UPDATE: Ponderosa pine at heart of tree-vs.-house battle now being cut down

(WSB photos)

11:16 AM: Thanks for the tips: A tree-cutting crew is preparing to take down the “exceptional tree” at 3036 39th SW that had been at the heart of a neighborhood battle – it’s the ~100-foot Ponderosa Pine growing in the middle of a lot where the new owner intends to build a house. Here’s how the tree looked when we first reported on it nine months ago, interviewing a young neighbor who wanted to save it:

(WSB photo, June 2016)

Our most-recent update was three weeks ago, when nearby resident Lisa Parriott announced she was taking the fight to court, after the city Hearing Examiner ruled in favor of property owner Cliff Low in January. Court records show Parriott’s Land Use Petition in the case is scheduled for a hearing on March 31st – more than three weeks away. But the tree that neighbors dubbed the “Silent Giant” will apparently be long gone by then. Crews from Ballard Tree Service first cut a smaller tree on the lot this morning and are getting ready to take down the pine tree, with an offduty police officer hired to provide security on site.

The building permit for the house was issued more than a month ago. The tree crew says they expect to have the Ponderosa pine down by mid-to-late afternoon. We’ll check back at the site later.

1:32 PM: Stopped by about half an hour ago, before being diverted to breaking news. Limbs are being removed before they tackle the trunk.

4:48 PM: The tree was completely de-limbed when we went back over a little while ago:

Not long before our arrival, Craig Young took the next photo, as the tree’s top was removed:

ADDED WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Thanks to the texter who sent this photo from the end:

69 Replies to "UPDATE: Ponderosa pine at heart of tree-vs.-house battle now being cut down"

  • North of Admiral March 8, 2017 (11:40 am)

    Where is Tree Man when you need him? No but seriously, glad the land owner can finally move on and rightfully build on his property.

    We need housing in this city.

    I’m also glad my side lots on my property don’t have a large tree on them so when I decide to build I can avoid this headache.Image result for seattle tree man

    • Tony S March 8, 2017 (12:20 pm)

      Yer hilarious.

    • cjboffoli March 8, 2017 (2:20 pm)

      North of Admiral:  If you don’t have permission to use that photograph (which appears to be the copyrighted work of Steve Bartlett) you probably should not be posting it here as unauthorized, unattributed use may bring potential liability to the West Seattle Blog.  

    • JnetNW March 21, 2017 (9:37 pm)

      You are the New Seattle, alright.

      Related: Up, up & up, with no cares about light, trees or sky. The greed that envelops developers of the Junctions are great examples. i.e. The 6-foot building not far enough to the south of me decided to paint their north wall? … black, of course.

  • West Seattle Hipster March 8, 2017 (11:59 am)

    R.I.P tree

    • sbre March 8, 2017 (12:24 pm)

      What WS Hipster said…

      I, the birds and squirrels and who knows what else will miss you! 

  • Marty March 8, 2017 (12:28 pm)

    Good! Property owners have rights too.

  • Katie March 8, 2017 (12:45 pm)

    It’s a sad thing. So much time went into growing a tree that big. But I’m sympathetic too about the land owner. We need houses too. But a tree that large would take more than a lifetime to replace. Houses are easier to build. 

  • +! March 8, 2017 (12:58 pm)

    Seems like they could have built around the tree?  Thanks to salmon watershed protection in my area the rowhouses across the street had to come up with a creative lot placement to save a huge corner tree. They just staggered the units and put a small amount of thought into the design, without sacrificing the total number of units.

    • JnetNW March 21, 2017 (9:39 pm)

      Well spotted.

  • BMC March 8, 2017 (1:13 pm)

    Good – I live in close proximity to that tree and have HUGE old trees next to my house- heavy branches fall every year, and I long for the day when they are REMOVED.

    • John March 9, 2017 (7:56 am)

      I long for the day when a virus eliminates all humans and more trees can grow.

      • Mark S March 10, 2017 (11:42 am)

        When that happens we won’t have to worry about climate change any longer.

      • Treekillers March 12, 2017 (8:43 am)

        Don’t forget all beavers, and termites! These two must die .

  • Elle Nell March 8, 2017 (1:18 pm)

    What a beautiful tree, lost to the human race…. 

    • WD fundie March 8, 2017 (1:33 pm)

      A non-native planted by the human race….

