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November 22, 2010

Letter to the Editor: UW construction projects are tough on trees

The (Nov. 18 DJC article on trees at the UW by Sean Dugan of Tree Solutions) has a major backstory. Did the author disclose that the trees are the basis for an appeal of the construction permit? It was the subject of a Nov. 11 article in the SeattlePI.com.

The DJC article explains how the building was “redesigned to fit around the tree.” Does this mean this project would have been similar to the two other half-completed dorms under construction in the two adjacent blocks, that cover the entire block right up to the sidewalk? All three buildings received variances from the guidelines that say they shall be set back from the sidewalk. There is no room for trees.

The UW has also cut down 72 trees that were not part of the plans for the Hub remodel project. The UW removed over 500 trees in a 9-acre clearcut in the Arboretum and 170 trees were removed from Husky Stadium for construction of the light rail station. How is tree loss coordinated among all the branches of the university system?

The article fails to explain how eight exceptional trees located on the same lot as the elm were removed without a permit in violation of SMC 25.11.070. The university housing director told me they mistakenly thought the trees could be removed under the demolition permit. He said they now realize only the MUP, which has not been issued, can permit removal of exceptional trees, which are defined as the largest 1 percent of their kind in the city. The Seattle Hearing Examiner will issue a decision on the MUP after hearing my case in December. DPD code compliance inspectors are investigating my complaint of unlawful tree removal.

The MUP is being appealed by me on these grounds, and I have asked for a copy of the arborist reports on these eight exceptional trees. The arborist reports required to be in the Environmental Checklist Appendix are not published there. This may make the EIS for the $17 million dormitory incomplete, and therefore invalid.

Another reason I appealed Project #3010518 is because 12 other mature elm trees became infected with Dutch elm disease and were removed from the campus last summer. I am concerned this tree may become infected with DED, or weakened and die from root loss and other effects of construction.

Michael Oxman

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