WEST SEATTLE TREE-CUTTING CASE: City Council committee to discuss, publicly, Thursday

(March 26th WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)

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.

Previous WSB coverage:
Friday, April 1
Wednesday, March 30
Monday, March 28
Saturday, March 26

60 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE TREE-CUTTING CASE: City Council committee to discuss, publicly, Thursday"

  • Ex-Westwood Resident April 4, 2016 (8:31 pm)


    Only in Seattle will they pursue CRIMINAL charges against cutting trees down, but strive to open a “Safe Shoot-Up Zone” for Heroine addicts, refuse to prosecute car thieves, turn a blind eye to criminal activity in the “jungle”.

    I am SO PLEASED that there aren’t more important things happening in Seattle that the Clowncil can spend the time on this truly victim-less crime. Those who committed the act have already taken responsibility and have stated that they are willing and will pay for the restoration of the trees and are more than willing to work with the city to accomplish this. 

    • B April 4, 2016 (10:30 pm)

      If you’re trying to do a stealth PR campaign for the homeowners, you’re falling. 

      • RayWest April 5, 2016 (5:20 am)

        I agree with you totally. Advocates always use a deflection tactic to defend a perpetrator’s wrongdoing by emphasizing how there are “worse” crimes that should be attended to. Yes, they should, but that does not eliminate another crime.  And I don’t buy the claim that this is a “victim-less” crime. The entire community is a victim of these continual tree butchers. I don’t particularly want to see these homeowners involved go to jail, but definitely there should be full restitution, stiff fines, a criminal record, and hundreds and hundreds of hours of community service. 

        • RayWest April 5, 2016 (5:31 am)

          Just to be clear–I am agreeing with the person who responded to Ex-Westwood. I do NOT agree with Ex-Westwood’s comments. After rereading what I wrote, that is what it looked like.

    • Matt April 5, 2016 (9:43 am)

      I wish it was this easy, go rob a store.  Get caught and offer to give back what you stole and that’s it.  Offering to simply pay when you got caught isn’t acceptable.

      • raywest April 5, 2016 (10:23 am)

        It’s more like paying back what you think would be a fair restitution to the store you robbed, and not what you actually stole from them.

    • Mark April 5, 2016 (10:58 am)

      Perfect fallacy of relative privation. Bravo.

    • Kathy April 6, 2016 (3:26 am)

      Ex-Westwood Resident,

      I for one, am proud to live in city that recognizes that drug addiction is a public health issue and that treating it as a crime does nothing but increase our over-populated prison system.  Like many issues (gay marriage, legal marijuana, raising the minimum wage etc. ) Seattle  is a leader in the treatment of drug addiction and just as with those other issues, the rest of the country will follow our lead.  Frontline recently did a very interesting documentary on the heroin epidemic in this country and Seattle’s innovative approach was featured heavily in the show. You can find it on the PBS website if you are interested.

  • Vivian April 4, 2016 (8:36 pm)

    Thanks for the update WSB!

  • KBear April 4, 2016 (8:59 pm)

    Ex-Westwood, do you actually live in West Seattle, or do you just troll from afar? Destroying trees on public property is not a victimless crime. Not sure what you mean by “Heroine addicts”. Is that someone with a comic book addiction? 

    • Em April 4, 2016 (9:21 pm)

      I so wish there were a ‘like’ function in these comments.  :-)

    • KM April 4, 2016 (9:21 pm)

      If I don’t have my daily Wonder Woman dose, I’m not pleasant to be around.

  • Moose2 April 4, 2016 (9:19 pm)

    This is not a victimless crime. Every single person in West Seattle is a victim here. Those trees were on public land – land we all own and benefit from. If they get away with this then the signal will be that anyone can cut down trees or destroy plants on other public land – greenways, parks, roadsides and so on. The council should congratulated for pursuing this, and should punish the offenders to the fullest extent that they can.

    The offer to ‘restore’ the trees is nothing more than a blatant attempt to avoid being properly punished for this act at minimal cost to the perpetrators. 

  • canton April 4, 2016 (9:22 pm)

    Yes, @ex-west, they would like to, on their own terms. This IS a criminal act, they should not have ANY say on how this is handled. Cut the trees to benefit THE homeowners involved, then THEY get to hire the folks to rebuild the public landscape?? Terraced hillside to benefit their crime?? Sure hope a city entity wasn’t involved.

