FOLLOWUP: West Seattle tree-cutting investigation continues; council to be briefed


By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The investigation of illegal tree-cutting in part of the Duwamish Head Greenbelt is in the Seattle Police Department‘s hands, the City Attorney’s Office told WSB today.

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.

In case you’re catching up, the tree cutting happened in January, when an unidentified citizen reported it to the city arborist, who is part of SDOT, which owns one of the two parcels involved. Then on February 5th, a lawyer representing one of the responsible parties – identifying his client only as a property owner on the 3200 block of 35th SW (which holds 13 privately owned parcels, according to county records) – sent this letter to Jesús Aguirre, Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation (which owns the other parcel involved), headed “Disclosure of Tree Pruning / Cutting Work on City-Owned Properties,” offering to “work with Parks to rectify any damage that may have been done to city property in the course of this work.”

That offer included a restoration plan whose outline we requested and obtained from the City Attorney’s Office earlier this week, and included in our Wednesday followup.

But the tree-cutting investigation didn’t come to public light until Seattle Times reporter Daniel Beekman published a story one week ago tonight. His next story indicated the city apparently had not originally disclosed that they had known about this for so long.

We published stories on Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday, and now this one. Councilmember Herbold quickly jumped into the situation, visiting the site with City Attorney Holmes on Saturday.

The city apparently has not had direct contact with anyone involved, CAO spokesperson Kimberly Mills told us while replying to our latest questions today: “We’ve had contact only from one lawyer representing one client, so there has been no conversation from our end with any homeowners. That’s SPD’s job.”

Some commenters have wondered where Mayor Ed Murray stands on this (aside from the brief mention on Saturday). So we inquired with his office too. Via press secretary Jason Kelly, we received this statement:

“The City will get to the bottom of this wanton destruction of a critical natural area,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “This incident is much more than thoughtless vandalism of public property; cutting of these trees put this neighborhood at risk. After experiencing the wettest winter in Seattle history, we should all be aware that treed slopes protect homes from dangerous, life-threatening landslides. We must prosecute these perpetrators to the full extent of the law and ensure that no homeowner has a financial incentive to cut trees illegally.”

That financial incentive, of course, would have to do with the view. As we reported on Wednesday, Councilmember Herbold told us she’d learned the King County Assessor’s Office had received a request to revisit nearby properties. We went directly to that office to find out more about what was happening and also about how views figure into property assessments – early in the coverage of all this, there was clearly some confusion.

Assessor’s Office spokesperson Bailey Stober helped us get answers to our questions, including, from Assessor John Wilson: “In follow up to discovery of the tree cutting incident , I sent members of my residential appraisal team to revisit the neighborhood to verify and update property characteristics such as view codes for the affected properties. It is very important that changes in property characteristics are captured timely to ensure uniform property assessments and the equitable distribution of the property tax burden.”

How and when are views assessed? “We physically inspect all properties in the county at least once every six years to validate property characteristics and capture changes that occur over time. In cases where significant property characteristic changes occur during interim years, appraisal team members may revisit individual properties or neighborhoods. For instance when landslides affect properties or new construction occurs. Property owners can contact our office and we will evaluate the necessity whether to inspect in advance of the next scheduled neighborhood inspection.”

To clarify, though, they’re not being re-assessed for taxes paid in the current year: “State law is quite clear that Assessors may not retroactively revalue property unless to correct an error. It is helpful to understand that current year property taxes are based on property assessed values determined for the prior year. For example, the 2015 property assessment is based on property market values as of 1/1/2015 and is used to set the property tax amount that is billed and payable in 2016. Updates or changes to a property’s characteristics, if they affect a property’s value, will generally be captured during each year’s revaluation and reflected in the following year’s taxes.”

Our last question – how exactly do views factor into assessed property values? “We maintain an extensive set of data characteristics on each property in King County. These may be accessed online at During new construction of a residence, multi-family, or commercial/industrial property improvements, appraisers visit each property conducting an in-depth review of the specific features and characteristics of the buildings and improvements. Thereafter we regularly re-inspect the property (and neighborhood) to review characteristics on file, validate current status, and update changes if necessary. Regarding land, important property characteristics are views, topography, access to the property, and whether it is buildable if currently vacant. Views, like many property characteristics, do not always remain the same over the life of the property — they can improve, deteriorate, or just go away if a new structure is constructed on an adjacent property and now blocks the view. Washington State’s property tax laws anticipate this by requiring Assessors to maintain regular re-inspection programs.”

