Local tree advocates join to protest removal of street trees for sidewalk project on 15th NE in Shoreline

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Signs posted on trees to be removed
Photo by Janet Way
By Diane Hettrick

On Friday morning, August 11, 2023 a cadre of representatives from four local Tree Advocates from three cities rallied on 15th Ave NE in Shoreline to raise objections to the tree cutting project for sidewalk repair which is currently underway.

According to Tree Advocate Janet Way, "People from Save Shoreline Trees, Tree Action Group (Luma the Cedar), TreePAC and CORE (from Lake Forest Park) marched, held signs and streamer poles to call attention to motorists. There was an enthusiastic and friendly response from most drivers."

Protesters tried to raise awareness as they stood under the leafy canopy
Photo by Janet Way

The street trees were planted in a massive King county bond issue from the late 1960s to create leafy boulevards along arterial streets. 

Crosscut reports that "King County’s Forward Thrust ballot initiatives in 1968 and 1970 didn’t get the region a rapid transit system, but they did pay for nearly 30,000 trees around the city, mostly on arterials."

Unfortunately they planted the wrong kind of trees, in locations that conflict with power lines.

Photo by Janet Way
Now decades later, the sidewalks have to be constantly repaired as the tree roots raise the pavement. 

The trees grow too tall, into the power lines. City Light is proud of the pruning they do which keeps the power on but cuts the middle out of the trees.

Shoreline citizens have called for sidewalks for years, and passed a levy to pay for new sidewalks and another levy to repair existing sidewalks. 

A citizen's committee worked for a year to prioritize locations for new and repaired sidewalks. It took another year for the work to actually start.

Photo by Peggy Williams Scott
Ironically, now that the projects are underway, we are all understanding the dangers of climate change and the benefit of trees. 

Just as a new heat dome is predicted this summer, we are cutting down a street-full of leafy trees.

Way says, "The group is emphasizing Environmental Justice because cutting these nearly 2 dozen big street trees will increase daytime temperatures and create a Heat Island Effect that can be danger to residents and pedestrians in this commercial district of middle-class homes and businesses in Ridgecrest and North City."

There was also emphasis on how many trees could have been saved if alternative sidewalk treatment techniques were utilized.

Tree advocates along 15th NE 

There was no specific plan for replacement trees. However, the city has a current program offering a tree to every Shoreline resident. (see article Free Trees for Shoreline residents). 

Separately the Sound Transit Trees for Rails program offers a free tree, shrubs, and ground cover plants to neighborhoods along the I-5 corridor, almost 2,400 properties in the Echo Lake, Ballinger, Meridian Park, North City, Parkwood, and Ridgecrest neighborhoods. (see previous article)

Unfortunately, only 181 properties have taken advantage of the offer.

The Tree groups plan to continue the efforts and communicate with City Council and City Administration.


Anonymous,  August 12, 2023 at 8:05 AM  

I saw this - the cadre from 4 local groups was composed of at most 10 people. These trees need to go. The sidewalk has been destroyed to the point that our neighbors in wheel chairs or pushing strollers are out in the street with the busses. Is that what the advocates find acceptable?

Anonymous,  August 12, 2023 at 8:14 AM  

I suggest taking it one step further. On a street where they have created a heat island, the city should go door to door offering trees AND supplies/support for the planting and initial care.

Anonymous,  August 12, 2023 at 10:24 PM  

Dear Anonymous I,
We had20 activists there over 2 hours. They came in different shifts. I can assure you.
Do not underestimate how much Shoreline citizens love their trees!

Anonymous,  August 12, 2023 at 11:48 PM  

The issue is rather complicated. The sidewalks need to be improved and we need more urban trees to provide shade for pedestrians. And we need this now, not decades into the future. The solution needs to address both problems. Removing trees and pouring even more concrete addresses neither. There are plenty of funds from the Safe Sidewalks bond measure available to improve sidewalks AND preserve our street trees. I would ask folks to walk that stretch of 15th and try to imagine what it will look like without trees. Take a look at the modest bungalows and try to imagine what it’s going to be like for the people living there, baking in the heat. Try to imagine what it will be like for people who can’t afford to ride in air conditioned cars— pedestrians, and people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers. Imagine walking block after block in August, the heat radiating off the road, without any shade. There are a lot of bright engineers out there capable of solving this problem, and we have bond measure funds to pay for it. I would encourage the city’s public works department to take a pause and look at some other options.

Anonymous,  August 13, 2023 at 7:58 AM  

We live on 15th Ave NE, in one of the “modest bungalows”. Over the years we’ve seen tree roots eat into water lines and cause several thousand dollars worth of damage to our driveway. We’ve watched pedestrians stumble and fall on the irregular sidewalk and families forced out into the road as traffic rolls by. So yes, please take a walk down our street. Do it pushing a stroller or in a wheelchair, or at night when the sidewalk irregularities are less obvious. Or imagine that you’re visually impaired. And then tell me that you think these trees are appropriate for the sidewalk and are acceptable under the ADA.

Anonymous,  August 13, 2023 at 11:33 AM  

Well stated, thank you!

Anonymous,  August 14, 2023 at 7:05 AM  

I wish the city would consider at least pervious surface sidewalk construction as a potential solution to reduce the amount of impermeable surface area associated with sidewalks, reduce puddling, and potentially slow storm water surface runoff issues. Initial costs are not that much more to install. And consider that in the future summers, those areas will be much hotter. People should start informing themselves now how to better mitigate the heating up of those areas without trees. The sidewalks do need repairing in certain areas for sure. It seems odd too that homeowners have not received compensation from the city for tree damage.

Just My Opinion August 16, 2023 at 1:23 PM  

that's our city for you - it's always either/or. Yes people voted for sidewalks, but did the voter's guide note "and we will remove x number of trees" without a plan for replacement? And we will use the least environmentally friendly method to rebuild the sidewalks? You betcha!

Anonymous,  August 24, 2023 at 8:11 AM  

I agree with Just My Opinion. The city department heads are showing continually how really uninformed they are on the climate emergency we face and a CLIMATE EMERGENCY Resolution 494 was declared in Shoreline on August 15, 2022 with a city council vote! City staff department heads are totally in denial on the climate emergency and the City Manager should voice a cease and desist on the tree canopy destruction. City -- wake up! New methods exist to deal with saving trees and having better climate heat resilient sidewalks.

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