Change Seattle law: stop people clear cutting greenbelts and risking landslides.

Change Seattle law: stop people clear cutting greenbelts and risking landslides.

March 29, 2016
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This petition had 808 supporters

Why this petition matters

Started by Joe Szilagyi

Seattle is a city of steep hills and slopes, all of them forested and many of them prone to landslides. The trees that grow there are all that protect our homes, schools, and businesses from erosion and destruction. Many of these greenbelts are public property, specifically to protect our population. Unfortunately, there are a number of events where homeowners have selfishly cut down trees to improve their views and increase their property values, endangering the lives of everyone that lives around and below them.

There are a number of previous incidents where no one ever even saw prosecution from doing this. This past week, we learned of the most shocking event like this to happen in some time, where an entire acre of public land was deforested and clear cut in a dangerous slope area.



Is the Seattle City Council willing to change the laws in the city to stop this ever happening again, and enact changes like these?


Elevation of criminal status of these crimes.

1. Elevate illegal cutting of public trees, on public land, to the highest and maximum level of criminal offense that the State of Washington will allow the City of Seattle to elevate them to. 

2. Whatever additional leeway is allowed our City by the State should be exercised in our local law in regard to these acts: maximum per tree and offense jail time, maximum per tree fine and fiscal penalty. Go to the very limits of the authority we have. 

3. As they are specifically criminal offenses, Seattle Police should handle these as overt crimes against public property first and foremost: arrests. If I went and did $500,000 in damage to City Hall or the main branch of the library by smashing out every single window I could find, how long would it take for SPD to arrest me, put on handcuffs, and take me away? This crime committed in West Seattle is of an even greater magnitude as it can cause landslides onto the roads below or even cause multiple homes to collapse.

Elevation of response time to these crimes.

4. Require that the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) as well the Parks department treat these crimes, in particular in slope areas, as their maximum highest level priority: an "all hands on deck" incident. There are a number of disturbing reports surfacing on social media and news article comments of DPD turning a slow or blind eye to these incidents in the past. This is utterly unacceptable if true and should additionally be investigated by City Council: how many investigations and penalties were implemented against how many reports of such acts on public lands in Seattle?

5. Require cross reporting between the City Attorney’s office, DPD, Parks, and Seattle Police of these things when they are discovered. As soon as the City Attorney’s office DPD, Parks, or the Seattle Police come across or are notified of such an event, all the other relevant departments must be fully appraised for action

Mandatory reporting of such crimes.

6. Whenever the City of Seattle becomes aware of these crimes, notifications by physical mail must be sent within 30 days by the City to all physical addresses within one half mile as the bird flies of the site where the crime occurred (rental or otherwise, all detached homes, condos, and apartment units) and to all listed property owners with the full details, locations, responsible parties, SPD case numbers, DPS case numbers, and all other public information on the matter. This will allow all possibly impacted and at-risk parties to be fully aware, and to pursue any civil litigation which may be required in the future if they themselves are impacted.

Mandatory restoration of lost trees for maximum slope protection.

7. The City will take maximum steps required to return the damaged slope to the “most geologically secure” form it can through repair and replacement of “the best and most efficient climate and elevation appropriate native trees with the longest possible lifespan”. Please note this wording: no replacing 20-30 year lifespan maples with similar trees – replace them with native evergreen trees. They will grow taller, stronger, last far longer, and provide far better erosion control. 

8. The City will take any temporary right of way access that is required for maintenance and repair of the damaged slopes from the properties of the responsible party. If that means we need to stage the entire repair operation from their background with contractors and urban forestry staff for the next five years, that’s what we will do.

Recoupment of costs.

9. All costs incurred through all items in parts 1-8 will be billed directly to the responsible party, with as many escalating per day fines as is allowed per State law to encourage responsible compliance. The City of Seattle will use liens against the property of the responsible parties to enforce compliance.


Do all of these things, and only the completely remorseless would be willing to commit crimes like these in the future.

Thank you!

(Photo by Steve Ringman of the Seattle Times)

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