  • mrTeacher April 4, 2016 (9:32 pm)

    I agree to disagree with Ex-Westwood about the tree cutting being victimless and unworthy of redress.  I do agree that crimes like car prowls and the crimes in the jungle should be addressed as well.  This old liberal thinks that our ” social compact” needs to be realigned–and this is the case for people living comfortable lives with new-found views and for people who are in rougher situations that are hard to watch.

  • Cupajoe April 4, 2016 (10:25 pm)

    Thank you ex-Westwood resident.

     I have lived in West Seattle for 30 years.  I have lived in this city for over 50.  I have been watching this post and now cannot stop from saying something.   These were garbage trees.  They grow back which is obvious to show the roots don’t die and the ground is fine.  I have no skin in this game but the villification of these homeowners who have taken responsibility is ridiculous!!!  This is not a park!!!  It is not Lincoln Park!!!  

    Let’s just say that I do work for the City.  I have been on this hillside before.  Get a grip people, the English ivy is more of a problem than these garbage trees that ARE NOT HOLDING UP THE HILLSIDE.!    So let’s talk about homeless and heroine.  Since I do work on the streets let’s talk about the City spending another $5 million dollars to help more homeless and heroine addicts.  I DO WORK ON THE STREETS.  The City likes to use the figure that 85% of the homeless population is from King County.  I will tell you first hand that is a terrible figure they are throwing at us.  Homeless people in Seattle and under the freeway, are not from Seattle.  They are bussed here from California, and are here from Montana, Idaho, Mississippi, Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, and most recently, heroine addict teenagers from Yakima who were told on the streets to come to Seattle because we provide “resources.”  So, let’s not think about the murder  in Rainier Beach yesterday,  let’s not talk about the 3,000 car prowls in the City so far, let’s villify people who said they made a mistake and are trying to make it right.  You are all a bunch of ” Player   Haters.”  Sounds like they might be successful.  Are you jealous?  Go do for yourself.  

    • AMD April 5, 2016 (7:13 am)

      Well, I guess it looks like the tree-cutters’ PR campaign worked.  Guess we know why they got the lawyer so quickly.  Someone broke the law and I would like to see them prosecuted for it.  It really doesn’t matter what you think of the quality of the trees there or your assessment of the hillside.  They broke the law.  Should drunk drivers get off without prosecution if they don’t kill someone?  What kind of deterrent do you think that would be if they did?  And what does the murder have to do with it?  Do you actually think the Homicide investigators and the King County prosecutor are just going to throw their hands in the air and say “well, we got the tree butcher, guess we don’t have to try this murder case now!”  Get real.

      I thought about addressing the rest of your diatribe for a minute, but it’s really just repeating myths and stereotypes that have been debunked 100 times.  If you choose to believe them anyway, that’s your choice, and pointing out the facts again probably isn’t going to change that.

    • Joe Szilagyi April 5, 2016 (10:08 am)

      If I break a window in City Hall should I go to jail? 

  • K. Davis April 4, 2016 (10:29 pm)

    It might help a tad if folks like Ex-Westwood actually had facts straight … such as what entity prosecutes car theft (King County Prosecutor’s Office), and which doesn’t (Seattle City Attorney’s Office).  

    But why let the truth get in the way of an ignorant rant (“victimless crime”??  Really? So if I knock off a bank, but then apologize and offer to give back part of the money, then is that also “victimless”?).  

    • Kathy April 6, 2016 (3:38 am)

      Victimless Crime is a term that white-collar criminals and defense attorneys use to try to minimize crimes and avoid penalties. It’s bull excrement, plain and simple.

  • Cupajoe April 4, 2016 (10:47 pm)

    This just in from the Seattle Times

    Seattle could become the first city in the US to allow a safe place for heroine and cocaine users to smoke and shoot up legally,  under “medical supervision.”  How many more people do you think will come?  And you are worried about trees that grow back!!!

    • S April 5, 2016 (7:55 am)

      Clear cutting trees is not related to public heroin policy. Move on.

      Yay to Seattle for prosecuting and thanks to WSB for the continuing updates!

    • KM April 5, 2016 (8:43 am)

      I hate to ruin this for you, but the city does and should address more than one problem at a time. It even has different departments!

