UPDATE: Lawsuits filed in illegal West Seattle tree-cutting; criminal prosecution still possible, City Attorney says

(UPDATED 4:45 PM with comment from lawyer for two of the people the city is suing)

(April WSB photo – south end of area where trees were cut)

12:04 PM: Last week, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold told the 34th District Democrats that she’d learned the City Attorney’s Office would have something to say this week about last winter’s illegal tree-cutting in West Seattle’s Duwamish Head Greenbelt.

Here it is:

The Seattle Times just broke the news that the city has filed lawsuits “seeking more than $1.6 million in combined damages and fines.”

We’re following up with the City Attorney’s Office and checking court files.

12:15 PM: We’ve obtained City Attorney Pete Holmes‘s statement from his office:

City Attorney Pete Holmes: “Earlier this year, the City learned of unpermitted improper tree cutting on City property in West Seattle near the 3200 block of 35th Ave. SW. Today, the City filed two lawsuits, naming people the City believes were involved in the tree cutting. The property is in an environmentally critical area on a steep slope. Approximately 150 trees of varying sizes, including many big-leaf maples and Scouler’s willows, were felled.

“My office has been involved in the City’s response. We launched an investigation to assess the extent of damage and identify the responsible parties. To that end, we retained a consulting arborist to assess the damage and prepare a comprehensive restoration plan.

“No one has yet come forward to give the City the full story of what happened despite SPD’s best efforts and extensive investigation. However, we are satisfied that we now know enough to proceed with civil lawsuits. We expect to learn that additional people, beyond those named in the lawsuits, were involved with the cutting as the suits progress. Between the lawsuits, the City seeks over $1.6 million in damages and fines. The City seeks relief on several grounds, including timber trespass, damage to land, trespass, negligence, environmentally critical areas violations, violations of the parks code and violations of the city’s tree and vegetation management in public places code.

“On its damages theories, the City generally alleges that the defendants and/or their agents cut down trees on City property without permission when they should have known better. The extensive tree cutting damaged the trees and the underlying land. On its code violation theories, because the cutting took place on City property and some occurred in City right of way, the cutters or their employers were required to obtain a number of permits before they cut any trees. No permits were issued to authorize the cutting and penalties and fines are therefore appropriate.

“The SPD criminal investigation of this matter is ongoing, and it is possible that SPD will refer this matter to the King County Prosecutor or my office in the future for potential criminal prosecution.”

We also have the court documents and are going through them for additional details. More to come …

12:27 PM: Two suits are filed. The first one, involving “the northern site” (off 35th), names Stanley Harrelson and Mary Harrelson, who are residents next to one of the cut zones, and Martin Riemer and Karrie Riemer, who live across the street to the east from the Harrelsons. That suit also names Forrest Bishop and John Russo, who the city alleges “were hired by the Harrelsons and Riemers to cut trees on city property located adjacent and/or across from (theirs).” The same suit also names “Defendants John and Jane Does 1-10 (who) may have retained Bishop, Russo, or others to cut trees on (two city parcels) or may themselves have cut trees on those parcels.”

(added) This suit alleges that “55 trees 6 inches in caliper or greater were cut down on the Parcels in Exhibit 1 Area A (which) are located in an environmentally critical area that contains steep slopes and landslide-prone areas. None of Defendants sought permission from any City department to cut trees on the Parcels. The cutting of trees increased the likelihood of landslides on the Parcels, and thereby damaged the land itself.” It alleges six “causes of action”:

*Timber trespass
*Damage to land
*Violations of the Environmentally Critical Areas Code
*Unauthorized use of park property

The damages sought in this suit are listed as:

… a principal judgment against Defendants, jointly and severally, including treble damages of $678,180 on the City’s timber trespass claim or in such other amount as may be proven at trial; penalties in the amount of $275,000 for cutting down 55 trees of six inches or more in diameter and an additional $500 for each tree cut …

… as well as other costs including legal fees and “enforcement costs.”

The suit involving “the southern site” (off City View) names Kostas Kyrimis and Linda Kyrimis, as well as “defendants Jane and John Does 1-14 (who) resided at and owned property within a two-block radius of the intersection of 35th Ave SW and SW Hinds Street and had views that were previously impaired by trees … (and) Defendants Jane and John Does 15-20 (who) were hired by the Kyrimises and/or Jane and John Does 1-14 to cut trees on property owned by the City …”

(added) This suit alleges that “72 trees over 6 inches in caliper” were cut in the area involved and makes the same allegations as the other suit, that no permission was sought, and that damage included the increased likelihood of landslides on the steep slopes.

Along with the same six “causes” as the northern-area lawsuit (listed above), this one adds a seventh:

*Tree and vegetation management in public places

And the damages sought in this suit, along with various costs such as enforcement and attorneys’ fees:

… A principal judgment against Defendants, jointly and severally, including treble damages of $362,760 on the City’s timber trespass claim or in such other amount as may be proven at trial; penalties in the amount of $360,000 for cutting down 72 trees over six inches in caliper and an additional $500 for each tree cut pursuant to SMC 25.09.460.A; land restoration costs …

We’ll add any comment we get from those targeted in these two lawsuits.

1:32 PM: Councilmember Herbold’s statement:

“I thank the City Attorney’s Office for filing two civil lawsuits this morning to address the illegal cutting of 150 trees in West Seattle earlier this year. I appreciate the use of a full range of the legal remedies available for civil suits, including timber trespass, which allows for 3x damages.

“The $1.6 million total in damages and fines sought by the City speaks to the seriousness of the claims. The damages and penalties must be significant enough to deter this kind of activity in the future, so that those with financial means don’t see unauthorized tree cutting as a cost-effective way to increase their views and property values.

“These trees played an important role in maintaining soil stability in an environmentally critical area, and lessened the risk of landslides onto a major arterial, SW Admiral Way. They also helped maintain air quality by absorbing carbon—an important issue in West Seattle, which sits adjacent to SODO and the Duwamish industrial area.

“I understand the Seattle Police Department’s criminal investigation is ongoing. My hope is that the Department will eventually be able to establish probable cause for pursuing criminal charges. However, I appreciate the difficulty they face, given that persons believed to be involved are declining to cooperate with investigators, and the legal standard needed to establish probable cause for criminal charges and to prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

ADDED 4:45 PM: Just received a statement from Clayton Graham, lawyer for two of the people the city is suing:

We are disappointed by the City Attorney’s decision to file the lawsuit today. Our clients, Stan and Mary Harrelson, deeply regret the tree cutting which happened next to their property. At no point did our clients request, or condone, the extent of the work that was done by the contractor.

The Harrelsons have acknowledged their role in this mistake but the City has been non-responsive to our attempts to reach a settlement in this matter. We believe the damages sought in the suit are excessive, given our clients’ limited role in the cutting that took place. While the lawsuit claims that none of the homeowners has come forward with the full story, our clients have fully cooperated with the City’s efforts since they, themselves, disclosed this work to the City early this year, and hired a former City of Seattle arborist to develop a restoration plan. The Harrelsons remain ready and willing to work with the City to remedy this matter.

We had published a statement from Graham in this March 28th story on behalf of his then-unidentified clients, saying they and also-then-unidentified neighbors had “hired a landscaping business to top and prune some trees to improve the view from their respective residences” and that his clients had come back from a trip to find out the landscapers had gone beyond their mandate.

145 Replies to "UPDATE: Lawsuits filed in illegal West Seattle tree-cutting; criminal prosecution still possible, City Attorney says"

  • Ent Moot September 20, 2016 (12:22 pm)

    Marty Riemer? Dude!

    • WSB September 20, 2016 (12:24 pm)

      Still reading the documents and will be adding the names of those sued, as well as attempting to contact them for comment, but yes, as the Times reports, the documents verify his name is among them.

    • Kravitz September 20, 2016 (12:36 pm)

      Seriously. Marty Riemer, of all people and West Seattleites… I’m shocked and disgusted. So glad that the city is finally beginning to hold people accountable for their actions and selfishness. 

    • sw September 20, 2016 (1:41 pm)

      Marty’s Facebook page is abruptly missing today.  Not a coincidence, one would assume.

    • JanS September 20, 2016 (2:15 pm)


  • Pops September 20, 2016 (12:23 pm)

    Hope it hurts.

  • HTB September 20, 2016 (12:44 pm)

    Kind of a harsh punishment if you ask me — and the cheerleading for their heads on the blog is a bit much. The homeless camps in the greenbelt and under the bridge should be inspiring twice as much anger as this, but sadly, the opposite is the cas

    • Hard liner September 20, 2016 (6:14 pm)

      The law is blind. Do the crime. Do the time.

    • CSW September 20, 2016 (6:42 pm)

      HTB, they created a potentially deadly situation.  Striping the land of trees greatly increases the chance of landslide.  I believe there is an apt building/condos just below this area, not to mention the houses above could come down the hill.  Seattleites (most) know the danger of clear cutting.

    • Dr. Richard Curtis September 21, 2016 (11:26 am)

      This is about the most immoral response someone could have to this issue.  Rich people endangering others just to improve the aesthetics of their private property is vastly different from impoverished people with no where to go squatting on public land.  In one case the actor has power and is using it selfishly to endanger others, in the other the actor is powerless and acts merely to survive.  To equate them is the lowest form of moral depravity.

    • Sam September 21, 2016 (9:16 pm)

      Myself and my entire family was almost killed in a landslide when I was a kid, due to our upslope neighbor cutting trees for a view. Although in their case they didn’t have to commit a litany of crimes in order to do so because it was on their own land.

      The homeless camp out because they have nowhere else to go. These people did this to make money by increasing their property values. Anyone who would be upset over the existence of the homeless and not over the greed and callous disregard of these property owners makes me sick. Y’all got some real effed-up priorities.

  • d September 20, 2016 (12:49 pm)

    The homeowners response is absurd they just wanted them topped you’re not supposed to top or cut trees that aren’t yours to think they didn’t know they were breaking the law is absurd

  • Tom S September 20, 2016 (12:58 pm)

    No huge surprise there. Marty does his show from home and I’m sure improving the view is good for ‘creativity’. The property at 3244 35th sold in December for $745,000. They got out before the you know what hit the fan. Sadly this will likely be negotiated down by the lawyers and it’s doubtful we will see a criminal prosecution, although there should be one. 

  • John September 20, 2016 (1:01 pm)

    That photo makes it look so bad…..because it is!  I’m not shocked anymore by people.

  • George T September 20, 2016 (1:09 pm)

    Good luck to the city. This is sickening and the lawsuit should send a strong signal to any other selfish homeowners who “deserve” a view despite environmental and safety concerns. All we need is a stretch of wet weather to trigger erosion and threaten SW Admiral Way. Good thing we aren’t in the Pacific Northwest. 

  • Mikekey September 20, 2016 (1:11 pm)

    Hope they enjoy that million dollar view!

  • Jack Sparra September 20, 2016 (1:11 pm)

    Hope they get’em all!

  • steve September 20, 2016 (1:18 pm)

    From my experience,  those stumps will most likely regenerate and come back even stronger.  So long as you leave alone whatever new green starts to pop up.

    • Mike September 21, 2016 (4:10 am)

      Sure, in 20 to 30 years if the hillside does not slide off first.

      • John September 27, 2016 (7:18 pm)

        Steve is rite them R all hard wood they will come back thicker than ever, Unless you dig them out, There won’t be any erosion taking place either

  • willbehonest September 20, 2016 (1:19 pm)

    Very glad the city got around to filing these civil lawsuits. Serves them right. 

  • AlkiGirl91 September 20, 2016 (1:23 pm)

    Great!  They need to be held accountable!  Just wait until a few good rains and that hill side is soaked and homes start sliding.  Not cool to be the law-abiding neighbors lives in jeopardy!  Not to mention removing all those beautiful trees.  Hope to see the next post recommending criminal prosecution! Disgusting! 

  • SaveTheTrees September 20, 2016 (1:40 pm)

    I’m sure they are enjoying their improved million dollar view at 3242 35TH AVE SW 98126.  Take a look at the hillside in Google maps.   I’m looking forward to whatever punishment takes place.

  • Chuck September 20, 2016 (2:17 pm)

    Remember those great old promos on KMTT, the Mountain?: “Riemer…Riemer.”  Sounds about right. 

  • HTB September 20, 2016 (2:18 pm)

    Let’s also remember, these are friends, neighbors and community member, NOT criminals or thugs. This is not the equivalent of a bank robber or gang member. Keep perspective. 

    • flimflam September 20, 2016 (2:40 pm)

      well, actually they ARE criminals. I also certainly wouldn’t want anyone that would conceive of something so selfish and damaging as “friends” either.

    • ktrapp September 20, 2016 (2:41 pm)

      Those descriptions need not be mutually exclusive.  Considering that the city is still mulling over the option of criminal charges, they may very well end up as criminals.  Besides the fact that they caused a whole lot more damage than the average bank robber snags, and have caused the potential to endanger the lives of a whole lot more people due to erosion and slide damage than most gang members ever do.

      You don’t need to be a “thug” to be a criminal.  And these actions certainly don’t represent what friends and community members should be doing to their neighbors.

    • Mark schletty September 20, 2016 (2:42 pm)

      Sorry htb, but criminals is exactly what they are.

      • Candy September 26, 2016 (1:52 pm)

        Mr. Reimer is a spokesperson for Carter Subaru and the recent commercials take pride in the fact that Carter Subaru plants trees because they care about the environment!

        Yet Mr. Reimer had over 75 cut down? Illegally.. Ironic isn’t it? 

    • Q September 20, 2016 (2:47 pm)

      They’re not my friends. They’re people who  committed crimes, so they are criminals. If you want to get legal about it, they’re “allegedly” criminals, but give me a break. They did what they did and hid behind their lawyers as long as they could; don’t try to sugarcoat this. 

    • Michelle September 20, 2016 (2:51 pm)

    • Chelsea September 20, 2016 (2:59 pm)

      While this is true, its also true that this shouldn’t be dismissed as ‘just some trees or whatever’. I wrote a very long thesis about urban forestry policy, and urban trees can and do provide a rather shockingly long list of infrastructure benefits to cities and their residents – everything from storm water mitigation, air quality improvements, heating and cooling savings, as  seems to be the case here, soil stability benefits, and literally a half a dozen other good and important things. They also do this a lot more cost-efficiently than ‘traditional’ infrastructure. 

      So while its not overt violence, it IS a handful of people destroying city infrastructure that benefits everyone in order to increase their own property value, so maybe more on par with embezzlement of city funds or something on a large scale  if you need a comparison – i.e., not ‘nothing’.

    • sw September 20, 2016 (3:04 pm)

      Comparing this to violent crime is a bit of a stretch, but make no mistake this is still criminal activity.  You may be correct that these are friends, neighbors and community members – which makes this all the more disappointing and elicits the responses you are seeing.  These people placed their vanity at a higher level of importance than that of the surrounding community.

    • aRF September 20, 2016 (3:09 pm)

      Well, the criminal investigation is ongoing, so they may prove to be criminals in the end.

    • ScubaFrog September 20, 2016 (6:34 pm)

      They are thugs, HTB.  It’s too bad you feel the need to fill the role as the criminal’s apologist.  Twice now in this comment section.

      I’d imagine that you think the term ‘thug’ only applies to non-white persons in lower socio-economic statuses.

    • West Seattleite September 21, 2016 (7:52 am)

      These people are NOT my friends, nor should they be yours. These people are, by definition, criminals.

    • D.V. September 21, 2016 (5:08 pm)

      I appreciate your comment HTB- You are exactly right that these are friends and neighbors and parents of kids in our community.  We should be mindful of how harshly we speak and remember not to ‘brand’ someone by one wrong act.  We also do  not know all of the facts for each party involved…some of the neighbors may have not been as fully apprised, which doesn’t eradicate their responsibility but maybe excuses some of their intent to commit a crime. Even if it turns out they they are all 100% wrong – can’t we all speak a little more kindly? All this anger and name calling is really just as bad as the destruction of trees to me…all damage…all waste…all needless.  People seem so quick to jump on a band wagon to condemn each other anymore.  We have all done things wrong in our lives, or our kids have, or a friend has, and we defended them.  Let’s keep it civil.

      • ScubaFrog September 21, 2016 (8:02 pm)

        If this were a young drug addict who stole a car – I highly doubt you’d be swooning over them, and calling them your ‘friend and neighbor, and a parent of kids in our community!’.  And I doubt you’d be asking for civility.  No, you’d be up in arms that they were released without bail the next day.

        But they’re upper-middle-class.  They’re not held to the same legal standards as the rest of America.  For the most part they’re exempt from justice – or whatever justice was, in this country. 

        The fact is they committed crimes – with forethought.  They should be prosecuted, and treated like any other criminal.  These aren’t our “friends”.  They’re most certainly not neighborly.  And I don’t want those parents anywhere near my kids.

  • JanS September 20, 2016 (2:19 pm)

    those that have thinking that they deserve more…it’s nothing new. We all know that we should not take that which is not ours…

    privilege, my friends…sad but true

    • Mike September 21, 2016 (4:13 am)

      It’s not even privilege, it’s self-centered attitudes that could care less about anyone but themselves.  Same attitude as the auto thefts, home break-ins and purse snatching.  All crooks, all need to do the time and pay the fine. 

  • Howard September 20, 2016 (2:23 pm)

    They lawyered up with Davis Wright Tremaine so good luck to the city.

  • SarahScoot September 20, 2016 (2:23 pm)

    So, no solid proof this is the same guy, but there is a Seattle-based Stan Harrelson on LinkedIn who is in the real estate investment field and whose top endorsed skills include “real estate development” and “due diligence.” Would be hilarious if this case weren’t so infuriating. 

  • Tucker September 20, 2016 (2:23 pm)

    Shocked that Marty might be involved in this.

  • anonyme September 20, 2016 (2:38 pm)

    HTB, they’re not my neighbors, thank god, but they ARE criminals.  I hope there are criminal charges in addition to the civil complaint, and that a painfully meaningful fine is assessed.  I have a good size red alder in a pot that I’d gladly donate to restart the growth process – which will take decades, so not that fast, really.

  • Moke September 20, 2016 (2:42 pm)

    The complaints against these homeowners all allege, among other things, negligence.  As a result, these homeowners will be defended by their insurance companies and any judgment and/or settlement will be likely be paid by those insurance companies.  The only punishment they will receive is bad publicity.

    • B September 20, 2016 (5:11 pm)

      Not so sure about that moke – homeowners insurance does not cover crimes committed. \

  • Alice September 20, 2016 (2:43 pm)

    Geology lesson: don’t cut down trees or vegetation stabilizing critical slopes (unless you have a sound solution for restabilizing). You will cause mudslides and landslides, and eventually your house foundation will crack due to the movent of the land and your house. We have too many critical slopes like this in Seattle and West Seattle. Leave them alone, or hire a professional who knows how to work with the topography if you need to solve a problem.

    Related geology lesson: don’t build your house on the edge of a cliff, or a swimming pool at the bottom of a cliff. Both situations cause faster erosion of the cliff itself.

  • KBear September 20, 2016 (3:00 pm)

    Actually, HTB, these ARE criminals. Just because they didn’t physically hurt anybody doesn’t mean what they did isn’t serious. They have stolen something quite valuable and caused extensive damage. They have earned the community’s scorn and deserve to be punished. Maybe they’ve done some good in their lives, too. People are complicated like that. But don’t try to minimize their wrongdoing by calling them neighbors. 

  • WSEd September 20, 2016 (4:12 pm)

    Even if the don’t lose the lawsuits it is going to cost them a bundle to fight it.  I am glad the city is taking action on this.  They have been getting more aggressive about enforcing municipal property violations which is good.

    And why am I not surprised it is Marty Reimer.  You can’t make this stuff up.

  • Bob Smith September 20, 2016 (4:20 pm)

    Based on the types of trees it is likely they are not dead, rather severely pruned. The root systems are still viable and capable of controlling erosion. They will probably grow back quite vigorously. This does not excuse the criminal actions of trespassing on public property to destroy property that belongs to all of us. 

    • Alice September 21, 2016 (5:51 pm)

      I really hope you’re right! 

  • Lisa Graham September 20, 2016 (4:29 pm)

    Why would their homeowners policy cover this? They paid someone to engage in illegal activity on city property. Since when is that covered?

  • dsa September 20, 2016 (4:36 pm)

    All this commotion and no current picture taken from the same location as above.

    • WSB September 20, 2016 (4:39 pm)

      We actually did go by and I will be adding it later. Been a bit of a hectic afternoon behind the scenes. Meantime, if anybody sees a helicopter … TV is overhead. – TR

      • WSB September 20, 2016 (4:51 pm)

        Meantime, just added to story: Statement received from lawyer for two of the people the city is suing. – TR

    • Mabuhay September 21, 2016 (7:55 am)

      Seriously, that is your issue? A current photo would say what, pray tell? 
      WSB: thank you for all you do in writing and visually! 

      • WSB September 21, 2016 (9:19 am)

        The photo our photographer took was looking from the 35th street end, not the much-used view from City View, so we are going back today for that. Somewhere in our coverage we did have a more “before” type shot from the 35th street end but I haven’t had time to look for it. If interested anyway – see yesterday afternoon’s shot here. https://westseattleblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/freshtrees1-e1474474696987.jpg

        • dsa September 21, 2016 (9:15 pm)

          Nice picture, but 

          doesn’t seem to be an “after”.  It is very lush, doesn’t show the brutalized trees and houses on top of the bluff.

          • WSB September 21, 2016 (9:48 pm)

            That is the photo we took yesterday, which I uploaded today and put the link in my earlier comment. It was taken from the street end at 35th (between the Riemer and Harrelson houses, to be specific), looking north. By calling it “after,” I meant “six months after” this all became public. I can’t find a “before” photo from this angle, though I know I took one, as in “when this all became public” in March. Meantime, we did go to the area today to take photos from the more-familiar perspective, obtained via hiking into the city land from CityView, looking back up to the slope, and I’m putting that together now, just because people asked. Some of the trees that weren’t completely chopped down have sprouted shoots (not the technical term, I’m sure) over the summer and you can barely see the houses looking back upslope. – TR

        • dsa September 21, 2016 (10:35 pm)

          Speaking in response to my comment, TR wrote of another more current photo: …Some of the trees that weren’t completly chopped down have sprouted shoots… … over the summer and you can barely see the houses looking back upslope.”

          This is the point some of us have been trying to make, in that these type trees have not been murdered.  In fact…ah, I’ll let it go at that for now.

        • dsa September 21, 2016 (10:40 pm)

          Speaking in response to my comment, TR wrote of another more current photo: …Some of the trees that weren’t completely chopped down have sprouted shoots… … over the summer and you can barely see the houses looking back upslope.”

          This is the point some of us have been trying to make, in that these type trees have not been murdered.  In fact…ah, I’ll let it go at that for now.

  • Chelsea September 20, 2016 (5:30 pm)

    ‘We believe the damages sought in the suit are excessive’ 

    Fun fact: Seattle has no formalized municipal tree code, though the Department of Planning and Development has submitted several draft versions over the years which have not been taken up by the City Council. Had this happened in Portland, where such a code exists, they would have assessed damages based on the size of each individual tree on top of fines for various illegal activities, and I would expect that it would be exponentially higher.

    This is still a bargain for all the culpable homeowners involved. I really hope the city doesn’t settle.

    • John September 20, 2016 (6:11 pm)

      Funner Fact:

      Seattle does have extensive tree codes.  

      The Critical Areas in which this occurred have tree and vegetation regulations separate and far more extensive from the rest of Seattle’s, some of which these homeowners have been charged with violating.    

    • chemist September 20, 2016 (9:57 pm)

      Seattle has some codes….


      Tree Protection Code

      Environmentally critical areas. You cannot remove any trees or vegetation from environmentally critical areas, such as steep slopes, wildlife habitat, and wetlands, without a Tree Removal and Vegetation Restoration approval.

  • EH September 20, 2016 (5:35 pm)

    No matter what their well-trained lawyer says, the residents still hired someone to “top/prune” trees that were on city property, not their own. No complaints, you are responsible to pay restoration for the damages the city sees fit, whether you told the workers to top/prune or to chop it all down, either one was ILLEGAL! 

  • flimflam September 20, 2016 (5:49 pm)

    yeah – the “we didn’t know/expect/condone” excuse has no merit as the trees were not on their property and thus have no right to trim/prune/destroy/whatever the trees. cry me a river, john and jane doe’s.

  • Lonnie September 20, 2016 (6:09 pm)

    The homeowners are essentially arguing that they only paid the hitman to break someone’s knees, and because the hit was misunderstood they shouldn’t be held fully accountable.

    • Jan Brazill September 21, 2016 (8:43 am)

        This is the BEST comment so far!  It’s a great description of exactly what has taken place,


    • Joseph Owens September 21, 2016 (9:45 am)

      agreed… best comment.

  • Sunuva September 20, 2016 (6:22 pm)

    I’m glad to see the city is actually following through on prosecution. I had to look up who Marty Reimer is, but I’m not surprised somebody who is at least locally famous was involved. The people who did this obviously have plenty of money and thought they were either above the law or could afford the penalties.

    • East Coast Cynic September 20, 2016 (7:34 pm)

      Hopefully they are put in prison if convicted rather than arbitrated into paying a large fine.  That would be a huge deterrent to anybody that considers such selfish action that severely damages the environment.

  • Jason September 20, 2016 (6:24 pm)

    Just came in to comment about Mary Riemer, but see I’m late to the party.  Didn’t expect a familiar name in this debacle.  

  • AMD September 20, 2016 (6:29 pm)

    The lawyer’s attempts to spin this are almost insulting to the reader.  Paying someone to cut down trees you don’t own is wrong.  Morally and legally.  It doesn’t matter if the number you told them to cut is less than what they cut.  There would be no issue at all had they just followed the law to begin with.  If his clients are so willing to work with the city to right the wrong, how about they help by writing a check instead of fighting to shift the blame elsewhere.

    HTB, consider the perspective of the folks at the bottom of the hill who are now at increased danger of losing their houses, everything they own, and their lives because someone wanted to see the Space Needle.

  • ScubaFrog September 20, 2016 (6:30 pm)

    The city should sue for much more, to make a statement.  And they should all be criminally prosecuted – although they won’t be. 

    IF those people are guilty, they’re deplorable.  They ARE thugs.  Regular people don’t do things like this. 

    I feel so bad for the innocent people in that neighborhood.

  • canton September 20, 2016 (7:08 pm)

    Harrelson’s lawyer has a big check coming. CEO of Pinnacle property management, located on pier 70, co-owned by John Goodman of Triad development? They wanted to settle with city? Of course they did, they have financial means to TRY to make it go away.

  • Joan September 20, 2016 (8:16 pm)

    Yea! Speak for the trees! Greedy people who just went ahead and did what they wanted, whether or not they knew it was illegal. We all must be vigilant about developers, remodelers, builders, in our neighborhoods and keep them accountable for their actions. Don’t assume what you are seeing is legal.

  • 35this35mph September 20, 2016 (8:40 pm)

    Not to rub salt in an old wound but I am glad to see names being named. And I hope that the remaining John and Jane Does get their day in the sun too. Because I am reminded of this event when some unnamed asshat got to BUY HIS WAY OUT OF JUSTICE! Right here in West Seattle. 


    • newnative September 21, 2016 (8:03 am)

      That’s exactly what I was worried about.  That guy stole property and I am flabbergasted he was given the chance to “correct it” and never get charged.   I’m still concerned these upstanding citizens won’t be charged criminally.  

  • SWinWS September 20, 2016 (8:49 pm)

    You know I have seen a case like this before, see MSDS for “Affluenza.”  I agree with most of you, this is a serious crime and needs to be criminally prosecuted.   The penalty of $1.6 million is considerably nothing divided among the list of defendants, and the damages (and restoration costs) far exceed this number.  Sadly, a poor person with unpaid traffic tickets will pay far more in compounding fees (as a percentage of wealth) than these entitled scumbags.  I do hope the City of Seattle does the right thing and, pursues the charges all the way.

  • Tree Hugger September 20, 2016 (9:25 pm)

    Right on, City of Seattle!

  • Michael Oxman September 20, 2016 (9:32 pm)

    Here’s a question: Why use the trunk diameter measurement of 6″, since the city code defines a tree as being over 8″ in diameter, among other things.

    The city doesn’t  enforce the tree code very often. Can we please find out how often?

    The city council discussed this issue on April 7th, and a 1 hour & 22 minute video of their meeting is here:


    Some background material can be found in this 2010 Seattle Post Intelligencer article by Larry Lange:



    • AMD September 20, 2016 (10:15 pm)

      The tree code doesn’t allow you to cut more than 3 trees over 6″ in diameter every 5 years without a permit.  So that’s 150 too many, even if the tree-cutters owned the property. 

      • chemist September 20, 2016 (11:03 pm)

        It’s per year, 3 non-exceptional trees over 6 inch diameter on an already developed property they own….  and that’s ignoring special steep slope restrictions, undeveloped land prohibitions on any greater than 6 inch diameter tree removal,etc.

      • John September 21, 2016 (7:48 am)

        That is the code for developed property, i.e, your own property with a house on it, not vacant lots or City owned property.

        Recently Seattle made it illegal to cut any trees above 6″ from vacant lots.  If you are a homeowner you are given far more legal tree trimming leeway than vacant lots or new construction.

  • Pops September 20, 2016 (9:38 pm)

    I feel like the accused, if found guilty, should pay. It may not seem like much but 7 figures is going to hurt, even split 4 ways. I feel like at least one of these defendants is not wealthy.  

    • Pops September 20, 2016 (9:40 pm)

      What I mean is, I think people thinking these richies are getting off easy isn’t necessarily the truth. 

      • EH September 21, 2016 (8:19 am)

        It seems like just the north portion alone, split between the 4 names listed and the 10 or so “jane/john does” is going to be about $1,000,000, or $70,000 per person (not per family). That’s going to hurt, hopefully…

        • Concerned Citizen September 21, 2016 (9:54 am)

          70k is not going to hurt enough for these rich, entitled and arrogant people.

  • TheKing September 20, 2016 (9:48 pm)

    Just curious….what will the city do with any money they receive from this?

    • wb September 20, 2016 (9:53 pm)

      Plant some trees?

  • lookingforlogic September 20, 2016 (10:04 pm)

    It was vandalizing property that wasn’t theirs.  What would they do if this crime was committed on their personal property?

  • Elle Nell September 20, 2016 (10:22 pm)

    Yes yes and a HeLLZ YeES!! You do the crime and hopefully you pay the consequence… I’m really surprised though that such a long time seattlite would be so class-less and not realize how much this really matters. Pretty sure he knows how much we love our trees.. Sad state of greed. 

  • Mark September 20, 2016 (10:39 pm)

    If the crime committed on personal property like a bike thief stealing a bike.  It would be nice to see equal punishment aka the bike thief be forced to pay restitution plus a fine.  The tree cutters should be forced to pay to restore the trees and pay a fine.  This is equal.

  • AIDM September 20, 2016 (10:54 pm)

    For those noting the lack of timely criminal charges, this could actually be a legal strategy.  The defendants in the lawsuit might be forced to testify in order to defend the easier to prove “preponderance of evidence” of a civil case, which would then become public record for the criminal case where they will likely choose not to testify.

  • Who? Me? September 21, 2016 (2:30 am)

    The city should build a new skyscraper there.

  • Pile-o-Rox September 21, 2016 (7:01 am)

     AIDM – the strategy is generally the opposite of what you describe. That is, obtain a criminal conviction and the civil case is already a done deal due to the lesser standard. And yes, the defendants can assert their 5th Amendment rights in a civil proceeding.



  • Alki resident6 September 21, 2016 (10:02 am)

    I am interested to see what they find out during this case. Seattle neighborhood tree politics are crazy and I’m personally very glad we are evolving out of neighborhood tradition of topping trees every 5 years.  We don’t know yet what level folks were involved and what they knew at any one time.  I love trees, but Marty seems like a decent fellow and this seems both out of character and not something a media savvy person would do.   So for now, my pitchfork stays in the shed, and I hope we see Marty volunteering at the tree lighting ceremony again this year.

  • Norma September 21, 2016 (10:31 am)

    I don’t buy the “trying to maintain a view” argument.  What they did is just plain ugly.  I live at the top of a hill with a potential view but it is blocked by beautiful evergreens full of birds and other wildlife.  Our hill also sits on top of a major earthquake fault and these tree protected us during the Nisqually earthquake from suffering even greater damage than we did.  I feel like I’m living in the middle of a forest and I love it.  I would be devastated if my neighbors violated my property and left such destruction.  We have had neighbors trim our trees without permission and one time a contractor remove a lot of dirt at the base of our hill (with Seattle engineering approval) destabilizing the natural slope.  But nothing as ugly as what happened here.  I hope the neighborhood finds a way to heal the damage.

  • West Seattle Resident September 21, 2016 (11:16 am)

    Obviously, the cutting of trees on this parcel of city property is horrible, but at this time only suits have been filed.  Obviously, someone is guilty, but nobody has been “found” guilty.  We do not know the details of the case and we do not know if all of the parties named (or unnamed) are actually involved or if involved how they were involved.  It’s easy to make the leap from a suit has been filed to all parties are guilty. 

  • JTB September 21, 2016 (11:52 am)

    It’s going to cost the homeowners a bundle in attorney fees just to get their insurance providers to agree to provide coverage and even they do, I’d imagine it would only be for a portion of a final settlement since those policies typically don’t cover intentional acts.  

  • quiz September 21, 2016 (1:01 pm)

    Something doesn’t add up here. No one in their right mind would hire people to clear cut all of those trees. Seems like this was more likely a case of miss communication gone terribly wrong. The city filing these suits is misguided.  I get that they are trying to set an example but this seems like the wrong instance to do that.

    • Tom S September 21, 2016 (1:29 pm)

      I don’t think they are in their right mind. They do admit to just hiring workers to ‘top’ a few trees (that aren’t on their property), conveniently left town, and then returned to the clear cutting. If people honestly believe that then I have a nice bridge on Admiral that crosses a ravine that I’d love to sell them. 

    • Q September 21, 2016 (1:38 pm)

      There is evidence that this type of clear cutting happened before near this site, so this wasn’t a miscommunication. Nice try by the lawyers though. This is a case of entitlement and overestimating what one can get away with. Time to send a message to deter more of this in the future.

    • sw September 21, 2016 (1:47 pm)

      It would be a bit of a stretch to have “take the tops off a few of these trees right here” be misinterpreted as “clearcut the entire hillside.”  The persons named in the suits contracted the work, therefore are liable as these were not their trees to cut.

    • AMD September 21, 2016 (11:31 pm)

      I feel it’s the opposite.

      No tree-cutting company would agree to cutting so many trees without explicit instructions and a hefty down payment.  Such an operation would be quite expensive, labor-wise.  Could you imagine a plumber digging a trench and replacing your side sewer without at least a clear contract spelling out the scope of work and final cost?  That’s if an actual contractor was used.  It seems doubtful given just individuals were named as the contractors.

      • quiz September 22, 2016 (9:29 am)

        AMD, actually, yes I’m aware of several contractors who have done extensive work that was wrong and misguided. In fact, it’s funny that you use the plumber example. My neighbor had their entire sewer line replaced without authorizing the work just last year. A $12K job that they had not requested. That kind of stuff happens all the time. Contractors a notorious for screwing stuff up. Pretty much everyone that has ever used one has a horror story.

        Perhaps you’ve never had the pleasure of working with contractors?

  • BL September 21, 2016 (1:40 pm)

     “No one in their right mind would hire people to clear cut all of those trees”.  What ridiculous logic. No one in their right mind would hire people to cut ANY tree’s on public property and think they were in the “right”. Therefore it goes to reason that the city should file suit just like I would if someone cut down tree’s on my property and no doubt they probably would if I hired someone to cut down “just a few tree’s” on their property.

  • Randy September 21, 2016 (1:42 pm)
    You need to public apologize for cutting the trees in front of your home to get a view.  You also need severe fines that are more then the value your house gained from the cutting plus jail time and community service for what you did.  Come clean on your show.
    The fine needs to be upped to much more then the value their house gained from this.  If you divide out the $1.6 million between all the homeowners involved they win.  They will pay less then the gain in value for the view.
    • quiz September 21, 2016 (2:54 pm)

      Wow, Randy. Everyone needs to take a deep breath. We have half a story based on a suit that even the city admits if far from complete when it comes to facts. Can we pump the breaks with the witch hunt?

  • Randy September 21, 2016 (1:43 pm)

    Also the cutters need high penalties for not verifying this was private land.

  • Kate September 21, 2016 (1:48 pm)

    I’m with Quiz. I can’t imagine thirty families in one neighborhood  all agreeing to clear cut parcels that size- 1) It’s impossible to hide 2) people in this region are savvy about slides 3) it’s hideous looking 4) it’s dangerous . We don’t know the whole story here. I’ve known Karrie and Marty Riemer for several years. Not well enough to know their personal involvement with this situation, but I do know that they care deeply about Seattle, West Seattle, and the well being of their neighbors. The tree cutting IS horrific, in my opinion, but I also think the harsh comments are equally disturbing when we clearly don’t have all of the information.  Can we wait a bit before we burn them all at the stake?

    • Dan September 21, 2016 (3:10 pm)

      Nope.  We’ve already waited six months.

  • Q September 21, 2016 (2:30 pm)

    From the Harrelsons’ lawyer: “While the lawsuit claims that none of the homeowners has come forward with the full story, our clients have fully cooperated with the City’s efforts since they, themselves, disclosed this work to the City early this year, and hired a former City of Seattle arborist to develop a restoration plan.”

    I’d be interested in knowing more about the timeline. As I understand it, a community member reported the cutting to the city on Jan 15, followed by the Harrelsons’ disclosure to the City on Feb 5. So it appears that the Harrelsons’ “disclosure” to the City was only because the Harrelsons had already been caught.

    • WSB September 21, 2016 (2:40 pm)

      The same story containing attorney Graham’s original statement also contains the City Attorney’s Office reply to our questions on the first weekday after this all became public, starting with the Times’ story late on a Friday night.

      This one:


      Which starts with “A neighbor in the area contacted SDOT arborist Nolan Sundquist in January to alert him to some number of trees being cut.”

      I’m still looking through our other stories but while the neighbor’s tip might have preceded the February 5th contact, the question is whether on 2/5 – when this letter was sent by Graham-


      -did the Harrelsons know somebody had gone to the city?

      And for anyone who has lost track of the entire timeline, the Times’ initial story was March 25th. And it took a few days before the city acknowledged they had known about it for so long.


      • Q September 22, 2016 (9:34 am)

        That’s a good point. However believing that the Harrelsons went to the City without prompting would require me to believe their unbelievable story that they just wanted the trees topped (which is illegal anyway). It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I hope the facts come out in court as opposed to some closed-door settlement.

        I’d also be interested in knowing how many trees the Harrelsons are accused of cutting. The lawyer wrote back in March: “To our clients’ surprise and dismay, several trees were cut at or near the base, as opposed to just limited pruning work.”  But was it just several trees, or more?  

        The lawyer more recently wrote “While the lawsuit claims that none of the homeowners has come forward with the full story, our clients have fully cooperated with the City’s efforts since they, themselves, disclosed this work to the City early this year, and hired a former City of Seattle arborist to develop a restoration plan”   So is the lawyer saying that the Harrelsons have come forward with the fully story? Or is the lawyer just saying that they reported it? I think the latter but the lawyer’s languange is (perhaps intentionally) vague.

  • themountain September 21, 2016 (2:57 pm)

    Can’t wait for Prisoner’s Dilemma to start kicking and these people start ratting each other out.  Think the contractor is going to take the fall for cutting down trees he was only asked to prune?  Heck no, he is going to produce any evidence he has that he was asked to clear cut the area – email communication, paid bills for such work, etc.

    Who is going to cop a plea first?

  • flimflam September 21, 2016 (4:52 pm)

    so the lawyer said this was a “mistake”. yeah, its a major mistake to mess with trees that aren’t on your property. even if they claim ignorance of the laws, that doesn’t matter one bit. book ’em!

  • BettytheYeti September 21, 2016 (6:07 pm)

    @35this35mph   Yes, I still think the “Totem” John Doe’s should be name.  Every time I drive by the totem I think: HUBRIS.

    • 35this35mph September 22, 2016 (4:45 pm)

      Yes. It has stayed firmly stuck in my craw since it occurred. It is a failure of justice, a failure of the media and a failure of the civic organization which apparently signed off on it. Shame.  

  • Agnes Tomorrow September 21, 2016 (9:19 pm)

    Surely it hasn’t been so long ago that people have forgotten the houses sliding down towards Delridge? This area has a clear history of landslides and property damage! It’s truly unfortunate this tree cutting wasn’t nipped in the bud but the perpetrators need to be held to account.

    • John September 22, 2016 (8:34 am)

      Agnes Tomorow,

       The Delridge slide you mention was not caused by tree cutting. 

  • DH September 21, 2016 (9:40 pm)

    I hope they increase the fine and file the Criminal charges ASAP. Those of you saying the comments are harsh are missing the egregiousness of this act. 

  • Guy September 21, 2016 (9:55 pm)

    Wow people. Unlike the Harrelsons, NOTHING I have read or heard about this horrible incident indicates that the Riemers have conceded they had anything to do with it. Maybe they did– but maybe they didn’t. Before we burn them at the stake or throw them in the water to see if they sink or float, maybe we should wait for the Riemers to comment. And if they don’t comment, which is their right, let’s wait for the legal proceedings to conclude before we convict them without a trial.

    • Q September 22, 2016 (9:24 am)

      If I was accused of something I didn’t do, I’d be pretty pissed and would at least put out a statement proclaiming my innocence. It’s his right to remain silent, but it’s also our right to form opinions based on what we observe. So far, I hear no proclamation of innocence. Maybe it’s coming, but nothing yet as far as I know.

      • chemist September 22, 2016 (12:29 pm)

        You mean, like, talk about it on the radio or a podcast ?  I think any lawyer would advise against it….  trying to appease the public can only work against you with the city/county.

        • Q September 22, 2016 (4:43 pm)

          Or even just a written statement. The Harrelsons’ lawyer has issued a statement, so why can’t Reimer or his lawyer?

  • Citizen Sane September 22, 2016 (4:24 am)

    Going with a civil suit is a shrewd move on the City’s part. A civil trial doesn’t require a unanimous verdict, and the named defendants, now faced with having to pay a share of a $1.6 million fine, may well break their ‘code of silence’ and start dropping a dime on each other. After all, there is no honor among (tree) thieves.

    Ahh…the sound of entitled property owners throwing each other under the bus. That will be something to hear…

  • anonyme September 22, 2016 (6:56 am)

    Any licensed arborist or landscaper would know that a permit is required to cut a tree on public property.    Unfortunately, there are a lot of unlicensed, unskilled landscapers who will do anything they’re told for a price, whether aware of the laws or not.  Forrest Bishop and John Russo are named as having been hired to do the cutting; I can find no evidence that either one of these individuals is connected with a tree or landscape operation.   Did they do any of the actual cutting, or were they hired as intermediaries?  If the latter – why?  Very little of the homeowner’s defense makes any sense, nor is ignorance of the law a defense.

