anywhere? From the vantage point shown, my home may or may not be in the targeted area. Hard to tell.

  • WSB January 30, 2008 (8:30 am)

    Scott at City Light tried to get us a copy on disc (it was too big to e-mail) because I was hoping to post more details, but the disc didn’t work out – I’ll ask him if it’s online anywhere or if it CAN be.

  • Paul January 30, 2008 (11:22 am)

    Does anyone know how the neighborhoods were selected? It looks like they are focusing mostly on the more affluent areas of West Seattle.

  • Huindekmi January 30, 2008 (12:27 pm)

    Just a guess, but the blue area (section given first priority) also happens to be mostly the areas most exposed to the direction of typical storm winds. Shores and western facing slopes.
    If their primary concern is trees hitting power lines during high wind, it would make sense to focus on the areas most affected by the wind.

  • Herman January 30, 2008 (12:34 pm)

    This is foolish. The correct answer is to bury the power lines, not destroy our remaining trees. Expensive, but safe, and can you imagine how beautiful this area would be without those lines?

  • CM January 30, 2008 (2:46 pm)

    Can’t really tell from the picture, but there seems to be about a 2 block gap between the south end of the red section and the north boundary of the blue section, right under a street name I can’t make out.

    Anyone that was there remember what street that is? There’s a tree in my neighbor’s back yard (just off Thistle St) that has been pruned by City Light before but is in desperate need of it again, and my power feed is right through the middle of it.

  • credmond January 30, 2008 (4:12 pm)

    City Light did discuss this at a Morgan Community meeting last year. The issue isn’t just cost, with buried utilities, they are typically filled with nitrogen gas to keep them dry, which adds an element of cost and maintenance which isn’t the case with poles. Also, with buried lines the occurrence of breaks makes repair a more difficult and longer-to-complete task. Not that undergrounding utilities isn’t a good goal and not that the few areas in WS where this is true don’t look that much nicer. Just adding a few other elements to the equation other than cost.

    By the way, a street can request undergrounding but each resident on the street must agree to it and each resident will be charged a linear-foot cost that is – alas – unbelievably expensive – on the order of $1000 a yard (three feet) – in my case, for instance, I’ve got a corner lot with an aggregate linear distance of 90 feet – that would cost me $30,000 – a cost I’m not willing to make. City Light reps indicated that very few areas actually do this because of the cost. The cost is not born by the users of the whole system, but only those who are directly benefiting from the undergrounding. Basically there’s no incentive to do this unless one wanted to float the idea of a city-wide bond or levy. Bottom line, it’s even more expensive than putting in a new sidewalk.

  • credmond January 30, 2008 (4:14 pm)

    An addendum…

    The correct time to do undergrounding is when the land is actually being developed – as with High Point and the Sylvan Ridge development. It’s cheap at that stage because there’s no curbing or sidewalks to rip into. So, one more advantage of High Point is no street poles except for lights which are stand-alone poles with no wires visible.

  • WSB January 30, 2008 (6:46 pm)

    CM – they’re not going as far south as Thistle. You can call (see previous thread) if there is a specific tree you think needs SCL attention.

  • Eddie January 31, 2008 (7:08 am)

    Paul – Everything is not some sort of conspiracy against the poor – check out the reply from a City Light person on the other thread on this subject:

    Where they describe a very “business-like” approach to their tree trimming plan – focused on known areas of risk, not “more affluent” areas. The comment in the link also provides a contact where you can report trees that you think need to be trimmed.

  • Paul January 31, 2008 (1:58 pm)

    Of course not everything is a conspiracy against the poor, but sometimes lower income neighborhoods get the shorter end of city services. Sometimes the neighborhood bears some responsibility for it, sometimes not. Still, I don’t think it is ever a bad idea to question services that ignore those neighborhoods in favor of high income neighborhoods, and hope you are not implying that such disparities should never be questioned. I do appreciate the SCL response, and hope that it will truly act on individual reports from other neighborhoods as well.

  • Bill Brugnoli November 22, 2008 (1:03 pm)

    My comments and concerns with this SCL program would appear very different from most of yours. I’m a homeowner in the Fremont neighborhood who is working to prevent SCL from pruning my trees, at least to the 10′ distance they are claiming is necessary for reasons mentioned in their comments to you all, and in some of the concerns mentioned in youe notes to this blog. I’m attemtping to get them to be more reasonable in both the necessity decision and/or in their distance criteria since the trees in question are older and grow at a much slower rate, maybe 1 to 2 inches a year. I’m also attempting to get compensation for the damage their proposed pruning would do to both the health of the trees in question and to my property values, as a result of the visual disfigurement which would be noticeable to anyone looking at the property for the first time. Though they claim immunity from damage compensation due to the easement provisions in my title, I can’t see how exercising such a right, even through an esaement, would allow them to escape the compensation laws in both State and Federal Constitutional guidelines for what to me amounts to a “taking” under the Eminent Domain Laws.
    Anyone have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions for my concerns?

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