DELRIDGE PROJECT: Neighbors fighting to save big street trees by Youngstown Cultural Arts Center

(WSB photos)

Though the Delridge repaving-and-more project has always included plans to remove some trees, the big ones outside historic Youngstown Cultural Arts Center were not supposed to be among them. As our photo shows, those trees are as tall as the century-old building. But plans changed – and neighbors are pushing back.

We found out about the tree-removal plan from neighbor Scott Squire, who explained, “Residents here consider these trees critical to our quality of life, providing as they do shade, dust capture, sound deadening, and perhaps above all, visual interest/aesthetic relief from the loud, dusty (and now torn-up) street.”

We contacted SDOT‘s project spokesperson Adonis Ducksworth to find out why plans changed. He acknowledged, “During the design stage of the project, these 5 trees were not planned for removal. While working at this location, the tree roots were exposed and this is when we discovered the conflict that would require us to remove them.”

He explained the “conflict” this way: “While working in the field near the Youngstown Cultural Center, our contractor discovered that the roots and bases of these trees conflicted with the new curb line. As a result of this conflict, the trees would likely need to be removed. We’ve attempted to work around the trees in order to preserve them for the community, but we found that our solutions in the field would cause the trees to become unstable and pose a danger to the community.”

But, Ducksworth says, neighbors’ pushback has the city trying to figure out if the trees can be saved after all: “We’re continuing to hear from the nearby community about how important these trees are to them and are presently looking at a design change to attempt to preserve them. We hope to know if a design change is possible in the coming days. With that said, there is a risk the trees will need to be removed. This is why we needed to post the tree removal notices. Notices typically go up 2 weeks prior to a removal. This timeline gives the community adequate time to comment; which people are doing now, and we thank them for that. If we can keep the trees, the notices will come down.”

If you’re interested in commenting, the project email is, and the Urban Forestry contact on the notice is

35 Replies to "DELRIDGE PROJECT: Neighbors fighting to save big street trees by Youngstown Cultural Arts Center"

  • anonyme September 21, 2020 (12:15 pm)

    Save the trees.  Replace SDOT.

  • Kevin September 21, 2020 (12:45 pm)

    I’m sorry these trees need to go but delridge needs to be updated. Let’s take this time to plant 10 more for each removed but progress needs to be made. 

  • JL September 21, 2020 (1:09 pm)

    SDOT messed up again.  They could have located the roots prior to the design phase and tried to come up with a solution before hand.  again SDOT did not inform us until after the signs are posted then it is a race against the clock to save them. Why does SDOT hide so much information from the community that pays their wages.   

    • Don September 21, 2020 (2:33 pm)

      The roots probably go all the way across the street. I have tree roots in my grass from a neighbors tree that is two homes over.Locating tree roots not that easy for such of a large tree 🌲 

    • RCS September 22, 2020 (12:54 pm)

      Tree roots often extend beyond the canopy. Ain’t no way you could have saved those roots unless you built the curb in the middle of Delridge. 

  • Shufflerunner September 21, 2020 (1:20 pm)

    Do these trees not classify as exceptional under SMC 25.11
    SMC 25.05.675N? The city should subject to its own municipal code if they are deemed to be exceptional. Anybody who has ever tried to take down a large tree the right way (with a permit) in Seattle knows how quick the city is to tell you “tough luck”. 

    • AMD September 21, 2020 (1:33 pm)

      If it’s hazardous or poses some kind of danger, it’s not nearly as hard.  It sounds like the road changes they’re doing would put the trees into that category (if the trees even qualify as exceptional).  I would love to see the trees stay, but it sounds like there aren’t a ton of options available.

    • Nick September 21, 2020 (2:29 pm)

      +1.  We weren’t able to remove trees from our yard for this very reason.   Don’t see why SDOT should get an exception.   When we exposed roots we had to change our plans.

    • Ice September 21, 2020 (3:41 pm)

      Here’s a reference to that law. can’t tell what kind of trees those are by looking. Anyone know?