In the meantime, the major question remains what will happen to the persons responsible for destroying the trees on city-owned parcels 132403-9099 and 132403-9086 – and when. Lots of questions unanswered, and some unasked, as well.

One thing that appears to have been accomplished so far – a heightened awareness of damage and destruction done to public trees. Both in comments and e-mail, concerns about other publicly owned areas has come up; we’ll be following up on those too, as well as this.

67 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: West Seattle tree-cutting investigation continues; council to be briefed"

  • Jeanie April 2, 2016 (12:09 am)

    I signed the petition – please consider also doing so,  if you haven’t already. 

  • tigersgreen April 2, 2016 (12:24 am)

    I think the people who cut trees down not on their property so they have a better view, need to be heavily fined like four or five thousand dollars per tree and have to pay for the replanting of the trees cut down. And maybe community hours working with the Seattle Parks and Recreation.

  • Joe Szilagyi April 2, 2016 (6:31 am)

    I’m regretting not putting a request in my initial petition for a review of whether companies that do illegal tree cuts could possibly get city business licenses suspended or revoked for ongoing abuses based on comments I’ve seen or heard since this began. I’ll have to add that as a follow-on request, on the side — apparently there are a good number of licensed ‘companies’ that will do this.  

  • Jayjay April 2, 2016 (6:49 am)

    State law, RCW 64.12.030, provides that when you cut down or damage trees that don’t belong to you, you must pay 3 times the value of the damag.e caused. In a case like this, it seems like that could easily reach thousands of dollars per tree.


  • SKB April 2, 2016 (7:22 am)

    Thank you, WSB, for the continued coverage of this issue.  This story is of great interest to the community and we appreciate investigative reporting and updates!

  • JFALL April 2, 2016 (7:33 am)

    This is not the first time trees have been cut in this exact same area.  This is the third time in nine years.  We’re previous tree cuttings permitted by the proper authorities?

  • pagefive April 2, 2016 (7:34 am)

    Thank you for your thorough and ongoing reporting of this important matter, WSB. 

  • willistheclown April 2, 2016 (7:45 am)

    his is not the first time trees have been cut in this exact same area.  This is the third time in nine years. “

    So they grow back like weeds?

    • Jfall April 2, 2016 (9:19 am)

      Different trees near previous tree cuttings

    • John H. April 2, 2016 (10:09 am)

      Yes, amazingly, trees grow back. 

      But unlike shallow rooted weeds, these trees are critical to holding back the soil on such a steep slope (dead tree roots don’t do this so well), suck up much more water from the soil during heavy rains, filter far more CO2 out of the air, and provide much more cooling due to sucking up the solar radiation that offsets the man-made heat island that a big treeless concrete city becomes.

      These trees, even if they are non-native, cannot be equated to “weeds”.

  • anonyme April 2, 2016 (7:54 am)

     Many of the outfits that do this kind of thing aren’t licensed to begin with.  They don’t know the laws and don’t care.  Any licensed arborist and even most licensed landscapers understand the difference between public and private land, and know that permits are required for cutting on this scale.  I completely agree that licenses should be revoked – if they exist.  This mess, and many other butcher jobs I’ve witnessed, looks anything but professional.

    What might be in order is a crackdown on illegal landscapers.  This tree massacre is just one example of the dangers involved with these ‘businesses’.  They also have no regard for pesticide laws or practices.  They will spray anything they’re paid to, anywhere, any time, without knowledge or training – much less licensing (state law requires a pesticide applicators license).  The landscapers aren’t entirely to blame; most homeowners hire the cheapest bunch of guys they can find, and don’t care that they aren’t legal and don’t follow safe or legal guidelines.

    Please note that I am NOT suggesting that the homeowners in this case are not liable.  This was a deliberate, criminal act, and I think they should be criminally and civilly prosecuted to the full extent of the law, which includes treble damages per value of each and every tree that was cut.

