Master Builders Association Seattle

Seattle’s Updated Tree Code Creates More Balance

Seattle is the latest city in the Puget Sound region to make changes to its tree ordinance. On Tuesday, Seattle city councilmembers voted to change the way homebuilders and homeowners approach tree preservation and removal. Read our press release on the updated code below.


May 23, 2023

Contact: Stephanie Giralmo, Public Relations & Media Manager, Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (425.457.7048; sgiralmo@mbaks.com)


Seattle Removes Barriers to New Housing with Tree Code Update

Bellevue, WA – The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) supports the passage of legislation by the Seattle City Council that updates the City’s long-standing tree code. The new policy takes a balanced approach to trees and housing and marks the first time in nearly two decades that the City has made an update to the policies that govern trees on public and private property.

The new code reflects Seattle’s changing needs over the last 20 years as the housing and affordability crisis has deepened. Intentionally or not, tree retention policies have proven to be a barrier to builders and homeowners alike looking to increase the useable space on their properties for much-needed housing.

“We’re grateful the Mayor and City Council gave thoughtful consideration to inherent tradeoffs,” said MBAKS Executive Director Jerry Hall. “This process recognized the importance of both housing and trees. Seattle struck a thoughtful balance to preserve tree canopy while creating a pathway for more housing.”

“We would not be here without our members and coalition partners who analyzed the bill, wrote to the city, and testified to the City Council,” said Aliesha Ruiz, MBAKS Seattle Government Affairs Manager. “The result is an improvement over the prior tree code which invited a great degree of interpretation, causing unpredictability that proved to be a costly barrier to new housing construction. By building predictability into the new code, Seattle is empowering builders and homeowners to be part of the solution to our housing crisis.”

It is projected that the City of Seattle will need 112,000 new homes over the next 20 years. An updated tree code that reduces uncertainty and ensures predictability of project viability will bring more homes online sooner, thus dampening the increasing costs of housing for renters and buyers.

“Affordable housing is an all-hands-on-deck project for the city and the region,” said Thea Munchel, Co-Chair of the Coalition for Benefits of Trees and Housing (BOTH). “Seattle is demonstrating to other cities how to adapt to new realities, find compromise and build real solutions. By working together, we can address both our housing crisis and our climate crisis with innovative, expert-guided policies.”

During the months-long legislative process, MBAKS and its members testified to express their support for a forward-looking proposal to incorporate new tree protections into the legislation while ensuring that predictable permitting and review timelines were established. Trees and housing are essential to thriving communities, and MBAKS supports the balanced legislation shepherded by Councilmember Dan Strauss.

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