  • oakley34 September 21, 2020 (1:25 pm)

    Easier for them to get approval for the work without citing need to remove trees and then slip the tree removal in than it would be to honestly engage with the process.  

  • DeadEndMarc September 21, 2020 (2:10 pm)

    So, they can get the Arborist’s attention, apparently. I never could.DO they know this species well enough that if ‘root pruned’ the tree will: croak regardless so solve the problem now vs. later, ORfall over at a time of its’ choosing onto parked cars & traffic, ORthe roots growing back can lift the roadbed forcing future repairs.I get that a simple single sentence answer is probably not reasonable.It would be nice if they provided some transparency, and showed that a’severe pruning’ i.e. all the branches on the building side (for example)would (or would not) be sufficient mitigation and an explanation of the growth pattern  of this varietal such that it would (or would not) be a prime candidate for rehab / mitigation i.e. saving, given their age.I wonder if they are willing to put Claredendron in there, given theirgrowth habits, trainability, size, and fragrance as well as their floweringnature (often 2x/year). Just saying. I’d pay for one at least.

  • Millie September 21, 2020 (2:13 pm)

    Don’t trees help clean the air?   Why would we want to cut down trees if there is no need?   Agree with previous comments regarding difficulty in getting approval to remove tree from right-of-way at home.   More attention to details is needed by Seattle Dept. of Transportation before they award contracts for road construction.

  • John W September 21, 2020 (2:49 pm)

    The simplest explanation may be the correct one.  The SDOT planners had no way to determine the tree roots beyond standard assumptions.  They planned accordingly.  The site work discovered the issue.  From the photo, it is clear that the trees have not been trimmed or maintained.  Seattle mistakenly planted thousands of street trees that have proven incompatible with sidewalks and streets as they mature.   They are regularly replaced during street improvements.  I would like to see the artists who live in  the building suggest tree replacement that will tie into the buildings history.

  • Joan September 21, 2020 (3:32 pm)

    Will there be any room to plant new trees if they are removed? I can’t tell what species they are, but there would be many good choices if they must be taken out. My first vote would be for saving the existing trees.

    • WSB September 21, 2020 (3:36 pm)

      Maples, according to Scott. And if they are removed, the city says, two will be planted for each one removed … but that doesn’t specify WHERE.

      • Jim OverHill September 21, 2020 (3:48 pm)

        Replacing large trees like those, with two young trees, may sound good, but the size of replacements is no doubt *many* years from coming close to the canopy of the existing trees. That hinges on if the replacement trees even survive beyond five years. Cities are a very tough environment and many replacements dont survive. I’ve seen many examples of this in my neighborhood. Keep the existing trees if at all possible. Future generations will be glad we did.

        • Sunflower September 21, 2020 (7:37 pm)

          Yes, please find a way to keep these existing trees which have grown in well here.  

          The local birds will appreciate it too.

  • Walk the walk don't just talk the talk September 21, 2020 (4:24 pm)

    Here is the Seattle Municipal Code on Tree Removal.  I hope it applies to SDOT as well.  Suggestions that issues with where the “dripline” or “inner root zone” of the trees were unknown during the design phase is not likely.  If roots were exposed during construction then there was likely a mistake made during construction.  Protecting trees is well document in Seattle Code.  Exceptions can be made but this issue seems more like a mistake was made rather than: “Emergency activities necessary to remedy an immediate threat to public health, safety, or welfare”  The penalty / remediation includes planting one or more trees: “the tree replacement required shall be designed to result, upon maturity, in a canopy cover that is at least equal to the canopy cover prior to tree removal. Preference shall be given to on-site replacement. When on-site replacement cannot be achieved, or is not appropriate as determined by the Director, preference for off-site replacement shall be on public property.”  So much for implementing plans to address environmental concerns for low-income neighborhoods.  I wish their walk would align with their talk.

    • mark savage September 24, 2020 (11:07 am)

      is there a link to the Seattle Municipal Code on Tree Removal.  I might need to know the code in the future.thx, marcus

  • flimflam September 21, 2020 (4:46 pm)

    very sad. it takes time to get to this size…simply saying “plant new ones” isn’t quite the same.