    • Robert Dlugosh April 2, 2016 (11:31 am)

      How would you possibly propose to crack down on “illegal landscapers”.  It seems to be nearly impossible considering you can hire someone outside Home Depot to do any work you direct them to do. These folks are usually pretty new to our area and certainly wouldn’t know anything about laws protecting critical areas. In fact it is quite possible that is the way these trees were cut. The homeowner(s) are 100% responsible. They knew exactly what they were doing. 

  • Cass Turnbull April 2, 2016 (7:55 am)

      I have also asked an ex-employee of the department previously known as  DPD if the City can get arborists off the list of companies whose reports are accepted by the City if there is a pattern of mistakes and abuse when doing the site evaluations for properties undergoing development. They are supposed to identify species, location, truck diameters of major trees. They often do not do that correctly and exceptional  and Heritage trees get cut down that should have been retained. I was told that it is very difficult to remove bad arborists from the list. Which is to say, tree ‘hit men’ get kept on the list with no repercussions. 

  • Jim Borrow April 2, 2016 (8:22 am)

    There was an interesting case across the lake in Clyde Hill next to Bellevue. Clyde Hill is the only city in Washington I know of with a view ordinance. The case involved John Olerud, the retired Mariner’s pitcher, and a neighbor whose tree obstructed 9% of Olerud’s otherwise 180 degree view toward Seattle. Although the tree was there well before Olerud bought the property and built his house, the ordinance required that the neighbor take out the tree. What a shame. Here’s the link to the article in Crosscut:

    • colleen April 2, 2016 (11:42 am)

      I fail to see how that case is relevant.   Are you suggesting that we allow homeowners to clear cut an acre and a half of greenbelt if the trees aren’t to their liking?  I’m fairly certain that even Clyde Hill wouldn’t allow that. 

    • ChannelingLewisBlack April 2, 2016 (11:38 pm)

      Olerud was a first baseman.  

  • Jfall April 2, 2016 (8:23 am)

    @willistheclown Previously, Different areas of the same green belt have been cut  in the same “view” area.  Photos show that as existing trees grew tall enough to obstruct views they were cut.  Photos are available in a prior report (comment section) on this blog   This tree cutting only enhanced views that previous jobs began.

  • Tree Hugger April 2, 2016 (8:31 am)

     From what I see in the picture, these saplings that were topped will sprout off the stumps as they have done before for alder and Bigleaf Maple. No need to replant anything.

    Tree Hugger

    • JanS April 2, 2016 (11:34 am)

      you’re an expert? really?

      • Marc April 2, 2016 (6:38 pm)

        Tree Hugger may not be, but, given the look of these trunks it has happened before. They look like 30″ to a pruning. Other mention these have been cut three times in nine years. The multiple trunks of one bark are an indicator of such harvesting, and a means for the root zones to make their comeback in the same place with mor chances for survival.

        IMO a B.S. Biology is not enough to qualify as a tree expert. Just look at the scene. BTW, Big Leaf Maples can be trimmed at the soil level and survive.

        Nature did right by most of these plants. What that slope needs is understory Salal or other native species.

      • Tree Hugger April 3, 2016 (7:31 pm)

         Yes, 38 years in Forestry. To kill these trees you would have to inject the tree boles with a herbicide in a hypo-hatchet in order to keep it from sprouting. The one thing that is bad is the fire hazard that was made below the homeowners house. It should have been bucked into 2-3 foot lengths and not any higher than a foot or so above the ground. One bottle rocket in July landing in this slash could be a catastrophe for the home owner. 

  • heather April 2, 2016 (8:35 am)

    When replanted, I would like to see more mature trees planted versus baby trees.

    • Marc April 2, 2016 (6:39 pm)

      MORE mature trees wild require more soil disturbance than leaving them to recover on their own. 

  • Jack April 2, 2016 (8:52 am)

    Nothing will happen to these people and you can be sure of this.

    Do you think they really care about having to pay more taxes on their property? The city should take measure to block the view for the next 10 years, but nothing will happen as their attorney is already corrupting the case, from felony risk to tax raise on the property, what a joke !

  • lookingforlogic April 2, 2016 (9:17 am)

    We need to reprioritize our values,  my neighbors cut down trees to have a “territorial” view of houses across the gully, of course now they also have a spectacular view of the power lines.

