Seattle homeowner pays $125k settlement for cutting down tree

Jun 29, 2023, 7:05 AM | Updated: Jul 1, 2023, 7:43 pm

seattle cutting down tree...

The City of Seattle reached a settlement with an Mt. Baker neighborhood homeowner who performed an unpermitted tree cutting in Mt. Claire Park. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Cutting down trees to improve his view ended up costing a Seattle man $125,000 after settling a lawsuit with the city.

The City of Seattle reached a settlement with an Mt. Baker neighborhood homeowner, Brad Gandt, and All Four Seasons Landscape and Maintenance, who performed an unpermitted tree cutting in Mt. Claire Park.

Government news: Seattle City Council passes stronger tree protection ordinance

The city said that the work damaged vegetation in the park in an environmentally critical area on a steep slope. The City’s lawsuit claimed the homeowner and landscaping company were responsible for damaging multiple trees of varying sizes and damaging recent restoration efforts in the Park.

Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation AP Diaz said that the city is in charge of managing these public resources so that they can be enjoyed by everyone and that when these trees get destroyed without a permit, it affects the park as a whole.

“As stewards of Seattle’s parkland and natural spaces, we must ensure public resources are not destroyed, particularly trees which are essential parts of our City infrastructure and must be protected to ensure the beauty, health, and vibrancy of Seattle,” Diaz said in a press release.

In May of 2023, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that made it illegal to cut down or damage trees over 24 inches wide, though some species are “exceptional” at smaller widths. This covered approximately 175,000 trees in the city.

This legislation is the result of a multi-step process that began with Resolution 31902. The city council, mayor, and various departments worked together for more than five years to get to this point.

“Trees are essential to the health, quality of life, and climate resilience of our communities,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “This legislation takes a One Seattle approach to balance prioritizing tree canopy while also allowing for the development of needed housing – crucial for progress on climate goals, homelessness efforts, and housing affordability.”

This is not the first settlement totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars the city has made, with a group of neighbors agreeing to pay $440,000 for cutting down trees in 2017 and again paying $360,000 a year later.

More from Seattle: City has less tree cover than 5 years ago

These recent tree protection laws have been put in place, in part, to meet the city’s 2037 goal of increasing the tree canopy of the city by 130% of what it was in 2007. Recent research by the city’s Urban Forestry Commission shows the tree canopy in Seattle decreased by 1.7%, or about 255 acres, between 2016 and 2021.

After a heat mapping project in Seattle and other Puget Sound towns showed the impacts of urban green spaces effect on temperatures in different neighborhoods, King County started a Land Conservation Initiative to prioritize the permanent protection of urban green space.

Part of the impact of the loss of foliage includes the fact that neighborhoods impacted by racial and economic injustice started with less canopy and lost more than the citywide average. Less economically wealthy neighborhoods, and also more racially diverse ones, had 31% less canopy in 2021, an increase in disparity from 2016 (when they had 27% less).

The city says the money will go toward restoring the park and other natural areas.

“Our hope is for this settlement to serve as a reminder that no person or company is authorized to cut trees on public land without permission,” Diaz said. “Our natural areas crews work diligently to maintain the health of our urban forests and will focus their energy on restoring the damage done in Mt. Claire Park.”

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Seattle homeowner pays $125k settlement for cutting down tree