  • Colonel Mustard's Wrench September 21, 2020 (6:03 pm)

    My feeling about SDOT at this point is disgust.  They continue to show their incompetencies. 

    They can’t do the necessary research (potholing in this case to determine root locations of the trees in question) in advance of properly engineering their project. 

    They can’t properly maintain a bridge (did not replace failed bearing years ago, only documented it). 

    I would not be surprised if they were involved with Pier 58 falling into Elliott Bay – or was it just a coincidence that an SDOT person was on site talking to news reporters? 

    What a bunch of circus clowns !

  • anonyme September 21, 2020 (6:04 pm)

    Dear John W: I can tell you as a retired arborist that it is clear to me that the trees HAVE been “trimmed” and maintained.  They appear to have been pruned to provide street clearance; a tree carved to look like a lollipop is a poorly pruned one.  However, I do agree that SDOT has improperly planted many trees – the wrong species in the wrong places, and terrible planning despite the involvement of a city arborist.   The Arbor Heights sidewalk project is a perfect example.  Street trees were planned for the planting strips along the street.  At the last minute, SDOT ‘discovered’ that utilities ran under those areas.  Very disingenuous, as that would have to have been known before any construction began.  So the city arborist instead had the trees planted on the private property side of the sidewalks DIRECTLY UNDER THE POWER LINES.   A former arborist colleague who used to have a tree maintenance contract with the city told me this is done deliberately, as contractors know the trees will have to be replaced – probably by them. The ‘discovery’ of roots in this case is just as absurd, as their presence would have been a given – not a surprise.

  • 1994 September 21, 2020 (7:47 pm)

    Is SDOT planning to plant trees in the new median on Delridge? These trees don’t look too old by the size of the trunks. Anyone have an idea how old they may be?

  • NativetoSeattle September 21, 2020 (10:13 pm)

    I just wrote a letter to both emails listed above. I would like to have more information about the impact on the curb line, what solutions were proposed and why they don’t work, and which arborists have been involved. If we can bump the curb out so buses don’t have to pull over, I would think we could provide a solution that would work for the curb line. More specific information, please. 

  • jl September 21, 2020 (10:16 pm)

    Advantages of Ground-Penetrating Radar as a method of mapping tree roots over other methods of root locating.  It is capable of scanning root systems of large trees under field conditions.It is completely non-invasive and does not disturb the soils or damage the trees examined, and causes no harm to the environment.Being non-invasive, it allows repeated measurements that reveal long-term root system development.It allows observation of root distribution beneath hard surfaces (concrete, asphalt, bricks), roads and buildings.Its accuracy is sufficient to resolve structural roots with diameters from less than 1 cm (0.4 in) to 3 cm (1.2 in) or more.It can characterize roots at both the individual tree and stand levels, facilitating correlations with tree-and stand-level measurements of physiological processes (e.g., sap flow) in complex ecological studies.

  • Seattle September 21, 2020 (11:02 pm)

    Trees are a renewable resource and will grow back in a few years. They looks like a mix of maples and oaks. They are up to 2.5 -3 stories on the building, so hardly old growth. Remember that West Seattle was clear cut to build all our homes, so it’s unnatural to start with


  • anonyme September 22, 2020 (1:37 pm)

    Unfortunately, the City Arborist’s office is a branch of SDOT, so SDOT pretty much does whatever it wants in regard to trees, and the arborists sign off on it.  This is absolutely poor planning, nothing more or less, but that won’t make a difference.  They’ll do what they want.  Trees are far more than a resource.  Also, most trees do not “grow back” within a few years (or ever, if cut), nor does size have anything to do with “old growth”.   “Old-growth” refers to forests that have not seen significant disturbance.  Nothing to do with the individual size or age of a tree – certainly not a street tree.  Nor is an old-growth designation relevant in this case.  I think tree science is being confused with tree regulation and forestry, which may overlap but are different in essential ways.   BTW, Schmitz Park is predominantly old growth, a rare patch of preserved forest in West Seattle.