     The best views are the ones you get out of the chair and experience, not OWN.  

    And of course Salty’s at happy hour.

    • Sunuva April 3, 2016 (2:24 pm)

      I agree! We live in such a wonderful area with so many views that everyone can experience. The view outside my windows is all trees, plants, birds, etc, which is the view I prefer at home. However, I can get out and walk just five minutes away for a view of the South Sound and Mt Rainier or drive five minutes to Lincoln Park to all kinds of views. I really fail to understand this need to “own” the view.

  • Justice April 2, 2016 (9:23 am)

    We should hold a peaceful protest in the area to draw more attention to the issue and to put pressure on neighbors and city officials to do what’s right. We all know what that is. 

    • Kathy April 2, 2016 (5:49 pm)

      You’ll be more effective if you email Pete Holmes office as well as Ed Murray and voice your opinion. 

      • chemist April 2, 2016 (9:00 pm)

        Perhaps, but people installing their own bike lane dividers on Cherry St and painting their own crosswalk designs on MLK were able to get fast-tracked by the media coverage.

  • forgotmyname April 2, 2016 (10:35 am)

    @JFALL  So what?   What does that have to do with anything?  Unless you’re implying that since it was cut before and no one was caught that the people who have been caught this time shouldn’t face consequences.  Or is this a case of the homeowners saw tree cutting before hand so should be excused for not knowing it was illegal? 

    I’m curious which of the “you don’t catch every criminal, so I shouldn’t be punished for the crime I was caught committing” or “I saw someone commit a crime before and they didn’t get arrested, so I thought it was OK to commit it myself” you’re trying to imply?

    • Jfall April 2, 2016 (11:04 am)

      Implication is that the same people who have cut or had trees cut in the past were not caught.  This cutting is much bigger and bolder. I think they should be investigated for all tree cuttings in this area and if found guilty be punished for all damage incurred  since 2007.  Just because they think they “got away” with previous damage to the green belt, doesn’t mean they can continue with this illegal behavior

  • Community Member April 2, 2016 (10:55 am)

    @anonyme –

    What license should be revoked?

    Oddly, I looked at Washington’s list of professional licenses, and I don’t see any that apply.

    • AMD April 2, 2016 (12:06 pm)

      Potentially a business license can be revoked (assuming they even had one).

      Arborists themselves have certifications they can obtain (most trades do), and it’s possible to file a complaint and have a specific arborist de-certified (although I’d be very surprised if a certified arborist was involved in this).  And again, that’s an individual certification, not a company.

  • Neighbor April 2, 2016 (11:32 am)

    I don’t get why this is going to be discussed in a closed meeting. This was a crime committed in a public space, to the detriment of the public. The homeowners were ballsy enough to do these acts in broad daylight on public land,  why aren’t  the reprocussions being discussed  public? The entire process needs to be completely transparent for our community. In the past the closed door negotiations have not nearly been enough to create restitution that makes it very detrimental to anyone who commits this crime.

    Why  isn’t Herbold honoring her constituents and insisting  this is a public meeting?

    • Joe Szilagyi April 2, 2016 (11:47 am)

      If I remember correctly it’s settled law (held up in court) that the elected City Attorney is actually the lawyer for the “City of Seattle” as a collective legally defined body, and not  the ‘city of Seattle’ in terms of you or I the voter. The City Attorney isn’t our  attorney — he’s the general counsel of the city government.

      The City Council routinely, I think weekly, has closed sessions with their general counsel — the City Attorney. Sometimes we find out what’s discussed in those meetings, and sometimes not. Off of the top of my head I can think of a half dozen City Council members who’ve mentioned topics to the media of closed meetings before, and now +1 for Councilmember Herbold to be added to that list.

    • Joe Szilagyi April 2, 2016 (11:49 am)

      I should add that the closed sessions are to my understanding usually when the city is at risk of or going to be involved in a lawsuit, certain types of labor negotiations, or something that requires attorney-client privilege. I’m sure an actual lawyer can correct me but I think  that’s the gist of it all.

    • wb April 2, 2016 (11:55 am)

      I was wondering the exact same thing–why closed? not a private affair.

