FOLLOWUP: Disputed tree cut down at site of proposed 4532 42nd SW development

While chainsaws are certainly busy around the city during this break between tree-toppling storms, some tree-cutting in West Seattle this morning had nothing to do with the weather. We learned about it via this video tweet:

Twitter user @n7gon noticed the tree-cutting on the site of the proposed mixed-use project at 4532 42nd SW and asked us about it. You might recall our report about the latest Southwest Design Review Board meeting related to that site – at which board members told the development team to design the project around one particular tree, though the owner-developers had received an opinion that the tree fell short of being what the city considered “exceptional.” They said keeping the tree would present challenges including fewer units and fewer offstreet-parking spaces. They also said that the tree would likely die when the site north of theirs is redeveloped, a site under different ownership, currently holding a single-family house but zoned, as is most of that area, for something much bigger.

Now the tree’s gone (along with others on the site). Nothing in the project’s online files indicated tree-cutting was imminent, so after hearing about it, we went over to see if anyone was still there.

We didn’t find anyone on site, so we e-mailed the property’s owner/developer, West Seattleite Mark Braseth, to ask for comment. He replied with this:

To whom it may concern,

The City of Seattle only regulates exceptional trees on private property over 30 inches in diameter, and limits tree removal on commercially-zoned, privately-owned sites to no more than three trees larger than six inches in diameter within a single year. The City determined that all trees on site were non-exceptional (under 30 inches in diameter), and therefore the three trees taken were allowed to be removed without a permit. The City requires that any new development replace the previously-existing tree canopy with the same or equal amount of tree canopy cover, upon the new trees’ maturity.

As a family development company with long-term roots in the West Seattle community, we are excited to develop this property into something that we can own and be proud of for a long time. We understand that trees are important to the community, and they are important to our project design. We are working with our architects and landscape architect to design a building that includes mature landscaping and large trees that the public can enjoy for the long term future.

Mark Braseth

The city’s tree policy is here.

Back in 2009, under different ownership, the site was approved for a different development that stalled. Braseth bought it earlier this year and brought forth a different proposal which as of last week’s meeting was penciled in as 6-stories, ~75 apartments, 3,813 sq.ft. of commercial space, and offstreet parking for ~63 vehicles (though the site is in a “frequent transit” zone with no requirement for any offstreet parking). One structure on the site was demolished in 2008; the one that remains will be torn down for this project.

28 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Disputed tree cut down at site of proposed 4532 42nd SW development"

  • Terri November 15, 2015 (1:43 pm)

    Tell it to the birds. Tell it to the insects. Tell it to the mircofauna. Tell it to the air.

  • The Lorax November 15, 2015 (2:07 pm)

    I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you sir, at the top of my lungs, oh please do not cut down another one!

  • Ray November 15, 2015 (2:16 pm)

    Not much to see here. The tree was not designated as “exceptional”, so the developer went ahead with their plans as described.

    The system and laws working as designed.

  • Ron Swanson November 15, 2015 (2:46 pm)

    Good. Absolutely asinine to permanently compromise the building’s design to accommodate an unexceptional tree that’s sure to die when it loses half its root ball to development next door.

  • wsea98116 November 15, 2015 (2:51 pm)

    The city reviewed the trees. Developers response was appropriate. Let’s stay focused people- nothing here about dogs except one less tree to pee on. Please keep moving.

  • Diane November 15, 2015 (3:02 pm)

    this comment by developer family did not mention that the tree only missed the mark by .3 inches (that is 3/10 of an inch) as “exceptional”, as determined by the developer-hired-arborists
    did the City of Seattle Arborist ever examine the tree?

  • "greenest green in Seattle" November 15, 2015 (3:50 pm)

    There was a large evergreen tree removed from the SW corner of 44th Ave SW and SW Charlestown a few years ago. Does the city require that tree to have been replaced? Should this be reported to the City Arborist?

  • In the know November 15, 2015 (4:45 pm)

    YES, Seattle City arborist examined and confirmed it was NOT exceptional tree. End of story !!!

  • Northwest November 15, 2015 (5:33 pm)

    It’s about time locals start carving into this ever changing landscape now known as Seattle bravo the local development! Was a nice guaranteed parking spot there over the weekends now with the fence up, no.

  • chemist November 15, 2015 (5:49 pm)

    For fun, you can read up on the director’s rule for exceptional trees at director’s rule 16-2008 and read up on regulations for developed land and when species of trees become exceptional at certain diameters. There are also additional reviews if it’s a steep slope/landslide-prone type ECA area. The only ECA designation for the plot of land appears to be that of “salmon watershed” area.

  • the98116 November 15, 2015 (7:10 pm)

    I was very sad when I walked by this morning and saw (no pun intended) what had been done. While the developer had the right to cut down the trees, I guess, his statement seems a bit callus. Seems a shame the tree couldn’t be used for the junction Christmas tree across the street in the park.

