Alki “Flower Houses” tree plea: Trying to stop the trim


If you’ve ever passed the “Flower Houses” on Alki Ave, you’d remember them – two of the few houses left among the condos (map). We’ve received multiple notes about a protest campaign brewing over the reported plans of the condos next door to trim the big tree you see in the photo. We first heard about it, and received the above photo, from tenant Alma Taylor-Smyth, who wrote:

My husband, nephew, and I live at 1396 Alki (the left-hand house in the attached photo taken by my nephew, William Harman), and our landlady, Randie Stone, lives at 1400. She is the one who turned the flower houses into the gorgeous landmarks that they are today. We moved in in February, and every day someone local comes up to us to tell us how long they’ve loved the houses and how much they enjoy seeing the beautiful plantings, and someone who isn’t local comes up to ask about the houses and tell us how beautiful they are.

Randie was informed last week by the home owners’ association at 1402 Alki (the condo on the right in the photo) that they would be hiring someone to “trim” the branches of the 2 Douglas fir trees on her property that are on their side of the property line, although they admit that this would be something like 80% of the total branches the trees have!

I cannot imagine anyone with a soul who would think this constitutes an improvement to a spot that brings so many people enjoyment every day. Mind you, the trees were there before the condo was ever built.

I’m not a lawyer, and it does seem like the condo owners have the right to trim branches on their side of the property line (although I don’t see how their right can possibly extend to an action that would almost certainly kill the trees). However, my guess is that if they do go on to trim those branches, a great many people will see what they’ve done and wonder how they could have done such a thing and whether it could have been prevented. What I would love is to find a way to let those people know ahead of time that the condo owners want to cut off all those branches, so that they can let the condo owners know how outrageous an act that would be.

Randie has given so much to this community in providing so much beauty year-round. Is there any way that the community can give back, in the form of helping to convince the condo owners not to denude these trees that contribute to the beauty and serenity of this oasis among the condos?

We also heard from Gayle, who wrote, “The residents at the 1402 Condominiums want to butcher this beautiful tree for the sake of improving their view! They say it’s raising and cracking the sidewalk, but the owner says, ‘Not true! The sidewalk was cracked before the tree grew! Now those butchers intend to whack off half of my tree for their view!’ There are indiscriminate tree killers on the loose on Alki and they must be stopped! Please let @ 206 937-4856 know that you are pro-nature and anti-pettiness!”

We just passed the site and the tree hasn’t been trimmed yet; there’s now a big pink sign out front of the “Flower House” urging people who enjoy the tree to hang a ribbon to show their opposition to the reported trimming plan. We have a call out to the management company, where we were told the executive “who’s been dealing with this” is out of town, but we told them we’d be posting about this today, and they said they’ll have somebody else get back to us with a comment. We’ll update when we get that call back. Meantime, here’s a closer look at the tree (sent by Gayle):


45 Replies to "Alki "Flower Houses" tree plea: Trying to stop the trim"

  • Arbor Heights Mom July 9, 2008 (4:35 pm)

    I hope they check with the city before they think of cutting that tree down. One of my neighbors asked a new neighbor to cut down a beautiful 100 or more year old cedar tree and the city wrote them a fine for $4000. Apparently there are some regulations about removing trees close to the water as they help prevent erosion.

  • mellaw6565 July 9, 2008 (5:11 pm)

    If the condo owners take out the tree, then I think all dog walkers should allow their dogs to lift their legs on the corner of the condo building instead:) LOL – just a thought!

  • Deb in Morgan Junction July 9, 2008 (5:16 pm)

    I love the flower houses! I am always afraid as I drive/walk by that a big “notice of land use” sign will be up in front……just like it has popped up in front of tons of houses in West Seattle. Keep up the good work (I’ve always wanted to stop by and ask for some gardening tips) and I will be calling to complain!!! Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Guy Olson July 9, 2008 (5:29 pm)

    First off those houses are GREAT!! However I really don’t think”the tree” really really fits with the houses “look”. The condo’s do have a right to trim the tree. But how much view are they actually losing? It looks like another case out with the old and in with the new/let’s turn this into a cold Miami Beach looking place.

    “He who has the most money wins” A. Hole/ George W. Bush, 2008

  • BQ July 9, 2008 (5:32 pm)

    This reaction seems a bit dramatic…. if the branches are on their side of the property line, don’t they have the legal right to remove them? Think of it this way – it will also improve the view of the flower house for passers-by.

    No Dog In This Fight

  • Bubba July 9, 2008 (5:52 pm)

    sure looks like the owner (who makes a living selling WS Condos?) has pruned branches on her side.

