Trees

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Trees that grow in backyards and parks, along streets and in forested areas are all part of an urban forest. Trees are important features in urban landscapes because they:

  • Produce oxygen and improve air quality
  • Reduce urban heat island effects
  • Control stormwater runoff and soil erosion
  • Contribute to human health and well-being
  • Provide wildlife habitat and bird migration corridors
  

Kirkland's Tree Codes

To maximize the public benefits of trees, Kirkland strives to achieve a healthy, resilient urban forest with a 40% tree canopy cover. To balance these goals while accommodating urban growth, Kirkland regulates tree removal, pruning and tree retention on development sites (below). For information about changes to Kirkland's tree codes, see Tree Code Amendments (right). 

 

Tree Removal

Use this tree removal guide(PDF, 269KB) to help determine which process and form applies to your situation.

 

Private Trees

Private Property Trees

Tree Removal Notification

A Tree Removal Notification applies if you're removing 1-2 trees. A Tree Removal Notification cannot be used if there are restrictions on the property such as critical areas. There are no fees involved with a Tree Removal Notification. 

Submit a Tree Removal Notification Application Form via the Our Kirkland portal using the Private Tree Removal/Pruning category

Tree Removal Permit

A Tree Removal Permit applies if you're removing 3 or more trees, the last 2 trees on the property or with restrictions on the property such as critical areas. A Tree Removal Permit application usually requires an arborist report that is subject to review. A permit fee is required. Following a permit review and site visit, the City's Development Review Arborist issues a permit determination via email in approximately 15 days.

Submit a Tree Removal Permit via MyBuildingPermit.com (new users will need to create an account).

Forest Management Plan

A Forest Management Plan applies to large significantly wooded properties where a traditional stand management approach is applicable. See Kirkland Zoning Code Chapter 94.23.5.e for additional information. An arborist report and a permit fee is required.   

Submit a Forest Management Plan permit application

Public Trees

Public Trees

Tree removal and/or pruning for trees located within the City right-of-way. Please contact the Planning & Building Department at 425-587-3600 with questions. 

Review Public Tree Removal Permit Checklist and then submit your application via MyBuildingPermit.com (new users will need to create an account). A fee is required for the review of this permit application.

Emergency Removal

Emergency Tree Removal

Any tree on private property that poses an imminent threat to life or property may be removed without first obtaining a permit.

The party removing the tree must contact the City within 7 days of removal to provide evidence of threat, such as a certified arborist’s report, photographs and/or or other substantiating evidence, for approval of exemption from the provisions of the Tree Management code.

If the Planning Official determines that the emergency tree removal was not warranted, the party may be required to obtain a permit and/or plant replacement trees and vegetation.

 

Tree Pruning

HOMEOWNER (PRIVATE PROPERTY) TREE PRUNING

Generally, you do not need a permit to prune or trim the trees on your property unless there are restrictions such as a recorded grove, protection easement, environmentally critical/shoreline areas or in the Holmes Point Overlay zone. Topping is prohibited in Kirkland because it results in weak branches and can eventually kill the tree. Excessive pruning can have the same effect, so in Kirkland, pruning over half of a tree's live canopy is considered the same as tree removal and may be subject to code enforcement.   

STREET TREE PRUNING

The care and maintenance of trees in the right of way is a shared responsibility between private property owners and the City's maintenance crews. The City wants to ensure the safety and proper pruning of public trees to ensure a sustainable urban forest. For that reason, a property owner who wishes to prune a right of way tree adjacent to their property needs to submit a Public Tree Pruning Permit Application through MyBuildingPermit.com (MBP). There is no fee associated with a Public Tree Pruning Permit.

To report dying, diseased and/or dangerous trees in the public right of way, call Public Works at 425-587-3900.

TREES IN PARKS

To report dying, diseased and/or dangerous trees in City parks, call Parks & Community Services at 425-587-3341.

