The Seattle Department of Transportation's Urban Forestry Department's update to the Street Tree Ordinance was passed by full council in April 2013. This document was drafted with input from an advisory panel of citizens, commercial arborists, and city staff.
Before this revision, the last update to this ordinance was in 1961. The new version is much improved, with tree replacement requirements, strong protections for existing trees, a required public notice and comment period for removal applications, and hefty fines for violations, especially willful or malicious damage.
However, it is no secret that the City of Seattle has not done the best job protecting trees on private property during the development process and currently has very few protections for trees on private property. In recent years the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has proposed several new draft private tree protection ordinances that were resoundingly rejected by everyone but the development community because of their weak protections for trees; as the UFC noted, the 2011 draft would have actually removed existing protections for trees on 99.5% of property.
The Urban Forestry Commission sent a series of letters to alert Council of their concerns with the 2009 draft. Click here for the UFC's initial letter and here for their follow up letter. The DPD is currently working on a third draft of a new private tree ordinance that they plan to release in early 2014; Seattle Audubon plans to review and comment on the draft once it is released to ensure strong protections for preserving our urban habitat, so stay tuned for more information on this issue.