  • cami July 9, 2008 (5:52 pm)

    The tree was there long before the condo next door. I hope they trim it with great care.

  • tired of tree killers and development July 9, 2008 (5:59 pm)

    Give me a break – they knew before they bought there precious view condo’s that the trees were there and it partially blocks there views. So what – it also gives them some privacy, keeps there condo cooler on sunny days and also is great habitat for birds and wildlife. God forbid they should let it be to continue growing proud and beautiful. I hope they leave it alone – please!

  • mellaw6565 July 9, 2008 (6:01 pm)

    I’m curious – did the condo owners’ association give a reason why they wanted to trim the tree? It doesn’t appear to be a threat to the condo structures and if I remember the area correctly – it would only give the 1st 3 balconies a better view of the street. So are there other issues?

  • JanS July 9, 2008 (6:34 pm)

    I could be wrong, but having spoken with the OP, I understand that it really is just to improve the view for the condo people. And, yes, the condo management is within their rights to trim what is on their side, although if not done correctly could very well kill the trees. I understand the tree has been given sort of a reprieve while there is a survey done to see where exactly the property line is. I had this done to me when I was a homeowner, but no one ever told me. It was a beautiful Lebanon Cedar, and while my DH and I were gone one Sunday afternoon, the neighbors took a chainsaw and just cut straight up from the fence…and, yes, it killed the tree. They didn’t bother to hire a professional – just butchered it.

    Maybe an expert, perhaps from the City Arborist, could help with this and see what can be done that will keep the tree healthy.

  • JM July 9, 2008 (6:35 pm)

    A certified arborist will not remove more than 20% of live foliage, so if they admit to plans of removing 80%, the tree would most likely become hazardous and you would easily have recourse.

  • J July 9, 2008 (7:12 pm)

    I hate trees. Good riddance.

  • CarolPB July 9, 2008 (7:28 pm)

    My understanding of the law is that they have a right to trim branches on their side of the property line, as long it does not DAMAGE the tree

  • Jaime Gummer July 9, 2008 (8:01 pm)

    They should keep the tree and get the rid of all those flowers. That house is a hot tranny mess.

  • Katie July 9, 2008 (8:15 pm)

    My neighbor did this to us a few weeks ago. I came home and 3/4ths of my beautiful tree was gone! Not only that, but she left it looking like a funky Dr. Seuss then had the nerve to come over and tell me she needed to cut more of it down.

  • scian July 9, 2008 (8:37 pm)

    Tree, bye-bye now.
    Neighbors, stop to smell the roses and view the flowers. See trees elsewhere.
    R. Stone will live to die in those homes and they are not going anywhere anytime soon.
    For trees, Lincoln Park if you must or I’ve got some Alders and Maples that are just itching for some messianic worship before they get their 5 year trim this winter.

  • MikeDady July 9, 2008 (9:41 pm)

    Good a time as any to put in a plug for Seattle based Plant Amnesty.

    Plant Amnesty, 20+ years of effort educating the public about the best way to care for trees and shrubs.

  • mellaw6565 July 9, 2008 (11:26 pm)

    Thanks for the reminder Mike – I had forgotten about them!

  • J July 9, 2008 (11:45 pm)

    I’m a different J, and I think we’ve been way too cavalier about cutting down trees. We need more of them, not fewer. And a tree is a nice view, too. If you want to enjoy the Sound view, take a few steps to the side, or–here’s an idea!–walk across the street!

  • Jeannie July 9, 2008 (11:48 pm)

    The email is, I believe. Shame on the condo people – it’s all about greed. And long may the flower house thrive!

  • WSB July 9, 2008 (11:59 pm)

    We’re still waiting for that call back, fwiw – TR

  • acemotel July 10, 2008 (12:03 am)

    The tree may have been there before the condos, but it was certainly not that tall. I think the law is pretty clear cut (pun not intended). Landowners can trim branches or roots that extend on to their property. I would imagine every property owner would appreciate (and even expect) that right. Well, life is good if this is something to get excited about.

  • S July 10, 2008 (11:22 am)

    I like trees but feel like property owners should get some say about their property as long as it is within established regulations. After all, they don’t live in a park or else they wouldn’t be property owners. On one extreme I guess you could say that we should all pay the property owners to maintain this tree if it is such a public benefit?

  • beaboveit July 10, 2008 (12:18 pm)

    Here is where you can find information about trees/landscaping in the city of Seattle. It does appear that the tree is in a property that is impacted in part, considered an ECA (environmentally critical area) and there are stricter regulations that apply.

  • beaboveit July 10, 2008 (12:29 pm)

    There is some good info on
    …”cannot destroy the structural integrity or the cosmetic symmetry and appeal of a tree by improper trimming.”