    • Theresa - Highland Park April 5, 2016 (1:59 pm)

      Was the Seattle Times really reporting about heroine users?  You sure?  

  • Jeanie April 5, 2016 (1:32 am)

    Heroin, dammit, not heroine!

    • K Roberts April 5, 2016 (8:24 am)

      Thank you.

    • Chris Stripinis April 5, 2016 (8:52 am)

      It actually cracks me up every time I see “heroine” for “heroin”.

    • s April 5, 2016 (8:56 am)

      I wish you hadn’t told them. Those comments are much more entertaining with the “e” at the end.

    • Theresa - Highland Park April 5, 2016 (1:56 pm)

      Something about defending these criminals has made 2 separate people unable to spell heroin.  It’s amazing!  

  • Zerodacus April 5, 2016 (6:56 am)

    I think this area would be a wonderful place for a nice public park after the trees have been replanted and the area restored. I’m sure the home owners in question would love to share this area with picnic goers, or perhaps the latest tent city, I mean the bus lines are only a couple of blocks away.

  • Kay Cook April 5, 2016 (7:32 am)

    Several years ago, a property owner at the top of my hillside on Harbor Avenue, poisoned numerous trees, as is evident to this day.  All relevant departments within the City and State documented the fact. It was and is  very obvious which specific property benefited. Without documented proof who committed the act, nothing happened. We erected a large banner that could be seen as far away as downtown Seattle, which stated, “Poisoned for View”. It received National as well as local news attention. That was the only consequence. The second big mistake the individuals presently involved in this current illegal tree cutting is, they admitted it, then hired an attorney who did not tell them to be silent. People will continue to do what they have been doing, topping, chopping and poisoning.  I strongly feel that the only way to prevent these occurrences in the future is for the City to change their policy of NO. It is possible to work with  owners who pay substantial taxes for views that are being blocked. The process  could be as simple as an application, investigation-inspection by certified arborist and environmental scientists, and all work supervised. No matter what protection laws are placed on vegetation, unless a person is caught in the act, nothing will happen. (The alleged poisoners have sold and moved) Kaly Cook

    • John April 5, 2016 (8:06 am)

      Thank you Kay  Cook.

      I am sure many  remember your case.

      I don’t remember reports about the hillside (Steep Slope above your house) giving away and destroying your home?  Has it?

      Once again, the trees above your home were not specimens, but scrap trees that had been topped many times before when it was the accepted practice.

      Now with the public mantra of “all slides are caused by tree removal” so pervasive, hillside view property owners are faced with subversive activities to maintain the views they pay for.  I say ‘maintain’ because so often  people write that views were being created by the tree removal.  Not true.

      Kay Cook is quite correct in pointing out the basic problem with our current tree policies.

      I hope that Joe Szigali’s petition bunch take the reality of the situation to heart when they are pressing for change.

       Just passing more punitory tree laws will not address a truly growing problem.

      • s April 5, 2016 (8:59 am)

        John, it’s not that “all slides are caused by tree removal” but rather “tree removal generally increases landslide risk.” See the difference?

        • John April 5, 2016 (9:33 am)


          Thanks for making my point.  However is should be, ““tree removal ‘may’ not ‘generally’ increase landslide risk.”

          Now if you could correct all of those saying it ‘has destabilized the hillside’, which remains unproven.

          The system is indeed a large part of the problem.

          Mark Schletty’s proposal would harm many more innocent residents than those few people responsible.  It is vindictive and without place in our system of laws. 

          Let’s all take a breath as this evolves from Cass Turnbull’s first pronouncement that this would not be prosecuted.

          • s April 5, 2016 (10:27 am)

            John, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. An illegal action that increases landslide risk is still an action that should be punished according to current laws.

            If I were to shoot out the intersection lights at the Alaska Junction, the likelihood of a car accident would increase. Even though a car accident is not 100% guaranteed, shooting out those lights is not ok. And it would be incorrect to state that “all accidents are caused by shot-out streetlights.” I don’t think anyone is saying that all landslides are caused by clear cuts. Rather, clear cuts can increase the likelihood of landslides.

      • colleen April 5, 2016 (9:04 am)

        It sounds as if you believe that the pending charges,  public outcry and the petition  are the problem rather than illegal clear cutting an acre and a half of trees on a public greenbelt.  