  • MrsT November 15, 2015 (7:26 pm)

    Greenest Green, that is my neighbor, that tree was dead and they had to cut it down. They taped the order from the city to it for a week before they did it.

  • Huck November 16, 2015 (6:17 am)

    There is no story here. No laws were broken. Move on people.

  • Elly November 16, 2015 (8:06 am)

    Doesn’t “off-street” parking mean NO parking?? Traffic and parking had gotten so bad in the last 4 years. When will our community do something? Petitions? Townhalls? Anyone?

    • WSB November 16, 2015 (8:24 am)

      @Elly – “Offstreet parking” is the phrase I use to distinguish from “street parking” – if parking spaces are proposed/built to be part of a development, those are “offstreet parking spaces.” Regarding doing something – are you involved with your nearest neighborhood group? With the West Seattle Transportation Coalition? Those are great places to start, and pretty much all of them need more help/involvement. – TR

  • datamuse November 16, 2015 (8:21 am)

    If you’re concerned about trees, Nature Consortium can always use volunteers.

  • "greenest green in Seattle" November 16, 2015 (8:21 am)

    Mrs T
    I did see the taped sign that the tree had to come down but the sign also said that another tree would be planted. Is your neighbor planning to do this?

  • dsa November 16, 2015 (9:41 am)

    Look at the log. Some one else should have measured it. It’s pretty difficult to get an accurate measurement of something like that to within a half an inch. Other factors were at work against it here.

  • John November 16, 2015 (10:01 am)

    Diane inadvertently raised a crucial fault in the tree codes.

    The “exceptional tree” designation actually lessens Seattle’s private canopy.


    By leaving property owners with a decision. If allowed to stay, the tree will soon grow to the “exceptional tree” designation with all of the restrictions. If allowed to grow 1/3 of an inch, the property owner loses all control over the tree’s future.

    At the “exceptional tree” designation, the tree on private property, becomes a public tree with all of the maintenance, liability and associated building
    lot restrictions born solely by the property owner. Yet all of the benefits cited by Diane and tree activists are born by the public.

    Now, with such a rule, what knowledgeable property owner wouldn’t opt for removing the tree to protect their investment?

    It is heartening to see that most of the posts here are in support of individual property rights vs. trees, a notable change on WSB.

  • lookingforlogic November 16, 2015 (10:45 am)

    Sneakily cutting down the tree early on a Sunday morning. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  • dsa November 16, 2015 (10:53 am)

    1/3 of an inch makes it an even closer call.

  • bolo November 16, 2015 (11:01 am)

    About supporting individual property rights: Would you also support this WS church’s rights to create a parking lot in the lot it is planning to purchase?

  • Should be surprised, but not November 16, 2015 (12:26 pm)

    According to DPD, the tree would have been reviewed during the MUP process in more depth by the city’s arborist. Diane’s point about how close the developer’s arborists cited the size of the tree and the fact that it was cut down early on a Sunday morning is an indicator that the size may have been inaccurate in the second EDG packet by the applicant’s arborist. This size discrepancy may have come forth during the MUP review. Funny, now that standard review process can’t happen. In any case, from reading the notes on WSB, it appears there was clear direction provided at the DRB meeting a few weeks back that the project was approved to move forward under the condition the tree stayed. It will be interesting to see how the city/DPD handles this situation.
    Mrs T, if you download the EDG packet from the city website and review the page with the arborists’ brief letters towards the end of the packet, both arborists indicated the tree was in good health. What makes you think the tree was dead? If it was, there are a lot of ‘dead’ trees in WS.

    • WSB November 16, 2015 (12:44 pm)

      SBSBN – The “dead” tree, confusingly, related to another site that was brought up earlier in the comment thread – not this one – 44th/Charlestown.

  • dpd356 November 16, 2015 (1:51 pm)

    Having lived in West Seattle for 20+ years, during lunch I will often check in on the WSB. When I know a post is sure to have some entertaining comments I will read those as well. This thread is no exception. All proper steps taken and rules adhered to by the parties involved, and someone wants to measure for a fraction of an inch? I imagine the steps taken and man hours wasted in the permit process were just as ridiculous. Wow do people need to find more important things to be concerned about. Funny thing about trees, they grow to a point where they need to come down, and then another one eventually grows. Thankfully I can go back to work now!

  • Bradley November 17, 2015 (3:05 pm)

    So, tell me again how all of this high-density housing is supposed to be good for the environment? Everywhere it’s been going up there are fewer and fewer trees around.

  • wessyder November 19, 2015 (2:01 pm)

    Is that profanity right at the start of the vid? Not that I care ;)

    • WSB November 19, 2015 (2:18 pm)

      Didn’t sound like it to me but I did try to get a no-sound copy of the clip from the tweeter, though it would have missed the sound of the tree falling; wasn’t able to. – TR

Sorry, comment time is over.