  • Bubba July 10, 2008 (1:16 pm)

    From that enotes link

    Good neighbors communicate, resolving problems to their mutual benefit.

    Judging from the seattle times article today Randi missed this memo on being a good neighbor.

    “you touch my tree, I’ll sue you”…that’s the kind of communication that is loose loose for everyone and the tree.

    Also interesting to note the difference of angles on the photos between the paper and the WSB. Obviously Tylor-Smith found an angle that minimized the appearance of the tree’s impact (and many folks who responded here bit on it hard).

    How wide does a douglas fir get? The trunks can get over 5 feet in dia. so I would figure the branch footprint to get around 30ft…on a 50 wide lot? At what point would you folks consider it OK to prune?

    I would think that the responsible tree loving owner would maintain a tree growing on their property line so that it didn’t get to this point. Obviously she has pruned it on her side to suit her tastes but denies her neighbors the same consideration? If you love a tree so much you should maintain it (or at least make an effort) to avoid putting it in harms way like this.

    I’m with the Times on this….our hypocrisy meters are pegging out.

  • rjb July 10, 2008 (1:19 pm)

    Man, the Alki condo people seem to enjoy whining about things that already existed before they moved in. First, they complain about noise from the beach across the street. You know, ’cause Alki when they first moved in was a very quiet place. Then, the smoke from the public fires is suddenly blowing near them, something that never happened before they moved in. Now, this tree sprung up overnight, they don’t remember it being there when they moved in, so it needs to go.
    I have zero sympathy for these people. Stop whining about things that were around before you were there. If it was such a bother, why did you buy that condo?

  • WSB July 10, 2008 (1:21 pm)

    We have no editorial position on this.
    However, having been to the site, I can also tell you that if you think the photos sent to us by those involved “minimized” the impact, you could also say the way the Times chose to shoot and run the photo “maximized” the impact. The buildings are on a curve and probably the only real way to tell the impact would be to shoot from inside one of those condos. If any owners/tenants are reading this and care to contact us, we would be happy to come over and shoot that view, we work 24/7 and could be there in half an hour.
    Meantime, the management company STILL has not bothered to call us back with their side of the story. And as I mentioned in the original report, we didn’t just leave a message with voice mail, we talked to an actual person and let them know we were publishing it shortly and therefore would like to give them the chance to have their viewpoint included too.

  • Erik July 10, 2008 (1:38 pm)

    Richard Vincent and CondoManagements…lol. Good luck with getting them to contact you. When I owned a condo in Boulevard Park I had to deal with them.
    They were good at taking your monthly condo dues and whatever assessments, and even sending us delinquent notices because of their shoddy bookkeeping.
    As for the tree, let them cut it down. Then plant some nice bamboo that will grow 50′.

  • Bubba July 10, 2008 (1:47 pm)

    Fair enough WSB but I don’t really see the point of an examination of how the tree is impacting the neighbors now, if Randi’s stance is going to be to continue not to maintain her tree’s impact on anyone but herself and the tree is going to continue to grow into as much as half the neighboring lot’s width. What’s the point? If she is going to take this selfish stance and not work with her neighbors then the tree is certainly going to loose out in the end.

    This really isn’t a story about views or condo development, because the law’s pretty clear; it’s a story about how even a tree knows that to be unyielding is only going to end in disaster.

  • cami July 10, 2008 (2:38 pm)

    It’s worth a visit to see the actual tree and not to rely on pictures or articles. As for Randie, she’s a dedicated Alki resident and has contributed greatly to the Alki community.

  • B July 10, 2008 (2:51 pm)

    Cutting it down seems extreme, but it does look like it could use a little trimming and shaping. Can’t it be “topped” to control height? I don’t know much about how to trim trees, but it seems like there is more to it that views. Given that Alma is a Realtor it seems like she would also be familiar with the laws and more aware of her neighbors.

  • WSB July 10, 2008 (3:02 pm)

    BTW, we did finally get a call back – but it was a request to take the company’s phone number out of this post. When I tried to get comment/explanation about the situation, the person who called said they would have to handle that another way, and ended the call.

  • 1402 Homeowners Association July 10, 2008 (3:44 pm)

    Hi, I’m Wendy, the president of the 1402 Condo Association. I’d like to make a comment in response to the tree trimming controversy. We have never talked about cutting down the tree, topping it off, or trimming it back so that it would die. In fact, we are willing to give up some of our view so that it can grow. We bought our units having been told by Randie that we had unblockable and wireless views, which is no longer the case for the lower units.

