FOLLOWUP: Will Fauntleroy Way tree survive curb-ramp construction? Here’s what SDOT is doing

Towering over those road-closed barricades at Fauntleroy Way and SW Fontanelle is the old chestnut tree we told you about a week ago. The tree is on private property, close to the corner where a curb ramp will be built, and the residents of the house on that property are worried that the construction will lead to the death/removal of the tree. They’ve been asking for an update from the city, and received this from SDOT‘s Ching Chan via an email thread on which we were cc’d:

… we will not move forward with construction work at the northeast corner of Fauntleroy Way SW and SW Fontanelle St until our Arborist has had a chance to inspect the tree root system.

The project team just confirmed that our Urban Forestry Arborist and our contractor will be onsite next Monday morning, 4/25 to remove the sidewalk to inspect the tree roots. Our Arborist will supervise the air spading work (break up and remove compacted soil around tree roots using compressed air) to ensure it is conducted properly and that the tree will not be harmed in the process. Our Arborist will conduct an inspection once the root system is exposed. The assessment will then be shared with our ADA Program Engineers to help them determine whether there are feasible alternative curb ramp designs at this corner that can minimize damage to the tree’s root system. This process may take up to several weeks.

We will notify property owner … and tenants at this property once we’ve come to a decision. We will notify adjacent households once construction is scheduled so they are aware and informed of our work scope and schedule.

The tree trunk is currently adorned with signs of support, and the residents are still gathering online petition signatures in support of preserving it.

24 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Will Fauntleroy Way tree survive curb-ramp construction? Here's what SDOT is doing"

  • Humans need trees April 20, 2022 (8:04 pm)

    So heart-warming to hear about the care to save this beautiful tree!  Trees clean our air and feed our spirits.  Thank you to everyone involved in this important effort!

  • StopCuttingDownTrees April 20, 2022 (11:19 pm)

    The existing sidewalk/curb has been there (and possibly replaced at least once) for almost as long as the tree has been there, and perhaps longer. Everyone has lived without a “curb ramp” at this location for several generations.

    • John April 21, 2022 (7:25 am)

      Wow! Such compassion for disabled.  Yes that existing curb cut and sidewalk have long existed, but that simply means the barrier has been subjecting those with challenges for just as long.  Does stonecutting down trees really feel there should be no accessible curbs?

    • Charles Burlingame April 21, 2022 (9:20 am)

      “The city has been in violation of the ADA for several decades. They might as well just continue to be in violation of the ADA indefinitely,” is what you’re actually saying.

    • James No. 2 April 21, 2022 (9:26 am)

      So what you’re saying is that everyone and anyone with a temporary, situational, or permanent disability that requires the use  of a curb ramp for a public sidewalk should have thought long and hard about living in West Seattle generations after a tree was first planted. Am I understanding you correctly? If I’m in a wheelchair, then I should hope it’s electric so I can ride in the street along the sidewalk until I’m able to access a public right-of-way? Is this what you’re stating?

      • Jay April 21, 2022 (9:49 am)

        When I lived in Admiral I saw just this. No curb cuts and a woman having to ride her wheelchair in the street. It’s not acceptable.

    • CAM April 21, 2022 (9:37 am)

      This tree is near a park and a retirement community. Both are areas which should be prioritized for accessibility features. I love trees but I love the hips of the elderly, people in wheelchairs, and people with strollers more. One specific tree is not the definition of whether or not you support trees. 

  • flimflam April 21, 2022 (7:14 am)

    Call me cynical but I think the arborist will somehow come to the conclusion that whatever is best for the project, not the tree, will be their decision.

    • Kevin on Delridge April 21, 2022 (9:44 am)

      And then we can you know, plant a new tree or two or three.

    • anonyme April 21, 2022 (10:41 am)

      Bingo.  Having arborists work for SDOT is a conflict of interest.

  • Brian April 21, 2022 (9:18 am)

    I’m all for preserving big old trees but if this one is so important to the homeowners they would do well to clear the ivy off of it. 

  • rose April 21, 2022 (9:19 am)

    Pretty fascinating what they have to do to check on the tree health – air compressors! I have had a couple of very old trees (still with leaves) that were not healthy and did have to be cut down (so they wouldn’t fall). Hoping this the tree is healthy and they can figure out how to make the curb ramp work.

  • Derek April 21, 2022 (9:37 am)

    Depends on what kind of chestnut. If it’s an invasive horse chestnut I’d say good riddance, cut it down and plant a native tree, I think there’s a program for that and maybe the city can provide a new tree for the property owner. if it’s a sweet chestnut and people are using it for food and are eating the nuts in that case it’s providing good value and might be worth saving.

  • Ana April 21, 2022 (2:10 pm)

    It’s not about trees vs. wheelchairs. I’m sick of this ‘either/or’ all the time. The problem is that Seattle as a whole has been terrible about protecting trees to the point where every single one is important and its removal must be reviewed carefully instead of knee-jerk removal. If we had an updated tree ordinance that protected our canopy as a whole and increased it, together with well-developed, integrated urban design, then I could accept the loss of an older tree for accessibility. But in Seattle, that is not the case.And plant another tree or two? That is not the answer. Old trees provide different benefits and more carbon sequestration than young trees. They provide a lot more shade too for these hot summers that will only worsen. Those young trees have to survive long enough to reach an age where they can replace the loss of an old tree.  Right now, the situation is bad for ALL trees.