  • tom April 2, 2016 (12:58 pm)

    Big leaf maple, and alder, from what I can tell from the photos and my experience working in greenbelts around West Seattle are the dominant overstory. You can see from one of the photos that evidence of cutting has previously taken place due to aggressive re-sprouting (coppicing). The understory I can see in the picture is native, and sensitive to direct sunlight. If the homeowner is reimbursing the maintenance, lets get some conifers in there (sitka spruce, red cedar, grand fir), and keep the regrowth thinned and healthy.

  • WSeattlelite April 2, 2016 (1:33 pm)

    All of this moral outrage is entirely amusing, and a bit sad.  Can you imagine if people got this upset over the Cities mismanagement of funds instead of voting for Billion dollar levies, or had such a reaction to crimes such as human rights violations and injustice?  The previous suggestions that CNN and BBC ought to be brought in to make an international spectacle of this issue is also entertaining.  Millions of people are being displaced by war and looking for a safe home for their families.  People are getting blown up and religious  and ethnic genocide are alive and well.  It’s too bad these people are not some trees on a hillside in West Seattle because then people would really rally to make a change.  Such a spectacle over some trimmed trees that will either grow back or can be replaced sure make our community seem like detached whiners with some very minor first world problems.  The demand to ruin household views show that the concern is not about trees, it is about  perceived entitlements of those that have and those who don’t as opposed to the environment.  Absolutely hilarious, but deeply sad at the same time in my opinion.

    • colleen April 2, 2016 (2:53 pm)

      What is really sad is that you  refuse to acknowledge that what these property owners did  was a crime and that those responsible are criminals. Why is that?

    • AMD April 2, 2016 (3:51 pm)

      For the fourth time, the fact that other crimes do exist and may affect more people does not negate the fact that this is a crime, it is not a small matter, and it does warrant attention.

      Also for the fourth time, trees are vital to stabilizing hillsides.  Clear cutting was a major contributor to the Oso landslide.  Given that there are completely innocent people living at the bottom of the hillside that is now destabilized and hundreds more drive the major thoroughfare that is also at the bottom of the hillside that was destabilized for a better view, I think perhaps it’s more than just “some trees on a hillside in West Seattle.”  

      I think you need to look at the bigger picture.

    • Alan April 2, 2016 (4:04 pm)

      I don’t see why our being concerned about this issue suggests that we are not also interested in other problems, both locally and globally. I am also puzzled by people that start naming the “bigger” problems and suggesting that the effort should go there instead. Have you ever been wronged, through fraud, accident or theft? Did you tell the police not to bother with investigating or pursuing the known criminal because you felt there were bigger problems? No, I didn’t think so.

    • S April 2, 2016 (5:47 pm)

      It’s not about haves vs have nots, for me anyway, otherwise I’d be against myself. The reason I want the offender’s views reblocked is to deter future cutting. If you can cut, pay a fine, and keep your new view, then frankly I’d be tempted to do that myself, as I can afford it. I’m sure many others would too. If you add criminal charges, view reblocking, and public shaming to the equation, then it’s no longer worth cutting illegally. I’m all for making an example of these people to deter this from happening again.

      • chemist April 2, 2016 (8:51 pm)

        How much money or safety are you willing to risk to detract from any gained views ?

        We no longer have banners on the footbridge over the West Seattle Bridge because of concerns about banners coming loose and becoming random litter.  It’s also a fairly sloped area, making it quite a project to stack shipping containers on a slope and be fairly confident they won’t roll down into admiral way (at least no more than the rest of the hillside during mudslide season).

    • S April 2, 2016 (5:53 pm)

      I also second Alan’s comment above. WSeattleite’s comment is irrational because caring about this doesn’t preclude caring other things.

  • Tree strikes your out April 2, 2016 (2:52 pm)

    So as trees grow and block views or diminish the view does property tax go down? 

    • Alan April 2, 2016 (4:15 pm)

      This has been discussed at length, but the short answer is “yes”. It will likely require that you challenge your assessment with King County. You can easily check online and see what kind of views that you have. If the first page has “Yes” in the views category, you have to check the Property Detail. There is a table of common Seattle views that looks like the table below. If it indicates a view that you do not have or one that has been diminished, then it might be worth challenging it.

      Territorial GOOD
      Cascades GOOD
      Seattle Skyline AVERAGE
      Puget Sound
      Lake Washington
      Lake Sammamish
      Other View
    • chemist April 2, 2016 (4:24 pm)

      My experience (1 of 1) was that downgrading a view was not something automatically done and was, instead, part of the appeal process you can do when you get a notification.

      It’s also covered in the FAQ.

      • John April 3, 2016 (9:31 am)

        Alan and chemist,

        chemist is correct.  

        The Assessor does not automatically reduce taxes when views are compromised.  Often the views are from the backyard side of the residence, as is 35th Ave case, and the Assessors are not allowed to trespass for their property photos.  

        There is no incentive for the County or the City to reduce tax incomes so they make the Appeal Process difficult with as many deadlines and restrictions as possible.

        To appeal taxes on deteriorating views, a property owner must respond within a limited time window following  a post-card notification of property taxes sent in mid-year and separate from any tax bills. 

        Our property tax system with King County assessing Seattle but with Seattle setting its rules has inherent contradictions. Over the last decade, Seattle has eliminated many long standing property rights including those regarding trees & trimming,  lot requirements and variances, changes  that greatly affect property values.   King County does not track these changes nor make allowances for them without the property owner filing a time limited appeal.


  • ScubaFrog April 2, 2016 (6:35 pm)

    *Hopefully* the Seattle Police recommend felony charges.  Felony convictions and heavy fines would be quite the wakeup call.  And something that would reverberate throughout the city, let alone West Seattle.

    Sadly, the city will be lucky to get any kind of conviction.  And the fines?  Well, these kinds of people seem to always escape justice in every capacity.

  • Mows April 2, 2016 (9:27 pm)

    I agree that there were some serious poor decision making going on with these homeowners, and frankly their view was better with the trees, but also agree with Westseattlelite’s comment above.  The level of vitriol (WAY MORE comments than stories about people getting murdered near where I live in Delridge) is actually a bit frightening.  I could actually see some of these commenters taking justice in their own hands on this one.  It’s not that it wasn’t wrong or wasn’t a crime, it’s the disproportionate anger and dehumanization of those homeowners (who are likely wealthy but not 1% limitless wealth individuals as their being described).  They are human and anyone who says they have gained value from the cutting is crazy – why would anyone want to move there moving forward with the community essentially treating people on the street like demons?  They made a huge mistake and likely are feeing terrified.  Also the anger at lawyers being hired.  Um, when you have potential criminal charges against you it’s probably a good idea to hire a lawyer, especially with our messed up criminal justice system.  

    • colleen April 3, 2016 (9:03 am)

      “and anyone who says they have gained value from the cutting is crazy”

      It is clear that they expected to “gain value” when they repeatedly destroyed public property.  

      “I could actually see some of these commenters taking justice in their own hands on this one.”

      If you can produce ANY evidence AT ALL that would lead a reasonable person to believe that some of the posters here might engage in vigilante activities you need to tell the police. I have seen nothing like that and have been reading these threads closely.  I’ve seen nothing I would call “disproportionate anger”. or “dehumanization”. 

      This was not a trivial crime like package stealing or speeding.

      • John April 3, 2016 (12:18 pm)


        As a close reader of these posts, you must be aware of comments that a reasonable person  might see as displays of “inordinate anger” and “dehumanizing” of the hillside property owners who have not yet been charged much less convicted of any crime.

        Calls for staging  protests on the site, blocking the homes’ , views with banners,  stacking shipping containers for same reason, moving in homeless encampments,  jail time for residents  and worse…some of these are suggestions are   outside the law and the seeds of vigilantism. 

        A few facts:

        This is for a property crime that has not been charged.  

        The perpetrators have not been named or cited.

        The hillside, despite repeated claims to the opposite many by politicians, has not been proven destabilized.

        The tree cutting was followed by the wettest winter ever recorded in Seattle.  No catastrophic earth movement at the site. No slides reported as a result of the clearing.  

        Nor has anyone provided  geotechnical & engineering reports documenting slope de-stabilizing.  

        It is true that cutting trees can  lead to slides, but not always.  Sometimes trees can cause undue stress and slope loading leading to slides which can be prevented by tree removal.

        Finally, not to wholly trivialize the crime, but illegal tree cutting happens all over West Seattle hillsides.  Just take a close look.  

        Some of this outrage has a bit of “Casablanca”.

        I’m shocked, shocked to find that tree trimming is going on here.

        • colleen April 3, 2016 (12:56 pm)

          “As a close reader of these posts, you must be aware of comments that a
          reasonable person  might see as displays of “inordinate anger” and
          “dehumanizing” of the hillside property owners”

          I believe I just wrote that I have not seen anything I would describe in that manner.  I also suggested that you take those posts (and any threats) to the police. Please don’t attempt to browbeat me into accepting the notion that this crime was a minor one. It was not.  Package stealing is a minor property crime.  Clear cutting an acre and a half of public land is not. 

          ” Nor has anyone provided  geotechnical & engineering reports documenting slope de-stabilizing.”

          I expect that is to come. After all, even the breathtakingly arrogant man with the lawyer recognizes that he has destabilized the slope.   What a shame he did not consider his neighbors and the folks downslope anymore than you are now. How fortunate that nobody was killed and no homes were destroyed this winter.

          It is my hope that they and everyone else who could have possibly been negatively impacted by the actions of those responsible are seeking legal council. 

          • John April 4, 2016 (9:33 am)

            @ colleen,

            Let’s just stick with the facts. 

            A close reading reveals the attorney representing the tree cutter in no way “recognizes that he has destabilized the slope”.    How could he when the geotechnical engineering studies have  not been done?  False.

            The duty for ‘vigilante’ reporting to authorities lies with the publisher, WSB whose Editor has probably censored some out-of- bounds posts as well as having a protocol for dealing with viable threats. 

            There is no proof whatsoever that we were “fortunate that nobody was killed and no homes were destroyed this winter”, as the likelihood of that happening is extremely low.  If it were at the risk colleen  claims, the authorities would have red-tagged and evacuated the homes below.  That did not happen.  The sky is not falling.

            Seattle’s Critical Areas Code is amongst the toughest in the nation.

            The loss of life or house  by landslide is extremely rare in Seattle.   

            Direct tree related damage to homes and deaths are far more common, but somehow accepted.  

            Seattle has an atrocious record of maintaining it urban forestry with death injury and destruction the result. 

             Everyone else who could have possibly been negatively impacted by the actions of those responsible are seeking legal council.”  WHaat?     

            These homeowners were not damaged. Without any proof of being negatively impacted, how can they hope to prevail in a lawsuit?

            What was done was clearly illegal and those responsible should be held accountable.  But let’s remember illegal tree trimming is pervasive on virtually all West Seattle hillsides.  A murky enforcement system that essentially condones illegal trimming is finally being exposed.


            Most of the clear-cut areas are not in the DPD lidar defined ‘Steep Slope’ areas which are below and still covered with monoculture  scrap trees and invasive blackberries, hedera, holly, and scotchbroom.  No one has reported any slides due to the cutting.

            To charge that I or anyone else did not consider the neighbors downslope is a red herring if no  damage was done to them.  No damage has been reported by downhill residents.

            As someone who enjoys the unique views provided by Seattle’s many hillsides and someone who respectfully  lives, works on and owns Steep Slope properties in West Seattle,  the ignorance on display is breathtaking.  

        • Brian April 4, 2016 (5:14 pm)


          Upvote for you, finally a reasonable post.

    • AceMotel April 3, 2016 (11:22 pm)

      I agree with you,  as I commented on a previous thread.  One has the sense that some of these commenters are looking for a public flogging or stoning in the agora.  What they did is bad and wrong but for cryin’ out loud, I am not looking to crucify these people, or anyone else for that matter.  I think there’s something deeper at work here, and it involves the inequities in our society – the “haves” and the “have-nots” and the perception (and the fact) that some have unequal justice.  I doubt these people who contracted the cutting are the 1% of the 1% (those people would not be living atop a view of Admiral Way and Terminal 5!), but there is the perception nevertheless.  

