Shoreline’s Climate Action Plan: fewer cars; more trees and sidewalks

Saturday, May 18, 2024

A graph from the 2022 Climate Action Plan shows 56% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Shoreline come from transportation (mostly gasoline-powered vehicles).

By Oliver Moffat

On May 13, 2024 after hearing public comments from school children asking for safer streets, and tree activists calling for narrower sidewalks on 175th street, the city council reviewed how much progress was made on Shoreline’s Climate Action Plan.

The city’s first Climate Action Plan in 2013 set a goal to reduce emissions by 25% between 2009 and 2020; but by 2021, the city had reduced emissions by only about 6% for the entire decade.

In 2022, the city set a new goal to reduce emissions 60% between 2019 and 2030; meaning the city will need to reduce emission 6% per year on average for every year this decade.

The city also wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050 by offsetting all emissions with sequestration.

According to the city’s plan, Shoreline’s tree canopy covers 37% of the city and currently sequesters about 13,890 metric tons of CO2 each year; while Shoreline’s cars emit ten times that much CO2 each year: 139,782 metric tons.

At 56% of the total, by far the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Shoreline comes from transportation (mostly gasoline-powered vehicles).

Getting people to give up their cars will require safe sidewalks and bike lanes that people actually want to use, so the city’s plan lays out a long list of actions to make the city more walkable and bike-able.

But adding sidewalks and bike lanes on 145th street while preserving the wide, five-lane road for cars has required removing trees - angering tree activists who are now calling for narrowing the proposed sidewalk on 175th to save trees.

Councilmember John Ramsdell
Photo courtesy City of Shoreline 
Councilmembers Scully, Pobee and Ademasu promised more trees would be preserved on 175th street; councilmember John Ramsdell highlighted the challenges of balancing tree preservation with the need to get people out of their cars.

“Believe me, I love trees,” he said, “But I think there’s a really important statistic to be aware of: … a mature tree can absorb about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. 
"If we can remove one car from using our roads… according to the EPA, a typical car emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s over 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide greenhouse gasses per year.”


Anonymous,  May 18, 2024 at 8:20 AM  

What does walkable even mean? The only people walking around Shoreline are walking their dogs. Do they envision people walking to get groceries and walking to the dentist, ect? That's just not going to happen. Shoreline was never designed for that. It's filled with cul-de-sacs and dead ends for a reason. People wanted to live on quiet streets, away from apartments and the hub bub of a major city. The streets were laid out with this in mind. Many people who live inside Seattle ride a bike to work at least a some days during none rainy weather. Shoreline residents don't which is why you never see bikes on the road most rainy months of the year. This plan seems to be envisioned for a very different location and population.

Anonymous,  May 18, 2024 at 9:25 AM  

Shoreline's new City Motto: "Save the Planet - Kill a Tree!"

Kathleen Russell,  May 18, 2024 at 12:50 PM  

Save Shoreline Trees supports safety, reasonable sidewalk widths, and housing. The sidewalks to be constructed along N 145th vary from 13-foot-wide to 8-foot-wide sidewalks on the Shoreline side. Seattle approved 5-foot-wide sidewalks on the south side of 145th. Some of the 317 established trees cut down along 145th and I-5 could have been retained if the Shoreline design included 6-foot-wide sidewalks and waived the 5’ wide amenity strip. In Phases 2 and 3 along the N 145th project, another 139 trees will be cut down from Corliss Ave west to Aurora. We ask city planners to submit future grant proposals incorporating less sidewalk hard surfaces. Six (6’)-foot-wide sidewalks are safe and accommodate walkers, wheelchairs, and strollers.

Regarding the N 175th project design, the sidewalk widths include 9.5-foot-wide sidewalks to 13-foot-wide sidewalks. Per the project report on the city website, 274 trees will be cut down. Save Shoreline Trees says “Stop the Chop” on N 175th, on new sidewalks, on sidewalk rehabilitation projects, and on future transportation projects. Design of these transportation projects does not have to be based on “either/or” planning. There can be safe sidewalks and retention of trees. The N 175th project design will be discussed by City Council on Monday, June 3.

Nancy Morris,  May 18, 2024 at 1:42 PM  

CM Ramsdell’s highlighted statement in the article above suggests it is okay to cut down trees because they do not sequester enough CO2 equal to taking a car off the road. This is not how nature works. In this climate crises we need to rethink major transportation design projects so that many more of our established trees and natural habitat can be saved locally -- and have safe sidewalks and bike lanes. Each established tree is part of a tree grove, a tree canopy, an urban forest of hundreds of trees, and all combine to reduce greenhouse gases, air pollution, and moderate the ambient temperature. Shoreline must dramatically change design priorities to save more of our natural environment given how many hundreds of trees have already been lost and will continue to be lost if they don’t. Also cement manufacturing releases tremendous amounts of CO2 and noxious gases into our air. “If the cement industry were a country it would rank as the world’s fourth largest GHG (Green House Gas) emitter, just behind China, the U.S., and India, responsible for roughly 7-8% of global CO2 pollution”(Natural Resource Defense Council). So using less cement by redesign also cuts our carbon footprint.