    • flimflam April 21, 2022 (3:36 pm)

      Agreed – “just plant a few more trees” is a simplistic statement. Trees take a long time to grow and should not be dismissed like that.

    • CAM April 21, 2022 (9:55 pm)

      Nothing you say is wrong Ana until you get to the point where you claim the fate of this old tree defines the fate of all old trees. It is possible to say that old trees need to be preserved and to recognize that some old trees are causing hazards and are harmful to their neighbors. Your argument is much stronger when you are able to allow for exceptions to your rules. 

    • Kevin on Delridge April 22, 2022 (8:40 am)

      So, you complain about either/or and then proceed to say new tree planting is not the answer. But guess what, it is an answer when we arrive in a situation where an older tree cannot be saved.

      Let’s keep going though. You said:” The problem is that Seattle as a whole has been terrible about protecting trees to the point where every single one is important and its removal must be reviewed carefully instead of knee-jerk removal.”

      So, if I understand you correctly you have a problem with every tree being important and reviewed. Does that not protect the canopy?

      You then go onto say: “If we had an updated tree ordinance that protected our canopy as a whole and increased it, together with well-developed, integrated urban design, then I could accept the loss of an older tree for accessibility.”

      Showing that you’ve done no research into Seattle’s current tree policies. There is a whole site with progress, plans, and regulations. And wouldn’t you know it, a goal to increase the canopy! It was set in 2007 which is has just nearly been achieved 15 years ahead of schedule.

      Now can these rules be improved? A new goal set for the canopy? Absolutely!

      I hope you realize that your post does nothing to further that aim though. You make an incredibly stupid claim that the city reviewing trees is a problem when it comes to protecting the canopy. You then provide “solutions” which is already the policy of the city.

      Why don’t you think and research a little bit before your next post, because this one isn’t it.

      And just to leave you with an anecdote, in my old neighborhood we lost two huge trees to… dog urine. Just something to think about.

  • Hpdp April 21, 2022 (2:53 pm)

    You know all those “curb bulbs” they install around town? Why don’t they put one at this corner? Swing the sidewalk out into street around the tree. Might need a street-side rail to protect wobbly walkers but should have less impact on root zone.

  • Kathy April 21, 2022 (3:37 pm)

    We have a tree (maple with a 4-5 foot trunk) on a parking strip in my neighborhood that has caused huge upheaval on the curb cutless corner. It’s a nightmare for anyone with mobility issues to navigate. The homeowner has not taken responsibility for the damage to the sidewalk. There are now curb cuts planned at the intersection and a notice by SDOT that this tree is also being examined by an arborist.  While the tree is beautiful, huge and ancient, it does not belong in a parking strip. I just wonder if taxpayers or the homeowner will pay for the removal of the tree if it is deemed incompatible with a safe sidewalk. I am super happy that SDOT is finally putting in curb cuts at this intersection. A new tree can be planted once the work is done.

    • T April 21, 2022 (11:19 pm)

      I’d like to add on to your comment if I may. The city itself plants trees in the parking strip that are not the proper tree or not planted deep enough so nearby sidewalks become hazards. Like the Delridge sidewalk for example. If any standing water accumulates you can’t see the danger of lifted sections and wheelchair users have flipped over and out of their chairs. 

    • anonyme April 22, 2022 (6:52 am)

      First of all, it’s a planting strip, not a ‘parking strip’.  And T brings up an excellent point: the city arborists themselves are often responsible for the terrible decisions made on tree placement in planting strips.  In Arbor Heights, for example, the arborist planted red oaks in a 3-foot wide planting strip in direct violation of SDOT’s own street tree guide, which requires an 8-foot strip for that species.  On the other side of the street, trees were planted in the little slice of real estate between the new sidewalk and property lines, making them an almost instant intrusion on private property – as well as a guaranteed future threat to the sidewalks.  Many of the trees were placed directly under other trees where they had nowhere to grow.  I personally know folks from tree companies that used to contract with SDOT, and they viewed it as job security.  It’s absurd that property owners should have to bear the consequences of lousy decisions that were allowed no part in.  Ironically, the same project involved installing ramps at corners where the incline had been increased by construction to such a degree as to make wheelchair navigation dangerous or impossible.  Again, like the city arborist, ADA compliance is built into SDOT so that there is no independent review.  SDOT (and some commenters) appear to believe that trees are disposable and replaceable; they are not, and many, many of these ‘replacements’ will not survive for a myriad of reasons.  I’m also noticing more and more street tree butchery all over West Seattle (notably along Avalon and California) and SDOT does nothing about it.

  • tim April 21, 2022 (6:14 pm)

    Once you get out of town and drive along I5 you see endless rows of fir trees. But look 100 feet past those trees and you’ll see  millions that are cut down and bulldozed regulary,  millions.   Buber would probably  say that those trees have feelings too. Go protest those. Why so  upset about this one?  This one that’s causing a problem?  I dont get it. Can’t you move back about 10 feet and plant a few new  trees that will give equal canopy? and not rip up the sidewalk and or  block the disabled? Seattle! (eye roll)

    • Ivan Weiss April 21, 2022 (7:02 pm)

      Can’t they move the curb cut 10 feet? How is it that in this entire comment thread, no one has suggested that? It’s not like if the tree stays, there will be no curb cut whatever, and wheelchair users will be out of luck. That’s ridiculous.

    • Pessoa April 21, 2022 (8:47 pm)

      Tim:  Don’t get me started. 

Sorry, comment time is over.