  • John W September 22, 2020 (5:36 pm)

    Anonyme,If you think SDOT has some squigly tree contortions regarding the Seattle Municipal Code, just check out Seattle Parks Dept and the City Arborist involvement in illegal tree topping and removal in Seattle Parks’ Greenways.  There are a number of secret agreements that allow certain West Seattle homeowners to cut trees on city property for the enhancement of the views from their homes.  I currently have a formal public records request submitted to the Seattle Parks Dept.  They are taking their time in the disclosure of just how many private homeowners have these special illegal permits.  So far I have seen and photographed three groups of West Seattle homeowners that live differently from everyone else regarding trees and views over city property.  This illegal practice is particularly reprehensible in light of the public humiliation  and scorn the Mount Baker Federal Appeals Judge and the notorious 35th Ave SW  hillside residents who  received such hostile press.  

  • Vanessa September 23, 2020 (11:47 am)

    Is there a sit in planned? Can we chain ourselves to the trees in protest? Is this a rediculous idea? Does anyone want to sit with me in the rain, in our Columbia Sportswear and muck boots or are they gonna just chop down the trees no matter how many of us complain and cry for killing more trees? Inquiring minds would like to know. 

  • Joseph September 23, 2020 (3:03 pm)

    Urbanization destroys quality of life and the environment. More density = fewer trees. This and dozens of similar projects are required because of the higher density, and the tree canopy and our health pay the price. 

  • jsrau September 23, 2020 (10:56 pm)

    Btw, since some have asked about the tree species. The city has a very handy tree inventory map tool, both desktop version as well as companion mobile app. The desktop version furnishes the most data however, including species name, whether the specific tree is city or privately managed, its diameter, last data collection date etc.Navigate to the link below. Once there, fire up the ‘street tree map’ and then open the ‘Explore Street Trees’ tab and zoom in.

    The trees in question are listed as Quercus rubra, Red oak, which appears to match the photos and street view as best I can tell. A couple of Norway maples are listed just to the north of those, presumably outside the work zone, but I haven’t been down there in person, so not sure about that. Further useful species info:

    Finally, if you decide to download the mobile app (super handy to open up and learn about your local street trees when walking about), be aware there are in fact 2 similarly named apps. The first, called ‘TreeWalk/Seattle’ is the companion app to the site already discussed. But they also have a second app called ‘Seattle Tree Walk’ which features some nice self-guided neighborhood walks that introduce you to a set of specific trees.

    • Steve Zemke September 27, 2020 (2:13 pm)

      The tree map referenced is a Street Tree Inventory Map. It does not cover all trees in the city. It represents about 22% of the city’s tree canopy. The data in the map is not complete as SDOT is on a 9 year cycle of updating the information. Street trees planted by the city are maintained by the city but street trees planted by property owner are their responseability. The map indicated who is responsible tor caring fo the tree. The street tree map is a great resource for the city and should be expanded to cover all trees in the city.  

  • Steve Zemke September 27, 2020 (1:49 pm)

    The Seattle Department of Transportation’s tree policy is under Chapter 15.43 – Tree and Vegetation Management in Public Places.  Reference made to SMC 25.11 – Tree Protection does not cover street trees. SMC 25.11 exempts “Removal of street trees as regulated by Title 15 of the SMC”  Unfortunately there is no language in SMC 15.43 to protect “exceptional trees”The 2 for 1 replacement of street trees mentioned is not in the Seattle Muncipal Code but is the result of an executive order by Mayor Nickels that all public trees removed must be replaced with 2 trees. Unfortunately it does not say what size at maturity the two trees must be, so one large tree can be removed and replaced with 2 small trees. Simple logic and observation follows that removing a 70 year old large tree will take 70 years to replace.the tree canopy volume removed. Planting 2 small trees will never replace the large tree in canopy volume or carbon sequestration or air filtering or reducing stormwater runoff. And of course the existing tree is a survivor in most cases whereas many newly planted trees do not survive in the city environment as we have seen

  • Michael Oxman October 2, 2020 (11:48 am)

    Betcha any ‘replacement trees’ will be semi-dwarf types.

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