Q&A: Rezoning and urban tree canopy

Q. Is the value I place on a  great urban tree canopy compatible with support for rezoning Seattle?

A. According to the city, in 2007 Seattle’s had about 23% tree cover. The city’s goal, established at that time, is to reach 30% by 2037. According to the city of New York and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, in 2006 New York City’s urban tree canopy (“UTC”) in 2006 stood at 24%, and a study concluded that 30% by 2030 was an achievable goal.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, “If we had New York’s population density, the existing footprint of Seattle would hold 2.37 million residents.” Or to put it another way, “Pack residents of Seattle like New Yorkers, and half the city would be empty.”

There is no near-term prospect of any reason to rezone Seattle to New York density: there simply aren’t enough people who want to live here. Conversely, if we were to do so, we would be able to return large tracts of the city to forestland.

On balance, with our current zoning we are underperforming a much denser city on urban tree canopy.  The tree canopy we achieve is a question of commitment and action. Rezoning Seattle poses no barrier to bolder UTC goals than those we currently have.

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