    The fines, which will undoubtedly be reduced by the time of settlement, are far too low.

  • Ivan September 22, 2016 (8:33 am)

    Whatever penalties are dealt out eventually, I still think the city should build a spite fence that will block the offenders’ views altogether till the trees grow back to where they were before the illegal cutting.

  • Concerned Citizen September 22, 2016 (12:36 pm)

    Don’t forget this isn’t the first time trees have been cut from the same area…..It happened in 2007, 2009 & 2010.  You have to scroll down pretty far in the comments on this article to see pictures of previous tree cuts:  https://westseattleblog.com/2016/03/followup-where-east-admiral-tree-cutting-investigation-stands-city-attorneys-office-says-could-be-a-felony/

    This is by far the most egregious cutting and the first time they have been caught, but the area has had trees cut before.

  • anonyme September 22, 2016 (3:14 pm)

    BTW, the “sprouts” (usually called suckers) growing from the base of the cut trees will grow into weedy shrubs – not healthy trees.  Many plants and shrubs can be cut to the ground and grow back as good as new; trees can’t.  It may look as if the slope is recovering, but a blanket of green growth can be misleading.  The cut trees will not regenerate as new trees, and much of the “lush” groundcover is likely weedy, invasive species.  Clearcutting does not encourage a natural ecosystem, so yes – the trees were murdered.

    • dsa September 23, 2016 (11:01 am)

      Good grief, give the trees some credit for survival.

  • steve September 23, 2016 (8:46 am)

    I think most of these trees will grow back completely if they just let nature take its coarse. I know everyone wants to hang these guys,  but the roots are still there.  In 3 to 5 years these trees should be back to their normal sizes. Just don’t dig up the stumps, they’ll be ok.

    On a side note, does anyone remember this Judge that did the same thing. No criminal penalties for the judge, of course.


  • PonderosaPine September 23, 2016 (8:59 am)

    I am surprised no one has made the connection yet to the Oso slide.  I walked by this site last night.  It is right above Admiral Way SW where cars line up every morning waiting to get on the bridge.  On the other side of Admiral, there are family homes.  Family homes lie to the north of this cutting and their foundations could be undermined.

    I am very disappointed not only In the actions of the home owners but the inaction of the City as well.  People’s lives have been put at risk.  Why does it take the media to initiate action from the City?  Where is the leadership from our Mayor?

  • anonyme September 23, 2016 (9:34 am)

    Steve, are you an arborist?  Trees do not grow back from stumps merely because the roots remain.   Nor does any tree I’m aware of grow back to “normal size” in 3-5 years.   Even most of the fastest growing trees attain a growth rate of about 3′ per year.  Trees are not just large shrubs, although many uneducated “tree trimmers” treat them that way.

    Your statements are completely erroneous.

    • dsa September 23, 2016 (10:56 am)

      They will not grow back to normal size quickly, but these type are growing back, and the roots will help help prevent saturation causing slippage.  If on the other hand trees on steep hillsides are allowed to grow tall, come full blown storms, the trunks shake disturbing the ground and the tree starts to lean eventually falling and creating a worse situation.  You can find  those trees simply by looking around WS steep slopes. 

      This site  that was aesthetically cleared is probably in no more danger of slippage than it was before, likely less.

    • John September 27, 2016 (8:10 pm)

      Sorry I have to disagree with you about trees do grow back out of the stumps.  You just keep watching this this spot them stumps will be covered with sprouts that grow fast. if you don’t beleave me  just keep your eyes open. I know i have seen it happen to many times. Now evergreen trees when they get cut down they R dead!

  • Ben September 23, 2016 (5:11 pm)

    Stanley Harrelson is a smart and powerful real estate guy. Powerful real estate guys realize it is often cheaper and easier to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Assuming they avoid criminal conviction, even after settling this civil suit, their greatly-improved view and increased property value will likely be worth every penny.

  • Fauntleroyfairy September 24, 2016 (12:15 am)

    Excuse me……!

    @ Scubafrog :  While I agree with you that HTB’s defense of the actions of the neighbors is misguided at best, I don’t agree with you throwing a racist accusation at them.   Making that assumption from just a post is biased and uniformed.  Not all “rich” people like to cut down trees or think they are above the law  (and I do not speak from experience) and not all of them think “non-white lower socioeconomic” people are thugs.  HTB has a right to see the issue differently than you or me.  So stop generalizing!  Call out the people who had the trees cut as the jerks THEY are, but do not condemn an entire group of people.  

  • sam September 24, 2016 (9:04 am)

    Just want to say that Amazon had their contractors cut down numerous large trees downtown. How come nobody went after amazon for not having them uprooted and moved to a new home???

    • colleen September 24, 2016 (10:10 am)

      Quite possibly and unlike these property owners, , Amazon obtained the requisite permission and permits. As we have no way of knowing what trees you refer to, we cannot look that up.

  • Truthteller September 24, 2016 (9:09 am)

    Just to the south east of that property down the winding hill  (I think it’s still Spokane street, but you get there by going down Hinds)is a property just to the right (3 yellow application signs are out). The owner is applying to remove 20,000 yards of dirt and trees to carve out 3 rectangular lots for building. It will back up to the people right above him. He intends to shore it up with a cement retaining wall which will eventually fail and those other houses will at the very least have structural issues.  

    I think the city may want take note and shore up the property at issue with a nice cement retaining wall to keep it from sliding and then sell the property to a developer so we can have a nice apartment building there. Maybe 300 units could fit into that space. 

  • John September 27, 2016 (7:30 pm)

    From what i see in the pics they just have a trespass charges for not getting a permit.  Just leave them trees alone there is a less chance of a slide now that all that weight of all them trees s on the ground. 

  • Nancy Sylliaasen September 30, 2016 (1:54 pm)

    So, potential rabid rodents, hideous amounts of debris on your property, bug invasions in your home, and all rot is totally fine to leave on your doorstep? Oh my,  first reaction clean and trim it up. I am 100% sure this was never the intent. Please.slow your roll. Think before you write.  

Sorry, comment time is over.