  • A-Red April 5, 2016 (7:47 am)

    The very first article I read on this topic (maybe here, maybe in the Times) stated that the homeowners sent a letter to the city alerting them to the cut AFTER a concerned neighbor had approached them about it. Maybe I mis-read, but perhaps WSB can clarify: is that the actual sequence of events? If so, I contend the responsible homeowner(s) only alerted the city because they knew the concerned neighbor would have if they didn’t. 

    Entirely possible I have the facts wrong…

    • chemist April 5, 2016 (10:20 am)

      I think reading the March 30th link that WSB included at the bottom of their post will help clarify.

    • Fauntleroy April 5, 2016 (11:07 am)

      A concerned neighbor did not approach them. A neighbor reported the cutting to the city/parks/whatever on January 15th. 

      They sent their letter in early February.  

      The two events are not related. In other words, they didn’t self report because they thought someone had filed a report. 

  • erico April 5, 2016 (7:50 am)

    Hard to take an argument seriously from people who don’t know the difference between heroin and heroine.

  • Mark schletty April 5, 2016 (8:04 am)

    With the difficulties involved in a criminal prosecution, and the ineffectualness of monetary penalties to rich people, the only way to prevent others from doing the same thing as these property owners is to immediately negate the benefit from the crime. The city should already be erecting a view blocking fence. They dont need to first establish guilt to do it. Get the guity to pay for it later, put it up now. Other same inclined criminals won’t cut public trees for personal views if, and only if, they know the newly gained view will immdiately be blocked.

  • andrewwantcookie April 5, 2016 (8:34 am)

    The city should already be erecting a view blocking fence.”

    Plus, we should have Mexico pay for it!

    Seriously folks, there needs to be a penalty of some kind for sure, but these weeds WILL grow back in three years.  These weren’t redwoods.

    • colleen April 6, 2016 (2:22 pm)

      folks, there needs to be a penalty of some kind for sure, but these
      weeds WILL grow back in three  These weren’t redwoods.”

      Last time someone cut this many trees on PUBLIC PROPERTY, the fine was $618,000.00. That was several years ago.   Those trees weren’t redwoods either. 

      Perhaps the folks responsible  should have argued the relative ‘worth’ of the trees  before clear-cutting an acre and a half of public greenbelt. Or, you know, applied for a permit.

  • Roxy April 5, 2016 (8:45 am)

    I like Mark!

  • Community Member April 5, 2016 (10:19 am)

    @ Kbear and KM – thanks for the smiles.

    Nobody is going to build a view-blocking fence; it’s a completely silly idea. Maybe fun to imagine, but it sounds like some commentators here might be believing that such actions “should” be undertaken.

    No – even if it were possible, anything along those lines would damage the environment, penalize the innocent, look crappy from ALL over the city, hurt wildlife, damage the slope, and be a huge waste of time and money.

    There are laws in place for dealing with damage to public property.  Insist that those laws be enforced; sure.  Argue for tighter laws to be put on the books; sure.  Suggest to elected officials and prosecutors that both civil and criminal proceedings should be considered; sure.   But retroactively inventing a new set of rules and penalties? Uh, no.

    But to those saying this is no big deal, you’re being silly, too. Of course it is a big deal for someone to have damaged public property. Saying that doesn’t mean that drug addiction, homelessness, violent crime, murder, and so on aren’t important. What – someone is only entitled to an opinion here if they first list how much they care about a different issue?  I can imagine your daily conversations – “How about those M’s?” “Heroine.” “Think it will rain?” “Heroine.”

  • Ben April 5, 2016 (10:49 am)

    What is even the goal by removing the trees in this area? Better view of I-5 or South Park or Harbor Island area? Not exactly pleasing to the eye. I am against this tree cutting action but it doesn’t make sense. If one is going to risk fines or jail time, at least do it for a water or skyline view.  Silly.

  • Roxy April 5, 2016 (11:58 am)

    Ben, this cutting does create a view of downtown akin to the viewpoint on Admiral Way – only higher up the slope only the west side of Admiral Way. See 3200 35th Ave SW via Google maps..

  • Community Member April 5, 2016 (12:13 pm)

    @Ben – Google street view.  Trees gone = water view of Elliot Bay, Harbor Island to DiscoverPark,  Space Needle.  Of course that also means that those trees were visible and gorgeous from downtown.