 

Trees and Development

All new development projects require a Tree Retention Plan. The requirements depend on the type of development and property use, as summarized below:

Tree Retention Plan - Single Family (Minor)
These requirements apply to new development or redevelopment in which the total square footage of the proposed improvements is less than 50% of the total square footage of existing improvements. Remodel projects or additions are typical examples. Property uses include single-family residential or two attached, detached, or stacked dwelling units and their related demolition and land surface modification permit applications. 

Tree Retention Plan - Single Family (Major)
These requirements apply to new development or redevelopment in which the total square footage of the proposed improvements is greater than 50% of the total square footage of existing improvements. Property uses include single-family residential or two attached, detached, or stacked dwelling units, and their related demolition and land surface modification applications. 

Tree Retention Plan - Multifamily, Commercial, and Non-Residential uses
Tree retention requirements for multifamily, commercial, and any other use other than residential, and related demolition and land surface modification applications.

Tree Retention Plan - Subdivisions and Cottage Developments
Tree retention plan requirements for short plat (up to 9 lots), subdivisions (10 or more lots), cottages, carriage units, two/three-unit homes, and related demolition and land surface modifications.

Holmes Point Overlay - The Holmes Point Overlay (HPO) area within the Finn Hill Neighborhood has unique development-related tree protection codes. Refer to Kirkland Zoning Code Chapter 70 and the resources below:

Map(PDF, 547KB) of the area and HPO permit items(PDF, 107KB) requirements.  
Integrated Development Plans: Accelerated Short Plat and Subdivision Review Process Information(PDF, 260KB) 
Tree Protection Fencing Detail(PDF, 270KB)

 

Arborist Reports

Arborist reports, when required for a Tree Retention Plan or tree removal permit application, must be prepared by a qualified professional with relevant education and training in arboriculture or urban forestry, having two or more of the following credentials:

  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist
  • Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ) as established by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of ISA (or equivalent)
  • American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA) registered Consulting Arborist
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF) Certified Forester for Forest Management Plans

Guide to Arborist Reports


 

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Managing an Urban Forest

Healthy, sustainable urban forests don't just happen - they require decisions that may take 20 years to have an effect, can involve public or privately-owned trees, and often need coordination of multiple City divisions. To meet these challenges, Kirkland has:  

  • Qualified as a Tree City USA for 18 consecutive years
  • Earned Growth Awards by exceeding Tree City USA standards 
  • Been recognized as a Sterling City for leadership and innovation in community forestry
  • Adopted an Urban Forestry Strategic Management Plan
  • Adopted a 20-Year Forest Restoration Plan for park open space management
  • Developed a Citywide Urban Forestry Six Year Work Plan (2014-2019) 
  • Tracked tree canopy cover over time

Read more about the City's efforts towards a healthy, resilient urban forest and check out how canopy cover has changed in Kirkland:

Urban Forestry Management Plan

Recognizing the value and benefits of the urban forest, the City developed a coordinated approach to urban forest management over a long term horizon. Adopted in June 2013, Kirkland's Urban Forest Strategic Management Plan(PDF, 3MB) provides a framework of performance measures for sustainable urban forest management. 

Following its adoption, an inter-department team was formed to prioritize what could be accomplished within a shorter timeframe. Specific action items are described in a citywide Six Year Work Plan for 2014-2019(PDF, 1MB).

The City is currently examining the accomplishments and challenges of the last Six Year Work Plan and developing priorities for the 2020-2026 Work Plan. 

 

Kirkland's Tree Canopy Cover

Canopy cover is the 2-D outline of tree leaves and branches as seen from above. To track progress towards our 40% canopy goal, Kirkland measures its canopy cover on 8-10 year cycles. By looking at tree canopy cover in specific areas and comparing it to prior studies, any changes can reveal the effectiveness of urban forest management. Our most recent canopy assessment revealed:

  • A decrease in tree canopy from 40% in 2010 to 38% in 2017 equates to a loss of over 270 acres of canopy cover.
  • The highest percentage of canopy loss occurred in the Single Family residential land use area.
  • Although current canopy cover is within 75-100% of our goal, an “optimal” range of performance, Kirkland still needs to consider management strategies that enhance canopy cover, such as planting strategies and tree code updates.   

View past assessments: