FOLLOWUP: Seattle Parks ‘advisory team’ considering how to put the view back in ‘viewpoint’

(WSB photo: Admiral Way Viewpoint, May 2018)

Back in May, when reader questions led us to ask Seattle Parks about the almost-viewlessness of some viewpoints like Admiral Way, they told us they were “pausing any view trimming while we review and update our viewpoint and tree trimming policies.” That process is happening now, and the city’s advisory Board of Park Commissioners got a briefing at its meeting this past week:

It’s the last big topic of the meeting, 1 hour and 33 minutes into the video (which you also can watch on the Seattle Channel website if the embedded version above doesn’t work for you). The briefing was presented by Parks’ Kathy Nyland and Jon Jainga, who brought along this document explaining where things are at:

They explained that a Viewpoint Advisory Team has been convened and has already met twice. It’s focusing on the 16 officially designated-by-the-city viewpoints (five of which are in West Seattle – Admiral Way [Belvedere], Charles Richey, Emma Schmitz, Hamilton, Rotary), though a fair amount of discussion at the meeting kept sidetracking to issues such as how to get other parks treated as viewpoints. But Parks can barely take care of what they already have: “We’ve got a maintenance problem and a capacity problem,” said Nyland. She and Jainga explained that not only does Parks have too few maintenance crew members for the 280,000 trees in the system, the work at some steeply sloped parks is too dangerous and requires hiring specially trained tree experts. Plus, they added, rules and practices have changed, and even if they had enough staff, they couldn’t do some of what used to be OK for maintaining views (tree-topping was mentioned). So they’re talking about what they can do, and where. Maybe figure out ways to have environmentally sustainable and not-labor-intensive landscaping in some areas, Jainga suggested, noting that Seattle is now a Bee City and a Bird City, among other things.

Interim Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams elaborated on the cost issue, saying Parks has to make decisions such as, maintain viewpoints or maintain ballfields? Money also factors into those considerations, he said, because organizations pay to use fields, while “views are free.”

The briefing document says Parks is considering using four viewpoints as “pilot” sites to try out whatever they come up with, adding, “This will allow us to ‘course correct’ as necessary before implementation across all designations.” The proposed “pilot” list includes Admiral Way and Hamilton Viewpoints.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Viewpoint Advisory Team is meeting again on October 10th and 24th (6 pm at Parks HQ downtown, open to the public) and after that is expected to return to the Parks Board with a final report and recommendations.

31 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Seattle Parks 'advisory team' considering how to put the view back in 'viewpoint'"

  • Gina October 1, 2018 (7:21 am)

    Removing invasive ivy from viewpoint trees would improve views and the health of trees.

  • wscommuter October 1, 2018 (8:46 am)

    I would happily pay more taxes for good forestry practices to be applied to thin and prune these key viewpoints. This is about keeping the city’s spectacular views intact. It is about livability.

  • Question Authority October 1, 2018 (8:57 am)

    Abandon the viewpoints and let nature be natural. If tourists need to see the City take them to Harbor Avenue experience it. This is especially true in West Seattle where tree’s are cut everyday to build more and more McBoxes.

  • flimflam October 1, 2018 (9:09 am)

    there should be plenty of staff and money for this and many other projects since the parks levy passed a couple years ago, right?

  • HotCoffee October 1, 2018 (9:12 am)

    Why does the city get to improve these views but a homeowner is castigated if they do the same in order to maintain the taxed value of their home/land?

    • Such thing October 1, 2018 (9:36 am)

      Are you asking why homeowners have gotten in trouble for cutting down trees that are not on their property? Maybe you should have had more coffee this morning.

      • John October 1, 2018 (9:47 am)

        Why does the city get to improve these views but a homeowner is castigated if they do the same (on their own property) in order to maintain the taxed value of their home/land?

      • mok4315 October 1, 2018 (10:17 am)

        If you’re talking about the legality, then I imagine cutting trees that are not on your property would be frowned upon. I guess if you’re looking at the bigger picture though, you’ve got a point. A cut tree is a cut tree, doesn’t really matter who does the cutting.

    • WSB October 1, 2018 (9:39 am)

      These 16 parks were specifically and officially designated as “viewpoints” decades ago and as noted in the linked story from earlier this year, the city code calls for the views to be maintained.

  • JanS October 1, 2018 (10:29 am)

    so, at 9:12am”hotcoffee” posts “Why does the city get to improve these views but a homeowner is castigated if they do the same in order to maintain the taxed value of their home/land?”
    at9:47am “john” posts “Why does the city get to improve these views but a homeowner is castigated if they do the same (on their own property) in order to maintain the taxed value of their home/land?” and the same guy? Really? Double posting as two different people? That doesn’t seem quite kosher, does it ? At least be a little more creative with the second post of the same thing…geez…

    and, thanks, TR for the great answer It pays to know what you are talking about ;-)

    • HotCoffee October 1, 2018 (10:58 am)

      Actually not, Jan, sorry. I think John was amplifying my original comment, correctly so, by noting “on their own property.” Which is a point I should have made in my OP.
      I’m not advocating for cutting city trees to improve a private homeowner’s view (such thing), I’m talking about people who have removed or trimmed their own trees and been lambasted by neighbors and comments. Or even just taken a position that a view is valuable and been yelled at that “the trees ARE the view!”
      Yes, TR’s update is true – great that the city code says that but again, why can the city designate something but not me? I know, obviously, the city can do it because they make the law. But if views are important for the city, then they’re important for all. No?

      • Jethro Marx October 1, 2018 (11:47 am)

        You can generally do whatever you like with the trees on your property, although if they are very large your rights all a little restricted. As to being castigated and lambasted, I think you know that we are just as free to complain as we are to cut our shrubberies. You could also paint a swastika on your house, but passers-by would probably hurl invective your way. In the case of trees, the criticism is less deserved, I think, but are you really suggesting neighbors shouldn’t be allowed to complain?

      • CAM October 1, 2018 (11:48 am)

        So you want the city to stop your neighbors from complaining? It doesn’t sound like anyone is stopping you from doing what is within your legal rights on your property. Thankfully, the government isn’t allowed to tell people that they can’t disagree with you or can’t tell you what they think.

        • Peter October 1, 2018 (12:42 pm)

          “It doesn’t sound like anyone is stopping you from doing what is within your legal rights on your property. Thankfully, the government isn’t allowed to tell people that they can’t disagree with you or can’t tell you what they think.”
          Actually the city council is directly attacking property rights and dictating what private property must be used for. That’s the same thing as telling property owners what they must think and that they can’t disagree.

          • CAM October 1, 2018 (5:13 pm)

            Zoning laws have always been within the purview of the government. That isn’t exclusive to Seattle. Maybe if property owners hadn’t fought against reasonable changes to zoning laws over the last 50 years or so the city wouldn’t be looking to make the changes they are now. As it is, it’s my understanding that the city is only going to be changing zoning in 5% of the city’s currently zoned single family home neighborhoods. Also zoning laws have nothing to do with whether or not HotCoffee can trim a tree on his property.

          • Peter October 2, 2018 (9:18 am)

            CAM, my comment was not regarding zoning laws, I was referring to the city council’s recent targeting of specific private property to require specific uses of that property. That is both a taking of property rights and a compulsion to agree with them, that is required speed and therefore required thought. The governement telling people they cant disagree and what they have to think is EXACTLY what the city council did in the case I’m referring to.

    • John October 1, 2018 (11:20 am)

      HOTCOFFEE is correct that your accusation is false. WSB can confirm that we are not the same nor am I breaking protocol.
      I was making the point that property owners are no longer able to cut trees on their OWN PRIVATE PROPERTY.
      -Beyond neighbor castigation are the Seattle laws enforced by huge fines that cover private property. Many people living in apartments or not occupying the hundreds of classic view homes having “their views grown away” to no avail, are not aware of these new laws.

      • wscommuter October 1, 2018 (4:14 pm)

        John – the only circumstances under which I’m aware that the City can regulate tree cutting on your own property would be on slopes where your cut tree may adversely endanger a downhill property owner by destabilizing the slope. Are you saying the City prevents tree cutting on private property for other reasons? ( I ask because I don’t know).

