Shoreline City Council revises tree codes to better protect and preserve trees following two year effort by citizens

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Douglas fir photo by
Mike Remarcke
SHORELINE, WA, April 4, 2022 -- The City of Shoreline has new tree protections in place with the City Council’s passage of Ordinances 955 (on March 21) and 963 (on March 28) that revise and expand existing municipal code. These new tree protections go into effect on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Ordinance 955 states that all trees six inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) are considered significant; at least 25% of the significant trees on a given development site must be retained; and the removal of any tree 24” dbh and greater requires a clearing and grading permit from the City. 

The new code redefines a Landmark tree as 24” inches and greater as well as one having special attributes in its species. Previously, the City’s Municipal Code stated that significant trees measured 8” dbh for conifers; 12” for dbh non-conifers; 20% significant tree retention; and trees 30” dbh and greater required a tree permit.

The City Council also approved additional wording in Ordinance 963 that safeguards trees on construction sites, including increased penalties for protected trees that are removed. 

These new tree codes apply to residential, MUR-35’, MUR-45’ and Town Center-4 zones in Shoreline. (Mixed Use Residential 35 feet height limit

While the new tree codes will protect trees on some zones in Shoreline, there are seven commercial and development zones in Shoreline where all trees can be removed.

Amendments to existing municipal tree codes were submitted by the Tree Preservation Code Team, all of whom are residents of Shoreline. This group of citizens began studying the city’s tree codes in May of 2020. They submitted their amendments to the City of Shoreline in November 2020, which included nine tree code proposals, one public tree management proposal and an initiative for an Urban Forest Advisory Panel. Also included were reasons for the amendments and detailed justification. 

City staff reviewed the proposed codes and presented the proposals to the Planning Commission in October of 2021.

Citizens continued their determined campaign supporting these tree codes by emails, phone calls and public comments to City officials during the five month review process.

City Council reviewed the proposed code amendments in February of 2022. The tree codes proposed by citizens were approved by Council in March of 2022.

Street trees on 15th NE Google Earth

The tree canopy of Shoreline is well known and enjoyed not only by residents of Shoreline but also admired by visitors. One of the reasons people move to Shoreline is because of the abundance of trees that line the streets and neighborhoods. However, Shoreline and surrounding cities are losing their tall conifers and native trees to development. 

The Tree Preservation Code Team realized that trees could not be preserved unless the municipal code was changed. This grassroots campaign to change the city’s codes garnered traction with residents and tree supporters.

Due to their perseverance and the City Council’s passage of the ordinances, more trees will now be protected in Shoreline. 

With the continuing climate emergency, elected officials and the citizens of Shoreline agree that the many benefits provided by established trees, including carbon sequestration and heat reduction, along with providing needed habitat for Northwest bird populations, are all important and necessary reasons for stronger tree codes.


Anonymous,  April 5, 2022 at 6:36 AM  

"One of the reasons people move to Shoreline is because of the abundance of trees that line the streets and neighborhoods."

That's interesting! Do you have stats, or was a study done, to prove that? If so please cite!

Unknown April 6, 2022 at 9:29 AM  

I think that if Shoreline plans to continue to use trees in its city logo, then it definitely should enforce these tree codes. Otherwise, replace the trees logo with some big looming apartment buildings.

adsell April 6, 2022 at 10:25 AM  

I moved out of Seattle in 2013 to Shoreline; I wanted to live in a forested place. It’s magic; our house is cooler in the summertime due to our neighborhood’s giant trees.

Unknown April 6, 2022 at 4:58 PM  

This actually mirrors the quote out of the City of Shoreline's 2029 Vision, “People are first drawn here by the city’s beautiful natural setting and abundant trees…”.

Anonymous,  May 18, 2022 at 10:36 PM  

"One of the reasons people move to Shoreline is because of the abundance of trees that line the streets and neighborhoods."

No, that's not the reason. We want more affordable housing.

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