Anonymous,  May 18, 2024 at 4:32 PM  

I have to question the willful ignorance of Ramsdell's comment. It limits the benefits of trees solely to carbon dioxide processing. Meanwhile those same trees are sequestering carbon, shelering our home from both summer sun and winter winds, both reduce the power demands for electridity to cool/heat our homes. This is primary goal in the city's Climate Action Plan. We need council members willing to educate themselves on the facts and follow the science.

Anonymous,  May 18, 2024 at 6:36 PM  

We have a declared drought in our state. The climate crisis is not going away. City planners and designers should be using every tool available to mitigate the effects. In some cities of the world, constructions workers have to work at night due to extreme heat. Trees not only sequester carbon dioxide, they help keep people out of emergency rooms during extreme heat events. There were 603 ER visits for heat-related illness between June 26 and July 2, 2021 in King County. Let's see a real balance in future planning.

Anonymous,  May 18, 2024 at 7:06 PM  

I wish that city officials would realize that bicycles are not the answer to getting people out of their cars.

Anonymous,  May 19, 2024 at 8:59 AM  

It is not surprising that the goal set in 2013 for reducing CO2 emissions was not met given the continued growth of Shoreline. Is the new goal realistic in light of all of the new development which will bring more cars?

The continued focus on reduction of CO2 from cars while cutting down trees is an egregious mistake on the part of the City. Will residents abandon their air-conditioned vehicles to walk on pavement without shade on a hot summer day?

Anonymous,  May 19, 2024 at 11:02 AM  

ShoreLynn is soon to be our city name.

Anonymous,  May 19, 2024 at 2:58 PM  

"Getting people to give up their cars will require safe sidewalks and bike lanes that people actually want to use, so the city’s plan lays out a long list of actions to make the city more walkable and bike-able." Cutting down mature trees along the corridor will not result in a more walkable and bike-able city, it will do just the opposite as no one except travelers in air-conditioned vehicles will be able to safely move through the resulting high heat and glaring sun, unshaded reflective pavement, and unbuffered traffic noise and pollution. Everyone with a car is going to drive. Everyone without a car is going to suffer, or stay home. If you’ve never thought about street trees as a social justice issue, walking to (and waiting for) a bus or train during a record-setting high heat event might just change your mind.

You want people out of their cars? Then give them a pleasant experience instead of a "hostile walk environment." City planners should take a deep breath, remove the blinders from their eyes and think about a more creative solution that incorporates all of our needs: safe passage, lower emissions, protection of the environment. How about off-corridor routes through the quieter surrounding streets that more safely separate pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users from high speed traffic? How about installing a "road diet" of fewer vehicle lanes (like the plan for 175th east of I-5) that makes driving less optimal but saves trees and makes non-vehicle travel safer and more attractive? How about more and better public transportation that is reliable, efficient and seamlessly integrated to move people from place to place?

This is not an "either/or", transportation vs. trees issue, despite the city's tendency to frame it that way. Let’s reject that outdated premise and instead create 21st century streetscapes that provide for all of our needs: safe and pleasant passage for everyone, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and protection of existing trees and the environment.
Jean Hilde

Anonymous,  May 19, 2024 at 3:35 PM  

Seems to me that cutting down a lot of the trees (and shrubs) doomed under the current plans for 175th St revisions will significantly increase the sound (and sight) of traffic for the many residents who still live along this major throughfare. Homes that were shaded (front or back) by large trees will find themselves hotter and louder primarily because of a planned bike path (going up) and a street lane for bikes (going down). Why can't a bike path be rerouted from the west side of I-5 to the north through quieter and safer streets? This would save trees, shrubbery, and money, and, I would think, be a lot more pleasant as well.

Cutting down all those big trees that we need to help combat climate change seems crazy, and it will be years before their "replacements" are as effective.

Hopefully it is not too late for Shoreline powers-that-be to reconsider the current plans, and be more mindful of what so many of us value.

Anonymous,  May 20, 2024 at 9:03 AM  

Omg I just drive through and saw the signs about cutting down all of these beautiful trees. Trees that have been here far longer than any ax holding politician. So sad. I’m praying these trees are saved. It’s the one pretty thing left in this scary jungle of shoreline. I’m sure it won’t matter what I say and next time I visit my dad they’ll be gone and the streets lined with more trash and less life of beautiful trees.

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