        • John October 1, 2018 (9:29 pm)

          Yes the City of Seattle does prohibit any and all tree cutting on vacant private property.
          On developed private property Seattle loosens the codes but still regulates tree cutting if the tree is a certain size and more than 3 small trees.
          The City of Seattle requires permits for tree cutting, restoration plans and replanting in Environmentally Critical Areas such as Steep Slopes

  • Chuck October 1, 2018 (11:43 am)

    The advisory panel looking into this issue is incomplete without Mary Riemer. Never send an amateur to do a professional’s job.

  • HS October 1, 2018 (12:58 pm)

    Everything seems so challenging here anymore. Ivy removal and tree health, views maintained in parks that are designated as city view parks (which are maintained throughout the city), slope maintenance with healthy vegetation… I though this was all normal and expected (meaning an expected ongoing expense) public park maintenance. Perhaps contracting out for skilled arborists work and creating temporary work crews could be an option.

  • Linda October 1, 2018 (1:15 pm)

    This is a very sad situation, we have lived in West Seattle for over 40 years and the Admiral Viewpoint is no longer ! Shame on the City of Seattle for not taking care of this sooner before it got so out of control. Our beautiful West Seattle, Admiral area is not being taken care of by the City of Seattle, parking strips and trees our overgrown all over our beautiful area. Streets are not being repaved and everything is going down hill. We pay huge taxes to live in West Seattle and when you call the COS they always have an excuse, no money!

  • Blbl October 1, 2018 (4:02 pm)

    Do your job, City. Just because a job becomes more difficult (because of your neglect) or because a standard changes doesn’t mean you just don’t do the work. Hire someone to do it if you can’t do it right.

  • Bob Jones October 1, 2018 (4:59 pm)

    Would be nice if they focused more on making the parks themselves safer- the amount of drug use, very very aggressive ‘begging’ and crime in general has gone up dramatically in the last few years with their ‘let the homeless do whatever they want’ agenda.

    Seattle isn’t the ’emerald’ city anymore- it’s a disgrace.

    • Chuck October 2, 2018 (11:32 am)

      Sad but true, Bob Jones. I just sent an email to the Mayor and a person at the Parks Department to report a homeless camp right on the SHORE at Green Lake that I witnessed on Sunday. I could not believe it! Just about 1/8th of a mile from the boathouse on the east shore, it had a tent and a plywood structure–the standard “this is my home, get out!” operation. Not sure how long it has been there, but the Mayor’s office DID respond saying I have been referred to the new “Customer Service Bureau” and that I was to get back to THEM if I’d not heard anything in two weeks. So, at least a channel to work to get this resolved. I mean, come on! A homeless camp on the shores of GL?! Threats to water quality, wildlife, pets, children, the list goes on and on. We have to draw the line somewhere, and if you mess with our Parks it seems to me we have truly lost the city. Maybe we already have :/

  • KT October 1, 2018 (9:27 pm)

    In May they were reviewing and updating policies. It is still going on in October. Of course.

  • Peoplesuck October 2, 2018 (9:36 am)

    To compare maintenance of a magical spot where anyone can stop and see a postcard view of Seattle, to tree restrictions on private property- is assinine. Yes- there are different rules for viewpoints enjoyed by all, as opposed to private property enjoyed by one. Get over your whiney entitled selves.

    • Alkiman October 2, 2018 (2:55 pm)


      Thanks for that – you’re absolutely right!

      • John October 2, 2018 (3:37 pm)

        Peoplesuck states ignorance of trees and their rapidly evolving history in Seattle.
        Alkiman dittos such willful ignorance.
        Who is ‘whiney and entitled” and what defines them as such?

  • MDub October 2, 2018 (2:59 pm)

    Top the trees, for crying out loud. I grew up blocks away from Hamilton Viewpoint and the view was always maintained in the 1960s, 70s and into the 80s and beyond. Now you have to be 12′ tall to see a view. Enough is enough. Not all trees are equal; may of those impeding the view are scrap trees anyway and will survive if they are 20′ lower.

  • ScubaFrog October 3, 2018 (11:58 am)

    The city’s been able to pay for the viewpoint’s cost up until now. Problem: Mayor Durkan.
    Solution: Lawsuit. Sue the city. If the city won’t do the jobs they’re paid to do, petition the courts to force them to.

    Until then, maybe we could all email Lisa Herbold, even though she’s made questionable choices.

Sorry, comment time is over.