Tree Code Amendments

STATUS - Currently on hold, this project is anticipated to continue in early 2021

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Tree protection ordinances are one of the ways cities balance urban growth with preserving a healthy, sustainable and livable community.

The scope of this code amendment project is to

  • Support the goals established in Kirkland’s Comprehensive Plan
  • Meet objectives in the Urban Forestry Strategic Management Plan(PDF, 3MB)
  • Address issues and challenges that have arisen since the last tree code revision (2010)
  • Update the code so that it is effective and practical to use.
Meeting Information

View meeting packet information for Planning Commission (PC), Houghton Community Council (HCC), and /or the City Council by clicking on the appropriate tab below

PC

HCC

 

City Council

Draft Kirkland Zoning Code Chapter 95

Starting in June 2018, the Planning Commission held several study sessions to review background information related to the City’s tree code, look at progressively complex code issues and consider potential changes to the code. The Houghton Community Council and City Council received briefings on tree code issues throughout the project as it progressed.

From late 2018 to mid-2019, staff met with a stakeholder group, conducted analyses of emerging code concepts, developed preliminary code language and launched a public outreach campaign to reintroduce the project to the greater community. A joint public hearing was held on November 5, 2019 with the Planning Commission and Houghton Community Council to obtain public feedback on the draft code.

The Planning Commission delivered their recommendations for amendments to the tree code(PDF, 586KB) to the City Council at a January 21, 2020 study session. Key points of the Planning Commission's recommendations include: 

  • A new Landmark tree designation
  • Increased tree removal allowances in relationship to property size
  • A new condition rating system for trees on development sites
  • Requirements for tree retention decisions early in the short plat/subdivision design process
  • Specific rules on which trees to retain trees on development sites and how
In early 2020, the City Council began to consider changes to the draft code, when the project was put on hold until further notice due to the COVID pandemic response. In the interim, the City Council adopted new rules for the enforcement of current tree codes, Kirkland Municipal Code 1.12.100, which went into effect in May 2020. 

Taking a look at some of the issues

As part of public outreach related to the tree code project, urban forestry-related articles appeared in This Week in Kirkland, the City's weekly online newsletter. Each short article provides background information to help understand the issues involved with updating the tree code. 

Is the current tree code effective? The proposed codes?

2018 Field Study evaluated the effectiveness of the tree code, the first study since the code was adopted in 2006. Staff examined trees on 159 single family lots resulting from 54 short plats developed between 2008 and 2013. Based on these examples, retention of larger trees on typical single family development sites was quite low, but none of the retained trees were removed after the 5 Year Maintenance Agreements had expired. Trees that were required to be planted as a result of development also remained on the properties.  

The 2018 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment(PDF, 3MB) maps and analyzes canopy data citywide and within areas such as land use zoning and neighborhoods. The analysis includes a comparison of current canopy cover to 2010, tracking any trends in canopy loss or gain. For example:

  • There was a slight decrease in Kirkland’s tree canopy cover from 2010-2017, falling from 40% city-wide average canopy cover to 38%, a loss of over 270 acres in tree canopy cover.
  • The highest percentage of canopy loss occurred in the Single Family residential land use area.   
  • When looking at the pre-annexed city boundary, canopy cover increased from 32% in 2002 to 36% in 2010, then down to 35% in 2018, an indication that within the same boundary area, Kirkland’s canopy cover did not drop dramatically between the last 2 measurement cycles. 

2019 Proposed Development Code Review evaluated the effects of proposed code concepts. Staff gathered 22 recently approved single family building permits to evaluate tree retention under the current code compared to concepts suggested by a stakeholder group. The group included members from the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance and Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. The exercise indicates that compared to the current Chapter 95 standards, the stakeholder-proposed approach resulted in:

  • A significant loss of trees under 30 inches trunk diameter
  • A significant reduction of "tree credits" when using a credits-per-acre quota suggested by the stakeholder group
  • No substantive increase in the retention of trees greater than 30 inches diameter trunk   

How can I get involved?

The public hearing has been closed for written and oral testimony and the Planning Commission has made their recommendations on the draft code to the City Council. You can view all public comments on the tree code amendment project received up to December 12, 2019. Please visit this web page for updates, attend public meetings, or contact staff for more information. Thank you for being engaged in your community!

  • In-person comments may be given under Items from the Audience portion of the City Council meetings
  • Contact the City Council through the Our Kirkland customer service portal