  • Christine April 3, 2016 (12:11 am)

    The crosscut article about Clyde Hill included this line: ‘In the most extreme example, a federal judge paid $618,000 in fines and interest after his immigrant gardeners cut down 120-plus trees in neighboring Colman Park to open up his lake view.’ I think $600K would hurt entitled homeowners not to cut public trees. I was hoping for a fine first, but as a presidence a felony, blocked views and a hefty fine would seem to work better to avoid future cuts. No Karma points earned on this one. My family is advocating for the 1 Billion Tree Campaign. Ironically 150 trees is the magic number per person. Guess these guys will have to plant double now:

  • JVM April 3, 2016 (12:36 pm)

    I just want to say thank you to Joe Szilagyi for putting together the petition and letter to the City, and for representing the community in a positive and proactive way. Kudos, Joe. 

  • heylady April 4, 2016 (6:52 am)

    Had a look from the street yesterday. I would say the responsible party is fairly obvious. Discuss. 

  • s April 4, 2016 (1:11 pm)

    There’s been talk on this thread about how the whole community of neighbors up there is being vilified even though not everyone was part of the cutting. I would think that would put pressure on those responsible to step forward and take responsibility, thus eliminating any unjustified suspicion hanging over those neighbors who did not commit this crime. That the responsible parties continue to hide behind their lawyer, or just plain hide, is pretty cowardly and selfish. 

  • Community Member April 4, 2016 (2:46 pm)

    @S – I disagree.  Illegally cutting trees on public land is a serious issue, and I hope that the city will treat it as such. It seems quite right for citizens to be concerned.

    But hiring a lawyer should never be seen as “cowardly and selfish”. Letting a lawyer speak on one’s behalf is not “hiding behind” a lawyer. Rich or poor, guilty or innocent, being represented and advised by a lawyer is a basic human right.

    And while anyone may hold “unjustified suspicions”, the very idea that you are recognizing certain suspicions as unjustified would seem to alleviate any responsibility for someone else to step in and convince you that your suspicions are unjustified.

  • 22blades April 4, 2016 (6:08 pm)

    It would be ironic if… Case is settled. Heavy rains cause the slope with the house to slide down towards Admiral Way. Home owner sues city for negligence.

    I would think this incident should have been reported or disclosed by the city in a more timely manner as a public safety issue. Maybe the process needs to be scrutinized as well. Either way, I’m  not happy about this or the process in which it saw daylight.

    @community member;  as one who has been on the receiving end of people using our courts to the letter of the law as opposed to the intent of the law, for their gain, I disagree with your characterization that the parties are innocent in the way they tried to remedy their wrongs. There is an expectation of the community for parties to behave in a moral fashion; Stand up and say you screwed up. Anything less than that, I think we’re entitled to a less than flattering opinion. It’s pretty much an admission of guilt when you have the resources to behave this way through the mouth of an attorney.

    • WSB April 4, 2016 (6:19 pm)

      For those following this thread – we’ll have an update once the Viaduct reopens … Councilmember Herbold says the committee that oversees Parks plans a briefing (public) during its meeting Thursday morning. Agenda not yet posted as of last time I checked.

  • David Wright April 5, 2016 (8:57 am)

    In Seattle, even millionaires, and the I. W. W., and men with red

    garters on their exposed shirt-sleeves who want to give you real estate,
    all talk about the View. The View is to Seattle what the car-service,
    the auditorium, the flivver-factory, or the price of coal is to other
    cities. At parties in Seattle, you discuss the question of whether the
    View of Lake Union or the View of the Olympics is the better, and polite
    office-managers say to their stenographers as they enter, "How's your
    View this morning?" All real-estate deeds include a patent on the View,
    and every native son has it as his soundest belief that no one in Tacoma
    gets a View of Mount Rainier.
    Mrs. Gilson informed Claire that they had the finest View in Seattle."
      - from THE FREE AIR, by Sinclair Lewis, 1919.

  • SeaCares April 15, 2016 (10:14 am)

    West Seattleites, perps and City: know that this is a city-wide and beyond issue. We are all watching; we care; (everyone in my lunchroom at work downtown already had heard about this); we are watching and waiting for a fair outcome. This needs to be resolved and we all need to learn -and act -based on it. Thank you WSB for coverage; Mayor Murray for statement: “The City will get to the bottom of this wanton destruction of a critical natural area,…We must prosecute these perpetrators to the full extent of the law…

Sorry, comment time is over.