  • rb April 5, 2016 (12:34 pm)

    Maybe some people are jealous they don’t have a view.  The offender seems willing tor estitute and pay up a reasonable fine, tax increase or whatever. stop the hatred, people.

  • K. Davis April 5, 2016 (1:10 pm)

    @cupajoe … impressively ignorant rant … “worthless trees … [owners] taking responsibility”.  I guess if you construct a fantasy about the facts, you can reach the opinions you offer.  Accordingly, they aren’t worth much.  

    You conveniently ignore the fact that these trees didn’t belong to these owners, and one can only reasonably conclude that the tree cutting was a purely selfish act to enhance their views.  The law provides for penalties for committing this action.  Appropriately legal consequences should follow.  Has there been outrage and vitriol aimed at these selfish people by some on this board?  Sure.  People are angry at what happened in our neighborhood.  Some of the rhetoric has been over the top.  

    But legal process against these offenders is appropriate.  When you make the silly statement that the owners have “taken responsibility” I just smile and shake my head.  The owners have lawyered up (their right and at this point, smart move on their part).  Sending their lawyer out to try and avoid legal process is the farthest thing from taking responsibility.  When they are sued for violating Washington’s timber trespass statute and they admit liability without fighting the suit, that would be “taking responsibility.”  But since that will cost them a lot of money, I’m not holding my breath that they will behave “responsibly.”  

  • mike April 5, 2016 (3:06 pm)

    Come to think of it, trees are kind of like big weeds.  Trees don’t always play a crucial role in holding unstable slopes together, so we should be able cut them at will if it suits us, even on public property.   And the ocean is like a big public toilet to flush away our sewage.  And fishing regulations are a conspiracy by big government to deprive citizens of their natural rights (rumors of species extinction are a hoax).   And bring back Asarco because the smelter provided good jobs.  Environmental regulations  are choking us off, not the actual pollution itself.  And the clear solution to our transportation woes is to build more freeways; in the mean time stay out of my way when I’m driving cause I’m pretty important.   And we should trust Wall Street with our economy:  If you’re so smart how come you’re not rich like them?  And have they really proven cigarettes cause cancer?   And the only thing that should stop me from doing whatever the heck I want is my ability to pay for it,  or buy my way out of it!!!  

    Sincerely, King Baby

    • Cranky Westie April 5, 2016 (6:21 pm)

      Go Mike Go! Amen! And tell them about the super intelligent North Korean Coyotes in the parks!

  • Mark32 April 5, 2016 (3:18 pm)

    I can’t believe the number of comments this story gets.


    Go West Seattle Baseball Team! Congratulations Seattle Lutheran robotics team !


  • Mark47n April 5, 2016 (8:06 pm)

    It would appear that some here are forgetting that the “garbage trees” were trees on property that belonged to others, in this case, to the public. It makes no difference if they were trying to gain or preserve their precious views, the trees weren’t theirs to cut. Imagine if your neighbor just strolled over onto your property and cut down your tree because it blocked their view. How would you respond?

    Simply because you have a home that may have a view or pay high property taxes doesn’t mean that you have a right to remove trees that offend you, unless they are yours. I just don’t understand what makes that so complicated. There are many things that offend me that I cannot remove without criminal consequences so why should that not extend to others?

  • elle nell April 6, 2016 (10:19 am)

    cup o joe- and all the others who do not understand the law..

    Point is, who cares if the trees were in bad shape, diseased, or whatever dilapidated condition you are claiming, which I do not believe.

    They were NOT their trees to cut. PERIOD. 

    You do not have the right, whether you are successful or not, to take something that is not yours. 

    Yes, it is as simple as that…

  • Ilasdad April 6, 2016 (5:13 pm)

    Hold them accountable with the laws in place. Holding people accountable will help deter future violations.

    This should be a city/county/state wide goal for ALL crimes.

    Enforcement of laws prevents abuse, be it vandalism, package theft, car prowling, vagrancy, etc…

    The level of outrage over this seems extreme. Often it’s seems to be anger against someone with a view or those whom are perceived to have privilege. 

    Long term having  a proactive government seems like the best approach.

    Vote wisely neighbors 

  • marie April 15, 2016 (7:04 pm)

    nothing new available in this case?

  • WSB April 16, 2016 (10:26 pm)

    Not since our last report about the meeting this previewed. Wheels of justice turn slowly …

Sorry, comment time is over.