    Since the tree has grown to this size in the last four years, the arborists have said that the tree could be blown down in a wind storm–on our building, her house, or the cars below. The root system is beginning to buckle the sidewalk, and will eventually pose a problem for the walkers.

    Over the last three years, we have offered to move the tree to the back, which is no longer possible, and replace with a different tree, but Randie refused.

    Recently, we tried to meet with Randie to discuss and come up with a solution that would work for both of us, and she refused. We have shared our arborist’s report as well as the legal research with her and her attorney, which we did not have to do.

    It is our sincere desire to meet with her and find an amicable resolution.
    – 1402 Homeowners Association

  • WSB July 10, 2008 (3:49 pm)

    Thank you for taking time to post your response. We will also pull this out to a separate new post atop the home page, and will also seek comment from Ms. Stone. — TR

  • Barkdust July 10, 2008 (4:14 pm)

    Thanks, 1402. It appears that the tree is on your property. If so, you should do what you want with it and polite neighbors should keep their yaps shut. If the community really loves that tree, they can offer to pay you to leave it alone and also take responsibility for further damage to the sidewalk, potential injuries to pedestrians, windfall damage etc. etc.

  • Gina July 10, 2008 (5:08 pm)

    “We bought our units having been told by Randie that we had unblockable and wireless views, which is no longer the case for the lower units.”

    Was Ms. Stone the original sales agent for the condo?

    I’ll be interested to read further dialogue between the two parties.

  • Willy The Saw July 10, 2008 (6:18 pm)

    Some of these posts are quite absurd IMNSHO.

    First of all, blaming a management company for decisions and actions taken by a Homeowners Association is like blaming Mike Tyson’s agent for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear off or Ozzy Osbourne’s agent for biting a bat’s head off.

    Property Managers do what they are hired to do….manage the building’s affairs. They wouldn’t have an opinion or a say in the matter, especially since it’s not their property that’s being encroached upon.

    These aren’t apartments; they are private homes being encroached on by a neighbor’s property.

    This blog is vilifying the wrong people and the management company has absolutely no control over the actions of the homeowners association.

    Also, the 1402 people have a right to the view that according to the media was sold to them by Randie Stone.

    This should be negotiated between the affected neighbors and the rest of us should stay out of it. It’s private property after all.

    This isn’t newsworthy. It’s a curiosity like a wounded possum lying in the road.

  • sean July 10, 2008 (8:06 pm)


    Did the arborist the 1402 Alki HOA hire have an interest in seeing the tree taken down? That is was it a consultation from a Tree Service who makes their money taking down trees?
    Was the arborist certified in the Tree Risk Assessor method required for any tree risk assessment in the city of Seattle?
    Just wondering as someone who deals with tree risk assessments every day. To me that tree looks like low risk and the arborist was being subjective to the needs of the HOA.

    Oh yeah and some free legal advice. The 1402 does have the right to for self taking of anything over their property line. However, they are not allowed to perform irrevocable harm to the tree in that it causes the tree to die. If the tree dies from 1402’s actions the tree’s owner is allowed compensation for the lost value. I am pretty sure this is known as the Massachusetts Rule.

  • sean July 10, 2008 (8:08 pm)

    No one ever stops for the wounded possum but if you did and told me it would be news and I would think highly of you.

  • Willy The Saw July 10, 2008 (10:25 pm)

    News would be re-hitting the possum to assure it’s demise and then returning to pick it up, placing it in a bag, freezing it solid, sawing into 2″ discs on a band saw and then using it for crab bait. Works quite well actually. So do racoons.

  • dis July 10, 2008 (11:17 pm)

    ha ha ha willy. This is far more interesting than the tree fracas.

  • helium3 July 11, 2008 (10:58 am)

    Regardless of “views” and “buckling sidewalks” and all that rot, some trees are simply not appropriate for planting in ones and twos in residential neighborhoods. The tree depicted in the photo doesn’t look at all like a Douglas Fir to me. Looks sorta more like a Western Red Cedar. If it IS a Douglas Fir, then it’s certainly not appropriate for that spot and should be taken down ASAP. That way, something more appropriate can be planted in its place.

    Oh yeah, and if someone did a bunch of pruning on a tree of mine without consulting me first I’d salt their ‘effing lawn.

  • Walt July 12, 2008 (9:43 am)

    A friendly compromise is what keeps a good relationship with neighbors.

    The tree won’t die if trimmed properly. Especially a Doug Fir as they extremely hardy.

    Maybe the issue is that Randie enjoys the power of having “control” over her neighbor’s views.

  • glocson July 18, 2008 (9:54 pm)

    Everyone likes a little trim now and then. Especially some strange, trim.

Sorry, comment time is over.