      • Elle Nell March 8, 2017 (2:55 pm)

        Funny Fundie… pretty sure they are native to this area! And what planted 500 or 1000 years ago.. ? Either way, it’s an old growth tree… which belongs to our land.

        • Nope March 8, 2017 (4:33 pm)

          Incorrect – this tree belongs to Cliff Low. Now, if we could all just get out of his business ..

          • Elle Nell March 8, 2017 (5:07 pm)


            that depends where your head is at … and clearly we know where yours is 😉

            this old tree, is all of our business!! Similarly to our old buildings, similarly to our culture… we will hold on to what is right and speak on it- ALWAYS!! 

  • steve March 8, 2017 (1:42 pm)

    All is not lost.  Instead of  telling someone else what to do, we can make a difference by planting our own trees. There are many fast growing varieties that are used on tree farms. Take your pick. Get to work.  If you don’t own property,   take a couple saplings to a greenbelt. Guerrilla planting I call it.

    • datamuse March 9, 2017 (6:34 am)

      Quite right. There used to be a lot more trees this size–probably right where our houses are now. Seems a bit much to be upset about this one without acknowledging that.


      In point of fact, my husband and I just bought some recently harvested timberland with plans to restore it to forest. We’re looking forward to the work.

    • kittyno March 9, 2017 (5:32 pm)

      Agreed.  People get really upset about these big trees because they’re visually notable, but then often forget to take action in their own yards.   If the removal of this tree really upset you, I suggest planting something to commemorate it.  (If you want some plant suggestions, message me–I’m a certified horticulturist and am happy to make a couple native or non-native suggestions.)  Or getting involved with greenbelts.  Or native plant outreach.  

      Also, we’ve got some amazing programs in the Puget Sound that could really use membership!  There are plenty of plants and trees to save elsewhere, folks!

      In the meantime, let’s lay off the finger pointing, it’s not neighborly and what was done here was completely legal.

  • JC March 8, 2017 (2:08 pm)

    Is that a police officer on the left standing on the deck?   If it is, Wonder if he is there incase activist would strike and cause problems.

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (2:18 pm)

      It’s mentioned in the story. Offduty officer hired by the builder for security. Offduty police officers are often hired and paid by a variety of private interests for security, if they choose to make themselves available for that work. Anyway, we’ve been there three times today and there are no “activists” there. Unless you count Mary Fleck from Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, who was watching peacefully, if sadly.

  • Mary fleck March 8, 2017 (2:34 pm)

    Sad to watch the squirrels scrambling higher and higher as the limbs come down

    it makes no sense that the City allowed building on this substandard lot

  • Think Before You Plant March 8, 2017 (2:50 pm)


    Go to Admiral Way near 47th and you can see about 25 of the same type of tree planted to make a hedge. The squirrels have their own HALA area there. 

  • Margaritavillle March 8, 2017 (2:55 pm)

    Just because someone can cut down a tree and build a large house on a tiny lot doesn’t mean they should.

    • Jake from State Farm March 8, 2017 (11:20 pm)

      Just because you can give your opinion on an internet messaging board doesn’t mean you should, Margaritaville

      • MyOpinionCounts March 9, 2017 (9:31 pm)

        Jame, just because you feel entitled to behave like a bully towards others doesn’t mean you should. A 100 year old tree is no small feat and on that note, just because you own the property doesn’t mean you should build to its extreme edges, nor overcrowd the ever important and shrinking urban green space that is imperative to humans and wildlife.

  • Jeff B. March 8, 2017 (3:51 pm)

    Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. (M. Gandhi) This is a classic example of greed going off the rails and taking a treasure away from all.

    • enviromaven March 8, 2017 (4:12 pm)

      A-greed completely.

    • Nope March 8, 2017 (4:37 pm)

      There were much better trees before all these other houses were crammed into west Seattle- who will deride those builders and cry for those trees?

    • John March 9, 2017 (7:59 am)

      Agree too!

    • Swede. March 9, 2017 (9:17 am)

      You are aware this is a capitalism based system right? Profit/greed is ALWAYS #1… 

  • kumalavula March 8, 2017 (4:26 pm)

    i drove by about 3:45 and all branches had been cut down save for about 5 feet at the tree’s very top. it was so, SO sad! 

    i am reminded of the quote attributed to chief seattle:

    only when the last tree has died and the last river have been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money.

    though we live in an era when people have different opinions and goals and have the right to cut down trees on their own property, i am forever grateful that there are also other people willing to spend time and energy advocating for living beings that cannot advocate for themselves.

    i truly hope that someone will do something that endures with the wood from that lovely tree. make art, make furniture, don’t let that tree’s history go to waste!

    • Smitty March 8, 2017 (5:19 pm)

      Probably written from a home – made from trees.

      • Jake from State Farm March 8, 2017 (11:23 pm)

        Or maybe a cabin in the forest? Or apartment complex made of wood with no parking?

    • MyOpinionCounts March 9, 2017 (9:34 pm)

      Jake and Smitty, shame on you for such snide remarks. What are you doing to make a difference rather than making fun of others?

  • Raye March 8, 2017 (4:37 pm)

    Goodbye, beautiful old tree. Very sad.

  • Hooray March 8, 2017 (5:28 pm)

    The tree minus the limbs looks like a big middle finger that the want to be dictators of West Seattle are finally getting with this tree removal. Great day for property owners!

    • Elle Nell March 8, 2017 (5:55 pm)

      Hey Hooray- you sound ridiculous.. the middle finger is really toward our earth and those who continue to destroy it… wake up. You might remember this when your great- grandchildren are suffering with how to sustain themselves on this earth and think, “wow, those dictators were right..” And it is pretty much moving this fast.  how sad… if you can not understand the meaning behind this, you must go deeper.

  • A. March 8, 2017 (5:39 pm)

    This is fantastic news for property owners!

  • Alkistu March 8, 2017 (6:10 pm)

    I get the feeling there are a lot of people who would like all nature to disappear.

  • Junction Lady March 8, 2017 (6:50 pm)

    Trees (especially big overgrown trees) can cause lots of problems on small residential lots…roots can damage underground plumbing at great expense to the homeowner, and tree roots can cause concrete to buckle/crack; just note the many sidewalks that are buckled as well as foundations and retaining walls.  

  • Hame March 8, 2017 (7:04 pm)

    I get the feeling there are a lot of people who love nature but love housing, jobs and lower taxes even more.  

    These neighbors have squandered a  tremendous amount of our tax dollars.   If you increase the cost to build homes or reduce the amount of homes that can be built that hurts Seattle.   I am in the camp that cares more about my family, my neighbors and my coworkers then this single tree.  

    • AdmiralRes March 8, 2017 (8:54 pm)

      No tax dollars were spent (or squandered) on appealing the decision on this lot – the neighbors spent their own money. 

      • Overthere March 8, 2017 (9:46 pm)

        To the contrary, the appellant appealed the amount that should have been billed by the city and they forgave the debt to the tune of over $7200. The tax payers ate that cost.

    • Tony S March 8, 2017 (9:26 pm)

      The jackassery of the rules that the City of Seattle has made surrounding this issue is something both sides of this issue should be truly concerned about. All you people trumpeting property rights have as much to lose as everyone else bemoaning the loss of this tree. Think the issue through before you get brave behind your keyboard and think how hilarious you think you’re being. So when you neighbor decided to sell to a development company and the City rolls out the red carpet for them to put in a quadplex next to your bedroom window, remember what happened here. 

  • WS Girl March 8, 2017 (7:23 pm)

    Started watching the video with my 6 year old, but he said it was too sad to watch them hurting the tree. I have to agree.

  • Fauntleroyfairy March 8, 2017 (8:57 pm)

    I love trees!  I wish we had more trees in the area, but I’m pretty sure that everyone complaining about losing this tree had trees on their lot before their home was built.  Just saying……

    • MyOpinionCounts March 9, 2017 (9:41 pm)

      Be careful about who you shame, most of the homes in WS were built between 1900 and 1950…so the trees on premise were gone long before most of the current owners were born let alone financially capable of owning a home. My property was void of any trees before it was built in 1918…on orchard property previously owned by UW.

  • Ryan March 8, 2017 (9:23 pm)

    So all of our existing homes seem to be ok, even with any greenery that had obviously been removed to allow their construction……but this guy is an a–hole for removing his tree? C’mon folks. As stated above, plant your own or offer your time to assist the local parks department to nurture green spaces.

    • datamuse March 9, 2017 (6:37 am)

      Nature Consortium can always use volunteers. They’re a great organization.

  • JTB March 8, 2017 (9:53 pm)

    Parriott had the option of filing a request for a Stay of action pending the review. She would have needed to argue for sustaining  irreparable harm, a potential of prevailing in the review and bear some costs.  It did seem time to let it go in light of the information in the article.

  • WStil2016 March 9, 2017 (7:00 am)

    ‘Jackassery’ , my new favorite word! 

  • Hame March 9, 2017 (7:33 am)

    AdmiralRes We are paying our hard earned tax dollars for this.

    In the prior post Lisa Parriott  said she was sent a bill for $10,000 for costs beyond her initial $2,800 that she paid .   Somehow through some back door meeting she got that removed.   That is our tax dollars being spent.

    Then it looks like the very next day, after she gets the 10k mysteriously forgiven, Lisa files another suit against The City.   WOW  !!   Is that how she repays the city.  That is going to cost time and resources for
    the City of Seattle.
      That is again our tax dollars wasted.

  • BW March 9, 2017 (8:21 am)

    Finally! – Property owners have rights.  

    Now can the owner / developer recoup his legal fees?  It seems only right as he was making decisions about HIS land.  

    • MyOpinionCounts March 9, 2017 (9:46 pm)

      Such an ignorant statement. Property owners have rights, rules are created because of people who take advantage. If you don’t like it, go buy an acreage somewhere. Chop wood, carry water….

  • steve March 9, 2017 (9:41 am)

    Wow. Amazing pictures. That tree cutter must have nerves of steel. talk about a dangerous job!

  • WSM March 9, 2017 (10:05 am)

    This is a sad commentary on our community when neighbors impose their opinions and take each other to court.   I am a mom, and to the mom with children who cried, I think the sad example to our kids is how a few neighbors have sued, lost, gotten their $10K bill forgiven, and then turned right around to sue the city again!  Yes, these are all of our tax dollars.  Didn’t they ever play sports and learn how to be a good loser?  

  • Harriet Husbands March 9, 2017 (10:15 am)

    Homes require a setback from trees like this.  You guys complain that there isn’t enough housing?  Well when the land costs so much do you think a 1500 sq ft home will suffice when the land alone is worth over 300-400k?

    Want to keep the tree up?  Then buy the land so you can control what you want.  How would you feel if your neighbors told you what you can and can’t do in your home?

    You can plant your own tree to compensate.

    You can’t benefit from appreciating home values, cash out and move somewhere else with the profits and expect the next buyer to keep things “as is”. Land is precious and these buyers need to make a return on their investment.  Reap what you sow.

  • Shawna March 9, 2017 (10:51 am)

    So here is what I don’t understand why does this a-hole get to build homes that are way to big for the size of the lot. When the city has said these homes are destroying neighborhoods, by overcrowding .Cliff Low gets to do whatever he wants because, the city just bends over!! The city is not helping the cause there pockets get lined with the use of this corrupt developer or any developer for that matter. This is suppose to be the “Evergreen state”  but the way we treat Trees, plants and the earth in  this city makes me sick.

      It is a sad day that the “silent giant” is gone !




  • Nancy R March 9, 2017 (11:15 am)

    If each of us plants one tree in our parking strip, our yards, or in a public greenspace,   we can pay it forward.  And right now is the perfect time to plant trees.

  • steve March 9, 2017 (2:33 pm)

    My advice. No plant tree over sewer pipe.  $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    • kittyno March 9, 2017 (5:33 pm)

      Too funny!  Yes and yes and yes.

  • Mary March 9, 2017 (8:51 pm)

    The truly unfortunate thing is that the house will be one of those character – less tall, skinny, flat topped boxes that are popping up all over.  Those things are a blight on the landscape. 

    • WSB March 9, 2017 (9:06 pm)

      It actually won’t be “tall.” It’s limited to two stories because of the size of the lot.

      The houses to which you’re referring are usually three stories (there’s one or more on every block around us), with a rooftop deck too if there’s anything resembling a view.

  • Gorillita March 10, 2017 (8:06 am)

    I can only hope that “tree karma” delivers the new owner what he/she deserves (which could be good or bad or somewhere in between).  Myself. I am very saddened by this insult to nature.

  • Don W March 10, 2017 (8:46 am)

    Going to be great when the Admiral area feels like Ballard.  Concrete!  More thin “homes”.  Property rights for developers mining a neighborhood and moving to the next.  Hopefully we’ll get a Walmart in here soon to take care of some of these smaller shops that charge a dollar extra for things.  

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