First Landmark Tree named in Shoreline

Friday, July 29, 2022

An American/Sweet chestnut (foreground), the first designated Landmark tree in Shoreline. Trees in the background (Douglas fir, madrone, Douglas fir) were deemed Right of Way (ROW) trees and denied Landmark status.

(You, too, can nominate a tree for Landmark Status)

By Kathy Kaye
Member, Save Shoreline Trees Advisory Board

A little-known program within the City of Shoreline allows homeowners and residents alike to nominate trees for Landmark status, a designation that bestows recognition of the tree by the City and protection from removal. 

As defined in Shoreline Municipal Code (SMC) 20.20.048, a landmark tree is, in part:  
“Any healthy tree over 24 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh)
that is worthy of long-term protection due to a unique combination 
of size, shape, age, location, aesthetic quality for its species…” 
If you are a homeowner, you can nominate your own tree. If the tree resides in a city park, anyone can nominate it for Landmark status. Only private and public trees qualify for this designation.

Right of Way (ROW) trees — also confusingly called public trees or street trees — cannot be nominated, as we, as homeowners, later learned. 

These are mature trees close to roads, walkways and sidewalks, and there are plenty of them throughout Shoreline. The City rejects Landmark status for ROW trees because they fall under SMC 12.30. Landmark Tree designation falls under SMC 20.50.350.  

In late June of this year, we received Landmark status for one of our trees, a 75-year-old American/Sweet chestnut hybrid that is 41 inches dbh. Formal recognition of our tree was a six-month-long process with twists and turns throughout. Nonetheless, our tree is now protected and its status recognized as the first Landmark tree in Shoreline. 


In December of 2021, we nominated four of our mature trees for Landmark Status as described in the City’s Administrative Order 000068 053107. If Landmark status is granted (if it meets arborist criteria) and you are the homeowner, the City will create a covenant to be attached to your King County property records. 

It states that the tree cannot be removed without City approval, even if you sell your property. The homeowner pays for the covenant, currently $205. 

The process to get the ball rolling

We contacted Shoreline’s Department of Planning and Community Development about our intentions to obtain Landmark status and they walked us through the “process.” 

But really, there is no process, currently, for a homeowner or resident to follow. It is up to the individual to create his or her own proposal. The City recognizes this, stating to us that few residents in Shoreline have requested landmark status and that it, along with us, will be going through these steps for the first time. 

What to Include in your proposal

Our proposal was very simple and took a little more than an hour to complete. It included our names,  address and phone number, pictures of the trees and a brief description of each: name of the tree, diameter at breast height and approximate age. We emailed our proposal to the city and waited.
Over the next several months, the City kept us informed about what was happening with our proposal. We also knew that the City requires an arborist — hired by the City but paid for by the homeowner — to assess the trees under consideration and write a formal report. This report determines if Landmark status is granted. We agreed and the city contracted with The Watershed Group in Kirkland. 

A big problem

In April, the City informed us that three of our nominated trees would not be considered for Landmark status because they are public or right of way (ROW) trees. The City asked if we wished to continue with an assessment of the chestnut and we agreed.
Assessing the chestnut

In early May of this year, an arborist with The Watershed Company and an assistant City planner reviewed our chestnut tree. Both were professional and thorough, and we spent several hours asking and answering questions. The arborist could not determine what type of chestnut tree we had and showed us pictures of several examples. He took samples of fall leaves and nut casings but stated that he would return in the summer once the tree had fully bloomed to obtain leaf samples. His final determination was that the tree is a hybrid of Castanea dentata (American chestnut) and Castanea sativa (Sweet chestnut). And we received Landmark status. We paid The Watershed Company $785, a reduction in the original estimate because only one tree was assessed. 

Happy for our tree

We are relieved to know that one tree on our property will be protected from removal even if we sell our home. However, we realize that at any time the city can remove three other trees we have maintained for 26 years. 

In reality public trees are the citizens’ trees, just like trees in parks, and should have the same protection. 


Anonymous,  July 29, 2022 at 8:20 AM  

This is so awesome. Thanks for your diligence to make this happen.

Anonymous,  July 29, 2022 at 8:35 AM  

I worry about my ROW trees being removed pretty regularly since the rezone. It would significantly reduce the quality of life for my family and the 1,000s of small creatures who make a home in their branches. Neighboring homes have been torn down all around me and none of the vegetation preserved--covered edge to edge with concrete and ashpalt. The ROW trees in my area are some of the largest left standing. I moved to Shoreline, in part, for the trees. I didn't expect to spend so much time mourning them.

Anonymous,  July 29, 2022 at 8:57 AM  

Does LFP have that program?

Anonymous,  July 29, 2022 at 1:06 PM  

Thanks. Great idea to determine which trees are landmark trees. It’s disappointing that it has to be so bureaucratic and costly. The cost will result in lower income folks not being able to protect their trees and when the trees are removed, this will perpetuate the documented “heat islands” concern of low income neighborhoods. In the name of equity, our city should find a low cost way to determine which trees are landmark status.

Anonymous,  July 29, 2022 at 10:10 PM  

Thank you, Kathy for jumping through the hoops to get this beautiful tree protected. It really is sad that the city makes the homeowner pay for this protection, which ultimately will dissuade people from protecting a beloved tree.

Anonymous,  July 30, 2022 at 7:00 AM  

I believe LFP has strict and enforced restrictions on removing trees that contractors and homeowners must adhere to or they will be significantly fined.

Just My Opinion July 30, 2022 at 11:36 AM  

I'd like to apply for a neighborhood mini-grant to get the beautiful cedar across the street protected. Perhaps Forterra could toss a little $ our way? No way assessing a tree should be >$700. Preserving our large trees is in the public interet - Shoreline should NOT be charging individual homeowners since the entire city benefits.

Anonymous,  July 30, 2022 at 11:37 AM  

Will the tree have a sign to keep City Light from topping it??

Just My Opinion July 31, 2022 at 4:00 PM  

"without City Approval..." has the City EVER declined a tree removal? If you think the city of shoreline cares about trees I have a bridge to sell...

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