The life of an urban tree is not the greatest. Two of my clients have had tree vs. sidewalk situations lately, so it’s likely many others will have to address this too.
Count yourself lucky if the tree in your parking strip has grown into the space allotted for it without heaving the sidewalk, getting into overhead power lines, or becoming a hazard. I hasten to add, these problems are not the trees’ fault, but the result of being planted in the wrong spot, or having us build inappropriately around them.
Sadly, having survived development, this cedar is now slated for removal because it’s a hazard. Some large supporting roots were cut years ago to level the sidewalk, which may have contributed to its demise. In an old growth forest on a good site, cedars can live 2,000 years.
There are two parts to making this right:
- Get the planting right in the first place ( http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/treeplanting.htm will tell you everything about that).
- Properly correct conflicts between trees and infrastructure. Here’s a great blog post showing interesting sidewalk fixes http://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2011/04/07/trees-and-sidewalks-creative-solutions/
Delving into the particulars of trees in parking strips, I received an excellent reply from Lou Stubecki, sidewalk safety and tree preservation specialist in the City Arborist’s office at Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). I’ve added emphasis to underscore this is the place to go for help BEFORE doing work on either trees or sidewalks to save both!
To start with…we need to determine ownership of the tree. Anyone in our office can look at ArcGIS and planting records…Trees planted by SDOT are SDOT’s responsibility. Everything else is the property owner’s responsibility. If the tree(s) is managed by the property owner, then they need to get a sidewalk repair permit from Street Use. Here is a link to get that permit
Once they get that permit, they would contact me to let me know they will be fixing their sidewalk…Ideally, I would look at the sidewalk before it is removed so I can give the property owner an idea of what to expect. Then, with 48hs notice, I would look at it when the sidewalk comes up so I can hone in on a solution with them. We look at all reasonable solutions possible to help save the tree. These would have to be approved by the Street Use inspector.
If the tree is of significant risk for failure anytime during this process, then we would approve removal of the tree…At that point I would write them a permit for tree removal. This permit would be free if they choose a contractor from our list of contractors that have annual permits to operate in the right of way. Here is that current list. http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/treecompanypermits.htm
I can write them a permit for planting a new tree as well. This permit is free.